It is hard to compare the Comecon with the current EU because they belong to two different eras and because of the different class nature of the states that comprised and comprise these specific unions. Yet it’s not too hard to notice some principal distinctions.
1. Hungary was a founding member of the Comecon and later on also could have a significant influence on development of this organisation. Hungary was allowed to join the EU after 13 years of negotiations, acceptation and adoption of the EU’s rules and in reality it has little to no influence on the dominant processes of the EU.
2. Hungary was one of the stronger countries of the Comecon. Now it’s one of the poorest members of the EU.
3. Between 1949 and 1990 Hungary managed to work off some of its historical lag compared to Western European countries. The 13 years of negotiation with the EU gutted the Hungarian economy, ruined the agriculture, seized a big part of the national industry and the bank sector. During the 11 years of EU-membership the gap between the development and standard of living in the EU and Hungary didn’t become smaller, but sometimes became even bigger.
4. The Comecon was based on the respect of national sovereignty. There were no supranational institutions. In the EU nation states hand over a part of their sovereignity to the EU’s common, supranational institutions which make decisions compulsory for member states.
There was no common rubble in the Comecon but there is common euro in the EU. The Comecon didn’t standardize the size of cucumbers whereas in the EU such bureaucratic regulations are common.
5. The Comecon was an economic integration. Cooperation never covered political and military questions. The EU started as an economic integration. But now it’s becoming a political organisation and even the development of military integration has started.
6. In the Comecon acted planned economy based on the collective ownership of the means of production, there was rational specialization and cooperation. Each country produced at what it was the best. Hungary specialized in the production of food, buses, measuring instruments, pharmacy and other things. Stocks, energy and heavy industry products were bought from the Comecon countries specialized in them.
In the EU there is market economy based on private property. Natural division of labour is secondary. The most important is that what’s good for the strongest capitalist groups.
The EU for example gives substantial amounts of money to Hungary. Germany, France and some other strong countries provide this money from the taxes which their companies pay to the budget. But a big part of the profit in these companies comes from the goods sold in Eastern Europe or from the extra-profit of their companies operating here.
The money from the EU doesn’t serve the general development of Hungary but prepares the field for the advancement of German and other foreign capitalist groups. The EU for example helped the construction of motorways in Hungary because they used our roads to reach the Balkans, Ukraine and Russia. They help vocational training because companies need more trained workers.
7. In the Comecon the Soviet Union was a much bigger country than the others. Its leading role prevailed, but the interests of the Hungarian economy weren’t subordinated to those of the Soviet. Soviet companies didn’t own Hungarian companies and the Soviet government didn’t meddle in the decisions of the Hungarian government.
Interests of German and French capital are decisive in the EU. They abolished the production of sugar in Hungary to provide market for the German sugar. They crippled the Hungarian agriculture in order to stop it from acting as competition to German, French, Spanish and Italian agriculture in the new markets. The presence of German capital in the Hungarian economy is very strong. A big part of the Hungarian export comes from German companies. Hungary is economically dependent on Germany.
All this demonstrates that the EU is based on the operation of the laws of the capitalist economy. The strengthening tendency for the concentration and centralization of agricultural production, a general tendency in capitalism, is reinforced by the EU’s policies. Due to uneven capitalist development, the economic conditions for the reproduction of capital are different in the various countries and often better in the stronger and more developed capitalist countries, like Germany. So objectively, capital, which seeks the greatest rate of profit, transfers its activities from one country to another.
8. The Comecon – regardless of all the trendy claims of our days – was a developing organisation which found the most optimal cooperational forms of the current moment.
Cooperation, initially limited mainly to the field of trade, gradually led to an expanded strategic partnership in the basic sectors of economy. In the final period of the Comecon there were attempts to update organizational structures, to use elements of market economy in trade, to give priority to direct contacts between the enterprises of the member countries. Conceptual role in the integration of the Comecon countries have played such programme documents as the Basic Principles of the International Socialist Division of Labor (1962), Comprehensive Program for the Further Extension and Improvement of Cooperation and the Further Development of Socialist Economic Integration (1971), Comprehensive Program for Scientific and Technical Progress up to the Year 2000. Mutually beneficial cooperation conditions have contributed to the dynamic economic growth of Vietnam, Cuba, Mongolia, which have joined the Comecon as equal partners. That is why the experience of the Comecon– not nostalgia for the past, but the real lessons of history, contributing to the understanding of the many challenges of the modern world .The basic principles included the combination of international specialization in production with comprehensive development of the economy of every socialist member country. The development of their agriculture had to fulfill to the maximum possible extent the national demands for foodstuffs, feeds and raw materials for industry. The unequal provision of lands, differences in soil and climatic conditions demanded further development of the exchange of agricultural products. Coordination of plans and cooperation in production of socialist countries should be also implemented in the agricultural machine-building industry, in the production of chemicals for agriculture, in the expansion of the exchange of seeds, in the integrated use of water resources for irrigation and reclamation. Basic principles included the exchange of scientific and industrial experience, joint research and development work, etc... International division of labour was the basis of equivalent exchange of goods between the socialist countries. It should help to overcome historical differences in the levels of economic development of these countries, in particular, differences in the efficiency of agricultural production, labor productivity in agriculture, etc.
9. Lenin underlined, that main influence on the course of world events the victory of socialism exerts by successful development of socialist society and above all – of the economy.