Soviet efforts to jump-start the USSR's ailing economy have reached all the way to Utah County, culminating in an invitation to Springville's Jefferson Institute to expand its operations in Moscow.
Karl Marx would not be proud.The institute is a business-education center that teaches entrepreneurism and the tools of financial success. Rose Hughes, an independent business consultant who has visited the Soviet Union, introduced institute officials to interested Soviets last spring.
Mark J. Stoddard, Jefferson Institute president and CEO, this week joined hundreds of Soviet businessmen on a five-day cruise down the Volga River from Moscow to Kazan. Before leaving last week for the Soviet Union, Stoddard told the Deseret News that he will deliver lectures and meet with Soviet businessmen interested in joint ventures with Western firms.
"Socialism is dead. Communism is more than dead - it's in a black hole, and the people there know it," Stoddard said.
"But what are you going to replace it with? If you want to replace it with a system that works, that's capitalism, free enterprise. So what we're going to go there and do is teach them free enterprise."
Stoddard said he opposes any direct financial aid to the Soviet Union or other help that could prop up socialism.
"That's not what we're doing. We're teaching them to be unadulterated, freedom-loving, free-swinging capitalists," he said.
Officials from Ecoprom, an association of several large Soviet commercial enterprises that invited Stoddard, believes that the institute has the expertise and knowledge needed to salvage the Soviet economy.
"Your experience . . . training people in the area of business gives us every ground to hope for a successful advancement of educational programs in our country," Ecoprom Director General Andrei Tchernukhin told Stoddard in a May letter.
Tchernukhin proposed the signing of joint agreements between Ecoprom and the Jefferson Institute during Stoddard's visit.
"It's pretty clear that what they need, first of all, is a set of business values. They need to know that they (businesses) are there to solve customers' problems. That's going to be a major thing to get across to them," Stoddard said.
He said Soviet businessmen must understand basic marketing skills and the economic principles involved in creating wealth. In addition, they must change their attitude toward customers and employees, treating both with respect.
"I don't know what the financial opportunity is," Stoddard said. "I may turn this thing into a foundation."
Regardless, he said, "I am sure some party liners won't be happy. What's great is that they're no longer in power, frankly."
Stoddard is taking with him a translation of volume one of the Jefferson Institute's major treatise on starting a business - "Seven Steps to Success for the Entrepreneur." The volume covers characteristics of and myths about entrepreneurs, risk management and business-plan development.
"I think we're going to shock them a little bit," Stoddard said.
Stoddard said he hopes to determine during his lectures and meetings with Soviets whether a joint Soviet-American business-education center is possible.
"If we're successful, the logical outgrowth of this will be a Jefferson Institute in Moscow. They already proposed that to us. We have said, `We'll see, based upon this trip,' " Stoddard said.
"These seminars will tell me a great deal about whether we can overcome the cultural barriers. The Soviet people have no history of entrepreneurship. But they have to start somewhere, and we'd love to help.
That's why we're going over there."
Stoddard said the selection of a cruise ship for his meetings with Soviets exemplifies one of the many problems with the Soviet Union.
"One of the reasons for the cruise is it's so hard to find restaurants and accommodations (in the cities) that are decent. This place is literally a huge Third World country with great potential. They've got everything there, (but) they've got to get rid of a corrupt philosophy."