At the time of the Bolshevik Communist seizure of power in October 1917 Russia had, for more than three years, been involved in the First World War. The turmoils associated with this major war inevitably produced much economic dislocation and many shortages of essential items including food, fuel and clothing. Agricultural and Industrial production were down from the levels of 1913. Perhaps a third of Russia's working horses had been diverted towards direct services associated with the war. The railways were suffering from disrepair and parts shortages. Wartime inflation had seriously eroded the purchasing power of the Russian rouble.(...) By 1920-21 the levels of production in both the rural and more particularly in the industrial aspects of the Russian economy were running well below pre-war levels. There was an actual flight from the towns as the then urban population (who often, as individuals, had rural connections) moved away from urban unemployment and privation and towards a rural existence where they could have more hope of providing some of the basic necessities of life through their own efforts.(... ...) Lenin could however console himself, and reassure those who hoped to work towards Communism, by pointing out that the Bolshevik's retained control of "the commanding heights" of the economy - the large industrial plants, banking and foreign trade.
(...) an old military metaphor, the Commanding Heights, first used by Lenin in 1922 as a defense of the New Economic Policy. By Commanding Heights, Lenin meant that the state would control the most important elements of the economy. Of course, his successor Stalin extended that notion to all elements, with the total eradication of all private markets.■ LENIN AND THE MARKET ECONOMY (FUWA Tetsuzo, Japanese Communist Party Central Committee Chair, 2002)
(...) Thirdly, the new policy called for the key elements of the economy to be preserved as part of the socialist structure. Lenin called these core elements the "commanding heights," a military term used at the time to mean that in an era when cannons were the main arms in war, occupying heights overlooking the battlefield was vital to winning the war.Two years ago, we had the IT minister of Sri Lanka among the foreign guests attending the JCP Congress. I was a little bit surprised when he said that they are trying to take control of the "economic commanding heights." I said, "I haven't heard that phrase for many years." Then he told me that he had studied in Moscow when he was young.