10 October 2008

Industrialization in the Soviet Union

In lecture 35 I said: "Supporters of capitalism point towards the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 as proof that there is no alternative to capitalism. They ignore that socialism turned the Soviet Union from a backward feudal state into a superpower in a time span of less than 40 years." For today's generation it is indeed difficult to grasp the enormous achievement that the industrialization of the Soviet Union represents. Some figures can provide some background:

In 1923, when the internal enemies of the October Revolution had finally been defeated, "the national income was only one-third of its level in 1913. Industry produced less than one-fifth of the goods, the coal mines yielded only one-tenth, and iron foundries only one-fortieth of their normal output." Many city people were forced to live in the country just to feed themselves: "Russia's cities and towns ... had become so depopulated that in 1921 Moscow had only one half and Petrograd only one third of its former inhabitants." (quotations from David Horowitz: Imperialism and Revolution. London: Allen Lane the Penguin Press, 1969.)

US president Kennedy described the situation in 1963 with these words: "No nation in the historic battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union in the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and families were burned or sacked. A third of the nation's territory, including two-thirds of its industrial base, were turned into a wasteland - a loss equivalent to the destruction of this country east of Chicago." (quoted in Horowitz, loc. cit.)

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