Soviet economic performance: a re-evaluation

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at
Sun Nov 16 11:17:17 MST 2003

On Sun, 16 Nov 2003 11:46:13 -0500 Louis Proyect <lnp3 at> writes:
> Farm to Factory
> A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution
> Robert C. Allen
> 0-691-00696-2 Cloth  $45.00 US and L29.95
> 320 pages. 34 line illus. 36 tables. 6 x 9.
> To read a sample chapter, please visit:
> To say that history's greatest economic experiment--Soviet
> Communism--was
> also its greatest economic failure is to say what many consider
> obvious.
> Here, in a startling reinterpretation, Robert Allen argues that the
> was one of the most successful developing economies of the twentieth
> century. He reaches this provocative conclusion by recalculating
> national
> consumption and using economic, demographic, and computer simulation
> models
> to address the "what if" questions central to Soviet history.

Well I remember that back in my childhood, it was taken
by most observers that the Soviet economy was growing
rapidly.  When Khruschev made his famous speech
"that we will bury you" he was referring to projections
that the Soviets would in not too many years catch up
with and surpass the US economically.  Back in the
early 1960s such projections were taken quite
seriously by most people since the evidence of
rapid Soviet economic growth was readily apparent
to most people.  The Soviets had after all beaten
the Germans in WW II and in not too many years
had largely recovered economically from what
was a very devastating war.  Indeed, they had
recovered to the point that they were able to
support a large military establishment that
was capable of going toe-to-toe with the
US military, while also competing with
the Americans in such fields as space
exploration, and at the same time were
raising the living standards of the Soviet
populace.  Even the most ardent
anticommunist observers at that time
did not deny these facts, but rather argued
that these successes were obtained
at unacceptably high costs in terms of
loss of individual liberties.

It is certainly true that the Soviet economy
began to stagnate in the 1970s and this
stagnation eventually triggered a political
crisis that led to the ascension of Mikhail
Gorbachev and his abortive attempt at
perestroika.  But if the eventual failure
of the Soviet Union has to be acknowledged
and understood, so is the fact that for
a number of decades quite successful,
must likewise be acknowledged and
understood as well.  The fact that a book
which acknowledges the successes of
the Soviet Union should now a days be
seen as "startling" or "provocative" I think
says something more about us than
the Soviet Union.

Jim F.

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