This paper summarizes Robert C. Allen, Farm to Factory: A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2003.
A Reassessment of the Soviet Industrial Revolution
Robert C. Allen, FRSC, FBA
Professor of Economic History, Oxford University
Soviet economic performance is usually dismissed as a failure. In contrast, I argue, the Soviet economy performed well. Japan was certainly the most successful developing economy of the twentieth century, but the USSR ranked just behind it. This success would not have occurred without the 1917 revolution or the planned development of state owned industry. Planning led to high rates of capital accumulation, rapid GDP growth, and rising per capita consumption even in the 1930s. The collectivization of agriculture was not necessary for rapid growth–I argue that industrial development would have been almost as fast had the five year plans been carried out within the frame work of the NEP–but it none- the-less nudged up the growth rate.
The rapid growth in per capita income was contingent not just on the rapid expansion of GDP but also on the slow growth of the population. This was primarily due to a rapid fertility transition rather than a rise in mortality from collectivization, political repression, or the Second World War. Falling birth rates were primarily due to the education and employment of women outside the home. These policies, in turn, were the results of enlightenment ideology in its communist variant.
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