• The Left Chapter

Soviet socialism and the war recovery

History shows that after the almost unreal sacrifices and blows of the war and the distortions to Soviet society these led to, the socialist economy of the USSR was able to recover in ways that are unimaginable in an equivalent capitalist context.

Stamp for the 54th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution


"The power of the socialist system has been strikingly displayed in the post-war years too. Towns and rural communities were raised from the ruins and ashes in the shortest time. The war-wrecked economy was fully restored, new achievements were scored in the development of the economy, science and culture, and the Soviet Union entered the period of full-scale building of communism." From the Resolution of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. on Preparations for the 50th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution


The quote above hints at one of the most amazing achievements of Soviet socialism against which many of its successes and failures need to be measured for them to be properly evaluated.


It is simply astonishing the level of violence and destruction that the USSR withstood only to emerge as a military, economic and scientific powerhouse in under a generation later. The time from the end of the war and the launching of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin was a mere 12 and 16 years respectively.


The Soviet Union rebuilt with incredible speed. The simplistic narratives about the nature and success of the socialist economy and social approach rarely discuss this. As is always the case with any attempt to review Soviet history with even a modicum of fairness, most in the west from "left" to right are incapable of this.


The tables and text here are from a book Soviet Union: 50 Years that was released in 1969. They provide a counter to western triumphalist revisionism. The numbers show that after the almost unreal sacrifices and blows of the war and the distortions to Soviet society these led to, the socialist economy of the USSR was able to recover in ways that are unimaginable in an equivalent capitalist context.


"Observing the 50th anniversary. of the October Revolution, the Soviet people are reviewing the half-century road of struggle and victories. That was the road from the landowner-capitalist system to radical socialist changes, to a society that knows no exploitation; from the political disfranchisement of the working people to socialist democracy; from national oppression of the peoples to their freedom and equality, friendship and brotherhood; from technical and economic backward-ness to a modern industry and mechanised collective agriculture; from illiteracy to the unprecedented progress of education, science and culture." From the Resolution of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. on Preparations for the 50th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution


"The mass heroism that was displayed by the working people during the period of economic rehabilitation and the first Five year plans constitutes an unforgettable page in the history of our society. Soviet people did not stint their strength, consciously accepted hardships and set examples of courage and self-sacrifice in their work for the sake of surmounting the country's economic backwardness and turning it into a great socialist power." From the Resolution of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. on Preparations for the 50th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution



In assessing the great achievements of the socialist economy one must bear in mind that about 20 of the 50 years of the Soviet state were taken up by the Civil War and foreign intervention and the Second World War and also by the subsequent restoration of the economy. The Soviet Union sustained colossal damage during the Second World War. Here are figures showing the scale of the material damage caused by the nazi invaders to state enterprises and institutions, collective farms, mass organisations and citizens of the U.S.S.R.

* In old rubles.


The German fascist invaders fully or partially destroyed and burned down 1,710 towns and urban-type communities and more than 70,000 rural communities; demolished over 6 million dwelling houses and deprived about 25 million people of shelter; destroyed 31,850 industrial enterprises, put out of commission iron and steel works which prior to the war produced about 60 per cent of country's steel, Collieries which contributed over 60 per cent of the country's coal; destroyed 65,000 kilometres of railway track and 4,100 railway stations, 36,000 post and telegraph offices, telephone exchanges and other communication establishments; ruined and looted tens of thousands of collective and state farms, slaughtered, or drove off to Germany 7 million horses, 17 million head of cattle, 20 million pigs and 27 million sheep and goats. They also destroyed and looted 40,000 hospitals and other medical institutions, 84,000 schools, technical schools, higher educational establishments and research institutions and 43,000 public libraries.
These figures by far do not encompass all the damage inflicted by the nazi invaders. They cover only losses caused by the direct destruction of property of citizens, collective farms, mass organisations and state enterprises and institutions. The sum of damage does not include such losses as the decrease in the national income because of the discontinuation or curtailment of activity by state enterprises, collective farms and citizens, the value of the fbodstuffs and other goods seized by the German occupation forces, the war expenditure of the Soviet Union and also the losses from the slowing down of the country's economic growth rates as a result of enemy hostilities from 1941 to 1945. The expenditure of the Soviet state on the war against Germany and also against Japan, and the loss of income as a result of occupation sustained by state and co-operative enterprises and organisations, collective farms and the population of the Soviet Union reached during the war the huge sum of not less than 1,890,000 million rubles (in 1941 prices). This sum should be added to the direct damage estimated at 679,000 million rubles. But the gravest loss suffered in the Patriotic War was the toll of more than 20 mil-lion Soviet people killed. The mighty forces of the socialist system ensured the swift restoration of the war-wrecked economy and the subsequent steady expansion of production.



Fixed assets make up the most important part of a country's national wealth. They reflect the value of all buildings, installations, transmission devices, machin-ery, equipment, apparatus, instruments and other objects which are used by society. Restoration of the fixed assets, their expansion and improvement began in the first Soviet years: old enterprises destroyed in the First World War were restored and the building of new enterprises was started. From 1918 to 1928, more than 2,000 large state enterprises were restored or built anew. As a result, at the end of 1928 the country's fixed assets increased by 15 per cent as compared with 1913. Non-productive assets grew by 50 per cent.
The scale of reproducing the fixed assets rose with each passing year. In the course of the pre-war five-year plans (1929-40) the fixed productive assets increased 2.4 times and non-productive assets 2.1 times. At the end of 1940 fixed productive assets increased 2.6 times and non-productive assets 3 times as compared with 1913.
The Second World War inflicted great harm on the Soviet economy. About 30 per cent of the country's national wealth was destroyed. Large-scale restoration work was started while the war was still on. About 11,000 large state industrial enterprises were restored or built anew. At the end of 1945, the country's fixed productive assets were 86 per cent of those in 1940; non-productive assets were 81 per cent of the 1940 level.
Reproduction of the fixed productive assets began on a vast scale after the war. At the end of 1950, they were 24 per cent above the 1940 level. Non-productive assets increased by 11 per cent.
From 1951 to 1955 fixed productive assets increased by 60 per cent and non-productive assets by 50 per cent.
Reproduction of the fixed assets and their renewal assumed an even larger scale during the Seven-Year Plan (1959-65): the fixed productive assets increased-by 90 per cent and amounted to 312,000 million rubles at the end of 1965, which was five times greater than the value of these assets in 1940. In seven years the productive assets of industry increased by 110 per cent, the construction industry 120 per cent, state farms and other state agricultural enterprises 160 per cent, transport and communications 80 per cent and trade and catering establishments by 90 per cent. During the seven-year period, non-productive assets grew by 70 per cent and totalled 206,000 million rubles at the end of 1965, or 260 per cent above 1940.
In 1966, fixed productive assets increased by 8 per cent and amounted to 337,000 million rubles at the end of the year.
The value of the country's fixed assets will total approximately 597,000 million rubles at the end of 1967, of which productive assets, 364,000 million rubles. As compared with 1917, the fixed productive assets will rise almost 17 times, with the productive assets of industry increasing 65 times, of agriculture (including livestock) 5 times and (exclusive of livestock) 16 times, transport and communications 17 times and trade and public catering more than 70 times. The productive assets of the construction industry have been built up from scratch in Soviet times.
In the 50 Soviet years the fixed non-productive assets increased 12 times, with the assets of the public utilities rising 21 times, and the assets of public health, educational, cultural and art establishments, scientific institutions and credit and other organisations, over 42 times.