This chapter examines an alternative historical “model” to that of capitalism-socialist industrialization. After a brief examination of the idea of socialism, I detail the history of the industrialization experiences in the Soviet Union and China. I then use this historical approach to examine the social context in which industrialization occurred, paying particular attention to living standards, class and gender.
The nature of socialism and communism are matters of fierce debate. Following White (1982:1-2; cf. Bahro 1978), a distinction can be made between “full” socialism, marked by an absence of classes and the state, and the existence of a radical democracy, on the one hand, and the reality of “actually existing socialisms”. Neither of the cases examined in this chapter, nor indeed any other “socialist” country, could have been described as “fully” socialist. My reference to China and the Soviet Union as socialist (or state socialist) is intended as a shorthand, and in no way entails approval for the Communist Party leaders in either of the countries.
Having said that, both Soviet and Chinese industrializations were very different from the experiences of capitalist industrializations. 1 White (1982:1) correctly argues that state socialist countries broke with the power of capital over politics, production and distribution, and embarked on a development path which did not principally rely on the power of private ownership and entrepreneurship. Instead, development was based on nationalized industries, socialized agriculture, abolition or limitation of markets, state control of foreign trade, state control of labour supply which guaranteed virtual full employment, state control of prices, and a central planning system which determined output, distribution and co-ordination between individual enterprises. This strategy was led in both cases by a single, Marxist-Leninist party, claiming to rule in the name of the working class and the peasantry (White 1982:1; Kilmister 1992:238-9).