Thanks to the LF sticky, I've gotten ahold of the book. I'm not going to make a real critique, just blindly attack the author's points. Lets get to it.

1928-1941 will be referred to as the "plan period".

Major issues or claims of the work, and responses:

No accounting for rebuilding from WWI

I'm not aware of much direct evidence on this, but its normal for economies to recover rapidly after wars. The high growth in the Bretton Woods era for example was driven by Japan, Germany, France, etc recovering back to their prewar growth paths or above.

Indirect evidence of this comes from labor productivity. In "Trends in Soviet Labour Productivity, 1928–1985: War, Postwar Recovery, and Slowdown," Mark Harrison finds that output per hour worked grew only 6% overall from 1928 to 1937 in the USSR. Its growth in this period was mainly from putting people back to work after the economic dislocation of the wars, and trashing the countryside to accelerate urbanization (somewhat like Allen's argument in page 185).

Nowhere in the work does the author even mention the contribution of recovery growth.

Data does not support conclusion

The author states a 25% growth in per capita consumption in the plan period and a 6% growth in population. This implies a 31% growth in aggregate consumption.

This is better than the worst comparator country he provides (India), but its worse than the world average of about 40% over that period.

It was honorable of Allen to acknowledge that Soviet real wages fell.

Still, starvation and deferred fertility during Holodomor took down the population by millions. The author is probably correct in saying that these policies increased per capita consumption by lowering population growth.

Dismisses intent of collectivization

The author dismisses the intent of collectivization without much discussion as an unnecessary and inexplicable policy which could have been replaced by "agricultural taxes". Yet the Soviets decided on collectivization was because they doubted the ability of the state to extract resources from private farms.

Doesn't mention immediately neighboring countries

European Russia, where the bulk of the population lived, bordered countries such as Poland, Finland, Romania, and Turkey. In fact, Finland was part of Russia before breaking off in 1917.

Except Poland, which was already at a higher income level than prewar USSR ever achieved, these countries all had rapid industrial growth in the 30s if not earlier.

Of course, this discussion is hypothetical. We can't construct a counterfactual because Zombie Tsar or Zombie Kerensky never happened. All I can say is that the USSR did not do that well, relatively.


The entire argument is moot anyway because it's based on PPP figures, which are well known for overstating product quality in socialist economies. He doesn't discuss this at all either.

Nevertheless Allen did the best he could with what he had to work with, and it was worth reading.
There's a few paragraphs there I can't even read.