On another forum, I'm debating a left-anarchist who is literally defending Stalin (not to mention praising the US military and Pentagon for supposedly creating the internet--which is in itself questionable). Stalinism, he claims, "far surpasses" the record of market economies.
Oh, and did it ever!
In real terms, the workers' standards of living tended to drop, rather than rise during the industrialisation. Stalin's laws to “tighten work discipline” made the situation worse: e.g. a 1932 change to the RSFSR labor law code enabled firing workers who had been absent without a reason from the work place for just one day. Being fired accordingly meant losing “the right to use ration and commodity cards” as well as the “loss of the right to use an apartment″ and even blacklisted for new employment which altogether meant a threat of starving. Those measures, however, were not fully enforced, as managers often desperately needed to hire new workers. In contrast, the 1938 legislation, which introduced labor books, followed by major revisions of the labor law, were enforced. For example, being absent or even 20 minutes late were grounds for becoming fired; managers who failed to enforce these laws faced criminal prosecution. Later, the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, 26 June 1940 “On the Transfer to the Eight-Hour Working Day, the Seven-day Work Week, and on the Prohibition of Unauthorized Departure by Laborers and Office Workers from Factories and Offices″ replaced the 1938 revisions with obligatory criminal penalties for quitting a job (2–4 months imprisonment), for being late 20 minutes (6 months of probation and pay confiscation of 25 per cent) etc.
While undoubtedly marking a tremendous leap in industrial capacity, the first Five Year Plan was extremely harsh on industrial workers; quotas were difficult to fulfill, requiring that miners put in 16 to 18−hour workdays. Failure to fulfill the quotas could result in treason charges. Working conditions were poor, even hazardous. By some estimates, 127,000 workers died during the four years (from 1928 to 1932). Due to the allocation of resources for industry along with decreasing productivity since collectivization, a famine occurred. The use of forced labor must also not be overlooked. In the construction of the industrial complexes, inmates of labor camps were used as expendable resources. But conditions improved rapidly during the second plan. Throughout the 1930s, industrialization was combined with a rapid expansion of education at schools and in higher education.
From 1921 until 1954, during the period of state−guided, forced industrialization, it is claimed 3.7 million people were sentenced for alleged counter−revolutionary crimes, including 0.6 million sentenced to death, 2.4 million sentenced to labor camps, and 0.7 million sentenced to expatriation. Other estimates put these figures much higher. Much like with the famines, the evidence supporting these high numbers is disputed by some historians, although this is a minority view. The peak of the repressions was during the great Purge of 1937–8, and it had the effect of greatly slowing down production in 1937.
Of course, if you're a leftist or an arch-conservative Pat Buchanan type, "industrialization" for the sake of "industrialization" is the goal, regardless of the famine, theft, mass death, gulags, etc.
It's hard to follow the logic of people who consider working at Starbucks to be the pinnacle of tyranny, but working in a blood-stained labor camp to be the fullest expression of individual freedom.