In the comments section, Uncle Milton disagrees that the tremendous strides that the USSR made in life expectancy were anything great, and suggests that they would have happened anyway even with a non-Communist government.
This argument is regularly trotted out by rightwingers whenever we point out the tremendous achievements Communists made in the 20th Century in life expectancy. The argument is that such an increase would have happened anyway with a non-Communist government. In the case of Russia, I assume this would be a Czarist regime.
First of all, I noted in response to Unc’s Czarist – Russian Orthodox Church propaganda about Ukraine being “the breadbox of Europe prior to WW1”:
The Ukraine before WW1 had an incredibly low life expectancy. Life expectancy was only 35 years! Most people did not have enough food to eat, were often, sick, weak or injured, had no medical care, and died at an early age. Regular famines swept through the area, killing many. What good is “the breadbasket of Europe” if most of the people who live there are starving?
To which Unc responded:
Substantial reforms were made in the early 20th centuries. Yes, I am sure during the era of serfdom which ended in 19th century there was hunger. My understanding is this was substantially reduced in immediate pre WWI period.Life expectancy was low in many countries at that time. It was skewed lower because of high infant mortality rates. I’ve seen your discussion of the comparison of China pre and post revolution regarding life expectancy and the Soviet Union but you should not compare between time periods within a country but to other similar countries over time.
Taiwan had an even greater increase in life expectancy from the early 20th century to the modern era. For the Soviets I would compare life expectancy in Finland to life expectancy in the USSR.
Well, let us compare similar countries then.
Russia with China, India and Albania.
1949 – life expectancy in India and China was 32. In Albania it was 35. Compare to Russia with life expectancy around 67.
In particular, note the comparison of Russia with Albania.
We also need to show how all progress in life expectancy pretty much ended by the early 1960’s in the USSR, and how life expectancy crashed with the return to capitalism in Russia. Clearly, endless advances in life expectancy are and were not inevitable in the 20th century at all. Russians had a longer life expectancy in the early 1960’s than they did in the 1990’s after the return to capitalism.
Or we can compare Cuba to the rest of Latin America and clearly they do better with life expectancy. We can compare Kerala (run by Communists for over 20 years) with other Indian states and see that Kerala has better life expectancy. We can compare Nicaragua at the end of the Sandinista reign to the rest of Latin America and note the superior health figures. Bottom line is that capitalism seems to be bad for your health.
A comparison with Finland is not ok because Finland also developed a very socialist system. Not as socialist as the USSR, but very socialist nonetheless. The freemarketeers and anti-Communists don’t like socialists much more than they like Communists, and they try to dismantle Finnish-style socialism everywhere it shows up.
Taiwan did not break the records set for greatest increase in life expectancy set by Stalin and Mao. Further, Taiwan under US tutelage created a socialist-style regime after WW2. There was a huge land reform, once again needed for industrialization as in the USSR and China. And national health care, dental care and the essentials of a social democracy were installed.
These socialist reforms were done by the US not out of some socialist goals but as a way to make Taiwan compare favorably on various indices when compared to China. Were there no Communist China to cynically compete with, the US would never have created Taiwanese social democracy.
Further, Taiwan’s growth occurred due to a massive flood of aid from the US from 1945-1965. Even Cold Warriors like the publishers of Time-Life books, “China” in 1962 confessed that the Taiwan experiment was not reproducible in China due the huge population there and the fact that the equivalent money needed to match the Taiwan money pump in China simply was not available for donation either in the US or anyone in the world.
Feeding the people of Taiwan was a difficult thing to do, but it was doable. This very rightwing book acknowledged that the main problem in China lay with feeding the population. This the Chinese Communists accomplished by the mid-1970’s.
A better comparison is China and India. Both were very large countries at about the same level of development in 1949. The comparison since then has been stark. China’s shines in almost every way.
Further, we can calculate that 100 million excess deaths occurred by 1979 in India as compared to China as a penalty for not following the Chinese model. In 1979, the excess deaths were continuing to occur at 4 million/year. Using basic math, we can calculate that at least 150 million and possibly up to or over 200 million excess deaths have occurred in India since 1949 by failure to follow the Chinese model.