On standards of living under socialism and capitalism

KnHlwDiscussions dedicated to this topic are very popular in our society. But the opponents normally only talk about specific figures, discussing salaries, general earnings and expenses of the population, completely forgetting the main question – what the phrase “standard of living” actually means?

Contemporary dictionaries cannot properly explain this term, because, first of all, they separate it from such terms as “level of prosperity” and “quality of life”, creating unnecessary entities and not allowing to look at the issue in general, and secondly, they try to limit this concept with only talking about material wealth, largely ignoring the non-material side of things.

But humans are social creatures, they aren’t animals that are easily satisfied with a bowl of bran. Humans cannot be happy outside of the human society. Which means that the non-material side of things, the state of the society in which a person lives, interrelationships of people in it, essentially become the key factor in understanding the standard of living of a person in this or that society. Naturally, if a society is dysfunctional in terms of social relationships, then the wealthiest social classes, which rule in this society, try to hide this simple truth from the population, and that is inevitably reflected in word descriptions in dictionaries.

Therefore, the following description would be much closer to the truth: the standard of living is the level of consumption of material and spiritual goods by the population and the level of satisfaction of these needs at this stage of industrial development of the society [1]. Which, to put it simply, means the level of human happiness under these particular conditions of the societal development.

Obviously, each person has a different understanding of happiness, but no one would consider themselves happy if they were devoid of the minimum range of things necessary for human survival (food, water, clothes, shelter), health, security, the opportunity for self-fulfillment (for developing one’s creative abilities) and being acknowledged in the society (when one is respected by others and their labour is needed, etc.). The combination of these factors, which everyone can relate to, is what we should take into account when considering the standards of living in this or that society.

In addition, it’s more reasonable to operate not with average figures, when one person has no access to any of the above-mentioned things and the other has the access to all of them and even more, but only compare things which are available to every single member of this particular society. Only this way we would be able to figure out which society has a high standard of living and which society has a low one.

If we approach the subject of the standard of living under capitalism and socialism (which has only ever been fully realized in the USSR) using the above-mentioned measurements, and they are the only ones which are reasonable and scientific, then we don’t need any figures to arrive at the conclusion that the standard of living in a socialist society is by several orders higher than that of the people living under capitalism. Because not a single existing capitalist society, even the most “developed”, never in the course of its development has provided (nor will ever provide!) all the things that we have listed for every member of the society. Under capitalism the most exploited layers of the society (that are also often the most numerous in terms of percentage!) are completely devoid of ALL these minimum and necessary for happiness material and spiritual goods! While the Soviet reality clearly shows that during peaceful times, when the post-war restoration of the country had been finished and when socialism had not yet begun to be intentionally destroyed, even the lowest of the low:

  • Never experienced hunger, because free bread lay on the counters of every Soviet canteen;


  • Never experienced lack of water, including drinking water, because free water was available to everyone – in rural areas wells and water taps were installed along the streets and there were wellrooms in all city squares;


  • Never experienced lack of housing, because there were no homeless people in the USSR; individual apartments and houses were given to Soviet citizens for free, at the very least, people were given a room in a dormitory containing all the necessities and belonging to plants and factories; the housing problem in the USSR was not a question of lack of a roof above the head – everyone had it, but it was a question of improving housing conditions;


  • Never experienced lack of clothing and lack of shoes, they were fully available to every Soviet citizen and openly lay on store shelves, having been made predominantly from high quality natural materials; the fact that these products did not always meet the taste of some Soviet people is a different story, in any case, there was a highly developed chain of tailor shops all over the country;


  • Never experienced lack of medical help, because in the USSR medical service was completely free for all – from the very first moments of their lives, Soviet people were cared for by medical workers, starting with prophylactic measures (vaccination, etc.), occasional medical examinations in kindergartens, schools and at work, a powerful system of occupational safety, and ending with the most complex operations and free medicines for chronically ill patients;


  • Never experienced lack of opportunity for self-fulfillment, which rests upon getting the higher education in the chosen field, because the education system in the USSR was completely free and the best in the world, no one has been able to top it anywhere; the secondary education was universal;


  • Never experienced the constant fear, including the fear to lose their job, have no money to live on, get sick, become the victim of criminals, get bashed over the head with a policeman’s stick, etc. Because there was no unemployment in the USSR, on the contrary, there was a great lack of the working force (!), healthcare was free, the peace on the streets was guaranteed by the community members themselves, that’s why there was no big need for police in the USSR, etc.

In the USSR, everyone who earned an honest living and worked for the benefit of the society as a whole, always got acknowledged by others. Such people were honored and respected, presented with awards and medals, written about in newspapers and told about on the radio and on the television, their portraits hanged in the most crowded places on so-called honor rolls. Thousands and millions of people knew what they looked like, even if they were just regular workers and collective farmers.

You start to understand the importance of knowing that your work is needed by everyone, not just yourself, only now, living in capitalist conditions, when everyone is for himself. Knowing that you don’t live in vain, that your life, your knowledge, your field of work is needed by other people is extremely important. Isn’t that the reason why even some entrepreneurs today who lived in the USSR as adults, would happily abandon all of their property, their houses and cars and go back to the times when they were needed – not as scalpers, forced to survive in a manner which is shameful to any self-respecting human being, but as design engineers, scientific researchers, pilots, lecturers, agronomists and highly qualified workers whose labour was in demand in the society? As one merchant once told us in a small shop: “Is this why I got two University degrees, to sell rotten tomatoes? I used to design planes! My planes are still flying!”

We don’t mean to say that the Soviet society was perfect, but it was moving towards a perfect society. It’s unlikely that perfect human societies are even possible, because people’s needs grow as their opportunities grow. But the fact that the path towards a better and more reasonably constructed society, chosen by the Soviet Union, where everyone who doesn’t want to parasitize off of others can live comfortably, is the right path, has been proven by time.

No matter how many new entities you make up, no matter how many different definitions you come up with, no matter how much you juggle the salary figures, you still cannot hide the most important thing – the future of the humanity belongs to communism, because only under communism a person becomes Human with a capital H.

[1]     Soviet Encyclopedic Dictionary, Published by “Soviet Encyclopedia”, Moscow, 1979


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