If given a choice, would you prefer to live in Stalin’s Russia or Mussolini’s Italy?

Ans. Where I would prefer to live would depend greatly on where in the social hierarchy I would belong to.

For example, had I been born a worker, I would choose to live in Russia. There is no doubt that the life of workers in Russia was hard with long working hours and a great lack of safety precautions. Thousands died owing to poor living conditions as well as the cold. Many people were forced to work in labor camps, and subjected to harsh punishments in order to instill discipline and reach set targets, and could be subjected to the even more fearsome gulags.

Yet, despite such a bleak picture, there was still hope that Russia would soon become an egalitarian society with equality promised in the future. With rewards given to the hardworking, such as the Stakhnovites, there was more incentive. Also, Stalin’s appealing to Russian nationalism was a driving force in working for a socialist state where there was at the very last, a promise of food, clothing and shelter.

Mussolini’s Italy promised the same hardships as in Russia such as long working hours and a rather low standard of living. Furthermore, there was also greater unemployment in Italy owing to the global economic recession which had not affected communist Russia and despite Mussolini’s attempts to create more jobs by state public working schemes, there were still 2 million unemployed.

The outlawing of trade unions meant that the rights of the workers were not adequately defended. Since the fascists were strongly anti-socialist, the right to strike was banned and the workers lost even more rights. During the period of Mussolini’s rule, wage fell for the Italian worker by about 10 percent.

However, had I been born an industrialist, I would surely prefer to live in Mussolini’s Italy.

Russia, the socialist state, was no place for industrialists and factory-owners. There was a huge growth in industries in Russia; however, they were under control of the government. Factory owners, capitalists, therefore would prefer to live in Italy.

Mussolini’s strict laws against socialism were partly to please the industrialists because he needed their support. Privatization, the reduction of taxes on industries which had made profits from government contracts a well as the outlawing of trade unions favored the industrialists.

However, the revaluation of the lire led to a decrease in exports, sending quite a few industries such as textile into depression. Heavy industries such as steel, armaments and shipbuilding, however, went from strength to strength, finding cheap raw materials.

During the recession, Mussolini also helped the private sector out. He bailed out the banks who had lent money to the industrialists and a result of this was the ‘Institute of Industrial Reconstruction’, which provided loans for the Italian industry.

If you were a member of the middle-class, however, things wouldn’t be too different either way. However, I would prefer to live in Italy.

In Italy, you needed to be a member of the Fascist party in order to get promotions. Yet, there was a hope that you could set up a private industry if you were well-off enough.

In Russia, educated people took managerial and administrative posts and there were unique privileges and rewards for the pro-Stalin. Bonuses were given, better houses were provided as well as good quality education. However, it was mainly a carrot and stick tactic as the benefits could be withdrawn at any time. Also, the Five-Years Plan heavily taxed the middle-class.

Thus, it can be seen that the decision of where one would like to live depends mainly on your social class and ideology: a socialist would live in Russia, a capitalist would live in Italy and a middle-class could be swerved either way.