Three USSR Engineering Disasters (from "The Ghost of the Executed Engineer" by Loren Graham)
1) Dnieper Dam Power Plant

Water flow too slow (required world's largest turbines)
Created in a flood plane: 10,000 farmers forced out & farmland lost poor facilities, scarce food = large scale disease and death shore erosion and algae blooms = environmental disasters

2) Magnitogorsk ("Steel City")

In 1927 Palchinsky published critique: lack of water transportation, no coal nearby, no labor force nearby, no studies of extent of iron ore. Worker's promised "garden city" away from industry; got barracks with open sewers, directly in the path of blast furnace fumes, instead. 30,000 prisoners used, 10% died the first winter.

3) White Sea Canal

Almost all workers were prisoners; 200,000 died during construction.
Canal would be frozen half the year, and water too low in dry summers.

Engineers given 20 months, using no mechanized equipment or concrete.

Wooden canal walls and gates quickly rotted, too shallow for oceanic boats.

Some problems with Marxist solutions in the USSR:

1) By placing so much emphasis on a materialist analysis, Marx did not allow sufficient attention to the realm of semiotics: of ideas and human meaning. For example, free speech is crucial to environmentalism: when disasters like the Love Canal in the US occur we can go to the press and make public demands; if you complained in the USSR you were charged with being a "counter-revolutionary."

2) The lack of civil rights in the USSR was not only due to Marx's tendency towards authoritarian politics, but also in part a cultural phenomenon, carried over from the elitist traditions of Peter the Great and the Czars.

3) Over-confidence in the perfection of engineering under socialism: USSR nuclear power plants don't need containment vessels because errors are only due to capitalists' need to cut corners for profits.

4) Lack of competition for technological advancement: higher tech is often more efficient, less polluting.