Although he was a terrible tyrant, initially Joseph Stalin did improve the economy of the Soviet Union (USSR). He was not a good man by any stretch of the imagination. He ruled by fear, terrorizing his citizens, and often having them killed or letting them die. That said, the question still remains, did this horrible style of governing help him improve the economy, or should we just insert the hat-wearing dog that says, “This is fine,” with everything burning around him and call it a day?
The new and improved USSR
Stalin came into power when the people were itching for a strong man to take control and bring peace and order after the chaos of the Russian Revolution (the one in 1917, not the one in 1905). Stalin brought the order, alright. He was known for saying that the USSR was 100 years behind capitalist nations and needed to catch up, so he rolled out his first of a series of 5-year plans to help accomplish this.
Initially it kind of worked and Joseph Stalin did improve the economy, that is if your only goal is to industrialize the Soviet Union. And I do mean your only goal. He increased production, built many new factories, and set up transportation very quickly. He took a Soviet Union from a harsh peasant society, worked some tyrant magic, and converted it into an industrial and military superpower. One that was damn near enslaved and in constant famine, but hey, at least we’re not peasants, right? This is fine.
The famine and suffering didn’t happen right away, however, there were three years often referred to as “The three good years” in which the country wasn’t exactly going to hell in a handbasket. It was more of a little wicker box. The reason it's called "The three good years" is because it was the only time food and goods weren't rationed. The government took control of agriculture and the economy, which led into widespread famine. Farmers and people that refused to comply were either killed, exiled, or sent into forced labor in the “GULAG” system. Prior to Stalin’s rule, lots of people had no work, but under his rule they were having to work seven days a week in harsh conditions for long hours. Under such conditions, it was impossible for an individual to prosper, unlike the USSR’s capitalist counterparts.
In other words, what's the point of having a "better economy" if a regular joe can't have nice things.