Labor in State-Socialist Europe, 1945–1989

Contributions to a History of Work
$105.00 / €88.00 / £75.00
Publication date: 
484 pages, 3 figures, 2 tables

Labor regimes under communism in East-Central Europe were complex, shifting, and ambiguous. This collection of sixteen essays offers new conceptual and empirical ways to understand their history from the end of World War II to 1989, and to think about how their experiences relate to debates about labor history, both European and global.

The authors reconsider the history of state socialism by re-examining the policies and problems of communist regimes and recovering the voices of the workers who built them. The contributors look at work and workers in Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia. They explore the often contentious relationship between politics and labor policy, dealing with diverse topics including workers’ safety and risks; labor rights and protests; working women’s politics and professions; migrant workers and social welfare; attempts to control workers’ behavior and stem unemployment; and cases of incomplete, compromised, or even abandoned processes of proletarianization. Workers are presented as active agents in resisting and supporting changes in labor policies, in choosing allegiances, and in defining the very nature of work.

List of Tables and Figures

List of Abbreviations

Marsha Siefert

Finding Work, Making Workers

Natalia Jarska
Unemployment in State Socialism: An Insight into the Understanding of Work in 1950s Poland

Alina-Sandra Cucu
The Impossibility of Being Planned: Slackers and Stakhanovites in Early Socialist Romania

Ulf Brunnbauer and Visar Nonaj
Finding Workers to Build Socialism: Recruiting for the Steel Factories in Bulgaria and Albania

Alena K. Alamgir
“Inappropriate Behavior”: Labor Control and the Polish, Cuban and Vietnamese Workers in Czechoslovakia

Workers, Rights, and Discipline

Małgorzata Mazurek
Dishonest Saleswomen: On Gendered Politics of Shame and Blame in Polish State-Socialist Trade

Ulrike Schult
Labor Discipline in Self-Managed Socialism: The Yugoslav Automotive Industry, 1965–1985

Eszter Bartha
“This Workers’ Hostel Lost Almost Every Bit of Added Value It Had”: Workers’ Hostels, Social Rights and Legitimization in Hungary and the German Democratic Republic

Chiara Bonfiglioli
Discussing Women’s Double and Triple Burden in Socialist Yugoslavia: Women Working in the Garment Industry

Workers, Safety, and Risk

Thomas Lindenberger
Governing the State of Emergency: Large Industrial Accidents in Communist East Germany

Adrian Grama
Labor’s Risks: Work Accidents, the Industrial Wage Relation and Social Insurance in Socialist Romania

Marko Miljković
Nuclear Yutopia: The Outcome of the First Nuclear Accident in Yugoslavia, 1958

Workers, Protest, and Reform

Peter Heumos
Strikes in Czechoslovakia, 1945–1968: Systems Analysis and the Debate over the Causes of the Collapse of State Socialism

Susan Zimmermann
“It Shall Not Be a Written Gift, But a Lived Reality”: Equal Pay, Women’s Work, and the Politics of Labor in State-Socialist Hungary, Late 1960s to Late 1970s

Sabine Rutar
Labor Protest in the Italian-Yugoslav Border Region During the Cold War: Action, Control, Legitimacy, Self-Management

Rory Archer and Goran Musić
When Workers’ Self-Management Met Neoliberalism: Positive Perceptions of Market Reforms among Blue-Collar Workers in Late Yugoslav Socialism

Toward an Inclusive History of Work

Anca Glont
Not Just Socialist Miners, but Miners of the World: Internationalism, Global Trends and Romanian Coal Workers

List of contributors

"This book can be included in the currently developing dynamic field of state socialist labour history, whose pioneering studies were published approximately 25 years ago. It continues the exploration of the dictatorships from the perspective of workers’ experiences while insisting on “taking the promises and practices of state socialism seriously”. Both approaches are more than appropriate in the context of the decades-long politicization of state socialist labour history by both communists and anti-communists. The book is a relevant and useful contribution to global labour history. The authors provide accessible but also in-depth factually oriented texts. They introduce new ideas and use a great variety of sources. In sum, the book provides thorough and inspiring groundwork for further reflection."
This is the first comprehensive labor history focusing on Eastern Europe during the Cold War Era written for an international audience. The authors in this collection analyze specific forms of work, categories of workers, and sectors in diverse countries using new approaches and topics suggested by global labor history, which represents an added value of the volume.
This exciting collection advances our understanding of the complexities, contradictions, failures, but also successes of a state-socialist approach to workers and exemplifies the best of what is being done in labor history not only in east-central Europe but around the world.
"Siefert ist unbedingt zuzustimmen, wenn sie in ihrer Einleitung darauf hinweist, dass die sozialistische Arbeitsgeschichte integraler Bestandteil der europäischen Arbeitsgeschichte ist. Wie sehr all die Anknüpfungspunkte auf der Hand liegen, stellt dieser Sammelband eindrücklich unter Beweis. Nun müssen die westeuropäischen Historiker die Osteuropäerinnen nur noch lesen. Bleiben wir optimistisch."