Labor in State-Socialist Europe

Marta Siefert

Labor in State-Socialist Europe, 1945–1989. Contributions to a History of Work (CEU Press, 2020).


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 recuperating 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

Author: Aisseco

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