On Stalin’s death the Soviet regime faced a host of truly daunting economic difficulties, not the least of which were the behaviour and performance of the industrial workforce. As with industry in general, the problems were structural and systematic. Stalinist industrialisation during the 1930s had created a highly specific system of production relations within the Soviet industrial enterprise (Filtzer, 1986). The combination of dire material scarcity and a chronic labour shortage made discipline difficult to enforce: job changing and absenteeism were high throughout the decade, as workers moved from factory to factory in search of better conditions and felt confident that breaches of discipline regulations would provoke few sanctions from managers desperate not to lose workers. More important was the pattern of worker—manager relations that the labour shortage imposed. Workers, deprived of any possibilities of collective resistance or collective defence of their position, responded by appropriating control over the one area left open to them — the indivdival labour process. Workers retained considerable control over the use of work time. They squandered substantial portions of each shift on personal diversions and took advantage of internal disorganisation (non-arrival of supplies or instructions, inability to find needed tools or parts) to ease the strains of the work regime.
KeywordsTrade Union Piece Worker Labour Shortage Bonus System Labour Policy
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