“Stakhanovites”

From 1928-9, rationing was introduced on a large scale. The Stalinists even claimed that this meant an advance to socialist methods. From the mid-30s, however, rationing was phased out in favour of a policy of trying to extract more production by higher pay for selected workers.

From the Encyclopedia Britannica:
July 1932 saw the abrogation of Article 37 of the 1922 Labour Code, under which the transfer of a worker from one enterprise to another could be effected only with his consent. On Aug. 7, 1932, the death penalty was introduced for theft of state or collective property; this law was immediately applied on a large scale. From November 1932 a single day’s unauthorized absence from work became punishable by instant dismissal. Finally, on Dec. 27, 1932, came the reintroduction of the internal passport, denounced by Lenin as one of the worst stigmas of tsarist backwardness and despotism.

At the same time, pay and rations were linked to productivity. Preferential rations for “shock brigades” were introduced, and in 1932 the then very short food supplies were put under the direct control of the factory managers through the introduction of a kind of truck-system for allocation to workers on the basis of their performance. This culminated in the much publicized Stakhanovite movement. It was announced [in September 1935] that Aleksey Stakhanov, a miner, had devised a method for immensely increasing productivity. The method as stated was no more than a rationalization (in the Taylorian or Fordian sense) of the arrangements for clearing debris, keeping machines ready, and so on, and in fact it involved a large effort by a support team of de-emphasized assistants. A vast publicity campaign ensued, and Stakhanovites emerged everywhere. In fact, as more recent Soviet analyses have made clear, the whole thing was little more than a publicity gimmick. But it was linked with the policy of payment by piecework, intended to set the individual worker’s targets in industry higher than was normally possible, and was highly unpopular. This unpopularity could not be expressed in a normal fashion, but there were many press reports of sabotage of, or assaults on, Stakhanovites by “backward” workers.

Meanwhile, not only in the U.S.S.R. but in the communist movement the world over, “Stakhanovite” became the favourite word for a “shock worker” in any economic—or political—field. The new workers’ stratum, given much money and prestige, reflected the increasingly caste-oriented nature of Stalinist society, of which the bureaucracy-intelligentsia was the most notable feature…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s