A Polish Factory

A Polish Factory: A Case Study of Workers' Participation in Decision Making

Copyright Date: 1960
Pages: 176
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    A Polish Factory
    Book Description:

    Industrial sociologists for many years have been limited almost entirely to studies of Western factories. For the Communist world they have been compelled to advance hypotheses based upon the assumption that political ideology determines the character of management-labor relations. Now for the first time, Mr. Kolaja's pioneering examination of worker participation in the management of a textile factory in Lodz, Poland, provides specific evidence for testing these theories.

    For eight weeks in the summer of 1957, while the liberal atmosphere of the "Polish October Revolution" of 1956 still prevailed, Mr. Kolaja observed the behavior of two work groups in the weaving department of the Lodz factory, supplementing these data by interviews and questionnaires. The workers he found for the most part eager to talk-particularly to complain-perhaps finding in this American citizen who spoke Polish with a Czechoslovak accent an outlet for repressed feelings.

    In general, Mr. Kolaja found, the weavers were almost untouched by the Communist ideology. The Lodz workers, like their counterparts in the West, worked for the pay envelope, blamed poor output upon technological and managerial deficiencies beyond their control, and sought to relieve the monotony of mass production by activities outside the factory. They responded little to efforts to involve them in the problems of the plant, and they considered the management people to be in a different, and opposed, class.

    Unwilling to abandon the doctrine that management-labor conflict does not exist in a Communist society, the Polish government had tried over the years to motivate the workers' participation in operational decisions. The latest of these attempts, coming shortly after the October political change, was the workers' council. This body, superimposed upon the existing management, labor union, and party structures in the Lodz factory, served both to stimulate some interest among a few workers and to complicate the task of the plant director, a forceful man, who had to promote the participation of workers whom he knew were unmoved by the principle of collective ownership. This he did, Mr. Kolaja observed, by reporting decisions to the workers' council as accomplished facts and asking its delegates to communicate them to their fellow laborers.

    The workers faced no such dilemma. They tended to accept the workers' council as yet another management organization, particularly after it had agreed to delay sharing the plant's profit. Yet one of them-denoted here as I -5 and surely the "hero" of the book-took his election to the workers' council more seriously and several times at its meetings embarrassed subordinate managers with his forthright statements. He was unable to fluster the plant director, however, who relied upon I-5's regard for his responsibilities to place him in the position of having to justify the profit sharing decision to his fellow weavers. The direction seemed clear by the time of Mr. Kolaja's departure: I-5 had been invited to join the party (no workers in the two groups studied were members), and he was about to be "coopted" by management.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6373-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Business, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. v-vi)
    William Foote Whyte

    This book represents a first in studies of industrial sociology. To my knowledge, this is the first time we have had a field research report on human relations in a factory in a Communist society.

    Dr. Kolaja pioneered in securing research entry into the factory in the first place, and he has exploited this opportunity with skill and persistence. On the basis of interview data, we see how the workers regard their work, factory management, and the agencies theoretically designed to serve their interests. Perhaps of greatest interest in the book are Dr. Kolaja’s observational reports of workers’ council meetings....

  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xviii)

    This study of worker participation in the management of a Polish factory, made from personal observation and from data collected through interviews and questionnaires, provides specific evidence both to correct and to support views now prevalent not only in Communist countries, but also in the West.

    In broad, our study does lend support to recent criticisms of traditional theory. Both Saint-Simon and Marx believed that conflict between management and the worker would vanish if their programs were put into effect, although for different reasons. Saint-Simon, whom we may regard as an exponent of the traditional view in western liberalism, assumed...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Polish Workers’ Council
    (pp. 1-12)

    In the field of industrial labor relations, Poland went through approximately the same stages as did Western European countries, although industrialization and other concomitant changes appeared somewhat later and the Polish labor movement had its own political and national character.¹ The Polish Socialistic Party (PPS), one of whose leading members for some time was Marshal Józef Piłsudski, was one of the most active forces helping to bring about the restoration of political independence in 1918. Trained in illegal and direct activities against the Czarist authorities, Polish organized labor entered the new Polish state proud and self-conscious. Compared with the peasant...

  7. CHAPTER 2 A Lodz Textile Factory
    (pp. 13-38)

    The city of lodz, the second largest of contemporary Poland, has a population of close to 700,000. Its fame, based on its textile industry, especially the cotton and wool branches, has given it the title, the Polish Manchester. Before the rebirth of the Polish state in 1918, Lodz (being located in the territory of so-called “Kongresówka”) belonged to Russia. Opening of a vast Russian market gave a mighty stimulus to the industry.

    The factory we studied concentrated on the production of cheap cotton material. By 1910, the plant employed some 7,200 workers;¹ during our visit in 1957, employees numbered about...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Past Events in the Factory
    (pp. 39-56)

    As a result of the dramatic and bloody Poman riots in June, 1956, Poland was internally shaken. The de-Stalinization process was accelerated by great economic dissatisfaction of workers on the one hand and by moral indignation of intellectual groups on the other, rejecting for the first time in public the misrepresentation of the Stalin period. Added to this was the traditional anti-Russian attitude of the Polish masses and the strong influence of the Catholic church. The group of Natolin being defeated, Gomułka was swept into power. “He suffered under Stalin; he was in prison”—so said the man in the...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Eight Weeks in the Factory
    (pp. 57-100)

    Between july 11 and September 3, 1957, there occurred in the factory thirteen events which appeared to have particular significance. These events will be reported more or less in chronological order, with the interpretation proper reserved for the next chapter. The following events will be described:

    1. The weaving department production conference on July 17;

    2. The production conference of foremen on July 27;

    3. The national holiday on July 22;

    4. The departure of the weaving department manager from his job on August 1;

    5. On August 12 and 13 the Lodz tramworkers’ strike, which had some repercussions in the weaving department;

    6. The loss...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Analysis of the 13 Events
    (pp. 101-115)

    Chapter 111 has sufficiently illustrated the point that the October change had actually brought no significant shifts in the personnel of management. The plant director survived the popular demand for his removal. And so did all around him. The removal of the manager of the weaving department (event No. 4) strengthened the control exercised by the director over the plant. Notice, for example, that in making reference to his intervention at the party meeting in behalf of the section foreman, 1-5 referred only to what the plant director had said (event No. 7). Similarly, in discussing the removal of the...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Attitudes toward Production
    (pp. 116-133)

    We have shown that the workers tended to perceive the function of the production process more in terms of personal interest rather than a collective goal. The workers did not identify themselves with the plant and its major function as did the management people. Since this was directly relevant to the problem of workers’ participation in the management of the plant, we asked a series of three questions on this topic. The responses were not written down in the workers’ presence, lest it influence their replies, but they were recorded immediately after parting from each respondent.

    The first question asked...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Interpretation and Conclusion
    (pp. 134-146)

    In this study two kinds of information were gathered. First, there were data on actual events which occurred in the factory over a period of almost one year. Some of the events were reported; some were observed directly by the researchers. Second, there were questionnaires and production data, most of which cover attitudes toward certain issues within the factory. In other words, we have the behavioral data, supplied by events, and attitudinal data, provided by the schedules and questionnaires. Fortunately, both the attitudinal and the behavioral data point in the same direction. There is no contradiction between them; this surely...

    (pp. 147-154)
  14. Index
    (pp. 155-157)