Organized Labor In Postcommunist States

Organized Labor In Postcommunist States: From Solidarity To Infirmity

Paul J. Kubicek
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Organized Labor In Postcommunist States
    Book Description:

    Paul Kubicek offers a comparative study of organized labor's fate in four postcommunist countries, and examines the political and economic consequences of labor's weakness. He notes that with few exceptions, trade unions have lost members and suffered from low public confidence. Unions have failed to act while changing economic policies have resulted in declining living standards and unemployment for their membership.While some of labor's problems can be traced to legacies of the communist period, Kubicek draws upon the experience of unions in the West to argue that privatization and nascent globalization are creating new economic structures and a political playing field hostile to organized labor. He concludes that labor is likely to remain a marginalized economic and political force for the foreseeable.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7267-9
    Subjects: History, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. 1 Civil Society, Trade Unions, and the Political Economy of Postcommunist Transformation
    (pp. 1-20)

    THE COLLAPSE OF COMMUNISM was marked in many ways, not the least of which was its ironic character. A system of rule ostensibly built on the Great Truth of Marxist-Leninist doctrine was openly exposed as politically and morally wanting. Nationalism, far from withering away as communists supposed, returned with a vengeance, helping to bring down communist states and emerging as a potent force in the postcommunist era. The progressive ideology of socialism also proved incapable of competing against its historically retrograde rival, and the socialist experiment is now derided as a long and painful detour from capitalism to capitalism.


  7. 2 The Postcommunist Inheritance
    (pp. 21-51)

    AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE HISTORY of organized labor under communism is crucial because today’s trade unions are not built from scratch; their experience under communist rule shapes them today and arguably helps account for many of their current problems. The mobilization of labor in the late communist period, especially in Poland and the Soviet Union, was in retrospect the apogee of labor activism. Even though labor probably will be unable to recreate this historical moment, this period is important because it offers a glimpse of what labor might have becomeifit could have seized opportunities offered by communism’s collapse....

  8. 3 East Meets West
    (pp. 52-70)

    IT IS IRONIC THAT POSTCOMMUNIST labor leaders are looking more and more to the experience of their colleagues in the West, just as organized labor in most advanced industrialized countries is experiencing a marked decline. However, there is little doubt that some of the very same processes that are helping to erode trade union power in the West, and their concomitant neocorporatist, social-democratic policies, are also present in Eastern Europe. Viewed from this perspective, unions’ problems in the region—at least over the long term—may stem less from the past legacies of communism than from movement to a marketized,...

  9. 4 Organized Labor in Poland
    (pp. 71-102)

    ANY STUDY OF POSTCOMMUNIST LABOR must give concerted attention to developments in Poland. The reasons are not hard to find. Poland was, of course, the birthplace of Solidarity, the largest independent trade union-cum-social movement in Eastern Europe and an actor often credited with precipitating the fall of communism. In 1989, Solidarity, by then part trade union and part political party, assumed leadership of the country. Many who championed notions such as “workers’ self governance,” a “Third Way,” or even generic “social democracy” or “democratic corporatism” took heart from the victory of Solidarity and what it portended for the position of...

  10. 5 Organized Labor in Russia
    (pp. 103-135)

    RUSSIAN TRADE UNIONS HAVE NOT BEEN nearly as prominent in the postcommunist period as their Polish counterparts; not one of them has lent its name to a party that has ascended to the heights of political power. Their political identity is ambiguous, and their electoral campaigns in alliance with other groups have won them little. They, unlike the oligarchs, do not curry favor in the Kremlin. They stood paralyzed in the wake of the massive theft that accompanied privatization, and they have been unable to consistently mobilize workers even as millions went unpaid and slid into poverty as the result...

  11. 6 Organized Labor in Hungary
    (pp. 136-157)

    AT FIRST GLANCE, HUNGARY MAY SEEM like a peculiar case to include in a study of postcommunist labor. It has certainly witnessed nothing like the dramatic events in Poland or even the occasional round of incidents as in Russia. It therefore qualifies as a country with one of the least active—or at least, the least visible—labor movements in the region. Extended strikes have been extremely rare. Laszlo Bruszt, a well-known academic and former leader of the LIGA, the largest noncommunist-successor union organization in Hungary, contends that only the Vatican could boast of a more peaceful system of industrial...

  12. 7 Organized Labor in Ukraine
    (pp. 158-183)

    UKRAINIAN TRADE UNIONS HAVE MUCH in common with their Russian counterparts. It could hardly be otherwise, given their common Soviet experience. For the most part, Ukrainian trade unions are the inheritors of the republic-level structures from Soviet times, although there are also some newer unions in a few sectors (mostly mining and transport) whose lineage can be traced to all-Union workers’ organizations in the late 1980s. As in Russia, Ukrainian unions are attempting to overcome negative aspects of the Soviet period while at the same time adjusting to the still uncertain environment created by both economic dislocations and nascent marketization....

  13. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 184-206)

    IN ORDER TO TIE TOGETHER in a more systemic and comparative fashion various strands of thoughts and arguments in this volume, my conclusion has three primary aims: to account for labor’s weakness, particularly with respect to the effects of structural economic changes and global economic factors; to suggest if and how labor’s weakness has explicit political consequences; and to postulate what developmental paths are open to unions in these states today.

    Organized labor’s weakness has been taken as a virtual given in this work, although the country studies provide plenty of reinforcement for this claim. More interesting, in my view,...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 207-236)
    (pp. 237-252)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 253-256)