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Alienating Labour

Alienating Labour: Workers on the Road from Socialism to Capitalism in East Germany and Hungary

Eszter Bartha
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 372
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  • Book Info
    Alienating Labour
    Book Description:

    The Communist Party dictatorships in Hungary and East Germany sought to win over the "masses" with promises of providing for ever-increasing levels of consumption. This policy-successful at the outset-in the long-term proved to be detrimental for the regimes because it shifted working class political consciousness to the right while it effectively excluded leftist alternatives from the public sphere. This book argues that this policy can provide the key to understanding of the collapse of the regimes. It examines the case studies of two large factories, Carl Zeiss Jena (East Germany) and Raba in Győr (Hungary), and demonstrates how the study of the formation of the relationship between the workers' state and the industrial working class can offer illuminating insights into the important issue of the legitimacy (and its eventual loss) of Communist regimes.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-026-9
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Economics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Acknowledgement
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Introduction Welfare Dictatorships, the Working Class and Socialist Ideology: A Theoretical and Methodological Outline
    (pp. 1-34)

    In the Hungarian ‘hot’ summer of 1989, when the newly formed parties had already agreed with the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (Magyar Szocialista Munkáspárt[MSZMP]), the ruling Communist Party of the country about the transformation of the political regime from the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ to parliamentary democracy and the holding of democratic parliamentary elections, many people in the countryside were still unaware of the forthcoming sweeping political and social changes.¹ Although the Hungarian democratic opposition was concentrated in the capital, there were, however, several signs across the country that displayed the crumbling legitimacy of the ruling communist regime. In...

  7. Chapter 1 1968 and the Working Class: ‘What do we get out of Socialism?’ The Reform of Enterprise Management in East Germany and Hungary
    (pp. 35-105)

    In August 1968 the party committee of the district of Gera¹ received the following report on the political mood of the population:

    The agitators’ discussions brought to light several theoretical problems that revealed that people could not yet fully comprehend a number of fundamentals. This is supported by the following: First, expressions of doubt about the increasing strength of the socialist world system and the change of power relations in favour of socialism at the global level; Second, inadequate knowledge of the complexity and intensification of the class struggle between socialism and imperialism; Third, comparisons between the principle of socialist...

  8. Chapter 2 Workers in the Welfare Dictatorships
    (pp. 106-216)

    After we have become acquainted with the rise of welfare dictatorships, the forthcoming chapter describes and compares the functioning of these dictatorships, which were based on a compromise between the party and the working class. The central thesis of the book is that having abandoned the harshness of the Stalinist strategy of modernization, the East German and Hungarian communist regimes turned themselves into welfare dictatorships that sought to win over the ‘masses’ with the promise of providing ever-increasing levels of consumption. This strategy achieved working-class acquiescence, but in the long run it proved to be detrimental for the regime because...

  9. Chapter 3 Workers and the Party
    (pp. 217-274)

    While the first and second chapters of the book discussed the rise and fall of welfare dictatorships, the third and the fourth chapters are directly engaged with the relationship between the workers and the ‘workers’ state’.The third chapter analyses party life from below: it describes the criteria and methods of recruitment, the role of working-class quotas in party building, attending meetings, party discipline, the ways and consequences of losing the membership of the party and the loss of the appeal of the party, which can be nicely documented in the Hungarian case. The fourth chapter compares the memory of the...

  10. Chapter 4 Contrasting the Memory of the Kádár and Honecker Regimes
    (pp. 275-295)

    The immediate experience of the change of regimes was different in the two countries. In East Germany mass demonstrations indicated the collapse of the legitimation of the Honecker regime, while in Hungary MSZMP agreed with the opposition about the organization of democratic elections. As we have seen in the above chapters, the East German political climate was much more repressive than Kádár’s Hungary. The following citation comes from an interview that I conducted in an unusual ‘terrain’ in East Germany with a Zeiss worker (Zeissianer), who had been imprisoned in the Honecker era for his oppositionist political activity. In the...

  11. Conclusion Squaring the Circle? The End of the Welfare Dictatorships in the GDR and Hungary
    (pp. 296-318)

    The book has discussed the rise and fall of the welfare dictatorships in three main chapters: in the formative period when political reforms and a compromise with the working class were still on the agenda of the party in both countries, in the ‘flourishing’ period of the 1970s when the standard-of-living policy provided for the political stability of both regimes, and the declining phase of the 1980s; and the third chapter investigated the relationship between the working class and the political power. The Hungarian case study illustrated the process which triggered the social crisis of the welfare dictatorships as the...

  12. References
    (pp. 319-334)
  13. Index
    (pp. 335-362)