Stakhanovism and the Politics of Productivity in the USSR, 1935-1941

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This is a study in English of a major and instructive episode in the history of the Soviet Union. The Stakhanovite movement commemorated the mining of 102 tons of coal by Aleksei Stakhanov on August 30-1, 1935, and it was an important symbol by which the state urged workers to achieve greater productivity. As Lewis Siegelbaum demonstrates, Stakhanovism can be used to explore the social relations within Soviet industry at a critical stage in its development. In this sense, Stakhanovism was an important symbol of a shift in official priorities from construction of the means of production via increasing inputs of labor, to intensive use of capital and labor. Siegelbaum argues that Stakhanovism evolved neither as the product of a master plan nor of spontaneity from below. It developed in response to economic and political contingencies, local initiatives and inertia, and the maneuvering of workers and their bosses alike. Through an interpretation of Stakhanovites as models of the New Soviet Man, this book advances a unique contribution to our understanding of Soviet life in the 1930s.