The Life of the Soviet Worker
The Soviet Union was the workers’ state and worker culture, broadly defined, coloured the whole of the Soviet experience. At the centre of the most transformative Soviet project of all, Stalin’s industrial revolution of 1928–41, workers benefited from specific privileges and from affirmative action, though they also suffered the misery of rapid industrial change. After 1953, they enjoyed a heyday of modest material advances and moral certainties, marked by the sense that society respected at least some of their values and would do so forever. But this sense was not shared by all Soviet workers, and lifestyles varied by industry, skill level, and region. And the heyday faded as shortages became increasingly difficult to endure, and then ended, as Gorbachev’s reforms destroyed the comforts that remained. A positive worker identity, but not a coherent class consciousness, survived through toperestroika, and helped to sustain the dynamic of Soviet history.