Ateliers > Histoire du travail dans l' Europe Centrale et de l'Est moderne

Working Group “Workers, Labour and Labour History in Modern Central-East-Europe”

Coordinators: Eszter Bartha (ELTE University of Budapest, Tibor Valuch (Eszterházy Károly University, Eger)





Revolution, state socialism and working-class life

09.00 – 9.15



Buzko, Oleksandra, Tseunov, Ihor: "Women diggers in Ukrainian archaeological expeditions of 1920-1930s".


Koulinka, Natalia: Soviet workers before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union

“Workers talk back”: Changing political discourses and working-class responses to the language of power


Raška, Jakub: Typographers: Pioneers of socialism or labor aristocracy? Public activities of book printers‘ and typesetters‘ in Prague and Vienna in the years 1848-1873


Kravčíková, Agáta: Changing Position of The May Day Celebration in Perspective of Establishment and Elites (Case of Coal Mining Regions in the Czech Lands and Upper Silesia, 1890−1989)


Kisőrsi, Zsófia: Between Classes. The Concept of Commuters in the Communist Ideology and in the Political Discourse through the Case of the Hungarian People’s Republic

Representation of workers in film and ego-deocuments


Heldáková, Lucia - Kohoutová, Klara: Selected aspects of socialist everyday life of the labour in the Czechoslovak cinematography in the second half of the 20th century


Vogelová, Pavlína: Czech Social Photography between art, society and politics

 „Globalized workers?”: International and cross-national perspectives



Suzan Pasztor,: Emigration of the labour force from the Central and Eastern European region since the second half of the 19th century


Delius, Anna: Between concrete struggle and abstract human rights: Labor protest in Francoist Spain and in state socialist Poland in the 1970s



Labour History in Modern Central-East Europe – Senior session

Friday, November 3, 2017




Gender, family and political orientation


Judit, Acsády: Women industrial workers in Hungary: Overview of data and aspects for comparative anaysis


Martin, Jemelka: The apostles Fordism and consumption: The corporate ethos, value orientation and family lives of employees of the Baťa footwear concern in the first half of the 20th century


Eszter, Bartha: What Lies beneath the Appeal of the Radical Right to Elite Workers? The Impact of Deeply Ingrained Nationalism and Perceptions of Exploitation

Stratification within the working class: Company towns and the rural/urban divide


Péter, Nagy: Migration and social transformation –The workforce supply of the Hungarian iron industrial companies in the second half of the 19. century


Kamil, Śmiechowski: Working class and urban question in the Kingdom of Poland at the turn of the 20th century: European contexts and local conditions


Alexandu, Lesanu : Refining the Moldavian Peasant-Workers in the Soviet Borderlands (1920-1938)

Labour relations


Robert Miklos, Nagy: Changes in the everyday life and the political power – labour relations in the interwar period in the Jiu/Zsil Valley coal industry


 András, Tóth: The Creation of the Working Class Pillar Through Parallel Rise of Craft Unionism and Marxism in the 19th Century


Marzec, Wiktor: The Work-Centered Life and the Militant Self an Infra-class Comparison of the Working Class Political Memoirs of the Late Russian Poland


Saturday, November 4, 2017



Inside the “workers’ state”: Workers under state socialism


Siefert, Marsha: Labor in State Socialist Europe after 1945: Contributions to Global Labor History


Réka, Várkonyi-Nickel: Why  did ’Rima-workers’ reject  Communism?: Worker‘s lifestyle and hierarchy on the colony of the steel factory in Salgótarján


Wilk, Hubert: Labour competition in Poland during the Six-Year-Plan. Between fiction and reality. Case of Poland

Transgenerational perspectives


Iosif Marin, Balog: Labor, Social and Daily Life to the Workers from Gold Mining in Transylvania during the „Long Nineteenth Century” (1800-1914)


Štofanik, Jakub: Religious Life of the Industrial Working Class in East-Central Europe?


Tibor, Valuch: Life story analyses of multigenerational Hungarian workers family in the 20th Century


General meeting about the questions of cooperation in the future



Refining the Moldavian Peasant-Workers in the Soviet Borderlands (1920-1938)

Alexandru Lesanu


This paper shows how the Soviet authorities nurtured a working class in a predominantly agrarian Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (MASSR). The MASSR was established on the Soviet-Romanian border in 1924. The Rybnitsa Sugar Factory was the first large factory in the MASSR. For this reason, it had the main role in the emergence of the Moldavian working class. By contrast with the heroic proletariat of the major industrial areas, the Moldavian workers emerged from the seasonal peasant-workers of the sugar industry.

The category of "peasant-worker" had an ambiguous status. On the one hand, peasant-workers represented the working class in the village. In this sense, they could serve as a bridge between the peasants and the workers. Moreover, with the help of this social category, the Soviet power could improve its image in the villages. On the other hand, peasant-workers were more exposed to "the peasant worldview". As a consequence, the peasant-workers had to be permanently "cultured" and "educated." To support this nascent social engineering project, the Soviets tolerated the low productivity of the Rybnitsa Sugar Factory and turned it into a cultural center for the production of the Moldavian working class.

In order to provide a more balanced representation of the relationship between the Soviet center and the periphery, I analyze a complex selection of the documents from the archival holdings in Russia and in the Republic of Moldova. At the same time, the documents from the Central Committee of the Workers Union for the Sugar Industry at GARF (State Archive of the Russian Federation) reveal details about the everyday lives of ordinary workers. Thus, my methodological apparatus includes a combination of "a history from above" with "a history from below."




“Emigration of the labour force from the Central and Eastern European region since the second half of the 19th century”

Susan Pasztor


Historical narratives in Central and Eastern Europe often describe the second half of 19th century as a period characterised by progress and modernisation.

Although – even if we acknowledge the importance of desirable social changes – a more detailed analysis shows that industrialisation arrived very late in this area and it was dependent on external financial sources: the social transformation of this period is characterised by important political, economic and social problems. At around 1900 emigration increased dramatically: this is the period of the second wave of the “great emigration” from the eastern and southern periphery of Europe, the great emigration of males representing the proletariat, that followed the first wave of emigration flows from western European countries, composed of rural families.

Through a historical analysis, combined with the analysis of the most important migration theories I show that 1) the motivation of those who migrate does not change substantially during the centuries: it is the socio-economic context in which emigration manifests that  changes, and it is strictly related to the transformations of the productive system; 2) understanding the processes of impoverishment of the working class and the marginalisation of minorities and other groups during different periods of social transformations can be very fruitful gaining insight into the motives of migration; 3) the number of emigrants from the region (as a share of the total population) between 1900-1910 can be compared directly to the number of emigrants leaving the Central Eastern European region in the last decade (2004-2014), and sheds light on societal challenges in the XXI century from a historical comparative perspective.




Labor, Social and Daily Life to the Workers from Gold Mining in Transylvania during the „Long Nineteenth Century” (1800-1914)

Iosif Marin BALOG


This study aims to analize the evolution of the gold-mining workers, and how their standard of living changed under the influence of factors such as: corelation between abundance of natural resources and  their every day needs,  state policies, changes in mining legislation promoted by the State, other economic and non-economic factors.

It is clear that the mining region studied here can be defined as a social region, considering that mining represented the dominant driving force behind its configuration and existence as a region, in which socio-economic processes, in their long durée, had a functional significance at all levels (administrative, social, economic, demographic and cultural), particularly as regards the emergence of solidarities and conflicts, so much so that, regardless of the nature and pace of the changes, the profile of the region remained virtually unchanged.

Although the abundance of natural resources would have created the premises for an earlier and more sustainable modernization, this did not occur due to the objective factors mentioned: lack of capital, technological constraints, lack of skilled labour, lack of modern entrepreneurship, lack of policy strategies specific to the local realities and the perpetuation, among the local communities, of practices and conceptions according to which most of the locals did fine as long as they could ensure their modest subsistence needs in natural harmony with the local environment and with the social arrangements in which they lived.

In addition to the dominance of small peasant gold-mining exploitations until the end of the 19th century, these activities were regarded by most as a source of daily livelihood, perpetuating among the inhabitants an individualistic conduct, often suspicious of and hostile to the emergence of more complex economic initiatives based on association and collective solidarity. A good indicator in this respect was the reluctance of many to find employment as workers at the larger mining enterprises even though most of them, working on their own, did not earn more than the income they would have obtained from salaried work.

In its turn, the State was tempted to obtain a higher profit from the gold-mining exploitations. Even though investments were needed to this end, the State preferred to adopt limited local measures of a palliative nature, supporting the local administrative model in legislative and bureaucratic terms.

Thus, up until 1885 the sources and the pace of regional modernization were relatively modest: generated by the oscillating policies of the State and the needs of the local communities, they were also heavily conditioned and limited by many technological factors, the lack of capital and the lack of connectivity of the region to modern means of transport.

At the end of the 19th Century, the penetration of foreign capital fostered a stream of massive investments and an influx of technology that brought about an irreversible process of transformation in the region, particularly in those communities that were focused on these investments.

Our research takes into consideration that in the analyzed area in the 70s of the 19th Century lived about 8500 permanent and temporary workers, most of them local residents, but later also foreign miners settled here by the foreign companies, so that on the Eve of the First World War their number exceded 10000.




Religious Life of the Industrial Working Class in East-Central Europe?

Jakub Štofaník


Labour history has tendency to overlook or, rather, to underestimate the role and importance

of religion as well as of the churches in modern, industrial societies. Dominant part of social

and labour historians has adopted an outspoken secularist perspective. I believe that religion

in modern times can-not be reduced to a compatible pair of secularization and modernization

and that the secularization approach needs to be critically re-examined. In my opinion the

relationship between religion and modern society can be characterized rather by parallel

negotiation and mutual influence than by permanent opposition. After all, religion’s influence

on society is not automatically linked with the continual expansion of human understanding,

rationality, and technologization, as its retreat from the public space does not mimic the

processes of industrialization and urbanization.

To rethink and illustrate some of these theoretical problems I propose to concentrate on the

situation in two industrial towns in Czech lands: Ostrava and Kladno in the first half of 20th

century. Both of them were representing the centres of Austro-Hungarian and later

Czechoslovak heavy industry, with very divers religious offer (from traditional churches to

newly established communities and different sects). Special attention will be paid to the

working class inhabitants and their religious and spiritual life. I will analyse the interactions

between class, religious and national identification of workers. My contribution will also try

to clarify the procedure and motivations of conversions between different churches and its

social roles as well as a direct churches’ involvement among working class population.



Selected aspects of socialist everyday life of the labour in the Czechoslovak cinematography in the second half of the 20th century

Lucia Heldáková et Klara Kohoutová


The Communist Party, which was representative of the working class after 1948 in Czechoslovakia, tried to control and customize to their own image all spheres of public, political and cultural life, including cinematography. Historical period films represent a unique historical source, because they show real everyday life. Film images bring a lot of new information and they are also images of the past.

After the World War II general public interest in cultural events in Czechoslovakia was increased and culture began to develop more dynamically Communists tried to use this situation to interconnect cultural values with the policy. Main aim of the Communist cultural policy was utilize growing importance of culture for their own propaganda. The cinematography became one of the biggest mass media in the second half of the 20th century. Through films and serials people didn’t receive only fun, but they were influenced also by cultural and educational feature of films and serials.

Aim of this paper is show the issue of workers' propaganda in selected Czechoslovak films. The paper also focuses on the image of the labour, their self-reflection and identification with film stories. Through films people could create an alternative life, through which they could escape from reality. On the other hand movies effort was to show what kind of life will people live in future according to Marxist-Leninist ideology.

Along with the political development of the Soviet Union progressed a historical development of Czechoslovakia too and this influenced another changes in the cultural sphere. This paper deals with transformation process of themes in movies according to the time of origin.





Soviet workers before and after the collapse of Soviet union

Natalia Koulinka


A Soviet newspaper Izvestia, reporting in 1989 from a Meeting on the Human Dimension of the OSCE in Paris, quoted the head of a Soviet delegation who emphasized the attention its participants devoted to political reforms in the USSR and emphasized an overall productive discussion of human rights. Two years later, on the eve of the final Meeting of the series in Moscow, the USSR vice-President in interview for Izvestia stressed the importance of human rights and freedoms as topics prepared for discussion.

Twenty-five years passed after the collapse of Soviet socialism brought a realization that what those reportages depicted was a shift in conceptualization of social reality. Individual’s political rights and liberties came to replace the collectivist economic rights – the pivotal promise of the Soviet power to laborers. This transformation forever changed an everyday reality for workers. It also profoundly altered the tone of and place that laborers and manual labor have since occupied in public discourse.


This paper engages textual and visual material appeared between 1988 and 1994 in two all-union newspapers, Izvestia and Literary Newspaper, and in a Belarusian publication, Soviet Belorussia, in order to document changes in public attitude towards manual labor and the laborer at once reflected in and encouraged by mass media. Its argument starts with the assumption that the division between manual and intellectual labor incapacitates laborers by structurally depriving them of access to discourse production. The early Soviet socialism approached the problem by creating an institution of worker correspondents, ardently advocated by Trotsky. During the late socialism, this institutional approach dissolved into a demand of positive representation of workers. Despite its mostly ideological character, it secured a visibility for and symbolic appreciation of the laborer and manual labor. The collapse of Soviet socialism, however, precipitated the change that spelled the end even of this.



Czech Social Photography between art, society and politics

Pavlína Vogelová


The nature of the Czech Social Image between 20 – 40th years of the 20th century, moves within the confines of poetry, despite criticism, propaganda leftist movement to avant-garde passages. Czech leftist social movement based on influence from the German workers' movement. The workers' movement was in interwar period extended to other countries, so I will be the nature of social photography Czech spacetime approached from the perspective of European semantic context. I will be interested in the effects, conceptual, reasoning and formal features variability, stagnation or stagnation questions of objectivity and subjectivity, manipulation and manageability technical picture in the dynamics of social-cultural political and artistic conditions of the reporting period.


Photographic image of 20th to 40th years'll follow in terms of copyright and thematic approach concept of a social document, which dominates the central creates man and his situation. The image linked with a critique of society, social situation, politics, but also with a degree of personal freedom or unfreedom of man. Social elements are reflected in the formation of social movements, photojournalism, street photography, war photos, snapshots, photographic essays on the human condition. Within the Czech production we will be interested in creating and approaches especially the Left Front, a section Foto-Film group and photographers Karol Aufricht, Irena Blühová, Karel Hájek, Jan Halász, Tibor Honty, Jaroslav Hošek, Joseph Kubín, František Pilát, Oldřich Straka, Jiří Lehovec, František  Povolný, Karel Kašpařík and others.


Social photo and theoretical approaches to reporting period 20th to 40th 20th century by analyzing developments in archeology critical approaches in the changing social and political conditions in during World War II and then in the post-war period under the rule of communist power after 1948 in Czech Republic.




Changing Position of The May Day Celebration in Perspective of Establishment and Elites (Case of Coal Mining Regions in the Czech Lands and Upper Silesia, 1890−1989)

Agáta Kravčíková


The case study will investigate the reactions of local elites and establishment regarding 1st May celebration that was for the first time proposed by the International Socialists in 1890. By analysing the changes in discourses of those who were possessing the power we can observe the democratization process during which the working-class was becoming an equal member of civic society including the right to vote and be elected. The Labour Day will not be primarily investigated as a protest event, however there is no purpose to deny it, but as a key indicator of proceeding approving the lower social classes to take a part in local and state political system.

The chosen time period allows me to observe this proces on background of changing political systems with different attitude to the socialist ideology. An example of Ostrava, which industry was based on coal mining and steel production, indicates following development of official point of view regarding the May Day: protest event – respected right to express own demands – popular feast – event of the priviledged class – national feast of everybody who do not stay in opposition to the state power.

My research of Ostrava will be presented in comparison with other coal mining regions in Czech lands and Upper Silesia (Katowice).




Working class and urban question in the Kingdom of Poland at the turn of the 20th century: European contexts and local conditions

Kamil Śmiechowski


In the second half of the 19th century the Kingdom of Poland experienced huge industrialization, which completely remodeled the existed social structure. Rapid development of industrial districts including Łódź and Dąbrowa Basin, as well as the fast growth of Warsaw, were connected with appearance of new social agents. Working class, formation of which was one of the most significant social changes which happened during that time, was a typically urban group of population and the problem of workers was strictly connected with urban reality. On the one hand, newly established Polish working class itself and all social problems connected with disastrous living conditions in developing cities and industrial areas were very similar to processes seen throughout whole Europe. On the other hand, specific political conditions in the Kingdom of Poland after failed 1863 January Insurrection and before the 1905 Revolution had a very negative impact on the development of cities. Russian Poland was one of the last places in Europe without real urban self-government with fatal sanitary conditions and huge rate of illiteracy. In a result, the connection between the urban question and working class question in the Kingdom of Poland was even more evident than in other Eastern European countries.

In my presentation I would like to define the similar and the different in relations between workers and urban question on the Kingdom of Poland and other countries of the region, Austria-Hungary, Prussia and Internal Russia. I will focus rather on the way in which working class problem determined transfers of projects and ideas of modern urban politics from abroad than underlying the uniqueness of Polish conditons. As I believe, this approach can be helpful to finding some deeper conclusions about the working class and urban modernization in Central and Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century.




Changes in the everyday life and the political power – labour relations in the interwar period in the Jiu/Zsil Valley coal industry

Robert Miklos Nagy


The typical “working class” in Transylvania appeared at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.  In this region, the mining companies were the most important representatives of the industrial mass production. The coal mining was the newest and it was concentrated in the South-Western part of Transylvania, along two valleys (rom. Jiu/hung. Zsil) of the Southern Carpathians.

Due to the acute lack of skilled and unskilled workforce, the mining companies were forced to bring over workers from other parts of the Monarchy. Of the eight large coalfields in the Hungarian Kingdom, the one in the Jiu Valley reached the highest number of colonized miners and workers. In 1911, only 853 of the 11,912 workers were natives of one of the 14 localities in the area.

The mining companies were forced to invest in setting up colonies of workers consisting of houses with layouts that had already been used in Central and Western Europe (drinking water, fuel and electric power). Elementary and secondary schools were founded and supported by the companies. To reduce the high prices, the directorates of the mining companies started building storehouses for consumer products, which were loaded with goods brought by rail and were sold at the cost price. Due to these measures the living conditions of the workers sensibly improved.

The first major changes in the life of the working class of the valley succeeded in the interwar period. As a result of the Paris Treaties from 1920, Transylvania became a province of the Romanian Kingdom. The Romanian governments had begun a policy of “Romanization” of the working class. As a part of this policy, to reduce the proportion of the non-Romanian ethnic workers, at the state-owned companies a number of workers belonging to the ethnic minorities were fired and Romanians hired. A part of the long-term policy was the fixing of a quote for the pupils belonging to ethnic minorities who can be matriculated in the technical schools/vocational colleges. The new power had a different perception also about the labour organizations and political parties. The Social-Democratic Party was banned in Romania. Our goal is to reflect to the changes occurred in the interwar period in the everyday life and in the political power – working class relations.




Between Classes. The Concept of Commuters in the Communist Ideology and in the Political Discourse through the Case of the Hungarian People’s Republic              

Zsófia Kisőrsi


“They are not industrial workers yet, but they are not peasants any more” – written about commuters in the 60’s. A relevant question arises as to where the place of commuters was in the official political discourse. According to the political discourse of the Hungarian People’s Republic, which was partly based on the communist ideology, there were two main classes: workers and peasants, thus commuters had to be placed between them.

During the Socialist Period there were many contradictory discourses about commuters in the newspaper articles, literature, academic papers, political speeches, etc. Many statutes tried to regulate their lives as well. The social history of commuters however, has been in the focus of historical interest neither at the macro nor at the micro-level for the past twenty-seven years.It is evident that a specific study on the commuter’s motivation, identity, living conditions could provide a new frame for the economic and social system of the state socialism in Hungary.

Examining the contradictions of commuter’s discourse could contribute to the understanding of the working process of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party (HSWP).

In this paper I examine the concept of commuters in the political discourse in the case of the Hungarian People’s Republic. Two main issues are highlighted in the topic: 1) The communist ideology of classes and the place of commuters in this ideology 2) The features of commuters in the political discourse in the Rákosi and Kádár area. The main question of my presentation is the following: How the thesis about the social groups between classes (as commuters were referred to in Hungary according to the ideology) expressed by the main ideologists of the communism effect the political discourse of commuting in Hungary?




The Work-Centered Life and the Militant Self. An Infra-class Comparison of the Working Class Political Memoirs of the Late Russian Poland

Wiktor Marzec


The paper examines the political participation of labor around the 1905 Revolution as a

conjunctural moment reconfiguring the proletarian self. I scrutinize workers' intellectual pursuits

and relationship between the work-centered life context, militant biography and making political

claims. The Revolution is often remembered as an axial event structuring the biography, rebuilding

the relational interconnectedness of the self, politics, work and the life course of the writing

subjects. The troubled process of leaving behind a repetitive work-centered life, in the direction of a

self integrated into political pursuits, is a principal focus of this contribution.

The argument is informed by analysis of biographical testimonies written by proletarian

militants from various political parties in different political circumstances. The corpus of ca. 111

narratives of different size allows for a broader, typological analysis across boundaries of political

milieus and respective memory cultures. Autobiographical writings are seen as multi-layered

narratives recollecting the change of the self and carrying along accumulated transformations and

experiences. I investigate the forms of emplotment structuring the biography, and in the same time

practical typifications used by narrators to structure their life course, both in the retrospective

writing and in living their lives of politicized autodidacticism.

During the analysis I narrow down the scope so as to sift the layers in proletarian writing such

as general narrative constrains, working-class musters, the role of pluralization of the political

sphere with rivaling social and national claims, and the impact of the 1905 upsurge. The result is a

panoramic insight into the background for political mobilization, canonized stages of the proletarian

biography and impact of revolution for working-class lives and writing across political affiliations,

from the far left internationalist socialism to the right-wing factory nationalism. This gives the

project an infra-class comparative flair by investigating meaning of labor and militancy in various

socialist and nationalist milieus, unlike studies disavowing the pluralization of the political

commitments of labor. While the interconnectedness of class struggle and national liberation

prefigures the patterns present among anti-colonial revolutionaries, the future turbulent trajectories

of the narrators and their politics of writing blaze path for a broader view on the political

biography/memory of labor in 20th century Eastern Europe.

Wiktor Marzec – sociologist and philosopher. His research interests concern intellectual

emancipation, political mobilization, ideological languages and conceptual innovation in early 20th

century Russian Poland, constituting the emergence of the political modernity. His recent

publications include articles in “Thesis Eleven”, “Journal of Historical Sociology” and “Eastern

European Politics and Societies”. He is the author of Rebellion and Reaction. The 1905 Revolution

and Plebeian Political Experience in Russian Poland (in Polish, with Lodz University Press and

Universitas). Social science editor in the journal “Praktyka Teoretyczna / Theoretical Practice”.

Currently he is pursuing a doctoral degree in sociology in Department of Sociology and

Anthropology in the Central European University, Budapest. The dissertation concerns workers and

the political in late Russian Poland.




Women industrial workers in Hungary. Overview of data and aspects for comparative anaysis

Judit Acsády


The major changes and tendencies of women’s participation in industrial work have similar features in the Central Easter European countries of the ex-Soviet block. The first phases of modernisation, when women gradually got employed in certain industrial sectors, was followed by the period of WW1 when women at many places had to take men’s position in industrial work and in other spheres as well, while men were summoned to the army and were fighing on the fronts. 

After WW2 in the phase of the extensive industrialisation and the centrally controlled emancipation policies of the state socialist systems, the growth of women’s presence in production became significant. Yet, after the transition to market economies in the 1990’s the share of industrial work decreased.

 Obviously the history of women’s industrial work is to be examined in the context of  of the histories of female employment and industrial work in general. In order to deliver comparative examinations, systematically collected data is necessary. The data of national census in a historical perspective might provide good tools to discover major trends and characteristics.

The proposed paper aims to provide an overview of statistical data since 1880 when women industrial workers got indicated first until the most recent census in Hungary, 2011. The paper also provides aspects to possible further comparative analyses.    

Such overview can contribute to the results of different other historical research of diverse methodologies to gain a complex image about working conditions, the organizing capacities of female labour force and  the interpretations of women’s industrial work.




The apostles Fordism and consumption: The corporate ethos, value orientation and family lives of employees of the Baťa footwear concern in the first half of the 20th century

Martin Jemelka


On the European continent in the first half of the 20th century, one would search in vain for another Czechoslovak company that expanded beyond its country’s borders with such fervour, global ambitions and media attention as was the case for the Baťa footwear concern. Although it began in 1892 with a handful of factory and home workers, two generations later it had thousands of company stores, 60,000 employees and dozens of factories across Europe, including France (Hellocourt, Lorraine). The comprehensive business model of the Baťa concern not only encompassed the manufacturing of fashionable and affordable footwear, as well as a wide range of ancillary products, but also the construction of company towns, which were intended to be the spatial and social, production and consumption framework of model factory communities living in harmony with a company-promoted way of life. While its corporate architecture and company towns have already received adequate attention at the international level, the genesis and models of the Baťa corporate ethos, the promoted and actual value orientations of its employees, and the family as the basic unit of its employees’ lives, work and consumption have not yet received systematic treatment. Thus, continental and North American social-reformist models of the Baťa company ethos and the mechanisms of its application in the international employee community, with many regional and social disparities, have received little attention. Also ignored have been the issues of the religious lives of the concern’s employees, the role of churches as disciplinary partners of the company’s personnel and social policies, and the strongly conservative features of the company’s family policy with its emphasis on traditional gender roles. In addition to these issues, the paper, which is based on knowledge of the Baťa concern’s activities on the European continent, focuses on an international comparison of the (un)successful application of the company’s model of family life and value orientation in the environment of its European company towns.



Typographers: Pioneers of socialism or labor aristocracy? Public activities of book printers‘ and typesetters‘ in Prague and Vienna in the years 1848-1873

Jakub Raška



Printers and typesetters, i.e. employees of printing offices, featured in the 19th century the highest paid group of workers, who were also educated well above the rate of other manual-working constituents of industrial society. Their socioeconomic status and cultural horizons were somewhere halfway between artisans organized in guilds, traditional element of urban space, and modern factory workers. Typographers in Bohemia, Germany and Austria were the first industrial professions that founded organizations for protection and improvement their labor standards as well as to education and cultural activities of the workers. The reason for this situation we find precisely in their education and relatively good economic status, at least in relation to other industrial sectors.

The aim of the paper, which is based on the author‘s dissertation project, is to look into public activity of typographers’ communities in Vienna and Prague since the revolution of 1848, when typographers in both cities came to public space with their demands, to the collapse of the Vienna Stock Exchange, which according to existing literature finally closed the first phase of the labor movement in Austria-Hungary characteristic with the concept of workers' solidarity based on apolitical self-help. The contribution will monitor the form of political (strikes and wage disputes) and cultural (for typography typical singing choirs) activities.

The contribution’s main questions will be the social foundation of their activities - whether they cooperate more with working-class or “bourgeoisie” organizations - and the values and identities, which are beyond them: Was it the elite (ant to large extent elitist) identity that was the most important for typographers working group or did they feel as a part of some broader working-class community, or was the national consciousness the supreme authority for them?





"Women diggers in Ukrainian archaeological expeditions of 1920-1930s"

Oleksandra Buzko, Ihor Tseunov

Me and my co-author Ihor Tseunov are exploring the topic "Women diggers in Ukrainian archaeological expeditions of 1920-1930s". Mostly our materials are photos kept in the Scientific Archive of Kyiv Institute of Archaeology, and sometimes diaries about excavations where workers are mentioned or lists of them are presented. Women diggers appear in archaeological expeditions of Ukrainian SSR in the late 1920s and become popular labor force in 1930s - when the propaganda of women learning male professions becomes strong enough. Following Marx, authors of first works in the USSR, dedicated to "women question", N. Krupskaja, A. Kollontai, I. Armand, were convinced that women emancipation is possible only under socialism. While most of Marxists perceived not all the ideas of these authors, consensus was about the statement that woman must work as equal to man, and thus her interests automatically match interests of working class. When Stalin began industrialization in late 1920s, Stakhanov and shock-worker labor was cultivated among women in particular. Soviet newspapers (such as “Rabotnitsa”, “Krestianka”, “Selyanka”) urged women to work as hard as men do. In 1930 party proclaimed that equality of sexes had been reached. What did women get in result – is a question to discuss.

Our research is a kind of "Women history from below" with a focus on social identity of these women from archive photos. While lives and intellectual biographies of women archaeologists of upper class gradually become a topic of academic researches, these women - "silent" participants of archaeological expeditions - become an object of research for the first time.



Between concrete struggle and abstract human rights : Labor protest in Francoist Spain and in state socialist Poland in the 1970s

Anna Delius


In Europe, the decades between 1960 and 1990 were shaped by anti-authoritarian bottom-up

dynamics, regardless on which side of the Iron Curtain. This does not only apply to Western

European students’ protest – in the late phases of Southern and Eastern European authoritarian

dictatorships, workers repeatedly stood up against the state, connecting their demands for better

labor conditions with both democratic conceptions and human rights claims. This paper investigates

local appropriations of global human rights discourses in late Francoist Spain and in state socialist

Poland in the 1970s, when both countries faced overarching socio-political change.

In order to examine workers’ struggle in different authoritarian settings, the paper focuses on two

solidarity campaigns for repressed workers: First, the reactions to the infamous “Proceso 1001”

against leaders of the illegal “Workers’ Commissions” in Madrid in 1972 – the last big political show

trial during Francoism; and second, the formation of the “Workers’ Defense Committee” in Warsaw

after the Polish authorities had brutally crushed labor riots in 1976. Unlike in dominant human rights

historiography that depicted the emergence of 1970s civil rights movements across the globe as a

longing for a “last utopia” of mostly Western intellectuals, this paper focuses on workers.

By drawing on archival documents from the Spanish Workers’ Commissions, the illegal Spanish

Communist Party as well as on Polish workers’ samizdat publications, I argue that workers both in

Spain and in Poland referred to international actors including the Vatican using them as ‘global moral

authorities’ and connecting their claims to a global language of rights. I thereby shed light on the

interface between concrete local labor struggle and a global human rights discourse.




Life story analyses of multigenerational Hungarian workers family in the 20th Century

Tibor Valuch


Hungarian working class used to formulate a rather closed, strictly stratified social layer with a strong identity at the turn of the 20th century before the communist takeover. The distance between skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers at workplaces and in social life stayed significant even after the communist takeover. Both workers of large plants and both artisanal workers – especially skilled ones, used to have good education. The level of illiteracy among them was rather low. The most important factors that defined and helped to maintain the distinct groups of workers were mostly family and social background, and also partly the differences created by profession, culture and life style. Workers who originated from multi-generational working class families had significant roles within the communities of large plants and factories. As the members of third or fourth generation of a workers’ families they often carried on the professions of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers. Ever since from their childhood they were preparing for this role and were raised to become workers with the adequate socialisation tools.

The determining factor of their life strategies was the sustaining of their employment in the factory that secured their existence. Step-by-step career advancement and the improvement of the individual worker’s position in the formal and informal hierarchies of the workplace were also key elements.

I collected more than 80 multigenerational worker family life story documentations (interviews, registers’ data, personal life documents, photos, diaries, etc.) in the latest years. In my paper I’d like to analyse these life stories. In the first part I describe the socio-demographic characteristics of these families. In the second part of my paper I investigate the specialities of (family) life strategies, work strategies, the process of socialization and at the and I’d like to show which were the main elements of the value system and the social behaviour of this Hungarian worker group in the 20th century, before and after the communist takeover.




Why  did ’Rima-workers’ reject  Communism? Worker‘s lifestyle and hierarchy on the colony of the steel factory in Salgótarján

Réka Várkonyi-Nickel


I have focused my research on the workers of the Rimamurány−Salgótarján Steel Corporation in Salgótarján (Northern Hungary). The choosen period is between 1935 and 1945, just before the socialist way of reorganization of the factory after the 2nd World War. Analyzing the lifestyle of the workers community I have used the methodes of history and antropology.

                The Rima Steel Corporation (established in 1881) had run a very good organized welfare and healthcare system for workers and their families. Compareing to the other districts of the village (from 1922 town) the accomodations facilities of the worker‘s colony were highly the best. Above their salary they had got the electricity, the coal for heating for free from the Corporation and they could buy food and cloths in the Corporation‘s ’magazins’ (shops) in a cheaper rate than anywhere else around the town. The Corporation gave financial aid (usually it was a loan without interest) to their employees to build their own houses. 

                The habitans of the ’Rima’ colony called themselves ’Rimai’ had common identity and made a well-defined local community.  They were mixed descent as in nationality as religiously at the first time. The only common point was the Corporation and the steel factory.

                The Steel Corporation opened the first elementary school in the 19th century and built a modern one in 1929. I have made my colonial childhood researches by the researching method of the etnography. Mainly I brought into focus the processe of upbringing into work. The boys started to work in the factory in the age of 14 and their main will was to be a fulltime ’Rima-worker’ one day.

                Just after the Second World War the communist part became stronger and stronger on the other parts of the town except on the steel-workers’ colony, where the main part of the workers was following the social democratic way.



The Creation of the Working Class Pillar Through Parallel Rise of Craft Unionism and Marxism in the XIXth Century

Tóth András


One of the key societal change of the XIXth Century was the rise of the Pillar of the Working Class in European Societies. The working class pillar was a stand alone segment within the society with distinct culture, political orientation and social institutions which provided shelter and services for communities of workers from the cradle to the grave. The emergence of the pillar of the working class was not a universal phenomena of industrial capitalism, but was a very European one. Werber Sombart, one of the most influential German sociologist at the turn of the Century had already realized that America is different from Europe and the main distinction is the lack of socialist working class communities compared to Europe. Literature studying the emergence of Japanese industrial society has also realized the distinctly different path of workers integration into the post-traditional society in Japan compared to Europe.

This paper argues that the institution of craft unions and later the rise of Marxism is the key factor in the creation a distinct working class pillar. The paper will demonstrate how unions created the institutional frame of enclosing community and how Marxism contributed with supplanting the community with an ideology, which separated it from other sections of the society.




Labour competition in Poland during the Six-Year-Plan. Between fiction and reality. Case of Poland.

Hubert Wilk

Labour competition was a concept that on Polish soil was copied from the Soviet Union. Implantation of this phenomenon was as the "whole" - with all its flaws and virtues. Such activities were characteristic for all countries, which after the Second World War were under the influence of the Kremlin. The competition was not only a way of exceeding the standards of production, and thereby fulfilling production plans. His task was more important and complex. It was to create a new elite of society, which had to recruit from outstanding workers - labor leaders so called „przodownicy”. The Soviet concept of "Stakhanov movement" assumed that the most prominent of them will attain the greatest honours: promotions, positions and functions that were previously inaccessible to the workers. Such a career path was shown by overblown propaganda examples of stakhanovites. In Poland, the situation was the same. Prominent workers, labor leaders in the light of official remittances embraced leadership positions, deputy mandates. But next to this propaganda image it functioned grim reality, which was far different from the official records, Its range also included the most important workers, the biggest stars of the competition. The paper aims to present and confront both images and will be trying to show a different perspective on the movement of labour competition - not only through the shadows, but also the lights.




Migration and social transformation – The workforce supply of the Hungarian iron industrial companies in the second half of the 19. century

 Péter Nagy


In the second half of the 19th century the Hungarian iron industry started on a significant development. The headcount of the iron industrial labour rose notably, so comes up the question: from where did the plus come? Meanwhile realignments took place on a vast scale: on the one hand, more factories were established in those areas, which had no industrial features earlier before, on the other hand, there were some factories, which had to be closed down because of the lack of competitiveness against the rest of all. Where were these new plants situated and what was the reason of that? How did the labour follow these transformations? Were there any qualification differences regarding the migration? From who did the labourers become? What could be the reason of them leaving their place of origin? Could the economic deterioration justify the resettlement or were there other reasons for that? Were there any language or denominational and social differences between the individual groups of the migration, respectively between the movers-in and the local people? How did the companies try to persuade them to stay (for example flat, allowances) and did their target proved to be effective? Alongside the presentation of the nationwide processes, I am also going to have an attempt to analyse the different features of the industrial societies regarding North Hungary, the capital city, because several progresses can be understood only from a review considered as a whole. During my presentation I am going in search of answers for the above scope of problems and questions, with the comparison of the national and local characteristics and with the comparative analysis of the singular examples.



Labor in State Socialist Europe after 1945 : Contributions to Global Labor History

Marsha Siefert


 The title of this paper, based on an edited collection of 16 chapters now in press, intentionally re-unites Europe prior to post-socialist integration and situates new research on labor history in Eastern Europe within the emerging field of global labor history.   Whether due to Cold War binaries or long-invested views of European geography, the experience of work in countries "east of west" has often been subsumed in larger narratives of "backwardness," "difference", or even less complementary adjectives in histories of European labor.  More recently, labor history in countries from Eastern Europe are included in conferences and edited books but without systematic reflection on how to “think together” in a more inclusive manner about what this research means for European labor history.  This paper, based on the book's introduction, will explore a range of new research gathered in the process of the initiative, co-sponsored with Susan Zimmermann, entitled "Labor History for the 21st Century in a Global Perspective," that has been ongoing in the Central European University History Department since 2012.  Among the themes discussed are "Finding Work, Finding Workers," "Workers, Rights and Discipline," "Workers, Safety and Risk," and "Workers, Protest and Reform."



What Lies beneath the Appeal of the Radical Right to Elite Workers? The Impact of Deeply Ingrained Nationalism and Perceptions of Exploitation

Eszter Bartha


While previous research (Ost 2005, Kalb and Halmai 2011) mainly focused on the losers of the change of regimes, here we interviewed a different group of industrial workers. They are mostly young (below 40), relatively well paid and enjoy considerable job security. We explain the increasing appeal of the far right among them in a historical and ethnographic context. Contrary to the older generation of workers (Bartha 2011),  young workers would typically associate negative phenomena with socialism (shortage economy, nomenklatura, secret police, etc.). We explain this through education and the marked anti-Communist stance of the post-1989 mainstream political ideologies. This alongside the general mistrust of the intelligentsia, effectively marginalized left-wing world-explanations and political theories.

Interestingly, however, workers used the concept of exploitation in the context of wage differences and Hungary’s relation to western countries. The extent to which an ethnicized discourse has been mainstreamed in Hungary is best shown by the frequent discussions of “gypsy crime” and the “welfare dependency of the gypsies”. We argued that “gypsy crime” was in fact used to conceal more deeply-rooted feelings of insecurity. The call for more social justice (targeted both at the rich and the “unworthy” poor”) alongside a massive anti-Roma propaganda thus appeals to many hard-working people, who have been socialized to be responsive to an ethnicized discourse.   


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