Voluntary Labor and its Shirkers

The Bolsheviks quickly discovered that in a system that privileges egalitarianism and equal pay provided little incentive for hard work. The military communism of the Civil War era provided tools to compel workers to perform their labor, but once the war was concluded, the new regime needed to inspire the working class by other means. They tried a variety of methods, including valorizing labor through works of art and the special labor holiday, May Day. The regime created a new tradition of “voluntarily” contributing free days of work to repair war damage, called the subbotniks, or Saturday labor days. When praise and glorification proved only a partial solution, the Bolsheviks resorted to sterner tactics, including a campaign against shirkers, drunks and deserters – using a menacing military term to describe workers who skipped their shifts.

Militarization of Labor Visual Essays

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