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A Dream Deferred

New Studies in Russian and Soviet Labour History


Edited By Donald Filtzer, Wendy Z. Goldman, Gijs Kessler and Simon Pirani

This volume brings together the latest work in Russian labour history, based on exciting materials from previously closed archives and collections. Sixteen essays, focusing on peasants and workers, explore the lives and struggles of working people. Ranging over a century of dramatic upheaval, from the late 1800s to the present, the essays are organized around three broad themes: workers’ politics, incentives and coercion within industrial and rural workplaces, and household strategies. The volume explores the relationship between the peasantry and the working class, a nexus that has been central to state policy, oppositional politics, economic development, and household configuration. It profiles a working class rent by divisions and defined not only by its relationship to the workplace or the state, but also by its household strategies for daily survival. The essays explore many topics accessible for the first time, including the motivations of women workers, roots of revolutionary activism, the revolutionary movement outside the great cities, socialist opposition to the Soviet regime, reactions of workers to Stalinist terror, socialist tourism, peasant families in forced exile, and work discipline on the collective farms.


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1. Introduction 11


8=6EI:G Introduction What Happens to a Dream Deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore – And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over – like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? Langston Hughes “What happens to a dream deferred?” Langston Hughes, the great Ameri- can poet, posed this question in a short poem he wrote more than half a century ago. Hughes was writing about African-Americans in the United States, but the grim answers he posited could be applied to people any- where who find their best hopes, both individual and collective, stymied at every turn. Hughes’s question is perhaps particularly applicable to Russia and the Soviet Union, the site of the first socialist revolution, dizzying eco- nomic plans, stagnation, implosion, and capitalist transformation. In fact, if we peruse Russian, Soviet, and now post-Soviet history, we can see that there were many different, often contending dreams – and many dreams deferred – even within one and the same event or political movement. It was part of the dialectic of Russian/Soviet history that what looked to many like triumphs of the system and the realization of certain dreams – the revolution of , the industrialization of the s, the victory over Langston Hughes, “Harlem”, in The Langston Hughes Reader (New York, ), p. . 69G:6B9:;:GG:9 fascism in the Second World War, Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization, Gorbach- ev’s perestroika, even the collapse of...

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