Laboring Along: Industrial Workers and the Making of Postwar Romania (1944-1955)

Thesis author: 
Adrian Grama
Year of enrollment: 
Thesis supervisor: 
Marsha Siefert
Full description: 

Products of war rather than revolution, the socialist regimes of Eastern Europe established themselves in a global conjuncture defined by the aftermath of the Second World War. In this sense, coping with the far reaching consequences of the war as they affected various domains of social life while building socialism constituted entangled processes of postwar transformation. How did these regimes manage to end the postwar by overcoming the domestic impact of the Second World War? Taking Romania as a case-study and industrial workers in metal industries and mining as objects of analysis, this dissertation argues that in the realm of labour relations the major paradigm for ending the postwar was the “politics of productivity”: a complex, always conflicting set of policies, plans and strategies designed to recover the efficiency of industrial production and gear it towards stable, long-term growth. The politics of productivity, I contend, structured the transition from the period of postwar reconstruction to the take-off of industrial development during the late 1950s, thus mediating the transformation of the war economy bequeathed by the Second World War into a socialist command economy tailored to national circumstances.

Conceived as (1) pacification of labour relations, (2) the recovery of managerial authority, (3) monetarization of everyday life, (4) rationalization and (5) austerity, the politics of productivity provides a comprehensive conceptual framework for grasping together the end of the postwar period and the building of state socialism in Eastern Europe. By revealing how the social consequences of the Second World War were absorbed in the transition to authoritarian state socialism in the age of the rolling steel mill, this dissertation carries implications for the way in which we may think about the aftermath of wars, reconstruction and development during the second half of the twentieth century.