The Shchekino Experiment: The Question of Control Over the Soviet Industrial Workforce

Arnot, Robert John (1985) The Shchekino Experiment: The Question of Control Over the Soviet Industrial Workforce. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis seeks to provide an assessment of the Shchekino experiment and a number of other experimental initiatives which have been introduced into the USSR since the late sixties. The argument presented is that these initiatives represent the response of the Soviet ruling group to an inter-connected series of problems that have given rise to deteriorating economic performance and declining rates of economic growth. The cause of these problems is located in the antagonistic nature of the social relations of production in the USSR and the specific effects these relations have on the process of surplus extraction. It is argued that the Soviet ruling group attempted to assert control over the Soviet labour process, via these experimental initiatives. Their intention was to raise the rate of exploitation and thereby secure a growing relative surplus. The thesis considers the specific experience of the Shchekino enterprise and offers an explanation for its initial successes that is different from both the usual western and Soviet interpretations. The explanation provided suggests that the experiment worked in the short-run because worker security was reduced. However, this explanation suggests that the experiment will have declining effectiveness over time at the individual enterprise. The inability of the ruling group to successfully generalise the experiment is also considered. It is suggested that the reason for this is that the logic of the experiment is at odds with the principles of the planning mechanism and the implementation of the experiment ultimately undermines enterprise performance. Other experimental initiatives are considered which have attempted to introduce complementary changes. From a survey of the experience of these initiatives, it is suggested that a similar range of problems and pattern of growth and decline can be identified. Finally, it is suggested that the experiments could only operate successfully if further complementary reforms were introduced. Specifically this would require the re-emergence of unemployment and a mechanism to unambiguously identify enterprise failure. As a consequence it is suggested that the experiments are not in the immediate interests of either enterprise management nor the industrial workforce. If this is the case then it calls into question the possibility of a transition to a market socialist solution for the Soviet economy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Russian history, Economic history, Labor economics
Date of Award: 1985
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1985-76573
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 14:07
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 14:07

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