Challenging the claim that workers supported Stalin’s revolution “from above” as well as the assumption that working-class opposition to a workers’ state was impossible, Jeffrey Rossman shows how a crucial segment of the Soviet population opposed the authorities during the critical industrializing period of the First Five-Year Plan.
Marshaling an impressive range of archival evidence, Rossman recounts in vivid detail myriad individual and collective acts of protest, including mass demonstrations, food riots, strikes, slowdowns, violent attacks against officials, and subversive letters to the authorities. Male and female workers in one of Russia’s oldest, largest, and “reddest” manufacturing centers—the textile plants of the Ivanovo Industrial Region—actively resisted Stalinist policies that consigned them to poverty, illness, and hunger.
In April 1932, 20,000 mill workers across the region participated in a wave of strikes. Seeing the event as a rebuke to his leadership, Stalin dispatched Lazar Kaganovich to quash the rebellion, resulting in bloodshed and repression. Moscow was forced to respond to the crisis on the nation’s shop floors with a series of important reforms.
Rossman uncovers a new dimension to the relationship between the Soviet leadership and working class and makes an important contribution to the debate about the nature of resistance to the Stalinist regime.