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Alienating Labour: Workers on the Road from Socialism to Capitalism in East Germany and Hungary

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Volume 22

International Studies in Social History

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Alienating Labour

Workers on the Road from Socialism to Capitalism in East Germany and Hungary

Eszter Bartha

372 pages, 5 illus., 10 tables, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-025-2 $145.00/£107.00 / Hb / Published (November 2013)

eISBN 978-1-78238-026-9 eBook

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Recipient of an "outstanding" qualification from the Bolyai Fellowship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and a Bolyai Certificate

“Bartha’s book is a splendid achievement. Despite the disparate nature of the East German and Hungarian sources, which makes comparison difficult, her analysis is fully comparative. She manages to weave events at the local, regional, and national level into a seamless narrative.Her insights are so perceptive that, even if they do not always persuade, they will certainly enrich the ongoing discussion about the demise of Communism in East-Central Europe.” · English Historical Review

This is an important and path-breaking book… it is thoroughly comparative, and is very well balanced… The research and indeed the text as such are well designed and rest on a methodology, which is sophisticated, theoretically-informed and well-sustained. The balance between the rich detail of the enterprise-based case studies and the overall contexts in which they were situated is very well done indeed.” · Mark Pittaway, The Open University, UK

“[A] well researched comparative study of the relationship between the Hungarian and East German Communist parties, on the one hand, and workers in Hungary and the GDR, on the other. The decision to focus on party/state relations with workers in a major factory in each country is convincingly motivated. [The] archival research is extremely thorough.” · Donna Harsch, Carnegie Mellon University


The Communist Party dictatorships in Hungary and East Germany sought to win over the “masses” with promises of providing for ever-increasing levels of consumption. This policy—successful at the outset—in the long-term proved to be detrimental for the regimes because it shifted working class political consciousness to the right while it effectively excluded leftist alternatives from the public sphere. This book argues that this policy can provide the key to understanding of the collapse of the regimes. It examines the case studies of two large factories, Carl Zeiss Jena (East Germany) and Rába in Győr (Hungary), and demonstrates how the study of the formation of the relationship between the workers’ state and the industrial working class can offer illuminating insights into the important issue of the legitimacy (and its eventual loss) of Communist regimes.

Eszter Bartha is a habilitated Assistant Professor in the Department of Eastern European History at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. She received a PhD in History from the Central European University in Budapest in 2007 and another in Sociology from Eötvös Loránd University in 2012. Her current work examines the relationship between the party and the working class in the declining phase of Communism.

Subject: History (General)History: 20th Century to PresentSociology
Area: Central/Eastern Europe


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