The Formation of Working Class Cultural Institutions during NEP: The Workers' Club Movement in Moscow, 1921-1923

John B. Hatch


One of the fundamental political legacies of the Russian civil war was the estrangement between workers and the Bolshevik state. This development, which had taken on definite form in the winter of 1920-21, was conditioned by social and material factors and was the source of growing reservations in the minds of Lenin and his colleagues as to the commitment of a profoundly changed working class to the Bolshevik vision of a disciplined, yet enthusiastic, march towards Marx's industrial utopia. On this point, Lenin's concerns were well grounded: exhausted by years of sacrifice and declining living standards and working conditions, scattered by the necessities and dislocations of war, and increasingly estranged from state, party, and trade union elites, workers were singularly unattuned to the party's call for labor sacrifice and discipline. Instead, they wanted an end to hardship, a restoration of pre-W\VI living standards, a say over the conditions of work and life, and expanded opportunities for themselves and their children, all as compensation for earlier and current sacrifices.

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