Reason labor policies of the Soviet Union failed

labor policies of the former Soviet Union and how they contributed to the downfall of the Soviet Union. The writer explores the labor policies that were in force at the time and explains their contribution to the eventual downfall. There were ten sources used to complete this paper.

It was one of the more historic moments in recent world history. As the world watched in awe, the Soviet Union began to dismantle itself so that it could rebuild from the ground up. After many decades of communist regime, the government was taken apart from the inside out, the entire nation brought itself to the ground and the process to rebuild began. For years it had been accepted as a superpower and those who lived there felt that the United States was its only rival.

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American residents had been raised to fear the Soviet Union and believe that they were the one nation that could take America down if it tried. When the announcement came that it was going to dismantle itself and rebuild millions of Americans were in shock. While Americans believe in and support a democratic system of life and government, never in a million years would they have foreseen the decision by the Soviet Union to dismantle and become a democracy. When the process began there were many previously closed doors that were opened up and Americans began to see what life for those in the Soviet Union had really been like. For years they had been told that equal pay, fair land ownership, workers rights, and guaranteed employment were the promise of success.

Members of the Soviet Union were led to believe that these very elements would keep the nation alive and thriving (Gibson, 1992). Now that it is over and the nation is struggling to regain strength with a new political system, it is not difficult to see what happened. The very labor policies that the leaders held up as success were significant contributors to the fall. The very lack of capitalism, meaning the creation of competition and hopes and dreams are what brought the Soviet Union down from the inside out. The same labor practices the government said made them better than Americans, destroyed any drive or desire to succeed. The lack of capitalist ideas and the labor policies created an apathy that eventually destroyed the nation.

In 1918 the Soviet Union adopted a constitution that spelled out its rule and ways of life (First Constitution of the Soviet Union, 1918 like the United States constitution it addressed the way of life for its inhabitants and how they would be treated as citizens of that nation. There were many labor policies addressed in this document that would eventually lead to the loss of the nation itself.

In order to establish the ‘socialization’ of land, private ownership of land is abolished; all land is declared national property, and is handed over to the laboring masses, without compensation, on the basis of an equitable division giving the right of use only (First Constitution of the Soviet Union, 1918”

The above part of the constitution was not a direct labor policy but had a direct relationship with the labor policies that were put into place.

The inability to buy land or own land was meant by the government to be a good thing (First Constitution of the Soviet Union, 1918 to the government this land policy would remove the classes and not let some people prosper while others failed. While this is a good plan in theory, without the ability to by land or desire to purchase more there is little incentive to work harder, better one’s life and be able to acquire more land than others have. This goes to the motivation of the people and the ability to get them to strive for better and more productive lives.

All forests, underground mineral wealth, and waters of national importance, all livestock and appurtenances, together with all model-farms and agricultural enterprises, are proclaimed public property (First Constitution of the Soviet Union, 1918”

The above passage from the constitution sets up the same problem. If all land is public property and all natural resources including gold and silver and diamonds and public property what is the purpose for effort? Why would one work hard or try to better oneself if one was not going to have a better life because of it?

The Soviet’s answer to this was to turn the factories over to the workers. In the constitution this was addressed as (First Constitution of the Soviet Union, 1918

As the first step toward the complete transfer of factories, works, shops, mines, railways, and other means of production and of transport to the ownership of the workers’ and peasants’ Soviet Republic, and in order to insure the supremacy of the laboring masses over the exploiters, the Congress ratifies the soviet law on workers’ control of industry (First Constitution of the Soviet Union, 1918”

However with this the government provided several labor policies that were contradictory to the drive for business ownership (Finifter, 1996). One of those policies was that of guaranteed employment. It promised each citizen a position or a job. This eventually led to an apathetic attitude about doing the work or improving the productivity of the work being done. After many years of being guaranteed a job the apathy dug deeper into the lives and hearts of the society of the Soviet Union and began to erode the original intent of the policy.

Two of the constitution passages address labor policies as well and take a slap at the American way of capitalism.

A the Soviet government will continue firmly in this direction until the complete victory of the international revolt of the workers against the yoke of capitalism (First Constitution of the Soviet Union, 1918

The Congress ratifies the transfer of all banks to the ownership of the workers’ and peasants’ government as one of the conditions insuring the emancipation of the toiling masses from the capitalistic yoke (First Constitution of the Soviet Union, 1918”

These ideas combined with pay scale issues and other labor policies worked together to bring down the nation. One of the labor practices that helped to do this was the practice and mandate of compulsory labor. This act meant that working was no longer a choice but something that had to be done. In theory this may sound like a good plan but in reality it was not.

The mandate of compulsory labor created the idea that every single person had to have a job. It didn’t matter what the economy was doing or what the job market was like. Each person was “guaranteed” work by the government and this meant that even when factories were filled to the brim there were more workers coming. The goods were to be made whether or not there was a need for them and the people had to do the labor whether or not they wanted to. All of these things combined, created the apathy that eventually took hold of the inner soul of the nation and brought it to its knees.

The Red Army of Workers simulated what Americans know as Unions. The difference was that the Red Army of Workers was actually controlled by the government and given freedoms that the government felt were allowable (First Constitution of the Soviet Union, 1918 again wiped out any hope for motivation or drive and those who belonged simply went through the paces.

The government allowed the workers to be given the right to participate in the government structure and to practice religion but later years removed such rights. The laboring masses were then nothing but workhorses who went each day, performed their duties, and did not have anything to wish for or hope for.

The reason the labor policies of the Soviet Union failed was because of the lack of capitalistic ability there. In America one can decide they want to buy a house or some land. They need a certain amount of money to do that so they choose a career that will allow them to address that financial need. In addition the lack of labor policies that promise everyone a job means that each person needs to do the best job that they can while they are at work. If they do not put forth their best effort they may be fired and someone else will be given their job. If this happens the person who was fired will not have the money he or she needs to buy the house or property. In addition the fact that each person must put forth his or her best effort in order to retain his or her job means that the product or services being produced will be of a high quality.

The quality of the goods becomes important because people will buy them and export business will thrive. All of the factors contribute to the building an maintenance of the way of life that Americans have come to enjoy.

The [state] recognizes work to be the duty of all citizens of the republic and proclaims the watchword: “He who does not work shall not eat (First Constitution of the Soviet Union, 1918”

This labor policy sounds productive in the beginning but it actually takes away the ability to succeed (Janos, 1992). Those who might want to venture into their own business or those who decide to start companies with their friends or relatives cannot because they are bound by the law to labor. The policy was meant to protect the workers from having to support those who did not work, but in reality it is those who strike out on their own that often make it big. Bill Gates is a prime example of how the Soviet Union’s labor policies helped to bring down the Soviet Union. The policies placed a choke hold on the workers and the ambitions so that they no longer had drive or desire to become someone financially successful.

The ability to compete is paramount to a society’s financial success. People and societies thrive on competition and they do so because they are free to see how much money they can make using their skills. Whether it is a person working in a factory trying to get the bonus for the best productivity, or the man who starts his own software company in the basement of a friend, the ability to compete is what keeps a society from becoming stagnate.

The problems date back to the days of Stalin who was emphatic that a class system not be allowed to begin. The refusal to allow individual freedom even in the way one worked caused an apathy that eventually destroyed the nation.

To be sure, Stalin was correct in speaking of the sharpening of the class struggle. However, he saw the roots of this class struggle in the remnants of the destroyed class, in the imperialist countries abroad and in the consciousness lagging behind being. He did not analyze those roots, which lay in the production relations created by the Soviet power itself. But these roots were the main ones which later led to the downfall of the Soviet power (On the Development of the Productive Forces (

They were based, as we shall see in a later installment, not only on the particular conditions in the Soviet Union. Class differences always result from the division of labor of the old society, which can not be completely overcome under socialism (and will be overcome completely only under communism), and these differences can lead to the downfall of socialism, if the working class loses the revolutionary initiative. In order to keep the initiative in their hand, the working class and its party also needs, among other things, a theory which scientifically analyzes the class differences which have their roots in the socialist production relations themselves. The Soviet working class and its party lacked such a theory (On the Development of the Productive Forces (”

The downfall of the Soviet Union was in part due to the labor policies that it had in place (Miller, 1994). The promise of work, the compulsory labor policies, the promise of same pay to many people created an apathy that destroyed any hope of competition or improvement of life. It was something that created an apathetic attitude about productivity and success which led to the inability to stir the nation into growth. This failure to grow was the ultimate downfall of the Soviet Union and it was triggered by the labor policies that removed the desire to compete and improve. As the nation rebuilds it is important that it allow for free market competitiveness. It is only through the ability to climb to the top for individual workers can the nation itself ever hope to do so.


On the Development of the Productive Forces and the Class Relations in the Soviet Union by Elisabeth Wagner

Understanding political change in post-Soviet societies: A further commentary on Finifter and Mickiewicz. (response to Ada W. Finifter, American Political Science Review, vol. 90, p. 138, March 1996)

Arthur H. Reisinger, William M. Hesli, Vicki L.

Furtado, Charles F. 1994. “Nationalism and Foreign Policy in Ukraine.” Political Science Quarterly 109:81-104.

Gibson, James L., Raymond M. Duch, and Kent L. Tedin. 1992. “Cultural Values and the Transformation of the Soviet Union.” Journal of Politics 54:329-71.

Gibson, James L. 1995. “Political and Economic Markets: Connecting Attitudes Toward Political Democracy and a Market Economy Within the Mass Culture of Russia and Ukraine,” University of Houston, unpublished manuscript.

Hahn, Jeffrey W. 1991. “Continuity and Change in Russian Political Culture.” British Journal of Political Science 21:393-421.

Janos, Andrew C. 1992. “Social Science, Communism, and the Dynamics of Political Change.” In Nancy Bermeo, ed., Liberalization of Democratization. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

First Constitution of the Soviet Union, 1918

Miller, Arthur H., William M. Reisinger, and Vicki L. Hesli. 1993. Public Opinion and Regime Change: The New Politics of Post-Soviet Societies. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Miller, Arthur H., Vicki L. Hesli, and William M. Reisinger. 1994. “Reassessing Mass Support for Political and Economic Change in the Former USSR.” American Political Science Review 88:399-411.

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