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Workers in Hard TimesA Long View of Economic Crises$
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Leon Fink, Joan Sangster, and Joseph A. McCartin

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038174

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038174.001.0001

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Soviet Workers and Stalinist Terror

Soviet Workers and Stalinist Terror

The Crisis of Industrialization

Chapter:
(p.60) 3 Soviet Workers and Stalinist Terror
Source:
Workers in Hard Times
Author(s):

Wendy Goldman

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252038174.003.0004

This chapter reconceptualizes the Depression-era Soviet experience, using Marx's concept of primitive accumulation, with its emphasis on dispossession, proletarianization, and violence. Primitive accumulation is a process that characterized the transition from feudalism to capitalism. For Marx, what distinguished capitalism from earlier forms of wealth accumulation through trade was the dispossession of the peasantry, an agricultural population set free with nothing to sell but its labor power: “The so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production.” This central element of capitalism—dispossession and the creation of waged labor—set other great historical changes in motion. It destroyed rural domestic industry and created vast national and international markets for goods. The small property of the many became the great property of the few, and individual landowners took over the commons. The newly dispossessed were forced to work through an array of laws, punishments, and institutions, including whipping, workhouses, forced indentures, slavery, branding, and execution.

Keywords:   Soviet Union, Great Depression, Karl Marx, primitive accumulation, dispossession, proletarianization, violence, capitalism

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