The Introduction of Piecework in East Germany, 1945-51
This paper examines the introduction of piecework, a key aspect of the Soviet workplace, in occupied East Germany. As elsewhere, its implementation encountered persistent hostility from the workforce. What made this episode different, though, was that this process occurred within a context of acute economic and political uncertainty. As this paper demonstrates, the party’s various efforts to control the workplace laid the foundations for the Sovietisation of East Germany. This paper utilises a wide range of primary sources to recount this story. It focuses its attention not just on worker resistance, but also on the interactions between party and worker, between different organisations operating within the occupation zone, between the Soviet military and German communists, and within the party itself. It argues that the introduction of piecework was part of a dual process whereby the party acquired control of the economy and then learnt how to direct it. To achieve the latter, it first needed to learn how to control and direct itself. This paper also illustrates the importance of signalling mechanisms in a planned economy.
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