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1933“1941 (Pittsburgh: Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, University of Pitts-
burgh, 1996); Roberta Manning, “Women in the Soviet Countryside on the Eve of World War
II,” in Russian Peasant Women, eds. Beatrice Farnsworth and Lynne Viola (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1992), 206“35; Fitzpatrick, Stalin™s Peasants, 181“2.
Sheila Fitzpatrick, “Cultural Revolution as Class War,” in Cultural Revolution in Russia, 1928“

1931, ed. Sheila Fitzpatrick (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978), 8“40.
Frameworks for Social Engineering 243

trousers and “Jim” lace-boots, which had acquired popularity among urban
dwellers in the 1920s, were eclipsed late in the decade with the heightened
political importance of asceticism in dress and the increasing dif¬culty of ¬nd-
ing or affording new clothing of any kind. The hostility toward intellectuals
during these years made even Sergei Kirov, Leningrad party boss, afraid to be
seen in public wearing glasses. Such NEP era pastimes as card playing and the
foxtrot were driven underground, while amateur “agitprop” theater and mass
gymnastics caught on especially among urban youth.42
Real workers with prerevolutionary experience meanwhile were experienc-
ing a “crisis of proletarian identity,” as their living standards plummeted,
their craft skills came under attack from of¬cially promoted speed-ups, and
their claims to shop ¬‚oor leadership and other “labor aristocratic” tendencies
were challenged by relative newcomers and party of¬cials.43 In these rapidly
changing circumstances, the meanings of such Lenin era shibboleths as labor
discipline and class consciousness became highly contested. From whom, after
all, should workers have taken instruction and orders on the shop ¬‚oor “
engineering-technical personnel who owing to their bourgeois backgrounds
could be suspected of “wrecking,” trade union of¬cials who had yet to learn to
“face toward production,” or recent promotees (vydvizhentsy) who had limited
training for their new jobs?
On the assumption that work experience (stazh) was positively correlated
to class consciousness, Trud v SSSR, a statistical compendium that appeared
irregularly during the 1930s, applied a rough and ready guide to how many
years in industry was minimally necessary: three for hereditary workers with
no ties to agriculture, ¬ve for other groups not connected with agriculture, ¬ve
for kolkhozniks and poor peasants, and ten for middle peasants.44 As crude or
absurd as the criterion was, it did suggest that the party had its work cut out
for itself in promoting class consciousness: by 1933 according to a trade union
census conducted in that year, over half the workforce had less than three years
of production experience.45
All of this is to suggest that while class mattered a great deal in terms of
access to rights and goods, it was not indelible. Numerous opportunities existed
for “byvshie liudi,” “lishentsy,” and those who fell into other stigmatized
categories to rehabilitate themselves, mostly by the performance of “socially
useful labor.” Rates of rehabilitation actually grew toward the mid-1930s,
reaching approximately half of all petitioners. Of course, the decisions to grant
or restore rights were often arbitrary, depending on connections, the whims

Natalia Lebina, Povsednevnaia zhizn™ sovetskogo goroda: Normy i anomalii, 1920“1930 gody

(St. Petersburg: Zhurnal “Neva,” 1999), 211“20; Lynn Mally, Revolutionary Acts: Amateur
Theater and the Soviet State, 1917“1938 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000), 146“80.
Hiroaki Kuromiya, “The Crisis of Proletarian Identity in the Soviet Factory, 1928“1929,” Slavic

Review 44, no. 2 (1985): 280“97.
Z. L. Mindlin and S. A. Kheinman, eds., Trud v SSSR, Ekonomiko-statisticheskii spravochnik

(Moscow: Ekonomgiz, 1932), 26.
Profsoiuznaia perepis™ 1932“1933 g. (Moscow: Pro¬zdat, 1934), 16.
Christopher R. Browning and Lewis H. Siegelbaum

of local of¬cials, or whether a campaign to be on guard against “simulators”
was under way.46 But that such a mechanism existed is signi¬cant in that it
counteracted the divisiveness of the class basis of the political community. It
clearly distinguishes the USSR from the biopolitical criteria employed in Nazi
The redemptive quality of labor was the obverse of the ascriptive association
of the bourgeois class with parasitism. Hard labor coerced from prisoners, such
as former bourgeois wreckers, kulak saboteurs, and other criminals assigned to
the White Sea“Baltic Canal construction project, earned them the opportunity
for redemption if they were fortunate enough to survive its rigors.47 At the
White Sea“Baltic canal as throughout the labor camps and colonies to which
kulaks and their families had been consigned as “special settlers” (spetsperese-
lentsy), it was possible to become a shock worker by participating in socialist
competition, joining shock brigades, and producing results over and above
one™s prescribed output norm.48 As on the “inside,” so in Soviet society in
general, shock worker status served as an index of class consciousness, one
that immersed the trade unions, enterprise staff, and party organizers in an
immensity of statistical calculation and paperwork. But because the number of
shock workers also was an index of the success of agitational work by party
and union activists, statistical in¬‚ation was inevitable. By 1931 over half of the
industrial workforce was recorded as consisting of shock workers, necessitat-
ing the use of such modi¬ers as “outstanding,” “best,” and “noted” (znatnye)
to distinguish the most deserving from the ordinary or pretend (lzhe-) shock
Such distinctions could be of vital importance to those so designated, espe-
cially during the years of the most intense food shortages when the regime
constructed and applied to the general population a “hierarchy of consump-
tion.”50 The hierarchy, based on a combination of ration categories and geopo-
litical distinctions, crudely re¬‚ected the regime™s priorities according to which
production workers were to receive more than those involved in services and
clerical work, urban inhabitants were privileged compared to collective and
state farm workers, and, among cities, Moscow and Leningrad were the most

Alexopoulos, Stalin™s Outcasts, 34“7, 90“4, 165“6.

Maksim Gorkii, L. L. Averbakh, and S. G. Firin, eds., Belomorsko“Baltiiskii kanal imeni Stalina,

istoriia stroitel™stva (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel™stvo “Istoriia fabrik i zavodov,” 1934).
In many cases, sheer physical survival must have been at stake. On the peasants arrested as

kulaks and deported as special settlers see Lynne Viola, The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World
of Stalin™s Special Settlements (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
Hiroaki Kuromiya, Stalin™s Industrial Revolution: Politics and Workers, 1928“1932 (Cam-

bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 319“23; Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Stakhanovism and
the Politics of Productivity in the USSR, 1935“1941 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1988), 40“5.
The term was coined by Elena Osokina. See her Ierarkhiia potrebleniia: O zhizni liudei v

usloviiakh stalinskogo snabzheniia 1928“1935 gg. (Moscow: MGOU, 1993). On preferential
treatment for shock workers, see Julie Hessler, “Culture of Shortages: A Social History of Soviet
Trade” (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1996), 121“6.
Frameworks for Social Engineering 245

privileged, followed by other “regime” cities to which residence was restricted
to those holding internal passports. Literally a matter of life and death, pass-
ports and ration coupons were forged and traded on an apparently massive
scale, thus involving an enormous number of Soviet citizens in what amounted
to identity fraud.51
The Nazis had come to power in no small part through their capacity to
appropriate and personify the ideal of a recovered Volksgemeinschaft that
found great resonance in German society. In so doing, the Nazis tapped into
such a reservoir of wishful thinking that few fully understood or cared how
the ideal was also being transformed in Nazi hands. In 1914 the term con-
noted the unity of the German people (as an organic national community, not
an arti¬cial society or Gesellschaft), in which previous political, social, and
confessional divisions among Germans were transcended. The emphasis was
on unity through inclusion. Under the Nazis the term came to mean quite
literally a “community of race.” Unity was now de¬ned primarily by exclu-
sion, particularly of those deemed both alien and responsible for the betrayal
and fragmentation of the Volksgemeinshcaft at the end of World War I and
the subsequent defeat and revolution but also of those deemed biologically
As in the Soviet Union, a dictatorial regime now set out to engineer the cre-
ation of a homogeneous, utopian society, but the de¬ning principle was racial,
not class, puri¬cation. At the center of the Nazi obsession were not the elastic
concepts of kulak and NEP man but the all too precisely de¬nable concept
of Jew.53 In Nazi ideology the Jews represented a double threat to the Volks-
gemeinschaft. First, as allegedly rootless and stateless by nature, Jews were
claimed by the Nazis to be an inherently parasitical people who not only lived
off their hosts but simultaneously polluted the purity of the hosts™ “blood” by
race mixing. The underlying assumption, of course, was that “pure blood” was
a precondition of the strength, vigor, and creativity of the Volksgemeinschaft,
while “mixed blood” spelled its doom through degeneration, sterility, and
weakness. Secondly, the Jews were perceived as the carriers of those subversive
ideas that most threatened to undermine the will of the Volksgemeinschaft
to wage the unrelenting, no holds barred, struggle for Lebensraum against
other racial communities that was essential for its own survival. These ideas
represented a sequence of monstrous “Jewish conspiracies”: Christianity, with
its message of love thy neighbor and turn the other cheek; liberalism, with
its advocacy of equality before the law, personal freedom, and the egotistical

Elena Osokina, Za fasadom stalinskogo izobiliia: raspredelenie i rynok v snabzhenii naseleniia

v gody industrializatsii, 1927“1941 (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 1998), 141“60.
For the “inclusive” and “exclusive” potential in the “ideas of 1914,” see: Steffen Bruendel,

Volksgemeinschaft oder Volksstaat: Die “Ideen von 1914” und die Neuordung Deutschlands
im Ersten Weltkrieg (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2003).
For the broader social, rather than narrow legal, process of de¬ning Jews, see Omer Bartov,

“De¬ning Enemies, Making Victims: Germans, Jews, and the Holocaust,” American Historical
Review 103, no. 3 (1998): 258“71.
Christopher R. Browning and Lewis H. Siegelbaum

pursuit of individual economic self-interest; and Marxism, with its primacy
of international working-class solidarity above national loyalty. If the law of
nature was racial struggle, then, the Jews represented in essence antinature,
the never-ending, pernicious attempt to persuade mankind consciously to act
unnaturally. Wayward Germans could be won back to the Volksgemeinschaft,
but with the Jewish enemy there could be no compromise.
The Nazi regime moved quickly in 1933. The dismantling of the multi-
party system and the labor unions, as well as the crushing of the leadership
cadres of the SPD and KPD, were portrayed as a triumph over the key instru-
ments of Jewish divisiveness and subversion. But the Jews were to be attacked
not just symbolically but also as individuals. The regime undid Jewish eman-
cipation based on equality before the law and promulgated discriminatory
laws aimed at ending the Jews™ alleged inordinate in¬‚uence on German society
through purging them from the civil service, the professions, and cultural life.
The “civic death” of German Jewry in 1933 was followed by their “social
death” in 1935. The Nuremberg Laws and subsequent implementation reg-
ulations not only de¬ned the “full” Jew by law (anyone with three or four
grandparents who was a member of the Jewish religious community, or any-
one with two such grandparents who was married to a Jew), but also forbade
marriage and sexual intercourse between Jews and “Aryans.” The potential
accusation of Rassenschande severed virtually all remaining social ties between
Jews and other Germans. As a practical concession that tacitly acknowledged
the extent of Jewish assimilation and intermarriage in German society, how-
ever, the Nazi regime permitted the existence of somewhat less-persecuted
categories of so-called ¬rst- and second-degree Mischlinge (people with two
or one Jewish grandparent, respectively) as well as “full” Jews living in mixed
marriages. In the language of the regime, to be less persecuted was to be
Political repression and legal discrimination to end purported Jewish in¬‚u-
ence within the Volksgemeinschaft were an initial but by no means the ¬nal
goal of the Nazi regime. The very physical presence of the Jew had to cease as
well “ a goal that Hitler had articulated as early as 1919 when he called for
the “removal of the Jews altogether” (Entfernung der Juden uberhaupt).54 The
legal persecution of the Jews thus became a means to an end. Making Jewish
life in Germany increasingly unbearable and making clear to the Jews that they
had no future there were intended to coerce them to emigrate, with the ultimate
vision that Germany would become judenfrei or “free of Jews.”55

Ian Kershaw, Hitler, 1889“1936: Hubris (New York: Norton, 1999), 125.

On the evolution of Nazi persecution of Jews, see Karl Schleunes, The Twisted Road to

Auschwitz (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1970); Uwe Adam, Judenpolitik im Dritten
Reich (Dusseldorf: Droste, 1972); Michael Wildt, Judenpolitik des SD 1935 bis 1938: Eine
Dokumentation (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1995); Saul Friedlander, The Years of Persecution.
Vol. 1, Nazi Germany and the Jews (New York: HarperCollins, 1997).
Frameworks for Social Engineering 247

But the Volksgemeinschaft was threatened not only from without by the
presence of racially alien elements but also from within by biologically defective
or “degenerate” members, whose reproduction would “dilute” and “weaken”
the vitality, strength, and purity of the German racial community and thereby
undermine its capacity to wage relentless and unending struggle successfully.
They also constituted an economic “burden” (Belastung) that would drain
resources from rather than contribute to the Volksgemeinschaft. Hence, in
addition to the legal and social exclusion and envisioned expulsion of the
Jews, the regime pursued quite literally the surgical exclusion of those deemed
hereditarily defective through compulsory sterilization (enacted into law in July
Unlike the concept of Jew, however, these Germans considered biologi-
cally/hereditarily defective could not be neatly categorized in mass by legal def-
inition. The categories of af¬‚iction justifying compulsory sterilization included
both hereditary physical defects (blindness, deafness, epilepsy) as well as neb-
ulous mental and behavioral categories considered hereditary, such as feeble-
mindedness, manic-depression, schizophrenia, and severe alcoholism. “Appli-
cations” (denunciations? ) for compulsory sterilization could be made by
doctors, institution directors, and public health of¬cials and were adjudicated
on an individual basis by “hereditary health courts” (Erbgesundheitsgerichte),
whose verdicts (routinely around 90 percent in favor of sterilization) were
enforced by the police. Congenital feeblemindedness was both the most impre-
cise diagnosis and most frequently invoked justi¬cation (roughly 50 percent
followed by schizophrenia at 25 percent). In the prewar years over three hun-
dred thousand Germans were sterilized.57 A whole battery of antinatal and
pronatal measures (for example, compulsory abortion for pregnant women
subjected to compulsory sterilization versus harsh penalties for abortions by
persons deemed healthy) supplemented the 1933 “Law for the Prevention of
Hereditarily Diseased Offspring” and, quite apart from racial anti-Semitism
and the exclusion of Jews, thoroughly biologized the notion of Volksgemein-
schaft as a racial community.58
While the regime drew lines that excluded small minorities of Germans from
the Volksgemeinschaft, it also developed the rituals, symbols, and rhetoric of
inclusion for the vast majority. Class-based associational life gave way to con-
solidated Nazi associations, stretching from local small-town singing clubs


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