Transitional Economic Systems: The Polish-Czech Example

By Dorothy W. Douglas | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI LABOUR AND PRODUCTION

1. THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENTS

T hat a society cannot distribute more than it produces is a truism that hardly needs proving. But that a labour movement should fix its attention upon this point, even in a society-moving-toward-socialism, is another question. Is not the very function of a labour movement to wrest what it can away from the managers of industry? Has not labour's historic attitude been, Let the managers concern themselves with getting their money's worth in return?

In spite of all the recent discussions about what constitutes responsible union leadership, this is undoubtedly the fundamental position expected of a labour movement by its members in a competitive society. The question is, To what extent, if at all, are these positions modified once the competitive, capitalist basis disappears? Some would maintain that along with the basis goes the need for a dichotomized superstructure; others, that a loss of dichotomy means a going over to the enemy -- since the State, under this view, is only the old enemy multiplied a hundredfold.

Whatever the merit of these views, there is no doubt that in Poland and Czechoslovakia, as in all the new planned economies, the very same labour movements that struggled most strongly against the private employer and the Occupationists, turned rapidly to problems of production and broad social policy once their new states were established. And there is no doubt that in the course of this turn, taken on a mass basis, many new forms of wage administration, labour recruitment, distribution of social services and the like, were worked out. Examination of these changing institutions appears more fruitful to the writer than assigning praise and blame for their establishment.


Early History

The perspective in which the post-war Polish and Czechoslovak labour movements viewed their earlier history was in terms of its

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