Hot Coal, Cold Steel

Russian and Ukrainian Workers from the End of the Soviet Union to the Post-Communist Transformations
Stephen Crowley
Explores the different response of Soviet miners and steelworkers to the collapse of the Soviet Union


Well after the disintegration of the Communist Party and the Soviet state—and through several years of economic collapse—industrial workers in almost every sector of the former Soviet Union have remained quiescent and the same ineffective and unpopular trade unions still hold a virtual monopoly on worker's representation. Why? While many argue that labor is a central variable in the development of economic and political systems, little is known about workers in the states of the former Soviet Union since the fall of Communism. In a comparative study of two groups of industrial workers—the coal miners and steelworkers—at the end of the Soviet era, Stephen Crowley sheds light on where these workers have been and where they are going.

Coal miners in the final years of the Soviet Union effectively organized and led strikes which supported the end of Communism, even though their heavy subsidies would be threatened by capitalism. Steel workers, in contrast, did not effectively organize and strike. This pattern has continued under the new governments, with the coal miners effectively organized and seeking protection from the worst consequences of marketization, while the steel workers remain weakly organized despite deteriorating economic conditions.

Based on extensive on-site research including interviews with miners and steelworkers, labor leaders and plant managers, Crowley develops a detailed picture of the conditions under which workers organize. His findings have application beyond the conditions of post-Communist Russia and Ukraine to other societies undergoing fundamental change.

This book will be of interest to sociologists and political scientists interested in the role of labor in transitional societies, the patterns of organization of labor, as well as area specialists.

Stephen Crowley is Associate Professor of Political Science, Oberlin College.

Praise / Awards

  • "Crowley is a reliable guide to these developments in no small measure because he kept his ear close to the ground and his eyes open. He conducted numerous interviews with miners, steelworkers, and administrators, attended meetings of workers' committees, and broke bread with their families. His case study approach consequently works not so much because of its methodological sophistication, as his willingness to listen and t he vividness with which he conveys what he heard."
    Labor History
  • "This is an excellent and thought-provoking book that provides detailed empirical material with which to elaborate, and further develop, our theoretical understanding of collective labor action in general, and the conditions of labor in post-Soviet Societies in particular. It deserves, therefore, a readership far beyond the confines of those of us interested in labor relations in Russia and in east and central Europe; it merits a place on the syllabus of any course in comparative labor relations or comparative politics."
    Slavic Review

Look Inside


Acknowledgments - ix

Introduction - 1

Part 1. Theoretical Reflections and the First Miners' Strike
Chapter 1. Workers, Collective Action, and Political Movements - 9
Chapter 2. The 1989 Miners' Strike - 25

Part 2. Cold Steel: Soviet Workers and Mutual Dependence
Chapter 3. Steelworkers and Mutual Dependence - 49
Chapter 4. Steelworkers, Workers' Organizations, and Collective Action - 71

Part 3. Hot Coal: The Radicalization of the Miners' Movement
Chapter 5. Building a Workers' Movement - 95
Chapter 6. From Economics to Politics - 123

Part 4. Liberal Economics and Labor Politics in Post-Communist Russia and Ukraine
Chapter 7. Labor and Economic Transformation - 149
Chapter 8. Politics and Coal Miners in Ukraine and Russia - 173
Chapter 9. Workers, Politics, and the Post-Communist Transformations - 193

Notes - 207

Selected Bibliography - 263

Index - 275

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 288pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1997
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10783-4

Add to Cart
  • $89.95 U.S.

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