The essays in this special issue by Jack R. Friedman, Sándor Horváth, Peter Heumos, and Eszter Zsófia Tóth, reflect a growing interest in the social history of industrial labor and industrial communities in postwar Central and Eastern Europe. While they approach their subjects in different ways and employing distinct methodologies, the essays suggest how the history of the working class and its relationship to postwar socialist state formation across the region might be rethought. They illustrate how the protracted construction and consolidation of socialist states in the region was negotiated on an everyday level by working-class citizens, and that this was a dynamic process in which state projects interacted with a variety of working-class cultures, that were in turn segmented by notions of gender, skill, generation, and occupation. The essays all demonstrate, in their different ways, how working-class Eastern Europeans were not simply acted upon by the operation of dictatorial state power, but played a role in state formation across the region. This role was characterized by an ambiguous relationship between workers and those in power who sought legitimacy by claiming that their states represented the interests of the “working class.” Yet the policies those in power pursued often confronted working-class communities directly in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Romania, as these essays suggest. This produced a complex relationship characterized by consent, accommodation and conflict that varied from locality to locality, state to state, and from period to period.
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