Czechoslovakia, of all the East European countries, entered the postwar era
with a relatively balanced social structure and an equitable distribution of
resources. Despite some poverty, overall it was a country of relatively welloff
workers, smallscale producers, farmers, and a substantial middle class. Nearly
half the populace was in the middleincome bracket. Ironically, perhaps, it was
balanced and relatively prosperous Czechoslovakia that carried nationalization
and income redistribution further than any other East European country. By the
mid1960s, the complaint was that leveling had gone too far. The lowestpaid 40%
of the population accounted for 60% of national income. Earning differentials
between bluecollar and whitecollar workers were lower than in any other country
in Eastern Europe. Further, equitable income distribution was combined in the
late 1970s with relative prosperity. Along with East Germany and Hungary,
Czechoslovakia enjoyed one of the highest standards of living of any of the
Warsaw Pact countries through the 1980s.
Even in Czechoslovakia, where the party's pursuit of socialist equality was
thorough, the "classless" society turned out to be highly diverse. In the
mid1980s, Czechoslovak censuses divided the population into several
occupational groups: workers, other employees, members of various cooperatives
(principally agricultural cooperatives), small farmers, selfemployed tradesmen
and professionals, and capitalists. Of these categories, "other employees" was
the most diverse, encompassing everyone from lowlevel clerical workers to
cabinet ministers. "Workers" were those whose jobs were primarily manual and
industrial. There was the timehallowed distinction between:
workers (manual or lowlevel clerical employees),In 1984 workers made up
about onehalf of the economically active population and were beneficiaries of
policies geared toward maintaining the people's standard of Wholesale NFL Jerseys living. According to many
observers, Czechoslovakia's internal stability rested on an unspoken bargain
between workers and the ruling KSC: relative material security in return for
acquiescence to continued Soviet domination.
Much of workingclass life reflected the regime's efforts to increase labor
productivity without precipitating major labor unrest. Virtually full
employment did not make the task easier. In 1984, nearly half the population
worked. Some 85% of workingage women were employed (not including those on
maternity leave), and there were almost 141,000 fulltime university students.
Working age for women was from fifteen through fiftyfour, and for men it was
from fifteen through fiftynine. "Voluntary" brigades of students and
apprentices supplied agricultural (harvest) and other labor during summer
months. In Czechoslovakia, as in other socialist countries, virtually full
employment often disguises underemployment. Large numbers of people work in
positions below their qualifications. This is the result of different factors:
some people are reluctant to move to other parts of the country to find work;
politically and ideologically "objectionable" people must often turn to menial
work; and politically "correct" people hold jobs for which they are not fully
qualified. At many enterprises, instead of streamlining operations and
dismissing employees whose job performance is unsatisfactory, managers merely
shift workers to other positions or juggle employment statistics.
The party's compulsion to avoid labor unrest, enterprise managers' need to
meet (or at least approach) production quotas, and a pervasive shortage of
labor define the social dynamics of the workplace. Workers have relatively
secure employment and income but lack sufficient consumer goods to absorb their
income (the rate of saving is extremely high). Nor do workers have a
substantive role in organizing work; Ota Sik, noted economic reformer during
the 1960s, characterized the Czechoslovak worker as "alienated from the
Wholesale Jerseys production process, from the fruits
of labor, and from the management of industrial enterprises."
Workers' complaints have changed over the years as labor has become more
In the 1950s real wages declined, resulting in periodic work stoppages.
The 1953 currency reform sparked protests and demonstrations in major
industrial centers that were little short of riots. Throughout the decade,
party leaders complained about workers' "trade unionist" and
"anarchosyndicalist" attitudes and their "take what you can" mentality. Those
arrested in the 1953 demonstrations were denounced as "bourgeois elements
dressed up in overalls."
During the Prague Spring, Cheap
Jerseys workers organized to support demands for political liberalization
and more representative trade unions.
By the late 1970s, forced overtime had become the workers' most insistent
complaint, followed by poor working conditions. These complaints were coupled
with steadfast opposition to linking wages with gains in productivity. Workers
most frequently called for compliance with the labor code, which limited
compulsory overtime (the maximum workweek was supposed to be fortysix hours)
and provided for work safety regulations.
One solution to the labor shortage was foreign manpower. For a long time,
Poles provided the largest percentage of foreign manpower. In the late 1970s
and early 1980s, however, the proportion of Vietnamese workers grew rapidly. By
the end of 1982, there were approximately 26,000 Vietnamese workers in
Czechoslovakia, about 0.3% of the total manual work force, including
apprentices. Reasons given for the rapid expansion of the Vietnamese contingent
ranged from the Czechoslovak government's interest in training qualified labor
for a friendly socialist country, to repayment of Vietnamese war debt, to the
labor surplus in Vietnam. Problems arose as the number of Vietnamese increased
drastically and as a program of merely hard work replaced what was to have been
a program for training the Vietnamese in work skills. Other foreigners who
worked in Czechoslovakia came from Cuba, Laos, the Mongolian People's Republic,
and Hungary. Poles and Hungarians generally worked in their respective border
Most women in Czechoslovakia worked, a reflection in part of the labor
shortage and in part of the socialist belief that employment for women is the
answer to inequality between the sexes. Although women in Czechoslovakia have
had a long history of employment (they were over onethird of the labor force in
1930), the postwar surge in female employment has been truly dramatic.
Fourfifths of the workers who entered the labor force from 1948 through 1975
were women. By the end of 1976, about 87% of workingage women had jobs; in 1984
about 90% of women in their reproductive years were in the labor force. In 1983
women remained concentrated in the traditional fields of female employment.
Women's salaries have lagged behind those of men throughout the socialist era.
Only 6 to 7% of middle and upper management positions were held by women. This
represented a dramatic change from the First Republic with its politically
active middlesized farmers, small landholders, and differentiated labor force.
Collectivized agriculture has not lacked occupational specialists, but there is
no doubt that the socialist regime has streamlined rural society. Differences
have persisted, but a dramatic leveling has taken place.
Collectivization began in 1949 with the Unified Agricultural Cooperatives
Act. The KSC pushed collectivization efforts early in the 1950s and again later
in the decade. Large landholders unwilling to join cooperatives and unwise
enough to demur were condemned as "kulaks" and evicted without compensation.
Subsequent criticism was muted. By 1960, when collectivization was essentially
complete, 90% of all agricultural land was in the state sectora proportion that
slowly increased to 95% in 1985. During the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, the
number of cooperatives declined. Land was not returned to private cultivation,
but rather the cooperative enterprises themselves were consolidated.
Farmers suffered through the 1950s: compulsory collectivization took their
property, and the 1953 currency reform eradicated their savings. By the early
1960s, farm laborers worked longer than their nonagricultural counterparts and
earned an average of Cheap NFL
Jerseys 15% less. During the late 1960s and 1970s, agricultural earnings
rose rapidly. Since the mid1970s, the incomes of cooperative farm members and
industrial workers have been comparable. So dramatic was the improvement that
in a 1968 poll more than twothirds of cooperative farm members preferred
collectivized agricultural production to private farming.
The disparity between urban and rural living conditions narrowed in the
1970s. Government planners focused on improving rural daycare facilities;
bringing cooperative and statefarm pensions to parity with those of other
workers; and increasing the medical, educational, and shopping facilities
available to rural dwellers. There was significant construction and renovation
of rural housing. The number of new housing units available to cooperative
members rose dramatically in the 1960s and then leveled off, although the
number fluctuated from year to year. The general improvement in the amenities
did not benefit agricultural workers alone; in the early 1970s, over 40% of all
industrial workers lived in the countryside.
One result of increased incomes and improved rural living conditions was a
rise in the educational level of the agricultural labor force.
The year 1948 saw a turnover in civil service personnel (especially the
police) and a substantial influx of workers into political and managerial
positions. The upheaval of nationalization and collectivization efforts that
went further than anywhere else in Eastern Europe, coupled with two currency
reforms, signaled a flux in economic fortunes during the first decade of
communist rule. A Czech, for example, who was a chief executive in industry in
1948, worked as a carpenter for several years thereafter, served a number of
years in prison, and then retrained for a career in law was not