The picture above, entitled “V. I. Lenin at the All-Russian Subbotnik in the Kremlin, May Day 1920”, is an iconic depiction of the use of “shock workers” following the implementation of the First Five Year Plan in 1929. While this specific picture technically depicts an event that occurred 9 years before the First Five Year Plan was even written, it reflects Lenin’s backing of the original concept of what would become shock workers.
The socialist system produced by the First Five Year Plan resulted in a society with little to no incentive to work any more than the bare minimum required. After a series of campaigns to increase productivity in 1929, the term shock worker was applied to “all workers and employees who fulfilled obligations over and above their planned quotas.” The concept quickly caught on and encouraged “socialist competition”, an idea supported by Lenin as shown by his previously unpublished 1917 article “How to Organize Competition.”
I find the shock worker movement interesting as it seems to be the Soviet counterpoint to capitalism by creating competition within the work force. What originally began as a simple tradition of hard work was transformed by the Soviets into a culture of competition and encouraging all to participate in the modernization of Russia.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 321-328. Print.
Picture Source: lenin46.jpg