© 2017 elizabethcampbell. All rights reserved.

Parasites who do not work, neither shall they eat

This post was featured on Comrades corner

Coming into the course my idea of Soviet Russia was the idea of “no work, no food,” and up until this point I have not seen that in what we have been studying, until this week. This week my blog post is on the “Anti-Parasite” decree/law that began in 1961. While the concept of no work, no food was introduced in the 1930s it was not given a formal platform with punishment until 1961.


The Blind Can See. 1956. ‘Did you read it?’ ‘I read it.’ Source: Ezhedognik Krokodila. Moscow: Pravda. 1958.This picture is a metaphor for the fact that those who are not working are seen by all and will be punished.

This picture shows that the “blind can see” that there are holes in the communist production and the anti-parasite law will fix those holes.

On the current digest database, I found the actual decree by the Presidium for the provisions. Within the first paragraph, the author says that the USSR is in a “full-scale building of communism” and that all people should be working towards the building of the country and the collective effort.

The law then establishes that all able-bodied adults who do not contribute to the collective work efforts, and collect “unearned income from the exploitation of land plots,” aka living a parasitic way of life, will be sent to exile in a specific region for a period of two to five years. The decision on who does and who does not get sent to this region for exile is determined by the city or district people’s court.

This decree was made in effort to get those who were not contributing to any collective efforts to start contributing and living like communists. The courts that were to hear the trials were called “Comrades’ Courts” and those who sat on the court were elected every two years by a committee called upon by a factory or local trade union, composed of boards and executives of local soviets.

To me, this sounds like a way to keep those who are elite safe from conviction by these courts for not contributing to the communist building of Soviet Russia. If those sent to the deportation camps were still not working enough, determined by the militia, then 10% of their earnings would be taken away and they could be punished by the provisions of Article 28 of the criminal code. If they tried to escape, they could be punished through Article 186 of the criminal code. I tried to search on google and databases to see what these punishments were, but could only find the modern code.

These charges are not to be taken lightly, however. This is a major stipulation for people, and it is determined by those around them that are taking advantage of the power they have by running the courts and committees in charge of trying and convicting those working in the country. While the point of the law is to ensure everyone is collectively working towards a communist regime, it seems that it could result in those who oversee the Comrades’ Courts having immunity to these charges of not working and living a parasitic life.

This honestly makes me thankful that I feel safe working wherever in whatever field I choose to in America without worry of being charged for not doing enough. I also looked for first-hand accounts through the databases and google for those who were in these camps but could not find anything.


  1. Max Morrison

    This is an interesting post that encapsulates a theme I think has existed throughout history: you have to work to earn your keep. I am reminded of endeavors like Jamestown where working was critical to survival, and food rations could be withheld in order to ensure compliance. Further, a saying I have always found to be comical, “beatings will continue until morale improves,” seems to relate here because it also portrays a self-sustaining cycle. If someone is not working hard, starving them or punishing them as a result is not going to motivate them to work any harder. Instead, I would more likely expect them to rebel in any manner possible, even if it is small.

  2. Drew Snell

    You make an important point that the elites were relatively immune from the courts, as decisions were made by the city and corruption was an inevitable factor. Though the idea of coerced collective work continued to be a goal of the state, its dark history shows that it only hurt citizens physically, economically, and socially. I also really like the image you included.

  3. Some great detective work here! Max makes a good point about coercive pressure to contribute to society being an important theme. The idea behind the law, that those who weren’t working should not eat, and should be compelled to work and removed from the general population, is obviously extremely punitive. My quick search for article 28 was also fruitless, but I did find this:
    Beermann, R. “THE PARASITE LAW IN THE SOVIET UNION.” The British Journal of Criminology, vol. 3, no. 1, 1962, pp. 71–80., http://www.jstor.org/stable/23634828.
    Also, that image is really cool. Another interpretation would be that people who pretend to be blind or disabled should be punished for “stealing” from the state by collecting benefits.

  4. First paragraph, third sentence is missing something?

  5. Brittany Worstell

    This is a great post! I also agree about the picture you chose, very cool. I looked at this topic at first for my post this week and I found it very intriguing. It reminded me of the views of certain politicians and political parties in the US today towards those who don’t work. I find it to be relatively similar to these beliefs towards ‘parasites’. Great job!

  6. Sam cochran

    I think it is interesting how this law was meant to enforce participation but really exacerbated societal inequalities with the levels of corruption that were present. It seems like it would be too easy to base the decision on personal biases or social attributes of a person. I also really like the image you chose for this post and the hyperlinks! Great job!

  7. Evan Plivelich

    I think this topic points out one of the true fundamental flaws of the Soviet system. The inequalities presented by the classes as to who was held accountable and who wasn’t created a strong rift in the society. This system also failed to incentivize the workers as well because if you were to be punished for not working hard enough why would you work after being severely punished like that.

  8. dcarlson38

    In a way it seems that this law was put in place to better relate the worker to their work. You mentioned that people were often punished for profiting off of land that they didn’t work themselves (paragraph 5). This example relates back to Marxism and his writings on communism. Marx was all about the idea of man achieving fulfillment through labor, and was against private land-ownership due to the fear that it’d be exploited and would alienate the laborer from his work (e.g. hired, poorer people would be doing the labor on the land-owner’s behalf) I’m surprised that these punishment were enacted in the 60’s, as this is super old-school Marxist/Leninist in nature. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  9. I agree with your conclusion that the concept of this decree/law makes you thankful that one can feel safe working wherever in whatever field you choose to in America without the worry of being charged for not doing enough. Obviously the debate about what is “enough” and what defines someone as “able-bodied” is a tricky one and adds to my belief that the “parasites who don’t work, don’t eat” is not achievable for a variety of reasons. Great post!

  10. Seth Mykut

    It seems to me that in theory, and maybe during the planning of this law, the intention to maximize production and weed out ‘parasites’ was pure enough. However, as you noted, it is easy to hijack laws of this nature and use them to persecute groups or individuals those in charge of enforcing the law don’t like. Additionally, this appears to have echoes of the purges of the 1930s, where anybody guilty or innocent, could be tried and sent away to camps. While I’m certain the fallout from these laws was not nearly as far reaching or extensive as the purges, it would be interesting to know the numbers of people sentenced under this code.

  11. I thought this post was very interesting and informative. The Soviets had been trying to figure out how to motivate people to work and not to freeload off of the Socialist system. In one of my earlier blog post, I discussed Stalin’s attempt to motivate industrialization with shock workers, a continuation of a rewards program that states in World War II. Great post!

Leave a Reply