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For decades, historian Lewis Siegelbaum has taught and written on the Soviet Union. While many historians of labor and the working class in the USSR narrowly focused on moments of resistance, Siegelbaum investigated other aspects of working class existence such as the meaning of Soviet working class identity, the labor process, factory life and consumption practices. Siegelbaum spent years studying and writing on Donbas miners both during the late Soviet period and through the collapse of the USSR. His most well known work, Cars for Comrades was a study of the Soviet automobile. The automobile functioned as a useful prism through which to understand many complexities of late Soviet socialism. Cars were in high demand and their use was encouraged by the Soviet state. Their production and ever expanding ownership represented an achievement of Soviet industrialization and the economy at large.
On this episode, we sit down with Lewis Siegelbaum and discuss labor and workers in the USSR, Soviet miners, the automobile, as well as what it was like teaching Soviet history during the height of the Cold War and what lessons Soviet history holds for the Left today, thirty years after its collapse.