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A Western Observer on East German Passive Resistance (1982)

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The GDR citizen's sense of time has a special quality. The Russian expression "wsjo budjet" – it'll be all right – has developed into a mentality. The American "time is money" doesn't occur to anybody. Longstanding experience teaches that, in centrally managed economies, it is completely pointless to "bend over backwards" at work. If you work fast, materials are quickly used up, deliveries stop, and waiting periods are the result. If you finish your allotted task ahead of time, you still have to sit out the rest of the workday. Using every second doesn't make much of a difference to anyone. That's why it has become customary to stockpile work at first; in this way, it becomes easier to deal with it. Version one: excessively accumulated work is completed on time; this proves how efficient you are, and the bonus is dangled in front of you. Version two: excessively accumulated work is finished by working overtime and on special shifts; this brings extra pay and bonuses. Version three: excessively accumulated work is not finished at all; there's a call for temporary workers or additional permanent positions – in other words, more manpower. All three versions of how to deal with work are advantageous to the worker. To finish everything quickly and then sit around, or to have waiting periods at a time when you can't use them for something personal, contradicts "the socialist course." The first thing apprentices learn when they enter a practice is: "Here everything takes its socialist course." Pretty much the same as “wsjo budjet,” it'll all be all right – Russia is large, and the Czar is far away.

[ . . . ]

Source: Irene Böhme, Die da drüben. Sieben Kapitel DDR [Over There. The GDR in Seven Chapters]. Berlin (West), 1982, p. 28 ff.; reprinted in Christoph Kleßmann and Georg Wagner, eds., Das gespaltene Land. Leben in Deutschland, 1945-1990 [The Divided Country. Life in Germany 1945-1990]. Munich, 1993, pp. 407-09.

Translation: Jeremiah Riemer

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