- Purchase/rental options available:
This essay examines socialist workers' autobiographies as inscriptions of the self unfolding from illicit political militancy in tsarist times to the establishment of actually existing socialism in twentieth-century Poland. The autobiographies written in state socialism pin together the workers' strivings for a better life with their intellectual pursuits and their negotiation of the relationship between work and politics. While this essay is informed by an analysis of more than 100 biographical narratives of workers engaging in mass politics during the 1905 Revolution, it closely examines four typologically interesting cases. Most of these socialist autobiographies are loaded "time-vehicles," written as gestures to legitimize the existing state socialism. However, they are embedded in earlier experiences such as proletarian autodidacticism, learning via socialist printings, and prewar socialist memory. At the same time, such life writing bears witness to real and imagined continuities between past socialist militancy and actually existing socialism. The politics of writing is necessary to understand socialist autobiography, and the prior life course of the writing workers is equally crucial to understanding state socialism.