- Education and Science»
Stipends for Workers
During communism in the 1930s, the Soviet government would send about 300 workers a year on European study trips. These were workers who had proved especially productive in completing whatever Five Year Plan they were working on. The Soviets sent them on these trips as a prize for their hard work. These were industrial and agricultural workers who were most likely not involved in politics at all. In Europe they toured the newest factories as well as famous museums. These were extremely poor people who suddenly found themselves in the cultural centers of Western civilization where they would have had no chance of going otherwise.
This fact is worth looking at. I cannot really think of any precendent for this in Europe or the US before the Soviets did it in the 1930s. I know of no incident where Ford in America or Krupps in Europe or any ministry of culture would have gotten it into their heads to reward their best workers with a study trip. Most countries give out financial or travel stipends to partly talented and partly untalented painters, writers, journalists, musicians, sculptors, lawyers, doctors or engineers. In almost all these cases it is "talented" grandsons or godsons of influential people who get these awards. However, I cannot think of even one case in modern capitalism where blue collar workers have been deemed worthy of such recognition. Governments and big business seem to feel as if they have taken care of their responsibilities towards workers by providing some benefits, which are actually becoming less and less in the bad economy. It seems never to have crossed the government's or a businesses mind to send say 100 agricultural or factory workers on a foreign study trip.
This would cost no more, or even less, than sending supposedly "worthy" intellectuals to highbrow conferences and meetings where nothing gets done and most of them learn nothing new. Most of these snobbish meetings are nothing more than back slapping parties for a pampered group of high brows who have all to often only contributed to the world in highly abstract ways.
In the past craftsmen would take a walking stick in their hands and wander off to foreign lands to learn their trade from master craftsmen, oftentimes in various foreign cities over a number of years before returning home having learned not only their trade, but the customs and traditions of other places. Modern factory workers, however, are stuck in their places and have no real reason to go to foreign countries to see how workers their push the same button or stand next to the same assembly line that they are using. This is largely due to globalization. Traveling to learn they trade is no longer an option for blue collar workers. Despite this society, big business and governments still like to reward intellectuals or pseudo-intellectuals with monetary and travel stipends whilst blue collar workers are never awarded anything for their work. The work they due is seen as not being worthy of extra attention. They are given their pay and some benefits and sent on their way.
Would it really be so embarrassing to officially recognize the workers who put together a machine and not just the engineers who designed it? Without blue collar workers the ideas of intellectuals would never be put into actual practice. The fate of regular workers has not gotten any better since their heyday perhaps in the 1950s and 1960s.
Of course many see such ideas as dangerously "socialist" or even "communist", without realizing that not everything coming out of the old Soviet way of thinking as that bad. Wouldn't an American factory worker enjoy going to say Germany for a week and seeing how a comparable factory their does the work he does in the US? Yet companies only send their top brass and office workers on such trips, as if they were more worthy than those actually putting products together.
This idea to broaden the horizons of simple workers might seem like a simple one, but hardly anyone has thought of it or even demanded it for themselves or for others.
Now I am not suggesting that the life of Soviet workers was good in reality. I am just suggesting that this idea of sending workers on foreign trips (despite our not knowing what actual criteria was used, or if they were just friends or relatives of part members sent on a trip abroad or for spying purposes) is one that has never really been even considered by the capitalist system.