Often alienated by their managers, workers also experienced a deepening sense of betrayal as punitive worker codes were introduced in the late 1930s to punish any lateness, drunkenness and absenteeism with dismissal (and the removal of ration cards). In 1940 these offences were criminalized and thousands of offenders, including Communist party members, were sent to work camps. A rash of suicides followed some leaving suicide notes behind expressing their distress at being sent to a work camp for being late often because of queuing for essentials or being drunk. But as trying as life was at work, even if the worker did not violate the labor codes, it was exacerbated by his difficulty in securing the basic necessities of life.
The massive internal migration of the period and the search for housing exacerbated social disorder. The flight of millions of peasants, who were fortunate to escape the countryside before the famine and the passport system to the cities, placed almost impossible demands on local municipal authorities. To accommodate the tidal wave of migrants, the police, armed with extra-judicial authority and an arrest quota often bypassed the clogged court system and deported thousands of “parasites” who were class enemies, criminals and “social harmful elements.” The social cleansing provided some living space, but with the urban population doubling between 1926 and 1939, the perennial housing shortage became more acute as living space norms per person fell by one third between 1929 and 1931. Unless one was a Party functionary or a manager, the chances of acquiring decent living quarters were minimal. In a dose of revolutionary schadenfreude, local functionaries humiliated bourgeois families by forcing them to give up part of their apartments to proletarian families. Most urban people lived in cramped and substandard tiny communal flats, with one or more families living in a room with a sheet dividing them, sharing the kitchen and toilet, if one existed, with other families. Most Moscow flats had no bath and one third had no sewer connections. Most new urban residents found themselves living in appalling barracks, dormitories or even mud huts. With former peasants no longer subject to the traditional mechanisms of village control, epidemic of violent crimes, hooliganism, rape, alcoholism, and wife beating overwhelmed the urban environment. Material privations fed gossip, surveillance and open violence. Motivated by a desire for more space, neighbors denounced others to the authorities as enemies of the people or someone with “bourgeois inclinations” and the criminality prompted political authorities to implement severe sanctions.
|A 1929 trial of kulaks
|Yezhov on the right to Stalin
|after Yezhov's purge in the Great Terror