In his very stimulating post, Steven Harris emphasizes again the egalitarian nature of Khrushchev’s housing drive. He goes on to suggest that this egalitarian approach, and especially the waiting list which filtered people’s broadly egalitarian expectations of access to housing, can at least partly be explained as a feature of the ‘Soviet social contact’, or the ‘state-society contract’. All of these issues are controversial, and I’m glad that he’s raised them.
Historians have taken proper account of the Soviet mass housing program in recent years, and I’m grateful to Steve Barnes for the invitation to discuss an important and original new book on the subject. Steven Harris’s Communism on Tomorrow Street ranges deep, going back before 1917 and explaining precisely how the Khrushchev-era solution of small separate family apartments emerged. And it ranges wide, analyzing such topics as the apartment waiting list, the local ‘communist’ neighborhood, and the supply and design of furniture. All this makes for a central contribution not only to the study of the housing program, but to the growing field of post-Stalin history more generally.
The book is based on a rich body of sources and its arguments are distinctive and interesting, so it throws up a whole range of controversial issues. But I will confine this post to a category to which Harris repeatedly refers from page 1 of chapter 1 onward, a category which also connects with Christine Varga-Harris’s interest in citizenship. This category is class.