Introduces the results of a life-history interview project conducted with workers and former workers of two large ex-socialist model factories, Carl Zeiss in Jena (East Germany) and Rábe in Gyo´´r (Hungary) between 2002 and 2004. The essay analyzes the post-socialist experience of the East German and Hungarian workers in three main dimensions: the experience of post-Fordist development in the factory; the subjective evaluation of the standard of living; interpersonal relations. Lastly, it examines examines the social and political attitudes of the workers in the mirror of their post-socialist experience. Hungarians had a more direct experience of peripheral development than the East Germans. While East Germany’s greater success of integration into the capitalist world economy was accompanied by a change of mentality and the appearance of post-materialistic values, in Hungary nationalism seemed to be the only alternative to a capitalism, that disappointed and effectively impoverished many people. This explains the ambiguous evaluation of the socialist Kádár regime, in which the vision of greater social and material equality is confused with a longing for a strong state, order and an autocratic government.
Keywords: Germany, Hungary, post-communism, Zeiss, Rábe, factory workers, oral history, transition studies, populism