In the field of consumption history there is growing interest in informal shopping practices, smuggling, and black-market activities in state socialist societies. Yet, little emphasis has been placed on how the foremost socialist workplace, the factory, became a crucial hub for smuggled goods and the extent to which workers played a role within it. This article explores local Budapest court cases from the beginning of the 1960s using the methodological insights of everyday history (Alltagsgeschichte). The cases show that white-collar workers (and in rare cases blue-collar workers) with a command of foreign languages frequently acted as middlemen in making transactions. This specific cultural capital put white-collar workers in a position to gain profit over and above their usual state salary, often contradicting wage hierarchies set by the state. At the same time, blue-collar workers embraced informal shopping possibilities at the factory in a climate of diversifying consumer expectations. This article examines how informal practices of selling and obtaining goods transformed relations among workers and created a new social hierarchy within working-class communities.

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