“Soviet 53”

Though I have not been able to track down evidence that Zamyatin ever directly admitted to inspiration from the changing world around him, numerous components of We appear eerily similar to some of the events that he would have been aware of within the early years of Soviet Russia.

It was surprising to find out that Zamyatin had experience with industrial work because it is likely that he may have had first hand experiences with some of the concepts of Taylorism during his time as a laborer.

In addition to his time working in the ship building industry, it is very possible that Zamyatin also witnessed the implementation of the Taylor system under Lenin. Gastev and the Central Labor Institute were supported by Lenin, and Gastev is a particularly important character in this investigation.

Many of Gastev’s beliefs and statements take Taylorism to an even greater extreme. His views on workers as cogs or units, as well as his desire to identify them via letter and number eerily mirror Zamyatin’s “One State” in We.

Though I was unable to find evidence of what inspired Zamyatin’s We, it would be very surprising if Alexei Gastev did not play a role.

Similar to the practices that Gastev desired in his own country’s industries, the characters in We are numbered instead of named, and their personal lives are controlled by schedules just as they are during work.

The character’s extreme conformity seems to also nod to Gastev’s obsession with maximum uniformity across the workers in an industry.

Mikhail Dorogov. “Workers Control.” 1932

Further, the ever presence and importance of schedules and time on the members of the One State echoes Gastev and Taylor’s utmost focus on the importance of time efficiency.

Zamyatin’s time in industrial work, his experience with the changing landscape of his country, and his background as a rebellious writer in the Soviet Union all suggest that he used We as a futuristic, fantastical platform for real issues that he saw plaguing the world around him should they be allowed to continue unchecked.

“Onward to Oblivion”