BM Blob's pamphlet on Yugoslavia including details of the strike wave in the mid-late '80s.
The Historical Context
Yugoslavia emerged from the ruins of the first world war and under the name of the Kingdom of Sets, Slovenes and Croats grouped itself around the kingdom of Serbia. In 1929 it became the 'Kingdom of Yugoslavia".
Utilising it for their geo-political project in the region, the victors compensated their ally in the Balkans by handing over to it large tracts of territory seized from the losers. They handed over to them in particular the rich regions of the north formed from the break up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This State supported itself ideologically on the pan slavist intellectual current of southern Slavs. This southern Slav entity covered a mosaic of populations and histories essentially but not uniquely Slav, which it was concerned to merge into a political entity able to stabilise this heterogeneous zone. This State was organised around directing Serbian cadres traditionally allied to France and Tzarist Russia.
Sets, Slovenes and Croats represented the three most coherent geographical groups together with Macedonians who were not admitted as such until after the second world war - their recognition cutting the Serbs off from "their" territory in the south The attempted homogenisation of Yugoslavia was underscored by the appearance of a literary Serbo-Croatian language which although using two alphabets - the Roman in Croatia and the Russian in Serbia - became in fact the dominant language within the Yugoslavian federation.
Launching the carnage of the second world war, Germany hastened to break-up Yugoslavia for exactly opposite reasons to those which led to the founding of the Yugoslavian State. The Royal Army scattered when the first shot was fired and Yugoslavia was divided between Germans, Italians and Hungarians. The new Croatian State rallied to the Axis leaving only a minuscule Serbia governed by a group of puppets.
The numerous pockets of resistance that arose from the occupation often had clan or communal structures. Two large organised and opposed forces took on the task of conscripting this resistance that had spontaneously developed.
- One the one hand there was the remnantts of the royalist army restructured by Mihailovic - a Serb officer faithful to the king - and called "Chetniks".
- One the other the communist party whicch since the mid 20s had became pronouncedly stalinist through a series of purges within the leadership. It could count on a disciplined base having acquired a certain resonance amongst town inhabitants who had gone back to their villages en masse given the fact there was a war on.
For a period of time the two armies had remained more or less evenly matched militarily and it was above all politically that the C.P had asserted itself before liquidating its competitors with the connivance of Churchill.
Conforming to edicts from Moscow the C.P had pursued a patriotic front strategy going so far as to shoot the perpetrators of expropriations. Social change was to take place only after the war with a guarantee of democratic elections The decisive force of the C.P lay in the perspective of a federalist state, the sole power that might be able to restore a stable authority to the region9 especially after the humiliating incapacity of the royalist army in 1946.
The royalist forces led by Mihailovic although benefiting initially from the west's sympathy were too tainted with Serbian nationalist interests to be up to re-organising a coherent State. Given these conditions this unredeemable loan was left to its fate. The royalist army cut off from provisions was reduced in number then massacred with greater ruthlessness than necessary to sever a military force from a political one possibly able to modify the outcome of elections which from the liberation had to legitimate the communist party's power;
From the liberation the party apparatus copied State structures from the soviet model. However a "revolution" had taken place in Yugoslavia. Not the one described by official historiographers but in the appearance of a Yugoslavian myth which for the first time since its creation amounted to a massive adhesion of different peoples to this territory.
This ideological identification with the Yugoslav homeland embodied in the C.P. was the result of untold massacres which all the peoples of Yugoslavia had been a victim of. In the space of five years nine armies had laid waste to the entire territory. The power of the C.P resided in the fact that it knew how to embody the project of a stable solidly based State capable of initiating a period of order and reconstruction. And Tito commanded attention as the symbol of this aspiration one descended in the party and in the people. The pressure coming from this base prevented Tito under pain of losing control horn openly ceding to the arrogant pressures from Moscow. In order to hold on to his position he found himself under constraints and the more the pressure was heaped on from Moscow the more he was placed in a situation of opposition. At the same time as the attack grew he was sufficiently familiar with Moscow's methods to appreciate the fate awaiting him from above Yugoslavian history itself had not permitted the unconditional stalinists to take hold of the wheel of State sufficiently firmly. Thus this personal confrontation quickly degenerated in the eyes of Yugoslavians into an affront to their resistance movement and sacrifice.
Placed in this situation between Moscow and his own base Tito's response was to develop the idea that it was only a matter of an error of judgment by Stalin and that he was going to make a mistake. Because as far as Tito was concerned he had never deviated from Stalinist orthodoxy. In fact he was Stalin's best defender.
In this context of rupture Yugoslavia was obliged after the war to develop its awn "road" towards socialism and to construct an ideological identity around which it could consolidate the State without fear of finding itself in the short term asphyxiated by the Russian bloc.
The political intelligence of Tito was expressed along a dual axis;
- on the diplomatic front by the creatioon with Nasser and Nehru of a "movement of non aligned countries" giving to the Yugoslavian experience an international dimension.
- on the home front by the introduction of self managed federalism which enjoined Yugoslavians to the reconstruction of the State giving it the aura of an innovative State.
- The national question: Ideology and power of containment/regimentation of Yugolsav social Contradictions
The relativity of the national question
The importance of national questions which characterises ideological conditions in Yugoslavia is not the product of irredeemable complexity. From our point of view it is a concrete expression of the power of mystification, still very real, of the Yugoslavian State. To sustain the State's cohesion this pseudo-problematic rested on the constant jealousy between different local bureaucracies.
On this latent confrontation of national interests between different republics was founded the necessity of the federal State - that is of the Yugoslav fatherland - which guarantees respect for each partticularism. Thus each local fraction of the State constituted as such based its strength on the defence of its own particularism defending its comer as regards others through the political cultural valorisation of its language, history, traditions. This "legitimate power" called Yugoslavia became thus the possibility of survival as a particular territory of each of its component parts confronted with other States and in the conflictual conditions of the world economy. It amounted to an ideal State structure which Corsicans, Bretons, Occitans etc. throughout the world could dream about.
This State structure guarantees to a degree in return the fencing in of social tensions which can surface in different regions within the federation.
The historic cement of Yugoslavian ideology is the struggle, unified by the C.P, of the "different" Slav populations of the south for their survival through a war against several armies which looted and dissected their territory in the second world war; The episode is given the ulterior title of "revolution". Given the weakness of the former kingdom of Yugoslavia, the national question is in itself the particular response formulated by capital in Yugoslavia to guarantee its developmental conditions after the second world war; The federalist structure reinforced in the same vein later by self management structures corresponded to the necessity of stabilising and therefore rationally integrating into the world economy a heterogeneous territory whose traditions were anchored in a resistance, which included Serbs, to a centralism embodied in a Serbian political cadre between the two wars. This structure of Yugoslavian ideology strengthened by local ersatz is apt to lead local social tensions onto the terrain of nationalism by explaining the reasons for poverty as due to the meagre handouts of others in the federation.. This makes of each particular nationalism a force for social containment.
Hence the qualitative development of struggle in Yugoslavia collides head-on with nationalism recalling in certain respects the way in which in other countries it can collide with trade unionism as a force for national economic integration.
Tito had the luck so far as concerns his legend to die at the right time. His demise in 1980 corresponded to a major push by capital to homogenise ideological debate and rationalise,the conditions of economic activity throughout the globe. Constituting the favourite delicacies of the Yugoslavian political class, for the past ten years throughout the world "liberals" vs "statists", "realists" vs "ideologues", cakes and trifles have been balanced the one against the other.
The movement of pauperisation engendered by the restructuring of world capital entailed here as elsewhere the objective conditions of a vital social awakening.
The major post mortem contribution of Tito was in assuring the regulatory role of central authority in order to counter the emergence of a federal leadership too strongly stamped by one of Yugoslavia's nationalisms. This was concretised in a collegiate structure of federal power accompanied by a complex electoral procedure mobilising for months on end all the panoply of local economic, regional etc. committees. Like the introduction of the law on self-management in the 50s the aim was to involve all the layers of the population in the State's functioning by a more direct participation than in the classical democratic types of east and west. This collegiate structure of federalist power with its hybrid promiscuous aspects nevertheless attained for a while the hoped for end. An apparent weakness in the authority of the central power vis a vis different regions confirmed in return the increased necessity of its umpire role and supreme regulator of all local tensions. It is from this contradiction that it drew its force and justification. This stance permitted it to invest the ideological movement with a greater subtlety at the world level of general tendencies which Yugoslavian "people", mixing up all classes, were invited to participate in.
Put schematically the Yugoslavian ideological debate divided into two poles of geographical influence.
a) The "north" comprising Slovenia and Croatia is the liberal pole. These two republics are historically marked by the Austrian occupation and exchanges with Italy. During this period the industrial and commercial infrastructure was laid down. These are the most westernised regions in terms of mores and a taste for commodities. They are the most faithful clients of Austrian and Italian traders - Vienna and Trieste constituting the preferred shopping centre.
Contrary to another stalinist type regime, Yugoslavia has opened its frontiers to the west and it is the west which has tended for some time to restrain the tide of buyers. Hence it is these two republics which are the most spontaneously and commercially interested in making an overture to the O.E.C.D.
Being the only regions where the trade balance is in the black, thanks to their relative prosperity, the well-off here are ardent defenders of economic liberalism seeing the new possibilities of increasing or at least conserving their well being. The weight of the middle classes is more developed than in the other republics.
b) The second pole includes the rest of Yugoslavia. It is the "balkanised" Yugoslavia. Except for part of Serbia and Vojvodine these are the poor even poverty stricken regions of Yugoslavia. Given this fact their bureaucratic strata are strongly interested in the existence of a more rigorous centralism able to impose a repartition of total resources to their advantage. To them the question of central power is posed in a particularly sharp and imperious manner.
This pole includes in its ensemble that part of Yugoslavia which historically was opposed to the ottoman occupation. Given this history marked likewise more culturally by a much more pronounced survival of communitarian traditions, light can be shed on certain recent events in Serbia and Kosovo.
Some Aspects of Yugoslavian Nationalist Spectacles
The content of Slovenian nationalism which is the most "modern" and perhaps the most imbued with the everyday affirmed itself in economic rather than cultural terms. It is the region that was most pervaded by the Austrian occupation9 its language having kept the harshest most guttural Germanic tone. It is the most industrialised republic and its ideology manifests pride in its economic success. Bosnians and Albanians serve as immigrant labour there and are treated as such- they take jobs belonging to others and monopolise public housing. In the bars of Lubjana one can easily recognise these intruders from the din: they are the ones singing unable to hold themselves in.
The"average" Slovene wants to work and is disciplined treating with scorn the boorish Balkans. The Slovene bureaucracy, conscious of its economic standing in the federation, has encouraged the development of a national Slovene will, which, awaiting an opening towards the west, exerts pressure.
The task of identifying immediate interests is more advanced there than in the rest of the federation. The ecological, anti-nuclear, pacifist movements have been supported effectively and discreetly by the republic's leadership. For the bearers of a more radical critique this has amounted to preventative isolation.
The broadest freedom to publish has been adroitly manipulated into being the official voice of the contentious Slovene regarding central authority. The standard of living is much superior to the southern republics. The stock of B.M.W's and other luxury cars, is larger than that of tractors in Kosovo.
Having mainly benefited formerly from the economic crises the republic now all the more painfully suffers the onset of lean times. This is greeted, much more clearly than in Croatia, with mounting nationalism. The crisis is viewed as the invoice which the federation is trying to make it pay on account of the federal governments bad management. Given the fact that its history is little marked by wrangles with Serbia, the Slovene bureaucracy willingly serves as a mouthpiece for the liberal duet.
Zagreb, Croatia's biggest city is the westernised capital of Yugoslavia. It also wants to be the intellectual capital. It manifests an intellectual stratum abusively described as "trouble makers" which tries with its Slovenic counterparts to work-out a compromise between the Titoist past and the liberal future whose echo bypasses the middle class. The other half of the liberal duet, this republic runs from Slavonica in the north to the Dalmatian coast in the south. Here they trawl the biggest haul of tourists. The form its nationalism takes still secretly evinces its history and conditions which it opposed to Serbian centralism. During the war it was an autonomous State allied to Germany and Italy. The Ustashi Croats', stamped with a principally anti-Serb religious nationalist ideology gained a reputation for massacring Serbs. "Liberation" in its turn had been an immediate settling of accounts. The forbidden recollection of these events, etc. still mark Croatian socialist ideology. Their southern character, their more "Italian" language, their vocation for the tourist industry gives greater prominence to the Yugoslavian national sport - money. The stance taken by their bureaucracy is to steadfastly but prudently back-up Slovenian demands. Their closer contact with the peoples of the south, with whom they share the Serbo-Croat language, means that nationalism expresses itself with greater subtlety and a tactical flair regarding the southern population.
Deprived of the solid economic base of the northern regions the Serbian bureaucracy proudly founds its nationalism on its history. It boasts the knowledge it is the political cement of the Yugoslavian land mass. It is the biggest and the most densely populated republic around which the State has been erected. It remains the axis around which present day Yugoslavia is organised. Its predominance is political. The legacy of its centralist bent is apparent from certain pronouncements it makes on the "superior interests of Yugoslavia". Its situation in the federation makes it the bounden arbitrator between the rich republics of the north and the poverty stricken republics of the south. It houses in Belgrade, its capital city, all the various federal authorities. Poverty is more apparent here and the narrow minded, trumped-up bureaucracy is tinged with the exotic colours of the Balkans. Belgrade, a vast city of crumbling grey houses sheltering a varied noisy, coloured population has the smell of oriental Europe about it. One is far from the neat, tidy appearance of Croatian towns like Zagreb.
This is the "autonomous region" that is to be found in the south of Serbia. It is a very poor arid country. Since the middle ages it has been the mythological home of Serbia. Kosovo was the scene of a battle which became one of the central myths of the Serbian oral tradition throughout the centuries. According to tradition it was in this battle King Lazare and his christian knights, preferring sacrifice to slavery, fought and were annihilated by the Ottoman army. This myth passed down through the intervening centuries the valour dignity and refusal of the Serbs to submit when confronted with the power of Islamic despots. It was on this spot there gathered together prior to the deed, the assassins of the Austrian archduke who through their sacrifice would seal the "renewal" of the Serbian State at the end of the first world carnage (this assassination being the pretext for it ). At the very least its epic survival requires thus. This small country shelters two peoples each organised around powerful community structures. One the one hand there are the Slavs, the "historic" Serbs and the Montenegrins possessing an orthodox christian culture and on the other hand, the Albanians, with an islamic culture who speak a language remote from the other languages in the region. In this context a demographic increase renders hunger for cultivated land - the sole source of a livelihood for the two communities - increasingly acute. The mutual antagonism was from the outset fuelled by a greater repartition in favour of the Serbs who enjoyed the State's preference.
The Albanian community, which demographic increases had placed increasingly in the majority and who were becoming poorer, had no other recourse than to sell their labour in the other republics and attempt to seize land off Serbs and Montenegrins.
This process of nationalist radicalisation amongst the Albanians was favoured by their "foreign" character vis. other Yugoslavian nationalities. Their demands were considered suspect, anti-Slav - even anti-Yugoslavian.
Trapped by the Yugoslavian State within the ghetto of nationalist confrontation they were not even recognised as a nationality "equal" to the rest (they did not accord them the right to regroup within an Albanian republic belonging to Yugoslavia, which would have been considered politically dangerous). So the Albanians poured all their energy into one of the more vindictive ideologies.
It was in this context there erupted at the beginning of the 80's, violent riots which were ferociously put down. So the situation in Kosovo was transformed into a latent ever present danger for the entire Yugoslavian political edifice, unable to offer to the Albanian bureaucracy the means of channelling confrontation into a framework compatible with the general interests of the federation.
Kosovo lies at the limit and is the open negation of the regional democratic debate in Yugoslavia. Increasingly concretely it has come to cast doubts on the federalist thesis on which the political equilibrium of Yugoslavia is based.
The situation in Kosovo having taken a dramatic turn in the past few months requires some comments:
1) In Yugoslavia, in relation to other regions, Kosovo is not a hot bed of social agitation that is more opaque than the rest. However due to a number of reasons and particular blunders it became an exemplary instant of repression.
For more than four years an uninterrupted wave of strikes, with its peaks an and troughs, shook without distinction all sections and regions of Yugoslavia.
2) Social awakening has taken on some years the character of a profound movement of drawn out, on- going maturation but which up to the present and including the recent riots in Kosovo, has not yet been marked by a rupture with a nationalist stance.
The real strength of communitarian traditions in spite of the exemplary determination which it has shown during the course of these events only underlined, very dramatically the power of national ghettos.
The defeat of the Albanian rioters today is matched by the fact that the first uncompromising social confrontation since the war was castrated, for the time being, by its inability to extend beyond a strictly Albanian riot. The State has been able to pass over in silence the fact that for the first time in history the militia has had to face armed proletarians in the streets protesting against their poverty.
3) This riot in its nationalist aspect is a consequence of the political manoeuvres which the Slovene and Serbian bureaucracies within the federation enjoyed in and over these two republics - a consequence of the ideological confrontation between the different fractions of the federal state.
As a mode of government the "madhouse" is one of the well-springs of Yugoslavian ideology. The ~e consists in periodically putting into play the internal equilibrium of the different republics and autonomous regions, renegotiating each individual part by raising the spectre of excess imputed to one region by the others while pining each nationality against the rest. The end result of this process is to regularly re-affirm that only unity around the federal State can ensure an equilibrium of interests.
The constant justification that abets each political destabilisation is clearly the necessity of reactivating a nationalist stance against a social awakening. This was clearly understood when Serbia took the risk of provoking a constitutional crises in Kosovo. In the same vein shortly afterwards Slovenian bureaucrats sympathised with the Albanians; whom they scorned on other occassions, because that allowed them to defuse social tension directed against the Serbs. On the other hand they could float, without getting wet, the risks of a bloody repression regarding irresponsible social attitudes.
4) The difficulty of managing the Kosovo question is linked equally to historical antecedents in the post war period and to the question of the Albanian State. One of Tito's political defeats in the post war was his inability to integrate Bulgaria and Albania into the Yugoslavian State.
On the Albanian question the outcome was decided by the defeat in 1948 of the pro-Yugoslavian faction in the workers party that was against Enver Hoxha. It was this confrontation with Tito in part that determined the Stalinist orthodoxy of Albania.
But it remains none the less true that Titoism has never stomached the existence of the Albanian State and the only Albanian republic it can conceive of would be the seventh Yugoslavian republic with Tirana as its capital.
In this context it is difficult to envisage the existence of a Yugoslavian Albanian republic as some Albanian bureaucrats, whom are today persecuted would wish and as is supposed moreover by Yugoslavian logic with respect to national minorities. For in the long term it could become logical also for these people to look one day to the competing Albanian State.
One can grasp these political equations better by understanding that Yugoslavia has always had a territorial claim on Italy towards Trieste and on Austria viz. the frontier strip inhabited by Slavs. As for Hungary it keeps an eye on a part of Vojvodine inhabited by Hungarians whilst Bulgaria considers that the Macedonians are in fact Bulgarians. As for these Bulgarians it hasn't always escaped that Thessalonika is a Macedonian town as moreover is all of northern Greece...
There exists in Yugoslavia two quite distinct levels of repression: the one which is openly talked about subject to discussion and the taking of sides, professing exemplary intentions. For the most part this is the one taken up by the media and finds an echo abroad. The one which is not talked about is hidden by the Yugoslavian consensus
The first instance applies for example to certain Slovenian journalists, to such and such group of bureaucrats who quite obviously are corrupt. They are intellectual soap operas having a pedagogic purpose. There are the public moments in debates between fractions of the State directed against such and such social fraction through some such scapegoat and are accompanied by a more or less large scale mediatory mobilisation polarising debates around matters of no interest and this in periods of social tension. At the same time their observance is often revelatory of real events they are supposed to cover.
The second which is sometimes the result' of the consensus affected through the former, is expressed daily in the narrow minded arrogance of the militia and by a multitude of 'minor" political trials which do not appear in the newspapers and serves mainly to maintain the terror in Kosovo. Not to mention court appearances for economic crimes relating to strike action as well as wages in kind which proletarians grant themselves. In fact this unspectacular character of the repression is difficult to make head or tail of, particularly in periods like the one which just stalled in the spring of '88 because the press has been gagged once more precisely in order to keep struggles which have broken out again this summer in an atomised state. On the ground information is always fragmentary and at times at variance, magnified by rumour but in a way that compliments the strategy of diversion. Police beatings seem to be commonplace and, in any case, intimidation and threats constitute the daily, all but official practices of the filth.
During one of the spectacular waves of repression directed against "dissident intellectual" milieus in 1984, one of the arrested trade unionists was killed. A cock-up or a warning - doubtless both - to amateurs. This person was killed in public unlike the victims in Kosovo which add up to several dozen and surely more since 1981. The repression of isolated insurgents is without mercy and perhaps explains in part the non-appearance of attempts at autonomous organisation, in spite of the great waves of struggle which uninterruptedly has shaken Yugoslavia for several years. This repression is all the more effective to the degree it articulates these visible aspects and those cunning constraints in a manner which enforces the consensus. Some leaders heads roll but that is the cost for being able to terrorise in isolation which is more effective than a brutal strategy of wholesale repression
At the present people who have participated in the strikes come through unscathed generally and even if they have taken an active part they will not be harmed by the outcome provided they have stayed within the resultant consensus. The media up to the spring of '88 had given out some information on the strikes just so long they more or less agreed to be taken over by the unions. The newspapers justified the strikers by showing how the economic situation had wronged them, then the proper authorities would relieve from their posts one or two of those responsible, double wages and order would reign once more.
On the other hand the few movements which the newspapers busied themselves with and did not follow trade union logic, were not described as part and parcel of a strike but presented as acts of collective sabotage - in particular a Croatian furniture factory last spring against which the newspapers demanded repressive measures be taken because successive orders were not met owing to the fact production had came to a stand-still.
A typical procedure of indirect repression is illustrated by an indictment of journalists at the beginning of '88. A number of newspapers had been indicted for having shown a want of respect towards the army, another for having pulled the rug from under a guest of the Yugoslavian State by treating a head of an African State in Belgrade as a tyrant. Week after week accusations multiplied touching on fringe papers essentially. The banned newspapers referred the matter to the courts who generally lifted the banning order; In the name of democracy journalist circles rallied against censorship. And one after the other the accused journalists were cleansed of blame by court rulings. Except in the case of some Slovenes who had the nerve to continue after an armistice had been announced, because they saw fit to add their weight to the weight Slovenia exercised in the federation when certain economic texts came up for discussion However once the majority of journalists had been acquitted one found bit by bit that no information on the social movement would illuminate the entire Yugoslavian media. The message had got through.
Albona -Yugoslavia Miners on Strike
An account taken from the "People's Voice" an Italian language paper that comes out in Fiume, Yugoslavia, Albona,April:
It was a Wednesday like any other; Spring was arriving gradually. Meanwhile everyone was scraping what they had together after a further price rise. Yet in the centre of Albona life appeared to calmly continue. But as you know appearances at times deceive. We were reminded of this as we neared the headquarters of the "Istrian Mines". The janitor came towards us. Having introduced ourselves he exclaimed: 'You can't come in, the press conference is at 1 0 clock." The words were barely out of his mouth when the door was thrown open and out came some forty people. They were miners from Labin colliery who had been on strike for nearly a week (the trouble which bit by bit had assumed a notable dimension had been started by their workmates in Tuplijak.) Speaking all at once they all added their bit. One of them abruptly let fly: "We don't believe anyone not even you journalists". Not everyone is in agreement, objections are raised. Others insist; 'What average wage of 170,000 dinar? Our wage packets are a lot thinner'. 'We don't want anything to do with our leaders they are not behaving honestly with us". 'Why don't you write about the failure to invest in Ripenda and Valmazzinghi collieries". We try to get a calmer discussion going. Vojko Andrie interjects: "I have worked down the pit for nearly nine years. I have a wife and child. We live in conditions which are uncomfortable to say the least. In practise damp is my constant companion. It accompanies me everywhere whether at work or in the house. This isn't living. Come and see for yourselves". We agree. Ante Bandolo comes along with us: "I found a place to live in a derelict building with my wife and child. It used to be a school".
Andrie has found a place to live in a manner of speaking in Vines. It is a rickety little house, damp inside, in need of urgent repairs. Needless to say it is insanitary. The toilet is outside and a bath is a mere dream. The living space is not more than twenty tight square metres. In a moment of dejection he unburdens himself. "Amongst the miners some come from Bosnia our part of the country. Instead I am feeling deeply disappointed. We wanted to work so much we didn't ask for anything else. Only that the remuneration be equal to the task. My basic pay varies between 11 to 12,000 dinar. Not much. Some engineers earn a lot more. There are some who can have the house of their dreams and the last word in a brand new "Volvo".
It wouldn't he a bad idea if you were also to take a photo of one of their houses so as to compare it with the slum I came across here. Probably, but this is only my opinion, none of this would have happened if the bosses had at least shared in our ups and downs. Instead what happened we never saw them for months on end and no one thought it worthwhile to exchange a few words with us. Not to mention the unions! I don't think I will take pan in them anymore, even if reluctantly. The union leadership has abandoned us',. 'Yes it's true" added Ante as we were taken to his place; 'Ye have lost all faith both in the trade union and self-management cadre". We parked in front of an abandoned building or rather one that had been partially reoccupied.
Here were to be found the young families of four miners. We met Marija, the wife of Bandolo. She was carrying a bucket: "I'm off to replenish the water". She told us: 'The tank over there supplies us with the precious fluid". "We'll be practically dead before there's a decent place to live" warned Ante. "As regards housing points we want them to be valid outside the Albona district". We return to the issue of the pits. "In no way has there been any excesses" they point out in chorus. Raso Huse steps forward. He insists on going with us. We get back in the car. Ramiz Soldic and Raso follow. Raso, lean with a kindly face speaks in quiet but firm tone; "Our demands have been falsified. We asked for 100% wage increase for production workers with a 50% increase for administrative staff. Furthermore we wanted various bosses dismissed including the Managing Director; When trouble erupted in Lupijak pit they were motivated by the idea of breaking away from the parent organisation. But this didn't happen. Hence our mistrust as regards their protest. Our pay absolutely has not kept pace with the continued increase in productivity. I worked the entire month, Saturday included, standing in water up to my knees for 14,600 dinar'.
Here also living conditions are at the limits of the humanly tolerable. In the building that Raso shares with 11 other families there is no water; They get it from a spring where there is a continual danger of disease. Close by there is a food store. The Health Inspector wanted to close it down but people were opposed to it. Substandard, unhygienic conditions were better than nothing at all. "Don't think," Raso interjects, "things are better for single men. They are crowded into two hostels living in completely precarious conditions. The only advantage is that they don't pay rent which everyone is resigned to paying'. They thank us for listening to them and return sadly to the pits. However there is much fierceness in their looks. They say goodbye remarking, "we won't give in so easily!"
Blob jottings circa Summer '87 - Yugoslavia
At the beginning of March '87 news of big strikes leaked out of Yugoslavia. The most important centres were Belgrade and Zagreb where industry is the most developed. The official press did not speak of a strike wave but of work stoppages. Then all of a sudden came the news the Belgrade government had threatened to use tanks if there was no return to work. The strikers numbered around 20,000 and were protesting against a law passed by the federal executive council that cut the wages at a stroke of thousands of workers' wages and congealing them to the end of June.
According to the "People's Voice" - a Yugoslavian Italian language paper - in 1985 there had been 13 "work stoppages" involving 816 workers whilst in 1986 there had been 19 with 2,776 workers involved. It would appear that the wage cut was felt more keenly in the industrial rather than tourist areas of Yugoslavia where the possibility existed of topping-up one's basic pay from the tourist trade. In fact, under a centrally controlled incomes policy firms had been prohibited from paying their workers more than the amount fixed during the third quarter of 1986. However pressure from the workers had forced firms to break the guidelines, granting de facto wage increases in January and February and throughout '86 easily in excess of the rate fixed by the government.
With inflation running at 100% per annum these wage rises were, even so, considerably below the rate of inflation. For example, 53 businesses employing a total of 13,600 workers in the Fiume area on the Adriatic coast had paid out during 1986, 5 billion, 875 million dinar in excess of the agreed limit. However, the law passed on February 26th '87 not only sought to curb wages but required that wages in excess of the limit be paid back: a third in April and the rest to follow in June. The collection of the "debt" was to be left to individual firms and at a meeting in Capodistra on the 21st-22nd of March, the trade unions agreed to support the measures. How unusual!
The strike wave, in immediate terms, succeeded in modifying the low wages. Prices of many goods were frozen only to rip again a few days later. And to divide the working class, wage rises in excess of the norm laid down by the government were permitted, provided they were "paid for" through an increase of productivity. Those sectors linked to the export and foreign exchange earnings (i.e. tourism) were the most to benefit. But the wage cut remained in force and in addition firms deemed "unproductive" are to be shut down adding to Yugoslavia's growing unemployment problem where a million people are still in search or their first job.