The self-managing factory after Tito : the crisis of Yugoslav socialism on the shop floor
Title: The self-managing factory after Tito : the crisis of Yugoslav socialism on the shop floor
Author: MUSIC, Goran
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2016
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
This dissertation investigates the altering ways in which Yugoslav blue-collar workers understood the recurring crises of Yugoslav socialism, as well as the changing nature of the relationship between different occupational groups inside the factories and the ruling party. It sheds light on regional specificities by systematically following and comparing the evolution of discussions and mobilizations inside two metal factories, based in Serbia (Industrija motora Rakovica) and Slovenia (Tovarna avtomobilov Maribor). The analysis begins with a short overview of the factory origins, the birth of workers’ self-management in the early 1950s, as well as the emerging industrial conflicts taking place in the liberalized political and economic system of the 1960s, highlighting how the two factories formed opposing interpretations of selfmanagement and attempted to grapple with the crisis of ‘market socialism’. The focus of the dissertation, however, is on the later turbulent period between the peak of the Yugoslav welfare state in the late 1970s and its terminal crisis in 1989. During these years of prolonged crisis, the oppositional liberal and nationalist themes started reaching broader layers of the Serbian and Slovene public, challenging the inherited understandings of self-management and national equality. In contrast to the dominant historiographical accounts of political and social changes in the 1980s, which perceive workers as passive recipients of the new ideas from above, I will show how many themes adopted by the reformist party leaderships in Belgrade and Ljubljana in the second half of the decade were already in circulation inside the factories. Workers struggled to form their own views of the social crisis, tried to impress their grievances on official institutions, staged strikes and rallied around autonomous initiatives, but ultimately they failed to maintain a visible independent voice. In the case of Serbia, the communist party leadership managed to reinterpret the hitherto dominant notion of a dichotomy between the ‘exploiter and exploited’ in nationalist terms and thus defuse industrial action. In Slovenia, the local party-state acted in a more openly confrontational way and marginalized labor unrest by presenting it as an obstacle to further market modernization. The research explains how the growing social inequalities among the workers and undemocratic practices inside the self-management bodies facilitated the spread of a nationalist and pro-market ideology on the shop floors and illustrates how workers’ local grievances were increasingly becoming connected to those views, which exchanged the logic of working class solidarity with the politics of exclusion.
Defence date: 18 January 2016; Examining Board: Prof. Stephen Smith, European University Institute (EUI Supervisor); Prof. Pavel Kolár, European University Institute; Prof. Ulf Brunnbauer, University of Regensburg; Prof. Dejan Jovic, University of Zagreb.
Type of Access: embargoedAccess