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International Socialist Review, January-February 1967


Yugoslavia at the Crossroads


From International Socialist Review, Vol.28 No.1, January-February 1967, pp.38-55.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A number of revolutionary socialists who visited Yugoslavia last summer recorded their observations and became acquainted with the ideas expressed by many Yugoslav Communists during interviews. All this information has been woven together in the article published below as translated from the November 1966 issue of Quatrième Internationale. Certain parts, among others those dealing with the question of program are almost entirely the literal wording of the proposals formulated by Yugoslav militants.

* * *

For several years, all the contradictions in Yugoslavia’s political system have been coming to a head. The economic reform in 1965, and the factional struggle in the top circle of the Communist League of Yugoslavia in 1966 helped to bring these contradictions to the point of explosion. The country’s social and political forces are moving toward a showdown.

Abroad, this showdown has often been pictured as involving only the question of the successor to Tito. It is true that despite his many faults and the cover he has provided for the bureaucracy, Tito incarnates more than ever the only force that is trying to prevent these contradictions from exploding. It is likewise true that the Ran-kovich episode glaringly revealed for the whole country to see that the struggle over the succession has begun. Nevertheless, it would be contrary to the Marxist method to limit the problem to the question of persons, more or less factional groups, or even different ideologies. What is at stake is a confrontation of social forces which are so well aware of their particular interests, moreover, as to instinctively seek allies beyond the borders of Yugoslavia itself.

The Main Contradictions

The main contradiction that has affected Yugoslavia for many years lies between an economic system based on the principle of workers self-management and a governing political system based on the principle of a monopoly of power held by a very restricted group of leaders of the Communist League of Yugoslavia.

This is not a contradiction between an apparently “democratic” infrastructure and a superstructure that must sooner or later adapt itself to the base. The monopoly of power held by the leading group in the CLY is hardly confined to the economic field. It also extends into all the other fields of social life.

One hears such things as, “People in our country like to talk about the ‘continuous development of self-management.’” Everybody swears by self-management. The theoreticians of the leading group proclaim, not without reason, that if the producers are not in charge of production and do not control the social surplus product, then the bureaucratization of the regime and the establishment of “state socialism” (which a few of them identify with “state capitalism”) becomes inevitable.

All this seems quite acceptable from the point of view of theory. But what is the real picture of Yugoslavia? The truth is that the producers, that is, the workers, are quite unable to “control the social surplus product” from the plant level alone. The theoreticians of the ruling group proudly point to the statistics showing that a constantly increasing proportion of the gross revenue of the plants remains in the hands of each plant. But they are grossly mistaken in concluding that these figures prove that the producers are increasingly in charge of the products of their labor.

In reality, manipulation of these products by “objective economic laws” is increasingly displacing manipulation by the central offices of the planning services. Economic constraint is substituted for political constraint. But from the viewpoint of the producer it doesn’t make such difference if his plant is compelled to invest in accordance with a plan or under the pressure of competition. He is no better off either way. When a workers council is “free” to divide up its income ... but the bank cuts off credit so that wages can’t be met unless income is invested in certain amounts, this “freedom” is largely fictitious.

Economic life has dimensions that depend largely on technique. In the world of today, to try to contain it or determine it essentially on the scale of individual plants, maintained as autonomous units, means substituting words for realities. Decisions made at the plant level are of secondary importance, affecting but little the workers’ status, his income and relation to the job. The key decisions are made at the overall level of the economy. And insofar as these decisions are made almost entirely outside of the workers’ control, excluding any possibility for the workers to influence or modify them effectively, workers self-management limited to the plant level becomes itself largely fictitious.

The way to make it real is thus not essentially through leaving an ever-increasing proportion of the gross revenue in the hands of the plants. The way is through transferring the power of economic decision to direct representatives of the masses of workers, freely elected by them at a congress, kept under social control and subject to recall at any time. The producers cannot actually exercise the right to dispose of the means of production effectively except as a collectivity, as a class in its entirety. To believe that this right can be exercised at the plant level, by means of splitting the working class into groups of plants not only separated from each other but often even opposed to each other, due to competition, is an illusion that quite often masks the very tangible interests of other social groups.

The idea that workers can more easily control what goes on at the plant level than at the level of the economy as a whole seems to make sense and is thus attractive. But it holds true only within very narrow limits. At the plant level, what the workers can control is the organization of the job, calculation of net costs, choice of models to produce, the stock of raw materials, equipment to use, the division of net income. What is beyond this level, is the determination of sales prices, the real wishes of the consumers and the social differentiation of the bulk of these consumers, the rate of technical progress on a national and international scale, the implications flowing from this for the plant, etc., etc.

Insofar as data on this are presented as fixed items over which there is no control – whether handed down by the central planning authorities or revealed by the market or by a combination of the two forces – there is no genuine economic choice available. Most of the economic “decisions” that can be taken at the plant level flow automatically from the data (insofar as they do not pass a death sentence on the plant). The real economic options are not exercised at the plant level but at the level of the economy as a whole. The largely fictitious character of workers self-management in Yugoslavia flows from the fact that these options have been monopolized up to now by the very narrow top circle of the CLY.

The way in which the decisions were taken on the economic reform in 1965, plus the setbacks they entailed, clearly illustrate this. The top group presented things as if the real choice lay between certain sacrifices imposed on the workers and the still greater sacrifices that would have resulted if these reforms were not applied. It was essentially the same language as that employed by Wilson at the recent congress of the British trade unions: “Either you agree to 500,000 unemployed now, or you will have 2,000,000 next year.” Obviously, at the plant level, the workers have no means to reply to such an unattractive alternative. But they feel that it is unjust and they are clearly right, whether in Yugoslavia or in Great Britain, whatever other genuine differences exist between capitalist Great Britain and socialist Yugoslavia. Only at the level of central power could the working class challenge the economic theses put forward by the leading group of the CLY.

For a period of years, economic growth had been stimulated by the autonomy of the plants, widely surpassing the average of the other socialist countries. But for several years the situation has been reversed. The rate of growth has dropped and the new plan could only recognize this phenomenon which had occurred beforehand.

The cause of the slowing down does not reside in an “excess” of investments (in fact the rate of investment in the years 1957-63 was sufficient to guarantee full employment, which the new plan is explicitly incapable of maintaining); but in an excess of plant autonomy, which has nothing to do with workers self-management.

The Yugoslav press has widely reproduced the bitter criticisms expressed by the Soviet economists between 1963 and 1966 with regard to excessive centralization in the management of the economy of the USSR. One of the most striking manifestitions of this excess was the appearance of unutilized surplus productive capacity in all fields of industry. But the same phenomenon of underemployment of resources exists in Yugoslavia, flowing precisely from excessive decentralization.

Here is an example among hundreds. The Rade Koncar factory in Zagreb, one of the most modern in the country, whose sales abroad are the pride of Yugoslavia, has for some years worked at only 60 to 65 per cent of capacity, due to lack of a regular supply of raw materials, above all copper. But Yugoslavia is a big producer and exporter of copper; consequently it is clear that the copper mining enterprises likewise prefer to export their products rather than furnish them to a key plant in the national economy! One can scarcely hold “the system of administrative planning” at fault for wastes involving excessive decentralization like this.

Another example: For years, industrial enterprises of all kinds were constructed in various parts of the country solely on the basis of local needs and without taking into account the overall production in their branch of industry. The obvious result was excess productive capacity which led to genuinely grotesque consequences – Yugoslav plants exporting below costs (in order to justify their existence through “success in the export field”); phenonema of “socialist concentration” occurred (small enterprises being absorbed by larger ones), etc. Again, such phenomena were obviously not a reflection of excessive centralization but of decentralization. But despite this very eloquent lesson from experience, the authors of the 1965 reform went even further down the road of decentralization; and even envisaged abolishing the state monopoly in foreign trade within a few months.

In Yugoslavia interminable discussions are held on the various possible and desirable combinations of a market economy and planning. The theoreticians of the leading group sought to keep the debate centered on a dilemma: Any limitation of the market economy would automatically strengthen administrative planning and hence bureaucratization. The dilemma is not a real one even from the technical point of view; after all democratic centralization is not at all identical with bureaucratic or administrative centralization.

But the fundamental error is to pose the problem on a technical level. What is involved in reality is to decide what social force to base oneself on. In the absence of power exercised directly by the working class at the federal level and with power monopolized by a small group of the CLY, the combination of this monopoly with ever increasing decentralization reduces the power of the workers more and more, provoking an increasing number of conflicts between groups and tendencies within the class and thus drastically weakening the workers as against the bureaucracy.

The Rise of a Privileged Bureaucracy

The theoreticians of the top group of the CLY harp constantly on the idea that bureaucracy is more or less identical with central administration and that to dismantle “administrative planning” automatically means dismantling the bureaucracy. But life is showing the workers that this is a legend. In reality the bureaucracy must be defined as the whole of socially privileged elements (receiving salaries quite higher than those of skilled workers) in all strata of social life, leaving aside of course those who own their means of production and exchange (small peasants, artisans and private traders). The bureaucracy can obviously be subdivided into various subgroups – an “administrative” bureaucracy (government functionaries of the republics and communities), a “political” bureaucracy (functionaries of the CLY and its satellite organizations), an “economic” bureaucracy (plant administrators) and a “technical intelligentsia” (engineers, doctors, etc.). At most it can be affirmed only that to shift from a system of administrative planning to an autonomous system of the plants would weaken the power of the “administrative” wing of the bureaucracy somewhat, to the advantage of the “economic” wing and the “technical intelligentsia.” As for the political bureaucracy, it went through the whole 1950-65 period without losing one iota of its power and privileges.

A primary criterion can be used to determine whether or not workers self-management, largely deprived of content as practiced in Yugoslavia, has strengthened or weakened the bureaucracy in the final analysis. This criterion is obviously “rough,” “crude” and even indelicate, as we very well understand. But it is a faithful indicator. The criterion is disparity in incomes.

In 1951 white-collar workers and plant management were on the average paid 10 per cent more in wages than the workers as a whole. (Privreda FNRJ, Ekonomski Instirut FNRJ, 1954, pp.349-51.) In 1957 the disparity had already reached 35 per cent. (Information Bulletin about Yugoslavia, 1958, No.18, p.6.) In the same year the highest salaries paid to the bureaucrats were five or six times the average wage of unskilled workers. (The latter were listed 9,000 dinars a month in the source just indicated. The highest wages were generally above 50,000 dinars a month. See Statistitki Godisnjak FNRJ, 1957, p.352.) But in 1965-66 the salaries paid managers and chief engineers in the main plants were easily 350,000 dinars a month, while unskilled workers were paid only 35,000 dinars a month. The spread in income thus widened from 5 to 1 until in less than ten years it reached 10 to 1.

These figures refer only to individual salaries; the disparity in family income is much greater, since in general more than one person in a family draws income. And just as the wives and sons of workers usually bring in modest amounts, so the wives and sons of bureaucrats often receive the pay of bureaucrats. Thus some students interrupted a lecture being given by Vida Tomsic, a member of the Central Committee of the CLY and the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist League of Slovenia, to ask if it was true that the income drawn by her family was 700,000 dinars a month (twenty times the wages of an unskilled worker!), whether they owned two automobiles, had sent their daughter to a private school in Switzerland at government expense, and had a bank account abroad. She had to admit that the report was an accurate one.

In fact at the top of the bureaucracy some families are paid up to 1,000,000 dinars a month, i.e., thirty times the wages of an unskilled worker and nearly twenty times the average pay of laborers and workers, including the skilled and specialized categories.

The disparity in incomes, however, does not reflect the full extent of the social inequalities that have been widening in Yugoslavia in recent years. Automobiles, villas, rest homes, “social property,” are in large part accessible only to members of the bureaucratic caste, assuring them a way of life that is often equal to or better than that of the average bourgeoisie in the imperialist countries. It is said that the members of the ruling group of the CLY have seventy villas exclusively at their disposal. A new one has just been built at Zagreb that cost a fortune. Surrounded by high walls, it would meet with the approval of the wealthiest figures in the Western trusts.

Private appropriation by the bureaucrats of the benefits of social property even finds a genuine reflection in legislation. Formerly automobiles belonged to plants, could not be used after hours and they had to be driven by designated personnel. This represented an excess of red tape and control which the bureaucrats hastened to rectify. They decided that in the future, the bureaucrats themselves can drive their automobiles – an end to “administrative control”!

In addition they won the right to take automobiles home and to use them whenever they feel like it, including pleasure trips and vacations. The difference a private automobile makes is imperceptible ... unless it is purchased and maintained at the expense of the collectivity. The workers have become so irritated over this “democratic reform” and the new abuses it entails (the massive importation of deluxe Western models) that they say bitterly that the bourgeoisie has been replaced by the Peugeoisie (in honor of the Peugot automobile made in France).

In the workers councils the bureaucrats use and abuse especially their “technical skill”; the shift to a “market economy” involves expanding “scientific procedures” in order to determine the answers to many questions. You have to use intricate calculations to determine “consumer trends”; you have to transform the question of organizing the labor process from a problem of social relations into a question “determined scientifically.” As if by chance, on this subject, the Western management system of “job evaluation,” so vigorously opposed even by the Western reformist trade unions, is found worthwhile. The workers to a considerable extent feel disarmed in face of this line of argument due to the fact that they have at their disposal only the centralized information and documentation services, which are contradictory and uncertain in comparison with the “science” of the managers. But from time to time they do get angry over some particularly scandalous proposal, and have it out with a manager who is too disregardful of the interests of the workers and even discharge him.

But as soon as you go beyond the plant level, the power of the bureaucrats is no longer affected by even the feeble functioning of workers management. At a higher level the bureaucratic power is absolute. In the Council of Producers in the Federal Assembly, only a few seats are held by workers actually still on the job. The immense majority of the “elected” representatives are bureaucrats or members of the “technical intelligentsia.”

The bureaucracy has every interest in expanding the market economy. The reconversion of the economy not only assures them higher incomes, easier means of owning automobiles, apartments, villas, even funds abroad; it also assures them, after all, greater stability for their power and privileges, since the system is much more yielding than the system of “administrative planning” and makes it easier to employ demagogy in channeling the discontent of the workers.

In contrast to the other socialist countries, even including countries at a high level of industrialization like Poland or even Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia seems to produce an abundance of consumer durable goods. There is no problem of a long waiting list for televisions, washing machines or even a car. There are stocks of them even in the smallest towns. But as soon as you check the ratio between the prices of these commodities and the wages of the various groups in the population, it is apparent at once that they are completely out of reach for ordinary workers. On wages of 50,000 dinars (old issue) a worker can’t buy a television set that costs 200,000 or a secondhand motorbike for 300,000. The production of manufactured consumers goods is almost exclusively oriented towards satisfying the needs of the bureaucracy, the privileged layers of the population. And if installment buying is more developed than in the other socialist countries, Yugoslavia is also one of the rare countries in Europe where selling on credit is practiced on a big scale for ... clothes. It is the only way a wotker can get a new suit from time to time.

In recent years the development of the privileges of the bureaucracy has proceeded parallel with the increase by leaps and bounds of tourism and emigration (involving skilled workers and technicians essentially). To this has been added, since the 1965 reform, the enrichment of certain layers of self-employed peasants and proliferation of private entrepreneurs in the service sector. The overlapping of all these privileges and interests creates a climate conducive to speculation and thirst for gain that provokes disquieting results. We leave aside the development of prostitution, the spread of gambling, the attractiveness to the youth of Western “values.” In Slovenia, for example, this has reached the point where certain consumer durable goods are not even sold except for foreign exchange!

The Discontent of the Workers

This whole development of material privileges and social inequalities could not but give rise to pronounced discontent among the workers, often accompanied by deep sadness. They wonder, with bitterness, if they sacrificed themselves in the War of Liberation and for twenty years in constructing socialism, for the enrichment and pleasure of these “new gentlemen.”

The main points of discontent today are the following:

1) Unemployment and the rise in the cost of living provoked by the 1965 economic reform. According to official statistics, total employment dropped from 3,675,000 in July 1964 to 3,404,000 in February 1966, that is, by 271,000. These figures do not tell the whole story. To this must be added the new job-hunters, estimated by Tito himself in a recent speech at 150,000 a year, and emigration which must have amounted to more than 200,000 between the indicated dates. And still, the number of unemployed in the cities can without any doubt be placed at 300,000, to which should be added considerable hidden unemployment in the countryside.

This unemployment is due to rise in the near future. In general the plants did everything possible following the reform to avoid laying off personnel. They sought to make up for the very high jump in the prices of raw materials and other supplies by raising sales prices. But the regime is tending to cut off this route and seems resolved to import low-priced goods from abroad in order to bring down the prices of industrial products somewhat. This will compel a good number of plants to shut down or to order a mass layoff.

The official index of the cost of living rose from 84 in January 1965 to 125 in June 1966; i.e., it rose 50 per cent in eighteen months. The increase was particularly noticeable during 1965, since prices, beginning with 1966 have become increasingly stable. Nominal wages have not increased in the same proportion save for a few rare exceptions. Thus there was a decline in real wages in 1965-66. In Slovenia the average decline was 20 per cent. Tito, moreover, admitted at the plenum of the Central Committee held in March

1966 that it was the wages of the lowest-paid categories in particular that underwent a drop in buying power. (Kommounist, March 3, 1966.) From the standpoint of employment and income, it was the workers who paid for the 1965 reform.

The fact that the deficit in the balance of payments was considerably reduced, thanks to an increase in exports, leaves the workers relatively unenthusiastic, particularly when they note that the preferred imports are products for the comfort of the bureaucracy. And the fact that the entire operation was carried out under the control and active aid of the International Monetary Fund, an agent of international capitalism, and that the aim was to assure the convertibility of the dinar – while the Yugoslav economy is obviously in no condition to meet the competition of the industrialized imperialist countries – could only increase their uneasiness over the assurance of employment. An old Communist worker told us: “The Yugoslav workers will produce more and more surplus value for the German capitalists, who will come to Yugoslavia to spend it ... to the profit of the foreign entrepreneurs in the hotel industry.” (The allusion is to a project inviting foreign investments in the Yugoslav hotel industry.)

2) The increased cost of public services and lodgings. The application of the principle of “profitability” and of “financial self-management” in public service enterprises has yielded the most absurd results. Post offices have been eliminated in small towns where they existed since the time of the Kingdom of Serbia and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The pretext was that these offices were not “profitable.” Even the principle of “public service” has been sacrificed to the more and more encroaching notion of a “market economy.”

The worst effects of this encroachment have been felt in the field of medical aid and lodgings. At present in Yugoslavia, two Unions are manufacturing and selling pharmaceutical products. One of them has placed on sale, and made widely available, tranquilizers, which can now be obtained without a doctor’s prescription! Obviously the “profitability” of this product has increased; but can the same be said for the level of public health? The Communist doctors have protested in vain. They are treated like “partisans of the system of administrative control,” “purveyors of the bureaucracy,” if not of still worse crimes ...

The application of the principle of profitability in the construction and upkeep of apartment buildings has been handled by rapid increases in rents. Rent now amounts to more than 10 per cent of the wages of a skilled worker and close to 10 per cent of the wages of teachers and scientific personnel. Rent is to be doubled again next year. This will make the second time in two years. The consequences are obvious. Workers have had to move out of modern apartments, giving them up to bureaucrats and to members of the professional arts, and going back to the semi-slums. “Production” is being oriented according to “demand,” but as in all market economies, this means effective demand and not material needs, and this orientation is not in the interests of the workers.

The discontent of the workers is real and explosive, all the more explosive since it is mixed with a feeling of deep disappointment. Again and again, the workers hoped that the bureaucratic abuses were going to be abolished. The last time was when Tito gave a speech in 1962 at Split in which he vigorously attacked the privileges of the managers, their automobiles, luxurious villas, etc. This speech was followed by instances of criticism from the left, of which the most striking and effective was undoubtedly the film, Face to Face, which was devoted to a conflict between the workers and the bureaucrats in a factory, the entire action occurring in a meeting hall.

But despite the attacks, despite the public criticism, nothing changed in practice. To the contrary, it could be stated not without reason that the bureaucratic privileges have increased considerably since the speech at Split. The workers have thus been compelled to conclude that any new attack by a member of the top group of the CLY against bureaucratic abuses is demagogic. This, by and large, was likewise their reaction upon the elimination of the Rankovich group from the party leadership. Their reactions can be understood when only three months after the Central Committee meeting at Brioni, where the top leaders of the CLY were handled with such violence, Tito at the October 1966 meeting of the Central Committee sharply denounced the organs of the press that were criticizing current leaders of the CLY.

The discontent of the workers is expressed not only in bitter and disillusioned words concerning the leaders of the CLY and the unions, by innumerable witticisms, by increasing abstention from all political activities. It is likewise expressed by numerous job conflicts in the plants, including many partial work stoppages that sometimes reach the height of considerable strikes like those of the miners in 1962. In the eighteen months since the 1965 economic reform, emigration, hunting for a second job, bidding to put up tourists, have constituted outlets for and partial derivatives of this discontent. But the discontent threatens to become more and more explosive if an early, radical rectification of the situation, does not occur.

Tito himslef recognized in his speech at the meeting of the Central Committee in Brioni that the CLY was no longer listened to by the workers; this was what identified him in the eyes of the workers with the bureaucrats and profiteers. A radical reform is required if this identification is to be overcome.

Naturally, aside from a few exceptions, most of the working class remain attached to the system of social ownership of the means of production and the system of workers self-management in the plants. They know that despite all the faults of the monopolistic political regime, socialist Yugoslavia has made enormous progress compared to pre-war semi-feudal Yugoslavia. They also know that the Yugoslav workers in general enjoy more freedom and a higher standard of living than the workers in most of the other socialist countries. But the justifiable national pride – weren’t the Yugoslav peoples the first to resist Hitler and then Stalin successfully? – is steadily turning against the present regime, since it has not succeeded in projecting a cause to the people meriting deep commitment and enthusiastic engagement.

The Tensions between Nationalities

Relations among the various nationalities constituting socialist Yugoslavia are a good barometer of the contradictory currects running through the popular masses. During each phase in which revolutionary consciousness rose and the socialist revolution advanced, unity and fraternity among the various nationalities was cemented and reinforced. This was the case in 1941 at the time of the popular insurrection against the facist occupation; it was the case in 1945 when the socialist option was chosen by the majority of the people; it was the case in 1948 when it was decided to oppose the dictates of Stalin’s Cominform; and again in 1950 when self-management was proclaimed. But each time revolutionary consciousness subsided, due to mistakes committed by the leading group, through erroneous options and decisions, frictions among the nationalities again rose to the surface. This happened in 1946-47; it happened in 1951-53; it is happening again today.

The responsibility for this renaissance of nationalism lies completely with the leading group of the CLY, inasmuch as this group deliberately utilized nationalism to broaden its base of support. With the exception of Tito – his merit in this must be recognized – all the leaders of the CLY have identified themselves with the interests of a particular nationality, and have appeared in recent years as spokesmen of the special interests of “their” nationality.

It is obviously impossible to re-educate the popular masses and particularly the youth in a spirit of systematic opposition to nationalism without simultaneously developing internationalist proletarian education. But since 1951 education of this kind has increasingly run up against Yugoslavia’s foreign policy and its repeated concessions to American imperialism which they try to justify by the considerable gifts and handouts which the US government has granted Yugoslavia. In the Vietnam war, “solidarity” with that magnificent revolution which has so many traits in common with the one carried out by the peoples of Yugoslavia during the second world war, has been limited to a few modest collections of money.

As against this, there are Yugoslav plants that are not ashamed to furnish materiel (particularly shoes) to the American army – a matter of increasing their profitability. When the Slovenian students courageously denounced this in their newspaper in May of this year, they were severly reprimanded. Under these circumstances, nationalism obviously finds fertile soil for growth among the youth.

The material cause of the tensious among the nationalities constituting socialist Yugoslavia is clearly the very unequal levels of economic development among these nationalities. A dual problem arises from this: On the one hand, the less developed nationalities feel discriminated against in relation to the more advanced nationalities (particularly the Slovenians and Croatians); on the other hand, the more developed nationalities feel exploited, since the Federation takes part of their surpluses to invest elsewhere.

The latter reaction has no scientific basis. Within the framework of a united market, with the prices of industrial products higher than those on the world market, trade between industrially advanced regions like Slovenia and Croatia, and the underdeveloped republics is an unequal exchange and a transfer of value operating in favor of the former and at the expense of the latter. The funds for the development of the underdeveloped republics, which come from the industrialized republics, could not have been raised unless they had first been obtained from the underdeveloped republics thanks to unequal exchange.

However, in the long run, there is no other solution to the problem of economic inequality among the republics then a higher rate of investment in the relatively backward republics, provided by a central pool. This was the way it was done up to 1957. This is no longer the case. Since then, per capita investment in Serbia and Montenegro, has risen less rapidly than the federal average. And if in Macedonia you deduct investments for reconstruction in Skoplje, the conclusion is the same. Less industrialized from the beginning, and receiving less investments than Slovenia and Croatia, these republics have fallen further behind.

The spokesmen of the top group of the CLY have replied to this by saying that investments in the backward republics had proven to be scarcely profitable and often made no sense. You hear talk about “political investments” in this connection. The case is cited of the Niksich steel mill in Montenegro where almost all the workers had to be “imported” from other republics. Things are presented as if the choice were between particularly profitable investments and particularly “political” investments involving scandalous waste.

This dilemma is hardly a real one. If the workers of these republics are associated in a valid way, if pains are taken to go into things with loyal and disinterested technicians, there are ways of considerably increasing the rate of investment in the backward republics. The “political” character of such investment does not at all derive from the fact that it occurs in underdeveloped regions; it derives from the monopolistic character of the top group, whose members are outside the control of society and who end up deciding everything.

In any case the real dilemma lies elsewhere. Either the rate of development in these backward republics must be considerably accelerated, or the tensions among the nationalities will end up by likewise reaching an explosive level. The same thing is happening today among the cadres of the army and the diplomatic corps as occurred among the cadres of the UDBA [Uprava Drzavne Bezbednosti – Administration of State Security] at the time of the Ran-kovich crisis. With regard to this some of the indices are extremely interesting, constituting danger signals. To devote only 2.5 per cent of the national income to the development of the backward regions is obviously insufficient. Moreover it is not necessary to wait to see the consequences. During the past few years, the percentage of illiteracy among the youth of Bosnia-Herzgovina has risen from 6 per cent to 12 per cent due to insufficient credits for schools and teachers.

For the past year, the Croatian Ustashe and the Slovene bourgeois nationalists have resumed serious activities. This is fed not only by the old political emigre’s but by the new ones who go abroad for economic reasons. It even strikes a chord among certain circles of the youth. On May Day this year fascist leaflets were distributed at the University of Zagreb for the first time in twenty years! This speaks volumes about the political impasse of the CLY. The leadership of the Croatian and Slovenian Communist League, which shamelessly exploited the reactionary sentiments of a part of the population against the southern nationalities, bears an enormous responsibility for this. Rapid rectification is required if a catastrophe is to be avoided.

Ten Point Emergency Program

The approaching showdown between the workers and the privileged layers is complicated by the tension among the nationalities on the one hand, and on the other by the many links which a part of the bureaucracy and the technical intelligentsia have already forged with the bourgeois circles of the West and by the absence of communist convictions among a good part of the youth. There is danger, too, that it will occur at a time when the relationship of forces is still hardly favorable to socialism. It should not be forgotten that 50 per cent of the active population is still made up of peasants and of private elements in other sectors.

For all these reasons, socialist Yugoslavia is in danger of undergoing a crisis of exceptional gravity at some moment in the future, for example when the question of the succession to Tito is posed concretely. All the genuine communists must begin preparing from now on for this crisis by considering what emergency measures the workers should propose and undertake in order to block the counterrevolution and to assure renewed progress for the country along the socialist road.

Insofar as we may venture to formulate an opinion based on necessarily fragmentary information, the emergency program of the Yugoslav communists should include the following points, corresponding to the gravest problems facing Yugoslav society in general and the working class in particular:

  1. Immediate convocation, at the level of the republics and the federation as a whole, of a Congress of Workers Councils, to sit permanently with the right of final decision on questions relating to economic and financial planning, political budgets of the republics and the federation, and social legislation. It is a question of a transitional measure while the constitution is amended to place political power in the hands of representatives democratically elected by the workers.
  2. The Congress of Workers Councils should be composed of direct delegates of the workers councils. No one who earns more than three times the average wages of a worker should be allowed to take part in it. The delegates to the congress ought to continue to be paid their wages and be reimbursed only for their travelling expenses. The deliberations of the congress should be public, published by the entire press and broadcast by radio and television whenever the congress so desires. The electors should have the right to recall their delegates at any time by a 40 per cent vote.
  3. The election for the Congress of Workers Councils, as well as the election for the workers councils, should be done by secret ballot and on the basis of several slates of candidates. Any group of workers upon collecting the signatures of at least 5 per cent of the members of the collectives (5 per cent of the members of the workers councils for an election of delegates to the congress of councils) has the right to present a slate of candidates. They must issue a declaration of principles and present programmatic proposals dividing them from the other slates of candidates. Candidates considered to be fundamentally hostile to the socialist constitution and the principle of social ownership of the means of production should be rejected. The rejection of candidates should be made only by an ad hoc commission of the Congress of Workers Councils, and after a fair debate in the presence of the candidates in question and after publication of a motion stating the reasons.
  4. The congress should have the right, until the statutes involving the plants has been basically re-examined and settled on, to hold up any decisions of workers councils in the plants considered to be gravely prejudicial to the development of the socialist economy and fraternal relations among the peoples of Yugoslavia. They should not do this until after a fair and public debate and on the basis of a motion stating the reasons.
  5. All layoffs of workers should be immediately held up. The reduction in the labor force in plants should not take place until a public discussion has been held on the matter, either at the community level, or the level of the republics, and after equitable possibilities of employment have been offered to the possible victims of the reduction in the labor force.
  6. Charges in all public services and rents should immediately be frozen and any new increase forbidden pending examination of the problem as a whole by the Federal Congress of Workers Councils. The supplementary resources necessitated by this measure can be found by reducing outlays for luxuries, reducing high salaries and reorienting investments.
  7. The monopoly of foreign trade should be immediately re-established. Control over imports should be re-established by an ad hoc commission of the Congress of Workers Councils with the aim of ending all imports of luxury products and goods that are not essential for the development of the national economy and the standard of living of the workers. Dependence on capitalist economic “aid” should be progressively reduced. Agreements for bilateral cooperation and combined economic development on the basis of mutual interest should be concluded with all the socialist countries who accept it in principle.
  8. The Congress of Workers Councils should charge the planning authorities as well as possible groups of competent economic experts to work out several variations for the next plan, centering it on priorities capable of mobilizing the creative enthusiasm of the workers and the youth and of consolidating fraternal relations among the peoples of Yugoslavia. Among such objectives can be listed the following: the complete liquidation of illiteracy during the next five years; the re-establishment of jobs and the guarantee of full employment; the acceleration of the development of the underdeveloped regions and republics; the general reduction of the work week to 40 hours; the method of voluntary mobilization of the youth in the struggle against illiteracy, utilized by the Cuban revolution, could be employed on a broad scale.
  9. In foreign policy the question should be posed in relation to the following fact: Secretary of State Marko Nikezich, speaking on television last June 23, stated that his department no longer held a monopoly on Yugoslavia’s foreign policy and that this monopoly did not belong to anyone. But he immediately added that the way in which the Yugoslav press followed international events created the impression that such a monopoly existed. Thus the right must be immediately established for all social organizations, all the youth movements, and any group of workers to express themselves freely on this subject. Any group that has its documents refused publication several times by the existing organs of the press should have the right to set up its own organ, on condition that the program it submits is in conformity with the constitution and based on the defense of social ownership of the means of production. A ban on such organs, or refusal to release paper and press facilities to such groups, should only be decided by an ad hoc commission of the Congress of Workers Councils after a fair public debate and on the basis of a motion stating the reasons.
  10. For the CLY it is a question of life or death to regain the confidence of the workers, to regain their esteem. To achieve this, radical reforms must be introduced in party procedures. It must return to the Leninist rule of a “maximum” salary – no member of CLY who is placed in a responsible post, whether in the CLY, the unions or a government body of any kind, should be paid more than twice the salary of a skilled worker, and the tendency should be to reduce salaries progressively to those of skilled workers.

This reform in itself would do more than all the measures taken in the past ten years to re-establish a mass base for the CLY, a base which it has lost according to Tito’s own admission. To this reform the following in particular should be added: abolition of the cadre commission in the party; election of all officials, at all levels, by secret ballot; introduction of the right of all members of the CLY to prepare and to submit to the congresses and conferences, at all levels, common platforms different from those of the leading bodies; introduction of the right of minorities in the central committees and all the leading bodies to submit their minority opinions to the membership in written form and through fair debates in meetings during the period of preparation for congresses and conferences; all the secretariats of the CLY should be obliged to disseminate these platforms and minority opinions of individuals or groups to all the members of the CLY, and to organize written and oral debates in connection with this; the same rules should be progressively extended, returning to the democratic centralism of Lenin’s time, to the procedures of the Socialist Alliance of the Peoples of Yugoslavia; the leading bodies of the CLY and the SAPY should be elected on the basis of the proportion of votes received by the various platforms in secret balloting.

The leading group of the CLY, which is proud of its propensity to undertake radical and democratic reforms, will recoil with horror at such a program of immediate reforms, which are nonetheless both radical and democratic. They will try to fight it by means of a double amalgam   linking it with the rightist, pro-Western opposition on the one hand, and with the ultra-bureaucratic elements of the Rankovich type on the other.

The attempt to create an amalgam between the criticisms of the left opposition and the revisionist elements of the right, who are vassals of the “democratic socialism” or “Christian socialism” of the West, has already been employed against the magazine Perspektive of Ljubljana, which was suppressed at the beginning of 1965 as an “organ of Christian socialism.” This was a pure and simple slander. The magazine carried obvious left-wing criticisms of the official policies which were inspired by genuine communist and Marxist convictions. Its directors included a prewar communist, a political commissar of a division of partisans during the War of Liberation, and two sons of old communist militants, both of them communists themselves.

An attempt to make an amalgam between the left-wing criticisms of the leading group of the CLY and elements of the Rankovich group is all the more dishonest and all the more slanderous since the leaders of the CLY based themselves on the Rankovichs both big and little, including their police apparatus, in order to stifle criticism from the left up to the very eve of the Central Committee meeting in July 1966. To present things now as if the victims were “objectively” conniving with their persecutors is quite revolting.

Whatever may be the indignation of the leading group of the CLY over the program outlined above, this is the general direction in which the genuine communists should rapidly move if they hope to avoid, if not the confrontation of social forces that now seems inevitable, at least a confrontation in which the working class and socialism would emerge with a grave defeat. This is the direction in which they must turn in order to resume the socialist revolution, to provide faith among the youth and the workers in the ideals of communism, in order to instill on a broad scale the spirit of sacrifice and class solidarity which have wrought so many miracles in the past, in order to make the CLY once again a vanguard respected and admired by the majority of the toiling masses of Yugoslavia.

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Last updated on 18 June 2009