Michael Kidron


(Autumn 1966)

From The Notebook, International Socialism (1st series), No.26, Autumn 1966, p.7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

In attacking Rankovic and Stefanovic Yugoslav’s two secret police chiefs in July, Tito accused them of “wire-tapping their way into the lives of Yugoslavs at every level – business, party and government.” Not shop-floor, site and pit; “business, party and government.”

In limiting the “lives of Yugoslavs” to these professional occupations Tito gave the best possible clue to the state/party divorce which he was then pushing through. The new middle class has grown rapidly as jobs in management, government and the professions multiplied; but it has not been given its share of political and economic power. This remained the monopoly of the party’s summit – a “tightly knit group of politically motivated men” still in the saddle after more than twenty years.

Their monopoly began to crack when local managers were told to take some decisions themselves (Ljubljana Programme of 1958) and so prevent the economy from seizing up in a welter of controls. It crumbled in earnest from last Summer (1965) when enterprises were freed from controls almost completely, commanded to behave like capitalist firms in a free market and also find their own resources.

They obviously fought back using their positions in the political and police apparatus. As obviously they lost. The entire middle class wanted a share of power. It got it.

But that is as far as it goes. For all the hoo-hah on the left, the changes that have occurred down below have been for the worse. The economic reforms of last July included a devaluation of the Dinar by 66 per cent: prices rose 30 to 50 per cent in consequence in ten months, wages did not. The bonfire of controls is about to engulf rents. Unemployment has shot up and the government is anxious to double the already heavy emigration, mainly to West Germany. Many workers have returned to the farms. And the already low level of wages is held down firmly, usually with familiar enough sounding arguments (Rade Koncar, Zagreb’s heavy electrical engineering group “is having to keep down its wages in order to find money for the investment”’ [Financial Times, 29 June 1966]).

This doesn’t say much for the efficacy of ‘workers’ control.’ Nor does anything else. When 312 workers at a metal-working plant in Smederevo were asked who in the factory took the decisions in five key areas – work norms, wages, production plan, bonuses and welfare – not one could answer fully, two had four correct answers, sixty-seven had three, sixty-nine had two, sixty-nine had one, and one hundred and five (that is, one third) got them all wrong.

But then ‘workers’ control’ in Yugoslavia has been more or less a technique for inculcating industrial disciplines into new workers with the help of the old. As the working class becomes more stable and self-renewing, ‘workers’ control’ tends to become nothing more, in the words of The Economist, than “a brand of labour relations” – workers’ control certainly, but control of rather than by.


Last updated on 19.10.2006