Making and Breaking the Yugoslav Working Class

The Story of Two Self-Managed Factories
Author: 
ISBN: 
978-963-386-339-8
cloth
$85.00 / €71.00 / £61.00
Publication date: 
2021
288 pages, 2 tables, 28 photos

Workers’ self-management was one of the unique features of communist Yugoslavia. It pre­vailed, though not without challenges. Goran Musić has investigated the changing ways in which blue-collar workers perceived the recurring crises of the regime. Two self-managed metal enterprises—one in Serbia, another in Slovenia—provide the framework of the anal­ysis between 1945 and 1989. These two factories became famous for strikes in 1988 that evoked echoes in popular discourses in former Yugoslavia. Drawing on interviews, factory publications and other media, local archives, and secondary literature, Musić analyzes the two cases, going beyond the clichés of political manipulation from the top and workers’ intrinsic attraction to nationalism.

The author explains how, in the later phase of communist Yugoslavia, growing social inequalities among the workers and undemocratic practices inside the self-managed enterprises facilitated the spread of a nationalist and pro-market ideology on the shop floors. Yet rather than being a mass taken advantage of by populist leaders, the working class Musić presents is one with agency and voice, a force that played an important role in shaping the fate of the country.  The book thus seeks to open a debate on the social processes leading up to the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

Figures and Tables
Abbreviations
Acknowledgments

INTRODUCTION
Unfulfilled Expectations

Mighty Elites and Subservient Workers
(Re)Discovering Labor
Approaching Class and Nation in a Yugoslav Factory
Sources and Chapter Overview

CHAPTER ONE. TWO ROADS TO SELF-MANAGING SOCIALISM
Two Blue-Collar Communities
Differing Origins
“Factories to the Workers”
Market Socialism
Losing Factory Unity

CHAPTER TWO. FACTORY STRUCTURES AND EVERYDAY LIFE UNDER ASSOCIATED LABOR
Reviving Revolution through Normative Acts
The More Things Change
Claiming Tito
The Factory as a Collective

CHAPTER THREE. SHADES OF BLUE-COLLAR WORKERS
Proletariat in the Making
Who Creates Value?
Skill, Gender, and Place of Origin
Veterans and the Youth
Appendix 1

CHAPTER FOUR. THE DRAGGING CRISIS, 1979–1986
The Sudden Breakdown
The Party at an Impasse
TAM’s Pushback of Associated Labor
IMR Tries to Catch Up

CHAPTER FIVE. BREAKING THE PACT: WORKERS, LIBERALS, AND NATIONALISTS AGAINST THE STATUS QUO
Cutting out the Middlemen
The Stolen Golden Apples
The Diligent Ones
Appendix 2

CHAPTER SIX. MOBILIZATIONS AT THE BOTTOM—REALIGNMENTS AT THE TOP, 1986–1988
Reaching Beyond the Factory Gates
A “Firm Hand” Inside Serbia
Bypassing the Working Class in Slovenia
Beggar Thy Neighbor

CHAPTER SEVEN. WORKERS IN THE STREETS
Two Outlets in Rakovica
Deus Ex Machina
Maribor’s Blue-Collar Wrath
Post Festum

CONCLUSION
The Unsettled Working Class
Liberal and Collectivist Self-Management
In Search of Allies and Enemies
Unanticipated Changes

Bibliography
Index

"Goran Musić hat ein umfangreiches und beeindruckendes Werk vorgelegt, dass mit scharfen Analysen unter anderem die Konkurrenz zwischen Unternehmen sowie die daraus mangelnde Solidarität unter Arbeiter:innen unterschiedlicher Betriebe herausarbeitet. Er zeigt auch, dass die Strukturen der Selbstverwaltung keine Organisationsformen für den Ausdruck ihrer Unzufriedenheit boten; der Streik wurde jenseits dieser Gremien organisiert. Dabei beweist er auch immer Talent für spannende Erzählungen und die Auswahl anschaulicher Interviewzitate."
This is a pathbreaking and highly original book. Based on in-depth research on two factories, Musić convincingly argues for the importance of class and labor in explaining the demise of socialism in Yugoslavia and the breakup of the country. It also highlights the vital relationship between working-class grievances and populism, an issue still highly topical today.
As the first documented history of labor in Tito’s Yugoslavia that draws on a wide range of sources, Making and Breaking the Yugoslav Working Class represents a milestone for the historiography of the region. Capturing the diversity of the Yugoslav labor force in the country’s turbulent 1980s, Musić demonstrates that, rather than being a mass easily manipulated by nationalist or populist politicians, Yugoslavia’s workers were actors in their own right. By restoring the voice of the working class in history, this book not only adds to labor history but reshapes Yugoslav studies and studies of state collapse more broadly.