Making and Breaking the Yugoslav Working Class

The Story of Two Self-Managed Factories
$85.00 / €75.00 / £67.00
Publication date: 
March 2021, 288 pages, 2 tables, 24 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. Restoring the voice of the working class in history, Musić presents Yugoslavia’s workers as actors in their own right, rather than as a mass easily manipulated by nationalist or populist politicians. The book thus seeks to open a debate on the social processes leading up to the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

Unfulfilled Expectations
Mighty Elites and Subservient Workers
(Re)Discovering Labor
Approaching Class and Nation in a Yugoslav Factory
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 Youth

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, Nationalists, and Liberals against the Status Quo
Cutting out the Middlemen
The Stolen Golden Apples
The Diligent Ones

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