`Yugoslav workers state'?
I would like to see a continuation of the "Discussion with Our Readers" begun in the January 22 issue. I think Argiris Malapanis's response to reader Jeff Jones raised as many new questions as it answered.
Malapanis writes of "countless examples of active opposition to the slaughter" on the part of the Yugoslav working class. Since these are not covered in the bourgeois press, it would help if the Militant could describe some of the specific instances he is referring to.
If "the Yugoslav workers state has not been dismembered into little pieces," how is it that at least five separate states exist, each with its own government, constitutions, army, and international relations, with many of them at war with each other? It seems to me, and I imagine most people, that Yugoslavia is about as dismembered as any state in the world today. If you want to say the workers have a shot at putting it back together, that's one thing, and a very important issue to address, but a statement like this lacks credibility.
The underlying question, I suppose, is: Where is the Yugoslav working class at in the objectively necessary but as yet not very well understood task of defending the gains of their revolution?
Malapanis states that "while the bureaucratic caste itself shattered into competing gangs, the working class did not." If this refers to cross-ethnic unity of the class, I think anyone would have to say - at least - that a great deal has been lost.
In a sense, it seems to me, the bureaucracy has been changed the least. The bureaucracy has always consisted of little rival gangs looking out for no one but themselves and their careers. It's just that now their power- and money- grabbing is taking a more violent form.
But the working class had gained something important in the revolution of the 1940s (which the Militant has done a good job of keeping part of the picture). The working class did have something to lose. I've seen far more evidence than not that this Yugoslav workers' unity has been lost or is well on the way to being buried for a long time. We all wish this were not true, but simply stating that it isn't doesn't change the reality.
Many Yugoslav workers (perhaps "millions") may still consider themselves Yugoslavs as opposed to Serbs, Croats, etc., but many are also fighting on the side of one or another of these gangs. In fact, from what I've read, any opposition to this is extremely small and ineffective.
Far more, seemingly the majority of the civilian population, despite their fond memories of interethnic harmony, have become convinced that they will suffer atrocities at the hands of some other group. The mass exodus of Serbs from areas surrounding Sarajevo (taking with them even the exhumed bodies of deceased family members) is a recent dramatic example of the inroads made by the warring gangs' propaganda (reinforced by the reality all too many Yugoslavs have seen first hand).
Interestingly, Malapanis points out that "the Stalinists in power [in Tito's time] did not and could not" use the history of ethnic conflict to whip up support for their positions as did monarchist Chetniks and the Ustashi fascists before the revolution.
But isn't this exactly what's being done - with significant success - by today's Stalinist bureaucrats in each of the "gangs"? Now they have come out in openly and violently competing gangs, playing the "ethnic card" with a vengeance since it has become virtually their only raison d'etre. But aren't they the same social layer (capitalist-minded bureaucrats) with the same political lineage (Sta-linism)? What has changed to make this possible?
Westover, West Virginia
Facts on jobless rate
In the lead story [in the February 5 Militant] on Clinton's State of the Union speech and Dole's response, mention is made of current unemployment levels in the U.S. The writer of the article mentions that these figures "only count those people who are currently receiving unemployment checks." This is not correct.
Raw figures for unemployment statistics are not derived from simply adding up the number of UC [unemployment compensation] checks mailed out in a given week. I called the Minneapolis Public Library and they referred to the Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics "Employment and Earnings Report" for November 1995.
This publication explains how the unemployment figure for a given month is arrived at. It is done by an interview process of a so-called representative number of households.
A person is counted as unemployed if they are on layoff and receiving a UC check; if they are on layoff and anticipating being recalled (whether or not their benefits have been exhausted); or if a person not receiving a UC check claims to have made an attempt to find work at least once in the last four weeks.
Discouraged workers who have not looked for work in the last four weeks, students, houseparents, part-time workers seeking full-time work, low wage workers seeking better jobs; none of these people is counted as unemployed.
Federal workers' protests
The January 22 Militant reported that protests by federal workers had forced the U.S. government to end its partial shutdown.
If indeed these working-class protests forced Clinton, Gingrich, and Dole to back down, labor scored a significant victory that should be told on the mountain. But I have seen little news coverage, including in the Militant, of actual protest actions. When and where did they take place? How big were they? How were they organized? What did the protesters say?
The events can be read differently. The government workers' protests, important as they were, appeared to me neither large, widespread, nor powerful enough to do more than hasten the inevitable. Perhaps the reversal in government policy they "forced" was not so sharp after all; how many U.S. politicians, Democrat or Republican, intended to permanently close large sections of the U.S. government in December?
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