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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    MON, 07 JUL 1997 18:54:09 GMT


    Slovenian workers often do not strike when they should, and sometimes when they do they are not aware that they are manipulated

    AIM Ljubljana, 13 July, 1997

    At the time of "rotten socialism and self-management", as far as one can remember, the communists and their trade unions used to organize strikes. If the trade unions did it without asking the party for the opinion, the party organization concerned would take sides with the strikers and threaten the municipal and state agencies that they would have problems if they failed to meet the demands of the strikers. And they usually did.

    In neodemocratic capitalism which the Slovenians fought for, the party, that is, the successors of former communists do not organize strikes any more, but rather strive to convince the workers that everything that is happening to them is the result of transition from socialism to capitalism. Former communists who are nowadays in leadership of numerous political parties keep repeating this, forgetting that until ten years ago they kept persuading the same workers that everything that happened to them was the result of transition from capitalism into socialism. They did not use the term transition, as it is fashionable nowadays, but the essence is the same - better life is somewhere far ahead on the horizon, it is just necessary to endure.

    Nowadays in Slovenia, and it is probably similar in other states in transition, there is no greater curse than to call somebody a communist. Most frequently that is how former comrades from the same party cells who now belong to different political parties call each other, although they all disclaim everything that even reminds of socialism and would gladly delete it from history, memory and their own life. Exceptions are rare and honourable.

    When speaking of strikes, the result is that communists do not organize strikes any more. But there are strikes. They are organized by trade unions, and there are as many trade unions as there are political parties, if not even more. They all solemnly swear that they have nothing to do with politics and political parties. Everybody pretends to believe them so as not to be called communists, as a journalist who dared comment on the strike of railroad workers.

    Why did the railroad workers go on strike in the first place, and why does it continue?

    Because they want higher salaries. At the moment the net average salary in the railway company is 37,700 tolars, and the workers demand that it be raised to 42,500 tolars. The Government agrees to the amount of 39,269 tolars. The quarrel about the difference of less than 30 German marks has led to raising of gross issues such as the one about legitimacy of the strike. The right of the discontented workers to strike has not been questioned until now. The system of Slovenian railroads is - like the army and police, physicians and teachers - controlled by the state, like all the other activities of interest of the state which are partly or entirely financed from the budget. Due to big losses, the railway is financed from the budget. Salaries of the employees, as well as those of the other state employees exceed by far the average salaries in the productive and non-productive branches of the economy. President of the railway trade union, Slavko Kmetic, claims that the strike will not be ended before demands of the strikers are met. Trains do not go. The damage to the economy is measured by millions of dollars. In order to get salaries higher by three thousand tolars (less than 20 dollars), the railroad workers have caused loss to the port of Koper alone amounting to two million dollars. Instead of it, other ports have unloaded and reloaded 9000 ton of steel from the Czech Republic, 5000 ton of rails from Austria, 15000 ton of sugar, 2260 Japanese cars, hydrated alumina...

    Indirect damage from loss of business confidence, loss due to lost, cancelled, postponed business deals are several times bigger. The losses of railroad workers are even greater because they would have transported all these goods. A series of enterprises were forced to interrupt production because they were left without raw-material. The government made a strategic mistake by suspending the strike committee because it raised a wave of protests that the government was depriving the workers of their right to strike instead to demand from them to obey provisions of the law on strike and the reached agreements according to which strikers must enable other workers to work and produce normally, in other words to make their income. The strike of railway workers has paralysed the port of Koper, the state of Slovenia and the entire economy. A precise, witty and sad definition was given by a journalist who noted that Janez Drnovsek was just formally the prime minister, that Milan Kucan was just formally the president of the state, that the real president was Slavko Kmetic, president of the trade union of railroad workers who controlled the state over his mobitel, by which he issued orders which train could and which could not start from the starting station. However, he also put the question: whose mobitel does Slavko Kmetic receive orders from?

    Slavko Kmetic calmly declared that he was a member and official of the Social Democratic Party, the president of which was Janez Jansa.

    The secretary of the party is Mr Krkovic, former commander of the MORIS brigade, the elite, anti-terrorist unit of the Slovenian army. Krkovic was dismissed from the post and became a civilian at the same time when Jansa was discharged from the post of the defence minister because the members of the army attacked civilians (Depala Vas scandal), but also because he had put the MORIS brigade directly and solely under his command, that is, because he had begun making his own "army within the army". When Jansa was discharged, the ideologist of Social Democrats, Dr Joze Pucnik, publicly declared that this parliamentary party would use all parliamentary and non-parliamentary means in overthrowing the regime (although it forms a part of it, since it has deputies in the parliament). Presidential elections are approaching and it is necessary to get prepared for them, if for no other reason than because president Kucan has announced that he would run in them because democratic development of Slovenia is deteriorating. This development is threatened by the very behavior called by the public "Jansism" - the silent, underground fascistization of social life, disturbed as it is by the increase of unemployment, social insecurity and threatened existence.

    That is how the strike of railroad workers acquires dimensions of a "dirty business", especially because Ivo Hvalica, deputy of the Social Democratic Party and Jansa's deputy, announced from the platform in the parliament that it was not at all certain that after railroad workers, the police would not decide to go on strike. It is interesting that immediately after his statement, a "white strike" of the police was announced, and an anonymous letter appeared addressed to all journals, in which members of the MORIS brigade protested against the situation in the unit which had allegedly suddenly deteriorated after brigadeer Krkovic had been discharged. A matter of circumstances, mere coincidence, or pure chance?

    Can something look like a duck, swim like a duck, quack like a duck, and not be a duck?

    Zoran Odic, AIM