“Letters from Yugoslavia” consist of translation of previous articles published in different portals whichare piled in "Yugoslavya Mektupları". The current articles are published in İleri Portal, the press agency of TKP (Communist Party of Turkey).

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Thursday, 2 January 2014


Original text: Published in December 29, 2013

Since for a while, “self-management” became a term which began to be used by BDP more often. (BDP is the pro-Kurdish party which is represented in Turkish Assembly) It seems the term is more often used since the local elections come closer and closer which will be held in March 30, 2014. On December 27, Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chairman of BDP, while announcing the candidates for provinces and sub-provinces, have declared that they will establish a new social system by launching “self-management”. (1)

The usage of the term “self-management” by Kurdish politicians is not a recent fact. In the beginning of 2013, Şerafettin Elçi have mentioned that Kurds should obtain “self-management” in their region(s). (2) Before Elçi, Kemal Burkay have expressed that, self-management is even demanded by those Kurds who vote for governing AKP party. In this sense, he argued that self-management is claimed by every actor in Kurdish national movement. (3) In July 2013, following what happened in Rojava (Kurdish declaration of autonomy in Northern Syria); the term self-management is more often uttered by Kurdish national movement. In her article titled “Democratic Self-Management Revolution in Western Kurdistan”, dated July 27, 2013, in daily newspaper Özgür Gündem, Aysel Tuğluk wrote: “Between the dates July 19-22, Kurds in Western Kurdistan, in the cities of Kobani, Afrin, Dîrka Hamko and Amude have declared that they started to put self-management into practice!”

It seems that, following the meeting where the BDP’s candidates for the next local elections are declared, the term “self-management” will more often be referred.

We have to say that the definition of the term is a bit ambiguous. We can even say that there is even not a definition of the concept made by BDP. In Qijike Reş, an anarchist/Kurdish periodical, in the article titled “Isolatedness, Self-management and Direct Democracy”; a definition of self-management is done: “Self-management describes the ideal to have an autonomous, independent functionality and management in a defined territory ruled by the people who live on that territory. BDP’s request for self-management can be referred within this scope.” (4)

Self-management is a concept, which is usually not a popular subject for theoretical discussions, but preferred to be widely used by various political agents. For example, it has been stated in the ÖDP’s (Party for Freedom and Solidarity) party codes that ÖDP takes action for a self-managemantarian socialism.

The concept was quite popular in 1970’s. During the most brilliant period of the Yugoslav experience, the concept was very much welcome by those leftists who were not very happy with concept of communism, who felt horrified when they heard the term “Leninist party”. Just a few years before the collapse of Yugoslav model, Uğur Mumcu, a recognized left-wing Turkish journalist who was assassinated by Islamic terrorists in 1989, praised Titoism: “Being against Leninism, or being against Soviet Marxism does not mean to be an ‘anti-Marxist’. Neither Titoism, nor European communism did not cut the ties with Marxist ideology.” (Cumhuriyet, October 18, 1984) Indeed, today it is very well known that, how the leading figures of Yugoslav Communists League like Milosevic had cut their ties with Marxism in those years.

If “nationalism” is the knife which cut that tie, it is known that it was self-management who tempered and strengthened that knife.

For now, it is unclear how BDP defines the concept of self-management. Probably, the basis of the concept will be clearer during the process of local elections.

However, a few words have to be said on Yugoslav case as one of the prominent examples of self-management about how self-management was reflected on political practices in Yugoslavia and how the concept was defined and practiced.

Self-management have had different practices but mostly recognized with anarchist movement. Just after the World War II, Yugoslavia have had lost the technical support from USSR as a result of increasing tension between two countries since Yugoslavia had relatively better relations with West. Back then, Yugoslavia was an agrarian country and foreign technical aid was needed to establish an infrastructure required for an economical push.

The self-management model, which was drawn by Milovan Djilas, a leading figure of League of Communist of Yugoslavia was accepted as the model for economic development in Yugoslavia. From then on, directors of those production corporations which were organized according to Soviet model would be elected by the workers of those corporations. On the other side, the system where workers had direct impact on the administration brought many problems as well.

At first, although the system has foreseen direct participation of the workers, there had always been a problem about internalizing the “working class”. Moreover, the issue was more problematic in the rural corporations while even the feudal social and economic relations were not yet to be dissolved. Those workers, who were elected to be directors of the corporations, were rather unsuccessful, or they were transformed into technocrats, or technocrats out of the corporations, who preferably had management education in the western countries, were assigned as directors of the corporations. In fact, League of Communists of Yugoslavia was not that much interested in organizational issues of the corporations if they could reach production goals.

A striking example can be given from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Fikret Abdic, who became the director of the “Agrokomerc” state farm in 1970’s in Velika Kladuşa, a city close to Bihaç in Western Bosnia, was successful to transform the state farm into one of the most successful  combined food corporations not only in Bosnia, but also in Yugoslavia. Fikret Abdic, who became like an autonomous lord had so much power that he declared the “Autonomous Republic of Western Bosnia” during the Bosnian War in 1990’s. The paramilitary forces under his command are recognized by the massacres they organized.  

During the following years, similar directors appeared in all over Yugoslavia. Most of those directors were rather in the top cadres of the nationalist parties or financially supported the nationalist leaders. Many of the leading businessmen of today’s ex-Yugoslav republics were elected by workers to be directors within “self-management” system in Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Today, the reality stands in front of us that they were surely not on the side of Marxist economics.

Furthermore, it is also widely known that those “self-managed” corporations were oasis for corruption.

The problem was even bigger in the national scale. Some corporations enjoying the sectoral advantages were operating with high profit rates, whereas the income of low profit corporations  was relatively declining in the meantime. For example, GDP per capita in Slovenia, where the corporations operating for market and foreign trade were increasing. On the other side agricultural corporations were leading economy in Macedonia and the GDP per capita was relatively decreasing since the self-management model was insufficient in agricultural production. Similarly, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who was enjoying the resources like iron, coal and hydro and thermo electric power; heavy industry and mining were the leading sectors. However, since the production was not directly made for market or for foreign trade, the GDP per capita was decreasing relatively as well.

Thanks to the financial credits, due to Yugoslavia’s opposition to Soviet Union, the gap between republics were until some degree diminished. However, soon in mid-1980’s, with glasnost and perestroika, USSR began to give signals to collaborate with western liberalism. In this context, there was no more need for Yugoslavia. In the meantime it was also time for Yugoslavia to pay back the credits.

As the beginning of 1980’s were the most bright period of Yugoslavia, the end of 1980’s were that much dark with three digit inflation rates, high degree of corruption, increasing unemployment and poverty in general. As a result, the enrichened republics began to complain that they would not like to carry the burden of their poorer brothers and sisters. The aggressive nationalist paradigm of Serbian nationalism was a good reason for Slovenia and Croatia, the two richest republics to declare independence from Yugoslavia.

It is very much clear how self-management, so-called a system which had an image that working class has direct participation in management, in a country like Yugoslavia which had a more lovely image then that of Soviet Union have resulted.

Now, it is a question, how will BDP define and practice self-management, which they began to refer more frequently before the local elections.

(1)    Özgür Gündem, December 27, 2013 (Main caption)

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