Un'interessante intervista con uno dei protagonisti del movimento anti-globalizzazione jugoslavo. Andrej Grubacic traccia alcune linee di comprensione di quelli che sono i maggiori pericoli per un paese che si sta aprendo e svendendo ai nuovi partner strategici, senza mancare di fornire suggerimenti per promuovere una globalizzazione dal basso. Andrej è stato a Porto Alegre, invitato da Le Monde Diplomatique. Prossimamente continueremo ad approfondire il tema con una rassegna sui lavori del World Social Forum visti dai Balcani. (testo in inglese)

11/02/2002 -  Anonymous User

The Initiative for Economic Democracy (IED) is a trans-ideological one, gathering people interested in exploring and researching contemporary economic and social changes, as well as those interested in fighting corporate globalization and neo-liberal ideological programs.
The activists are devoted to a different kind of globalization coming from below, which is based on the ideas of social justice, solidarity and international ideas. This is an interview with an historian, activist thinker from Jugoslavia and a contributor of ZNet, Andrej Grubacic. To the question what is the title he holds in the Initiative for Economic Democracy, Grubacic answered that, "in IED we do not have titles. As a grass roots initiative we only have coordinators and advisors".

How would you describe the impact and influence of globalization on the region of Serbia?

I find these influences catastrophic.
First, I would like to give a definition of globalization. What I consider by the term globalization (taking place at the moment), and I believe you will agree with me, is a kind of specific dynamic of contemporary capitalism provoked by its own inherent tendencies.
In Serbia, globalization, i.e. neo- liberalism as an ideology of corporate globalization, is being promoted by the new authorities formed around a political project under the name DOS (Democratic Opposition of Serbia). Constantly encouraged by the numerous compliments coming from the representatives of the International Monetary Fond (IMF), the World Bank, the Center for International Private Enterprises, the US ambassador in Belgrade, or the other representatives of the so- called "International community" (which I find is being constantly wrongly named), DOS ministers are resolutely implementing the program of structural adjustment (SAP).

In an atmosphere full of tension when discussing privatization, no one is aware of the fact that the enterprises (firms) in Yugoslavia are actually under the possession of the society. This undoubtedly specific kind of ownership is, according to the proscriptions of the actual constitution, still valid. Therefore, it implies a framework in which no one actually has the specific right to ownership, neither Federation, nor Republics, neither political units, nor worker' s collectives. Henceforth, in this kind of specific ownership system, enterprises are actually without owners.
To conclude, it would be good to add that worker's collectives have usus and usus fructus, but they do not have abusus (the right to sell). Nevertheless, neither the state nor the companies have abusus, because, conversely, the ownership would be of the state or of the group, and not of the society as was explained earlier. In other words, according to the actual constitution, the privatization of enterprises that is taking place in Yugoslavia (Serbia) is illegal.

On the one hand, Milosevic' s "socialists", when in power, were, of course, aware of this problem. However they did not dare to loose one of its fake symbols by eliminating this symbol of socialism from the constitution. While on the other hand, today' s neo- liberal authorities do not even find the time for this kind of constitutional exhibition. Neo liberals lack the time due to the fact that multinational institutions and corporations are putting pressure on them to start selling their national enterprises and resources.
I must comment that both neo- liberals and foreign investors behave as if the problem of who is the real owner does not exist.
The domestic (Serbian) neo- liberals, under the auspices of the media promoted excuses as a tool of propaganda, to try to present themselves as people whose aim is rational enlargement of competitive skills in the global market. But what they really do is represent a transnational finance oligarchy, with an aim of erasing 150 years of worker's demands for social rights of the employed and unemployed.

For instance, the Yugoslav National Bank (NBJ) Governor, Mladjan Dinkic, by destroying the system of national banks, answers to the demands of the IMF and World Bank. Dinkic undoubtedly trusts the analyses provided by Dzozef Stiglic, by which in the process of structural adjustment four important steps are indispensable. First the privatization, then liberalization of the market capital (deregulation and short term import (entry) to serve the needs of speculation with real estate (property) and the national currency) and the third would be the market' s implementation of the prices and finally the strategy of reduction of poverty. In neo- liberal Yugoslavia the presence of these four steps in the political economy of the new political elite is vivid.
Perhaps at the moment the most delicate of all is the position of "Kolubara" as a basis of the energy system in Serbia. Some DOS representatives, like Milan St. Protic (former ambassador to the USA) openly states that it is of outmost importance that the Syndicate of Kolubara be destroyed, as it, as Protic says, represents the real danger for any authority. Also one should not doubt the fact that the minister, and neo- liberal expert, Bozidar Djelic, is experienced in fighting the centers of rebellion syndicates, an experience which he obtained while working in Poland and in the other Eastern Europe countries. It would be enough to remind oneself of the Gdansk destiny.
I must express my fear that there is a great danger, becoming more and more evident each day, that "Kolubara" will be destroyed by the implementation of a neo- liberal program of structural adjustment.

How does globalization influence the economy, and how you see the situation of Serbia's economy?

Still no one of the neo-liberal intellectual managers has provided information for the public on whether the market economy model we are trying to build in Serbia is going to be the liberal- market economy (Anglo-Saxon model) or the social market economy (German model).
I have already mentioned some specific instances of privatization in Serbia, which are exogenous, i.e. it is not worker's privatization but the privatization of the managers.
The new law on privatization proscribes that 70% of the firm capital be sold. This means that the workers, who were producing that capital for about 50 years, will not even have the slightest chance to become the owners of the bigger part, as the biggest percentage, which is left to be divided among the workers is not more than 30 %. The workers have a deadline of 18 months after the Law is in effect to sell the enterprise. Also the money received from the sold enterprises will not be put in the enterprises' funds, but rather in the state' s budget. Eventually, after the mentioned deadline of 18 months, the workers' shares are even less than 30%.

According to the new Law on privatization the institutions that are in the possession of the society are being abolished, while state property is being radically diminished. Hence this means that after the process of privatization the workers will face a new owner, commonly called "strategic partner". This "strategic partner" will in the majority of cases be a multi national company.Therefore, the Minister of Privatization Vlahovic' s optimism sounds a bit strange when he explains that "the authorities plan to implement a concept by which a sale of the enterprises to strategic partners, will oblige the new owners to invest in these enterprises, take part in resolving the social problems, guarantee the quality of enterprises' business doings, and take care of protection of the environment".

I have to say that there is absolutely no mechanism by which any power would be able to force a private owner to continue industrial work, if the owner does not want to, or if it is not in his/ her interest.
Two, probably the biggest objections to the new labor law are:

1.Collective agreement, which proscribes the relationship between the employer and workers, does not oblige the employers.

2.The fact that by this law the same rights are being proscribed for the private owners and directors of the enterprises still in possession of the society.

The new Law on privatization and the Labor Law are actually putting all the workers in an inferior situation. However, the most dramatic situation is female labor. The majority of women do not own personal property, which is often the possession of men. Therefore, after loosing their jobs in the social sector women will not have the possibility to start their own private business. One has to be reminded that at the moment around 90% of employed women are working in the social sector.

What spectrum of ideas on the issue of globalization can you detect in political streams and among the people in Serbia?

The comprehension of the meaning of globalization is very ambiguous in Yugoslavia. To show this ambiguity it would be good to remind you that a day after we organized demonstrations in front of the Italian Embassy, protesting against the police violence in Genova, in the popular newspaper "Glas" there was a comment written by one female journalist who named the opponents of corporate globalization as anti Semitic.

The neo- liberal elite is trying to convince the people that the neo- liberal project is unavoidable. These neo- liberals, with a salary at least seven times greater then the average, are convincing every day more and more unemployed, hungry, and ill people that by "painful cuts" and "tightened teeth" it is possible to establish long lasting welfare. And I am afraid that the majority of the population not having a "culture of resistance" adopts this propaganda.
What also might be a problem is that the citizens of Serbia, probably still in the euphoric condition caused by the October 5 events, are not capable of facing the problems of globalization.

Mostly all political parties in Serbia are not critical of capitalist globalization. Moreover they are all looking forward to answer the demands of international capitalist institutions. Here I am not considering the extreme right or extreme left political parties, whose impact on political life is nothing but marginal.

In the prevailing tone of anti- globalization, is it possible to find the remains of Serbia's communist inheritance and traditional presence of anti- Americanism?

Here we face a serious problem with the two interpretations. Do you by a communist inheritance consider that of Milosevic? And also is anti- Americanism really a traditional sentiment in Yugoslavia? Because I would not say it is.
I would like to avoid the term anti-globalization as Yugoslav activists and internationalists are trying to establish the globalization from below, and are not anti-Globalists. There are of course a certain number of political groups with a nationalistic orientation that try to articulate social indisposition as being nationalistic and anti- mondial. However I find these streams as not having an important impact.

I would like to say that the Movement of Alternative globalization in Serbia is locked in a discourse of fake choices- one should choose neo- liberalism or nationalism.
And here I would like to stress that the real power of the movement for alternative globalization lies directly in breaking through this logical circle, which serves as a prevention for the real debate to provoke and formulate the third option, which will find its place far away from nationalism and neo- liberalism.

What is your opinion about the part of the Milosevic' s politics that presented him as being the greatest fighter against the globalization?

I think the same thing about all the aspects of Milosevic's politics, which in the first place was cleptocratic, and without any sign of any sort of ideology.The reign of Slobodan Milosevic was a "syndicate of privileges", which was only there to steal and rob.
I find that speaking about the Milosevic' s regime as a socialist or internationalist one is not only absurd, but also dangerous. By doing that, the political beast of Milosevic's politics adopts a positive ideological connotation, which it never ever had.

How do you see Europe being united?

That is a very negative thing. I would not say that it is Europe, which unites but it is European bankers that are uniting.

According to the ideas of Initiative for Economic Democracy, how would you describe how this region should look like in the future, related to joining (or not joining) the globalization process?

According to the ideas of Initiative for Economic Democracy, it is the formulation of an alternative program of reshaping the relationships in society that is indispensable, and also the organization of social reproduction in the interests of the welfare of all the citizens.
In such an alternative program the criteria of rationality must not be apprehended as individual and material profit (benefit) or financial rentability formed by the minority of private owners. The criteria of rationality must be capable of taking into account collective benefit as a feeling of safety and civil dignity, which emerges when one of the basic human rights and life of dignity is established.
As a kind of moral imperative it is the obligation of progressive social forces and engaged intellectuals to constantly try re-establishing syndical and social movements in order to jointly oppose the conservative restoration of wild accumulation of capital and unstoppable exploitation.

How do you think the meeting in Porto Alegre will affect your work?

I am not quite sure about that. Porto Alegre is of course a very useful database of experiences. It is also an unusual phenomenon because it represents, at the same time, the symbol of gathering against capitalist globalization, while on the other hand it is also a symbol of the capability of the system to find, through the process of co-optation, the partners from inside the global "civil society" whose aim is to gain transparency in the system and manage to start a dialogue with them.I have also heard that the French and Belgian ministers will come to Porto Alegre. Luc Boltanski, in his book "New Spirit of Capitalism," perfectly described this fantastic capability of re-evoking capitalism. I really do hope that Porto Alegre will resist this sort of a trap and that it will not fit in the "New Political Culture of Civil Society".
And in the end I would like to express my hope that our movement will have enough strength, by fighting and experimenting, to promote new values for one completely new and different civilization.

See also:

Per una globalizzazione dal basso dei diritti, della solidarietà e della democrazia


No-global, New-global e Balcani

Yugoslav Central Bank

Serbia: conseguenze sociali dopo la liquidazione delle quattro banche nazionali


Banca Mondiale

La rivolta giovanile e operaia scalza il potere

Genova vista dai Balcani

RFY: 5 ottobre, un anno dopo

Movimenti e distanze: da Porto Alegre a Genova e, si spera, ritorno

Balkan Social Forum

Lo stato sociale nei Balcani: tra riforme di carta, incertezze e lotte sindacali

Luc Boltanski