Workers’ Front Croatia: An interview with DIMITRIJE BIRAC
‘Yes, we want to abolish capitalism’
One of the founders of Workers’ Front says: “Our final goal and the character of the party are anti-capitalist, and our current aim is to show that all the problems we talk about, such as unemployment and the collapse in production, are consequences of the socio-economic system, and not of the success of failure of this or that economic policy”.
Q: Worker’s Front has been organising for six months or so, but last week you decided to show yourselves in public. Who belongs to your organisation beside the linguist Mate Kapovic and the trade unionist Denis Geto?
DB: Mainly young people, activists, workers, students, unemployed people. We will introduce some of them to show that it’s not limited to a tiny group.
Our organisation is working along two lines: The first is to work on the infrastructures in different towns, the second is to form links with working people, to support workers’ protest demonstrations and to get in touch with various trade unionists, particularly those who want to put up a struggle.
We are open to all those who are interested in changing society in line with our principles and transitional demands.
Q: You have said the future party will not have a classic hierarchical structure, but is there a formally constituted leadership at the moment?
DB: We think that it is necessary to function in a more democratic way, with rank and file members controlling the leadership. Of course there has to be an organised leadership, but for the moment it’s still all coming together.
We still have a lot of work to do on the organisation and structure, but what we can say is that we are preparing a workers’ trade union conference where we will try to bring together a number of militant trade unions.
We have meetings where we discuss uniting the workers movement, and in that sense we are in touch with trade unionists like Zeljko Luksic of HZ (Croatian Railways), Zvonko Segvic of Brodosplit shipyard, and trade unionists in the power and chemical sector independent union (EKN) and the “Feniks” Post Office union.
We have also been in touch with Mija Stanic about a referendum over the plans to raise money by selling or leasing off parts of the highway network.
Q: Apart from a few positive comments, most of the media have ignored the appearance of the Anti-Capitalist Party?
DB: Most of the commercial media have ignored us. On the other hand we did get a reaction from alleged adherents of the neo-classical school of economic thought, who have gained a monopoly position in economic science over recent decades. They do everything in their power to depict us as charlatans and try to discredit us by saying we are not real working people.
According to them, only a blue-collar factory worker with a moustache and a spanner in his hand can count as a working person.
The fact that we are getting resistance from these two quarters only goes to show we are doing the right thing.
The origins of the crisis lie in the system itself.
Q: How do you see economic reality, as against these people?
DB: We think that the profound causes of the crisis in Croatian society are that for the last 20 years a political caste which is the product of this socio-economic system caused further social deterioration, the way people are alienated, and the degradation of work.
All the other problems flow from these three main ones, and behind all these processes is the mechanism our economists know nothing about because economic science has dropped the study of reality, whereas this mechanism is the one through which a minority appropriates values created by the rest of society.
If you postulate that it is more essential to satisfy the needs of capital arising from private appropriation than those of society, then society finds itself removed from all control over work as a whole, over the value created, and then we have a spontaneous process which society cannot control.
Economists who are militant supporters of private capital may well proclaim how rational and efficient it is, but in fact it is a fundamentally irrational system, perhaps the most irrational in the whole of history.
This is the situation: technical progress is greater than ever, but people are working harder and harder and longer and longer for wages which buy them less and less.
Q: So in Croatia there are fewer people working more and more, while the others become surplus to requirements?
DB: It’s one more proof that the system is irrational, because it cannot use the social potential that is there to develop society’s productive forces. But it is also one of its characteristics, because when you have lots of unemployed, the price of labour power falls and in that way, people accept any wages just to get work. All these contradictions show that the necessary structural change cannot just come from the economic policy of a political party, since the source is precisely in the socio-economic system.
Q: What do you propose?
DB: We propose a cut in the working week from 40 hours to 35 hours at existing wage levels to increase the number of those in work.
We propose to raise the relative wage, or to put it another way, the part of the wealth the worker creates which comes back to that person, to lower the retirement age, and increase pensions and the minimum wage, to cap the spread between minimum and maximum wages at a ratio of 1:4, to place banks under social control and other steps to develop society, not profits.
We should put a stop to privatisation.
Q: The tendencies you describe are present everywhere. What can the State do to counteract them?
DB: We are not working for some sort of utopian society, but something that flows from the mode of production itself.
We are not enemies of technology, but we are against the capitalist application of technology which means we see the productivity of labour rise, but that is not done for the benefit of society, nor in order to shorten labour time and the proportion of our life we spend at work.
On the contrary, that is getting longer and longer, and the surplus value created is more and more appropriated and more and more used to create new value.
The data shows that while Gross Domestic Product (GDP) keeps rising, globally and in Croatia, wages have risen more slowly than GDP. In that sense we are afraid that you cannot proceed just by redistributing the profits and the value created, since you can introduce taxes, but you cannot by doing so change the system which creates the inequalities.
We see that in periods of economic upswing, capital only grows because it does not pay labour adequately and then, in a period of crisis, the only way capital can get out of it is to reduce the price of labour power so that investments once again become profitable.
We do not say that the state on its own can resolve this problem. Capitalism is a global system, and people should co-operate and organise society in common.
But it is possible to set an example by lowering the working week to 35 hours, so that others can take the question on board.