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NAVIGATION: SELF-MANAGEMENT/ COOPERATIVE ASSOCIATION

... we might say that what capitalism has done to the working man is the same as what the white man has done in America to the black man, what Marxist materialism attempts to do to the human soul, and what overuse of the automobile may do to the physique of the Average American. All are forms of mutilation. Co-determination and income sharing, then, are both necessary conditions for reversing the unnatural primacy of material capital over human labor. Looking metaphorically at the process whereby dollars of capital ownership control an undertaking, it is comparable in the political realm to a situation where the British (as absentee stakeholders) would vote in American elections.

Jaroslav Vanek, The Participatory Economy

INTRODUCTION

THE PROMISE OF SELF-MANAGEMENT

We now turn from Havel's European socio-political grounding, that is Living in Truth and the Roland Berger Foundation's orientation to European innovation, to the navigational promise of Self-Management in the former Yugoslavia, in theory and in practice, before we turn to Cooperative enterprise, and indeed to Industrial, alongside, political Democracy, in middle Italy.

For the Czech political economist Jaroslav Vanek (1), based in the 1970s at Carnegie Mellon Graduate School of Industrial Administration in America, in its Stalinist manifestations, the communist revolution led, from the point of view of the enterprise, to a condition which, in the suppression of inner and outer economic self-determination, was worse than conventional capitalism. The notion that control goes with ownership of capital was retained, but all that changed was the ownership – nominally from capitalists to the proletariat, but in fact from the capitalists to a bureaucratic state or party, effectively run by a few grey-faced men. For Vanek, those who went out to fight the scorpions in the Revolution finally turned out to be snakes themselves. Similarly, the effects of capitalism on human personality effectively precluded what he has called lack of integrality, accentuated by the complete absence of political self-determination.

Indeed for Elisabeth Mann Borgese (2) – sister of renowned German writer Thomas Mann – based at the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, in the mid-1970s, self-management for her, in theory at least, was the kernel of Yugoslav political theory and constitutional law as it had been developing since the 1950s. The Yugoslavs, she says, must have written hundreds of thousands of pages on the subject, with indeed the Slovenians taking the lead. Yugoslavs then had enacted, for her, selfmanagement in their economic, social, cultural and political organizations. They had built it into their constitution.

Self-management, therefore, politicizes the economic enterprise by transforming it into a community which is not bent on profit-maximizing exclusively but on articulating the socio-political and the economic dimension of decision making. This happened, for her, at a multi-chamber level assembly. At the federal, republican and municipal levels, the representatives of the political community shared their decision-making powers with representatives of economic enterprises, scientific institutions and public health institutions. The micro-community of the enterprise and the macro-community of what used to be the state thus looked very much alike. Indeed over 20 years, from 1950 to 1970, for Mann Borgese, per capita income in Yugoslavia had risen from 200 to 700 dollars, and industrial output had increased fivefold. Self-management in Yugoslavia has then, she adds, deep autochthonous roots in the communal systems of Slav society. It has intellectual roots in Marxist theory – or that part of it that Yugoslav leaders grafted onto the indigenous version. It also had vigorous roots in the partisan movement that routed the fascist invaders in the Second World War and brought the new society into being. In other words, the partisan movement was a self-management system applied to war.

In fact the great American urban historian, Lewis Mumford (3), predicted already in the 1930s the abandonment, as cited by Borgese Mann, of the concept of private ownership of natural resources:

The private monopoly of the coal beds and oil wells is an intolerable anachronism – as intolerable as would be the monopoly of sun, air and running water ... and the common ownership of the means of converting energy, from the wooded mountain regions where the streams have their sources down to the remotest petroleum well, is the sole safeguard to their effective use and conservation.

Here, then, are all the elements of the contemporary theories of self-management, including the concept of social ownership which is the basis of Yugoslav theory.

A working society, moreover, is also a learning society that thereby accelerates the process of development. It is an ideology that transcends the dualistic concept of (wo)man and society; it abolishes the dichotomy between manager and worker, work and learning. It is an ideology that adapts to change, and enhances the growth and development of the individual, the society and the economy. It decreases the power of bureaucracy, de-institutionalizes and humanizes. At least that is the self-management theory. What about the practice?

 
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