Tailors Turned Activists: Surviving the Demise of the Croatian Textile Industry

  • Sonja Dragović

Abstract

This article examines the case of closed Croatian textile factory Kamensko and the non-profit organization Kamensko Opened, formed by the factory workers when they lost their jobs in 2010, after working without pay for seven months. It seeks to show the ways in which textile workers brought novelties into the Croatian labor struggle and provided means of subsistence while facing an array of challenges—bogus privatization and real-estate speculations, weak law protection, lack of political representation and gender-based discrimination. These ways can become rather creative and turn the group of factory workers into exemplary, although unlikely activists, who voice the concerns of an aging population of Croatian industrial workers while developing a small business to support themselves. The results were obtained through qualitative analysis semi-structured interviews with nine former Kamensko workers and an extensive review of newspaper coverage of the events related to factory closure. The findings show that political struggle and work within the framework of a non-profit organization have empowered the workers and brought them the support of the wider community. Their method could be used by unions to a certain extent, for the sake of creating connections and allies within the rest of the civil society.

Author Biography

Sonja Dragović

Got a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Montenegro in 2012 and a joint master’s degree in urban studies in 2015, with the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) as home institution. As a student and a researcher spent time in the USA, Poland, Austria, Denmark, Croatia and Spain. 

References

Bačić, M. and T Opačić (2010) Glad i bijeda radnica Kamenskog (The hunger and destitution of Kamensko workers). H–Alter, September 24, http://www.h-alter.org/vijesti/strajk-gladju-kao-posljednja-nada

Baševska, M. (2015) Tekstilna industrija – plakatni primjer nesigurnih oblika rada (Textile industry: a textbook example of uncertain forms of work).
Radnička Prava, July 24, http://radnickaprava.org/tekstovi/clanci/marija-basevska-tekstilna-industrija-plakatni-primjer-nesigurnih-oblika-rada
Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Benačić, A. (2014) Intervju o nekim drugim vremenima: znate li da su nekoć naše radnike tjerali da se odmaraju na Jadranu? (Interview on other times: did
you know that once our workers were urged to spent their vacation on the Adriatic coast?) Lupiga, February 26, http://www.lupiga.com/vijesti/intervju-s-
igorom-dudom-radnici-su-u-odmaralistima-ljetovali-po-svojoj-volji-dostojanstveno-i-u-pola-cijene Bohle, D. and B. Greskovits (2012) Capitalist diversity on
Europe’s periphery. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Bonfiglioli, C (2012) Becoming Citizens: The Politics of Women’s Emancipation in Socialist Yugoslavia. CITSEE, October 24, http://www.citsee.eu/citsee-
story/becoming-citizens-politics-women%E2%80%99s-emancipation-socialist-yugoslavia Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Bonfiglioli, C (2013) Gendering social citizenship: Textile workers in post-Yugoslav states. CITSEE Working Paper Series, 2013/30. Edinburgh, UK: CITSEE.

Bošković, R. (2012) Nisu htjeli promjene. Zaduženi i bez pomoći bili su lake žrtve krize (They did not want change. The victims of the crisis were indebted
and helpless). Jutarnji list, May 27, http://www.jutarnji.hr/kamensko–nisu–htjeli–promjene–zaduzeni–i–bez–pomoci–bili–su–lake–zrtve–krize/1030494/
Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Burawoy, M. (2002) What Happened to the Working Class? Errors of an Unrepentant Marxist, The Future of Market Transition. Research in Social Stratification
and Mobility, (19): 69-76. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0276-5624(02)80037-3

Burawoy, M. (2008) The Public Turn: From Labor Process to Labor Movement. IRLE Working Paper 191-09. http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/workingpapers/191-
09.pdf Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Burawoy, M. (2010) From Polanyi to Pollyanna: The False Optimism of Global Labor Studies. Global Labour Journal, 1 (2): 301-313. doi:
http://dx.doi.org/10.15173/glj.v1i2.1079

Gaura, O. (2011) Bivši čelnik Kamenskog kažnjen sa 22 tisuće kn: ‘Država ga nagradila za uništenje naše tvrtke’ (Former director of Kamensko fined 22
thousand kunas: "State rewarded for the destruction of our company"). Nacional.hr, March 4, http://arhiva.nacional.hr/clanak/103292/bivsi–celnik–
kamenskog–kaznjen–sa–21666–kuna–drzava–ga–nagradila–za–unistenje–nase–tvrtke Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Grdešić, M. (2008) Mapping the Paths of the Yugoslav Model: Labour Strength and Weakness in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia. European Journal of Industrial
Relations, 14 (2): 133-151. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0959680108089187

Grdešić, M. (2015) Workers and Unions after Yugoslavia. In Štiks, I. and S. Horvat (eds.) Welcome to the Desert of Post-Socialism: Radical Politics after
Yugoslavia. London, UK; New York, NY: Verso. 65-81.

Harvey, D. (2007) Neoliberalism and the City. Studies in Social Justice, 1 (1): 2-13.

Hyman, R. (2003) Trade unions and the ambiguities of social Europe. Paper presented at the IIRA World Congress, September 8-12, Berlin.

Hina, Me.M. (2014) Slučaj Kamensko: počinje suđenje za aferu Kobilje mlijeko (The Kamensko case: judging starts in the Kobilje milk affair). Index.hr,
September 21, http://www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/slucaj–kamensko–pocinje–sudjenje–za–aferu–kobilje–mlijeko–koju–je–otkrio–index–/772678.aspx
Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Ivanćić M. and I. Livada (2015) Lines of (Dis) Continuity: Forms and Methods of Labor Struggle in Croatia 1990-2014. Research Paper Series of Rosa
Luxemburg Stiftung Southeast Europe No.3. Belgrade: Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.

Kamensko D.D. (2004) Skraćeni prospekt uvrštenje dionica izdavatelja Kamensko D.D. u burzovnu kotaciju javnih dioničkih društava. (A Simplified
Prospectus for Listing the Shares of the Issuer Kamensko in the Stock-Exchange of Limited Public Companies). October,
http://zse.hr/userdocsimages/prospekti/Prospekt-KMSK.pdf Accessed: 25-03-2016

Kokanović, M. (1999) Croatian Labour Realities, 1990-1999. SEER: Journal for Labour and Social Affairs in Eastern Europe, 2 (3): 185-208.

Kubicek, P.J. (2004) Organized Labor in Postcommunist States: From Solidarity to Infirmity. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Kuskunović, M. and M. Adriano (2010) Hrvatska će biti gladna (Croatia will be hungry). October 2, http://www.jutarnji.hr/kamensko–tek–prvi––slijede–
stecajevi–za–30–000–poduzeca/891989/ Accessed: 25-03-2016

Linden, Van Der M. (2008) Workers of the World: Essays toward a Global Labor History. Leiden: Brill. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004166837.i-472

Majdandžić, S. (2011) Sutra obilježavanje godišnjice gladovanja radnica Kamenskog (Tomorrow anniversary for the starving Kamensko workers). Večernji
List, September 19, http://www.vecernji.hr/zg-vijesti/sutra-obiljezavanje-godisnjice-gladovanja-radnica-kamenskog-328216 Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Milas, D. (2010) Zaustavite Fabijanića: Protest protiv gradnje na Trgu Francuske Republike (Stop Fabijanić: Protest against construction on the Republic of
France Square). Nacional.hr, October 19, http://arhiva.nacional.hr/clanak/93662/zaustavite–fabijanica–protest–protiv–gradnje–na–trgu–francuske–republike
Accessed: 25-03-2015.

Milat, A. (2012) Pobuna Radnica Kamenskog i kako se oduprijeti kapitalizmu (The Rebellion of Kamensko Workers and How to Resist Capitalism).
Perspektive, 6: 1-12.

Miloš, J. (2012) We Were Destroyed by Capitalism! Praksa.hr, August 15, http://praksa.hr/kamensko/ Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Mucko, B. (2012) Franjo Tuđman Square – From Tuđman’s Workshop of Privatization. Urban Festival, December 8,
http://urbanfestival.blok.hr/12/en/2012/08/12/intervencije-u-javnom-prostoru/ Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Musić, G. (2011) Yugoslavia: Workers’ Self-Management as State Paradigm. In Ness, I. and D. Azzellini (eds.) Ours to Master and to Own: Workers’ Control
from the Commune to the Present. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books. 172-190.

Ost, D. (2002) The weakness of strong social movements: Models of unionism in the East European context. European Journal of Industrial Relations, 8 (1):
33-51. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/095968010281003

Pandžić, I. (2015) Ruše Kamensko: na mjestu uništene tvornice niču stanovi (The ruins of Kamensko: there will be no flats in the place of the destroyed
factory). 24sata, July 12, http://www.24sata.hr/biznis/ruse-kamensko-na-mjestu-unistene-tvornice-nicu-stanovi-427541 Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Renić, J. (2010) Lenucijeva potkova 21. Stoljeća (The Lenuci Horseshoe of the 21st century.). Zagreb.hr, October 19, http://www.zagrebonline.hr/wp-
content/uploads/2010/10/zghr_47.pdf Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Simić, S. (2015) Projekat uređenja Trga Franje Tuđmana (The construction project of the Franjo Tuđman Square). Telegram, May 31,
http://www.telegram.hr/politika-kriminal/pricali-smo-s-arhitektom-fabijanicem-o-bandicevoj-najavi-najveceg-spomenika-tudmanu Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Špoljar, M. (2014) Josipović posjetio udrugu Kamensko: Ideja je bila da pomognemo radnicama (Josipović visited the Kamensko association: The idea was to
help the workers). Večernji list, December 9, http://www.vecernji.hr/predsjednicki-izbori2014/josipovic-posjetio-udrugu-kamensko-ideja-je-bila-da-
pomognemo-radnicama-978146 Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Tportal (2011) Performans o socijalnoj propasti Kamenskog (Performance on the social collapse of Kamensko). March 7,
http://m.tportal.hr/vijesti/115400/Kulturne-radnice-za-radnice-u-tekstilnoj-industriji.html Accessed: 25-03-2016.

Schierup, C.U. (1992) Quasi-Proletarians and a Patriarchal Bureaucracy: Aspects of Yugoslavia's Re-Peripheralisation. Soviet Studies, 44 (1): 79-99. doi:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09668139208411995

Comisso, E. T. (1979) Workers’ control under plan and market: Implications of Yugoslav self-management. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 47.

Tportal (2013) I vi možete pomoći radnicama Kamenskog (You can also help the Kamensko workers). June 20,
http://www.tportal.hr/lifestyle/obiteljidom/269288/I-vi-mozete-pomoci-radnicama-Kamenskog.html Accessed: 25-03-2016.Gradske vijesti (2013) Zagreb Za
Kamensko, September 27, http://www.zagreb.hr/default.aspx?id=56553 Accessed: 25-03-2016.

TOKG (2011) Istina je samo jedna (There is only one truth). September 29, http://www.sindtokg.hr/istina-je-samo-jedna-zaboravljaju-mnogi-koji-sudbinu-
radnika-kamenskog-koriste-i-za-vlastitu Accessed: 25-03-2016
Published
2016-04-05
How to Cite
DRAGOVIĆ, Sonja. Tailors Turned Activists: Surviving the Demise of the Croatian Textile Industry. Intersections. East European Journal of Society and Politics, [S.l.], v. 2, n. 1, apr. 2016. ISSN 2416-089X. Available at: <https://intersections.tk.mta.hu/index.php/intersections/article/view/146>. Date accessed: 15 nov. 2019. doi: https://doi.org/10.17356/ieejsp.v2i1.146.
Section
Towards a New Labour History: Eastern European Perspectives