Who needs the enterprise?
Borovo is the oldest factory newspaper in former Yugoslavia. The socialist enterprise newspaper relied on two traditions: the corporate paper that had been published in the Bata factory since 1932, and, somewhat less directly, the tradition of workers’ and socialist newspapers whose origins in Croatia can be traced to the second half of the 19th century. When factory newspapers started to be issued systematically, following the 1947 initiative of the Yugoslav trade union, it was precisely the paper issued in Borovo that served as the model and prototype. At the time when the initiative was launched, the trade union leader was Josip Cazi, Croatian pre-war communist and trade union activist, who worked in the Bata-Borovo factory in the 1930s, and was the illegal editor of Saradnik, “the paper of organized Bata workers”, a sort of a workers’ response to the official, corporate factory paper. The dedication to work and the interests of labor, as well as the promotion of general social progress based on work and equality, tie Borovo to the older tradition of factory papers. The focus on the factory and its community, as well as placing work at the centre of a broader social organization, connect the socialist Borovo weekly to its Fordist corporate predecessor.
There is little research on the phenomenon of factory newspaper, although it was integral to the culture of work in socialist Yugoslavia. There were approximately 2,000 such papers in the early 1980s in Yugoslavia (cf. Koroman 2016). In the late 1970s, there were twice as many factory papers in circulation than all the other daily newspapers in Yugoslavia. It was precisely in Borovo that the first conference of Yugoslav newspaper editors took place in 1955. The annual ”November 11” award for the most prominent journalists of “associated labour papers” (i.e. factory newspapers) was traditionally given in Borovo.
Factory newspapers, Borovo included, were interested in “the life of the collective, work accomplishments, problems of production, workers’ self-management, and the life of organizations within the enterprise”. Borovo covered the life in Borovo Naselje, as well as cultural and sports activities of the Combine’s workers. Borovo reported democratically about factory life, giving voice to all the positions included in the functioning of the Combine: from production workers, through engineers, trade unions, the Party (prior to its expulsion from the company in 1989), the workers’ councils, to the management and the managing director. The paper tried to maintain an independent position within these complex relations, the best evidence of which was the fact that the criticism of its reporting came mostly from managing positions.
How did Borovo do in the time of great political and economic changes we are dealing with? Several general trends are noteworthy. Throughout 1990 and 1991, the paper is exposed to the effects of the crisis and stabilization measures to equal degree as the other parts of the Combine. It owes money to the Borovo Printing House, and the Printing House has a debt towards external suppliers, which threatens its normal operation, as well as the jobs of its 180 employees. The effects of austerity are noticeable in the ever fewer number of photographs in the paper, as well as in the fewer number of pages. Journalists are among the first workers in the Combine whose wages are delayed. However, the paper continues to be issued in these conditions as well: “We are always at disposal. Regardless of unpaid wages, we need to be patient and reasonable. More reasonable than the ones who claim their rights when there is no money, wiser than those who accuse without arguments, more literate than those whose reports we publish.”
Except for the lack of funds, extensive social changes, which now affected the institution of Yugoslav factory papers in general posed a threat to mass communications in the Combine. In early 1990, Borovo publishes (without comment) the “views on the tasks of providing information within enterprises with the purpose of achieving economic reform”, brought by the Yugoslav Chamber of Economy. The Chamber states that “the market orientation in economy and the marketing approach to work and business organization” imply “that a system of providing information is an integral part of every enterprise’s overall business policy”. Factory papers are expected to be a “mobilizing factor” in the reform and “in creating a positive climate for entrepreneurship”. On the pages of the Weekly, these slogans for the new era were, with inevitable irony, placed right next to quotations from the past times, which emphasize the “life of the [work] collective” as the main task of such periodicals (e.g. in the report from the first conference of factory papers’ editors-in-chief in 1955).
The editorial board of the Weekly is aware of how dramatic the current social changes are, and how they affect factory papers, as well as the profession of journalist as a whole. In a meeting with members of the Trade Unions Conference, the Borovo editorial board is clearly expressing their attitude on the current situation:
Today, things are pretty clear. The factory newspapers can either change in terms of content and take a marketing and business direction, or it can keep its present character. If it changes, the newspaper would have a smaller circulation and would affirm the interests of management while neglecting our actual reality. ... We deem the present editorial policy (rather than a transformation into a private media company) to be more in touch with the needs of the present moment.
The incompatibility of the new, market direction and the traditional function of workers’ newspaper is explicitly expressed here, and established along the lines of class relation between managers and workers.
Borovo did not simply take sides in the numerous conflicts that marked this period. Although it seems that during this period the paper gave more space to the statements of Borovo managing directors, it is precisely the management that complains about the texts in the paper. Reading Borovo from the time of “democratic changes” leaves the impression that the editorial policy tried to adapt to the new time also through the increase in the number of signed comments and columns. To some of them, as well as to the articles on distribution and Borovo Commerce, there were strong reactions from the Combine circles. Borovo kept its “Workers speak” section, citing production workers’ attitudes and opinions. In feuilletons, columns and comments from the period we can also find different opinions on current changes, although their common denominator is the sense of uncertainty caused by austerity, the transition process and the growing interethnic tension.
The ambivalence towards the new time – which is at the same time fatal to the Combine and “without alternative” – is most evident in the texts about the market. The market has become the topic of numerous articles. Among them, texts by Josip Kovač are particularly interesting. In early 1991, he published a feuilleton about the relation between politics and economy in which he cited, among others, the Iliad and Aristotle. Kovač’s texts reveal a certain hesitation towards the market: the market is “good, because it pushes us towards good”, but also cruel, and it necessarily leads to social stratification.
One of the most useful informative contributions is definitely “The Short Lexicon of Economy”, which continued to be published in the paper. It clarifies some basic economic terms to the readers. At the difficult time of bankruptcies and redundancies, the paper regularly keeps the workers informed of their rights in case of dismissals and similar practical questions. At this time, we notice several other changes in the “physiognomy” of the paper. Throughout 1990, following new trends in Yugoslav economy, ads for small private businesses started to appear in the paper: video stores, dressmaker’s workshops, retail stores, hair salons, TV repair shops… At this time, the Weekly gives its contribution to informing the workers of the “free private initiative”: starting a private business became one of the more desirable solutions to the redundancy problem. Advertising costs were published in the Weekly for the first time.
In the new era, led by the long-term editor-in-chief Božidar Markotić, Borovo continues to insist on “old-fashioned” ideas and habits, the most obvious of which were the pronounced anti-nationalism and promoting the value of human labor. The paper’s attention to culture should definitely be mentioned, as well as the regular reporting on the Borovo folklore group, although “socialist realism was leaving the scene”, as the Weekly commented at the time. One of the problems discussed in many issues is the future of socialist cultural centres, as well as amateur culture. Articles also discuss questions of organizing and financing cultural centres in the process of transition to market relations.
In the issues from 1990 and 1991, there are practically no articles directly dealing with everyday politics, including events connected to the escalation of the rebellion of Croatian Serbs, and numerous violent incidents occurring at that time in Vukovar as well. Although this may seem unusual at first, this is perfectly consistent with the common editorial practice of factory papers, which in general did not write about daily politics. Among the rare political topics are the 14th and final congress of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and the elections in Croatia, of which Borovo reports very neutrally. However, texts on other topics – especially columns such as the new “Peti stupac” and numerous texts on cultural topics – often offer resigned, ironic, sarcastic, and also cryptic comments on the Vukovar Combine’s disquieting reality. Right before the war, it seems that it is through culture that attitudes and opinions on the warning signs of the tragic events to ensue are expressed.
Koroman, Boris. “Radnički tisak i problemi koncepta samoupravljanja u kulturi u 70-im i 80-im godinama 20. st.” Acta Histriae 24, 2016: 615-642.
- “Štampa značajnog utjecaja”, Borovo 3119, March 9, 1990, 2↲
- “Dobro informiran radnik borac za reformu”, Borovo 3109, January 1, 1990, 2↲
- “Štampa značajnog utjecaja”, Borovo 3119, March 9, 1990, 2↲
- “U sve težoj situaciji”, Borovo 3117, February 23, 1990, 5↲
- In early 1991, all of the four cameras were stolen from the Borovo newspaper office (“Vratite nam fotoaparate!”, Borovo 3161, February 8, 1991, 7).↲
- “Strpljivo, bez plaće”, Borovo 3132, June 8, 1990, 5↲
- “Štampa značajnog utjecaja, “Kult rada i efikasnog poslovanja”, Borovo 3119, March 9, 1990, 2↲
- “Radnicima trebaju novine”, Borovo 3147, October 19, 1990, 2↲
- “Tržišna prinuda: kazna za loše”, Borovo 3120, March 16, 1990, 4↲
- “Mala privreda: Šansa u toleranciji”, Borovo 3120, March 16, 1990, 7↲
- “Tragajući za novim”, Borovo 3159, January 25, 1991, 6; “Socrealističko odlazi sa scene”, Borovo 3162, February 15, 1991, 5; “Kako u novim uvjetima?”, Borovo 3167, March 22, 1991, 4; “Ima li u Fondu novca i za amatere?”, Borovo 3172, April 26, 1991, 6; “U obruču besparice”, Borovo 3174, June 7, 1991, 4↲