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New Left Review I/95, January-February 1976


Boris Vušković

Social Inequality in Yugoslavia

A special and permanent concern about social inequalities is deeply rooted in communist theory and practice, because the communist movement, born as a critique of the working and living conditions of broad social masses under capitalism, is necessarily a movement towards creation of a society in which deep social inequalities will be eradicated. Any indulgence towards inequality has always, therefore, risked producing a crisis in the movement, and this has been recently demonstrated in the case of Yugoslavia. In contradistinction to the recent past, when any attempt to start a public debate on the degree and nature of social differentiation in Yugoslav society was positively and openly discouraged (any such attempt being immediately labelled as the ‘Maoist-egalitarian theory of equal stomachs’), this topic has suddenly acquired a special status in public debate and has become a theme of the widest public concern. Some believe that social differentiation and the resulting inequalities in contemporary Yugoslavia are a necessary consequence of its rapid industrial development, so that any attempt at checking them would only endanger this progress. More popular is the belief that our social inequalities are due to the machinations of certain small groups of people, so that the necessary solution lies either in more rigorous enforcement of the existing laws or in their appropriate reform. These and related approaches, however, tend to avoid the fundamental dimensions of the problem of social inequalities—its class determination and significance. For this problem is first and foremost connected with the status of the working class in relation to other social groups and layers, in other words the position of the working class in Yugoslav society as a whole.

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