We are currently commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Labin miners’ uprising, commonly known as the “Labin Republic”. This “Republic” was never declared; it gained its name as a marker of the control achieved over the coal mines around the city of Labin in Croatia, which at the beginning of the 20th century was the only industry present in the city. The City of Labin is holding memorial ceremonies, locations associated with this historical event are being repaired and decorated, and there is even a light show to be displayed upon the buildings that played some role in the long-silent mining industry of the city, upon the Monument of the Miner-Soldier, the heating plant’s chimney and so on. The hard work that the city has dedicated to celebrating this jubilee of an event of such importance is unquestionable.
However, all the events mentioned above have been thoroughly cleansed of any leftist connotations. The best example of this is the organizer’s complete disregard and denouncement of the Labin Republic’s flag, a red standard bearing an even redder star, hammer and sickle and the year 1921. The organizers are interpreting the event as the “First antifascist uprising in Europe”, a statement that can only partially be true if we account for the general political turmoil in Europe at that time. More importantly, the organizers are completely disregarding the revolutionary character of the rebellion, behind which stood the anti-capitalist ideals that were spreading across Europe, from Limerick in Ireland to Baku in Azerbaijan. The rebellion under the slogan “Kova je naša” (The mine is ours) and independent, worker-controlled production and the worker takeover of the town were emancipatory for the workers of Labin, and were followed closely by hundreds of similar rebellions in the wake of the October Revolution.
Only in part was it a result of early proto-fascist violence as well as the violence of Italian irredentists towards Istria’s Slavic civilian population. Instead, for the largest part the rebellion was economically motivated, as the workers had been exploited for decades by the private capitalist sector that had ruthlessly cannibalized their toil, especially during the First World War. Thus, at the call of the General Confederation of Unions, the workers took the means of production into their own hands, beginning production for their own benefit, and the decision to do so was democratically made by the Workers’ Assembly, with the Committee as a presiding body headed by Giovanni Pippan and Giovanni Tonatti.
Therefore, the red flag under which the miners took over the mines, the “guardia rossa” that was thus established, and the Republic’s flag with its hammer and its sickle were not there by accident, but mirrored the leftist political convictions of the Istrian workers. It wasn’t a coincidence that Istria was emancipated again by a similar movement some 20-odd years later. So, who is bothered by the flag of the Labin Republic?
An answer should be sought from the socio-economic elite that has indeed profited from the changing socio-political relations of the last 30 years, an elite that has once again turned the workers into a mere exploitable herd – an elite that is so thoroughly annoyed by any suggestion of an alternative to such a system. The organization of this commemoration, aside from being blatant historical revisionism, is also an attempt at cheap electoral populism in favour of Labin’s ruling party.
The citizens of Labin will never forget the true nature of their Republic.
This article was given to the Barricade by the Workers’ Front (Croatia) – a leading left-wing political party, and was originally published at their site.
Photo: The Labin Republic flag, hanged by members of Workers Front upon the city wall of Labin (source: Workers’ Front, Facebook)
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