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France Tomšič and the Litostroj Workers’ Strike

Presented here as this month's archivalia are the minutes of the first meeting of the famous Litostroj strike committee of December 1987. Included on the agenda was a discussion about the decisions and demands made by the Litostroj workers at the protest before the then Slovenian assembly and later in Cankarjev dom. The minutes are a part of the private fonds of France Tomšič. The fonds was transferred to the Archives of the RS in 2014 and contains documents that deal mostly with Tomšič's role in the process of Slovenia's democratization and its path towards an independent state.

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Minutes of the First Meeting of the Litostroj Strike Committee of December 10, 1987, p. 1. | Author Arhiv Republike Slovenije

Minutes of the First Meeting of the Litostroj Strike Committee of December 10, 1987

The recent celebrations of the International Workers’ Day on May 1 and the fast approaching 25th anniversary of the Slovenian state are reason enough to once again draw attention to France Tomšič. One of the key people in the process of attaining Slovenia’s independence and its democratization, France Tomšič was undeniably the most important union representative of Slovenian workers. Although he is mostly known for his role as the leader of the famous Litostroj strike, he was very active in other areas as well, making major contribution to the development of the independent state of Slovenia, to the founding and leadership of the union Neodvisnost (Independence), and to the forming of the Social Democratic Union of Slovenia. He showed his outstanding courage and persistence already in 1986 when he and his fellow men from Kamnik protested against the intention of the Party to dispossess the land in Kamnik and its surroundings.

Presented in this month’s archivalia are the minutes of the first meeting of the Litostroj strike committee, dated December 10, 1987. The agenda included discussion about decisions and demands made by the workers of Litostroj at the protest before the then Slovenian assembly and later also in Cankarjev dom. Much has been said and written about the legendary Listostroj strike, so let us just go over some of the basic facts. The strike took place from December 9 to 15, 1987. Although we are all well familiar with the reasons for the strike, it is its consequences that are far more interesting. Obviously, the strike was one of the most important milestones for the process of Slovenia’s democratization and a major step towards the abandonment of one-party system and establishment of parliamentary democracy and Slovenian independence. Apart from their demands for higher wages, the workers on strike expressed a vote of no confidence to the Party and to self-managing system. The strike committee, presided over by France Tomšič, founded the first independent post-war trade union in Slovenia, and there was also an initiative for the founding of the Initiation Committee of the Social Democratic Union of Slovenia. Workers’ demands with their long-term consequences for the future developments in Slovenian politics must have come as a shock for the then authorities.

France Tomšič was born on August 2, 1937, the fourth of six children. His family lived on a small farm in Šmarca near Kamnik. After attending primary school in his hometown, he continued with his education at the grammar school in Kamnik, later at the vocational School of industry and metallurgy in Kranj, and still later at the Secondary technical school in Ljubljana. He was separated from his family at a very early age and lived in a boarding school in Kranj. His secondary school completed, he enrolled at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Ljubljana, where he graduated with distinction in aviation in 1963 under the mentorship of prof. dr. Anton Kuhelj. He landed a job at the Jurij Vega Institute in Ljubljana. In 1964, he served his military service in Serbia. He was then reemployed at the aforementioned institute and remained there until the spring of 1966. On his path that led him abroad he was focused mainly in improving his knowledge for the work of graduate aviation engineer. In 1966, he found a job in Berlin in West Germany. During this time he started a family. After ten years of living abroad, he returned with his family to Slovenia, Kamnik in 1976. He was employed as the head of development in Litostroj in Ljubljana. Soon after his arrival to Litostroj, he became an active member of the Association of Trade Unions of Slovenia.

His involvement in politics began in 1986, when he took part in the discussion about the town-planning schemes B3 Novi trg and eventually organized the people of Kamnik in protest against the intended dispossession of land in Kamnik and its surroundings. His next successful attempt at organization outside the system of authority took place in Litostroj in 1987, when from December 9 to 15, 1987 he was the leader of the strike that saw the participation of 5000 Litostroj’s workers. During the strike the decision was made to establish Slovenian independent trade unions, and an initiative was also introduced to form a social democratic party, Initiation Committee of the Social Democratic Union of Slovenia. In the spring of 1989, Tomšič formed a party with social democratic program and became its first president. In the autumn of the same year he offered his position of the party’s leader to dr. Jože Pučnik, and became actively involved in the forming of Demos. At the first free democratic election on April 8, 1990, he was elected delegate of the Socio-Political Chamber of the Parliament and served one mandate. During this time he was also very active in Kamnik municipal branch of Demos. He took over the organization of the first trade union that did not derive from the then monopolistic Slovenian trade union organization. The trade union Neodvisnost was founded in the spring of 1990 and France Tomšič was its president until 1997. At the election on December 6, 1992, he ran for the president of the state. He withdrew from active politics while at the top of his game and in his later years started a new family. He died on March 25, 2010 in Kamnik where he is buried.

Archival material was donated to the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia by Mrs. Marta Lavrič Tomšič in the autumn of 2014. The received documents are preserved in 21 boxes, covering a period between 1980 and 2009 and dealing mostly with Litostroj workers’ strike, the forming of the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia, and the foundation and operation of the trade union Neodvisnost – Confederation of new trade unions. The minutes of the strike committee, presented here as this month’s archivalia, speak for themselves about the role of France Tomšič in the process of democratization and in the formation of the independent state of Slovenia.

Boštjan Smole