The result of the European disaster in Slovakia

In a world consisting mainly of capitalist countries, the market can be called a place where world supply and demand meet. In this article, we will try to evaluate what the place of Slovakia is in the world market.

Generous pensions and state self-sufficiency in the past

In the 1980s, Czechoslovakia had one of the strongest economies among the Eastern Bloc countries in terms of GDP. This was helped by developed transport networks, industry, modernised agriculture, and largely by our allies. However, the SSR (Slovak Socialist Republic), whose economy was largely based on the agricultural sector, lagged behind the ČSR (Czech Socialist Republic). In order to equalise both parts of the federation in production, the government of ČSSR carried out a successful industrialization of the SSR.

60% of the Czechoslovak economy was made up of industry, mainly heavy industry and engineering, including the production of military equipment. Everything from cars to aircraft was produced in Czechoslovakia. What kind of companies were operating in our state? In Slovakia, companies such as VSŽ (today’s U.S. Steel Košice), Slovchémia, Slovak power engineering plants of S.M. Kirov, and many others. These companies were important not only for the economy but especially for the Czechoslovak people. They ensured the self-sufficiency of the state and a certain democracy in the workplace. The existence of these companies was also helped by the Soviet Union, which bought products and materials from the Eastern Bloc countries, even though they could be obtained more cost-effectively from other parts of the world.

The average wage in 1989 was 3142Kčs, and the tax was ~9%. For this tax, citizens were guaranteed free, high-quality education, health care, and cheap prices of energy, fuel, transport, and food, as well as a decent pension. The pension was 65% of the highest wage earned in the last five years of work. This means that with a salary of 3142Kčs, your pension would be 1885Kčs. Was it sufficient to maintain a certain standard of living? The answer is an unequivocal yes.

Accommodation could have been provided in various ways. There were newlywed loans that were sufficient to buy a flat with appliances. It was also possible to sign a contract with an employer that guaranteed an apartment. It was possible to join a housing cooperative for a one-off fee, but one could also get an apartment for free by applying to the municipal office. It was also possible to rent out the flat. Every worker was able to find housing. Food was affordable. Bread could be bought for 3 Kčs, a litre of milk for 2 Kčs. In the restaurant, you could eat a full meal for 20 kčs.

Our economic independence was supported by the expansion of the range of products and services produced by Czechoslovak companies. The interests of the worker were most important, and this was seen, for example, in agriculture, a sector that is the basis for the provision of quality food and plays an important role in the country’s economy. Under socialism, the agricultural sector was modernised, and its aim was to provide affordable and good-quality food for the citizens. Today, it is redirected towards the goal of maximum profit. Fields that could be used to grow a variety of foods are used to grow rapeseed, at least 50% of which is exported.

Slovakia’s place on the world market

The capitalists and the politicians representing their interests used the social shock of the Velvet Revolution to unleash aggressive privatisation. From 1991 to 1993, 24 359 operating units worth 33 billion Kčs were privatised. Politicians claimed that privatisation would kick-start private enterprise and thus help the Slovak economy. But the people did not have the experience or the financial means to run these companies. Therefore, many of them, such as the Slovak Shipayrds Komárno, were forced to stop production because of the owner’s incompetence.

We are already witnessing that the mistakes of the capitalists are being felt most by the workers. Companies and premises owned by them have been sold off either to another inexperienced owner or directly to a foreign company. Privatisation was divided into so-called waves. Sales in the first wave were carried out by means of voucher privatisation, which gave millions of citizens access to the management of establishments they knew nothing about. The companies went bankrupt, and people had no way to repay the coupon loans. In this period, we also see the intervention of organised criminal groups in privatisation, adding fuel to the fire of a major financial disaster. We still hear about some of the organised crime groups to this day.

International potential for exploitation

Later, after the collapse of the ČSFR, Slovakia became a member state of the European Union. The European Union is an organisation created by the imperial powers Germany, France, and Britain to serve the interests of the newly-emerged bourgeoisie of Europe after the Second World War. At that time, we could see the transition to monopoly capitalism in the countries of Western Europe. However, not all the member countries of the Union are imperial powers, and more than half are semi-colonies. Like most of the countries in Eastern Europe from which Western Europe steals workers.

A worker who moves from an Eastern European country to a Western European country may encounter difficulties at work, such as longer working hours than a domestic colleague and lower wages for similar work. Most foreigners are even commanded to do more dangerous work than their domestic co-workers. European law also permits the so-called secondment of workers. Seconded workers are those who, with the help of a domestic company in their country, are sold for a period of time to Western companies where they earn the minimum wage set by their country and not by the country where they work.

Let’s take a look at what capitalism has been able to do to our schools, transportation, and housing. The average wage today is around €1,569. The minimum wage is €750. After taxes, a gross salary of €1,569 becomes a net of €1,190, and even that still counts as a very good salary. Still, it is difficult to pay the rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Bratislava of 43 m², which would cost around €720.

What is guaranteed from taxes today? A declining education system with minimum fees of €74 per year, excluding school trips, workbooks, textbooks, and various classroom and school events that used to be paid for by the state.

In some parts of the country, doctors have difficulty obtaining medicines and equipment for patients; there is a shortage of doctors and nurses; and waiting times are counted in months. Urban bus routes are being cancelled because they do not make enough profit, and, as we heard at the rail workers’ protests, the state does not care about the railways.

How are we doing on pensions? The average pension in Slovakia is €660. The prices of food, services, and housing are rising higher and higher, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for a working person to support his or her family. Salaries in the most important sectors are low and the European Union is the main beneficiary of our problems. Today, we are using 80% of EU funds for basic needs such as road maintenance, repairing hospitals, schools, and other public buildings that we used to be able to pay for ourselves.

Goodbye, independence

Privatisation and the neoliberalism enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union have put the Slovak economy in a place where Europe can claim that we need it and that it is helping us. While it itself has caused the problems and is profiting from them. We have become economically dependent on it.

The EU funds themselves are being used as a way of economic blackmail, because if we do not accept the Brussels dictates about the need for a ‘free market’, it is possible that we will not get the money. We get less from the EU funds than foreign companies and investors get from Slovakia. Thus, it can be said that the European Union has deliberately promoted privatisation and pro-European ideas in order to weaken the Slovak economy and to extract labour and capital from Slovakia for the benefit of the imperialist powers of Europe.

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