Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

In Search of the Third Way: The British Left and Yugoslav Self-Management in the 1960s and 1970s

Fri31  Mar04:45pm(15 mins)
James Watt South Room 355


Vladimir Unkovski-Korica1
1 University of Glasgow, UK


As the post-war boom in Europe began to slow down in the 1960s, there was a growing conversation about how to reinvigorate growth. On the continent’s left, there was increasing interest in the idea of industrial democracy that crossed Cold War boundaries. In this context, the Yugoslav model of workers’ self-management, developed after the country’s dramatic split with the nascent Soviet bloc in 1948, became an important reference point. It became part and parcel of discussions on the British left that ultimately found institutional expression in the Labour Party in the form of the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES). A multitude of key actors associated with the New Left and the Institute of Workers’ Control, who had a significant interest in Yugoslavia, played a part in the development of the AES, including Michael Barratt Brown, Ken Coates and Tony Topham. Using a variety of personal archives, published articles, and autobiographies, this paper will shed light on unlikely Yugoslav influences on British politics during a period of left ascendancy. It will show that ideas can flow from peripheries to the core, and challenge dominant notions of the British left as either insular or at best Soviet-inspired. Indeed, it will show that a plethora of roads – often not taken – were available, and that these can be seen as antecedents to later iterations of left resurgence in British politics in more recent times.