Dr Jože Pučnik and his 'crime'

I was recently given a very nice present by a kind person, the latest biography of Dr Jože Pučnik by journalist Rosvita Pesek (in Slovenian, 491 pages, published by Mohorjeva 2013). This important book, which is very well written, easy to read, packed with useful factual information, and documentary 'Korak pred drugimi' (A step ahead), authored by the same journalist  and used as the basis for the biography, made a deep impression on me.

Joze Pučnik was a Slovenian dissident, imprisoned in 1958 for writing (and printing 15 copies!!!) an article 'Naša družbena stvarnost in naše iluzije' (Our social reality and our illusions). He was sentenced to nine years in prison which were later reduced to seven of which he initially served five, but after writing another article about the state of agriculture in the country and a review of a movie (!) when released on probation he was returned to prison to serve the remaining two years. When he was finally released from prison in 1966 he was unable to find work in Slovenia and was forced to move out of the country. The communist regime refused to return his original university degree that was seized in the process and was so slow to issue a certified copy that he re-graduated from philosophy and sociology in Germany and earned his PhD well before they  finally sent him the document.

In the article that triggered off this horrendous  and disproportionate punishment, Pučnik fully supports the communist government but points out the discrepancy between the party that fought the enemy during the war and worked towards destructing the former capitalist system and the party that now finds itself without an enemy and in a position to build a new, better system. His main premise is that the communist government should become more open and more people friendly so that people could better relate to it as truly theirs, people's government.

In 1989 when Europe and Slovenia started to show signs of renewal, Dr Jože Pučnik  returned to Slovenia and became the driving force behind Slovenia's independence. 

Today it is hard to comprehend WHY such harsh punishment for someone who just wanted to improve the system -  Jože Pučnik was for a short period a member of the communist party - and in fact make it 'more communist'.

In the documentary 'Korak pred drugimi', philosopher Ivo Urbančič says that Jože Pučnik came from a family of farmers and had no high-level connections who would stand behind him whereas his friends who were also under investigation at the time all had well-known and powerful parents.

According to writer Drago Jančar the communist regime saw their own enthusiastic and socially sensitive ethical self in him and felt bound to destroy him because they couldn't bear to see their own face in the mirror held for them by Jože Pučnik.

This poetic view set me thinking about the state of affairs then and now.

Before and during WWII the communist party had to be very well organised in order to survive and succeed. Those who called themselves communists had to be enthusiastic, determined, dedicated, organised, obedient. They were warriors. At the end of WWII, they became the victors. It was time to share the cake.

These brave men and women of steel determination but in most cases with very little education and no management skills were suddenly put in positions where they were required to run a factory, manage an agricultural co-op; instead of planning how to ambush the enemy and destroy the railway line they had to think of how to make things work and be productive. But this was simply too much to ask. In the positions to which they were appointed as a reward (or punishment) for their past achievements, they were simply incompetent.

The old capitalist way was dead and couldn't be followed, to develop a new one they needed direction and skill and they had neither. They didn't have the know-how, the ability to train rather than brainwash young generations and to generate the kind of life they envisaged when they set out to destroy the old one. Today we know that building life on far-fetched ideas rather than on what already works  (and can be changed in small steps) is a perfect recipe for disaster, privately and publicly. But of course, this is a secret they couldn't afford to let anyone discuss. Instead they resorted to fiercely protecting  it, covering up their incompetence and punishing everyone who dared to point it out.

I dare think that initially they may have been aware of their own shortcomings and of the unfairness of the loyalty-based award system. But the system of rewarding their own was put in place and became the justification for perpetuating the same corrupt system that exists to this day.  Good jobs (these days it is becoming 'full-time jobs') in Slovenia have been given to the loyal friends rather than to competent people since those times. As a result, many - but of course not all - positions are held by incompetent people. It is not to say that these people are not intelligent; on the contrary, they use their sometimes considerable capacities to scheme and cover up their inability to perform in the given position. This makes them destructive and corrupt. These days, this same system that put Dr Jože Pučnik in jail has become a caricature of its former self, yet it is still potent enough to continue to harm the country.

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