Croatians observe centenary of anti-fascist Labin uprising 

Coal miners in Labin in the Istria county of present day Croatia had rebelled against fascist assaults and exploitation by the mining company and occupied the mines before proclaiming the ‘Labin Republic’ on March 2, 1921

March 05, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Labin Uprising-Croatia
Workers’ Front (RF) activists with the red flag of the Labin Republic. (Photo: Radnička fronta Istra i Kvarner)

On Tuesday, March 2, progressive sections in Croatia observed the centenary of the historic anti-fascist uprising led by miners in 1921 in the city of Labin in Istria county. The miners had occupied the mines and proclaimed a ‘Labin Republic’ in March that year. Members of the Workers’ Front (RT) in Istria county marked the centenary of the short-lived Labin Republic and hoisted a massive red flag in the city on Tuesday. Various anti-fascist groups in Croatia, including the Young Socialists and the Socialist Workers Party of Croatia (SRPH), also commemorated the anniversary of the miners’ uprising. An official state commemoration was held in Labin under the leadership of Croatian president Zoran Milanovic.

At the end of the First World War, the Austro-Hungarian empire was dissolved and regions such as Istria came under the control of Italy as per the Treaty of Saint-Germain in 1919, as dictated by the victorious allies. Following this, the trade union leadership in the coal mining regions of Istria came under the attack of the Italian fascists. Resisting the fascist attacks and the exploitation by the mining company, Arsa Carboniferous Anonymous Company, the miners initiated a massive general strike. Faced with intimidation and following a fascist assault on socialist leader Giovanni Pippan, the miners occupied the mines of Labin on March 2, and proclaimed a republic in the occupied mines on March 6. The miners also formed a government and a red guard of the workers to manage production in the mines and maintain order. But, under pressure from the mine owners, the Italian authorities sent armed forces and repressed the uprising by April 1921. Even though it was short-lived, the workers’ uprising sent shock waves across Europe and has since been recognized as the first organized resistance against fascism in Europe. 

Meanwhile, the RF has denounced the omission of the red flag of the ‘Labin Republic’ from the official state functions on the centenary of the uprising.

RF MP Katarina Peović said, “when we say ‘Labin Republic,’ we think of workers’ self-government over mines in Labinstein, the right of miners to introduce democratic decision in the workplace, direct democracy in which all workers have the right to decide through the Assembly of workers.”

She also added, “Their slogan: ‘The mine is ours’ still has the same weight today, especially for paid, disassembled workers, to whom the Minister of Labor and the Prime Minister announce the reduction of workers’ rights in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis and enabling easier dismissal”