BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Economic and political problems have grown so large in Yugoslavia that they 'endanger the foundations of our socialist system,' a leader of the ruling Communist Party said Friday.
The party plans a three-day conference beginning Sunday to explore ways of dealing with the crisis.
'The party membership and the Yugoslav people await the conference with big hopes,' said Marko Orlandic, a member of the policy-making Communist Party presidium.
In an article published in the party weekly newspaper Komunist, Orlandic said the 'crisis has reached proportions which endanger the foundations of our socialist system.'
'There is no more room for retreat. The party conference is expected to mark a watershed and to make place for necessary changes' in the party's running of affairs.
Yugoslavia has Europe's highest annual inflation rate, 170 percent, and since 1979 the standard of living has dropped by 40 percent. More than 1 million Yugoslavs are jobless.
A May 16 government decree limiting wages and salaries triggered strikes in at least five companies earlier this week, according to news reports. The labor protest included a 90-mile march by 300 coal miners from the central Yugoslav town of Tuzla to the federal parliament in Belgrade. The strikes reportedly involved less than 3,000 people and lasted three to four days.
Yugoslavia, with a population of 23 million, has a foreign debt of $21 billion and is about to sign contracts with the International Monetary Fund and Western commercial banks and governments to restructure large portions of that debt.
About 800 delegates representing the 2 million-member Communist Party will meet in Belgrade's Sava Center conference hall to discuss the 'role, unity and responsibility of the party in finding a way out of the crisis.'
'At stake is the future of Yugoslavia,' said a party official.