The meeting in the Culture House next to the neo-Baroque church on the hill in Slovenska Bistrica, a picturesque small market town in Slovenian Styria, bore all the marks of novelty and improvisation that I had come to expect from Yugoslavia’s first multiparty election campaign since 1946. Although the hall was almost full, men still hammered on the stage as they labored to erect a make-shift flagpole, while others were pinning large letters to the orange drop curtain at the back. These in due course spelled out the names of the six parties that had come in the northern republic of Slovenia to form the opposition coalition known as DEMOS—a name whose Greek denotation held great appeal for the intellectuals who had thought it up, while forming a neat acronym for “Democratic United Opposition of Slovenia,” an otherwise unpronounceable mouthful for the average voter. The meeting had been called to present DEMOS’s slate of candidates for the elections on April 8, and for their presidential candidate, Joze Pucnik, to make a major policy speech.
The voters crowding into the hall on this occasion were Slovenska Bistrica’s farmers and artisans. If the town had been on the other side of the Alps, one of my companions informed me, in Austria, Bavaria, or Italy, its houses would have been gaily painted, its shops bursting with consumer goods, its cafés ringing with Tyrolean accordion music, its market square filled with busloads of tourists coming to empty their purses. As it was, we had driven here through the dusty, deserted streets familiar to any visitor to Eastern Europe, where the lackluster shops and cafés were tightly shuttered, and the only place to buy a drink was the shabby socialist hotel in the town center. Slovenia, with a population of about 1.5 million people, is not large and its mainly Roman Catholic citizens know they have the highest per capita incomes in all of Yugoslavia. Yet they also know they are getting poorer because of the badly managed Yugoslav economy.
By the end of last year Yugoslavia’s inflation rate had risen to a disastrous 1,500 percent, and its standard of living, after deteriorating steadily at a rate of 10 percent per year over the past two years, had fallen back to where it was in the 1960s. The Slovenes are particularly incensed, because with only 8 percent of Yugoslavia’s population, they produce nearly 20 percent of the gross national product, and are responsible for 25 percent of exports to countries that pay in hard currency. Worst of all, for them, is the fact that all their earnings are funneled through Belgrade, which deducts enormous sums for subsidizing the backward south through the Fund for Underdeveloped Regions. In good times the Slovenes were more ready to shoulder this burden (which they estimate consumes 20 percent of their income), but now, facing a serious problem of the emigration of skilled workers to the West and with their own infrastructure breaking down, they insist that enough is enough.
This, indeed, was what this election, like so many others in Eastern Europe, was all about: not just the Slovenians’ desire to share in the material riches, so tantalizingly close over the border, but also to be able to take control of their own destinies. Should Yugoslavia, or more particularly, the Republic of Slovenia, continue to place its faith in a renamed and allegedly reborn Communist party and the promise of its leaders to take the people into the promised land of a multiparty, democratic society, or was such a task better entrusted to the largely untried, but also uncompromised, opposition parties, now competing for the first time for political power? About the need for democracy, pluralism, and a revamped economy there was no longer any doubt or discussion—even the Communists were loudly proclaiming these aims. But who would most effectively bring them about? And above all, how soon?
At last the hall was packed, with people overflowing into the vestibule. This crowd had not been shipped in by the customary state-subsidized buses to give the appearance of spontaneous enthusiasm. They had come on their own, on foot and by car—shy, solemn, and attentive, with just a few younger women among the men. The Slovenian flags on stage seemed the same as always, except that the five-pointed Communist star had been erased. The customary muzak (“Chariots of Fire”) was mercifully silenced in favor of an octet of local farmers, stiff in their unaccustomed suits and ties, singing patriotic folk songs in harmony. A single video camera captured the scene, for TV and radio were still under Party control and were sparing, to say the least, in their coverage of opposition meetings.
Pucnik, a stocky, balding figure in a rumpled suit, looked like a farmer himself, and in fact he was born on a local farm. But he has the classic pedigree of the Eastern European opposition leader: a Ph.D. in philosophy, a long record of dissent leading to seven years in jail and twenty years of exile, an intellectual history of turning away from revisionist Marxism to a conviction that human rights and individual freedom are more important than central planning and collective action, and a personal authority deriving from a refusal to compromise on ethical issues.
He is not a charismatic figure. He spoke sitting down, modestly and directly, without notes. “We’re not looking for revenge, we don’t want a revolution. We’ve had enough of revolutions and all the violence and slaughter that goes with them. We want justice, peace, and the right to work for ourselves in our own way.” (Loud applause.) The Communists could change their name, Pucnik said, they could change their slogans, and they could even change their policies, but they couldn’t change their nature. Communism was “alien to Slovenia, alien to Central Europe, and alien to Europe in general.” (Louder applause.) “We are just as clever and capable as our neighbors in Germany, in France, and in England, if only they would leave us alone, and nobody should be allowed to prevent us from proving it any more.”
Since the time of that meeting two rounds of elections have been held in Slovenia, and Pucnik’s wish appears to have been granted. DEMOS won the elections with 55 percent of the vote for the Social-Political chamber of the Slovenian Assembly, and 50 percent for the presidential council. The assembly has three chambers altogether (two others are elected by the municipalities and the workers respectively), but it is the Social-Political chamber that conducts the main business of government and where the real political power lies. The popular youth alliance, now known as the Liberal party, came in second, and the Communist party (renamed “League of Communists of Slovenia-Party of Democratic Renewal”) won only 20 percent of the vote. However, in the race for president, Pucnik lost to the popular Communist leader Milan Kucan, who got 56 percent of the vote to Pucnik’s 41 percent. The post of president in Slovenia is largely ceremonial, and Kucan’s victory was personal rather than ideological. It is possible that he might leave the Party—as popular leaders have done elsewhere in Eastern Europe—if he decides it would be better for the president to remain above partisan politics. In any case, his policies appear to be virtually indistinguishable from those of DEMOS.
What are those policies? The most heated issue is the question of independence. Slovenes openly compare their situation with that of the Lithuanians, and have been closely following every move there. If Gorbachev sends in the tanks, they feel, their prospects for greater independence will be correspondingly reduced. The place of the Russians would be taken by the Serbs, the most numerous of the Yugoslav peoples (six million) and the substitute for Gorbachev would be Slobodan Miloević, the forty-nine-year-old economist who has emerged as the dominant popular leader in Serbia. On the other hand if Gorbachev engages in promising negotiations with the Lithuanians, their own chances for independence would seem to be much greater.
But what is it that they want? The Slovenes say the time has come for them to have their own “sovereign state.” The use of the word “state” in this context is new in Slovenia (as are the references to “sovereignty”),1 and seems to have come into fashion in imitation of, and as a riposte to, the Serbs—though Serbia was an indepedent state in the Middle Ages and again before World War I, whereas Slovenia never was. Between 1335 and 1918, the lands now called Slovenia were ruled by the Habsburgs. What Slovenes seem to mean by sovereignty is the right to self-determination, up to and including secession. Does this suggest that they want to secede from Yugoslavia, as the Serbs fear? Can one and a half million Slovenes survive on their own in an increasingly competitive Europe, soon to include the market economies of the other new democracies of Eastern Europe?
Dmitrij Rupel, one of the leading theorists of the DEMOS coalition, thinks that they can. “Federation at the moment costs us at least $2 million a year. If we were free, Slovene émigrés in the United States and elsewhere would invest at least as much again. Slovenian productivity could be as high as in Western Europe, especially if we join the Common Market.”
The truth is that the Slovenes are in a panic. They feel torn between their seventy-year-old allegiance to Yugoslavia and their desire to be Western Europeans as some of them now feel they were under the Habsburgs. When they want to compare their situation with that of their neighbors they go to Vienna or Trieste, not to Sarajevo, Skopje, or Belgrade. And what they see there fills them with despair. My visit this spring coincided with a public holiday, during which Trieste was inundated with Yugoslavs. The next day Slovene newspapers featured pictures of grinning Trieste merchants displaying department stores with empty shelves. They had literally been stripped bare by the visiting hordes of Yugoslavs, who had broken all records for shopping and bought hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise in a single day. Pucnik touched on these themes in his election address. Along with most Slovenes, he feels that these elections are a last chance for Slovenia to catch up, which may mean going it alone: “Like young girls in India, we’ve been forcibly married to Yugoslavia twice already, and we don’t want it any more.” He was wrong about the “forcibly.” Some Slovenes were pressing for union with Yugoslavia back in the nineteenth century, and in both 1918 and 1945 Slovenian leaders had seen federation with the other southern Slavs as their salvation. In this sense they are different from the Lithuanians; they were not incorporated into Yugoslavia against their will. It is a measure of the depth of their disillusionment, and of the failure of Titoist Yugoslavia, that they are being pushed to the very brink and, perhaps, over the brink, of outright secession.
The Slovenes are tired, they say, of pouring money into the bottomless pit of the fund to help the underdeveloped regions of Yugslavia. The entire economy is mismanaged and the central government pursues irrational investment policies. The underdeveloped regions and the republics that benefit most from the fund, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Serbia (mostly for the Kosovo region, adjacent to Albania), Montenegro, and Macedonia, are all in the south, while Slovenia, as the richest republic, has to contribute the most per capita. Slovenes also fear the Serbian tendency to act with nationalist machismo,2 especially since Miloević sent in troops last year to crush the aspirations of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo for more autonomy, and abolished Kosovo’s separate status. They view the brutal campaign of the federal army and police (both of which are dominated by the Serbs) against the ethnic Albanians as a possible dry run for similar action against themselves. This was the origin of the amendment to the Slovene constitution proposed last fall by the Communists, which sought to ban any federal military or police action on Slovenian territory without the explicit approval of the Slovene parliament. It was overruled by the constitutional court in Belgrade, but will certainly be proposed again.
Somewhat less urgent than this issue, but related to it, is the emotional question of language. Slovenes have a distinctive language, which differs from Serbo-Croatian more than if it were just dialect, although it is close enough to be reciprocally comprehensible. Up until now the relatively well-educated Slovenes have been content to have Serbo-Croatian taught in their schools, to speak Serbo-Croatian when they travel in the rest of Yugoslavia, and to defer in matters of language to visitors from other republics when they come to Slovenia. But they are no longer willing to do so. They say, for example, that they would like their conscripts in the armed forces to be able to serve in Slovenia under Slovene officers speaking Slovenian, even if this means forming their own territorial army.
One hundred miles to the south, in Zagreb, the quintessentially Habsburgian capital of Croatia, the situation looks remarkably similar. Croatia had elections a couple of weeks later than Slovenia, and when I was there it looked as if there would be a rerun of the Slovenian campaign, with a center coalition squaring off against the Communists (also recently rebaptized as the “League of Communists of Croatia—Party of Democratic Change”). However, the right-of-center Croatian Democratic Alliance, led by the ex-Communist general Franjo Tudjman, a highly popular former dissident, swept the election, taking an astonishing 80 percent of the vote in the first round, and 70 percent in the second, giving it an absolute majority in the Social-Political Chamber of the Assembly. Since the president in Croatia is elected by the Assembly rather than by popular vote, and Tudjman has already indicated his intention to stand, he is guaranteed victory in that race too.
As in Slovenia, the broad policy objectives of all the political parties, including the Communists, are virtually identical: they all have the same demands for a multiparty system, a mixed economy, the rule of law (with an independent judiciary), and national sovereignty, including the right to self-determination and secession. But “self-determination” has quite different meanings in Croatia and Serbia.
In the first place, like Serbia (but unlike Slovenia), Croatia was an independent state during the early Middle Ages, and it retained a national identity through seven centuries of political union with Hungary. In 1888, after the Ausgleich (“Settlement”) between Austria and Hungary had established the dual monarchy, a mini-Ausgleich was agreed between Hungary and Croatia, giving Croatia a measure of home rule. It was never enough, and in 1918, after the breakup of Austro-Hungary, the Croats grasped at the opportunity to form part of Yugoslavia as eagerly as did the Slovenes. Their disillusionment with it led to the disastrous experiment of the fascist state set up by Pavelić’s Ustasha party during World War II. Pavelić’s regime tortured and executed thousands of Serbs in Croatia for refusing to “convert” from Orthodoxy to Catholicism, the religion of most Croats. The memory of that slaughter makes it one of the most emotional issues in modern Yugoslav history. On the rebound from Pavelić, the Croats participated in Tito’s Communist federation, but now they are again disillusioned, and are seeking the same right to secede as the Slovenes.
Their national claims are clearly more firmly grounded in precedent than Slovenia’s. Moreover, they have two and a half times the population of Slovenia, making Croatia bigger than any of the Baltic states. However, they have other, more serious, problems, One is that not all the Croats live in Croatia proper. About a million live in the republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, and another hundred thousand live in the Vojvodina region of Serbia. Croatia also has about half a million Serbs (11 percent of the population of 4.5 million) living on its territory, and they have historically resisted the idea of an independent Croatian state, especially since their terrible experiences at the hands of the Ustasha.
Before the elections Tudjman managed to spread alarm among the other Yugoslav republics with loose talk about a “return to Croatia’s historical borders,” a clear reference to earlier Croatian claims to parts of Bosnia-Hercegovina. He did not help matters by organizing election meetings in Serbian-dominated towns in Croatia, and traveling with an entourage of bodyguards to flaunt his own form of machismo. Such provocative behavior almost ended in tragedy when a deranged Serb attempted to shoot him during one of his rallies. (Tudjman’s party turned this to their advantage by making a video cassette of the incident and hawking it to the public as Firing on Croatia.)
On a visit to the Democratic Union’s election headquarters in March (the best organized and best financed of any party except the Communists) I found the campaign workers put heavy emphasis on Croatian history and Croatian national traditions. The walls were decorated with pictures of medieval Croatian rulers and the coats of arms of Croatian cities, while the campaign literature had much to say on Croatian folklore and customs. Stjepan Mesić, the party secretary, complained to me that 80 percent of the army and 80 percent of the police on Croatian soil were Serbs, that nearly half the members of the Croatian league of Communists were Serbs, and that Serbs occupied positions of influence in Croatia out of all proportion to their numbers. He didn’t say what his party would do about this situation, but the implication that the position of many Serbs in Croatia would be down-graded was clear.
Tudjman is also on record in his recent book Bespuća (“Tracklessness”) as saying that Jews helped to run the notorious Ustasha concentration camp at Jasenovac during World War II. This was like blaming the Jews forced by the Nazis to work at Auschwitz. Tudjman would doubtless deny that he had “blamed” the Jews, thousands of whom were slaughtered by the Ustasha, but the context of his remarks was sufficiently ambiguous for many readers to read him that way. In fact, his chauvinist attitudes to the national question are causing great unease among Croatian intellectuals.
Some Croatians told me they hoped that his extreme positions were simply part of an election strategy to distinguish his party from the other center parties. Immediately after victory in the first round of voting a party spokesman promised full cooperation with Serbia and, after the second, Tudjman invited one of the leaders of the Croation Serbs to stand as his vice-president. He also declared that Croatia would respect its present borders with Bosnia-Hercegovina. There are at least as many Serbs as Croats in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and any attempt to redraw the frontiers would set off an already inflammatory situation—not to speak of the fact that most of that republic’s inhabitants are Muslims.
In any case, it is obvious that at least 90 percent of Tudjman’s policies are shared by all the other parties in Croatia, including the Communists. Like the Slovenes, the Croats, who also were once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, regard themselves as Western Europeans. They too are worried about economic decline, and they make the second largest contribution per capita to the fund for underdeveloped regions, which they would also like to change or abolish. Though less fearful than the Slovenes of Serbian aggression, they too resent Serbia’s strong-arm tactics in Kosovo and have tried to dissociate themselves from so-called federal policies there. They would also like to have Croatian units within the federal army, with Croatian conscripts serving on Croatian soil. And although their spoken language is very close to that of the Serbs, the Croats resent what they see as the subservient status of Croatian to Serbian in the federal bureaucracy, which is dominated by Serbs. This alleged inferiority is magnified by the fact that Croatian uses the Latin alphabet and Serbian the Cyrillic, and that the federal capital is located in Belgrade, which automatically places it within the Serbian, and Cyrillic, sphere of influence.
Is what is happening in Yugoslavia a repetition of what has been happening elsewhere in Eastern Europe? The answer has to be both yes and no. Unlike Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, or even Bulgaria, Yugoslavia is a federal state with vast differences among its constituent republics, and vast discrepancies in their stages of development.
At the very moment when democratic elections were being held in Slovenia and Croatia in the north of the country, in the south the police and army were patrolling the autonomous region of Kosovo in tanks and armored cars, while the ethnic Albanian party leader, Azem Vllasi, was on trial for “counter-revolutionary activities.” The Serbs and Montenegrins, who had organized the trial, had arranged for their local elections to take place last year to forestall possible democratic changes in their own part of the country. They were still organizing “spontaneous” demonstrations at the behest of Miloević. The poorer republics of Bosnia-Hercegovina and Macedonia were still wavering between continuing the status quo and moving toward a multiparty system.
Yugoslavia’s character as a multiethnic, multinational country defies simple solutions and virtually defeats analysis. Its contradictions ensure that, despite pressures for democracy and independence in the more prosperous north, it will remain the odd man out in Eastern Europe for some time to come. In this sense, it is more like the Soviet Union than like any of its immediate neighbors.
There is something of a paradox here. Ever since Tito’s historic break with Stalin’s Comintern in 1948, Yugoslavia had seemed to be in the forefront of democratic change in Eastern Europe. Partly for this reason, and also for geopolitical reasons, it became a favorite of Western (particularly Anglo-Saxon) diplomats and intellectuals, and was regularly treated as the most likely candidate for conversion to a Western-style democracy. In fact, gullible officials in Washington and London, of whom there were many, tended to treat Yugoslavia as if it were a democracy already, ignoring the unpleasant facts of Party control, and of consistent repression of human rights combined with official waste and corruption. The hoped-for transition to democratic ways never came, and now, suddenly, Yugoslavia finds itself in almost last place in the rush for democratic change. Timothy Garton Ash said in Prague last November that a revolution that took ten years in Poland, ten months in Hungary, and ten weeks in East Germany, required not much more than ten days in Czechoslovakia.3 In Yugoslavia one would have to say it has lasted for forty years already—and it’s not over yet.
Of course, in this race between the Yugoslav tortoise and the Eastern European hares the paradox can be to some degree explained by Yugoslavia’s earlier partial successes. Yugoslavia was the only country in Eastern Europe to experience a popular revolution of its own during World War II, giving its Communist party a legitimacy that it never had in the satellite countries. It also had a popular and charismatic leader in Josip Broz Tito, and the combination of legitimacy and a strong leader helped to make Tito’s escape from the Comintern possible in 1948. Later, Yugoslavia became the first Eastern European country to open its borders to mass tourism, to allow a million of its people to work abroad, to ease the rigors of censorship, and to experiment with decentralization and workers’ control in an attempt to introduce market mechanisms into its economy.
One condition of these reforms was Yugoslavia’s policy of nonalignment, which allowed it to remain on the periphery of Soviet military power, without ever being dependent on it. Thus while not entirely unaffected by such developments as the death of Stalin, the Khrushchev “thaw,” or the proclamation of the Brezhnev doctrine after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia was able to insulate itself from the immediate impact of those changes. And so it is now with Gorbachev’s perestroika. Yugoslavia cannot avoid being affected by the changes sweeping the rest of Eastern Europe, but it is also not as vulnerable to the changes in Soviet policies as the other countries of the region. The ironic result is that the pace of change in Yugoslavia will also be slower.
As the post-World War II settlement unravels throughout Eastern Europe, and Yugoslavian political economy is shown to be deeply flawed, the Yugoslavs have two large preoccupations. The first is a deep desire to reevaluate the period of Communist rule in Yugoslavia from World War II to the present, and particularly the failures of Titoism and of Tito himself. The second is the search in Yugoslavia for a form of society that allows the individual a greater human dignity and personal worth, which has been driven by the growing worldwide demand for respect for human rights. These two concerns have converged at the present time in demands for a form of participatory democracy.
The reevaluation of Tito and the Communist party, and of the legitimacy of the postwar arrangements in Yugoslavia, has gathered increasing momentum in recent years, leading to much revisionist historical research both in and out of the country. One of the first books on the subject by a foreigner, Tito’s Flawed Legacy by Nora Beloff,4 set out explicitly, as she writes in her introduction, to “reassess Titoism” and “to identify the degree of Western guilt for the distress in which Yugoslavia now finds itself.” Beloff, an experienced correspondent for the London Observer, realized in the early Eighties that the cozy picture of a democratic pro-Western Yugoslavia which circulated in the West was seriously inaccurate and that, politically speaking, Yugoslavia had much more in common with the Soviet satellite countries than it pretended to have.
Consequently, she set out to examine, and puncture, what she calls the “seven myths” of modern Yugoslavia, ranging from the official version of Tito’s revolutionary career and leadership of the liberation struggle during World War II, to more recent experiments in self-management and economic decentralization. In by far the best part of her book she deals with the story of the liberation struggle, and chronicles the origins of the West’s infatuation with Tito’s Yugoslavia. The Americans, in this instance, were influenced by Churchill, who fell in love with the romantic Communist Tito, and persuaded Roosevelt that the Allies should switch their support to him from the monarchist Draza Mihailović. Mihailović was in fact to be the minister of war of the Yugoslav government in exile in London, which was officially supported by the Allies, but this didn’t matter when Churchill changed his mind.
Not that any other Western statesman can be said to have grasped the details of the Yugoslav front at the time. Beloff successfully brings out the complexity of the situation in wartime Yugoslavia, where, so far as military effectiveness was concerned, there was nothing to choose in the first two years between Tito’s Partisans and Mihailović’s Chetniks. Both alternated between fighting the occupying Germans and Italians and attacking each other. The Chetniks were overwhelmingly Serbian, whereas the Partisans were ethnically mixed, and the situation was further complicated by the establishment of the quisling, puppet state led by Ustasha in Croatia. By the middle of the war, all three groups were locked in internecine struggle, to the detriment of their battle against the occupying powers. Of Yugoslavia’s one million war dead, it is estimated that more than half were killed by other Yugoslavs.
Churchill’s decision to switch support from the Chetniks to the Partisans in November 1943 was influenced by the glowing reports of Partisan successes sent back by two British liaison officers, Captain William Deakin and Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean, whom Churchill had sent out to Yugoslavia to observe Tito. Neither of them knew the local languages, and Beloff shows how easily they were duped by Partisan propaganda. Both they and Churchill were also deceived about Tito’s political intentions after the war, believing that the Communist leader would allow King Peter to return to Yugoslavia in preparation for free elections. Yet at a large meeting of the Partisans’ Anti-Fascist Council in Jajce that very month, Tito had already repudiated the monarchy and announced that the future government of Yugoslavia would be Communist and republican.
Beloff’s analysis of the twists and turns of Allied, and particularly British, policy toward Yugoslavia during those crucial years, and of the personalities and motives of the main actors involved, is excellent, including her account of the cloak and dagger activities of the Cairo office of the Special Operations Executive, which was responsible for coordinating Allied assistance to the Yugoslav resistance forces. Beloff holds SOE Cairo responsible for swinging British support to the Partisans in the first place, and identifies two men, Basil Davidson (a Communist sympathizer) and James Klugmann (a member of the British Communist party), as having been instrumental in doctoring the reports that eventually influenced Deakin, Maclean, and Churchill in Tito’s favor, and caused Mihailović to be branded as a collaborator and a traitor.
Beloff’s argument on this subject has just been taken up and expanded into two new books on wartime Yugoslavia to be published later this summer by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (advance copies reached me just as this article was going to press). The first, The Rape of Serbia: The British Role in Tito’s Grab for Power, by Michael Lees (who was a liaison officer with Mihailović in 1943), announces its purpose as being “to right a terrible wrong. Mihailović was not a collaborator, as Tito and his British sponsors have repeatedly claimed. He was a true patriot—far more so than his Communist rivals.” Lees advances the thesis that Tito could never have won the “Yugoslav civil war” without British support, and that in gaining this support, he was “enormously aided by moles in the secret services and by self-serving or gullible British protagonists who set out deliberately to help—or were tricked into helping—Tito gain power.” In fact Lees identifies only one “mole”—James Klugmann, since Davidson has made no secret, either during the war or since, of where his sympathies lie—although there is no shortage of the self-serving and the gullible in his account of SOE.
Lees’s book overlaps with, and covers much the same ground as, The Web of Disinformation: Churchill’s Yugoslav Blunder, by David Martin. Martin, the author of two earlier works in defense of Mihailović, is rather more restrained in tone and has a more scholarly approach than Lees, but in one respect he is prepared to go further: Klugmann, according to him, is none other than the notorious “fifth man” in the group of Cambridge conspirators consisting of Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and Kim Philby. Martin plausibly argues that Klugmann wrote many intelligence reports promoting Tito’s cause and that these were influential. But he admits that all the evidence for Klugmann being the “fifth” man is circumstantial; having done so, and having theoretically left the question open, he goes on to describe SOE operations as if this were really the case. Thus in the end he arrives at the conclusion that it was really Klugmann who was chiefly responsible for the British dumping of Mihailović, although he couldn’t have done it, of course, without the willing help of Davidson and his gullible colleagues.
The world of espionage is outside my competence, but there are several problems with this approach. First, as both Lees and Martin admit, Klugmann’s leadership of the Cambridge Communists was a well-known fact, as was his Party membership during and after the war. Martin argues that it was not unusual for known spies also to be known members of the Party, but their numbers were very few, and Klugmann must have been the most visible “mole” ever. Secondly, there is the dubious assumption, made more by Less than by Martin, that the British somehow “made” Tito, and that without them Tito would hardly have counted. But as Beloff, a Mihailović sympathizer, points out,
the Partisans had unquestionably produced a more effective military machine. They were better organized, more mobile, and, above all, far better led. Tito was a natural leader and the commanders he had selected…were of remarkably high quality.
Lastly, while the British and Americans may have slowed or hastened the victory of one or the other side, it is not clear that they could have determined it.
None of this is to question the appropriateness or justice of seeking to rehabilitate Mihailović, who was condemned to death in a show trial in 1946. He was of course every bit as much a patriot as Tito, and Lees and Martin are right to point to the shabbiness of the treatment he has received at the hands of British (and to a lesser extent American) political leaders, historians, and analysts. But revisionism has its limits.
A more sober analysis of modern Yugoslavia is provided by Stevan K. Pavlowitch in The Improbable Survivor: Yugoslavia and Its Problems, 1918–88.5 As the title suggests, Pavlowitch is concerned with Yugoslavia’s entire history from its founding in 1916, but it is Tito who appears on the cover, and a good three quarters of the book is devoted to the system that Tito created and molded. Like Beloff, Pavlowitch unravels and demystifies the internecine guerrilla struggles of the war period, and he is more persuasive on the character and achievements of Tito because he writes without animus.
Pavlowitch rightly describes Tito as a born leader in the mold of a dux or a duce, comparing him to Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, and other right-wing dictators. It would have been fair to mention that there have been charismatic left-wing dictators as well, beginning with Lenin and perhaps ending, if we are lucky, with Fidel Castro. Pavlowitch is also right to characterize Tito as on the whole “authoritarian” by nature, rather than totalitarian, and to point out that “Titoism” was a consequence, not the cause, of the split with Moscow. However, I think he underestimates the deeply totalitarian character of Tito’s Yugoslavia, even if the Marshal often chose to moderate or put a bridle on its more extreme manifestations. The state power was always there in reserve, and was unleashed when needed, in the 1950s when Milovan Djilas challenged Tito’s Communist party dictatorship and was imprisoned, and again in 1971, when Tito decided to whip the Croatian party and intellectuals into line.
Pavlowitch also seems to underestimate the influence of nonalignment as an instrument of foreign policy. Tito had stumbled on the usefulness of this policy during the war, when he played off the Western Allies against Soviet Russia, suggesting to the British and Americans that if he didn’t get adequate support from the Western powers, he would have to turn to the USSR; but it was only after the break with Stalin in 1948 that he elevated nonalignment to a principle of international relations. Thereafter it was seen as useful policy by third world leaders such as Nehru, Nasser, Nkrumah, and their successors, and it is still a policy successfully pursued, although with less fanfare, in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Only during the last few years, since the beginning of a rapprochement between the United States and the Soviet Union, has it seemed to be losing its usefulness.
Not for nothing does the figure of Tito dominate so many of Pavlowitch’s and Beloff’s pages, for it turns out that he was much more interesting and capable than the system he created. It took Tito’s personal energies to make the Partisans into a formidable military and then political force in the first place. It was Tito who fascinated Deakin and Maclean, who won Churchill over, stood up to Stalin, bargained with the leaders of East and West on equal terms, and inspired the leaders of the third world to do likewise. I remember watching him when he came as guest of honor to a famous traditional jousting match—the Sinjska Alke—in the Croatian mountains during the Sixties, when he was at the height of his fame and power. The people in the crowd chanted “Ti-to! Ti-to!” as he made his way down the course, their eyes shining with apparently genuine adoration. Clearly he was still the junak, or folk hero, that he had become as a result of his military exploits during World War II. Very much the soldier in his bearing and marshal’s uniform, he had since added the roles of father and leader of his people. Twenty years later, in 1980, when he died and his bier was paraded through the streets of Ljubljana before going on to Zagreb and Belgrade, I saw a similar awe on the faces in the crowd. Even the sober Slovenes were moved by the enormity of the occasion, and one sensed, as at Churchill’s funeral in London two decades earlier, that the nation was in mourning for an era as much as for a leader.
And so it turned out. Pavlowitch points out that the period of Tito’s work took up exactly half of Yugoslavia’s history to date, yet Titoism is already crumbling. Brotherhood and unity, decentralization, self-management, workers’ control, even nonalignment—all the pillars of the system are tottering, if not collapsing. About five years after Tito’s death the questioning began in earnest, and today his reputation is lower than ever before.6 This May, the tenth anniversary of Tito’s death in Yugoslavia provoked not only official parades and memorial meetings, but also bitterly critical speeches from opposition leaders calling for a complete break with Tito’s system and denouncing the former leader as a tyrant and a fraud.
It is now clear that while Tito was alive, and for some years after his death, Yugoslavs and foreigners alike were blinded by his achievements and bamboozled by his propaganda. Since 1980 there has been a gradual awakening from the illusions of Titoism, hastened by the impact of developments elsewhere in Europe, and by the way in which the human rights movement has become a force for political change in Yugoslavia. The recent election campaigns in the north of the country, with their potentially explosive results, would have been unthinkable without this period of preparation beforehand. But there is still the south to contend with, and above all Serbia, Yugoslavia’s largest and most influential republic, where moves toward a more democratic arrangement have been either blocked or sidetracked. The result is a stalemate between the forces for swift change in the north, and resistance to change in the south. It is a stalemate that cannot last for very long, and there now seems a good chance that Serbia too will join the movement toward greater democracy and pluralism. If it does, this will probably have a moderating effect on the demands of the northern republics for independence. Why that is so, and what the obstacles are, will be the subject of a second article.
—May 31, 1990
June 28, 1990
The new meaning seems to have been stated explicitly for the first time in the “May Declaration,” a petition circulated by the opposition in May of last year. Point two read: “As a sovereign state we will independently decide on our relations with the Yugoslav and other peoples in the framework of a renewed Europe.” ↩
The extent of this fear should not be underrated. After heated exchanges on the subject of Kosovo, the Serbs threatened to travel to Ljubljana en masse and hold a demonstration. The Slovenes banned the demonstration, but on the day it had been scheduled, large numbers of Slovene families left town just in case. One mother told me: “We were afraid for our children and didn’t want to take any chances.” ↩
Timothy Garton Ash, “The Revolution of the Magic Lantern,” The New York Review (January 18, 1990). ↩
Nora Beloff, Tito’s Flawed Legacy: Yugoslavia and the West Since 1939 (Westview, 1986). ↩
Ohio State University Press, 1990. ↩
Pavlowitch devotes an extremely useful chapter to recent revisionist history in Yugoslavia on the subject of the liberation struggle and its domination by the Communists—key issues for the legitimacy of the postwar state. Books discussed include Novi prilozi biografiji Josipa Broz Tita (“New Contributions to the Biography of Josip Broz Tito”) by Vladimir Dedijer, Tito’s official biographer (Rijeka, 1981); Partijski pluralizm ili monizm (“Party Pluralism or Monism: Social Movements and Political Systems in Yugoslavia, 1944–1949”), by Kosta Cavoski and Vojislav Kotunica (Belgrade: 1983/Columbia University Press, 1985); and Saveznici i jugoslovenska ratna drama (“The Allies and the Drama of Wartime Yugoslavia”) by Veselin Djuretić (Belgrade, 1985). All three books provoked a storm of controversy when published, and the latter two were later banned. ↩