“Tito’s Flawed Legacy” by Nora Beloff – INTRODUCTION / A harbinger of things to come.
Aleksandra’s Note: The value of the material found in “old” books cannot be overestimated. There is so much in “old” books and materials that is striking in its relation to future and current events. Quite often, we can find the answers to the questions we have today about “how did this happen?” by going back in time and revisiting the spoken and published words of the past. The impact of the revelations is often remarkable. The answers were all there, if only we had paid attention. Some of us did, indeed, pay attention but were not in a position to affect the outcomes.
Anyone interested in the intriguing and often confusing topic that is former Yugoslavia should find and read this book, Tito’s Flawed Legacy, by respected British journalist Nora Beloff. The book was published in 1985, after Tito’s death, but while Yugoslavia was still completely intact and a few years before the break-up wars in the last decade of the 20th Century, the 1990’s, began.
In light of cataclysmic future events in the Balkans, the last paragraph of Beloff’s introduction from 1985, posted in full below, is particularly striking:
“The answers to the Yugoslav problem are not easy: the most this analysis sets out to do is to identify the degree of Western guilt for the distress in which Yugoslavia now finds itself and so, perhaps, to encourage a radically different Western approach.”
A special thank you to my friend AL, who contributed this important text.
Tito’s Flawed Legacy
Yugoslavia and the West since 1939
By Nora Beloff, 1985
Tito and Seven Myths
This book is written in the belief that the time has come to reassess Titoism: from its Western-sponsored seizure of power and its Western-assisted development, to its present and resented dependence on Westerners who call themselves the
“Friends of Yugoslavia”.
These are not, as the warm words suggest, an association of scholars or travellers lured by Yugoslavia’s unparalleled charms. The name was selected (after some argument) to identify a financial partnership of fifteen capitalist countries, led by the United States and initially inspired by former US Ambassador Lawrence Eagleburger, who have organized the multi-billion-dollar rescue operations, involving governments, international institutions and commercial banks, and so saved Yugoslavia from financial collapse. The participants pride themselves on having warded off the risks of hunger and chaos and perhaps, even, of the reintegration of Yugoslavia into the Soviet bloc.
The contribution of “the friends” has enabled Yugoslavia to honour all its international debts. It has also benefited improvident Western bankers and provided jobs and profits to Western factories short of customers and eager to supply Yugoslavia with equipment, spare parts and finished goods – especially as these have been financed mainly by Western taxpayers.
What it has not provided is any benefit perceptible to ordinary Yugoslavs who are witnessing a remorseless rise in unemployment – 90 per cent of it among the under 30-year olds – and the highest inflation rate in Europe. Forty years after the installation of “the dictatorship of the proletariat” (the official euphemism for one-party Communist rule), Yugoslavia is experiencing the curse which Karl Marx predicted would mark the final phases of capitalism: the rich (who keep their bank-accounts in hard currency) are getting richer; the much more numerous poor (for the fifth year running) are getting poorer. Nor are there indications when the “pauperization” will end.
In Europe today, Yugoslavia is the odd-country out. It belongs to neither of the military blocs, yet it is not, like Sweden or Switzerland, one of the recognized neutrals.
Its territories, in the heartland of the Balkans, have a long history not only as a meeting-place of many civilizations, which makes it so fascinatingly varied, but also as an area of collision between faiths: Moslem and Christian, Orthodox and Roman Catholic, and, in our time, Marxism-Leninism and Western-style democracy. It has also repeatedly aroused imperial ambitions and suffered invasion and occupation from the Ottoman Empire, Venice, Austria, Hungary and Nazi Germany. Predators have been attracted not only by its natural resources and rich fertile valleys, but even more by its unique strategic importance. Over most of recorded history (though perhaps less in our nuclear and airborne age) what has counted most has been the vital routes between north and south: from Europe to Africa; and between east and west – from the Adriatic to the Bosporus and Asia.
None the less, though the cities and countryside have repeatedly changed hands and big powers have grabbed little princedoms and provinces, none has established lasting and all-embracing control. Each invader brought in new settlers, new languages or dialects, new styles of life, new institutions and political boundaries, all of which intermingled. Yet as the historian Stevan Pavlowitch has pointed out, the multiple nationalities were never completely blended. “Conquerors harassed the populations, mixed or divided them, but never integrated them.” And, as he rightly adds: “The geography that attracted intervention from the outside also prevents any single native power from expanding, growing, attracting, unifying and checking foreign intrusion.” (1)
For this reason it is only fairly recently that it has been possible to create Yugoslavia as a single big bloc, now numbering nearly 23 million people. The concept of the unification of the Southern Slavs, and the political passions which the idea aroused, go back more than a century and a half. But it was not until after the First World War that the victors created the new state out of the mainly Slav remnants of the defunct Habsburg and Ottoman empires. Thrown together in haste in the chaotic postwar conditions, the new country, which took the name of Yugoslavia (meaning the country of South Slavs) in 1929, turned out to have greater staying powers than many expected.
As Milan Kundera has shown, the Communist ideologues specialize in the art of historical forgetting: modern Yugoslavs are not allowed to celebrate the birth of their state (1 December 1918).
Yet, it survives today, broadly within the same frontiers (though, after the Second World War, with the addition of Istria and some Adriatic islands taken from Italy), suffering from the same ethnic and religious divergencies and exposed to the same international vulnerability. The familiar old epithet “trouble-in-the-Balkans” still sends shivers down Western spines. And significantly it is here that fighting begins in General Hackett’s remarkably successful exercise in futurology The Third World War – as indeed it began two wars ago.
According to the official Yugoslav census, the country consists of no less than 17 different national groups, almost all having their own language or dialect and their own distinctive cultures. In Macedonia alone, just one of the eight federal units of which Yugoslavia is composed, there is such a mix-up of races that French cooks have come to describe their fruit salads as macedoine de fruits.
Outsiders find it discouragingly difficult to make sense out of such a multifarious community. Millions of tourists visit Yugoslavia every year to enjoy the climate, the scenery and the historical treasures, but most of them very sensibly refuse to allow Yugoslavia’s complicated politics to spoil their pleasures. (Admittedly, few people can be quite as successful in putting the whole commotion out of mind as one elderly Manhattan taxi-driver who, in 1978, after being told that two young clients were from Yugoslavia, asked, after a pause: “Say, wasn’t that the country where those two guys were fighting it out? Tito and Mihailovic, wasn’t it? By the way, who won?” Not that anybody seriously concerned with world affairs would underrate Yugoslavia’s political and strategic importance. But busy politicians or heads of the big international institutions – the World Bank, the IMF, the EEC, the OECD and others – rarely have the time or patience to look into what seems like a basket of crabs and form their own judgment. Instead, when circumstances require a policy-decision or a political visit, the chiefs allow themselves to be briefed by the small coterie of “experts”: men inclined to rely on what Yugoslav officials tell them and on what they tell each other: felicitations all round and nobody is offended.
For since the 1948 Stalin-Tito breach, Western objectives have been modest: to keep Yugoslavia out of trouble and to preserve Titoism intact.
In the last years of Tito’s life, a former British Ambassador was to recall:
“We would have paid any price on earth” to be assured of what turned out to be a remarkably smooth succession. The few billion dollars, now needed each year to keep Yugoslavia afloat, seem cheap at the price. A very senior British mandarin predicted in 1982 that “with economic aid from abroad . . . Yugoslavia might remain, as we hope it will, a stable member of the European community of nations.” (2)
Not that in Yugoslavia the preservation of a fairly dictatorial form of government, after the dictator’s demise, is without precedent – or as much of a miracle as it seemed to some people at the time. When Alexander I was murdered in 1934, after suspending the constitution and assuming emergency powers, many in the West dreaded the consequences of the political vacuum. In effect, his highly undictatorial successor, Prince Paul, a personal friend of the British royal family, who stood in as regent for the child, King Peter, managed as well as the present-day leaders to keep things going. He, too, both played off the ethnic and social groups against each other and, also, relied on the survival of a Yugoslav sense of solidarity, even after the death of its living symbol. It was only because of an attack by a far stronger outside enemy that, in 1941, the state was temporarily destroyed.
Some sense of national identity is apparent to anyone in the world of sport who has watched a Yugoslav crowd cheering their own soccer or athletics teams when these are pitted against foreigners. Indeed, even when Yugoslavs leave their own country, they tend to seek each other out. As in all big emigre movements, the outside world hears most about internal rivalries and feuds. But perhaps we get a more representative sample in the Yugoslav Club of Glasgow, where a medley of Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Macedonians, including shop-keepers and teachers, businessmen and labourers, enjoy occasional gatherings to talk about home.
After its 60 years of existence, we should perhaps stop thinking of Yugoslavia as a precariously seated Humpty-Dumpty and consider it instead as a potentially friendly country, cursed with a turbulent history. For reasons which will be examined in this book it is emphatically not, for the time being, “a stable member of the European community of nations.” But there is no intrinsic reason why one day it might not become one.
There would therefore seem to be a case for asking whether we are right to dedicate ourselves to the preservation, at any price, of the present one-party, collectivist system and, in doing so, to renounce the right to discuss among ourselves and with well-disposed Yugoslavs any possible alternative.
Has the existing Western policy helped the Yugoslavs to help themselves? And, what is more important from our point of view, has it advanced the political and strategic interests of the Western alliance? Might it not rather be argued that we would have less reason to tremble over “trouble-in-the-Balkans” if the Yugoslavs were free to elect – and where necessary to change – their political leaders? Would the Yugoslavs not have better hopes of freeing themselves from their humiliating dependence on their “friends,” if their own leaders, freed from ideological blinkers, were able to make more sensible use of the country’s untapped human and material potential? Could we not have greater confidence in Yugoslavia’s future if its children were not submitted to a compulsory atheist and Marxist form of education?
Looking further afield, have we been right to suppose that, because Yugoslavia is no longer a Soviet satellite, Tito and his successors have not done anything to forward Soviet ascendancy? Few men have studied the Communist system at such close quarters and so perceptively as the Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas, author of the seminal book Conversations with Stalin. Djilas now points to the fact that, even though the Communist movement is no longer monolithic, its aggregate strength, and its capacity to damage the West, is far stronger than it was in Stalin’s time. (3) In promoting “Movements of National Liberation” (and only anti-Western groups qualify for this title), Yugoslavia within the limits of its potential is at least as active as the USSR. Indeed it could be argued that the mere fact that one of the principal promoters of the anti-Western cause is not officially part of the Soviet empire gives it added respectability.
No Western government or opposition ever raises such questions. In most Western chancelleries and universities the whole topic is virtually taboo. “In intellectual terms,” said one independent-minded young diplomat, “Yugoslavia is a no-go area.” Though the country is full of articulate anti-Communists, who share Western views and values, these are deliberately kept at arm’s length by Western embassies and by visiting officials. A Third Secretary of one of the Western embassies commented:
“If you are expelled as persona non grata from the Soviet Union or from a satellite country, this could be a professional plus. If you were asked to leave Belgrade you would be professionally finished.”
Western willingness to underwrite the Yugoslav system and stubborn refusal to examine possible alternatives, which have now lasted for several decades, can be traced to a curious concatenation of unrelated circumstances.
First and foremost has been the readiness to recognize the present leaders as the legitimate heirs of the extraordinarily brave Partisan guerrillas. Certainly, it is difficult to think of any exploits by foot-soldiers on a comparably epic scale since 1915, when the battered remnants of the Serb army fought their way in winter through the Albanian mountains, so that the survivors who reached the Adriatic could participate in the Salonika landings and help liberate Belgrade.
Today few are old enough to remember events of 70 years ago. But this extraordinary feat, with all its horror and heroism, is convincingly recreated in Dobrica Cosic’s four-volume novel In Times of Death. (4) During the Second World War, a similar level of daredevil and superhuman endurance, shown by the Partisans, was witnessed personally by Westerners, parachuted to serve as liaison officers with Tito. Two of these, Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean and Captain William Deakin, by a curious quirk of history, happened to be personal friends of Winston Churchill. Both were young and impressionable and understandably proud of this unique opportunity of demonstrating, to themselves and to the men around them, their rare degree of personal courage in the face of continuous danger. From their arrival, both identified unreservedly with the Communist-controlled Partisans and filed uncritical accounts of what the leadership told them.
Further, Maclean by his unusual gifts as a story-teller, and Deakin, future head of St Antony’s College, Oxford, by his teaching gifts, ensured that future generations would carry on the tradition. Deakin remained the unchallenged authority on wartime Yugoslavia and his students included two men who were to rank among leading Yugoslav specialists: Dennison Rusinow, author of the generally accepted textbook The Yugoslav Experiment, (5) and Mark Wheeler, the leading Balkan expert at the London University’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies.
The wartime enthusiasts could not have known then, as we do now (see Chapter 3), that the briefs received by British liaison officers in Cairo – before they were dropped – were doctored and sieved by an intelligence service infiltrated by the Communists. Nor was it known that the policy-makers in London were being denied field-reports, coming into Cairo, from liaison officers serving with the anti-Communist Chetniks and that these tended to be far less starry-eyed about the scale and nature of Partisan operations.
The second, and, as we shall see (in Chapter 4), largely unrelated event which endeared Titoism to the Western world was the 1948 break with Stalin. This took place at the peak of the Cold War when the enemies of our enemies were automatically our friends: which indeed is the way the Yugoslavs have been seen ever since. The most pro-Titoist are perhaps the American right-wing exponents of Realpolitik. They would be inclined anyway to believe that a benevolent dictatorship was just what people as primitive as the Yugoslavs really needed.
The concept of Titoism as a bulwark against the USSR has been ably sustained by the Yugoslav Communists themselves. Tito’s blend of charm and cunning (see next chapter) enabled him to present himself as an eager but harassed friend. His followers and successors have been remarkably successful in preserving and embroidering the thesis that, unless the West gives them what they want, they may, reluctantly, find their way back into the Soviet fold.
Visiting diplomats and journalists (including myself; in earlier journalistic forays) have been regaled with reports of Soviet blandishment and threats. But in Western minds the fear of “losing” Yugoslavia has perhaps loomed too large. If the Titoists in Stalin’s time had turned back to Moscow, they would have been signing their own death warrants. In the Khrushchev era (see Chapter 4), the Russians no longer felt they needed to insist on identical “paths to socialism.” Moscow would be satisfied as long as it could be sure that, in cases where Communism itself was at risk, other Communist countries would line up with the Russians: as, after momentary hesitation, Tito did over the 1956 invasion of Hungary.
Brezhnev’s policy of detente was manifestly incompatible with any changes in the European balance of power. For the Russians it meant the maximization of exchanges and credits from the West, while limiting the expansion of Soviet power to the areas of the least resistance. The arrival of Soviet troops into Yugoslavia, even if invited by the Communist leaders and with the knowledge that Yugoslavia would be delivered without a fight, would irreparably harm East-West relations.
There are now a million Yugoslavs living temporarily in Western Europe and over half a million permanently settled in the United States: their resentment would have been powerful and highly articulate.
For the Russians, it would mean taking over an insolvent and disgruntled country, instead of sitting back as at present and allowing the Yugoslav Marxist leaders, voluntarily and free of charge, to make their own contribution to anti-Western campaigns, as happens now, in any places where the Yugoslavs have a diplomatic or economic presence.
None of these considerations surfaced. Instead, the combination of Western anti-Soviet fears and Yugoslav diplomatic ingenuity managed to convince succeeding generations of Western leaders that the only choice confronting the Yugoslavs was between the Titoist or Soviet versions of one-party Communist rule.
In this predicament, the traditionally right-wing circles – the Republicans in the US and various brands of conservatives in Western Europe – were more than willing to waive any reservations about Communist incompetence and its manifest violation of human rights which, in other parts of Eastern Europe, incurred their displeasure. (The Yugoslav record, on this issue, is not significantly different from the Comecon average.)
It is usual in the Western world that any repressive regime which is defended on the right can expect a corresponding battering on the left. But here Yugoslavia is an exception. For most left-wingers Titoism still qualifies as “progressive.” The public ownership of the means of production and verbal commitments to workers’ self-management and to the “withering away of the state” have upheld the regime’s socialist imprimatur.
This has produced a curious anomaly. The Yugoslav Communists themselves seem not to share the Western view that the Yugoslavs have to choose between Titoism or Soviet control. On the contrary, judging by public utterances, party resolutions, and the nature of recent political trials, the most dangerous enemies are those labelled “petty bourgeois” or “anarchic neo-liberals”: officialese for critics who favour a politically plural society and who share Western beliefs in an independent judiciary and independent trade unions (the second being impossible without the first). In recent times, the Communist leaders have felt themselves particularly threatened by a tentative coming together of opposition from the three most developed capitals: Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubljana.
Nor indeed is this the first Yugoslav experience of an interethnic opposition to dictatorship. Everyone knows about the perennial Serbo-Croat quarrels: what has been largely forgotten is that, during the royal dictatorship of the 1930s, the Serb democrats joined forces with the Croat Peasant Party and when its populist leader, Vladko Macek visited Belgrade, he was received by hundreds of thousands of cheering Serbs and given deafening ovations. (6)
Yet the present-day Yugoslav, who dares to protest against arbitrary rule, receives remarkably little sympathy or help from like-minded Westerners. For propaganda reasons, the Yugoslav Communists, like their Soviet counterparts, always insist that liberalizers are receiving aid and encouragement from the West. In fact this is less true in Yugoslavia than anywhere else in Eastern Europe. The Voice of America and the BBC rarely broadcast anything which might offend the Yugoslav authorities. And there is no Yugoslav service at all from the American-controlled Radio Free Europe.
Nor need the Titoists worry about the bulk of the Western press. Representatives of traditionally liberal newspapers, The Guardian and The Observer in London and The New York Times or Washington Post in the US, cherish a vision of themselves as defenders of independent thought and would not consider tying themselves to any party or orthodoxy. If they were citizens of Yugoslavia, the non-belonging itself would debar them from the media and if they persisted in repudiating the prevailing creed, they would be lucky to stay out of jail. Yet in handling Titoism, which (unlike their French and German colleagues) they normally “cover” in quick and sporadic run-arounds, they feel they are demonstrating their broad-mindedness by respecting and believing anything that the Communists tell them. Opponents of the regime are easily dismissed as reactionaries or potential terrorists.
Titoism also benefits in the West from what survives of socialist utopianism. The leading Soviet exiles – Solzhenitsyn, Bukovsky, Zinoviev, and others – however much they differ between themselves, have provided an insight into Soviet life which has sickened even the most ardent fellow-travellers. But Yugoslavia is different: the Yugoslav people are certainly better off and less oppressed than the Russians (they always have been). If they can be shown to have created a free and relatively prosperous society, there would still be a little hope left for those who believe that collectivism is not necessarily incompatible with democracy.
At first, indications to this effect were encouraging: the Communist takeover in Yugoslavia coincided with the early phases of the country’s industrial take-off period: this meant, for a time, dazzlingly rapid rates of economic growth. These were paid for, as we shall see, primarily by exploiting the peasants and by inflation rather than savings and they were prolonged by a continued influx of foreign credits.
Yet for Westerners disgusted by the blemishes of their own free enterprise society there was a desperate search for any possible alternative. And for believers in workers’ cooperatives or co-ownership, Yugoslavia seemed to be providing a fascinating pilot-plant. Few, who went to see, had the intellectual honesty of Professor Harold Lydall, who, having been deeply impressed by the success of the Mondragon Co-operative in Spain, decided to make a detailed analysis of Yugoslavia, which he had supposed “was the world’s only predominantly labour cooperative economy.” A closer look induced a reluctant confession: “In view of all the high hopes and instinctive beliefs associated with the idea of self-management, it is disagreeable to have to concede that it has turned out to be not much more than a vast public relations exercise.”
What was extraordinary was the degree to which this “public relations exercise” succeeded. Robert Shaplen came to Yugoslavia in 1983 for The New Yorker, at a time when living standards were already plummeting and when Yugoslav officials were arranging a private meeting with the Hungarians to find out why their system worked so much better. Yet he still felt able to describe the Yugoslav regime as “a true socialist middle-way” and to predict that “the Yugoslav blue-print will have considerable impact on other nations involved in comparable reform experiments.” (7)
But then, as the young representative of a big Yugoslav firm in New York once said:
“The world owes us a debt. For anyone who believes in worker control, we have shown the way not to do it.”
All discerning Yugoslavs know, of course, that the blue-print, which so much impressed The New Yorker, would never get off the printed page. Nevertheless, in the prevailing goodwill, the International Labour Office sponsored a report on Yugoslav Self-Management, written by three Yugoslav specialists, covering 200 printed pages, without once revealing that what was being described was only the theory. The practice was something different.
The Western academic world, too, is sheltered from reality. Teachers on Yugoslav affairs rely on Yugoslav officials, not only for information, but also for invitations, exchanges and sabbatical perks. One case in point is the post-graduate School of Yugoslav Studies at Bradford University. Its founder and now Professor Emeritus, Fred Singleton, is a holder of the highest Yugoslav decoration awarded to foreigners and is currently preparing a book on Yugoslav nature reserves.
In March 1983, he and the centre’s present director, John B. Allcock, who is preparing a study on the Yugoslav tourist industry, presided at a seminar entitled (misguidedly, as they later admitted): Open Socialism: A Balance Sheet of the Yugoslav Experiment. The meeting was open to all specialists on Yugoslavia and was attended, among others, by two exiled Yugoslavs: Dr Ljubo Sirc, Senior lecturer in Economics at Glasgow University, and Aleksa Djilas (son of the dissident Milovan Djilas), then preparing a D.Phil. dissertation on Croat nationalism at the London School of Economics.
With financial assistance from the Ford Foundation, three professors were flown in from Belgrade, Zagreb and Skopje. When they arrived in Bradford they found a message from their embassy in London forbidding them to talk to “class enemies.” The organizers of the “open socialism” seminar promptly accepted the offer of the Yugoslav exiles to leave by the earliest possible train. Arrangements were then made for a special meeting, at a different site, so that the visitors would not have their names listed with the prohibited scholars.
This incident illustrates a manifest violation of basic principles of academic freedom. It is merely an example of the sort of compromise that British academics accept under pressure from the Yugoslav regime.
Given this background, a newly critical look at Tito’s record and at the Yugoslavia he left behind him, must run up against adamant opposition from governments, diplomatic chancelleries, most of the academic world and the vast bulk of former journalistic colleagues: institutions which cannot be lightheartedly challenged.
Indeed Yugoslavia presents a particularly difficult problem. Whereas. a reassessment of most countries merely requires digging deeper into existing knowledge, on the Yugoslav question it is first necessary to cut through the thickets of misconceptions, created over decades by the stolid and inherited pro-Tito bias. Against the one odd Manhattan taxi-driver, who did not know that Tito had won the civil war, there are millions who know very well he ruled Yugoslavia for a remarkably long time. Further, after the 1948 breach with Stalin, Western textbooks, following the 1066 and All That tradition, identified him firmly and flatly as “a good thing.”
Nor is it just the personality of Tito which is at issue. The purpose of this book is not to point a finger at an emperor who had no clothes (a particularly inappropriate metaphor for a man who paid so much regard to uniforms and sartorial splendour). The results of my inquiry suggest that attitudes towards Titoist Yugoslavia have been shaped by no less than seven separate myths.
Like all myths, each contains a kernel of truth, but these have been so magnified and embroidered that they have become identifiable and damaging misconceptions. Nor can any of the seven be understood without some reference to their historical origins.
Here again, Yugoslavia differs from other countries. For not one of them can be understood without some allusion to its past. All countries cherish legends about their past. But, in Yugoslavia’s case, there are additional reasons why this is especially true. First, the various, incompletely integrated peoples tend to be unsure of their identity and therefore particularly anxious to go back to their roots. The result is an all-pervading nostalgia: to understand contemporary Yugoslavia it is necessary to know, for instance, that Croatia already had a kingdom of its own in the tenth century, before the Serbs emerged as a separate entity; and also to be aware that a remarkably civilized Serbian kingdom lasted from the twelfth to the end of the fourteenth century; and that it had its cradle in the province of Kosovo now inhabited mainly by Albanians.
It is relevant to current politics that Kosovo’s Albanians claim descendence from the shadowy race of Illyrians (see Shakespeare). If so, the Kosovans were there before the seventh century when the Slavs arrived. It is also necessary to know that the separate nationality of Slovenes, who occupy Yugoslavia’s north-west corner, boast a singularly long cultural tradition. It was here that the first press to print in any Slavonic language is reported to have been located, and Slovenia was the first territory of what is now Yugoslavia to be industrialized and to allow its workers to organize trade unions.
Yugoslavia’s past history, though calculated here in decades rather than in centuries, is no less vital to the present regime. “What right have the Communists to monopolize power?” I asked a young Party official in 1983. The answer was immediate: “We won the revolution.” The “we” in question must have included his grandparents. But the fact remains that the legitimacy of the present political system is based, not on elections or inheritance, but on the Partisan war. Further, it was in the course of that civil war that, according to the official history, the peoples of Yugoslavia, without a plebiscite or referendum, made their final and irrevocable decisions to live “in brotherhood and unity” within the confines of a single federation. (8)
For these reasons, though this book does not offer a chronological history of Yugoslavia, the reader must expect frequent references to Yugoslavia’s ancient and modern history.
And in the latter, whether we like it or not, we cannot shrug off Western responsibility. I am not presuming to suggest that there is any simple ready-made alternative to the policies now being followed by those who call themselves “the friends of Yugoslavia,” but who are, more precisely, the friends of the present regime and therefore, implicitly, the opponents of men and women, principally of the younger generation, who are struggling for a more open and less arbitrary society.
Certainly, after 40 years of Communist rule and Communist monopoly of information, Yugoslavia could not be easily transformed into what the West would identify as a democracy. The future of the country must depend primarily on its own people and only peripherally on outsiders.
Yet the country’s dependence on continuous Western refinancing itself imposes intrusion. One young bright banker, who has done very well out of the system, warned me that the West should be careful: “We are a young and immature country. We are liable to feel humiliated and react irrationally against any outside interference. . . .” He was, of course, not suggesting that the West should withdraw credits; just that we should go on, as before, providing blank cheques to politicians who were responsible only to their own unelected and intrinsically anti-Western party.
The answers to the Yugoslav problem are not easy: the most this analysis sets out to do is to identify the degree of Western guilt for the distress in which Yugoslavia now finds itself and so, perhaps, to encourage a radically different Western approach.
(1) S K Pavlowitch, Historical Background of the Nationality Question. Lecture to the Institute of European Defence and Strategic Studies, London 1984.
(2) M. Mackintosh, “Military Considerations of Soviet-East European Relation.” From Soviet-East European Dilemmas, ed. by K. Dawisha and Philip Hanson. London 1981.
(3) M. Djilas, Interviewed by George Urban in Stalinism, London 1982.
(4) D. Cosic, In Times of Death, Translated by Muriel Heppell, New York 1982.
(5) D. Rusinow, The Yugoslav Experiment, New York and London 1977.
(6) V. Macek, In the Struggle for Freedom, New York 1957.
(7) R. Shaplen, “Tito’s Legacy,” The New Yorker, February 1984.
(8) The Constitution of the S.F.R.Y. 1974. Basic principles, paragraph I, Published in English, New York 1976.
If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.generalmihailovich.com