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Tito and his People (9)


The last "legal" Yugoslav government was presided over by the pro-fascist Stoyaclinovich. This government from a parliamentary point of view was illegal because it was a continuation from King Alexander's coup d'etat of 1929. This government was overthrown in 1939 by Cvetkovich and in 1941, a pro-Allied military coup d'etat established a government under the presidency of General Simovich.

It was the latter's government that went into exile; after many changes it became the government-in-exile headed by Bozidar Poutrich, who in turn was just recently ousted by King Peter of Yugoslavia in an attempt to win favor with Marshal Tito.

As we have seen, Mikhailovich at first loudly proclaimed his intention to resist the Germans and their Serbian and Croatian satellites. This aroused a measure of popular enthusiasm. But his subsequent action lost him the support of the people of Yugoslavia, whose sympathies and active support were soon transferred to the democratic movement, headed by Marshal Tito.

The Yugoslav government-in-exile stubbornly refused to meet the changing situation realistically. It pursued its policy of recognizing and backing its Minister of War, General Mikhailovich, in spite of his inactivity and his treasonable connections and collaboration with the Axis and her satellites.

Not only has that government failed the people at home by its obvious support of pro-fascist elements, but in three years of exile, it failed to bring forth any concrete plans for post-war Yugoslav policy and after all this time it was only able to come forth with this draft:

"True, after the experience of the past twenty odd years, many people consider it impossible to restore Yugoslavia on the basis of a complete ethnic unity of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. But if experience has demonstrated that there are a Serb nationalism, a Croat nationalism and a Slovene nationalism which must be taken into account, it does not follow that Yugoslavia must be dismembered in order to establish a Serb state, a Croat state and a Slovene state in its place.

"The following formula was once used by a Serb; a powerful Serbia in a powerful Yugoslavia would mean that there could be neither a powerful Serbia without a powerful Yugoslavia nor a powerful Yugoslavia without a powerful Serbia.

This same formula might equally well be used in respect of Croatia and Slovenia."

After three years of exile these muddled men in London and Cairo still don't know what they stand for. They want a separate greater Serbia, a Serbian-ruled Yugoslavia, a federal Yugoslavia, all at the same time.

The pan-Serbs are the most powerful group in exile, dominated by a handful of militarists who hold the key positions in the government.

These men control the Yugoslav diplomatic personnel, four-fifths of whom had formerly served the pro-Axis regimes that ruled like despots in the Yugoslavia of old.

They keep stirring up all the old hatreds between the Serbs and the Croats. They accept and laud the Serbian "Lava!," Milan Nedich who, as they say, is after all a Serb. As the Fortune Magazine correspondent Stoyan Pribechvich put it: "Holding in their hands the Yugoslav people's mandate of unity and fraternity, these chauvinists swagger into the future, spellbound by the hatreds of the past, like those damned souls in Dante's inferno who marched forward with their heads planted backwards."

What Tom Paine said so many years ago may well be said of the royal government-in-exile: "All power exercised over a nation must have some beginning. It must be either delegated or assumed. There are no other sources. All delegated power is trust and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either."

And while the government-in-exile could not submerge its differences, within Yugoslavia the People's Liberation Movement was gaining in strength everywhere.

In Slovenia, in Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Dalmatia and in Macedonia Tito's movement was developing a program to unify the country on a democratic basis.


After three years of war, Tito is fifty years old. His soft, wavy hair is spotted with grey, a mark of esteem left on many men who languished in Yugoslav jails, their only crimes being that of disagreeing with the tyrants who infested and ruled their country

This shock of grey hair covers a head encasing a brain with a dream. This, the self-same dream that George Washington had, that William Lyon MacKenzie had, that Lenin had, and that all the other freedom fighters of history had – a dream of men free from the tyrant's yoke.

Correspondents who have seen him, describe Tito as being of no more than medium height, with broad shoulders and sturdy legs, his full face strong, determined, like that of a halfback who aims to hold the line. His mouth continually holds a drooping cigarette, for he likes to concentrate that way.

He is married to a lovely Slovenian woman who is leader of the Women's Anti-Fascist Council. She is an intelligent person and is a graduate of the University of Zagreb. She is his second wife, his first wife, a Russian, died some years ago.

His only son is fighting with the Soviet Army, having volunteered for service there at the age of 16. Today he is a People's Hero, the highest of military honors in that country. He was awarded this distinction in the Battle of Moscow, where he lost an arm in the defense of the city.

Marshal Tito wears a simple gray-green uniform with only the golden laurel leaves on the lapels, indicating that he is a Marshal of Yugoslavia.

He speaks English, a somewhat broken, faltering English. Besides his native language, Tito also speaks perfect German, Czech, Khirgisian, which is a central Asia Mongolian tongue. He knows the Russian classic literature well. Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities" is his most popular English work. Every morning he reads despatches and confers with his Chief of Staff, Arsa Yovanovich. He listens to all broadcasts from London and Moscow and correspondents were surprised to find him get up and leave the dinner table in the middle of a course to hear the eight p.m. BBC broadcast to Europe. Tito never stays in his headquarters for any length of time. As a rule he is on the move. There was a time when he had to march everywhere on foot. Now he could ride in automobiles, but he prefers to ride horseback instead.

His favorite steed is Mitsa, which once belonged to the pre-war Governor of Croatia. This horse came to Tito in a strange way.

Apparently a group of Croatian Ustachi fascists plundered the governor's stables. The Partisans later met these bandits in combat and after wiping out the unit, took their horses and equipment away; Mitsa was among them and today has the honor of carrying the Liberator of Yugoslavia on its back. Another favorite form of travel that Tito enjoys is a Jeep, given to him by General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, Allied Commander in Chief in the Mediterranean, as a gift on behalf of all the Allies.

Tito is combating illiteracy as he fights. He has organized state schools for grown-ups and attendance is compulsory when his people are not fighting. A state theatre was started and actors tour the liberated areas to bring moments of relaxation and enjoyment to his fighting men.

Many people are a little worried and uneasy when they hear that men and women fight side by side in the same unit. It is interesting to note therefore, that the Army of Liberation guards morals of the people like it guards ammunition caches. Drinking is strictly taboo. In the early days drunkenness was punishable by death, although today this is no longer a capital offense. In most cases, whole families, husband, wife and children fight side by side.

Tito intends to continue the fight against the Germans even after Yugoslavia is liberated, until the total defeat of Hitler.

Perhaps Tito's greatest success as a military man lies in his political program, a program that is so all-embracing as to include every religious and political group within Yugoslavia.

It is no wonder that everywhere in occupied Yugoslavia, posters appear: Wanted: Tito! Dead or Alive! It is also no wonder that not one Partisan has betrayed him in spite of the huge rewards offered, for they know, these men and women, who fight under his command, that without Tito there can be no life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in their native land.


The Yugoslav government-in-exile is virtually a government without a country or following. Bogdan Radista, a prominent Yugoslav formerly with the press section of the Yugoslav government-in-exile, resigning early in 1944 in protest against that government's pro-Axis policies, says:

"The slogan of the Partisans is 'Death to Fascism! – Liberty for the People!' Their leaders have given them a democratic goal in a country which has never really enjoyed democracy; and, equally important, they look forward to a Yugoslav nation in which the ancient feud between Serb and Croat, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Serb, will be liquidated and once and for all will arise a federation of culturally autonomous states administered by a popular government based on equality and mutual respect."

Mikhailovich, by way of contrast to Tito, symbolizes the power of Serbia alone and represents within Serbia that small clique of wealthy families who, for generations, have governed in their own interests. The struggle between Chetnik and Partisans is, in short, a civil war involving separatism vs. federation and oligarchy vs. democracy.

Writing in The Nation, January 29, 1944, Bogdan Radista put into words what is perhaps the best summary of the struggle that has been going on:

"The old Yugoslavia disappeared on the battlefield and a new one has arisen – a federation based on political, religious and social equality. With this Yugoslavia the present government-in-exile has nothing in common. That government serves only to stimulate among the people it professes to serve, the fear that after the war, it will attempt to restore the old order with its Chetnik gendarmes and political tyrants, bent on avenging themselves on an entire population. If this government succeeds in returning, it will arrive as one leader told me, 'with bread in one hand and tanks in the other.'

"Should that attempt be made, or should Mikhailovich try to impose his will on the free government of the Partisans, the effort will fail after a useless and bloody civil war. Because the Partisans have given the common people of Yugoslavia a vision which has already enabled them to work miracles against terrible odds and among the physical ruins of their country, they have rebuilt their scattered armies and astonished the world with their spirit of unity, self-discipline and enormous courage. As one humble worker, I feel that my support belongs to them because on their banners rests the hope of my country."

So speaks a former leader of the Yugoslav government-in-exile. He witnessed at first hand the behaviour of this government, and after trying his best to bring about a change in the Yugoslav government-in-exile, left in disgust and gave his support to the Partisan forces of Marshal Tito.

When those men supporting Mikhailovich today because of his anti-Communist position, realize that the Communists in Yugoslavia are fighting a patriotic war of resistance against their common foe, and not merely struggling for politically advantageous positions, unity may yet be affected between these two groups.

King Peter now realizes that the people within Yugoslavia are united around Marshal Tito and his democratic government. In order to save face with the Yugoslav people he has already made, and probably will continue to make, overtures to Marshal Tito, who is most anxious to win over and unite with anyone willing to fight against Hitlerism. General Mikhailovich has already been dismissed as Minister of War. Also dismissed was Dr. Constantin Fotich, for the past nine years Yugoslavia's representative in the United States. As a Serb adherent of General Mikhailovich, Dr. Fotich invented news to poison the United States against Tito. Probably other heads will fall in King Peter's attempt to gain Marshal Tito's favor.

A ray of hope comes from this embattled little country, situated so strategically in the heart of Hitler's Europe, a country that is liberating its people and freeing its land of the Nazi locusts that overran it but could not conquer it.

As we have seen, the Yugoslav Army of Liberation is made up of so many diversified political, national and religious elements – Communists and non-Communists, Serbians, Croatians, Slovenians, yes, and inter-mingled also with freedom-loving Germans, Albanians, Greeks and Italians, Catholics, Jews and Moslems, casting aside their: differences so that a unity of purpose may be consummated.

We too are fighting against fascism magnificently and heroically. Our men on every front are distinguishing themselves and bringing honor and pride to our country.

Yet there is a grave disunity at home that tends to rear its ugly head from time to time, that causes the heart of democracy to skip many a beat.

In America we still find the hatred for the Negro on the rampage, as are other hatreds having the time of their lives. A virtual field day at a time when our hatred should be focussed in one direction.

In Canada the cleavage between French Canada and English Canada is growing ever wider. Anti-Semitism is on the rampage and the "hatelers" are-footloose and fancy free.

Ilya Ehrenburg, that brilliant Soviet writer, once said: "War without hate is like co-habitation without love." But Ehrenburg did not mean hatred of one member of the Allied Nations against the other. Rather, he meant hatred of all of us against the enemy.

Yugoslavia will be free because they have overthrown all the attempts of Hitler's propaganda machine to divide the country on its old hatreds. We can lose our freedom here if we allow this self-same propaganda to divide us.

Today in Yugoslavia, the war goes on. The front stretches over 400 miles from the German border in the north to Albania in the south, and along this front more than 250,000 of the Partisan army battle the German division; some of the few remaining Panzers so sorely needed on the Russian front, assault troops, badly wanted in Italy, and seasoned Wehrmacht fighting men whom Adolf Hitler would dearly prize on the French coast.

Here in the grim mountains, in the deep forests and on the wooded hills, the battle goes on day and night.

Here men fight for the dignity and freedom of all people. Here Communists and non-Communists stand shoulder to shoulder, enacting together one of the most glorious and courageous dramas the world has ever seen, and leading them is a man of such stature as the storied heroes of old, Josip Broz Tito.

From Russia's mighty, thundering army; from our own forces attacking so valiantly all along the coast of Hitler's Europe, and from Yugoslavia, can be heard the song of freedom stirring in the hearts of fighting men that will spread throughout Hitler's Europe like a wildfire. This song of freedom will engulf the hearts of all men on that hate-infested continent till the unified chorus of free men will drown the thunder of madmen's guns, and soothe the seared hearts and souls, and fire the spirits of the millions of men yet in chains, to freedom, victory and a lasting peace.