Howard Fast

Tito and His People

Government of, by and for the People

With the rise of its political power and military fortunes, the Anti-Fascist Vece or committee of the People's Liberation Movement, met at Jajce in the heart of Bosnia. There, delegates from every part of Yugoslavia met. In a large hall that was formerly a gymnasium, peasant leaders and working class leaders, priests and Communists, old political leaders and young military men, sat side by side. It was fitting that they should meet there, in one of the oldest and loveliest Yugoslav towns, under the picturesque castle of old King Tvtkas.

The town had a festive air; this was free Yugoslav soil. Here was a school, a hospital, even a college hastily set up. Everywhere flags hung, most of them home-made — the American flag, the British, the Soviet flag, and the Partisan battle banner with its single five-pointed star.

Here, on December 4, 1943, Marshal Tito proclaimed a provisional democratic Yugoslav government, and disowned the present government-in-exile. The free Yugoslav radio told the world that 140 elected delegates had met in a parliament representative of free Yugoslavia. Dr. Ivan Ribar was announced as the head of this government, and General Joseph Broz (Tito) was elevated to the rank of field marshal and made chairman of a new committee for national defense.

As might be expected, the Yugoslav government-in-exile screamed with rage, disowned Tito and the Liberation Front, and hysterically told the world that they were still the legal rulers of Yugoslavia. By this time, however, both Britain and the United States were too weary to listen.

Tito and his men were killing Germans; the Partisans had driven the enemy from two-thirds of the land and they had proved that the people of Yugoslavia supported them.

This conference at Jajce, in the heart of Bosnia announced to the world over the free Yugoslav radio the conclusion it had come to about a federated organization of Yugoslavia. A Federated Yugoslavia "On the basis of the right of all nations to self-determination, including their separation from or union with other nations, and in keeping with the true will of all the peoples of Yugoslavia, tested during the three years of the common people's liberation struggle and cemented in an indissoluble fraternity of the peoples of Yugoslavia, the Anti-fascist Vece for the peoples of Yugoslavia has reached the following decisions:

"1. The peoples of Yugoslavia, who never have and do not now recognize the division of Yugoslavia into separate parts by the fascist imperialists, have proved in the common armed struggle their firm will to remain united (as citizens of a common country) in Yugoslavia.

"2. To guarantee a real sovereignty to each of the Yugoslav peoples and to make sure that Yugoslavia is no longer an arena for the activities of any reactionary clique, the federative principle, ensuring full equality to all the people of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Hezrogovina, will be adopted.

"3. The federative organization of Yugoslavia will be based on enjoyment of the fullest democratic rights by the people. Indeed it is to be noted that even now, while the war for liberation is going on, organs (such as local committees and regional assemblies) through which the people can exercise power have been set up in various parts of Yugoslavia.... Final power is vested in the Central Vece or People's Assembly of Yugoslavia, the supreme legislative and executive authority and the supreme representative of the sovereign people and states of Yugoslavia, considered as one country.

"4. The national minorities of Yugoslavia are guaranteed all their rights.

"5. These decisions, dated November 29, 1943, town of Jajce, are to go into effect immediately."

After twenty-five years of political warfare within Yugoslavia and three years of bitter war, the people have at last attained political maturity.

The men composing the government and the committees belong to various groups and parties and it is constituted as follows: The Independent Democratic Party, the Croatian Peasant Party, the Democratic Party of Serbia, the Slovenian Catholic Popular Party, the Agrarian Party, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, the Christian Socialist Party and many others without party ties.

As the Serbs are numerically the largest group in the country, they are in the majority in both government and committee. Formerly, however, the Serbs from Serbia and particularly Serbs who represented the ruling class from Belgrade were in the greatest majority but they didn't represent the workers and farmers; rather, they represented the vested interests of the country.

In November, 1943, the Provisional Government and the anti-fascist committee were reconstructed to make them more representative.

The People's government has 17 members, made up as follows: seven Serbs, five Croats, four Slovenes and one Moslem. This reflects the proportion of national groups in Yugoslavia.

The anti-fascist committee is made up of 64 members, 27 Serbs, 20 Croats, 11 Slovenes, 4 Macedonians, 2 Moslems.

A vice-president of the Presidium of the anti-fascist Council of National Liberation is a Serbian Jew by the name of Mosha Piyade. He is a famous journalist and painter from Belgrade and languished in Yugoslav prisons for 14 years because of his participation in the anti-fascist movement of that country. This perhaps, better than anything else, shows just how all embracing is the present democratic government of Yugoslavia.

The people of Yugoslavia were forced to work out their own salvation on the field of battle within earshot of roaring guns and planes while the government-in-exile, safe in London and Cairo, did not help the people at home evolve unity, resist the enemy and work out a plan for democratic government.

A Democratic Constitution Finally, in its heroic little capital, Jajce, the program for a full democracy was finally worked out and in its completed form held the following important points:

"1. The Anti-Fascist Vece for the people's liberation of Yugoslavia should be transformed into the supreme legislative and executive body and become the highest and sole representative of the sovereignty of the Yugoslav peoples. The anti-Fascist Vece, endowed with all the attributes of a people's government, should constitute a national committee for the liberation of Yugoslavia. With the help of the people the Anti-Fascist Vece will carry out its executive functions.

"2. The treacherous Yugoslav government must be deprived of all its rights as the legitimate government of Yugoslavia — in particular of the right to represent the peoples of Yugoslavia.

"3. All international agreements concluded and all obligations undertaken by the government-in-exile on behalf of Yugoslavia must be reconsidered with a view to correcting or approving them. No international agreements or obligations concluded by the so-called Yugoslav government-in-exile will be recognized.

"4. As a nation, Yugoslavia is founded on a democratic and federative principle and champions equal rights for all peoples."

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