Howard Fast

Tito and His People

The Government in Exile

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.

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