Howard Fast

Tito and His People

Freedom is their Destination

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.


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