From Fourth International, vol.3 No.8, August 1942, pp.254-255.
Transcribed, Edited & Formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for the ETOL.
Resistance to the German armies of occupation in Europe has unquestionably reached its highest form so far in Yugoslavia where it has become half revolt, half war. The government-in-exile claims to be leading it, but that is at least doubtful.
It is important to understand that Yugoslavia, established at Versailles in 1919, had to start building an army from scratch. Although Yugoslavia was nominally a federation of Serbs, Croats and Slovene, the Serbian ruling class from the first ruthlessly oppressed the other nationalities. A predominantly agricultural land, impoverished by a series of wars, Serbia had no native aristocracy – as recently as 1865 the founder of the present dynasty was a swineherd in the mountains of Montenegro. The upper classes centered mainly around the royal court and a few pioneer capitalists representing native and foreign interests. Under these conditions the officer caste for the new army had to be recruited chiefly among the peasants. Most of the officers remained keenly suspicious of the court camarilla. The officers corps was known to be deeply infected with radical ideas – the only one in Europe, perhaps in the entire world.
The present “army of Yugoslav patriots” is in reality composed of two main elements:
This second grouping appears to be led chiefly by radical young intelligentsia, who emerged only recently and are still rooted in the people; the same young men and women who before the war made the Belgrade and Zagreb universities strongholds of Communism and who, very much like their Russian prototypes of pre-revolutionary days, have stood in the forefront of the fight against dictatorship and oppression ever since the founding of the country.
It is notable that Serbian resistance has already attracted active sympathy in other countries. The Hungarian government recently announced arrests of an important group in the Hungarian army that was transmitting war materials and information to the Serbian fighters. Anti-Nazi Germans are also reported fighting with the Serbians against the German and Italian armies; some units are commanded by veterans of the Spanish civil war.
The bourgeois press, which would like to portray the Yugoslav struggle as purely one in favor of the United Nations, nevertheless recently reported the establishment of a Soviet regime in the mountains of Montenegro under the leadership of the former professor of history at Belgrade University, the well-known progressive Dr. Slobodan Jovanovitch. Clashes between “Communists” and Chetniks have been admitted several times, followed by reports of truces.
This conflict seems to have grown recently. On July 18 a dispatch from Turkey announced that “General Mikhailovitch had launched a campaign against Communist partisan bands accused of marauding Serbian and Bosnian villages in the territory controlled by the loyal Yugoslav armies.” Shortly after, the Communist partisan bands were called “bandits and looters”; this was followed by a rather cryptic dispatch that General Mikhailovitch had begun anti-communist repressions “following assurances from Moscow that the partisans were operating independently and without the authorization of the Soviet.” Had it been really a question of “bandits and looters” Mikhailovitch would scarcely have asked for authorization from Moscow to proceed against them.
The real class character of the conflicting forces is clear. The “Communist” partisan bands represent the poor elements of the villages, while the Chetniks are the elements in the villages approximating Kulaks. With the destruction of the Yugoslav state the class struggle between the two develops, wherever the German oppression is even slightly lifted by Serbian resistance. As could be expected, Stalin allowed, if not suggested the repressions launched by Milchailovitch against the poor peasant bands.
The Serbian movement shows us, though in limited scope, the revolutionary implications of the movement of resistance against the Nazis in the occupied countries. As a purely national struggle it has no independent value amid the battle of the imperialist giants. But it plays its part, in Lenin’s words of 1916 about the national movements of that time, “as one of the ferments, one of the bacilli, which help the real power against imperialism to come to the scene, namely the socialist proletariat.”
A comrade returning from England brings much interesting information about the leftward development of the workers and the consequent growth of the Trotskyist movement. One of the most significant facts he reports is the “loosening up” of the British army. Soldiers are participating in political life, both in the army and when on furlough, in a manner impossible two years ago.
The soldiers have begun to develop civil rights for themselves on a considerable scale. Political study groups and discussions in barracks and messroom, are quite common. Through the study classes quite a few soldiers have learned the revolutionary point of view and accepted it. Bundles of the Socialist Appeal are sent by mail regularly to soldiers. In certain situations comrades are publicly known as Trotskyists in their regiments. One case in particular of which the British comrades are very proud is that of a former scholar known in his regiment affectionately as the “Red Professor” and openly the revolutionary leader and idol of the regiment.
On furlough a number of soldiers enthusiastically participated in a Trotskyist May Day rally in Hyde Park. Soldiers as a matter of course buy socialist literature from sellers on the streets.
It must be understood that this situation in the British army is a reflection of the prevailing leftward turn of the great masses and would be impossible without it.
* * * *
The following paragraphs are from a letter just received from a member of the Workers International League, a group adhering to the program of the Fourth International:
“Progress in all fields continues. The Socialist Appeal sales are being extended – mainly in the industrial field. The paper has had a wonderful reception from the miners – some of whom (all leading elements) we are bringing into our organization. Our position in some of the leading factories is very good.”
A few scant words have arrived, but heartening in their implications. A comrade from another country arrived in one of the principal cities and made contact with the party of the Fourth International of India. Like the Lanka Sama Samaja of Ceylon (the Ceylonese Socialist Party, section of the Fourth International), the Indian party has been driven underground by the British imperialists. But it lives and functions as the moment arrives for its great historic task of providing the Indian independence movement with a revolutionary socialist program.
The latest resolution of the All-India Congress declares that “all power belongs to the workers and peasants.” For Gandhi and Nehru this is no more than bait to keep the masses within the confines of bourgeois leadership. It is the task of the Trotskyists of India to turn those words into reality.
Amid the bestial repressions of the Nazi occupation, the Trotskyists of Poland are growing into a major force of the Polish and Jewish proletariat. That is the inspiring fact reported in a letter received by The Militant (published August 1) from a German underground worker who was recently in Poland.
He reports a conversation with two Polish socialists, who declared that it would not take long before the forces of the Polish Socialist Party would unite with the Trotskyists. “The Trotskyists,” they said, “still believe that the former nationalist tendencies rule our party. But these tendencies died – along with the Polish Republic. We have broken completely with the old (nationalist) school of Dasynski.”
The German undergroundworker adds:
“The Trotskyists wield a strong influence on the workers of Poland. And they too believe that the time is nigh when they will be united with the Polish socialists who support completely a Soviet republic in Poland.”
He was told by the two Polish socialists:
“When the proper moment comes, we will have a government which will be elected by the Polish and Jewish proletariat. And this will be a Soviet government – without the errors made in Russia.”
The letter also verifies the fact that the groups resisting the Nazis in Poland have no association whatsoever with the Polish government-in-exile in London, and likewise that the Polish socialists have no connection with the pro-British Polish “socialists” who in London assume to speak for the Polish proletariat.
When the writer returned to Germany and conveyed to the League of Revolutionary Socialists of Germany the greetings of the Polish comrades, a collection was sent to the Polish revolutionists.
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Last updated on 21.8.2008