The Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia is a product of the war of national liberation, One is impressed by marked differences between Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia and the differences are almost entirely the result of the different experiences of the two countries during the war. Yugoslavia suffered invasion by Italian and German armies. Italian Fascists and German Nazis wrought terror and devastation upon the people and the country. The destruction of towns, villages, railway structures and rolling stock was enormous.
A million seven hundred thousand of the people of Yugoslavia were killed. I, along with Bill Foster, visited what had been a concentration camp a few miles from Belgrade. In this camp alone 250,000 men and women accused of suspected for membership in or aid to the Partisan movement had been murdered. We were shown the “exicution grove” to which the prisoners marked out for destruction were taken each day to be machine-gunned into big open pits dug the day before by other prisoners.
The German troops and their quisling Yugoslav servants indulged in shameful vandalism as well as brutal cruelty. Entire villages were systematically destroyed by shell fire of by flames merely on the charge that men from there were fighting in the partisan forces or that somebody in the village was aiding the partisans. Sometimes entire families were wiped out to make sure of getting one member suspected of being a partisan. Comrade Kovachevich took me up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Mount Khavala one day; even that had not been immune. The memorial is a dignified and striking work of art, built of hard black granite. At each of the two entrances to the tomb itself there is posted a symbolic guard of honor composed of twelve-foot figures hewn out of the same black granite and beautifully chiselled to represent at the one entrance, Serbia a, Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia, and at the other entrance, Macedonia, Herzegovina, Bosnia and Dalmatia. They are the work of the famous sculptor Mestrovic. I should mention that a statue of “Mother of Prayer” by the same sculptor stands in the Ontario Art Gallery. The tomb has no possible military value and the fact that it could not have been struck by shells intended for another target is obvious by its remoteness. Its location is beautiful--from it one can see the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers within which Belgrade is nestled--but that is all. Yet the tomb was shelled mercilessly. Fortunately, none of te figures within the entrances was damaged but the outer walls of the tomb and the wall surrounding the memorial as a whole are severely battered. Repair work was just being started while I was there.
But neither vandalism upon their villages and monuments, not the threat of physical brutality against their persons, daunted the Yugoslav people. The Germans, Italians and their hated Yugoslav quislings destroyed entire families--but other families enrolled to take their place in the partisan armies. In hundreds of villages the entire population enrolled en masses in the partisan armies, sometimes firming a unit named after their own village. These men and women knew no quarter in the war, and they knew no possible end to it except victory, by which they would regain their farms, their rights to live freely as nations and to govern themselves freely as they choose.
I am not exaggerating. In Yugoslavia I was able to see and study the terrible experiences of its people during the war, as well as their post-war hopes and desires, the more intimately because, in addition to the splendid comrades whom I had met before as fellow delegates at conferences of in Spain I had the help, as translators and companions, of Canadians who landed behind the lines on Yugoslavia by parachute during the war. Some of these comrades are continuing their service in struggle for the new democracy. Not all of them: some are back in the working class struggle in Canada; and some, like Comrade Paul Stickman, sleep beneath the warm earth of their native land. Among those who stayed to help build the new Yugoslavia I was lucky to meet Bob Prpich. Bob is married now. Rosa, his charming wife, was an active partisan who by active service won her commission in a combat unit, and is now a full colonel.
Speaking of women in the partisan armies, I should mention that the wife of the Prime Minister of Serbia was one of a family of six girls--all six of whom were in combat units of the partisans. Consider the record of the family of one of our comrades who went from Canada, Nick Kovachevich. He, like Tito and so many other leaders of the Yugoslav workers and peasants had been forced to flee the country to escape Alexander’s reactionary police dragnet. His father and mother and other members of his family continued their support of the struggle for freedom. Nick’s brother Sava became a leader of the peasants in his locality, guiding them and teaching them throughout the bitter years of monarchist reaction.
When the people of Montenegro started to organize their partisan units to resist the invaders and their quisling tools, the Kovachevich family did their part. Nick’s father, despite his age, promptly enrolled with the partisans. Nick’s two brothers, his wife (who did not know that Nick himself was training in far-away Canada to parachute into Montenegro) and his two sons, the wife of one of the other brothers, and Nick’s daughter who had been a baby when he was compelled to flee the country, were all in combat units of the partisan armies. The mother, Johanna Kovachevich, 75 years old, was left in the village to cultivate the farm and care for all the grandchildren who were too young to fight.
Her youngest son, Sava Kovachevich became known as the Chapayev of Yugoslavia. The name Kovachevich became synonymous with deathless national resietance. Denounced by a quisling and searched out by fascist troops Johanna Kovachevich, then aged 77, was arrested as a hostage and thrown into a concentration camp for partisans along with the babies left in her care. A prominent Yugoslav quisling, upon whom Hitler and the King had each bestowed the title of General, went to her in the camp. In reply to his insinuation that her life and the lives of the children depended upon her denouncing “the devils she had borne,” the old lady inspired every imprisoned partisan by declaring bluntly, with simple pride: “You cannot frighten me because the sons I bore are patriots and heroes, their names will be honored throughout Yugoslavia when yours will have become a curse.”
When the old lady was eventually set free from the concentration camp, Nick’s wife visited her. The old lady looked at her and asked, “Is it true that Sava is dead?” The daughter-in-law nodded silently. “And my husband?” The daughter-in-law nodded again. “Tell me,” said Johanna, and the daughter-in-law told her sadly that her husband and Sava, her other son, and one of Nick’s sons had all been killed in action. The old lady, then nearing 80 years of age, looked straight in front in silence for a few moments, then lifting her head and looking straight at her daughter-in-law she said simply: “But we are free!” When Comrade Nick Kivachevich introduced me to his heroic mother, I felt both honored and humble. This dignified old peasant lady cannot read of write, but she has never wavered in her devotion to the people’s cause and her confidence in their eventual victory under the leadership of the working class: that’ she so richly deserves the decoration that she wears--the highest bestowed in Yugoslavia.
By such unmeasured heroism and sacrifice the people of Yugoslavia compelled the Nazi high command to keep three-quarters of a million troops in that country, thereby contributing substantially to military victory. Five major offensives were organized against the Partisans by the Nazi high command in efforts to wipe out organized democratic resistance within the country. Each offensive inflicted new destruction upon the country, new terrors upon the people and a heavy toll of life among the organized partisans, but each failed. The Partisans, hardened and tempered in their struggle against the invaders, emerged from each offensive more deeply rooted among the people. In bitter unyielding struggle the Partisans built up their forces, developed brilliant military leadership, and transformed themselves form scattered bands of guerrilla fighters into national armies and finally into the powerful People’s national Liberation Army of Yugoslavia.
The organizing and directing force in the ranks of the partisans and the masses of the people was the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. The Party led the struggle to unite in liberating all democratic freedom-loving people of the nations which constitute the Southern Slavs. In Yugoslavia, as elsewhere, the struggle against Nazi occupation was and had to be simultaneously a struggle ageist the financier, landlords and politicians who collaborated with the representatives of Mussolini and Hitler. In Yugoslavia this part of the liberation struggle was earlier and more openly a large-scale military struggle than in any other part of the occupied countries The line between the people who wanted Yugoslavia to be free and those who were allied or collaborating with reactionary interested in one or other of the great powers was sharp. As Boris Kidrich, Minister of Industrialization, said to me: “Our revolution took place in the course of an implacable struggle against foreign invaders who occupied our country, partly in collaboration with and partly due to the misrule and cowardice of the old ruling classes.”
The old ruling classes had been in the service of imperialist interests before the war. The royal family, and the clique of aristocrats, industrialists and bankers most closely associated with it, had been, for decades concerned mainly with amassing personal fortunes by their hangers-on fled the country at the beginning of the war; those who did not flee the country joined the invaders. When the war ended the old ruling classes, from the king downward, had lost not only the power but every pretence of moral right to come back to Yugoslavia and re-establish their criminal misrule. Thus the Peopl’s Authority, which had been developed in the liberated areas during the war was over and, through the organs that they had already established the people of Yugoslavia were able to determine freely the immediate fundamental questions of post-war national organization and reconstruction.
Developments and experiences during the war exerted an influence upon the decisions made, It has been imperative to press the effort to reorganize the national economy in the midst of the war. The Peopl’s Authorities had developed energetic campaigns to raise production and to stamp out the black market as an essential part of the fight for national freedom. In the process a large part of the national economy has resumed operation under governmental direction and control. It was in fact but the codification of the property relationships and forms of management which were already operating when the elected National Constituent Assembly wrote the following fundamental laws into the constitution:
Chapter 4: Social Economic Organization
“In order to protect the vital interests of the people, to further the people’s prosperity and the right use of all economic potentialities and forces, the state and co-operative sectors, while achieving a general control over the private economic sector.
In carrying out the general economic plan and economic control, the state relies on the co-operation of syndicalist organizations of workmen and employees and other organizations of the working people.
Private property and private initiative in economy are guaranteed.
The inheritance of private property is guaranteed. The right of inheritance is regulated by law.
No person is permitted top use the right of private property to the detriment of the people’s community.
The existence or private monopolist organizations such as cartels, syndicates, trusts and similar organizations created for the purpose of dictating prices, monopolizing the market and damaging the interests of the national economy is forbidden.
The land belongs to those who cultivate it.
There can be no large land-holdings in private hands on any basis shatsoever.”(1)
All mineral and other wealth underground, the waters, including mineral and medicinal waters, the sources of natural power, the means of rail and air transport, the posts, telegraphs, telephones and broadcasting facilities, the industrial undertakings and power plants, the banks and other financial and commercial institutions and trading operations other than retail trade and petty commerce are nationalized and operation of them is directed by the public authorities to serve the needs of the people. Similarly it was a direct continuation of the forms and methods of management and administration which had been developed during the war when the Constituent Assembly decided that management and direction of the nation’s economic life must be on the same level as its ownership, i.e., under the control of the People’s Authorities: municipal, provincial, national or federal.
In the preparation of legislation which bears directly upon workers’ interests, the Central Council of Trade Unions (of the national Council if the legislation is one of the National Parliaments) participates as a body in study of the draft proposals and by officially submitting its own criticisms or amendments.
A new federal system of social security legislation has already been enacted guaranteeing the working people of Yugoslavia complete social security. Operation of the social security machinery is shared in by the organized workers through their own organizations. The law guarantees sex equality in all spheres of economic, educational, cultural or other professional activity, the right to work of maintenance, equal pay for equal work, vacations with pay. Old age pensions are payable at the age of fifty-five. There is no means test. The law provides that married couples who qualify shall each receive the full pension. The Yugoslav trade unions are affiliated with the W.F.T.U. At the conclusion of the three-hour enumeration of such achievements the General Secretary of the National Council of the Untied Trade Unions of Workers and Employees said to me simply: “In general, Comrade Buck, the situation of the working people is very much improved but we need a great deal more yet and we are aiming to improve our situation a further 100 per cent. through the Five Year Plan.”
Yugoslavia’s Five Year Plan is the first stage of an audacious long-term project for the complete industrialization of that country. It was worked out on the basis of known natural resources and productive capacity.
The general plan for all Yugoslavia combines within itself each of the five year plans worked out to provide for concentrated effort to speed up industrial development in these sections of the country where economic development is particularly weak, with the aim of “levelling up” the degree if industrialization in each of the national republics.
The Minister for Industrialization explained to me some of the special features of the economic basis from which the plan has to start and some of the features which provide big possibilities for development. He pointed out that old Yugoslavia was one of what may be termed the “middle” industrial countries of Europe. Industrially it was a land of contrasts. Rich mineral resources were exploited by foreign capital, in some cases by very modern methods, in others by methods that were almost primitive. Such secondary industries as were developed also revealed marked contrast between modern plants operated largely for absentee owners and others using almost primitive production techniques. Supplemented by certain important additions to machine tool and similar equipment, the existing forces of production, even after the terrible destruction wrought during the war, will be an adequate basis for the industrialization of the country, given the hydro-electrical power development which is one of the primary targets of the plan.
The first Five Year Plan is aimed to expand heavy industry so that Yugoslavia can produce her own means of production. It includes plans for several large undertakings, including the building of a big hydro-electric power plant and an aluminium refinery close to the richest bauxite deposits in Europe.
The targets set in the field of power development and heavy industry are specific and limited. In addition, the plan provides for the tremendous expansion of production of consumers’ goods and there the only limit is to be physical capacity.
Each industry works out the details of implementing the plan. Big enterprises have their specific targets already established and socialist competition, between sections of industry, between groups of workers, and between enterprises is in full swing. All such socialist workers or individuals who excel are very substantial. Every increase in production is paid for directly in the proportion that it constitutes advance from the average 1946 base to the target set for December 1951.
Yugoslavia’s agriculture has not been collectivized but very far reaching reforms have been carried through. In conformity with the fundamental law written into the Constitution “the land belongs to those who cultivate it,” all the great estates have been broken up and the land divided among the peasants. Special governmental measures are in operation to assist poor peasants, particularly those with small of medium-sized farms. For these, credit is available at very low rates of interest and they benefit by substantial tax exemptions.
To help develop efficient methods of cultivation and increased productivity the government has established tractor and implement stations to serve the farmers. Several hundred such stations are already in operation--their number is limited only by the limited possibility of buying tractors and other agricultural machinery from the United States and Canada.
The main channel through which the peasants are drawn into active participation is the campaign to carry through the Five Year Plan in the co-operative movement. Village co-operatives are the organizations through which the peasants, collectively sell their products and buy manufactured of imported goods. Furthermore, to an increasing extent the village co-operatives are taking over the management and operation of the local production, of which there is a great deal in Yugoslavia. Thus, in two hundred and fifty villages already, soap, malt, beer, tanned hides, shoes, and a score or other products to fill the immediate needs of the peasants are produced by the village co-operatives. The People’s Authorities are doing everything possible to help that development. In this there is illustrated both the change in the role of the co-operatives in Yugoslavia and the basis for hope that they will become very important features of a new type in the building of socialist society.
In old Yugoslavia the co-ops were, by force of conditions over which they and their members had no control, integral parts of the capitalist economic system, subjected in common with all small businesses to the banks and their finance-capitalist policies. Today, however, the co-operatives are a secondary part of the publicly owned and operated economy in a country in which finance-capitalist monopoly has been abolished. Al branches of banking and finance are now public services, and the predominant character and direction of economic development is determined by the Five Year Plan. In these conditions there is solid ground for the opinion, held by leading members of the government, that the co-operatives can be a very important factor in the building of a socialist society.
The great need of Yugoslavia today is to increase productivity, i.e., reduce the cost of production. The Five Year Plan, with the tremendous advance that it will bring in the technical level of industry and the more efficient utilization of the country’s resources, will be a tremendous factor in this increase of productivity as will, also, the socialist competition in which the conscious will of the workers to increase production expresses itself.
The decisive factor in the struggle for increased production is the highly developed political consciousness and idealism of the Yugoslav workers. The People’s War of Liberation freed the land or Yugoslavia from the Nazi armies of occupation, it freed the Southern Slavs from hated national inequality and subjection one to another and, the decisive achievement, it freed the people as a whole from the servitude which was previously their lot. The deep popular devotion to those aims was the source of the unwavering mass heroism displayed by the people of Yugoslavia during the war. Pride in wartime achievements, and the mass determination to maintain them, is the source of continuing mass heroism in the popular struggle for economic reconstruction.
The enthusiasm of the workers often expresses itself in unanimous decisions of the employees in industrial enterprises to work overtime--sometimes without pay--in a collective effort to put their enterprise out in front in the national race to the next intermediate target of the Five Year Plan. The extent of this may be realized by the fact that the National Council of Trade Unions had to take up the matter officially and warn against the danger of over-enthusiastic militants among the workers leading them into efforts which might exhaust sections of the workers and bring an unfavorable later reaction.
Yuagoslavia’s Five Year Plan is going to succeed. It will be completed before the end of five years. Marshal Tito, who delineated the main political role and objectives of the plan and participated actively in its elaboration is, by his own confidence--which is no less sure when expressed in private conversation--a guarantee that the task is well in hand.
But the people are not going to have to wait until the Five Year Plan is completed before they enjoy some of its fruits. Comrade Kidrich, the Minister for industrialization emphasized this to me again and again. “Remember,”, he said to me in the midst of answering a question as to the overall possibilities for the expansion of basic socially owned capital during the next five years, “our first concern is to raise the living standards of our people.” Bit, I said, you must build your socialist industry. His reply so impressed me that I got him to repeat it while I copied it word for word as it was translated: “We arebuilding a socialist society. The nationalized sector of our economy is already socialist in that it is owned by the people, operated under the control and direction of the people’s authorities, is dominant in the economy of our country. In the sense of the transfer of power, our socialist revolution has been carried through and the transfer of power has been the more complete because it followed the utter breakdown, cowardly abdication and national treachery of the old ruling class. These latter things we have yet to attain. Our people are solidly united in their determination to achieve an economy of abundance and we must always place the aim of immediate increased popular well-being right in the forefront of all our plans and activites.”
A politically alert observer needs to be in Yugoslavia but a short time to recognize that, next to the Soviet Union, this country has made the greatest political strides in the forward march of the new People’s Democracy. In no phase of the country’s activities is this more evident than in the activities and political role of the youth. *#8220;The People’s Youth Movement of Yugoslavia” with its membership of a million and a half young men and women is more than just a very strong organization, it is a vibrant, integral and influential part of the nation’s force organized to build the new and democratic life.
A description of the multifarious activities initiated and maintained by the Youth Movement would require more space than is available here. It should be explained, however, that one of the special and justified prides of youth of People’s Yugoslavia today is the fact that the ranks of the partisans and later of the People’ Army of Yugoslavia were made up mainly of very young people. Between seventy and seventy-five peer cent. of all ranks in the Yugoslav People’s Army of National Liberation led by marshal Tito were youth. Most of the generals of Yugoslavia are still young in years although many of them established their reputations as gifted and resourceful military commanders in the gruelling war against fascism in Spain before they became leaders in the war against German and Italian invasion at home. The heroic role that the youth played in the war for national liberation gives the organized youth a high place inn the nation today, particularly in the three spheres in which the People’s Youth Movement assumes special responsibilities. These three fields are:
a) Education--from the organization of kindergartens to the campaign to wipe out illiteracy;
b) Cultural activity--from the translation of the classics into the various languages of the national republics of Yugoslavia, to raising the level of the traditional folk arts, the re-creation of truly national theatres, etc.;
c) The role of youth in socialist construction--from the development of local study classes to the actual construction of big national undertakings.
Because this third special responsibility assumed by the Youth Movement embodies elements of the other two, I am going to devote this section to a description of the source and development of the amazing plans for mobilization of youth volunteers for big construction jobs and some of its results.
The tradition of organized voluntary labor became established among the youth during the struggle against the invaders. As early as the spring of 1942 the Young Communist League organized systematic campaigns in which the youth rallied the people and organized them to get production re-started on territory liberated from the fascist occupation troops. A high level of youthful endeavour and leadership was attained even during that year. An area of rich agricultural land was liberated but the Nazi troops remained within a few hundred yards of the partisan lines and shelled the area frequently. The peasants did not believe it was worthwhile even to try to plough and seed the land, so the Y.C.L. organized special brigades of volunteer youth for the job. They gathered together farm tools and equipment and they ploughed and seeded the liberated soil to within a hundred yards of the Germans’ trenches. They were shelled, sometimes machine-gunned and once tanks were sent out to disperse them. The cost to the Germans in tanks was such that tanks were not sent a second time. The land was seeded and, such was the importance of food, from that day the determination to hold that land inspired every family and brought new recruits to the partisan ranks. When the crop, an excellent one although a little late, was taken off un the late summer, the idea of voluntary mobilization for essential work was already established as an essential feature of the war for national liberation. In such actions the youth, to the end of 1945, contributed no less than forty million days of voluntary labor to essential tasks such as bridge repair, agriculture, railway, factory and housing repairs.
During a conference in January, 1946, the leadership of the Youth movement, now become “The People’s Youth Movement of Yugoslavia,” had a point on the agenda which could be translated: “How to mobilize more of the youth for even larger undertakings.” Reports of the pledges given by the youth in all parts of the country showed that hundreds of thousands of the youth were inspired by the idea of mobilization for voluntary work and the youth leaders grasped the possibility for a really grand undertaking. There and then the conference adopted the proposal to build a stretch of railway by a large scale mobilization of the youth for voluntary work.
The stretch of railway decided upon was in northeastern Bosnia. It is a district possessed of very rich natural resources. Even while Bosnia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire the government of Franz Joseph had announced the plan to build a railroad there but nothing was done. After Versailles the government of Yugoslavia announced again the plan to build the railway but again nothing was done--as one of the comrades remarked to me “apparently the negotiators at the Yugoslav end were holding out for a higher rake-off from foreign capitalists.” The conference decided that what an empire and a pro-fascist monarchy had failed to do should be done in one summer by the mobilized youth of the People“s Republic.
A draft plan was prepared in consultation with engineers. On April 12th, 1946, the State Economic Council endorsed the plan and authorized the National Youth Movement to undertake the work. A call was issued to the youth of the nation to mobilize for voluntry wok with a specific and categoric warning that no young worker already employed in industry and no student who was behind in his studies would be accepted. Volunteers had to apply to the headquarters of the youth movement in their locality and, it being an honor to be accepted for this greatest enterprise that the youth had so far undertaken, it was the volunteers who had to prove that they should be accepted.
On May 1st 14,000 young men and women were already at work on the site with tools and equipment for preliminary work and the job was started. Before the end of May, 62,000 youth from all over Yugoslavia were at work building the railway and by the middle of June their numbers were swollen by more than 2,000 volunteers who came from other countries to share this vital experience. One of the comrades describing this interjected at this point that “there was one very good volunteer form Canada.”
The youth were organized in brigades. In many cases entire brigades came from a single village. Work was carried on in three shifts and in six months ninety kilometres of roadbed and track were completed. The comrades laughed about the new type of competition which developed. It was a competition between the engineering staff and the construction brigades. Quite early on the job surveyors and engineers had been startled when work which they had estimated would take five days was done in one. From that day forward it was the construction crews pressing the professional engineers instead of vice-versa.
When the work was first started there was a lack of skilled personnel so training courses were established. Right on the job young men and women were trained as bulldozer operators, rockdrill operators, welders, rivetters and so on. Recreation, entertainment, cultural activity and so on was necessary and, as a result, a whole cadre of leaders of a new type for youth centres was developed. Illiterate youths learned to read and write, others learned to be regular railway operators to work on the road after it was finished. Never before to the knowledge of the people in this part of the world had anything of the like ever been accomplished. Some days more than three kilometres of roadbed and track were completed in twenty-four hours. A tunnel was drilled through rock at the speed of six metres per day. Plenty of difficulties were experienced. Two hundred metres of roadbed was washed out around the side of a mountain so it was decided to go through instead of around. It was getting late in the summer, rain increased difficulties, but a special crew of 2,000 finished the tunnel as an additional proof of their capacity and the ninety kilometres of railway was completed within the scheduled six months.
As a result of that great material and moral achievement, for the youth and the whole nation, the People’s Youth Movement is undertaking to build an even bigger piece of railroad this summer. The stretch to be built this summer will be no less than 237 kilometres (about 150 miles) long, also in Bosnia, to tab an area of extremely valuable mineral and forest wealth. It will be a big job. Three and a half million cubic metres of earth have to be moved, eight bridges have to be built, a mile long tunnel has to be cut through rock. Work will start on April 1st and the plan is to complete the railway in seven months. The target for the working forces is 180,000 volunteers. Most of them will come from different parts of Yugoslavia, of course, but the inspiration for the idea guarantees that several thousand will come from other countries. I was amazed to learn that an entire brigade (250 workers) will arrive from Iran before the end of April. I read a letter from Australia explaining that ten young workers were already on their way from that country on the S.S. Asturias. The letter described each of the ten, explained that they had their return tickets and money for expenses which they had saved but that they would need advice as to the best way to travel after landing and giving an address in Paris to which such advice should be sent. Other similar letters are from places as far apart as the Scandinavian countries, South Africa and the United States.
By April first a hundred and fifteen brigades of about 250 workers each will be at work. On this road the work day will be six hours instead of eight. Camps are being built now all along the route and commissariat, maintenance, repair and other centres are being established and equipped in advance. The first job to be accomplished is the construction of a temporary track over which to transport supplies, equipment, etc. Profiting by the rich experience of the last year, special sanitation units, a medical corps and hospital facilities are also in operation in advance of opening up work. In addition to training youth for construction there will be special course to train youth who desire to remain and work on the road after it is completed. One thousand hectares (2,2250 acres) of land in several parcels along the route are already planted with seed for early vegetables, some of which will be ready during April. The railway will have its own athletics division: soccer, basketball, volleyball and organized hikes, its entertainment division: theatres, library and reading rooms and its own newspaper. The editorial and technical staff of “Borba” (The Worker) the official organ of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia has undertaken to organize and publish the daily paper right on the job. Printing machinery is already on the site being readied to start publication on April first. A cause for even greater pride among the youth is that the railway is also to have its own radio which, while helping to entertain and inform the youth working on the road, will give the people of Yugoslavia--and the world--a “blow by blow” account of the building of the road.
The foregoing describes the plan for just one great enterprise that the organized youth of this country undertakes to complete this summer by collective voluntary labor. There are other projects. In Montenegro another, although much shorter railway will be built. In Belgrade an entire factory building will be built from foundation to roof. In every one of the six republics at least one major undertaking and several local ones will be completed. The brigades for The Youth Railway of 1947 were recruited while I was there. In local youth festivals, which were in progress in preparation for the World Youth Festival at Prague, the ambition to go to work on the railway was even more vocal than the evident enthusiasm about the great gathering of world democratic youth to be held at Prague. Hundreds of thousands of young men and women were announcing their intention of combining a month or more of voluntary work on the Youth Railway with their attendance at the World Festival at Prague. What a wonderful experience, and what an achievement it would be of a brigade of Canadian youth could have participated in this great socialist adventure.
The question frequently asked concerning Czechoslovakia is also asked about Yugoslavia: “What type of state is it?” The answer is some what different from that given concerning Czechoslovakia in that it must be said unequivocally that the new Yugoslavia is not a capitalist state. While not a Soviet state and not a proletarian dictatorship, the National Front government headed by Marshal Tito is a people’s government and Yugoslavia is a people’s state in every sense of the word.
It is true, as the Minister for Industrialization emphasized, that the economic and cultural wounds inflicted by the fascist occupation armies will have to be healed and tremendous economic developments will have to be carried through before it can be said that Yugoslavia has a socialist society. But, bearing his warning in mind, it must be said that insofar as internal economic and political organization is concerned, Yugoslavia is definitely started on the task of building Socialism. The property relationships, state forms and social forces within the country are such that she requires only to be granted peace to develop her industry and cultural institutions and she will be a fully socialist society in a short time.
The fact which guarantees such a result if Yugoslavia is granted peace is that the socialist aim of the government expresses the united democratic will of her people. The popular and deeply considered will which was expressed in heroic struggle and torrents of blood during the war has been repeated in elections since.
There are people, particularly editors of capitalist newspapers, who either cannot believe of else refuse to admit that the majority of the people of any country would choose freely to support genuinely socialist policies. Yugoslavia is one of the best illustrations of how completely wrong such people are. Yugoslavia demonstrates in a striking manner how only with such policies can the people maintain their freedom from the servitude and national inequalities against which in a very large measure they were fighting during the war. This patent fact is obvious in several fundamental features of the new constitution. It is particularly obvious in the fact that the several nations which constitute the peoples of South Slavia have fashioned their new state to express and correspond with their equality as nations and their unity as equals in place of the past discredited relationships of national inequality and mutual hatreds.
I had the great pleasure, indeed the privilege of sharing a meal and spending an evening with Marshal Tito and several members of the central committee of the C.P. of Yugoslavia. It was remarkable to meet again the comrades whom one had known previously as delegates at conferences or volunteers in Spain, and to find that they are now members of the government, experienced commanding officers in the National Army, or leaders in the nation’s economy. It was even more remarkable to note how unequivocally they placed the government’s approach to the national question as the key to the achievement of Socialism. Marshal Tito, whose genius was the guiding and unifying force which personified both the heroism and the aspiration to complete national freedom of all the Southern Slavs, places this as the primary and fundamental factor un the success of the liberation struggle. In his report to the Party Conference held, illegally of course, in Zagreb during the summer of 1940 (the conference at which the Party prepared itself for the great historic job that it did during the six years which followed), Tito emphasized again and again the central issue of the democratic national rights of the nationalities. Writing about this issue recently Titi commented as follows:
“A considerable amount of patient work was needed in order to convince all the nationalities that it was only through the National Liberation struggle, through the struggle against the invaders and the local reactionary forces, that all their national rights could be achieved and a new Yugoslavia thus created...once all the peoples of Yugoslavia had become convinced of the correctness of the policy which the communist Party of Yugoslavia had laid before the masses, the national question became one of the powerful driving forces in the liberation struggle.”(2)
Milovan Djilas, one of the heroes of both the International Brigade in Spain and the liberation war in Yugoslavia, now minister without portfolio in the federal government enquired first about Bill Kardash, then gave Bill Foster and me some very pertinent facts which illustrate both the importance of the national question and the consistency with which the Communist Party fought for a correct solution of it.
The Southern Slavs consist of five distinct nations. They are: Serbs, 6,500,000; Croats, 4,500,000; Slovenes, 1,250,000; Montenegrins, 350,000 Macedonians, 1,300,000. In addition there are national minorities, particularly Albanians, 800,000, Hungarians, 450,000, Germans, 80,000. In the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina there are elements of several nationalities, members of no one nation constituting a majority, in addition to which about fifty per cent. of the people are Moslems.
An important difference between old Yugoslavia and Czarist Russia is in connection with the national question that, while among the Southern Slavs national consciousness was more highly developed that was the case with many nationalities in Czarist Russia, the Serbian monarchy and the ruling class which it headed sought continuously to subjugate and oppress the peoples of those parts of the country which were more economically advanced than Serbia itself. It was largely as a result of this that peoples who had felt themselves one nation until the Republic of Yugoslavia was established after the first world war became sharply divided. In the atmosphere of acute national conflict which developed the people saw the monarchists, bankers, industrialists and landlords divide again, not on the basis of national interest but according to which group of the great powers each thought would emerge victorious. In contrast, the position of the Communist Party proclaimed at Zagreb before the invasion and fought for after the occupation was always: “We are going to fight against the Italian fascists and the German Nazis to the last drop of our blood, but we are going to fight for the freedom of Yugoslavia, each of its nations, all of its people.”
The old state apparatus broke down completely under the impact of invasion, desertion and military occupation by varied and changing armies. The people’s war of liberation was, of necessity, waged against the administration of the invaders, therefore the partisans set up their own local People’s Authorities in all liberated areas. Concerning these “National Liberation Committees,” Marshal Tito writes: “That we had discerned the wishes of the people was apparent from the fact that the people immediately started setting up such committees, not only throughout the liberated territory but in all towns and villages situated in parts which had not been liberated.”
The authorities were separate national organizations in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, etc. This corresponded with the needs and the exigencies of the liberation struggle during that period, it also corresponded with the national aspirations of the people.
The state form of the new Yugoslavia was not first worked out in theory; like Topsy, it “just grew”. In 1943 the principle of federation was agreed upon and the aim of distinctive national identity for each of the five nations united in a Yugoslav Federation was proclaimed. National parliaments were established in the liberated territory of each republic. The basis of popular government authority was the Peoples Committees. To quote Marshal Tito again: “They were the rudiments of the new state which was gradually coming into being in the process of the liberation struggle.”
It is largely a codification of that form of government and division of authority which was shaped and tested in the fire of war that the new constitution proclaims in its first article:
“The Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia consists of two houses--the Federal Council and the Council of Nationalities. Members of the Federal Council are elected by free equal and secret ballot in elections in which every citizen of Yugoslavia eighteen gears of age of over, without regard to nationality, race or religion, enjoys the right to vote. Any citizen over the age of 18 has the full right to offer himself or herself for election and to be elected to either house. Delegates to the Council of Nationalities are elected in the republics, autonomous provinces and regions.
The citizens of each republic elect 30 representatives to the Council of Nationalities, the autonomous provinces elect 20, and autonomous regions 10 members. Thus while the Federal Council represents the people in general, at the rate of one representative for every 50,000 inhabitants, the Council of nationalities represents the different republics without regard to numbers. Each house has equal rights. No person can be a member of both of them at the same time. They sit simultaneously but (except is special circumstances) separately. Any bill may be initiated in either house, no bill can become law unless and until it receives a majority vote in both of them.
The second article of the constitution names the six republics. Article 6 provides that “All authority in the Federative Republic of Yugoslavia derives from the people,” exercised “through freely elected representative organs of state authority, the people’s committees which, from local people’s committees up to the assemblies of the people’s republics and the People’s Assembly of the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, originated and developed during the struggle for national liberation...” Article 9 provides that “The sovereignty of the people’s republics composing the Federative People“s Republic of Yugoslavia is limited only by the rights which by this Constitution are given to the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia.” Article 13 provides that “national minorities” enjoy the right to and protection of their own cultural development and the free use of their own lanbguage.” In connection with that provision I should mention the fact that the national minorities enjoy all the rights of citizenship. For example, the Hungarians not only enjoy the franchise, schools in which instruction is in the Hungarian language, including high schools, and newspapers; they also share in local administration: in the areas where they are concentrated they receive a proportion of the seats in administrative bodies corresponding with the proportion that the Hungarians constitute the electorate. They also elect representatives to parliament.
Thus the state and governmental system of the new Yugoslavia includes all the fundamental and most democratic principles of parliamentary government as it has evolved particularly in Britain and the United States, as well as the vast extensions of democracy which originated in the Soviet Union.
First, there is the extremely broad popular base of state power guaranteed by the fundamental constitutional law that the representatives to all People’s Authorities from local communities up must be elected by secret ballot in direct elections in which every citizen, male and female, eighteen years of age or over has the right to vote and to stand as a candidate.
Second, there is the constitutional provision, characteristic of the United States, that both houses of the National Assembly are equal.
Third, there is the fact, characteristic of the de British system and one of its greatest contributions to the development of democratic government, that the Prime Minister and Government are directly responsible to and dependent upon the elected representatives if the people. Furthermore, whereas in Canada Mr Ilsey, speaking for the government, declares that the power of cabinet derives from the King and not from the people, in Yugoslavia the Constitution proclaims that: “all authority in the Federative Peopl’s Republic of Yugoslavia derives from the people and belongs to the people.”
Fourth, there is the fact that in new Yugoslavia the greatest contributions made to the development of democratic government by the Soviet Union are also included. The Council of Nationalities with its equal rights plus the basic People’s Authorities, the local people’s committees, create a synthesis of the most advanced features of democratic government as it has been developed from Oliver Cromwell to Lenin. This combination of the highest form of democratic government and the overwhelming popular vote (96 per cent. cast in support of the aims of the present National Front government), is the revolutionary content of the new Yugoslav state.
Yugoslavia has dealt with both its economic and its national problem in a radical and audacious manner. It is demonstrating that in the conditions created by the people’s war for freedom it is possible to carry through such policies without proletarian dictatorship. It is obvious that the people are united and solidly behind their government. Indeed, with such decentralization of authority, such wide functions and powers reserved for the governments of the national republics, the unity, or conversely the disunity if the people will determine everything. The very fact that there is now demonstrated such unity of purpose, enthusiastic support for the central government and such widespread and continuous sefl-sacrificing effort to achieve its aims is, in the conditions created by the new constitution, the clearest evidence that the people are behind the government which they elected to direct the efforts of all the people and all the country’s resources to achievement of the aims proclaimed by the united national liberation movement.
There is the answer to the question: “What sort of state is the new Yugoslavia?” While it is not a soviet state, it is a new type of democratic people’s state, with a fundamentally different structure and functions from those of a capitalist state, and representing an entirely different social basis than does any capitalist state. It is a people’s republic in place of the old monarchy. It is a state founded upon and expressing a completely democratic and just solution of the national question. It is based upon the principles of the fullest people’s democracy and the planned development of all the productive possibilities of the country for the welfare of all the people. Through this new people’s state, in its totality of local People’s Committees, National Republic governments and Federal government, the People’s Authority combine to constitute a state form and content which will enable the people to abolish the exploitation of man by man--to build a socialist Yugoslavs.
1. The above quotations are excerpts only. For the full texts of the articles from which I have quoted see The Constitution of the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia.
2. The Specific Character of the Liberation Struggle and the Revolutionary Transformation of Yugoslavia--The Communist, organ of the Central Committee of the C.P. of Yugoslavia, October, 1946.