Don’t think for a moment that, after reading the title of this article, you could compare Josip Broz Tito (lifelong president of former communist Yugoslavia) to Robin Hood.
Robin Hood and his men, from English folklore of 19th century, are known for “robbing the rich and giving to the poor”; keeping nothing of the loot for themselves and, therefore, held in high esteem by the ordinary people.
Josip Broz Tito and his post-WWII communists, on the other hand, are known for robbing everyone (including the nationalised properties owned by Jews who either fled or were exterminated across former Yugoslavia as the Holocaust raged; including rampant thieving and corruption that went on and perpetrated by Party loyalists who held high positions everywhere…) and dishing out some of the plunder in the forms of ridiculously cheap public housing (the best pieces of course went to the Communist Party faithful) and unsustainable living standards, which created the illusion that one could hold his/her job, have his/her job for life, regardless of the fact that either the skills for a job were lacking to desperation and ruin, or that productivity was not an issue. Hence, holding Tito in esteem was largely guided by this principle: I don’t care if you steal and enrich yourself as long as I get some of the plunder for myself!
Events that occurred in Croatia last Saturday would strongly corroborate such motives for holding Tito and his memory in esteem by some of the people.
Utterly repugnant, if you ask me!
On Saturday 25 May, thousands (reportedly seven) from all corners of former Yugoslavia gathered in Kumrovec, Croatia, the birthplace of Josip Broz Tito, to mark his birthday and the so-called Youth Day for the celebration of which 25th May was used. People arrived from parts of Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina … they were mostly elderly, but young people arrived too.
As one would expect in the current dire situation of unemployment, suspect privatisation, closures of many nonviable factories and economic crisis, memories of the old socialist slogans such as “Factories to the workers”, saw a noticeable resurrection in Kumrovac last Saturday: “Give the factories back to the workers”.
Vecernji List portal reports that a crew of 50 Tito’s partisans in war uniforms arrived from Novo Mesto in Slovenia, and Dominik Gajcer from Slovenian Bistrica came dressed up as Tito, in white Marshal’s uniform, reportedly made especially for this occasion for him.
25th May gatherings in Kumrovec are nothing new, however, the Peoples’ Republic of China Ambassador to Croatia, HE Shen Zhifei, was present for the first time. He opened the “Croatian – Chinese Society of Friendship” exhibition: “Experiencing China and togetherness.”
The gathering announced the establishment of a new Communist Party of Croatia.
The event in Kumrovec attracted some worldwide media attention such as the Washington Post (Associated Press) and the Scotsman.
None though picked up on the above slogans or roars and their possible significance for the furtherance (or rather, hindrance) of democracy on the territory of former Yugoslavia. This is regretful. They all seem to leave the impression that the so-called Yugonostalgia could have some kind of positive merit in today’s world of democratic achievements and plights. For these media outlets one gets the idea that Yugoslav communism was “soft Communism” when compared to Stalin’s Soviet Union!
It was in 1957 when Britain’s Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said: “There is no difference between Socialism and Communism, except this: Socialism is soft, Communism is hard; Socialism is pink, Communism is red. Socialism gets you down bit by bit by a kind of anesthetic process. It might be called mercy killing. Communism just knocks you in the head.”
Although the Former Yugoslavia was in name Socialist since early 1960’s, the Communists ruled. There was nothing “Pink” about the “Red” oppression and totalitarianism of former Yugoslavia. There is nothing “Pink” about the atrocious communist crimes perpetrated by Tito’s followers, with his knowledge and orders, across the territory of former Yugoslavia and across Croatia in particular; crimes for which no one has been held responsible yet, crimes that communists justify or excuse.
The gathering at Kumrovec last weekend, marking Tito’s birthday, tells us that nostalgia that still lingers in some places for Yugoslavia in reality is a stark reminder of the overwhelming damage the socialist, come communist totalitarian system had inflicted upon ordinary people, molding them into a mass psyche of dependence on the government rather than developing individual responsibility and toil towards personal and common good. The Croatian government, current and future, has indeed an enormous task ahead; the task of tearing up the mind-set of dependency upon the State and shaping a new State-dependency-upon-the-people mind-set.
Dnevno.hr portal reports that the Croatian Koprivnica Association of Homeland War Veterans has expressed its condemnation of the Kumrovec gathering, saying that they have nothing against marking the communist past but that the gathering was “used for the popularisation of a failed totalitarian political system, against which we fought during the Croatian Homeland War”. The Association’s president Mladen Pavkovic further said that “… most of those who arrived to mark Tito’s birthday wore the partisan red star on their caps or pinned to their coats, the same red star worn by the criminal Yugoslav Peoples’ Army when they went about destroying and murdering from Vukovar, Skabrnje, Dubrovnik, all the way to Karlovac”. Furthermore, the Association seeks that the State Attorney’s Office provide its assessment regarding this nationalistic and chauvinistic gathering in Kumrovec, because, the Association feels, the gathering exposes to ridicule the recent history of Croatia, belittles and muddies the victims of Homeland War.
Bravo! I say! It was after all, 94% of Croatian voters that voted to secede from Yugoslav communism in 1991 and usher in a free, democratic society.
It doesn’t matter where you look in the world today, there will always be people who dwell on the past. They do so because dwelling on the past is easier than moving on; than investing some hard work in order to change. When it comes to transitioning from communism into democracy then it is the responsibility of the government and the political leadership to ensure as easy a passage to change as possible. The Croatian government and political leadership have failed abysmally at their task in this. While one can argue that this was to be expected because many from Croatian leadership had also served in high places during the times of communist rule, and therefore would be “naturally” inclined to protect that system, it is incredulous that there are so few among them, if any, that have embraced a ‘Croatia First’ mindset for which rivers of blood were spilled during the Homeland War. It is incredulous that I cannot find any comments about the Kumrovec “Tito” gathering from Saturday from the Croatian leadership. It is incredulous that no Croatian leader has seized this opportunity to remind the people there (and the public) that while they sang “Comrade Tito, white violet …”, “violets” did NOT bloom in the former Yugoslavia – not by a long shot! (They bloomed profusely only for those who opted to join the communist party and their families, as for the rest, life was meager in every sense if you lived and worked there as an ordinary, non-politically affiliated person.) Many had to flee the country in the face of political persecution up until early 1960’s and after that due to lack of economic prosperity or professional advancement for individuals or families. So how hard would it have been for Croatia’s leaders to acknowledge publicly the right of people to remember the past by gathering, but also remind the public at the same time, that the rotten, economically unsustainable and oppressive reality of former Yugoslavia actually precipitated the secession into independence and democracy of today’s Croatia. The hardship is, I believe, in the utter cowardice and political point-scoring that seem to serve as fodder for the Croatian political elitists who, like the “old” communists in cushy positions, dread a life less elite and more rolling-of-the-sleeves towards eventual achievement of a widespread and strong democratic thought and responsibility for ones own life and community. These people who celebrate Tito and communist Yugoslavia seem to live in a vacuum, separated from the rest of the world, which has experienced rude economic downfalls without having “Tito” around to thieve for them. They are certainly not the majority in Croatia – Thanks be to God! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Zgb)