On 4th May, 1980, Josip Broz Tito, communist leader of former Yugoslavia, passed away and it just happens that this year on the 35th anniversary of his death two prominent Croatian historians appeared for just over 6 minutes on the HRT News program.
“Historians agree only in one thing and that is that Tito was a historical personality and they do not agree as to his role. For some he was an antifascist, a victor in war, founder of the Non-Aligned movement and for others he was a dictator,” said the news anchor, seeking opinion from her two guests.
Prof. dr. sc. Tvrtko Jakovina (University of Zagreb) said that “Tito was all of those things …”
Dr. sc. Ivo Lucic (Croatian history institute) said that “in talking about Tito we need to look at what has survived after his death, and nothing has survived, Yugoslavia had not survived, nor had socialism in which he invested so much effort, the economy had caved in… Only myth exists, and when you see those people that gather around the places that celebrate Tito they say they come to bow to the man because he secured a nice youth for them – of course some lived better then than now, but not all…
That’s why we must talk about the other dimensions, about human rights, political murders, liquidations of political opponents abroad, about Goli Otok (Barren Island/communist held hard labour and political prisoner camp), about the many people sent to prison … We are talking about what Tito represents today …what does the former lifelong president of Yugoslavia represent to Croatia today … what would that be which we could value today? I think – nothing… Some people often say Tito was good because he secured war plunder for us…I’m often horrified when I hear: yes he stole, but he gave some of what he stole to us …”
Regarding the question as to how much did Tito know about the communist crimes and murders Tvrtko Jakovina said : “I think Tito knew about everything, of course he knew, he was the lifelong president … we are talking about a man who has been dead for 35 years and we talk about him as if he were still here…”
Why can’t we still talk about him from a distance or calmly, asked the TV news anchor.
Ivo Lucic: “We can’t because he is not dead yet…just look at the construction they say about him…that he is the greatest son of the nation that he is not the father of the nation like others, therefore he’s some sort of sanctity…like Son of God so son of all our nations … a cult was build around his personality all his life and building of that cult had continued and is being built today …and that no longer has connection with politics or historiography, that is epics…”
Jakovina: “I’m not of epics or poetry but of history and I deal with that period of history … he is absolutely a very important historical personality, the likes of which we will not have again … we can discuss as to whether he was good or bad but he was important and that is why this debate”.
Oh, Tvrtko Jakovina – you transparent agitprop!
Croatia has its very important historical personalities and Tito is not one of them, but Franjo Tudjman certainly is!
If there were enough politicians and people in authority who made it their business during the past 20 years to keep showing Tito and communist Yugoslavia for what rotten entities they were then Croatia would be in a much better place today. Instead, the pro-Communists keep on blindly glorifying Tito to the point where it actually interfered and interferes with progress. Perhaps this TV news segment on 4 May will actually have a positive effect in that more and more people will actually see how hopeless, incompetent and self-absorbing Tito really was – and then the Croatian people can move on without the baggage that keeps falsely “whispering in their ear” that life was better under communism! It was not!
We all need to remember that the first years of Tito’s government (from 1945) saw him work aggressively and brutally to secure his position in power. He swiftly led the purging of non-communists, mass murders took place almost daily in the two to three years post-WWII. Following the declaration of the Yugoslav Republic in November 1945, many show trials took place of accused Nazi collaborators and important figures in the Catholic Church; often tailoring and fabricating evidence against the accused.
The policy of worker self-management introduced by Tito fairly swiftly triggered a series of conflicts within the Yugoslav federation. Decentralisation meant that power shifted from the federal government to the individual republics within Yugoslavia. Then, in the early 1970s, Croatians campaigning for further decentralisation were also victims of a purge, providing a reminder of the ruthlessness deployed by Tito to secure his authority.
The fact that the Yugoslav economy spent at least 20 of its last years under the conditions of external debt growth of over 17 percent per year suggests that the structure of the economy had formed in such a way that the future survival of the economy depended on the future enlargement of the debt. And some people thought Tito was great at his job! The obscenely and cruelly high debt he racked up finally came knocking on the door and economic disasters followed, one after another – throughout late 1970’s and 1980’s.
The way I mark the 35th anniversary of Tito’s death is: Never again will you or the likes of you touch my life! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)