Michael Palaich – Up Close And Personal For Croatia’s Freedom: “For Baka’s Homeland” A Book Review

Michael Palaich
Photo: Private Album

“For Baka’s Homeland”/Michael Palaich – a book review by Ina Vukic

Up close and personal – for freedom of Croatia!

Michael Palaich’s “For Baka’s Homeland” is a soothingly powerful, reinvigorating and captivating book about roots of the invincible patriotism for his grandmother’s (baka’s) homeland lovingly cultivated far away from that homeland, in America. The object of that patriotism, patriotic love, devotion and pride – Croatia, while geographically far away and often scarcely visited during the childhood years of growing up in the diaspora is a spiritual anchor that embeds itself into the hearts and minds of multitudes born and/or living away from the parental homeland. It is also a book about the intrinsic, steadfast driving resolve within that patriotic love thriving outside Croatia for decades, nurtured within the Croatian emigrant community outside of Croatia, becoming a driving force of help and support in times of need when that Croatian nation had no alternative, nor choice, but to defend its life from brutal aggression by the former communist Yugoslavia and Serb forces; to fight for its freedom and self-preservation.

“For Baka’s Homeland” presents the reader with a personal account, memoirs, the author’s account, an insider account of Croatia’s 1990’s horrendous struggles to secede from communist Yugoslavia and become a democratic, independent State. Insider account by a member of the Croatian diaspora, whose contribution to Croatia’s independence struggle and its ultimate success was crucial! The particularly valuable contribution this book makes to the factual history of struggles and sufferings Croatian people had endured, particularly after World War II, is the fact that, overall, it provides the reader as to how, through what activities, personal risks and adventures, a person of Croatian origins born and living abroad put himself through so that his grandmother’s (baka’s) homeland could one day call itself free and independent – just as “baka” yearned for all her life.

This is a book about strong loyalty to the love of and for family, the love of and for grandparents. Reading this book, the reader may indeed conclude: there is no more magical way to validate one’s love for family than through actions that protect and embrace the values for which that family stands and, in that, place one’s own life at disposal for achieving those values in tangible forms; in this case – Croatia’s freedom.

The captivating nature of this book is particularly carried through many intriguing stories, accounts, explorations of issues associated with a nation’s struggle for independence.  Palaich’s personal undertakings and experiences on the long and hard road to Croatia’s independence provide the reader with “an ordinary man’s” insight into political, ideological and practical milestones to independence and the creation of a new State during the late 20th century.  The fact that these accounts come from one patriotic individual living and born in the suburbia of an American city, part of Croatian diaspora, is of particular significance and value especially to those keen to take a “microscopic” look into how it was possible for ordinary people to contribute so crucially to the independence of Croatia in such harsh and unforgiving times that lasted for decades (and, indeed, centuries).

The self-sacrifice fuelled by patriotic love is the backbone of this book; its spine. “For Baka’s Homeland” is very much a book whose contents could also aptly describe multitudes of “ordinary” men and women in the Croatian diaspora who have during the 1990’s practically stopped living their own private lives to the fullest and gave those lives as moral and material surety for the success of an independent Croatia. Michael Palaich, though, is the one who openly and sincerely put pen to paper and this book is the delightful product even with its vignettes of absolute horror Croats have had to endure during their struggles to exit communist Yugoslavia. The delight of the latter is not in the content of those vignettes of horror but in the fact that they now are particles in the food for thought and gratitude as Croats celebrate Croatia’s victory in the 1990’s Homeland War and say “Lest we forget”!

“For Baka’s Homeland” Front Cover
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The book opens with the author’s examination of and pondering upon influences of nurture versus nature in shaping a character, in predisposing us for how we react in life to various environmental/social triggers and influences. He offers the reader a look into his Croatian grandmother and grandfather, struggling to create a new life in a foreign land after coming to America at the turn of the 20th century. He takes the reader into the migrant reality where patriotic love and loyalties for the original homeland (Croatia) are nurtured and lovingly cultivated through generations – firstly his father’s, then his and ultimately his children’s, all of whom were born and raised in America. To bring closer to the reader the reality of such upbringing that essentially means living parallel lives, Palaich says in the First chapter of his book:

I have come to accept the reality that I will never be fully accepted as a Croatian in Croatia. I am always referred to as ‘The American’ when in Croatia…I have also accepted the reality that I will never be fully assimilated into American Anglo-Saxon culture either. My father was born in America and served in the U.S. Army Air corps during WWII. I am a veteran of the U.S. Navy. I have lived and worked in America my entire life. Still, there is much of the Anglo-Saxon culture in America that I just don’t understand. In my youth I believed that I was unique in this way. But after making friends with many first- and second-generation Croats living in Canada, Australia, Germany and Argentina, I find that many of us born outside Croatia share this sense of straddling two cultures.”

The book continues as it takes the reader into decades of Croatian patriotic, political, cultural and other activism and activities that thrived within the Croatian communities in the diaspora. Invariably, these were towards the goals of nurturing the Croatian identity and its plight for freedom and, hence, patriotism throughout the world that was outside the former communist Yugoslavia, which, without fail and with cruel vigour always brutally and to the point of mass murders and assassinations oppressed the Croatian national being. It is a matter of recorded history that much of the former communist Yugoslavia Secret Police (UDBa) had, after WWII, cunningly infiltrated even the tightest of “Western” societies’ institutions and national security corridors with only one aim in mind – to assassinate, destroy, vilify and brand as dangerous extremists, if not terrorists, all nationally conscious and patriotic Croats living outside Yugoslavia. This unsavoury and utterly cruel backdrop had given rise to many clandestine, covert and risky activities Croatian patriots living outside former Yugoslavia had entered into in the quest for Croatian freedom, risking own lives and those of their families. And so, it is very meaningful for quests for freedom generally to read Palaich’s accounts of the Croatian organisations that operated in America prior to Croatia’s Homeland War. How the love for Croatia built in him particularly through his grandmother’s loving care transformed into political activities crowned with patriotism and ultimately love of all Croatian people.

My political journey began in 1978, and each step in that journey would result in a psychological change. Normal feelings of fear would gradually be replaced with a sense of over-confidence and defiance. The idealistic political activity that was originally rooted in the belief that the Croatian people had a right to be free, slowly morphed into illegal activity in an attempt to realize that political objective…” says Palaich in his book as he delves into stories of Croatian diaspora political activism and activities while at the same time fighting, hiding from, ducking, crawling and stalking in efforts not to be caught by local authorities or, even worse, by the murderous agents of the communist Yugoslavia UDBa operatives who had infiltrated the Croatian community in the diaspora.

The reader is served with a series of moving stories of heroism, of brilliant attempts and ways in trying to get “Western” media houses interested in the plight of Croats for freedom from communist oppression, of background operations – small and large – in organising public protests and catching the attention of prominent politicians in the “West”. Frequently in this thread of the book we come across moving vignettes of true and absolute camaraderie based on patriotism and quest for freedom. Reading these accounts, a reader finds himself asking: why? Why would anyone give up and risk a safe and relatively financially prosperous life for this? For patriotic love!

Michael Palaich offers answers to those questions throughout his well-written book.

To this end, an extract from the book about Croatian political activists in the diaspora goes “…Their politics had consumed their lives and developed into an almost religion-like devotion. Almost immediately, I saw a similarity between their commitment to freeing the Croatian people from the slavery of Communism and the Christian missionaries evangelizing the Good News of the Bible. They were unwavering and focused fanatics. I intentionally choose to use the word fanatic, because I have come to appreciate the purpose-driven life of fanatics in combination with a worthy cause…”

Reading this book one can easily find that history is not merely about memorising dates, memorising significant events, it is more about seeing the undercurrent of thoughts which were determinant in making those significant dates, in making those significant events in the history of a nation, of Croatian freedom in this case. In “For Baka’s Homeland” the reader almost finds himself or herself privileged to be able to enter into that undercurrent of thoughts and, as if by epiphany nudged by the rich accounts in the book, come to know what extraordinary people and activities it took to contribute to that history of creation and delivery to the people of a free Croatia.

When it came to deal with, or rather disposing of Croatian people who wanted freedom from communist Yugoslavia, the Serb aggressor was particularly vicious and a deranged beast by anyone’s standards. Genocide, mass murders, mass rapes, massacres, depraved tortures – sheer and viciously revengeful hatred for freedom-fighting Croats of either military or civilian description. As Palaich’s stories and vignettes from the 1990’s war zones in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he found himself in his efforts to help the freedom fight in whichever way he could (smuggling guns and night-vision equipment to at least help a little the ill-equipped Croatian soldiers fighting the huge enemy Yugoslav/Serb Army; working on foreign media representatives desperately trying to secure an outcome in which the World will know the truth [as opposed to the Serb-led propaganda and lies the “Western” media seemed so ready to embrace]; engage in political plots and strategies that would assist Croatia in its quest for freedom…) tell the reader, it was a time when the strength of patriotism tested the majority of Croats in efforts to save own lives and the lives of those one loved. The intrigue in the political ingenuity and the sheer courage of many Croats we meet in this book, as Palaich focuses on events with detailed accounts, are particularly eye-opening, powerful moments the author delivers to his readers. It was a most dangerous time for Croats – 1990’s – and an extract from the book says “This time I was standing in the middle of a war zone controlled by the enemy, being questioned by an officer of that enemy’s army. This time the Serbian officer standing before me had the power to take my life if he wanted to. There were no rules in this war – not with the enemy…”!

But, as this book evidences, there were rules the Croats followed and those rules were much about ways and tactics every individual would employ to save Croatian people from continued oppression. These tactics did indeed at times require a Croat from the diaspora to engage in activities that were considered illegal by the country he/she came to help Croatia from. Michael Talaich spent several years defending himself in the legal and other related activities against him by the US Federal Police, Federal Agents and the U.S. courts – the scavenging for evidence against him that ended with a Grand Jury indictment for six counts of violating the U.S. Arms Export Control Act. It took the author several years to clear this and his indictments were all dismissed by a US State Attorney in 1999. This blessing did not happen without the care that free Croatia extended to its loyal activists for freedom.

Would the author, Michael Palaich, go through all the trials and tribulations that followed his steps in his fight for free Croatia again? Would he do the same things for Croatia and its people if the situation was the same again? If the desperate need arose again? Those are the questions and answers addressed in the final part of his book. To know and understand the answers to these questions one must read “For Baka’s Homeland”. The patriotically minded reader is in for a gallant treat!

Croatian language version of this book is due to be released in June 2020

“For Baka’s Homeland” in the English language is available in major online bookshops including America-based Amazon as well as all international Amazon online bookshops; Thriftbooks,  Barnes & Noble 


What advice would Nelson Mandela give to Julienne Busic?

Julienne Busic (L) Zvonko Busic (R)

Translation into English of article written by Ivan Pepic, Vecernji List 

„Julienne Busic is once again the target in certain media of cyber-bullying and false accusations. This time the impetus is her support for Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in the second round of presidential elections on January 5“, writes Ivan Pepic in his Vecernji List blog-sphere.

Certain journalists have defined Julienne and Zvonko Busic as terrorists due to their participation in the hijacking of an American passenger plane in 1976. It might seem incomprehensible today, but in the 1970s, there were over 60 recorded plane hijackings. They differed in goals, ideology, and, most of all, in their approach toward hostages, cooperation with authorities, and views regarding the murder of civilians and politicians.

The goal of the Busic hijacking was to throw leaflets from their plane over London and Paris describing the oppression of Croatians in Communist Yugoslavia. Witnesses claim that the treatment of passengers by the hijackers was excellent, as well as their behaviour toward authorities. This is confirmed by numerous letters from the plane passengers, many of whom still communicate today with Julienne Busic. Unfortunately, due to the proven negligent handling of the explosive (left in New York’s Grand Central Station) during the deactivation procedure four and a half hours later at the detonation site, an American police officer died. Zvonko and his then 28-year old wife were sentenced to life imprisonment in the U.S., with parole eligibility for Zvonko after ten years, and for Julienne after eight years.

Several Croatian web sites have described Julienne Busic as a „convicted terrorist“. The truth is that the Busics were never convicted of terrorism, nor did they intend to kill, in contrast to scores of other 1970s hijackers. Federal judge John Bartels stated in 1976 during their sentencing that „before I begin, it would be incorrect and unfair if I did not say that I do not consider Zvonko Busic, his wife, or the others war criminals or terrorists“.



United States District Judge John R. Bartels letter 1992 (click to enlarge)

He said the same thing in 1986, when parole was being considered: „there is no question in my mind that Julienne was not a terrorist in any sense of the word.“ And in 1992, he supported parole for Zvonko Busic, stating that he „was not a terrorist.“  The word „terrorist“ is also not mentioned anywhere in the sentencing statement.

However, when the Croatian media oligarchy promotes censorship instead of freedom of speech – assisted by immoral „paragons“ such as Vesna Pusic (who falsely accused Croatia of committing aggression against its neighbouring country) – and labels Julienne Busic a terrorist, as well as other Croatian defenders who took up the gauntlet outside Croatia and returned in the 1990s – who cares what the American courts have to say?

US District Court Judge John R. Bartels letter 1986:
“There is no question in my mind
that Julienne Busic was not a terrorist in any sense of the word…”

Telegram’s journalist, Jasmin Klaric, expressed no outrage when Karl-Heinz Dellwo, convicted member of the terrorist, Communist organisation Baader-Meinhof, which was responsible for the deaths of no less than 34 people and the wounding of 296 more in terrorist attacks between 1973-1995, gave an interview to Zarez and other media financed by Croatian taxpayers.  Karlic was mute when Dellwo held lectures at the Philosophy Department during the Subversive Festival in 2008, and actively participated in promoting Yanis Vaoufakisa in Zagreb in 2015. Dellwo was sentenced to life imprisonment for a hostage crisis and murders of two employees in the West German Embassy in Stockholm  He served 20 years, seven more than Julienne Busic, the object of their vilification.  On the other hand, Dellwo enjoys media and intellectual space in Croatia, although her liability is far less than that of the German terrorist group.

The same applies to the Italian Marxist, Antonia Negri, member of the Red Brigade.  Negri was convicted of terrorism and directly participated in murders and assassinations.  He went on the run, but ultimately served twenty years in an Italian prison. The Red Brigade is known for its cruel murder of the Italian premier, Aldo Moro.  Negri was presented recently in the Croatian media as, and I quote, the „guru of the post-modern left“.  He was also a guest at the Subversive Festival in Zagreb, as well as other events financed by the state budget.

These same people also glorify Nelson Mandela. Mandela received a life sentence for 221 acts of sabotage and terrorist actions consisting of the deaths of innocent civilians, and blowing up public and government buildings in the name of freedom from the ongoing repression of the South African apartheid. Amnesty International even refused to name him „Prisoner of Conscience“ in 1964 due to his advocacy of violence, in contrast to the Busics, who did not. His struggle left deep scars on South African society, which is today suffering from its own type of apartheid, but in the opposite direction.

For years Mandela was considered a terrorist, until the United States and several other countries began to militate against racial discrimination. Support for this effort was needed from leftist political organisations such as the French Socialist Party of Francois Mitterand, who also offered assistance to members of the Red Brigade through the „Mitterand Doctrine“; it offered political asylum which was enjoyed predominantly by Communist fugitives.

Mandela went to prison in 1964 and was released in 1990, after serving 27 years. Ten years later, in a Larry King interview on CNN, Mandela had this to say about whether he was a terrorist: „Well, terrorism depends on…who wins…I was called a terrorist yesterday, but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies, and that is what I normally tell other people who say those who are struggling for liberation in their country are terrorists. I tell them that I was also a terrorist yesterday, but, today, I am admired by the very people who said I was one.”

The accuracy of his statement was illustrated by Bill Clinton’s clemency for members of the Puerto Rican terrorist group, Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN), in 1990. The FALN was responsible for 130 terrorist attacks, murders, and wounding of scores of people.  It is noteworthy that the clemency was granted just before Hillary Clinton’s election to the American Senate. More Puerto Ricans reside in New York, the state in which Hillary was a candidate, than in Puerto Rico. The clemency guaranteed Hillary their votes.

The same applies in Croatia.  Ideological apologists on the left, usually blind followers of Yugoslav-style censorship, control who gets „pardoned“, who is censored in schools, and which subversive guests appear in public. For these kind of people, Julienne Busic will always be a „terrorist“, although she never was.

Busic’s actions cannot be compared with the actions of the convicted terrorists and guests of Zagreb salons, Negri, Dellwo and others, but a lot of time will apparently have to pass before the anti-democratic journalists indoctrinated in Yugoslav press schools will accomplish what Mandela envisioned.

Charles Sullivan, President of International CURE letter 2019 (click to enlarge)


Tito’s Crimes Should Never Be Forgotten

Robin Harris
Photo: http://www.unicath.hr/

The leaders of Croatia’s antifascist movement repeatedly identified themselves with Tito. They offered no apologies for Tito’s methods and the Communist Party’s crimes.

Tito, in fact, behaved as Communists do, promoting revolution by the mass liquidation of potential opponents, by subverting every independent institution, and by bringing all power within the Party’s control.

By Robin Harris,

(source:  standpoint.co.uk )

Progressive opinion affects to take symbols lightly. Thus public acceptance of blasphemous plays and obscene exhibitions, the burning of a national flag, and insults to heads of state are all supposed to be evidence of intellectual liberation. Particularly in former Communist countries, where symbolism has altered in ways that disorientate the new as well as the old Left, the cry quickly goes up that any concern for symbols is an “obsession” or a “distraction”.

In Eastern and Central Europe, though, the Left’s indifference to symbols is an affectation. The modern leftist turns in a flash into a snarling neo-Communist — lacking only a Party membership card and Kalashnikov to revert to the older variety — when his own myths are challenged. Moreover, his assumed indifference to tradition quickly becomes intolerance of “extremism”, if any unwholesome, or ambiguous, symbol emerges from shadows on the Right.

On Friday September 1, Zagreb City Council voted to change the name of one of the most prominent squares from “Marshal Tito Square” to the “Square of the Republic of Croatia”. The decision was greeted by some solemn shaking of heads in the Western media, where it was depicted as an assertion of reactionary nationalism. Credibility was lent to this by the fact that the campaign to change the name was spearheaded by Dr Zlatko Hasanbegović, the former Croatian culture minister, who fell foul, when in office, of agitation from George Soros-backed NGOs, whose tax-financed budgets he was minded to cut. Hasanbegović is a nationalist historian with a taste for controversy and what, for politicians in Croatia, is an unnerving willingness to argue intellectual positions. He is not, however, a fascist, anti-Semite, or racist (he is a Muslim, and so has received his fair share of Islamophobic abuse). In any case, the majority for the change was provided by the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the centre-left party grouping attached to Zagreb’s mayor, Milan Bandić.

The square’s name change was historically significant. It clearly symbolised a break with the country’s past. But it became involved with another dispute about symbols, which has, despite the sound and fury, no historical significance at all. Near the Jasenovac concentration camp, where a large number of Serbs, Jews and political opponents of the quisling Independent State of Croatia (NDH) were killed by the Ustasha authorities, a private memorial was raised a year ago to members of the HOS (Croatian Defence Forces — a rightist paramilitary force) who died fighting in the war for Croatian independence in the early 1990s. On the memorial was inscribed the Ustasha salute “Za Dom Spremni” (“Ready for the Homeland”). The salute was apparently used by many HOS fighters — though who knows with what understanding of its true significance? The memorial plaque has since been moved a few miles away. What to do generally about totalitarian symbols — including the Communist five-pointed Red Star (“Petokraka”) positioned near the sites of mass graves of Communist Party victims — is now the thankless task of a government-appointed commission. Meanwhile, a well-funded, internationally-supported “antifascist” movement currently seeks to link cases of real or imagined nostalgia for the Ustasha regime — which collapsed 70 years ago — with the movement to cleanse Croatia of the remains of the Communist regime — which have a disconcerting degree of life in them still.

But what is this “antifascism”? There the historical evidence is clear. Antifascism is not a catch-all category of democrats. It is a Communist construct. It is, indeed, meaningless without reference to Communist ideology. Its exponents quickly manifest this even today by their willing defence of the record of Communism, their espousal of a recognisable (anti-Western) Communist world view, and their unshakeable conviction that the only threat to civilisation comes from the Right, not the Left.

Until the recent upsurge of leftist anarchism in America, there was, significantly, no antifascism in the US or Britain. Yet these countries were the key components of the Western alliance against the Axis powers in the Second World War. The absence of any antifascist movement in the US and the UK is not just because there was no significant indigenous Anglo-Saxon fascism (Mosley quickly fizzled out); more importantly, it is because there was no significant indigenous Communism — whose creation antifascism is.

Antifascism was a propagandist device to broaden support for Communist Party aims among non-Communists. It was a tactic to gain power, at which point power would be wielded exclusively by the Party itself. The intermittent emergence of antifascism was just a sign of the Communist Party’s temporary weakness. Between the two world wars the promotion of antifascist “Popular Fronts”, most successfully in France, encompassing the democratic Left but serving the Party, was authorised by Moscow. In 1939, however, Stalin opted for the alternative strategy — alliance with Hitler — and antifascism was immediately discarded.

Yugoslavia’s leader Josip Broz Tito in 1960
(Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

The Yugoslav Party under Tito, like other European Communist parties, obediently followed the new line. The much-trumpeted “rising” of the Communist partisans was not in response to Ustasha atrocities — the NDH had been formed on April 10, 1941. It was an authorised response to Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union — on June 22. With energetic prompting from Moscow, the Yugoslav Party now took up antifascism as a device to rally opposition to the Axis occupiers and the quisling regimes in Zagreb and Belgrade, but with a view to imposing a classic Marxist-Leninist revolution. The term “antifascist” was meanwhile used to legitimise what were presented as non-Party institutions of an alternative government — as with AVNOJ, the Antifascist Council of the People’s Liberation of Yugoslavia. Once the Communists attained power and squeezed out or liquidated non-Communist elements, under way by 1944, antifascism was relegated from its prominence in the Party’s ideological arsenal. Only in 1990, when the Communists knew that they were facing a reckoning with real democracy, did the Party revive antifascism. So, for example, while the Party changed its name from the League of Communists of Croatia (SKH) to the less threatening Party of Democratic Change, and then the Social Democratic Party, the Communist veterans’ organisation, SUBNOR (Alliance of Associations of Fighters in the People’s Liberation War), was retitled the Alliance of Antifascist Fighters. In short, antifascism never existed independently of the Communist Party, and though millions of genuine democrats have fought oppressors who may, at a pinch, be described as “fascist”, those freedom fighters had nothing in common with the ideological artefact of antifascism, except occasionally as useful dupes.

This, then, answers the question: what is antifascism? And what is its link with Communism? But the further question is: What is Tito’s role in it?

The old plaque on Tito Square, now intended for the Zagreb historical museum, makes a large claim. It reads: “Marshal Tito Square. Josip Broz Tito, politician, leader of the antifascist movement, President of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, 1945-1980, 1892-1980.” (Emphasis added.) An array of campaign groups turned out — in only modest numbers, despite the media attention — to protest against dethroning their hero from his square. The television pictures told the story of their identity and their marginalisation. Everywhere big red flags bearing the hammer and sickle were waved. The only Croatian flags present were those of the old socialist “People’s Republic”. Some protesters wore items of Yugoslav army uniform — the same worn by the Serbian/Yugoslav army forces which in 1991 attacked Croatia.

The leaders of Croatia’s antifascist movement repeatedly identified themselves with Tito. They offered no apologies for Tito’s methods and the Communist Party’s crimes.

But a glance at the list of groups supporting the protest suggests that some very special apologies were in order. Were the “Women’s Network” aware, one wonders, that Tito initiated sexual relations with his first wife when she was just 14? That he later denounced her, and his second wife — and a host of other Party “comrades” — to the NKVD when he was in Moscow in the 1930s? Did the homosexual activists know — as a forthcoming book by a Croatian historian will shortly detail — that at the Goli Otok concentration camp, to which Tito despatched his political enemies, the authorities publicly humiliated and beat  homosexuals, whom they considered “bourgeois decadents”?

The Jewish community, represented at the protest, has, of course, reason to detest the behaviour towards them of the wartime Ustasha, who fully collaborated in the Holocaust decreed by the Reich. But should Croatian Jews be grateful to Tito and the Party? In 1945 well-known Jewish businessmen were killed and their businesses seized by the Communists. When the Communists arrived, Jewish properties confiscated by the Ustasha were not returned, but were again seized and enjoyed — and are often still enjoyed — by the Communist elite and their privileged, cosseted progeny — the so-called “red bourgeoisie” who provide the bulk of the ruling class of  “post-Communist” Croatia.

As for the Croatian Serbs, whose leaders were prominent in the protests — whatever privileged positions they disproportionately occupied under the Party, notably in the repressive apparatus, they would be well advised to reflect on the long-term cost of those benefits. That cynical Communist policy of divide and rule meant that in 1990, when democracy arrived in Croatia, Serbs were both distrustful and distrusted and as such automatically seen as hostile to the new state — which the Serb rebellion prompted by Belgrade (still then led by Communists) confirmed. If Tito’s Yugoslavia left hatreds so raw and wounds so deep, who can seriously conclude that Communism offered a cure or even a palliative for atavistic nationalism, as its apologists still claim?

Tito’s persona still, however, evidently holds a certain attraction. It is of more than historical interest to understand why. The answer seems to be that Tito, though an orthodox Communist — his quarrel with Stalin was caused by ambition, not doctrine — was also something else, and this “something else” turns out to be that he was a heroic “antifascist”.

Tito, in fact, behaved as Communists do, promoting revolution by the mass liquidation of potential opponents, by subverting every independent institution, and by bringing all power within the Party’s control. He authorised the killing of tens of thousands of people, many without trial, others with staged trials — soldiers, conscripted Home Guard members, unpolitical civilians, Catholic priests, monks and nuns, doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists, businessmen, women and children. The mass graves, where people were thrown in alive to be slowly suffocated by the weight of those who followed, are still gradually being excavated. For fear of annoying influential Communist cadres, who had joined anti-Communists to create the fledgling Croatian state in 1991, these horrible crimes were for many years left unmentioned. Until recently, most Party and secret police archives were similarly inaccessible. There was no lustration of Party members. Not a single trial within Croatia has been held of a Communist official: only in Munich, after Germany managed to secure their extradition, were two high-ranking Yugoslav secret police officials given life sentences for a politically authorised murder on German soil in 1983.

The new Croatia’s first president, Franjo Tudjman, apparently admired Tito; but Tudjman never dreamed of imitating Tito’s personality cult, whose effects must still be remembered when assessing the Marshal’s reputation. Leafing through the snapshots portraying Tito’s gaudy, greedy, self-indulgent, spendthrift, pointless political life, it requires an exercise of imagination to take the performance seriously. Yugoslavia solved nothing internally. It achieved nothing externally. But heroic myths, imposed by expert media control over 35 years, so brainwashed its population that they became a heaving, wailing, neurotic, human wreck when the dictator’s death was finally announced. Only a system in which all hold on reality had been lost could have solemnly announced as its watchword for the country’s future that lapidary slogan: “After Tito — Tito!”

Tito’s achievements, such as they were, have largely been forgotten, along with most of his crimes; only his antifascist credentials are still burnished. Yet antifascism, like the smile on the Cheshire Cat, reminds us, in a disembodied form, of what Communism was, what the Communists did, and what their successors would like to do, if they had the chance. It should go the way of Tito’s plaque


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