How Russians Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the War
The Pliant Majority Sustaining Putin’s Rule
DURING the heavy fighting which took place on the Eastern Front in 1915 a regiment of Russian cavalry overran some Austrian trenches, killing or capturing their occupants. Amongst those taken prisoner was a non-commissioned officer named Brož, the son of a peasant from Kumrovac in Croatia, then aged twenty-three. It was thus that on the outbreak of the Bolshevik revolution two years later Josip Brož, later to become famous as Marshal Tito of Jugoslavia, found himself a prisoner of war in Russia. Having escaped from prison, Brož joined the Bolsheviks and spent the next two or three years fighting on their side in the civil war in Siberia and Central Asia.
The experiences of these years not unnaturally made a profound impression on the young Croat. In Russia he found something that he had hitherto lacked: a cause which commanded his devotion and loyalty. To him, a member of an underprivileged Slav minority, the Hapsburgs and their crumbling Empire meant nothing; nor had his early experiences as an industrial worker in Zagreb and elsewhere left him with any great liking for the capitalist system as he knew it. In the Russians he now found fellow Slavs, talking a language so closely akin to his own that he could soon speak it fluently, while the historic events in which, by chance as much as anything, he had become involved, seemed to provide the answer to many of his early doubts and questionings. He married a Russian woman, and when he returned home in 1920 it was as an enthusiastic supporter of the new ideas and a loyal servant of the recently formed Communist International. His wife and his infant son Zharko stayed behind in Russia.
Much had happened in southeastern Europe in the five or six years which Josip Brož had spent abroad. The Hapsburg Empire had ceased to exist, and he now found himself a citizen of the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, shortly to be renamed Jugoslavia. But the new state and the new order to which he came back were no more to his liking than the old had been. Resuming his old calling of metal worker, he soon made his mark in the trade-union movement by his energy as a strike leader and agitator, and before long rose to be Secretary of the Metal Workers' Union. In 1922, he was also made Secretary of the Zagreb Branch of the newly founded Jugoslav Communist Party.
It was not long before these activities brought Brož into conflict with the authorities. Soon after its foundation, the Jugoslav Communist Party had been declared illegal. After being arrested several times and serving various short terms of imprisonment, he was in November 1928 condemned to five years' hard labor. From the account of his trial published in the press at that time,[i] it appears that he conducted his own defense with characteristic defiance and vigor, openly attacking the régime and turning the dock into a platform for Communist propaganda.
His term of imprisonment was served at Maribor in Slovenia, at Lepoglava in Croatia, and at Sremska Mitrovica. Up to now he had led a life of action. In prison he had the time to read extensively and was able to continue and complete the modest early education which he had received at the village school at Kumrovac by reading numerous works on political and economic subjects. He was also able to keep in touch with other members of the Party. At Sremska Mitrovica, one of his fellow prisoners was Moshe Pijade, a Belgrade intellectual well versed in the theory of Marxism, today one of the two or three high priests of "Titoism." Pijade spent a great part of the years between the wars in jail, working out his revolutionary theories and spreading them amongst his fellow prisoners, for whom, to quote one of them, prison became a kind of Marxist University. A snapshot taken at the time shows Brož and Pijade in jail at Sremska Mitrovica in 1931: Brož alert and lively looking, Pijade gazing owl-like through his spectacles, his thoughts far away in the realms of dialectical materialism.
On his release from prison in 1934, Brož was made a member of the Central Committee of the Jugoslav Communist Party, and left for Vienna, where the Jugoslav Party at that time had its headquarters. Thence he was sent to Moscow to take a course in Marxism at the Lenin University, and thus plunge himself anew in the cleansing waters of ideological orthodoxy. But he remained a man of action rather than a theorist. After leaving Moscow, his life became that of a high-level agent of the Communist International: false names, forged papers, hairbreadth escapes from the police of half a dozen countries. Two anecdotes he tells show the kind of existence he led at this time.
On one illicit journey he travelled by way of Denmark, using a British passport. A Danish policeman, speaking fluent English, called on him to give some account of himself. He managed to get out a few words of broken English in reply. But the policeman was not taken in. Fortunately for Brož, he happened to be an easygoing fellow of left wing sympathies. "Next time you are travelling on a false passport," he said with a wink, "choose a country whose language you speak." Another time he was travelling from France to Germany. In Paris he had been given a fresh set of forged documents. But the last few days had been tiring and soon after taking his seat in the train he fell heavily asleep. He was wakened by a German frontier guard shaking him and asking his name. Only then did he realize that in the hurry of his departure he had not looked at his new passport and did not know what name it bore. By feigning ignorance of the German language he gained time to glance surreptitiously at his passport and thus find the answer to the Nazi official's question.
In 1936, after the outbreak of the civil war in Spain, he was entrusted with the important task of organizing the secret channels by which foreign volunteers reached the Republican forces. His headquarters were in Paris, where he came into contact with many of the men who were later to serve with him in the mountains of Jugoslavia and who were now on their way to serve their guerrilla apprenticeship in Spain: Bebler, Popovich, Dapchevich and many others.
In all the tasks entrusted to him, Josip Brož had shown himself reliable, resourceful, a good organizer, and above all strictly orthodox. In 1937 he received his reward. For some time past the Jugoslav Communist Party had been in a bad way. The energetic measures of the active and vigilant police made life increasingly difficult for those of its members who remained inside Jugoslavia, while the absence of the Central Committee of the Party in Vienna had a demoralizing effect. Worst of all, the Party had fallen into grievous heresies -- deviations to left and right, Trotskiism and Bukharinism.
In 1937, the year of the great purge, Corkich, the Secretary General, was expelled from the Party by a decision of the Comintern, and Josip Brož was appointed in his place. He was given the special task of reorganizing the Party, purging it of unreliable elements and bringing it back into line.
The new Secretary General's first move was characteristic and, in the light of subsequent events, highly significant. He at once returned illegally to Jugoslavia, taking the rest of the Central Committee with him. A Jugoslav Communist who was in Belgrade at the time has described to me the amazement and delight of the rank and file on finding that all the Party leaders were actually with them in the country, sharing their dangers and directing their activities. The days of remote control were past. For the next year or so Brož remained in Jugoslavia, ruthlessly purging the Party of undesirable elements, reorganizing the Party machine, infusing a new spirit into its members.
In 1939, he visited Moscow to report and obtain fresh directives. With war threatening and the police everywhere on the lookout for illicit travellers, the trip was dangerous. In the end he returned safely, having travelled home by Constantinople and thence by British ship to Salonika. Amongst those who anxiously awaited his return was Herta, a young Slovene girl, who had become his second wife. Not long afterwards a baby was born to them, another son, Misha.
Henceforward, Brož remained in Jugoslavia. In his underground army he made new appointments, allotted new tasks and established a new discipline. He would send for people and tell them what to do. "You," he said, "will do this; and you, this" -- in Serbo-Croat, "Ti, to; ti, to". He did this so often that his friends began to call him "Tito." The name stuck and grew to be more than a nickname.
Towards the end of 1940 the Jugoslav Communist Party held their Fifth Congress, which was attended by over a hundred delegates who had come together secretly from all over the country. After it was over, Brož (or "Walter" as he was known at this time in Comintern circles) sent from Belgrade a message to Dimitrov, then Secretary General of the Comintern in Moscow, reporting that "complete unanimity" had been achieved. The purge had had its effect; the new broom had swept clean.
Meanwhile the unmistakable German threat to the Balkans was bound to cause some uneasiness in Moscow, despite the Soviet-German Pact. The pundits of the Kremlin still refused to believe in the stories of an impending German attack on the Soviet Union, but they could nevertheless scarcely regard with pleasure the prospect of an extension of Hitler's rule to the Slav countries of the Balkans, historically a Russian preserve. Elsewhere, Communists continued to denounce the struggle of Great Britain and her allies against Nazi Germany as the "Second Imperialist War." In Jugoslavia the Communist Party, still underground, seem to have received different instructions from those sent to Communists in most other countries, instructions which were not altogether in accordance with the spirit of the Soviet-German Pact.[ii]
In March 1941 when the Regent, Prince Paul, and the Cvetkovich Government sought to come to terms with the Germans, they were swept from power and replaced by the young King Peter and General Simovich. The German invasion ensued. Even before Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union had turned the "Second Imperialist War" into the "Heroic Struggle of Democracy against Fascism," Tito and the Jugoslav Communists started to prepare for active resistance to the invader. By the summer of 1941 the first Partisan detachments were operating in Serbia and elsewhere under Tito's command. They consisted of small groups of determined men and women who had taken to the hills and forests, armed with cudgels and axes, old sporting guns and anything else they could lay hands on. For all further supplies they depended on what they could capture from the enemy and what the country people would give them.
At first, Tito conducted operations from Belgrade, whither he had moved from Zagreb in May 1941. His distinguished appearance and natural easy manner made it simple for him to pass as a member of the bourgeoisie. He became Engineer Babich, a well dressed, well fed and generally respected citizen, travelling up and down the country--by air as often as not--under the very noses of the police. In Belgrade under the German occupation he lived in a comfortable villa on the outskirts of the city, situated, by a strange coincidence, almost opposite the house which he occupies today. He also spent much time in the house of Vlado Ribnikar, a prosperous Belgrade newspaper owner who was secretly a member of the Communist Party. Those who met him in Madame Ribnikar's salon recall the fashionable appearance and charming manners of this new recruit to Belgrade society.
Despite the German occupation, the capital for a time possessed numerous advantages as a site for the secret headquarters of the Communists. But, as the Gestapo's hold on the city tightened, existence there became more and more precarious. "Marko" Ranković, one of Tito's principal lieutenants, was arrested by the Gestapo and saved from execution only by a daring raid on the prison in which he was confined. At the beginning of September, Tito decided that the time had come to go into the field. With the help of an Orthodox priest, Father Miliutinovich, he was smuggled out of Belgrade, and a few hours later reached a Partisan detachment that was operating near Valjevo in Central Serbia. His career as a guerrilla leader had begun. From now onwards he was to be constantly with his Partisans in the mountains and forests.
This decision was as important in its way as the decision which he had taken four years earlier when he had brought the Central Committee back to Jugoslavia from Vienna. The advice given by Moscow to Communist Parties in Axis-occupied countries was to organize sabotage and resistance amongst the industrial proletariat in the towns, rather than to attempt widespread guerrilla operations in the country areas. But Tito, characteristically, preferred to strike out on a line of his own, a line that in the long run was deeply to influence the course of events in Eastern Europe.
When the Partisans first entered the field in the summer of 1941 they found another resistance movement already in existence: the Chetniks, formed round a nucleus of officers and men of the Royal Jugoslav Army, under the leadership of Colonel Draža Mihailovich. They were in the early days more numerous and better equipped than the Partisans. But at no time was their discipline so ruthless or their organization so good.
At first Jugoslavia had been dazed by the suddenness of the German attack. Now, when the first shock had passed, there returned to her people the fierce spirit of resistance for which they have been famous throughout history. The rising which took place in Serbia in the summer of 1941 was essentially a national rising. In it Partisan and Chetnik bands fought side by side. It was astonishingly successful. The Germans were taken by surprise. Large areas of the country were liberated, the peasants flocking to join the resistance. A unified command and a united effort against the invader seemed possible, indeed probable.
It was in these circumstances that a meeting took place between Tito and Mihailovich. Tito himself has described to me the scene in the peasant's hut in the Ravna Gora. Both parties were very much on their guard -- he himself, for so many years wanted by the Royal police, feeling it strange that he should be dealing on equal terms with a representative of the Royal Government; Mihailovich, very much the professional staff officer, not knowing what to make of this Communist agitator turned soldier and half believing him to be a Russian; each feeling that the other perhaps had something to offer that was worth having. In the end, some kind of provisional arrangement seems to have been arrived at, though it was not possible to reach full agreement for a unified command.
But this early coöperation was not destined to last. The difference of outlook between the two movements was too great for that. The Partisans were Communists first and patriots second. They were as determined to destroy the old order of things as they were to free their country from the Germans. In the eyes of the Chetniks, these revolutionary tendencies were a menace to all they held most sacred: King, Church and State, while they saw in Tito's presumed allegiance to Moscow an unmistakable threat to Jugoslav independence.
In the fighting that now followed, both Partisans and Chetniks accused the other of treachery, the Partisans claiming, for their part, that the Chetniks had betrayed their positions to the Germans and joined in the German attack on them. Two further meetings between the two leaders led to no better results. Thereafter clash after clash ensued between them. Simultaneously with the war of resistance a civil war was in progress. Henceforward the elimination of its rival and its own accession to power were objectives which neither faction ever let out of sight for one moment.
Meanwhile, the Germans had had time to collect themselves. The necessary forces were assembled, the liberated areas reoccupied, the guerrillas driven off with heavy losses, and savage reprisals undertaken against the civil population. While surviving Partisans and Chetniks licked their wounds in the woods and mountains, the towns and villages were burned and devastated and thousands of hostages, men, women and children, taken out and shot. To this and subsequent disasters Partisans and Chetniks reacted differently. In this difference lies the explanation of much that followed later.
In the eyes of the Chetniks, the results achieved by their operations could not justify the damage and suffering caused to the civilian population. Their aim was to preserve rather than to destroy. Henceforward they inclined more and more to avoid active operations against the Germans; some, indeed, even arrived at mutually advantageous accommodations with the enemy. It was the beginning of a policy which in the end was to lead to their downfall. The equivocal attitude of the Chetnik leaders lost them the support of many of their own followers. It lost them, in the end, the support of the Allies, though it is only fair to recall that the Allied High Command had itself consistently encouraged them to lie low, avoid casualties and husband their resources.
Meanwhile, with true Communist ruthlessness the Partisans refused to let themselves be deterred by setbacks or reprisals from accomplishing the tasks which they had set themselves. Their own lives were of no account. As for the civilians, they too were in the firing line. The more civilians the Germans shot and the more villages they burned, the more enemy convoys the Partisans ambushed and the more bridges they destroyed. It was a hard policy, but in the end it was justified by results. "In war," Napoleon once said, "it is not men, but the man who counts." Of guerrilla warfare this is truer still. Without determined leadership and stern discipline, guerrillas, however brave individually, can achieve little.
The failure of the Chetniks was to some extent due to inadequate leadership. Though a brave man and an experienced soldier, Mihailovich did not possess many of the characteristics necessary in a guerrilla leader. Though personally popular, he was unable to control his subordinates or preserve discipline in his forces. He lacked (and later generations may count it to his credit) the qualities required to weather that "gale of the world" that was to sweep him to destruction, while it carried his rival onwards and upwards to supreme power.
When I was dropped in Jugoslavia in 1943, Tito to the outside world was still a shadowy figure. Some said that he was a woman, others a Committee, and others that he did not exist at all.
After a journey through wild mountain country, I reached the ruined castle where the Partisans had their headquarters high on a hill above the river. A sentry, stepping from the shadows, challenged me, and then, on receiving the password, guided me through the crumbling walls to an open space where a man was sitting under a tree, studying a map by the light of a flickering lamp.
As I entered, Tito came forward to meet me. He was of medium height, clean-shaven, with tanned, rather haggard, regular features and iron-grey hair. He had a very firm mouth and light blue eyes. He was wearing plain dark clothes without badges of rank; a neat spotted tie added the only touch of color. We shook hands and sat down. A Partisan, his Schmeisser submachine-gun slung across his back, brought a bottle of plum brandy. Soon we were deep in conversation. His eyes, as we talked, were very alert. A man, clearly, who missed very little. His answers, when I asked him questions or put proposals to him, were clear and to the point.
I was to spend a year and a half with Tito and his Partisans. The war they waged was a strange one. It was savage and bitter. Quarter was neither given nor expected. There was no fixed front. The Partisans kept constantly on the move, attacking the enemy where he least expected it and then fading back into the forests and mountains, denying him as far as possible a firm target at which he could strike back. If they were to succeed against a well armed, well equipped enemy, supported by armor, artillery and aircraft, it was essential that they should retain the initiative themselves and not let it pass into the hands of their opponents; it was essential, too, that they should show themselves no less ruthless than their most ruthless enemy.
Tito brought to the war of resistance against the Germans the same qualities which had already stood him in such good stead up to now: courage, realism, ruthless determination and singleness of purpose, resourcefulness, adaptability and plain common sense. He imposed on the National Resistance Movement the same merciless discipline that he had imposed on the Party and he endowed it with the same oracle: the Party line. He himself stood head and shoulders above his fellows. When there were decisions to be taken, he took them, whether they were political or military -- took them calmly and collectedly, however precarious the situation. He himself possessed, and could inspire in others, an absolute devotion to their common cause which led them to count as nothing their own lives or the lives of others. By throwing together Serbs, Croats, Slovenes and the rest of them in the fight against the common enemy, he caused them to forget their old internecine feuds and thus achieve within the ranks of the movement a new sense of national unity.
Tito's immediate associates were for the most part men with the same background as himself, professional revolutionaries, who had shared his exiles and his imprisonments, helped him to organize workers' cells and promote strikes, run with him the gantlet of police persecution. Edo Kardelj, the expert Marxist dialectician, was a schoolmaster from Slovenia, small, stocky, pale-skinned, black haired, in his early thirties, with steel-rimmed spectacles and a neat little dark moustache. "Marko" Rankovich was a peasant's son from Serbia, with an air of conspiracy, who, under Tito's supervision, operated the Party machine and its widespread intelligence organization. Djilas, a Montenegrin, was intolerant and good-looking, with a shock of hair like a golliwog. Koca Popovich, small and vital, was the son of a Belgrade millionaire, once a poet and philosopher and now one of the most dashing of Partisan commanders. Nearly all were in their twenties or thirties, an exception being Moshe Pijade, the elderly Jewish intellectual who had been Tito's companion in jail at Sremska Mitrovica and now shared with Kardelj the distinction of being the Party's leading theoretician. Then there were the girls, Olga and Zdenka, who took turns at working for Tito, keeping his maps and his bundles of signals; and his bodyguards, Bosko and Prlja, a formidable pair who never left his side.
Two things struck me about this oddly assorted group over whom Tito presided with an air of amused benevolence. First, was their devotion to the Old Man, as they called him. Secondly, was the fact that all of them, young and old, men and women, intellectuals and artisans, Serbs and Croats, had been with him in the woods from the early days of the resistance, sharing with him hardships and dangers, setbacks and successes. This common experience had overcome all differences of race or class or temperament and forged between them lasting bonds of loyalty and affection.
My own dealings were with Tito himself. From the first I was struck by his readiness to discuss any question on its merits, to take a decision there and then. He seemed perfectly sure of himself; he was a principal, not a subordinate. To find such assurance, such independence in a Communist was for me a new and astonishing experience. There were other unexpected things about Tito. There was his surprisingly broad outlook; his never-failing sense of humor; his unashamed delight in the minor pleasures of life; a natural diffidence in human relationships, giving way to a natural friendliness and conviviality; a violent temper, flaring up in sudden rages; a considerateness and generosity constantly made manifest in small ways; a surprising readiness to see both sides of a question.
These were human qualities, hard to reconcile with the usual conception of a Communist puppet. And yet I knew (and I should have been ill-advised to forget it) that this was a man whose tenets would justify him in going to any lengths of deception or violence to attain his ends, and that these, outside our immediate military objectives, were in all probability diametrically opposed to my own.
One line of approach, I soon found, carried great weight with him: the suggestion, advanced at the psychological moment, that this or that line of conduct did or did not befit an honorable and civilized nation. He likewise reacted equally strongly to anything that, by the widest stretch of the imagination, might be regarded as a slight on the national dignity of Jugoslavia.
He shared this intense national pride with every one of his followers, from the highest to the lowest. For the Partisans, the outside world did not seem of immediate interest or importance. What mattered to them was their war of National Liberation, their struggle against the invader, their victories, their sacrifices. They were proudest of all of the fact that they owed nothing to anyone, that they had got so far without help from outside.
That they had achieved much was undeniable. By 1943 Tito had, without outside help, built up an effective guerrilla force of something like 150,000 Partisans, which was now containing a dozen or more enemy divisions. Each Partisan formation had its own headquarters, and these subordinate headquarters were directly or indirectly responsible to Tito's General Headquarters. In the areas temporarily held by them the Partisans set up a provisional administration, in which the key posts were everywhere held by Party members, and policy was in practice dictated by them. Already one thing seemed abundantly clear: that Tito and his followers would in the long run become the masters of Jugoslavia.
The Germans and Italians had realized, long before the Allies, that the Partisans constituted a military factor of first-rate importance against which a modern army was in many respects powerless. In three years of war, they launched against them no less than seven full-scale offensives, each employing upwards of ten divisions with supporting arms. Once or twice large forces of Partisans came near to being surrounded and wiped out; Tito himself had more than one narrow escape. But each time they succeeded in extricating themselves, fading away, reappearing elsewhere and attacking the enemy where he least expected it. For the Germans, Jugoslavia became a running sore, a constant drain on resources that were badly needed elsewhere.
In September 1944, after a last unsuccessful offensive against the Partisans, who were by now receiving substantial assistance from the Western Allies, the Germans, heavily attacked by the Partisans and the Allied Air Forces, began to withdraw their forces from Jugoslavia. Meanwhile, a Soviet Army Group under Marshal Tolbukhin was advancing rapidly through Rumania towards the Jugoslav frontier. Tito, who a short time before had met Mr. Churchill at Naples, now flew to Moscow for the purpose, as he put it, of "giving the Red Army his permission to enter Jugoslavia" and of coördinating its operations with those of his own troops. A few weeks later the Red Army swept across the Rumanian frontier into Jugoslavia and, after a fierce battle, entered Belgrade at the same time as the Partisans advancing from the south.
With the fall of Belgrade, the guerrilla phase of the war in Jugoslavia had come to an end. Bitter fighting was still in progress in the north. But the enemy were now in full retreat, and within a few weeks Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Herzegovina and Dalmatia and some areas of Bosnia and Croatia were free. Politically, too, the capture of Belgrade marked the beginning of an entirely new phase. Tito and the members of his National Council were now safely installed in the capital, and it was their business to govern and administer the country instead of stirring up trouble, to quell resistance instead of organizing it.
Tito, for so long an outlaw, now lived in one of the Royal Palaces. He took to his new surroundings like a duck to water. From now onwards his suits and uniforms were made by the best tailor in Belgrade; his shirts came from the most fashionable shirtmaker; he ate the best food and drank the best wine; the horses he rode were the finest in the country. His official receptions were on the most lavish scale. But it is only fair to say that, amidst all this magnificence, to those of us who had known him before he remained as friendly and as simple in his approach as ever. Indeed there was nothing he liked better than to collect half a dozen friends in a corner of one of the great gilded saloons and there, over a glass of rakija, talk of the days in the mountains and sing the familiar Partisan songs. Sometimes his son Zharko would be there, a tall good-looking young man with blue eyes and a mop of golden hair, back from Russia where he had lost an arm and won a row of medals fighting in the Red Army. And sometimes his younger son, Misha, would be brought in, a cheerful child of four or five, who, with his mother Herta, had somehow been kept out of the clutches of the Gestapo during the war.
At the insistence of Great Britain, contact had already been established between Tito's National Committee and the Royal Jugoslav Government in exile under Dr. Subashich. Negotiations were now opened between the two with a view to the formation of a united government, which the Allies could recognize as the legal government of Jugoslavia. The British Government, with the knowledge and approval of the United States Government, did what it could to overcome King Peter's objections and ensure that agreement was reached between the two parties. In March, 1945, a combined Government was formed under Tito's leadership. All the cards were in Tito's hand and it would have been unlike him not to use them. From the first it was clear that, whatever the terms of the agreement, in reality Dr. Subashich and his friends would play no part in running the country. One after another, they were eliminated from the Government; what remained of a legal opposition was suppressed; the Monarchy declared at an end; and a regular Communist régime set up with all the familiar features--a single party system, state controlled industry and commerce, an increasing measure of collectivization in agriculture, ceaseless propaganda, forced labor, an active and ubiquitous security police. One of the first acts of this régime was to hunt down and "liquidate" General Mihailovich and those of his followers who were still holding out in the mountains.
Now that the war was over and Tito established in power, there remained one all-important question to be settled: the relationship of the new Communist Jugoslavia with the Soviet Union--the Country of the Revolution. "Much," I had written in a report which I sent to Mr. Churchill from German-occupied Jugoslavia in 1943, "will depend on Tito, and whether he sees himself in his former rôle of Comintern agent or as the potential ruler of an independent Jugoslav State." That, in a nutshell, was the problem which now arose in acute form. To what extent was Tito going to take his orders from Moscow?
His background, of course, was that of a Moscow-trained Communist, a loyal servant of the Communist International. There could be no doubt about that. When he had been made Secretary General of the Jugoslav Communist Party in 1937, it was because he was regarded in Moscow as an absolutely reliable man. But human experience shapes human character. The impact of events on the individual--even the Communist individual--cannot altogether be left out of account. A great deal had happened to Tito since 1937. He had undergone the hazards and hardships of a savage, bitter war--a war fought against a foreign invader for the independence of his country. He had experienced the satisfaction of building up from nothing a formidable military and political machine, of which he was now the absolute master. He had enjoyed the triumph of ultimate victory. And the Germans had been driven from his country, not by the Red Army, but mainly by his own efforts and by those of his fellow countrymen.
Jugoslavia seemed at that time firmly enough fixed in the Soviet orbit. In public, the Jugoslavs lost no opportunity of demonstrating their solidarity with Russia, and the treaty which Tito signed when he visited Moscow in April 1945 (and which Moscow has recently denounced with such vehemence) seemed to set the seal on their union. But behind this smooth façade, ominous cracks had already begun to appear in the basic structure of Soviet-Jugoslav friendship.
Already during the war there seems to have been some friction between Tito and the Kremlin. On first establishing formal contact with him early in 1944, the Russians found him more independent and less docile than they had hoped. The direct connection which, independently of them, he had already established with the west was in itself disturbing to them and there are indications that they more than once intervened to prevent the establishment of closer relations. But in this they met with only limited success. Practical-minded as he was, Tito could see nothing but advantage in obtaining such technical and material assistance as he could from the west. For him the ideological dangers of contact with the capitalist world had no terrors. If Stalin would hobnob with Churchill, why shouldn't he?
It seems probable, too, that, from the first, Tito's ideas of his future relationship with Moscow did not correspond to those held by the Kremlin; that, for all his Moscow training, he envisaged a connection allowing him a very considerable measure of independence. Certainly the brutal reality--the complete subservience demanded of them by Moscow--seems to have come as a disagreeable shock both to him and to his principal lieutenants.
The Russians misjudged the psychological effect of the war not only on Tito but on the Jugoslav people as a whole. After what they had been through, Tito and his followers had come to believe in working things out for themselves. For them Marxism-Leninism was not an unalterable dogma, but something to be adapted to their own needs.
There has been much speculation as to the cause of Tito's breach with Moscow. But in reality it is not necessary to go beyond this belief in the possibility of working things out for oneself, this refusal to accept the line laid down by the Kremlin as dogma. The subject of the dispute was in a way of secondary importance. What mattered was that there should be a dispute at all. The Soviet system is based first and foremost on authority, the supreme authority of the Kremlin. And Tito was challenging that authority.
The key to what has happened already and to what is likely to happen in the future must be sought first and foremost in Tito himself. Without his leadership, without his ruthless determination, without the personal devotion which he inspires in his followers, such a rebellion would have had little chance of succeeding. But it was no mere accident that such a movement should have arisen in Jugoslavia. In Tito the national characteristics of pride, stubbornness and shrewd pertinacity are highly developed. What he and his followers are fighting for is the right to run their own country in their own way. And for centuries resistance to foreign interference has been a tradition of the peoples of Jugoslavia--a tradition that has been favored by their country's geographical position midway between east and west.
For the past year and a half the Russians have been doing everything in their power to retrieve their initial blunder, but so far without success. Soviet political pressure has only served to strengthen Tito's internal position. He has met economic pressure by increasing his trade with the west. Assassination, if it has been attempted, has failed. There remains only military intervention of one kind or another. At the present time the Russians must be weighing the advantages and disadvantages of such a course.
A principal factor in these calculations must be Tito himself. When I first arrived in German-occupied Jugoslavia in 1943, the weary, tattered Partisans amongst whom I found myself were fighting for their lives against tremendous odds. When I returned to Belgrade this past spring, my impression once again was of a struggle in which the odds were scarcely less formidable and the determination to hold out equally great. But nothing I saw reminded me more forcibly of those wartime days than Tito himself. He is a man who has always been at his best in a crisis, and it was clear to me as soon as I saw him that the stresses and strains of recent months had brought out all his fighting qualities -- the ruthless determination and the confidence in himself and his followers which in the past have carried him through so many seemingly hopeless situations.
The scene had changed. Except for his wolfhound, Tigger, a good deal more sedate than when I first remembered him after his capture from the Germans six years ago, and the familiar faces of the men around him, there was little in the comfortable suburban villa to remind me of the huts and caves which had sheltered us in Bosnia. Nor was there anything about the well cooked, well served luncheon to which we sat down to recall our rough, often scanty wartime fare. But, despite his surroundings, despite his smartly cut summer suit and carefully chosen tie, there was something about Tito that left no doubt that here was a man who knew that he was up against it, but who also had a pretty shrewd idea that somehow or other he was going to come out on top.
[i]Jutarni List, November 8 and 10, 1928.
[ii] As early as the summer of 1940, after the fall of France, British intelligence officers, in search of potential elements of resistance in case of a German invasion of Jugoslavia, had been surprised to find the Jugoslav Communists ready to coöperate with them. They had the same experience elsewhere in the Balkans.