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Tito and his People (7)

ITALIAN ARMS IN PARTISAN HANDS

The surrender of Italy that summer came as a windfall to the Liberation Front. Marshal Tito knew, with the invasion of Sicily, that sooner or later the battered and consistently defeated Italian fascist army would have to lay down its arms. He made his preparations accordingly and when the surrender came, he was ready. Partisan troops or emissaries approached Italian garrisons in all parts of Yugoslavia. In each case they were given one of three choices: to fight the Partisans; to surrender their arms and supplies and leave Yugoslavia; or to join the Partisans in their fight against the Nazis.

In only a few isolated cases did the Italians resist the Partisans. In Slovenia, for example, six Italian divisions surrendered their arms and were escorted to the Italian border. In Croatia, three Italian brigades went over to the Partisans. In parts of Serbia, Germans reached the Italians first and disarmed them, but there were some instances where the Italians fought off the Germans and joined the Partisans.

Never before had such a quantity of arms and supplies come into Tito's hands. He had enough tanks to equip an entire tank brigade. For the first time, he had an ample supply of anti-aircraft guns and heavy artillery. Howitzers, siege guns, and even a few pieces of coastal artillery fell into his hands. Armored cars and an armored train; locomotives. Great stores of food. Several thousand machine guns; tommy guns. Millions of rounds of ammunition, and whole dumps of artillery shells.

Tito did not pause or rest on his laurels. With the captured arms and the added recruits, he launched a heavy attack on the Dalmation coast. Striking hammer blows, he liberated almost all of Dalmatia, and then drove north into Istria. He cleared all of this neck of land except Trieste of the enemy, and in one place smashed across the border into Italy. From there, he swung eastward and liberated Slovenia. In Slovenia, the people rose to join him, and in a matter of weeks almost all of that province was cleared of Germans. By late September, 1943, two-thirds of Yugoslavia was in the hands of the Liberation Front.

The Germans attempted counter-attacks. Panzer units that slashed into Slovenia were cut-off and destroyed; and at that time, Russian pressure was growing. The Germans could not afford a full-scale Yugoslav offensive against Tito's strengthened forces. Allied troops were hammering at them in Italy and the air attacks from the British Isles were assuming huge dimensions.

In addition, American and British liaison with Tito had been tremendously improved. Now, when Tito undertook a military action, flights of American and British planes supported him. Rumor had it that varied supplies were being transported by the Allies across the Adriatic in small boats.

THE ALLIES RECOGNIZE TITO

A point should be made here – that the guerrilla bands which Marshal Tito had dispatched southward into Serbia the year before had played havoc with German lines of communication. At the time when the British were sorely pressed at El Alamein in North Africa, Tito ordered his guerrillas to spare no effort to delay German reinforcements. The result was that train after train bearing German troops and supplies for Rommel's army was derailed or blown up, and thereby the Yugoslavs became one of the most important factors in the eventual Allied North African victory.

Perhaps this more than anything else convinced the British that Mikhailovich was, if not a traitor and Axis collaborationist, at least a straw man, blown all out of proportion by the Yugoslav government-in-exile. At any rate, the British were fed up and disgusted with the government-in-exile's incompetence and inactivity.

In a ringing speech in November, 1943, a few days before he became a marshal, Tito spoke these stirring words:

"It was necessary to pour out river of precious blood of the nation before the truth about the situation in Yugoslavia could force its way to the world's opinion."

But force its way it did. And Anthony Eden, speaking in the House of Commons December, 1943, made the following statement:

"For many months past the head and front resistance to the enemy in Yugoslavia have been the Partisans under their commander in chief, Tito. From all reports which we received, it is clear that these Partisans are continuing and engaging a larger number of German divisions. We are doing all we can to supply them with munitions and to support them in every way possible. Our action in this respect has of course been endorsed by our Allies, Soviet Russia and the United States."

C. L. Sulzberger, the distinguished correspondent for The New York Times reported in that paper on July 22, 1943, that:

"The British government has established military liaison with the Yugoslav Partisan movement, led by the chieftain who bears the nom de guerre Tito."

Tito was indeed happy to establish military liaison with the general headquarters for the Middle East for Tito was happy to work with anyone who fought the Axis. Its total annihilation above all else, was first on his agenda.

The military mission Anthony Eden was talking about was under the leadership of a member of the British House of Commons, Brigadier Fitzroy McLean, who proceeded to establish excellent relationships with Tito and followed Captain Deakin, now Lieutenant-Colonel Deakin, D.S.O., a personal friend of Winston Churchill's, who entered Yugoslavia by parachute, some time in February, 1943, and was for eight months at Marshal Tito's headquarters. It was Deakin who was one of the first to bring back first-hand accounts of the struggle and its personnel.

On December 11, 1943, the Soviet government also decided to send a military mission to Tito's headquarters.

When Anthony Eden was in Moscow and Teheran, Molotov, representing the Soviet government, announced to Anthony Eden that the Soviet government would send a mission to join the British mission with the Partisans and it was agreed that the two missions should work together in closest collaboration.

The Partisan army is being supplied with war materials by the Allies to the full extent that the military situation permits and Partisan operations have on numerous occasions been supported by our air forces.

Vernon Bartlett, the well-known member of the English House of Commons, speaking in the House on December 14, 1943, made a very significant statement: "We have been much too reluctant to realize that in Yugoslavia, Spain, Italy, and to a slightly different degree in Greece, the future is in the hands of the masses of the people and not in the hands of whoever happens to be king at the time, however gallant he is or however great his services were in the past."

This statement shows a clear realization on the part of men in public life that we are living in changing times and that our old conceptions of diplomacy must be changed in keeping with the times. The Allies realized the wisdom of the old saying: "A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody."

At last the Allies placed their trust in the proper hands.

How The Allies Help Tito

One example among many: In Zagreb, the Croatian capital, underground sabotage harassed the Germans to such an extent that the Nazis proclaimed a 24-hour curfew. Anyone found on the streets was to be shot and as we know, the German's aren't squeamish about keeping such promises. All through the day, Nazi storm troopers were to make a house-to-house, room-to-room search for Tito's men.

Marshal Tito, fearing that a search would unearth and jeopardize his underground secret service in Zagreb got in touch with Allied headquarters. Together they evolved a plan and in a few hours the plan was in operation. Over 100 American heavy bombers could be seen coming over the city. The Nazis, fearing annihilation, sounded an alert. Air raid sirens screamed, people rushed for cover and in the confusion, all the Partisans managed to escape the Nazi dragnet.

But the bombers didn't drop any bombs. They had no intention of dropping any. They just came to form a blanket to cover up and help in the escape of Tito's "saboteurs."

Today with closer Allied co-ordination, such feats take place more and more often than is recorded in the daily press.

GOVERNMENT OF, BY AND FOR THE PEOPLE

With the rise of its political power and military fortunes, the Anti-Fascist Vece or committee of the People's Liberation Movement, met at Jajce in the heart of Bosnia. There, delegates from every part of Yugoslavia met. In a large hall that was formerly a gymnasium, peasant leaders and working class leaders, priests and Communists, old political leaders and young military men, sat side by side. It was fitting that they should meet there, in one of the oldest and loveliest Yugoslav towns, under the picturesque castle of old King Tvtkas.

The town had a festive air; this was free Yugoslav soil. Here was a school, a hospital, even a college hastily set up. Everywhere flags hung, most of them home-made – the American flag, the British, the Soviet flag, and the Partisan battle banner with its single five-pointed star.

Here, on December 4, 1943, Marshal Tito proclaimed a provisional democratic Yugoslav government, and disowned the present government-in-exile. The free Yugoslav radio told the world that 140 elected delegates had met in a parliament representative of free Yugoslavia. Dr. Ivan Ribar was announced as the head of this government, and General Joseph Broz (Tito) was elevated to the rank of field marshal and made chairman of a new committee for national defense.

As might be expected, the Yugoslav government-in-exile screamed with rage, disowned Tito and the Liberation Front, and hysterically told the world that they were still the legal rulers of Yugoslavia. By this time, however, both Britain and the United States were too weary to listen.

Tito and his men were killing Germans; the Partisans had driven the enemy from two-thirds of the land and they had proved that the people of Yugoslavia supported them.

This conference at Jajce, in the heart of Bosnia announced to the world over the free Yugoslav radio the conclusion it had come to about a federated organization of Yugoslavia.

A Federated Yugoslavia

"On the basis of the right of all nations to self-determination, including their separation from or union with other nations, and in keeping with the true will of all the peoples of Yugoslavia, tested during the three years of the common people's liberation struggle and cemented in an indissoluble fraternity of the peoples of Yugoslavia, the Anti-fascist Vece for the peoples of Yugoslavia has reached the following decisions:

"1. The peoples of Yugoslavia, who never have and do not now recognize the division of Yugoslavia into separate parts by the fascist imperialists, have proved in the common armed struggle their firm will to remain united (as citizens of a common country) in Yugoslavia.

"2. To guarantee a real sovereignty to each of the Yugoslav peoples and to make sure that Yugoslavia is no longer an arena for the activities of any reactionary clique, the federative principle, ensuring full equality to all the people of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Hezrogovina, will be adopted.

"3. The federative organization of Yugoslavia will be based on enjoyment of the fullest democratic rights by the people. Indeed it is to be noted that even now, while the war for liberation is going on, organs (such as local committees and regional assemblies) through which the people can exercise power have been set up in various parts of Yugoslavia.... Final power is vested in the Central Vece or People's Assembly of Yugoslavia, the supreme legislative and executive authority and the supreme representative of the sovereign people and states of Yugoslavia, considered as one country.

"4. The national minorities of Yugoslavia are guaranteed all their rights.

"5. These decisions, dated November 29, 1943, town of Jajce, are to go into effect immediately."

After twenty-five years of political warfare within Yugoslavia and three years of bitter war, the people have at last attained political maturity.

The men composing the government and the committees belong to various groups and parties and it is constituted as follows: The Independent Democratic Party, the Croatian Peasant Party, the Democratic Party of Serbia, the Slovenian Catholic Popular Party, the Agrarian Party, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, the Christian Socialist Party and many others without party ties.

As the Serbs are numerically the largest group in the country, they are in the majority in both government and committee. Formerly, however, the Serbs from Serbia and particularly Serbs who represented the ruling class from Belgrade were in the greatest majority but they didn't represent the workers and farmers; rather, they represented the vested interests of the country.

In November, 1943, the Provisional Government and the anti-fascist committee were reconstructed to make them more representative.

The People's government has 17 members, made up as follows: seven Serbs, five Croats, four Slovenes and one Moslem. This reflects the proportion of national groups in Yugoslavia.

The anti-fascist committee is made up of 64 members, 27 Serbs, 20 Croats, 11 Slovenes, 4 Macedonians, 2 Moslems.

A vice-president of the Presidium of the anti-fascist Council of National Liberation is a Serbian Jew by the name of Mosha Piyade. He is a famous journalist and painter from Belgrade and languished in Yugoslav prisons for 14 years because of his participation in the anti-fascist movement of that country. This perhaps, better than anything else, shows just how all embracing is the present democratic government of Yugoslavia.

The people of Yugoslavia were forced to work out their own salvation on the field of battle within earshot of roaring guns and planes while the government-in-exile, safe in London and Cairo, did not help the people at home evolve unity, resist the enemy and work out a plan for democratic government.


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