Page 3, 1st February 1980

1st February 1980
Page 3
Page 3, 1st February 1980 — Can Tito's successors hold Yugoslavia together?

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People: Tito, Bakaric, Stalin
Locations: Moscow, Zagreb


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Can Tito's successors hold Yugoslavia together?

.[HE illness of President Tito has revived the preoccupations of both the East and the West about the future of Yugoslavia, and set off speculation about Moscow's intentions towards a country whose independence from the Soviet bloc it has never entirely accepted.

A country which was at first one of Stalin's most loyal allies, it is now a leader of' the non-aligned countries and a strong defender of their status. When Castro tried last year to swing the non-aligned countries behind the Communist bloc, Tito himself, then already 87, travelled to Cuba to make certain that there was no yielding on this point.

The offence which this independent stand has given to the Soviet Union was compounded by the development of a unique form of self-management socialism.

An elaborate constitutional device for ensuring a smooth take-over after Tito has been worked out over the last ten years. Tito is president for life, but under him is a presidency of eight men representing each of the six republics and two autonomous regions, whose chairmanship rotates among its members. There is a similar arrangement, which includes the army, for the League of Communists.

Although there arc the normal political rivalries, there are no deep divisions among them and they share common aims. The question which only time can answer is whether this cornplicated arrangement, designed to give each republic its turn at leadership, will endure.

One of the surest guarantees for the unity of Yugoslavia would be any hint of a move against it by the Soviet Union; the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 had an electrifying effect on the country.

There is no question of the loyalty of the army, which tends to be hard-line but not proRussian, and there is a countrywide 'all-people's defence' which includes every citizen and can be mobilised rapidly. In fact, however, a sudden Russian invasion without warning is most unlikely.

Alongside the constitutional arrangements for the succession there has been a concentrated effort over the last ten years to strengthen the unity of the country and to include all citizens within it the churches, in particular the Catholic and Orthodox churches have benefited from this.

Speeches, statements and articles by federal and republican leaders appear frequently and regularly, emphasising that believers are not second-class citizens, that they share equally in building "our socialist, selfmanagement society".

'Clericalism' — the use of religion and the churches for political ends — is condemned, but always with a matching condemnation of sectarianism — the use of hard

line, administrative (i.e. extralegal) measures against the churches and believers.

This is not to say, of course, that in practice and at the local level, priests and believers are not still sometimes harrassed and subject to minor persecution; but the religious press, especially the lively hard-hitting Zagreb fortnightly alas Koncila (Voice of the Council) is not slow to report these instances, and bishops can and do complain officially.

A speech last December by Bakaric, the veteran Croatian communist leader, is a striking recent example of the Government's attitude. Its tone towards the Vatican and the Catholic Church in general was benevolent and his criticism of the Catholic Church in Croatia was principally concerned with its use as camouflage by Croatian nationalists.

It is indeed under the heading of nationalism that the main pressure against the church is concentrated today. Both the Catholic and the Orthodox churches are attacked for identifying religion with nationhood — Croatian, Serbian and Slovene — and for their 'pretentions' to be the embodiment and guardians of the nation.

Since, for historical reasons the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in Croatia and Slovenia do precisely that, this is the sharpest area of conflict between the churches and the state; nationalism is a dangerous and a dirty word in Yugoslavia.

Croatia is still smarting under the bludgeoning reaction in 1972 which brought to a sharp close the period of euphoria, those few 'years up to 1970-71 when an upsurge of nationalism brought the Croatian party and government, the ordinary people, and the church and believers to a feeling of intoxicating unity.

This was accompanied at first by a liberalising, westernising tendency which in 1970 slipped out of control and turned sour. Students were demonstrating for separate Croatian representation at the United Nations and national service within the borders of Croatia, virtually a separate Croatian army. At a more serious level there was strong pressure for even greater autonomy and for the retention of all Croatian-earned foreign currency within the republic.

The big Serbian minority living in Croatia, which had suffered so terribly under the fascist Ustasha regime during the war, was beginning to feel that it was again in danger. The reaction from the centre was over-forceful, and in the end swept out of power not only the Croatian leadership, but the able liberal leaders of Serbia, Slovenia and Macedonia as well.

There has not been a return to the harshly repressive regime of the first ten years after the war, but the free and easy atmosphere which had developed during the 1960s has disappeared for the moment.

Paradoxically Yugoslavia's ties with the west have continued to strengthen, through the influence of the large workforce of Yugoslays in western Europe, the influx of Western tourists each year, and the developing economic relations with the Common Market, which is now being hurried forward.

There can be no doubt that the interest of the churches in Yugoslavia today coincides with the interest of the whole country, the preservation of its unity. Some romantics dream of a greater Croatian state and others of' a Great Serbia; neither could exist today except as the client of a great power and there is only one possible candidate for that role.

The internal strife which would follow in the large areas of mixed nationalities which suffered so grievously during the war should be enough to give pause to any adventurist groups. The real test of the post-Tito era will be a longterm one; will Tito's successors have the skill, cool-headedness and good luck they will need to withstand pressures from the Soviet Union, to solve the country's economic problems, and to hold it together in an unpredictable world.

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