Charles P. McVicker, Titoism, Pattern for International Communism.

CHARLES P. McVICKER, Titoism, Pattern for International Communism. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1957. 332 pp.


McVicker's study is a scholarly work in which he tries to trace how the "titoist" version of Communism is spelled out in the laws and rules which shape all political and economical life of Yugoslavia. Since Tito's laws and regulations represent a jungle, one must admire the author for courage to enter such wilderness and congratulate him for not getting lost.


A Yale graduate, McVicker entered the Foreign Service, served in Israel and was American consul in Zagreb from 1950-1952. The book about Titoism is the result of research done by the author in connection with a dissertation accepted by the Princeton University for the degree of Ph.D. McVicker now teaches political science at Yale.


Because of his status as a Foreign Service official, the author had a unique observation post for study of Titoism. He relies on his personal notes of discussions he had with people and Yugoslav officials, upon materials published by Yugoslav Titoist publications in English and French, upon the Joint Translation Bulletin of the British and American embassies and some other sources.


In the first few chapters, the author offers condensed historical background information. It is herein that most of the deficiencies may be found.


It seems that the very complicated nationality problems of Yugoslavia cause the most difficulty for him. Even in the briefest summary of the turbulent political history of Yugoslavia as it is offered by McVicker, no one should write about the assassination of King Alexander, without mentioning the murder of the Croatian peasant leader Stjepan Radić in the Belgrade Parliament, six years earlier. The author merely states that King Alexander chose to close the Parliament of 1929, but he does not say, that this happened after some Croatian deputies, including Radić himself, were shot to death by a Serbian deputy in this very Parliament. By such an omission, the reader gets a distorted picture about one of the most crucial periods in Croat-Serb relations.


It is true that the author in another section of the book, in the chapter dealing with Tito's agricultural reforms, said that "the increasing electoral strength of the intensely nationalistic Croatian Peasant Party so impressed the ruling Serbian military clique that in 1928 it arranged the assassination of the party's powerful leader, Stjepan Radić." Here it must be said, that it is most improper to call the Croatian Peasant Party "intensely nationalistic", because it has been one of the most moderate Croatian political parties, that has ever existed.


According to McVicker, the Croats, after the formation of the Yugoslav State in 1918, insisted upon some form of semiautonomy "which would recognize what was in their eyes their superior culture." The attitude of Croats could be better understood if more light were thrown upon the events of that time. It has to be remembered that most of the work during World War I in propagating the Yugoslav idea i.e. a common State of Serbs and Croats, was done by the Yugoslav Committee in London, formed exclusively by the Croats and a few Croatian Serbs. They looked upon the future Yugoslav State as a union of two States, one being the Kingdom of Serbia and the other one the State of Croats, Serbs and Slovenes, comprising the territories which had been part of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire (Croatia, Slavonia, Dalmatia, Bosnia, Hercegovina and Slovenia.) When the new Yugoslav State failed to be such a democratic union based on a partnership of equal rights, some of the Croatian politicians, as for instance Dr. Ante Trumbić, a former President of the Yugoslav Committee of London and a former Yugoslav Foreign Minister, launched a political campaign to reorganize the centralized and serbianized State into a federal one. With Radić's assassination and King Alexander's dictatorship, all democratic and parliamentary means of the struggle of the Croatian people were exhausted. King Alexander's assassination was a reprisal of the Croatian and Macedonian revolutionaries for Radić's death and an act intended to end the Serbian oppression over the Croats and Macedonians, which under the King's dictatorship had reached its culmination. The younger generation of Croats lost its hope that the Serbs would ever accept the idea of reorganizing the State on a basis of equal footing and therefore they were looking for a divorce with the former Kingdom of Serbia along the boundary lines as they existed in 1918. This was how the Croatian "separatism" was born. This explains why the Croats at the end of World War I were identified as champions of the Yugoslav idea and at the outbreak of the World War II were regarded as "separatists" and "anti-Yugoslavs". The same term "Yugoslav" was profaned and linked with Serbian oppression in consciousness of the people, so there are many Croats today who feel offended if they are called Yugoslavs.


Thus the violent deaths of the Croatian deputies and Serbian King are links of the same chain reaction as well as of more violent events which followed.


McVicker accurately observes that the "Croatian influence in the government of the Republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina has been kept to a minimum", and, that, "the prewar orientation of the cultural relations of the Moslems of this area toward Zagreb was shifted to Belgrade." Nevertheless, after reporting these facts, the author arrives to a paradoxical conclusion: "It would appear that the Serbs may have paid the lion's share in Tito's efforts to bring about a Serb-Croat equilibrium." The evidence proves that the contrary is true. The balance of power inside Tito's Yugoslavia among the various nationalities is adjusted to some extent compared to the situation in prewar Yugoslavia, and is better than it was, but there is no Serb-Croat equilibrium.


Referring to the achievements which fostered greater "intranational unity" in Yugoslavia, the author says that all national groups are represented in proportion to their number in all the federal, republican and autonomous district organs. He probably relies on some Yugoslav official or semiofficial source. But if he himself would make an impartial study of higher echelons of the Yugoslav Army and Yugoslav diplomatic corps, he would find astonishing evidence reputing his statements.


Discussing the religious problems of Yugoslavia, the author rightly observes that they are to some extent interrelated to the nationality problems. Here again are passages upon which it is necessary to make some comments.


The author says: "Catholicism had been the official religion of the wartime Croatian kingdom, and the Ustaša massacres of Croatian Serbs were as often as not carried out in the name of Catholicism. This is not accurate. Catholicism had not been the official religion of the wartime Croatian State. The Moslem religious organization had been treated equally as the Catholic Church. And in 1942, a Croatian Orthodox Church had been established by the Pavelić government. Germogen, a Russian émigré bishop, had been consecrated by a Rumanian and some other Orthodox churchmen as the first Metropolitan and head of the new Orthodox Church, which, by government plans, would embrace all Orthodox believers in the territory of the Croatian State, without distinction if they formerly belonged to the Serbian, Russian or some other Orthodox Church organization. So far as the Ustaša massacres were concerned it is well known that they have been strongly criticized by Archbishop Stepinac and that the Catholic Church and Pavelić government clashed more than once, particularly in racial questions and retaliation measures employed in civil war etc.


The backbone of McVicker's book is a compendium of the major Titoist reforms in economical, agricultural, political-administrative, social and legal fields. Even if one does not agree with the author's evaluation of Titoist reforms in some instances, he must recognize that McVicker did a very good job indeed and proved to be a shrewd analyst.


Every impartial observer should gladly subscribe to almost everything which McVicker wrote about the "workers councils." This reviewer will even agree with the author that these "councils", as an idea, "will represent an increasingly potent challenge to worker-management relationship in all types of economies," but on the other hand this reviewer firmly believes that the "workers councils" can never "develop into the establishment of Titoism as a successful new form of socialist government." The impact of the workers councils idea so far is greater in the West than in Yugoslavia itself where the experiment is carried out. The theory and practice are sharply contrasted even in the model factories of Zagreb and Belgrade, usually visited by foreigners invited to see the system at work. One can imagine how it is in some distant industrial establishment in Bosnia. Workers of Yugoslavia, who now, allegedly are co-owners of the factories, do not feel that they have gained any substantial improvement of their status. Deprived of the right to strike, underpaid and oppressed by the large government bureaucracy, they, ironically, envy the workers in Western countries because of their higher standard of living. They do not care if this higher standard of living is achieved through direct participation of workers in management or in some other way. They regard their "councils" as a farce and make rude jokes about them, because it is the Communist Party and the Communist Party alone which runs the show.


Although the author clearly expresses through the book his belief in the superiority of constitutional democracy as a political system, one becomes surprised and disturbed upon discovering that he suggests a different system for the peoples of Yugoslavia. In the concluding chapter of his book there is a passage which reads: "Localism is aggravated by the national, religious, and cultural diversity of the various South Slav groups comprising the Yugoslav nation. While the Titoists have managed to relieve much of the tension among these groups, racial and religious anthipathies will undoubtedly continue to smolder just below the surface for at least one or two generations. The tenacity of these antipathies is an irrefutable argument for the continuing presence of a strongly centralized government in Yugoslavia."


We cannot interpret the words "the continuing presence of a strongly centralized government" otherwise than the author's pleading for continuation of the Titoist version of Communist dictatorship in Yugoslavia, or some other kind of dictatorship which might succeed it, and which has to be in force for two more generations at least. This is an excellent argument for those people from Yugoslavia, who for many years are complaining that Americans preach about the superiority of democracy, but for some Balkan or South American country, they recommend a strongly centralized dictatorship. Why does the author not believe that the constitutional democracy as a political system is superior for the peoples of Yugoslavia also? This ilogicallity is both regretful and harmful.


Let us briefly examine some facts:


        Yugoslavia had been established as a multinational State under the name of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918.


        Both the Croats and Serbs have had their own States dating back to the 10th and 12th century respectively, and up until 1918 have followed separate and quite different historical paths of cultural and political development.


        Most of the antagonism among the peoples of Yugoslavia has been created by the existence of "strongly centralized governments" between two World Wars.


        Yugoslavia disintegrated in 1941 at the first blow of the German Army. A twofolded civil war between Communists and anti-Communists, and between Serbs and Croats, raged for four years.


Now, without the necessity of taking sides either with those peoples and nationality groups of Yugoslavia who would prefer to emancipate themselves from an uneasy union, or those who would prefer the preservation of a Yugoslav State, we strongly believe that the worst thing to be recommended for such a State is a "strongly centralized government."


The system of the constitutional democracy, because of its superiority, should necessarily find a better solution for Serbian and Croatian problems than any dictatorship. We shall make clear this viewpoint in every occasion. The problem of existence or non-existence of Yugoslavia or the problem of the continuation or disintegration of the Yugoslav State should be primarily the affair of the units which entered this multinational union. If one of the partners, through due democratic process by majority vote and free will decides to discontinue the partnership, why should we, who believe in the superiority of democracy, recommend a "strongly centralized government" in order to suppress such a move? Why should we advocate "the continuing presence" of a system, which happens to be a hated dictatorship, only, that a relatively new State, which proved to be of doubtful vitality, can survive? One can derive from such a recommendation that the author is putting the State, in this case the Yugoslav State, on a pedestal of superior deity, to whom the peoples and generations have to be sacrificed. We cannot believe that this was his intention, because he strongly stresses throughout the book the principle of human liberty and democracy.


McVicker's book has a value of technical manual on the structure of the Titoist State and as such, it is without doubt the best manual available, despite some shortcomings. It has to be heartly recommended to every student of Titoism. Generally the author is too optimistic and he takes too seriously all that the Titoists said and wrote. He nourishes illusions, as many other analysts do, that the "liberal trend" of Titoism could develop into a full political democracy, but we do not share this view at all. The sentence of Milovan Djilas was at the same time a historical sentence of Titoism which thereby condemned itself to remain a totalitarianism, and not so much "benevolent totalitarianism" as McVicker concedes.


Karlo Mirth