Chapter Three

Tito's "National Communism"

The Danube Conference had been called to set up a new Commission to control navigation rights and maintenance of the Danube as an international waterway. When peace treaties were signed with Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria, it was agreed that questions affecting claims, property and everything to do with Danube shipping should be settled at a special conference.

It was an unique affair, not only because it was being held in Belgrade a few weeks after the Cominform resolution, but because it was the first international conference at which the Soviet bloc would have a complete majority. It was the United Nations Assembly in reverse. England, France and America were attending as signatories to the peace treaties. Austria was attending as an observer without voting rights because no peace treaty had yet been signed with her. The Soviet Union was attending in a dual capacity as a signatory to the peace treaties and as a Danubian power. (The Danube flows through the Moldavian Republic, formerly Bessarabia.) The Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary and Yugoslavia attended as Danube powers (or riparian states in the language of the conference). The voting strength would be 7 to 3 if the Yugoslavs voted with the Soviet bloc, otherwise 6 to 4.

From beginning to end, M. Vishinsky dominated the proceedings. Pink and affable, in splendid form despite the stifling heat which reduced most delegates and the correspondents to a state of inertia, Vishinsky was tireless in debate and just as energetic when listening to others as when speaking himself, making notes, looking up reference books, reaching for files, whispering with his team of advisers. He never missed a point; good humoured and witty he answered with apt quotations the sallies of Sir Charles Peake, who as Ambassador to Belgrade, headed the British delegation.

On the first day, things began to go wrong for the Western powers, presumably because they had not coordinated their plans beforehand. Sir Charles Peake received western correspondents an hour before the conference was to start and said the British line, as the Western powers were heavily outnumbered, would be to avoid a vote in the early stages. "We would like," Sir Charles said, "to explore the whole field of work, to salvage as much agreement as possible, naturally without giving up any of our rights, but at all costs to avoid early divisions."

After the conference was formally opened by M. Simich, a non-party former Foreign Minister to Tito, and before that King Peter's Ambassador to Moscow, M. Vishinsky was on his feet and proposed that the official languages of the conference should be French and Russian. The chief of the U.S. delegation, Mr. Cavendish Cannon, the American Ambassador to Belgrade, jumped up and proposed that English should be added to the official languages. This was supported by Sir Charles, who added somewhat inconsequently that he represented an Empire where English was spoken by hundreds of millions of people. Vishinsky then made a compromise proposal which should have set the whole tone of the conference, had it been accepted. He suggested that English should be added as a working language, that is a language in which speeches could be made and into which they would all be translated on the floor of the conference, but to save time, English would be dropped as an official language so that the documentation of the conference would only be prepared in French .and Russian. This, as Vishinsky pointed out, would save the translators many hours of work each day.

Contrary to Sir Charles' declaration before the session started, the British and American chose to make their first fight on this issue. Eventually, Vishinsky reminded them, good-humouredly, that at the last Danube Conference, in Paris in 1921, "to which the imperialist powers did not invite Russia, although the Russia of the Tsars had always been represented in the past," French was the only language used both as a working and an official language. "I can't believe," Vishinsky said, smiling across at Sir Charles and Mr. Cannon, "that my Western colleagues understand the French language less well than their predecessors in 1921."

The whole of the first day's proceedings was taken up with the wrangle on languages-and at the end the first fatal vote was taken, 7 to 3. The pattern for the conference was set. From then on it boiled down to a struggle between old-fashioned imperialism, with its demands for special rights and privileges and the New Democracies, who wanted to manage their own affairs without Western interference.

After the language question was settled, the chief of the French delegation, M. Thierry, head of the International Rhine Commission, announced that his government would not accept any changes which were not based on the 1921 Convention. The latter gave non-Danube powers like Britain and France the right to do what they pleased on the Danube, including the right to send gunboats if they felt their privileges were endangered. Vishinsky was quickly on his feet to point out that the conference had been called to discuss a new Convention and it would get nowhere by delegates throwing down ultimatums that they would accept a new Convention only if it were the same as the old one.

"We are living in new times," he added, "and new times demand new tunes. But you are still singing the old tunes of imperialism which have no place in the era of the People's Democracies."

The members of the Austrian delegation looked as if they had stepped straight out of Emperor Franz-Joseph's ante-rooms. They were headed by a silvery-haired Count Rosenberg, from the Austrian Foreign Office. The rest were distinguished-looking elderly gentlemen with high white collars, black coats and striped pants. Although it had been agreed beforehand that the Austrians came as observers and without voting rights, Count Rosenberg kept getting up and making speeches to ask that Austria be allowed to vote, claiming that Austria was the most important Danube power, whose dominant position on the Danube had been established for hundreds of years. Eventually, for the only time throughout the conference, Vishinsky lost his good humour. He turned on Rosenberg and reminded him that the Allied Powers had just finished fighting a long and bloody war against the forces which the Count represented, that the People's Democracies had suffered for centuries under Hapsburg domination, and that it would be better if he stuck to the role allotted him for the rest of the Conference. The outraged faces above the high white collars and the dropping monocles as the Austrian delegates exchanged shocked whispers during Vishinsky's speeches, showed that some of the shafts had struck home. Count Rosenberg did not get to his feet again.

After several days of fruitless discussions, Vishinsky proposed what seemed to the Western delegates to be a novel and monstrous proposal, that the Danube should in future be controlled by Danube states, that a Commission should be set up with its headquarters at Galatz in Rumania, comprising one representative from each state through which the Danube flowed. Germany and Austria would be admitted when peace treaties had been signed with those countries. Vishinsky pointed out that the Soviet Union did not insist on representation on the International Rhine Commission, although the Soviet Union had trade interests in the countries through which the Rhine flowed.

The Soviet Union had not asked for seats on the board controlling the Panama or Suez canals. The Danube would be open to shipping of all countries which would, however be subject to the local regulations of the country through which the ships passed. No warships of any non-Danube state would be allowed in the river without permission from the Danube Commission. Wags summed up the proposals as "Vishinsky turns the Danube red.”

In the end after many acrimonious speeches by Mr. Cavendish Cannon and Sir Charles Peake, Vishinsky's proposals were adopted and for the first time in their history, the Danube states became the legal masters of their own waterfronts. The Vishinsky draft was accepted by 7 votes to 1. The Americans voted against, the British and French abstained. All three Western powers insisted on the validity of the 1921 Convention (settled at a conference to which Russia was not invited) and said they would refuse to sign the new Convention.

Until the conference started there was some speculation on the role of Yugoslavs. But Alesh Bebler, the Yugoslav Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, made a point of being first on his feet after Vishinsky and supporting him in every point. He went so far that at one stage Vishinsky intervened to tell him that the Soviet Union was quite well able to present its own case and defend its own interests.

The highlight of the conference was a reception and banquet to delegates and foreign correspondents, given by the Yugoslav government. Up till the last moment, nobody knew who would be there. Perhaps Tito! Would Vishinsky and the heads of the delegations from the People's Democracies accept, or would they send minor delegates? The pamphlet containing the letters from the C.P.S.U. to the Y.C.P. had been distributed a day or two previously. Yugoslav foreign officials were livid with rage at the time, and said the pamphlets must have been brought from Moscow in the plane that brought the Soviet delegates.

The letters were a painful reminder, in the midst of the Eastern European solidarity at the conference and a Belgrade adorned from end to end with portraits of Stalin and Tito, side by side, that the Cominform split was on and that Tito, Rankovich, Kardelj and other top Yugoslav leaders had been excommunicated.

During pauses at the conference sessions, the Yugoslav delegation always remained isolated from the busily discussing little groups which formed on the one side from the Western delegations, on the other side from the delegates of the Soviet Union and the People's Democracies. In such an atmosphere, it seemed the Yugoslavs were running something of a risk in staging a reception.

It took place at the Yugoslav Officers' Club, on Red Army Boulevard, in the centre of the city. Tito was not there, but Vishinsky and all the top representatives from East and West delegations were. Dr. Ivan Ribar, the non-party President of the Republic, was the official welcomer. It was a stiflingly hot night. (Throughout the conference the temperature hovered around 100 deg., with not a breath of air outside and no electric fans indoors.) Those guests who turned up in formal attire were red-faced and perspiring by the time they arrived. Silent waiters padded around with plenty of ice-cold wine, fiery slivovitsa and vodka for those who could drink it in the oppressive heat.

Early in the evening, the animated buzz of conversation in a dozen tongues, seemed to halt as if at a signal. Waiters with their trays full of drinks, caviar and smoked salmon sandwiches passed by unnoticed. The Western diplomats had gravitated to one of the reception rooms and were slowly circling around a small group, like watchdogs guarding a flock of sheep. Vishinsky was having an animated conversation with Kardelj, and Rankovich was looking on.

The Western diplomats hovered on the edge of the group, striving to catch every word while pretending to be examining oil paintings on the walls, and motioning furiously for their Russian language experts to get as close as possible. Vishinsky was talking quickly and earnestly and whatever he was saying it was something that Kardelj did not relish. Kardelj, who is Tito's Foreign Minister, is a little man with a small moustache, and is said to fancy himself as a Yugoslav Molotov, by adopting the same rigidity of manner as Molotov. He was shaken out of his pose by whatever Vishinsky was saying to him, his face was red and he had an uneasy half-smile on his lips. Vishinsky is a mild-looking man, with fine white hair and moustache. He could be a Presbyterian Moderator opening a synod, when he addresses a conference. But he had a severe look on his face as he spoke and listened to Kardelj's nervous replies. Rankovich, a stocky man with the face of a bully, stood with his hands folded in front of him, shifting from one foot to the other, his head inclined to Vishinsky as though to catch every word, although it was obvious Vishinsky had not included him in his conversation. Probably it is the role of a good Minister of the Interior to check on his colleagues, no matter what their rank-and Kardelj is generally rated next to Tito.

The conversation lasted perhaps fifteen minutes. A journalist colleague of mine avers that the French Minister – with a magnificent curling beard – sent off a running commentary to the French Foreign Office, by writing little notes throughout the dialogue and sending them to his Embassy by junior members of his staff among the guests. In the background hovered the Czech Foreign Minister, Clementis, puffing furiously at a smelly pipe, Anna Pauker and Eric Molnar, Hungary's Foreign Minister at that time. Eventually the group broke up and the room became animated again as if the guests were puppets set in motion by clockwork. The diplomats started chatting about the heat, waiters were in great demand again. Rankovich and Kardelj drifted off together. Vishinsky took the arm of Anna Pauker and guided her out to the garden where tables laden with caviar, cold roast duck, fish in aspic, cold joints of pork and beef and dozens of varieties of salads and other delicacies, were set out under the trees. Anna Pauker, by the way, is a much more attractive personality, seen socially, than one would judge by the stern photos one usually sees and by the idiotic tales about her, current in the Western press. With a shock of grey bobbed hair which persistently falls over her forehead, she has a strong, intelligent face, wide-set steady eyes and a very warm smile. She looks like a woman who has suffered much and who would be prepared to suffer much for her convictions. She had served eight of a ten years' sentence in Rumanian jails when the Russians managed to get her released in an exchange of prisoners in 1941.

At the banqueting tables, the Yugoslavs had so arranged things that Eastern and Western delegates were rigorously separated. This was a great disappointment to the Western diplomats who had hoped to pick up all sorts of fascinating titbits of the Cominform-Tito quarrel when sufficient wine and slivovitsa had flowed to loosen tongues. Sir Charles Peake indeed wandered into the wrong compound and was promptly returned to his own domain where he had to be content with comparing notes with his colleagues on the Vishinsky-Kardelj dialogue.

A few days after the banquet, the Yugoslavs circulated to a few party members, their replies to the letters from the C.P.S.U., also in pamphlet form. They, however, added nothing new to what had already been said. They were written in a hurt and offended tone and were chiefly denials of the Soviet charges. Without citing new facts, the letters, mostly signed by Tito and Kardelj, maintained that the Soviet Union was misinformed about the position in Yugoslavia. They rejected suggestions that there was anything to criticise in the Y.C.P. and stated that their case was prejudged by Cominform members, hence there was no point in their trying to defend themselves and they would not attend the Bucharest meeting.

The text of the letters was not important. The fact that they had been distributed indicated that Vishinsky had not presented Kardelj with an olive branch at the banquet, and if any olive branch had been proffered by Kardelj, it had been rejected by Vishinsky.

It was not easy to find out what was going on in Yugoslavia. If the Russians complained that they were unable to obtain information one can imagine what chance a Western journalist had of keeping track of developments. It seems more than probable indeed, that Tito himself was so occupied with plans for a Greater Yugoslavia, in the first years after the war, that he himself did not know what was going on in his own front garden. An outsider could at best gather impressions which occasionally helped to interpret known facts. In my own case, I visited the country over a period of three and a half years. Once in 1946, twice in 1948, and four times in 1949, including a return motor journey from Subotica on the Hungarian border, right through the country to Tsaribrod, on the borders of Bulgaria.

Yugoslavia was the most difficult of the people's Democracies for a journalist to work in, with the exception of Rumania, which has rarely opened its doors at all to Western journalists. Until the summer of 1949, when Tito's need for Western aid became acute and journalists were welcomed to the country, correspondents in Belgrade lived in a sort of "purdah." It was almost impossible to move out of the capital, official contact was limited to one press officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As I usually visited Yugoslavia on my way to and from Hungary and Bulgaria, it was possible to make some comparison with those countries from personal observations.

The greatest change of atmosphere in Belgrade itself was between the summer of 1948 and the summer of 1949. The warmth and vital enthusiasm which had attracted me so strongly in 1946 had given way to a puzzled diffidence in 1948. Work had slowed down, people were no longer sure whether they were going. But in 1949, diffidence had been replaced by a bitterness among the workers. Their cheeks were hollower than ever, food prices were still rising, rations were sinking and morale was low. The four years of enormously hard work had yielded the workers nothing but admonitions to tighten their belts, work still harder, produce more for export. They were getting nothing back. There were still the outward trappings of enthusiasm, plenty of red stars in the streets, slogans on bright red banners. But there was no enthusiasm among the brigaders marching out to mix more concrete for the totally unnecessary prestige project of a new administrative capital at New Belgrade, or for those leaving to work on the Belgrade-Zagreb autostrada. Over the years since 1946 real rations had not increased, food prices on the free market spiralled steadily upwards-and it was difficult to live without buying on the free market.

In Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland, the opposite was the case. Food rations were steadily increased (in Poland and Hungary ration cards were abolished altogether). Prices spiralled steadily downwards, workers cheeks gradually filled out. And this difference could not be explained by economic sanctions by the Cominform countries against Tito, as he did not import any food from the Cominform area.

Tito had in fact developed and applied his own theories of Marxism in Yugoslavia and in the early days instead of basing his strength on the industrial workers, he tried to favour the peasants by exploiting the workers. Tito kept his peasants happy at the expense of his workers, whereas in the other People's Democracies, the leaders had adhered to the strict policy of a worker-peasant alliance in which the industrial worker, as the more advanced politically must play the leading role – and whose needs must be satisfied even at the expense of the peasants.

The linked-price system introduced by Tito was one of the means by which the peasants were favoured at the cost of the workers. It was a means of encouraging the peasants to sell their produce to the state at a fixed price and coupons with which they could buy consumer goods at very low prices. The number of coupons they could acquire, was limited in effect only by the amount of produce they sold. Rich peasants were in theory excluded from this system but they received their coupons from the smaller peasants by allowing the latter to market a proportion of their produce. There was no similar privilege for the industrial worker from whom superhuman efforts were required if the Five-Year-Plan were to be fulfilled.

The peasant was able to eat well of his own produce; to buy up the fruits of the worker's labour not only in the form of farm implements but also shoes, textiles and general consumers goods; to sell his surplus products at uncontrolled famine prices on the free market. The worker could not buy the products of his own labour; could not pay the famine prices for food on the free market but he sold his labour for inflated currency and a ration card on which even the meagre rations inscribed were often enough not available.

The workers were carried along by their elan for the first year or two but this gradually disappeared as they saw their families getting thinner and the peasants getting fatter as they saw the Belgrade and Zagreb shops crammed with middle and wealthy peasants buying up everything available in consumers' goods. And even with the formation of the co-operatives, the system did not change; the peasants were still a greatly favoured class compared with the industrial workers. In the spring and summer of 1949, food prices started rocketing up again. The government had made a serious miscalculation and shipped thousands of tons of lard to Austria and Italy. (Later Tito had to import fats from America.) There was a serious shortage of fats, meat and sugar in Belgrade. Prices in restaurants doubled in two months, and jumped thirty per cent. in one night.

In June, 1949, I visited a co-operative farm at Kraljevichevo, only 25 miles from Belgrade. It was an example of the impetuosity of the Yugoslav leadership and partly explained the food shortage in Belgrade. It was, I was assured, a show co-operative, one of the "highest" categories, in which boundary stones had been pulled out, the peasants had completely pooled their land and were paid according to the number of days they worked, according to the fulfillment of their norms. The co-operative farmers were newcomers, former labourers from all parts of the country. They had replaced German settlers who had been expelled from the area. The soil was good, the farmers prosperous. I was shown the beginnings of new buildings which would have the new communal dairies, barns and machine shops. A striking thing was that the farm had practically no machinery, not even a tractor. (Yugoslavia's 6,000 co-operative farms averaged less than one tractor per farm, in Hungary the average is three tractors to each co-operative.) It is not Yugoslavia's fault that she has no tractors but the essence of a co-operative farm is large-scale cultivation; maximum soil well-tilled with the greatest economy of labour. In Hungary and Bulgaria, the governments deliberately retarded the growth of the co-operatives until production or purchases of machinery would enable them to be worked on a large-scale in keeping with the development of a socialised agriculture. Large-scale farms worked with hand-labour could only be wasteful to the economy, even though it might be profitable to the individual members, reaping the benefit of organised buying and selling.

After tramping for several hours over the fields I was invited to the village tavern to wash some of the dust from my throat. Rough tables and bench seats set out in a pleasant courtyard, shaded by mulberry trees, were packed with uproariously merry peasants. Busy waiters, with great trays of beer and wine, could not keep pace with the shouted demands for drinks. In one corner of the yard a group of blinded war veterans sang a song about Tito. It was all very jolly, but it was only six o'clock in the afternoon of a mid-summer day and all the thirsty customers were members of the co-operative. On any farm I have ever visited anywhere in the world, in midsummer the farmers were working from dawn to dark, hauling in the crops, turning the grass hay, planting new crops or ploughing in the stubble of the old one. The war blind were the only ones who had a right to be idle at that time of the day; not the eighty or ninety uproarious peasants, when there was a desperate shortage of food throughout the country.

With my interpreter, I sat next to one red-moustached peasant, sitting in his shirt sleeves with his great freckled hands clasped around a mug of beer. White mulberries dropped like pale, fat grubs on our table, as we spoke or shouted at each other through my interpreter above the din of the blind chorus and peasants slapping each other's backs and yelling for more drinks.

My neighbour was very content with life on the cooperative. "We have a new life here," he roared, when I asked how it was possible that peasants were drinking at six o'clock on a summer afternoon. "We work like the town workers do. Eight hours a day and no more. The old days are finished, we're our own master now." He began to tell me how much he had earned in cash, what he had bought with his coupons, and added: "And with all that I've got 200 kilos (440 pounds) of sugar stored away and grain enough to last me a year."

This co-operative had started off by turning its members into individual "kulaks," concerned only with working as little as possible and storing away commodity goods which could be sold on the free market when prices reached their peak. After ten minutes talk with my neighbour, it was obvious that no political work had been done to explain about the socialist conception of a co-operative farm, or the workers-peasants alliance to build a socialist country. The workers were just people who lived in the city and could be held to ransom for food. The whole atmosphere of the tavern breathed this spirit. The tractor machine stations and rationalised farming would bring the day when peasants too, could work only eight hours a day throughout the year, if necessary working two shifts in the summer when harvesting demanded that full use should be made of the sun. But that day was far off at Kraljevichevo, where the standard equipment was still the hoe and sickle. By mid-summer 1949, I had visited many co-operatives in Hungary and Bulgaria and in comparison this was a sham.

It looked like a co-operative on paper, or in the Press Office of the Foreign Ministry at Belgrade, when one described it with so much land, so many members, boundary stones pulled up, total earnings divided up among the members after running costs had been deducted, with a percentage set aside to take care of the aged and cripples. On paper, sure enough, this was a co-operative and Tito had boasted he had built 6,000 of them in Yugoslavia. Much faster, as he has pointed out often enough, than the rate in the other People's Democracies. What I saw was not a socialist co-operative, however, because it was not linked with the general development of the state. It was a limited company of peasants for the exploitation of the soil and the industrial workers, for the exclusive profit of its members. As such it was completely isolated from socialist development.

One could not presume to say on the basis of a visit to one co-operative that all the peasants in Yugoslavia were getting lazy and wealthy. The majority were certainly poor, frugal and hard-working. The Kraljevichevo farm could not be taken as a typical co-operative either. In general peasants were not better off in the co-operatives and resisted fiercely the attempts to force them in by all sorts of threats. But the Kraljevichevo farm was something new, something created from scratch by the government and it was built on a false foundation. It existed right under the noses of Tito's administrators, and seemed to be the new type of society they wanted. Either that or Tito's men were interested only in counting heads. Once they formed the co-operatives, they seemed to take no further interest in them, as long as thenumbers mounted up to be published in the propaganda leaflets.

The peasants at Kraljevichevo were, however, living in a fool's paradise and so was Marshal Tito. In 1949, grain and produce deliveries were far below that planned. In some areas only 40 and 50 per cent. of quotas were delivered. Tito found that he could not appeal to the political consciousness of the peasants, as he had been able to do over the years with the workers, demanding ever more sacrifices for the future. He had exploited the workers' enthusiasm and social conscience until they were near breaking point. He had done nothing to build up a similar political consciousness among the peasants – and soon he ran into trouble with them.

One can only suppose by the admissions which Tito himself made in the spring of 1950, that in the Party and People's Front organisations, the workers began to criticise very seriously the policy which led the rich farmers to fatten at their expense. In the beginning no doubt such criticism would be denounced as "Cominformism" and the critics arrested.                                .

The Cominform had been particularly severe in their remarks about Tito's policy towards the "kulaks." Despite arrests, empty bellies have a way sooner or later of making their rumblings heard. Production began to fall, and Tito began applying the big stick to the peasants, seizing food stocks from their barns and larders. Promptly the peasants retaliated. Even the poorer peasants were becoming "kulak"-minded. If they could not do what they liked with their produce they would not cultivate the soil. The government struck back by forcing them to do army work; by sending the recalcitrants into the forest to cut timber for export. The year 1949 and early 1950 produced something like a 180 degree turn in Tito's relations with the peasants. He began to oppress them – just at the time when in the other People's Democracies, restrictions were being lifted and the peasants were given a much greater share in the fruits of the new life.

What actually happened in the latter half of1949 and the first months of 1950, can best be judged by three speeches of Tito made in February and March, 1950. Things had got so bad, that there was no chance of covering up the situation.

The first speech was at an election meeting in Titovo Uzice, on Sunday, February 19th, and reprinted in Borba. It was directed to the peasants. Tito said that 5,400,000 people on ration cards were short of food and somehow the food must be got from the peasants. He produced figures to show that far too much food was remaining in the villages. "Why do we have all these difficulties and irregularities?" he asked. "In the first place because there are a lot of speculators among the rich peasants and unfortunately among the middle peasants, who are unwilling to deliver their products and who hide what they have.... I must tell you that there have been cases in Croatia for example, where 350,000 acres of land was not planted, because the peasants, the rich ones, did not want to plant crops..." He went on to announce a scheme to make a levy of ten pounds of lard for each pig a farmer produced, because the peasants were not delivering up enough meat and fats, and he said Yugoslavia was now in the unprecedented position where she had to import lard in a country where pig-raising is one of the principle industries. Yugoslavia, he said, must export foodstuffs to pay for equipment for the Five-Year Plan. (He omitted to mention the miscalculation in exporting lard and buying back a few months later at double the price.)

"We must export, comrades, in addition to providing for ourselves. We must export maize. Lard we cannot because during the past year we were forced to buy it, although it should not have been so. We can't export wheat because we need it ourselves, but maize we must.... When we try to buy things abroad we have to give them things they need. They won't always take our tobacco, for instance, but they cannot do without our foodstuffs..."

He went on to say that Yugoslavia would make a big effort to produce crude oil and thus save a lot of money in two years' time. "And what shall we do with this money in 1952? We will not exert such pressure on peasants to deliver us maize and wheat. If we don't have enough wheat and I think w e will, because we will switch from extensive to intensive agriculture then we shall buy oil." (By the standard of the farm I saw at Kraljevichevo and the food shortage in Belgrade, it seemed that Tito should have been thinking of intensive agriculture for 1949 and not for 1952.)

During most of the speech he urged the peasants to make sacrifices (a) to help the workers who were building the Five-Year Plan, and (b) to provide exports to pay for basic machinery, but at the end he referred to something that most informed observers in Belgrade knew, that the Five-Year-Plan was unreal and cannot be completed. "I would like to underline one more thing," he said in conclusion, "I am able to tell you and everyone else, that should it happen that the West refuses to trade with us or to reject our agreements or put pressure on us, that we will rather do without the completion of part of the Five-Year Plan; that it will remain partly uncompleted or will not be finished in time, rather than to abandon our principles."

This was the first indication to public opinion that the Plan was running into difficulties.

The second speech was at the Third Congress of the Serbian People's Front in February 26. After speaking about all the difficulties and the needs for still more strenuous efforts, and paying the usual lip-service to the building of socialism, he said: "They say that we are brutal. However, the birth of anything new cannot be painless... It is understood that we cannot do without certain measures, which cannot be called the most voluntary which are indeed sometimes forceful. This concerns various purchases... Villages must produce the food necessary to our people. We must obtain these products because we need them to feed our workers, to feed our citizens..."

Tito was still more explicit in his third speech at Drvar in Bosnia and Herzegovina on March 12. He touched on the peasants' grievances against the government and his own grievances against the peasants, and lifted, if only slightly, the lid off what appears to be a sizzling situation throughout the whole Yugoslav countryside.

"I have heard," he said, "remarks by some people, that after the war we did not do enough for Drvar, and I think these remarks are justified.... The majority of your sons are in the army... It is a good thing that we created an army from general to soldiers made up of working people.... However, in this case, we took the strongest elements away from your region. To-day we are in full swing of building our country and have strained our forces more than possible. I know it is tense in the forestry industry in chopping wood when a peasant must go to the forest with his ox-cart to carry lumber instead of going to the fields... However there are peasants who do not understand our needs... It is natural that we must punish such individuals... I would like to say a few words about the co-operatives... 1 feel that we made our biggest mistakes in the problem of creating the co-operative farms. Our people chased after numbers, they looked to see which republic would form the most. If one formed a thousand the next one wanted to create fifteen hundred... Of course we don't have enough machinery or fertiliser and other things... No one has the right to force a peasant into the co-operatives, by telling him that if he doesn't join, his taxes will be raised or that he will be sent to the forest for a longer period than necessary... Some peasants who are forced to join co-operatives make mistakes by selling their cattle or equipment or by slaughtering their cattle.... I have said there have been mistakes on both sides. If people say we are demanding more from the villages, you must understand why this is necessary. We demand from the villages so we can feed the people not connected with agriculture... I know there have been irregularities, that frequently a peasant is cleaned out and left with nothing. No one thinks of giving something back to him but it is wrong to let even one man die from hunger in our country... there are irregularities in purchasing for the State. Agencies in the field are given figures and work in a stereotyped manner, not asking who have produce and who has none...

"Because of these mistakes, people are losing an interest in sowing... There are regions where they have planted nothing at all, or too little, or they have planted on ten or twelve acres what they could have planted on one or two acres. I will give you figures which will show the position. Last year there were 500,000 acres less than in 1939 and 1,125,000 acres less than in 1948. There were 350,000 acres sown less in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone, a very large figure. Why wasn't it planted?

"I know there are hardships, I know your draught animals were used somewhere else. I know there was a lack of labour but there was not enough interest in sowing. What will the government do if things continue like this? Where will we get out wheat, maize and other things to feed the workers...?"

Tito had never spoken like this before. He was not one to make pessimistic speeches. On the contrary, his rare speeches had always had a boastful tinge before, but the picture he painted in 1950, of the situation in a field which had nothing at all to do with the Cominform economic boycott, was one of unrelieved gloom. What had he done with that great enthusiasm of the war years and the first years of the post-war period? Each of the other People's Democracies were able to show a steady economic Improvement year by year. Planned economy resulted each year in more acres sown, higher crop yields, higher percentage of harvest collected. This was not just something expressed in brightly coloured graphs but in larger rations for the workers, more consumer goods for the peasants and in several countries the end of rationing altogether.

Tito had the best start of any of the People's Democracies in the sense that he started off with a population almost one hundred per cent. with him in their demands to build a new socialist life. There were no big landlords, no powerful industrialists, no great middle-class, no church problems. The people were behind him as their war-time leader; they were fired with enthusiasm and prepared for sacrifices. But that early enthusiasm had been dissipated, it had slipped away like sand through Tito's fingers. By 1950, the wheels were running down, and no figures or graphs, no slogans or speeches could conceal that fact.

One had the impression that Tito had lost touch with reality, had isolated himself from his people. He was pulled up with a start in late 1949, when rumblings of trouble reached him, that had nothing to do with his isolation from the Cominform countries.

His very mode of life with his palaces and villas, gaudy uniforms and white duck suits, his jewelled fingers and be-medalled breast, seemed out of place for a leader in a People's Democracy. Tito himself seemed out of place – in the official photographs which showed him talking with poorly-clad workers with their pinched cheeks and himself always sleek and over-dressed. In this he was in marked contrast to his neighbours, Rakosi and Dimitrov, who lived simply, dressed simply and seemed at home amongst the workers and peasants.

The Danube Conference was to be the last occasion when any high-ranking officials from the Soviet Union or the People's Democracies were to visit Belgrade. Whatever overture – if any – were made from either side to heal the breach they were unsuccessful. During the conference, the Cominform officials began packing their bags, moving out of their flats and transferring to Bucharest.

Relations between Yugoslavia and the People's Democracies deteriorated to the point where friendship and trade pacts were broken; diplomatic relations were maintained by the slenderest threads. Tito was left to build what came to be known as "National Communism" on his own, without aid or advice from the Soviet Union or by the People's Democracies. National Communism was regarded by most Communists all over the world as having as much to do with Communism as Hitler's National Socialism had to do with Socialism.

Correspondents who visited the Danube Conference in the hope of touring the country and getting a perspective of the rights or wrongs of Cominform criticism of Tito's policy, were rudely disappointed. They were told their visas were valid for Belgrade only and for the Conference. Not for tours and not for official interviews. Rankovich was still counting heads at that time and could not be sure how many Cominform supporters had to be arrested before the country could be regarded as secure. Later all correspondents from the West were welcomed; the more reactionary, the better. Even Ward-Price, the correspondent of the London Daily Mail, Hitler's chief apologist in the British press in the 1930's, the man who prepared British public opinion for the Munich Agreement, received a visa for Belgrade in 1949 – and promptly reported that Soviet troops were massed on the Hungarian-Yugoslav border and invasion was imminent.

Times and tunes changed very quickly in Belgrade once Tito began to turn West.

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