I spent my early childhood with my grandfather Miroslav Mika Ristić, Mika. The same year I was born, 1990, his father Sava died, and it was also the year of the beginning of the destruction of Yugoslavia. Hard years were about to come.
It was a childhood of war, bombing and destruction of the homeland, years of wild laws, of openly announced counter-revolution, full imperialist subjection and capitalist restoration.
I remember those years well, and in every image of those memories – there is Mika. Every morning we read newspapers together, and then played chess. We talked about literature, and he insisted that I go to the theatre. Theatre was his saviour – that is what the book is about. That story always inspired me, and today I am working as a professional film director.
Mika wrote “Goli” in 1999. It was some happening, at least in our house and locally. I remember the days when he wrote it all day long and when I first heard for the dark island – Goli Otok.
I don’t remember speaking with him about it. Later on I found out that there was not a single prisoner from Goli Otok who spoke about it with his family, or with anyone else. It was the dark secret of the drained people, left without a meaning. Because they were there, in the place where a friend is an enemy and a lie is the truth, where there is “neither God nor Stalin” – as Mika quoted a guard at the entrance to the island.
The life of an ex-prisoner from Goli Otok was hard. Nobody would easily come to their house. Everybody would be cautious with them, including themselves.
When people from the so-called Eastern bloc think of their “socialist past” – they think of a grey, dark, passive place. It was a revisionist hell. It was not like the Soviet Union and the communist movement in the days of Lenin and Stalin, with the bright colours of the revolution, 149
of active, mass, working people’s struggle – against the class enemies, against fascism, for socialist construction, for peace and a better life. No. It was the “cold war” spy network and police-military camp, full of explosives!
They want to make the image of Yugoslavia different from this picture. They try to add some “Coca-Cola” colours to this police terror state. But the truth is – Titoist “Yugoslavia” was the cradle of the revisionist snake – it was the first experiment and a model. It was the dark place – from where the revisionist catastrophe began.
The fine things that came from People’s Yugoslavia should be credited to its people only, to its history of the struggle, when our people learned from the Communist Party of Yugoslavia during the People’s Liberation War – how to fight and how to run and organize society. This experience is something which can never be taken from our fine people! We have done it before, and we will do it again – people’s victory is inevitable!
But thinking about Titoist “Socialist Yugoslavia” should always and without a hesitation start from “Goli Otok” – and end with it. Because Goli Otok had no end – as ex-prisoners testify. They were prisoners for life. All “Socialist Yugoslavia” was a Goli Otok for them! And for all the peoples of Yugoslavia. This capitalist state, with rare police and military features, this powder keg, ended up as was predicted – in a savage and bloody explosion of chauvinist war and slaughter that began in 1991.
Modern revisionism is not just a deviation from the solid Marxist-Leninist line. It is first and foremost – a crime. Led by fat gangsters with gangster hats which they saw in gangster movies.
The political spectres in the years of my growing-up were poor. Anti-Communism was spreading like a disease. There is still a fake liberal myth in Serbia and Yugoslavia, spread by revisionists of all kinds and colours – that Goli Otok was supposedly the crime of the communists. It is the well-known irritating story about “Stalinism” and its “crimes” – neither the first nor the last fascist crime against humanity and communists that is ascribed to the great teacher of humanity – the great Stalin. Sick revisionists know no boundaries – they would kill you in the most sadistic way and then blame you for it. The fake liberal myth insists that imprisoning people for supporting Stalin was “Stalinism”.Growing up in all of this confusion, there was nobody that could explain to me what Goli Otok was about. I always got the same answers: “It is not to be spoken of”, “his cousin handed him over to the police,” and “it was because of communism.” It was always presented in this gloomy and malicious form.
So, this was the story that they tried to sell me: grandfather “was against collective farming” and that was the reason why “the communists” got him! This sounded reasonable – being against communists would definitely mean being against their policies.
But I was getting older and involved myself more into social reality. My generation, the generation of capitalism, started to fight: on the streets, in the faculties. We started to think of communism as alternative worth discussing. We now all know that Goli Otok was not a product of “communist dictatorship”, but an anti-communist crime – a prison for communists. For the best communists and people’s partisans, there were 16,000 of them, the ones who led the revolutionary struggle and people’s uprising which liberated our people from fascist and capitalist oppression. Titoist headquarters with the support of imperialists gave guns to the enemies of the people, ex-chetniks and ustashas, who pointed them against 16,000 of the finest sons and daughters of our peoples!
With this in mind, I started to wonder – how could Mika be against collective farming if he was actually a communist, a respectable member of the Union of Communist Youth (SKOJ), as I later found-out, and not an anti-communist as they tried to sell me?
New Yugoslav People’s Democracy, established on the basis of the antifascist victory and people’s democratic revolution, had in front the task of agrarian reform on its way to the new stage of revolution – the socialist revolution.
The old “zadruga” was a traditional Serbian collective organisation of the peasants – for distribution and not for production. As a traditional peasant institution, it was similar to the Russian “obshchina”, which found the attention of Karl Marx (letter to Vera Zasulich). The new “zadruga” labour cooperatives played a significant role in the attempt at collectivisation of the peasantry.
Mika was from a peasant background himself, so this question must have been important for him.In the exchange of the letters of the CC of the Bolshevik Party and the CC of the CPY it said that the Titoite leadership of the CP of Yugoslavia was not following a Marxist-Leninist line of the struggle in the countryside, but a Bukharinist opportunist line of class conciliation and maintenance of the capitalist elements in the countryside. Then later, the Resolution of the Cominform said that after the criticism about the capitalist policies in the countryside, the CC of Yugoslavia rushed into cheap and unprepared “leftist decrees”, which only made the situation in the countryside worse. To start collectivisation, Stalin argued, one needs a solid and prepared social and technical base.
Yugoslav cinematography is famous and well-known; it has its part in the world history of cinema. Its highest point can be found in the great name of Veljko Bulajić. His films drew international attention and his legendary “Battle of Neretva”, the partisan epic, was at the top of the nominations for an Oscar.
The filmography of Veljko Bulajić is one of the People’s Revolution. All the extraordinary moments of struggle of the new against the old, of people against the bloodsucker exploiters, can be found in his films – from the first to the last.
There are three of Bulajić’s films that deal specifically with a socialist revolution and its difficulties. The one that is important in this story is symbolically his last Yugoslav film. It is called “Obećana zemlja” – “The Promised Land”.
The main character is an angry communist who imposes the politics of collectivization. At the end of the film he is arrested and the peasants celebrate the end of the new “zadruga”. It is the last, melancholic shot of the last film of a biographer of Yugoslavia.
When Enver Hoxha flew to Moscow over Yugoslavia, with the similar melancholy he grieved: “Beautiful Yugoslav land that was never collectivised, never systematized”.
This was the melancholy of the tragedy that was approaching Yugoslavia. And at the heart of the problem lies – the question of the land.
To fully understand the Cominform Resolution was actually the main basis for understanding not only what happened to our dear Yugoslavia, but also what happened to my grandfather.Thanks to the Indian journal Revolutionary Democracy, we have the opportunity to present the whole case. Before you are excerpts from Mika’s book, mostly translated by his younger son Goran. In the first few chapters we can clearly find what was of such great interest, not just for me, but for Mika himself.
The main character of “Goli” – Stanko (the family name of the legendary People’s Hero of the city of Kruševac, the unforgettable Velizar Stanković Korčagin), Mika’s alter-ego – in prison a man approached who had come back from the Soviet Union, asking him: can there be collective farming without machine-tractors!?
In this particular part, we can find the Resolution of the Cominform in real life, in literature, as we can find it in Bulajić’s “Promised Land”. This is why, I think, this book can be of interest to the readers of Revolutionary Democracy.
“Goli” is significant testimony on the history of our socialist revolution, of counter-revolution and the monstrous revisionist fascist prison and the destiny of one soul through it.
We will avenge the martyrs of Goli Otok!