The nature of Croat fascism

Chris Burford cburford at
Wed Sep 6 07:41:08 MDT 1995

Perceptions by the left of the conflict in Yugoslavia has been
strongly affected by ideas about Croat fascism and the Ustashe.

In another context warning has been given about using the term fascism
loosely separate from its historical context. Without having
the knowledge fully to illuminate the issue I think I see enough that the
situation in former Yugoslavia is complex on this question too.

Tudjman  spent some time in prison,
during a crackdown in 1971 on many leading Croatians who wanted
greater cultural and political and no doubt economic autonomy.
In the seventies he was particularly engrossed in re-examining the
history of Croat nationalism, and he was accused of being a revisionist
on the fascist nature of the Ustashe. In the debate about how many
died in the concentration camp at Jasenovac, he is said consistently to
have argued for the lowest possible figure (The Observer, London,
6th August 1995). On the other hand it would appear from this evidence
that he did not deny the existence of the concentration camp.
Furthermore it was common that a number of nationalist tendencies
around the world had sympathies for Germany in the Second World War,
Irish, Indian, Iraqi, Egyptian, to name only some that come to mind.
>From everything I hear Pavelic's regime was especially nasty but
the point I am making is that sympathy with Germany in the 1930's
in itself does not totally invalidate any claim to national
aspirations. (Other things of course may.)

What I suspect is that as the centrifugal economic processes in Yugo-
slavia increased this became the main idological expression of the
political and materialist question of whether there was a case for
Croatia to secede from the federation: was there a legitimate
national case for Croatia?

Serb socialists would therefore have an interest in presenting Tudjman
as a fascist. Without going into detailed historical arguments we do
not know to what extent he did a whitewash on the activities of the Ustashe
or merely said there has been a historical Croat nationalist movement
going back well before the Second World War, which there was, or something
in between.

Tudjman is now one of many ex-communist leaders converted to nationalism
and weak to say the least on civil rights. The situation in Croatia is
worrying about how far it will turn towards overt fascism. I am forwarding
a post about the suppression of the last independent radio station.

However it seems to me that the economic basis for a full nationalistic
Croat fascism is not there. Croatia needs an economy open to the European
Union. In many ways the split between Croatia and Serbia was like the
split between the Czech lands and Slovakia: the western territory more
prosperous, closer linked to the European Union, more ready to embrace
free market economics; the eastern territory more collectivist, socialistic,
less competitive. The split occurred in terms of national ideology and
culture but it was a reflection of the economic base.

In the Croatian government there is the militaristic aggressive and
semi-fascist "Defence" Minister Gojko Susak, and the more liberal
Foreign Minister Mate Granic, who is on amiable terms with the European
Union. Much of the future of Croatia may depend on how they jostle for
influence within the ruling party, and to what extent they represent
real economic forces. Tudjman who is obviously a skilled opportunist
if not an outright fascist, will have been clever enough to calculate
that while he takes the victory salute in Knin, it will not be in his
interest for Susak to become triumphant within the Croatian Democratic

Much of the resistance to fascist tendencies in triumphant Croatia
will be about human rights. Any publicity to violations of these
that can be achieved in countries sending donations to Tudjman's
campaign funds for the probable election this year, could make a
material impact.

The purpose of this analysis is to try to go into detail a little about
what is really happening.

The trouble is our starting point in the left wing analysis assumes
that Croatia is very possibly fascist, and Serbia may not be.

I think the problem is that for historical reasons fascist tendencies in
Croatia look anti-communist, whereas fascist tendencies in Serbia look
socialist. In the 1990's I however I believe that the social fascist
tendencies of Greater Serb nationalism have been the greater danger for
the interests of the people of Yugoslavia.

That of course could change rapidly.

Chris Burford, London.

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