Chento in The Leader-Post

Tito's revolution takes familiar course


By Maurice Western

The Leader-Post - Nov 21, 1946


The Leader-Post is published by The Leader-Post. Limited. 1853 Hamflton St. Reglna. D. B Rogers Editor; Percy B. Keffer General Manager; Member of The Canadian Press

The counter-revolution is under way in Yugoslavia. Or, if you prefer, we can say that a typical Communist operation has entered its second phase. The revolution is devouring its own children. It amounts to the same thing.

I have been accused by some of my leftist friends of defending Tito during the war and attacking him now. It is quite true. Exception has been taken to a recent article on the trial of Archbishop Stepinatz, in which among other things, I accused Tito of tossing aside the old partisans. That was an unpardonable understatement.

Here are names and facts which I defy any Communist or fellow-traveller to refute.

According to recent news despatches Dragoljub Jovanovitch, leader of the Serbian Left Peasant party within the National Liberation Front has been expelled from the Serbian Assembly and awaits expulsion from the Skupshtina f6r daring to criticize the regime.

Metodi Andonov, nicknamed "Chento", formerly head of the presidium of the Macedonian auti-Fascist parliament, has been thrown into prison.

Now as it happens I know personally both Jovanovitch and Chento. I have a very vivid recollection of that spring day in Belgrade when "Borba" and "Politika" — Tito's papers — blazoned forth the glad news that Dr. Jovanovitch would lead the government licensed Left Peasant group in the Liberation Front. It was a great occasion. There was scepticism of course on the old Monarchist Right — what else would you expect? But my Communist friends were jubilant. Here was convincing proof that the front was real and not a party screen. Here was the. evidence that Yugoslavia was headed at last towards true democracy.

It is very important to note that Dr. Jovanovitch is neither a Catholic, nor a rightist, nor a monarchist, nor has it ever been suggested that he sympathized in any way with the Mihailovitch crowd. Quite the contrary. He had been a fiery radical, a little professor from Belgrade University who was too far left for the official peasant party, itself in opposition to King Alexander's dictatorship. He was suspected oi encouraging wayward students, and "respectable" parents regarded him in the same way as some conservatives regard Dr. Carlylc King or as Mitchell Hepburn viewed Professor Frank Underhill.

I had a long interview with Dr. Jovanovitch in Belgrade lasl spring. He was not then in open opposition and in fact I was referred to him by a Left Socialist who was afraid my judgments would be biassed by the bitter comments of many war-time friends.

Jovanovitch in any case had the typical Serbian peasant outlook He refused to "Hail Tito" but drew the line at defiance. "Our peasants say that it is unnecessary to apply the brakes when the car is going up hill".

But he had few illusions and spoke his mind on the subject of peasant grievances. The farmers he said were getting 3,5 dinar for wheat which cost 16 dinars t produce.

"The Communist regime ha nothing to offer the peasants. Th Russian Revolution gave ther something; land, citizenship human dignity. Here Communist can only take, take, take."

So now Jovanovitch has bee expelled from the Serbian Assembly and further degradation awaits him. But is it so surprising? Has not Marshal Tito said "Those who will persist in hindering the creation of a better future (definable of course by the regime), the reconstruction the country, the creation of something better and new (both, presumably definable by the regime) will have to disappear from the face of the earth".

"We will have no pity toward them and we will behave toward them as against our worst enemies. We cannot stop halfway. Our road is already marked".

♦ ♦ ♦

Macedonia, during four years of Nazi night, had been a forbidden land. When I proposed a visit to that newly liberated "republic", Belgrade partisans gave me every encouragement. I have before me a list of names scribled in the spring of '45 at the suggestion of Communist officials. They were "musts" to interview, men who could interpret the new spirit, the new freedom in Yugoslavia, men who were "above suspicion". At the head of that list is "Chento".

Everyone had heard of "Chento", a legendary figure in partisan annals. He too had been an oppositionist. Twice, in 1935 and 1938, he had piled up enormous electoral majorities and had been barred from the Skupshtina by a Fascist law. Like Tito he had turned against Matchek when the Croatian leader cast in his lot with Yugoslav appeasers. Four times he had been jailed by the dictatorship for leading popular demonstrations. Once he had been marked for murder by Fascist police аnd saved only by a rebellious crowd. When the Bulgars came he was twice arrested; then he went to the mountains to fight with the partisans under the Red Banner. Correspondents are sometimes accused of "seeing the wrong people". On this particular trip my guide was a Communist journalist from Borba, Anton Kolenditch. I was introduced to "Chento" by Lazar Kolischevski, Communist vicepresident of the presidium, who lauded the war record of the head of state. "Chento" was an impressive figure, warm, friendly, intensely human. He was a wine merchant from Prilep, little Macedonian town which nestles under the ancient citadel of Marko Kraljevitch. Proudly he wore his partisan medals and he hadn't got around to discarding his army shirt. We chatted in the cabinet room, formerly the office of a Belgrade appointed Ban of Macedonia. Above his desk was an enormous photograph of Tito, superimposed on one of King Boris. "Chento" was brimming over with enthusiasm for the "greatest Yugoslav leader of all time". We talked of the ancient wrongs of Macedonia and of the new spirit abroad. He told me of the secret partisan conferences climaxed by wartime election of a Sobranje, under the very noses of the Bulgar occupants. He spoke of the clandestine meeting at the monastery of St. Prohor, of his own election as president, of plans for a free Macedonia. Lest I should question the nature of the Front, he gave me his personal assurance that he had never been a Communist. But what did party matter? All were for the liberation. All were for democracy.

But now "Chento" has been disgraced and imprisoned. "We cannot stop halfway", says Tito. "The altar lamp of the terror", thunders Moshe Pijade, "must never be extinguished". The revolution devours its own children. But this is not all.

♦ ♦ ♦

In New York, Tito's case for Trieste is presented by Dr. Ljubo Leontich, Yugoslavia's "all-things-to-all men" ambassador to the United Kingdom. And who is Dt. Leontich? "One of the first outright Fascists in Yugoslavia". That is not my accusation. It comes from the former chief of the foreign press section of Tito's own ministry of information.

Correspondents are not attacking what they formerly defended. They are attacking something quite different—the Communist counter - revolution. Jovanovitch may die and Chento may die but the Yugoslav peasants cannot be crushed. Tito's final answer will come from them

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