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Modernism: The Creation of Nation-States

 | 
Ahmet Ersoy
, 
Maciej Górny
, 
Vangelis Kechriotis

Chapter V. Socialism and the nationality question

The fundamental principles of the Liberation Front

Traduction de Olga Vukovič

Texte intégral

1Title: Temeljne točke Osvobodilne fronte (slovenskega naroda) (The fundamental principles of the Liberation Front [of the Slovenian people])

2Originally published: Slovenski poročevalec, 8 November, 1941 and 1 January, 1942

3Language: Slovene
The excerpts used are from Tone Ferenc, Temeljne točke Osvobodilne fronte in Enciklopedija Slovenije (Ljubljana: Mladinska knjiga, 1999), p. 227.

Context

4In the aftermath of the First World War, the Slovenian workers’ movement split into a non-revolutionary socialist fraction, and a revolutionary, communist one. The latter under the name Delavska Socialistična Stranka za Slovenijo (Workers’ Socialist Party in Slovenia), became an integral part of the newly founded Communist Party of Yugoslavia (hereafter CPY), established on July 1920 at a congress in Vukovar. In December 1920, the Cabinet of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes banned the Communist Party by a decree known as the Obznana (Proclamation). In August 1921, based on the ‘Law on public safety and order,’ the party was declared a criminal organization, so throughout the period between the two World Wars it operated as an underground movement. In 1923, the leadership of the party abandoned its unitary agenda regarding the national issue, and in January 1924 adopted a federal national program. The national issue in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was also discussed at its clandestine congress held in Dresden in November 1928; the decision was to focus on the struggle against the monarchy and the Serbian (centralist) bourgeoisie, and fight for the break-up of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

5In April 1934, the communist parties of Yugoslavia, Italy and Austria signed a common declaration on the Slovenian issue which had been dictated by the Comintern’s headquarters in Moscow. Fearing the consolidation of Fascism, the Soviet Union had abandoned its previous practice of denouncing all links with non-communist parties. The local communist movement in the occupied Julian March (Slov. Julijska Krajina; It. Venezia Giulia) had lost touch with the wider popular movement because of its fervent nationalism. To counter such developments, the Comintern revised its position on the national issue, since it aspired to use the popular appeal of nationalism in order to engage the masses in a struggle against fascist ideology.

6In September 1934, at a conference in Ljubljana, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia defined its stance towards the national issue: it adopted a resolution to establish the Communist Party of Slovenia as soon as possible, and issued guidelines on establishing links with other left-wing political groups. As early as June 1935, the CPY abandoned its policy of supporting the break-up of Yugoslavia. More detailed guidelines were issued regarding the organization of the Popular Front in accordance with the program drawn up by the Comintern in the same year. The aforementioned tripartite declaration issued in April 1934 did not have any direct effect; even the attempt to isolate the masses from bourgeois politics in the Yugoslav part of Slovenia was ineffective. The text was especially critical of the largest political party in Slovenia between the two wars, the conservative Slovenian People’s Party, which in the summer of 1935, joined the government of the Serbian Prime Minister Milan Stojadinović. A large part of the involved public in Slovenia saw this political move as a betrayal of the party’s program, the strongest point of which was the demand for Slovenia’s legislative autonomy.

7By pursuing such politics, the Slovenian People’s Party aided considerably the rise in strenght of more radical political actors in Slovenia that drew on the popular front movements in France and Spain. However, the attempt to form a popular front in Slovenia in the second half of the 1930s received mixed reactions. In 1937 the Communist Party of Slovenia (hereafter CPS) was established in Čebine, and although at that time it was still a minor and clandestine movement, it quickly gained a foothold in political, cultural and workers’ organizations. Soon, though, a number of national defense associations emerged, forming a common anti-fascist front. In the summer of 1940, the CPS brought together its supporters within the organization called the Društvo prijateljev Sovjetske zveze (Association of the friends of the Soviet Union).

8During the period of Soviet-German cooperation stipulated by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the communists’ activities were directed against the capitalist world order. Following the outbreak of the German-Soviet war, on 22 June, 1941 the ‘Liberation Front of the Slovenian People (hereafter LF) was organized on the basis of the ‘Association of the friends of the Soviet Union.’ Although the LF was coalition-based, the principles of the Slovenian communists prevailed from the very onset. From January 1942, it also became a revolutionary organization, planning social revolution and hoping to the change of the system that had been in place before the German occupation of the country. The LF was a peculiarity within the Yugoslav Partisan movement, because it retained a degree of independence, particularly during the early stages of its development. Towards the end of 1942, the Yugoslav centralization and unification processes interrupted the emancipatory evolution of the LF. The leadership of the CPY began to view the LF as an impediment to the Yugoslav integration process. Accusations of separatism and nationalism were also leveled at other liberation movements across Yugoslavia that exhibited any such peculiar traits. The 1943 ‘Dolomite declaration’ brought the structure of the LF in line with that of the Yugoslav liberation movement.

9The German occupation of Slovenia not only swept away the previous governing apparatus but also caused the disintegration of the traditional political parties. Some renowned politicians from the Slovenian People’s Party, and even some from the liberal camp, emigrated and tried to influence the domestic situation from abroad. To that end, they founded the ‘Slovenian National Committee’ in London.

10As for the non-communist resistance movement at home, in late March 1942, an agreement was reached on the establishment of the Slovenska Zaveza za narodno osvoboditev (Slovenian alliance for national liberation). It brought together members of the Slovenian People’s Party and the Yugoslav National Party as well as the members of smaller liberal, socialist parties and representatives of the center. It functioned as a supra-party organization and, thanks to the wide consensus among the involved political parties, it was perceived as the legitimate representative of the Slovenes until the capitulation of Italy. At first it did not counter the LF, its main goal being the liberation of Slovenia. Its program anticipated the radical social and economic reform of the Slovenian society. However, internal conflicts reduced its power, which only reinforced the prevalent belief that only the communists were capable of organizing the resistance. Accordingly, the LF became a true mass movement. Those that remained outside were either collaborators with the occupying forces, individuals who did not want to take sides, or those who did not accept the leading role of the CPY within the LF.

11The absence of traditional political parties in the struggle against the occupying forces created an unexpectedly wide political space for the LF to operate during the initial months of the occupation. In September 1941, it established the Slovenski narodnoosvobodilni odbor (Slovenian national liberation committee) to function as a sovereign governmental body. The leadership of the LF, which throughout the war had its headquarters in the Italian province of Ljubljana, endeavored to establish a united and evenly-spread network of organizations across the Slovenian territories. However, it soon became clear that this goal could not be achieved, mainly because of the differences in the nature of the German, Hungarian and Italian regimes occupying Slovenia. The circumstances were by far most suitable in Ljubljana, where the LF evolved into a widespread political and organizational network.

12During the Second World War, the Slovenian political scene was dominated by two important agendas: the ‘Fundamental principles of the Liberation Front’ and the program of the Slovenian political émigrés in London. The London group came to an agreement with the Yugoslav government in exile. This document, comprising seven points, formulated the future political set-up of the Balkans: 1. the restoration of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia; 2. the establishment of a free Slovenia as an equal partner with other Yugoslav entities; 3. the participation of all involved entities in the process of deciding the internal organization of the Kingdom; 4. the organization of common affairs, such as foreign policy and defense policy, and the formulation of general guidelines for co-existence within the Kingdom; 5. the organization of Yugoslavia as a single economic unit with its own democratic system of state organization and governance; 6. endeavors towards a union with Bulgaria; and 7. Yugoslavia as the backbone of a future Balkan Union.

13The program of the LF was formulated in the summer of 1941 when it was still called the ‘Anti-imperialist Front.’ Its political and ideological profile was finally shaped by a unanimous agreement in November of the same year. It was formed around seven fundamental principles, and two new ones were added in December. In the summer of 1945, the program was further supplemented to include views on the new government system. The fundamental principles were published in LF bulletins and distributed as pamphlets.

14The capitulation of Italy paved the way for a swift emergence of a ‘people’s government’ in Slovenia based on the LF’s principles. The concept of the government developed under the strong influence of communists who took over key positions within the new power mechanism. Following the end of the war and the formation of socialist Yugoslavia, the role of the LF further increased. It provided the organizational framework for political life and was the driving force behind the implementation of the policies of the CPY. As a political agent within the government, its task was to supervise and direct the activity of governmental bodies and to organize and lead the reconstruction of the country by way of various forms of labor mobilization. From 1945 to 1947, the ruling apparatus organized a number of rebuilding projects across the country. One of the aims was to establish a new political mythology, including the cult of Partisan resistance fighters, the revolution, the communist party and its leader, Josip Broz Tito. In 1953, the LF, a component of the ‘People’s Front of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia,’ was renamed the ‘Socialist League of Slovenian Workers.’ The wartime protagonists of the LF occupied the highest positions within the new government.

15The Slovenian national liberation war (1941 to 1945) was a complex social, political and military phenomenon which even today has an impact on political and intellectual life. For decades it was understood through a narrow interpretation of war as dictated by the victors. The mythicized and idealized representation of Partisanhood during the post-war years stifled and simplified its complexity. More critical interpretations of events during the Second World War appeared only in the wake of radical social changes during the late 1980s. These new accounts reveal the predicaments regarding the LF and its formation.

16One dilemma concerns the alliances formed after the foundation of the LF and the relations among these allies. The prevalent thesis during the period of the socialist regime was that the predecessor of the LF was the ‘Association of the friends of the Soviet Union,’ which proves the continuity of the policies of the ‘Popular Front.’ During the 1990s, this thesis was challenged by a younger generation of historians unburdened by the experience of the War (Bojan Godesa in particular). The second important question is the relationship between the ‘Anti-imperialist Front’ and the LF. Today, most historians support the thesis that the ‘Anti-imperialist Front’ had a transitory character that was shaped by the political circumstances of the time.

17MR

The fundamental principles of the Liberation Front
(of the Slovenian nation)

  1. Uncompromising armed struggle against the occupying forces.
  2. This struggle is the basis for the liberation and unification of all Slovenes.
  3. Starting from the position that the community of the Yugoslav nations is natural and inevitable, the LF does not accept the fragmentation of Yugoslavia and works with all its strength towards the understanding and unity of its nations. At the same time, it strives for the close association among the Slavic nations under the leadership of the Great Russian nation, based on the right of every nation to self-determination.
  4. The LF is reshaping the character of the Slovenian nation through its liberation struggle and the rousing of the masses. The Slovenian people who fight for their national and human rights create a new image of active Slove-nianhood.
  5. All groups participating in the LF have undertaken the obligation to be loyal in their relations with it.
  6. After the national liberation, the governing of Slovenia will be undertaken by the LF as a whole.
  7. After the national liberation, the LF will introduce a consistent people’s democracy. Any question outside the framework of national liberation will be resolved consistently in accordance with the principles of people’s democracy.
  8. In accordance with the solemn declaration by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, after the national liberation the issues pertaining to the internal system of United Slovenia and its foreign relations will be decided by its people. The LF will realize and defend using all the means at its disposal this fundamental right of the Slovenian nation.
  9. The national army in the Slovenian territories evolves from the Slovenian Partisan units that fight the war for national liberation and from the Narodna zaščita (National Defense), which all nationally conscious Slovenes are invited to join.

© Central European University Press, 2010

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