2009-03-28

Tito Street

So you want evidence that most people are relentlessly, remorselessly infantile; uninformed; unaware of their surroundings; gullible; stupid. You want evidence that the judgement of most people in matters of policy should not be trusted, and in fact that a majority should have no influence, for that is how clueless they are.

Okay.

Then here's a prediction for you. If Iraq or North Korea ever become free democratic states, a large proportion of their population (20-40% for Hussein and 40-80% for Kim Jong-il) will:
  • Remain convinced that Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il were beneficent leaders.
  • Will want their statues to be preserved.
  • Will want public places to be named after them.
For this is what is happening in Russia with Stalin, and in Slovenia with Tito.

According to this Dnevnik article (in Slovenian), about 65% of residents in the capitol, Ljubljana, would like the town to get a street named after Josip Broz Tito, the erstwhile dictator of Jugoslavia. Of those, 71% (or 46% of the total) would like the town's major artery to be renamed back to Tito Road. (The two portions of the street were renamed to Slovenian Road and Vienna Road after Slovenian independence.)

For those who fail to see the problems in this, here's what Tito did for Jugoslavia.
  • At the end of WWII, ordered the execution of tens of thousands of people (including women, teenagers and children) whose main transgression was their disagreement with the political goals of communists (or in some cases, that they were German families that Nazis settled in Jugoslavia). See article where a well-informed, highly connected individual pins direct responsibility on Tito.
  • For the next several decades, ran a repressive system that:
    • Confiscated most land and property.
    • Ran a dysfunctional, nationalized, socialist economic system where inflation was rampant, products weren't available, when they were available they were poor quality, and prosperity was retarded by decades.
    • Sent political dissenters into forced labor on Barren Island (Goli Otok).
    • Prevented people from leaving the country, e.g. by requiring extreme deposits that one would forfeit if one did not return.
  • Until his death, used the system he established primarily as a means of perpetuating his own image. Had several palaces in the various Jugoslavian states. Traveled in his own private train. Had his own set of islands and yachts for his private use (Brioni).
  • Collaborated with people like Romanian dictator Ceausescu in murky projects like the murder described in Red Horizons by Ion Mihai Pacepa (a top Romanian spy chief who defected to the United States in 1978).
So why would people like to immortalize this guy? A ruthless dictator who came to power through murder, shored it up through genocide, kept it through showmanship and repression, and really messed up his state?

I'm not sure what the answer is. But it seems as though he made people feel good. His charisma brought together six nations that proceeded to hack each other to death about 10 years after he departed. There was no economic progress, and the only way to prosper was to cheat and steal and be a Party suck-up. But it seems as though, when they look back on it, people don't mind the economic misery. In a way, the memory of a past when fewer things were available and fewer things were possible seems attractive to them. What they seem to remember is a sort of brotherhood, a nostalgia for a time where most people led equally simple lives, and faced similar basic hurdles.

When they think of Tito, the thought of the tens of thousands he had murdered to shore up his rule doesn't appear to even register in their minds. What they seem to remember instead is their youth, and how it was lived in a decades-long presence of this charismatic Tito, who fed people a narrative of national struggle and brotherhood that emphasized his heroism. They bought it all wholesale.

It seems as though, when people in Slovenia want to immortalize Tito, they're not doing it with any clue as to who or what he actually was. They do it for the pleasant memory of their gullibility and naivete as younger people.

If anyone can relate more examples of what Tito did, please share. If you can corroborate them with links to more material, so much the better. If you have additional insight to explain people's nostalgia for those times, that would be welcome, too.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here, I suggest you read a book What Did Tito Do in Moscow From 1935-1940? http://www.javno.com/en-bestseller/what-did-tito-do-in-moscow-from-1935-1940_230553

It's really disgusting ...

Philo said...

Good insight, which applies across time to many cultures, if not humanity in general.

This human characteristic may also contribute to the concept of divine men that began with Alexander III of Macedon (known as 'the Great') and which led to the invention of many mythic figures such as Buddha and Pythagoras, who are often confused with the historic.

Daniel said...

Perhaps it has to do with people perceiving relative wellbeing compared to others more important than the absolute wellbeing(I faintly remember reading some US scholars who conducted this kind of research and reached such conclusions).
In socialism there was far less income inequality(even nowadays Slovenian ratio between earners above 90th percintile and the ones below 10th is quite low: 5:1 whereas in Germany is 7:1 and in US ~27:1) and the ones who really ripped off the whole society- the top party officials- were far more out off sight to average Joe(and also hyped by the propaganda machine) than the well-off are nowadays to him.

Daniel said...

"the ones who really ripped off the whole society- the top party officials"

It's worth mentioning that ripping off by average Joes was also rampant in the sence that there was a lot of people who were literally doing nothing in their jobs. But unlike the top party officials they were poor like everyone else- and that's what mattered:)

Echo said...

I recommend everyone to read
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, since it not only describes the true face of communism, but also brings deeper insight into psychology of people under various (and extreme) historic situations.

Anonymous said...

I've lost hope in mankind :-(

denis bider said...

You'll get over it. Eventually you realize, it's like losing your hope in monkeys. It was stupid to have any hopes in the first place. :)

Humans are part of the animal kingdom. Most of them much more so than the few percent that one can talk to sensibly.

Simon said...

And here we go: http://www.delo.si/clanek/79450

:S

denis bider said...

Mind-blowingly awful.

Apparently, a relative majority of Slovenians considers this a victory over a minority they oppressed in the past, and whose relatives they murdered.

"Civilization: We've heard of it."

Matija Kovac said...

This is a poor comparison and the author has poorly assumed several things. For one Tito was a hero, he led a resistance movement to crush the fascist occupiers. Secondly, if you say Tito was a 'Tyrant' then you might as well say that Churchill was for he ordered the execution of British Nazi collaborators. Tito, who was not directly in charge of Yugoslavia right after the war cannot be blamed for not opposing a similar policy of executing those who committed war crimes.

Tito hated the notion of god king presidents, AFTER his death, his memory was invoked as a common image to keep the country together.

You also go and claim that the Yugoslav Economy was 'dysfunctional' under his rule which is to me laughable. Yugoslavia produced indigenous aircraft, ships, Cars, armaments, steal, textiles etc and had a very low unemployment rate. It had one of the best pensions and work systems of the time which allowed our work day to end at 3 in the afternoon. The Government programs encouraged spending time with family as opposed to Material gain. Yugoslavs also had free education, healthcare and very cheap government subsidized post secondary education.

Tito was the only Socialist Leader with the courage to rebuke Stalin and renounce oppressive communist systems, he was a war hero who led from the front lines and called for the respect for human rights within Yugoslavia and around the world.

20 years after his passing, thousands of people still visit his grave on Maj 4. He is very well respected since he is a hero. He was a Slovene and Slovenians are very proud of Marshal Tito.

denis bider said...

Matija: For one Tito was a hero, he led a resistance movement to crush the fascist occupiers.

"Hero" is subjective and useless. "Hero" is an image in other people's eyes, it is not an argument.

He led a resistance movement against occupiers, yes. It was a guerrilla movement more so than a crushing force. And it did not liberate.


Matija: if you say Tito was a 'Tyrant' then you might as well say that Churchill was for he ordered the execution of British Nazi collaborators.

To the extent of my knowledge, the post-war slaughtering in Yugoslavia took place on a much larger scale than any ordered by Churchill.

Tito was a tyrant for the entire duration of his rule, not merely in the post-war period. Unless you think that Goli otok is a fiction; that people had freedom of speech; that the stories about Udba are untrue; if you ignore that, for substantial periods, people didn't have fredom to move across border; and that importing anything was very difficult.


Matija: You also go and claim that the Yugoslav Economy was 'dysfunctional' under his rule which is to me laughable. Yugoslavia produced indigenous aircraft, ships, Cars, armaments, steal, textiles etc

Preposterous. The Yugo is well known as a joke, it rotted in one year, you had to wait 3 years to get it, driving at 90 km/h felt like you were about to take off, and you couldn't buy anything else.

You are enumerating a mere handful of items that were made in Yugoslavia, at the expense of everything else. The material standard of living was not nearly comparable to the present standard of living in Slovenia.

If you insist otherwise, you must be either joking or insane.


Matija: and had a very low unemployment rate

(1) Public statistics from that era can hardly be trusted. At that time, lying, cheating and finding workarounds for government dysfunction were the primary ways of getting things done. You can hardly trust a published unemployment statistic from that era; that was part of the official propaganda.

(2) To the extent that unemployment was brought about, it was by employing people where they were unnecessary. The failure of central planning came about because even thousands of highly educated communist economists were unable to make the sheer volume of economic decisions required to organize people effectively. As a result, people were organized ineffectively. Restaurants were open that had no guests, shops that had nothing on the shelves, with five registers having three cashiers each when there were no customers. That is not "low unemployment", it's dysfunction. People who were "employed" in that way might as well be recipients of welfare.

Matija: The Government programs encouraged spending time with family as opposed to Material gain.

In today's Slovenia, you can endure the same kind of material misery that everyone was forced to endure during communist times, and then you can have lots of time with your family. The only difference is, other people opt to not endure such misery, so you would look like a pauper in comparison. But you can do it, if you prefer.


Matija: Yugoslavs also had free education, healthcare and very cheap government subsidized post secondary education.

Primary and secondary schools are free in most developed countries.

The health system achieved acceptable outcomes on average, but was and remains ridden with poor service and poor consumer choice. If you need a certain procedure, often the only way to get it is to go and pay for it abroad.

The free university education was and remains largely useless! Most Slovenian non-technical universities (FDV, FF, FE) teach crap that has little economic use. Their graduates are unable to get jobs consistent with the level of their education.

Socialist universities have encouraged wasting years studying completely useless subjects just for the sake of getting a diploma. This inherited dysfunction that continues to plague Slovenia today.

denis bider said...

Matija: 20 years after his passing, thousands of people still visit his grave on Maj 4. He is very well respected since he is a hero. He was a Slovene and Slovenians are very proud of Marshal Tito.

It puzzles me that you can write English so well, and yet believe such idiocies. I am interested in learning more about your background. Did you grow up in ex-Yugoslavia, or elsewhere? Is English your first or second language? Did you live any duration of time in ex-Yugoslavia yourself? Were you raised in one of the favored families that were close to the trough, and got more than others because of political connections?

I find it incredible that an intelligent human being would believe all the things you believe, but yet even the incredible is possible. I wonder how it's possible with you.

Matija said...

Just as you say, the term ‘liberate’ is subjective; of course the partisans did not appear to be a liberating force to the Ustase and the elitist Chetniks who feared the consequences of the actions. There is no doubt in my mind however, that you would be swift to call the allied soldiers ‘Liberators’ yet you refuse to call the largest resistance movement ever formed the same because of the atrocities they allegedly committed. The Bleiburg massacre for example was a terrible instance of post-war vendetta undertaking which would never have occurred had the British and other Allied forces hadn’t knowingly sent the surrendering nazi collaborators back to Yugoslavia to be executed. One must also understand that Tito was not behind these killings, this was done by the National Liberation Army (under a joint command) avenging the ruthless Ustase who even shocked the Nazis with their brutality- Yugoslavs faced more war causalities for its population size than any other country. Many western Academics today love to call Tito a god king or a tyrant and cite things like goli otok as proof of this but the thing which is not understood is that these unfortunate actions were taken to eradicate the widespread infiltration of Soviet Spies who posed a real threat to Yugoslavia’s very own sovereignty. There is no doubt in my mind that if measures weren’t taken and Tito was assassinated as Stalin planned, then Yugoslavia would have been systematically attacked and annexed and our people would have been forced to live under a disastrous system with collective farming like in the Ukraine.

I must insist that your commentary on the economy of the SFRJ is once again misguided and flat out wrong. Citing the unreliability of Yugoslavia’s first ever indigenously produced and designed vehicle as evidence of a poor economy is one thing, but vaguely throwing out statistics of Yugoslav living standards compared to today’s Slovenia and using it as proof of a ‘dysfunctional’ Yugoslav economy is preposterous. For one, Slovenia’s living standards have gone up but in other areas of the former Yugoslavia living standards have dramatically plummeted. Many citizens of those other Yugoslav countries now have to worry about being able to afford health care and not being able to find a job; many Serbs, Croats, Bosnians and Macedonians have spoken about their nostalgia for the economic system of Socialist Yugoslavia, we care about this because we still uphold and remember brotherhood and Unity.

The low unemployment rate and the high productivity of Yugoslavia and the Yugoslavian worker were internationally known. For those who simply refuse to trust government statistics I would tell them to simply ask someone who lived under the system: Did they ever go without the opportunity to work? Were they not payed and compensated for their military service? Did they not receive free education and healthcare? The honest answer someone who lived under the system from any region would answer is No.

What surprises me is that you refuse to recognize official government statistics as accurate yet your evidence of an inadequate social system is the: “poor service and poor consumer choice” wherever this information came from does not concern me, but I can confidently assert that every Yugoslav was taken care of regardless of ethnicity and it was much more moral then the Capitalist, company controlled, fend for yourself system certain other countries have in place.

Your argument about Government universities in Yugoslavia being ‘useless’ is weak as well. If your view is that they are useless then perhaps university programs like Sociology, Classical Historical Studies, Philosophy and other abstract subjects shouldn’t be offered at Universities in Canada or the united States anymore because they have little ‘economic use.’

Matija said...

I was born in Socialist Yugoslavia and lived there for the majority of my life until I left to live in Canada. Yugoslavia was not corrupt and living a comfortable lifestyle didn’t require the establishment of political connections. Many of my childhood friends had parents or grandparents who were highly decorated in the national liberation war and they did not receive any sort of special treatment. I attended an English Speaking American School in Ljubljana so I therefore wasn’t subject to what some would call government indoctrinating efforts.
No one claims that Tito was perfect, he was not an economic Genius and he did not possess a lofty set of moral values. What he did however posses were a great charisma, courage and pride. His early years as a peasant drove him to work diligently to improve the living standards of the Yugoslavian worker which he did do. Yugoslavia was not a utopia of equilibrium but it was well led and it had a very good system in place. Tito is genuinely loved by many to this day, and even today Viewing the last youth day when he was alive brings about warm feelings http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtTAlyU2kCE.

denis bider said...

Matija,

whether or not the Partisans' contribution to the defeat of the Axis was significant, the post-WWII purges of tens of thousands were motivated by ideology - to preemptively remove opposition to the communist regime. Marshall Tito was the supreme commander of the Partisans, and cannot be excused responsibility for these events!

If you think that this sort of mass slaughter is acceptable, I wonder if you would also agree that it would be justified for me to kill you and your family because you are opposed to capitalism?


Matija: Citing the unreliability of Yugoslavia’s first ever indigenously produced and designed vehicle as evidence of a poor economy is one thing,

No, it wasn't at all the first ever! That's what makes it so pathetic! The Yugo was the "pinnacle" of Yugoslav automotive engineering over the course of 40 years.

In the 1950s, Crvena Zastava started making the 1400 ("Fičo"). In the 1960s, they started making the 750 ("Bolha"). In the 1970s, they introduced the 101 ("Stoenka"). Then finally, in the 1980s, the Yugo.

After 30 years of making crappy cars based on Fiat designs, Crvena Zastava finally managed to design a crappy car of their own - a car which is still remembered and widely ridiculed for its shortcomings. And you call that an achievement?!

Today, Slovenian factories make parts for BMWs, while the Renault factory in Novo mesto produces the new Twingo and the Clio II. All of these are products of a vastly higher quality. But you don't find that worthwhile, because that's tainted by capitalism.


Matija: For one, Slovenia’s living standards have gone up but in other areas of the former Yugoslavia living standards have dramatically plummeted.

Oh, my. Let me think. Could that have anything to do with the fact that... our southern neighbors spent the 1990s trying to kill each other???


Matija: For those who simply refuse to trust government statistics I would tell them to simply ask someone who lived under the system: Did they ever go without the opportunity to work?

You didn't get the point. Of course everyone had the opportunity to work! It's just that it wasn't actual, useful work! It was employment for the purpose of employment. They might as well have been receiving social welfare cheques!

So nowadays, all those unemployed people that you complain about, they're all receiving welfare cheques. How, tell me, is that different from Yugoslav-style "full employment"?

If anything, people on welfare are better off, because they don't have to show up every day for pointless make-work!


Matija: I can confidently assert that every Yugoslav was taken care of regardless of ethnicity and it was much more moral then the Capitalist, company controlled, fend for yourself system certain other countries have in place.

The thing about the "fend for yourself" system is that it works! This is as opposed to the Yugoslav socialist system, which didn't! Why on Earth do you think it collapsed? Because it worked so great? If it worked so great, if it really was the best system ever, how come Yugoslavia doesn't continue to exist? How come it's not an economic superpower today? How come America is?

If socialism in general is so wonderful, how come that North Korea needs international food aid? Eh?


Matija: even today Viewing the last youth day when he was alive brings about warm feelings

Exactly! You are living in dreamland, reminiscing about a myth that never really was, an image that existed only in propaganda. You dream your dream, but it has no bearing on reality.

denis bider said...

And Matija, puhleeze. Don't you go tell me that systems where successful people are taxed at 50+%, so as to finance huge redistributions and social programs, are unfair because people have to "fend for themselves". What a bunch of bullshit.