- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Book Guild Publishing Ltd (12 April 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1857768582
- ISBN-13: 978-1857768589
- Package Dimensions: 21.8 x 13.6 x 2.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,037,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Price of Patriotism Hardcover – 12 Apr 2005
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Special Operations Executive as a secret organisation whose aim was to promote resistance in German-occupied Europe. Not all the missions are successful, and not all the characters are noble. The author investigates the fate of the participants and uncovers an unknown corner of history.
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John Earle, who served in central Yugoslavia with the SOE from 1943, and continued to maintain close contacts thereafter in neighbouring Italy as a journalist, has with his combined investigative bloodhound skill of a reporter and analysis of a historian shown in this book that in Slovenia, in northwest Yugoslavia, if the contemporaries had even bothered to take in Maclean's Eastern Approaches Eastern Approaches (Penguin World War II Collection) on the trial of Bukharin and Orwell's Homage to Catalonia Homage to Catalonia (Penguin Modern Classics) on the repression of all the anarchist, "Trotskyite" and other "deviationist" leftist forces in the Spanish Civil War, and successively the memories and warnings of other former Communist members and fellow travellers, such as Koestler Darkness at Noon (Modern Classics), London Confession, even Djilas a fellow fighter of Tito, it is likely decisions taken in wartime might have been executed differently, and thus the history of post-war Yugoslavia would have evolved in an alternative, virtual manner. By listening to the tales of the three survivors, as well as examining the archives in London, and in Ljubljana, certain belonging to the OZNA, the secret police of the partisans, moulded on the NKGB, the author shows Slovenians, other Southern Slavs of ex Yugoslavia, as well as interested neighbours in Italy, and elsewhere that history never is a series of unbreakable facts made in stone, but as Orwell underlined in a famous statement in his 1984: "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past".
The Yugoslav Communist hegemony presented itself within the Freedom Front (Osvobodilna Fronta) as the exclusive front and real voice against freedom and Nazi-fascist oppression. This meant denigrating the sole pre-war national democratic TIGR organ in the country, and later the Slovenian catholic militia, the White Guard, the Domobranci set up by Germans following the Italian armistice in September 1943, as "bourgeois", "chauvinist", and agents of "reaction", as were the Ustasi in Croatia, and Mihailovic's Cetniks in Serbia.
What is new and original in Earle's account of the British SOE missions in Slovenia from August 1943, however, is that all (except for the three survivors who were not in the Republic at the time) the indigenous parachutists or padalci flown from Cairo who as a sign of loyalty were invited to become members of the Communist Party did not survive to see the birth of the new Yugoslavia in peacetime. They all felt they were being followed and watched, which from the OZNA files is precisely what was happening. The leaders and their mouthpieces in the units, the political commissars, obsessed by threats of external and internal threats to power, spread rumours and fabricated charges that as these ex-pat Slovenians had been trained with SOE and worked with the British, they were in reality "spies", operating hand in glove with British military intelligence. Their attempts to infiltrate the Communist Party were calculated to corrupt and weaken the operations of the party, and to bring it within the embrace of Anglo-American imperialism. The author claims that the decisions to eliminate these "foreign hyenas", the "enemies of the people" was taken by the Party inside Slovenia, and not by the leadership at a higher level in Yugoslavia for reasons important at the time about the frontier. Who it was who gave the orders he does not say, whether he knows for sure or not. He neither states that such practices of elimination resemble those carried out against both "deviationists" and Stalin's own henchmen in Spain, for the practical reason that "dead men do not speak".
One head of the British Mission, Maj. A.G. Wood, predicted well in 1944 that when the war would be over the Communists would slaughter their natural enemies (Kocevski Rog in southern Slovenia is the unmarked graveyard of the butchered Domobranci) or anyone that suited for around two years. They would give ethnic cleansing a new legitimacy even before the term was regularly used in the 1990s. General Velebit, a Zagreb lawyer in peacetime and Tito's chief liaison officer with the British, even justified such excessive atrocities as late as 2002 as the violence of the times. But for the Slovenes who had returned with the Mission, they arrived at the wrong time in the wrong place. Their lives was the price of their patriotic valour, but for 60 years in Slovenia there was only silence and misinformation.
Earle's study has something vital to add about the treatment of the British Mission, too. Throughout the 20 months they experienced grave difficulties. It is known that when the US were planning Operation Anvil, Churchill was talking of launching an sea attack on Istria through the Ljubliana Gap and to break into Austria. Indeed, when Churchill met Tito in Italy in the summer of 1944 he found the Croat all smiles, and responding that the allied force would find helpful support on the ground. In reality, Earle finds that the partisans were never willing to help, because Istria was considered theirs and off limits to other foreigners other than the Soviets.
The brave partisans, furthermore, repeatedly showed hostility to the heads of the Mission, who reported that that the partisans were unwilling to reveal vital intelligence information, except for bragging about their inflated gains. In contrast, they took every opportunity to undermine British prestige and the British Empire. What is more, Edvard Kardelj, Tito's n°2 in Slovenia, made a point of planting further discord with the allies on account of sole Mission head, Maj. William Jones, who was enthused by the work of the commissars, as latter day disciples, and as he was replaced after a few months in April 1944, he claimed it demonstrated the continual "inhuman reaction and dictatorship" in British democracy. In April 1945 the partisans even prevented the Mission from moving, simply in order to ensure they reached and occupied Trieste before the British. Earle, in fact, brings to the fore here for the first time the commander of IX Corps who held up FM Freyberg for 24 hours to beat the allies in their race, and this individual had an interesting case-history. For long more silence, rumours.
Earle was something that will interest Italians and Italian historians who can not read Slovenian texts. He reported what since appears in David Stafford Mission Accomplished: SOE and Italy 1943-1945 recent official history of the SOE in Italy of the great divisions which the Yugoslav IX Corps encouraged between the Italian Communist Garibaldi and the anti-communist Osoppo partisans in the bordering area of Friuli, leading to the attack on the Osoppos at Porzus, north of Udine, in February 1945.
Earle states that though the Italian Communist General secretary, Palmiro Togliatti, was in agreement to cooperation with the Slovenians in wartime it was on condition that it did not affect the question of the frontiers at the end of the conflict. Instead, the Slovenians were already operating on the basis of the decision taken almost a year previously in late November 1943, at the 2nd AVNOJ meeting at Jajce, that for them the future borders should be pushed west of the Isonzo / Soca river at Monfalcone (some Slav forces had already encamped themselves on one side of the Turriaco-Pieris embankment at the moment when Freyberg's NZ 2nd Div crossed the Isonzo) and as far as the Tagliamento. Thus they had no intention of allowing either the allied force to enter Istria in 1944, nor the British Mission to interfere with their political-military. Consequently, the Garibaldini who were compelled to fight the Osoppo, were innocently being used as a front to eliminate their own fellow Italians in the march towards "socialism", while in reality it was part of the same ploy to free or clear out areas of Italians for its future colonization by Slavs. The question is why Togliatti chose to remain silent when it became evident in May 1945 that the Slovenians wanted more than Trieste. Was silence the price of "international socialism", or while in government as minister was it calculated "bourgeois" national patriotism? That is something that may be unearthed one day from one of the closed archives whether in Ljubljana, in Belgrade, or Moscow.
Giovanni Padoan "Vanni", the political commissar of the Garibaldi, needed to clear his conscience after 50 years before his death stating he had already spoken strongly against the Slovenian calls for annexation he had heard at a meeting in 1944, and during the 40 day occupation of Trieste in May 1945 he then had protested that the Italians were not allowed to wave or hang out the Italian tricolour without the "red star" (the mark of the proposed 7th Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia), and seeing public buildings being daubed in red paint with the words Trst je nas (Trieste is ours). If as Earle maintains Vanni knew, obviously others inside the Italian Communists did as well. Was it personal conscience, political convenience, or finally his decision to breathe deeply as an Italian patriot? Had it previously been an inconvenience and better to keep the veil of silence also on the Italian side of the Italo-Yugoslav frontier?
The Italians, Earle admits, should not get a good write-up either after the War. For until 1972, and the Treaty of Osimo, they continued to ignore minority rights to Slovenians in Friuli Venezia-Giulia as they previously had in Istria during the dark days of Fascism, and as they had since 1866 in the area of Beneèija populated by Slavs. Silence of the past, the present, and future. Have the Italians now learnt anything, and are the changes due to Slovenia's admission to the EU? Partly, but more due to Slovenia wishing to present itself to the West in a different hue, with a distinct westward looking heritage historically belonging to mother Roman Catholic church and not to past Communist Moscow. Has the EU in turn decided to lift the lid to all or only some of the past silences? Are there more skeletons blowing in the wind? In any case: "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past".
In conclusion, John Earle has made his Price totally up to date for any walker to the area by describing the locations and noting what can now be found at those grid references. They will enjoy the walks, the mountain scenes, and friendly mountain Slavs.
I am surprised that the book has not been noticed more widely by historians. The Price of Patriotism contains many revealing and useful points. The present shows how Slovenia wishes to move in future, to clear away the debris of its past. The investigative journalist has proven to be a worthy historian.
Some minor misprints jump to the reader's eye reading an account that is otherwise most interesting, flowing and well documented.