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DEATH TO FASCISM — FREEDOM TO THE PEOPLE

“The radio station was always kept in suitcases; it would only be set up during broadcasts. The broadcasts were performed in a small bathroom. A board was placed on the bathtub, and the transmitter was placed upon it. The toilet served as a seat for the announcer. After the first three broadcasts, which I read, (…) we received a notification from the district committees in Sisak, Karlovac and others that our broadcasts were being heard well. I finished each broadcast with the slogan: “DEATH TO FASCISM — FREEDOM TO THE PEOPLE!”

 

The underground resistance fighter in occupied Zagreb, Stipe Ugarković ends his reading of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia’s Proclamation, issued in June 1941 after the Third Reich attacked the USSR, with the slogan previously unknown to the public: “Death to fascism – freedom to the people“ (Smrt fašizmu, sloboda narodu). There are numerous testimonies of the first use of this slogan, but its origin cannot be precisely determined based on historical documents. Although it was certainly known in anti-fascist circles earlier – “death to fascism” is already in use in Spain in the 1930s  – from the summer of 1941, it became the motto and official greeting of the participants of the People’s Liberation Struggle in Yugoslavia.

 

In the press, “death to fascism – freedom to the people” appeared for the first time in the ”Bulletin of the Main Headquarters of the People’s Liberation Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia” (No. 1) on 10 August 1941. Only ten days later, the slogan appears in the header of the front page of the second issue of ”Vjesnik – the United People’s Liberation Front”. Soon, most official documents and printed matter from the World War II period in Yugoslavia featured this slogan. However, its significance went beyond the official military correspondence. The popularity of the slogan, often highlighted through the acronym “SF–SN”, is comparable to the cry ”¡No pasarán!” in the Spanish Civil War. This is confirmed by numerous graffiti written on banners and facades throughout Yugoslavia, some of which are still visible today. War testimonies speak of shouting this slogan before public executions of partisans as a form of heroic gesture of resistance.

 

In addition to its brevity and clarity, the phrase “death to fascism—freedom to the people” owes its success to a skilful stylistic formulation based on the effective juxtaposition of the terms “death—freedom” and “fascism—the people.” Through four keywords, the slogan embodies the basic political program of the People’s Liberation Struggle: the defeat of fascism as a prerequisite for realizing a better future.

 

In socialist Yugoslavia, the slogan was perpetuated through texts on monuments but also through official correspondence. Since the 1960s, it has been used less and less. In the post-socialist political space, the slogan „death to fascism—freedom to the people“ is associated with the fight against neo-fascist tendencies, as opposed to the defamation of the legacy of the communist anti-fascist movement, which aims to equate it with fascist slogans.

 

Sanja Horvatinčić

Sources
  • Leksikon narodnooslobodilačkog rata i revolucije u Jugoslaviji : 1941-1945. (Beograd: Narodna knjiga : Izdavačko publicistička delatnost; Ljubljana: Partizanska knjiga, 1980.)
  • Mirko Peršen, Vjesnikove godine: 1940 – 1990(Zagreb: Vjesnik, 1990.).
  • Stipe Ugarković,Zapisi ilegalca(Zagreb: Glas rada, 1953.),  46-48.
  • Šime Balen, „Kako smo počeli“, u: Zbornik sjećanja: Vjesnik: 1940-1990, Milan Bekić (ur.) (Zagreb: Vjesnik, 1990.), 20-26.
  • Пътят на суровата борба. Сборник от документи за въоръжената борба на трудещите се от Плевенския край 1941-1944, Ст. Ганев, Хр. Димитров, Н. Константинов, Б. Феков (eds.) (Pleven, 1968.).
Further reading

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