THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS [P3]

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The same year that ZBOR was founded, new elections were announced for 5th May. The leadership of ZBOR decided it will partake in them and was expecting good results considering major discontent among people with the current state of the country. The action committee of the movement used the great authority of Dimitrije, his connections to Karađorđević dynasty, and his honest role in previous government as a minister for their election campaign. But this would not go well for them since the law favored the Yugoslav National Party, which had more resources and members to achieve victory. The elections ended in favor of the Yugoslav National Party, but with much controversy concerning vote theft and the strong-arming of people to prevent them from voting for ZBOR or United Opposition.

On the 24th June of the same year, Milan Stojadinović, now leader of new political party (Yugoslav Radical Union), took the position of Prime Minister. He was one of the people who opposed the 6th of January dictatorship and was regarded as an anti-monarchist, so it comes as no surprise that he and Ljotić couldn’t stand one another. Unfortunately for Dimitrije, Milan was now the one in power. Their animosity culminated on 23rd July 1937, when Stojadinović managed to pass the ratification of Concordat in the parliament. He pushed this in order to please Italy and get Yugoslavia closer to its Fascist ally, as Milan himself started copying Mussolini and the National Fascist Party. This came as a shock for the Yugoslav public, especially the Serbian Orthodox Church. Many political parties opposed this; among them was ZBOR with Dimitrije. As an honest Christian and a loyal Yugoslav, he didn’t want one faith to prevail over others and have special status in the country. This isn’t to say that he was following the interests of Serbian Orthodox Church; many members of ZBOR were Croats and Slovenes, and thus Catholic Christians. Many demonstrations took place, and one would stand out.

When Patriarch Varnava fell sick, news spread that he was poisoned because of his opposition of Concordant and the government. And thus the priesthood of the church held a procession on 19th July, days before the ratification. ZBOR took part in this procession and vocally supported it. The police first tried to ban it and when that failed during the procession, the gendarmerie used force to prevent the procession, which erupted with violence. The attack on the protesters was made on the order of Anton Korošec, a catholic priest and minister for the interior. Many bishops and civilians were harmed by armed gendarmerie officers, and  church banners were torn apart. To make it all worse for Milan and his government, the news of patriarch’s death the next day made the people more furious. This event came to be known as “The Bloody Procession”.

When he received this news, Ljotić gave a speech in his hometown of Smederevo. He condemned the usage of force against the priesthood and civilians, demanding that the government abandon their game with Concordant. The government didn’t pay any attention to the opposition and continued with the ratification.

Since the rise of Stojadinović, there was no doubt that Yugoslavia would become closer with the Axis powers. Although he proclaimed himself as being ideologically on the right, Milan didn’t agree with Ljotić on any key political questions. Since the first day of his reign, Stojadinović persecuted ZBOR and its members. In his brochure to Milan Stojadinović “A letter to the fascist apprentice”, Ljotić wrote:

“The work of ZBOR has indeed been hindered. In the months of June and July, of 212 rallies planned, only two were allowed, while the rest had been banned. Our papers have to be printed in secrecy. It will come as no surprise to us if Stojadinović fulfills his word and bans our movement all together.”

And Milan made clear his intention to ban Dimitrije’s movement, saying:

ZBOR is redundant. Even if you were to fulfill all lawful formalities your work will never be approved. ZBOR must be banned! Everyone else can remain, but ZBOR cannot, because what ZBOR wants is what I want anyway, so there is no place for ZBOR.”

Yet Ljotić always made it clear that ZBOR and Milan pursue entirely different goals. Milan constantly tried to support Fascism and National-Socialism but always for the wrong reasons. He only wanted to mimic great men in uniforms, he dreamed of large rallies where everyone would salute him as an ultimate leader. He failed to grasp the spirit of fascism, thinking it was just another international ideology like communism.

When in May he was preparing to visit Rome and Berlin to study the works of Il Duce and the Fuhrer, Ljotić commented saying:

We are not Fascists. Fascism isn’t our thought. Countless times we showed and proved this. Stojadinović is going to Rome to copy Fascism or to Berlin to copy Hitlerism, he is not adopting our own national thought, but a foreign one.”

Dimitrije always viewed Italian Fascism and German National-Socialsm as something characteristically for Italian or German folk and defended their governments when attacked by other parties in Yugoslavia. But when it came to Serbian and Yugoslavian people he always dismissed these ideas as foreign, and said that only ZBOR embodies the spirit of its people – the Yugoslav people.

The government of Milan Stojadinović and he himself personally accused Ljotić of being an agent of Hitler, spreading German propaganda and working in their interests – a populist move at that time. The government was disbanded in October and new elections were declared. At the wake of the political campaign, Milan ordered that ZBOR should be banned and Ljotić arrested. This happened, but only after the gendarmerie opened fire on a ZBOR rally, wounding many and killing one. Because of public pressure, Ljotić was released from prison, but this didn’t mean persecution of ZBOR and its members would stop. They were constantly interrupted on their rallies. United opposition offered Ljotić to join them, but he refused since no one shared his vision of the new Yugoslavia – no compromise. ZBOR and United Opposition lost, and Yugoslav Radical Union took most of the parliament seats and formed the government, though Milan Stojadinović was replaced by a new political figure: Dragiša Cvetković, a man who promised to solve the “Croatian question” and fix the nation’s foreign policy.

Dimitrije opposed this new government just like he did the former one. He saw no change coming for Yugoslavia. The partisans would continue to leech off the country and he couldn’t do anything about it.

The new government would be harder still on both the movement and its prominent leader. Unfortunately for the nation, Dimitrije Ljotić was among the few who saw the War slowly coming, aware that it will play differently than the last one. But no one would listen to him.

“We don’t go on elections to pick up mandates, but to gather all the right people in one circle, so that we can begin with purification and liberation from this unbearable state.”

THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS
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