The Marshall Josip Broz Tito,
President of the Federal Socialist Republics of Yugoslavia Mr. President,
One year ago I wrote to you a letter expressing my concern about certain repressive measures that were undertaken during the Fall 1972 against some internationally known Yugoslav scholars and expressing my hope that you would see to it that Yugoslavia’s reputation of a country that made impressive efforts to build up a new, more democratic form of socialism would not be damaged for any conceivable small, inner political gains.
Since then I have been following with great interest further developments of Yugoslav academic situation, not only out of solidarity with our Yugoslav colleagues, whose only guilt seems to be free expression of their views, but also because this is a crucial case to answer the question: does academic freedom really have a chance in existing socialist systems? Is at least Yugoslavia, after more than two decades of the development of its system of self management, able to tolerate free expression of ideas and free exchange of views in its scholarly journals and books?
I was happy to notice a toning down of the campaign against these scholars some time during 1973, but now I learn from your own press that the pressure has been renewed with greater intensity and that the situation is even worse than it was one year ago.
Under these conditions I believe that the IHEU has the right and the duty to express its sincere condemnation of further restrictions of academic freedom and violations of the United Nations Charter on human rights in Yugoslavia. With all respect that I have for your great past contribution to the cause of liberation of Yugoslav people and their resistance to foreign domination, I ask you to realise that further repressive measures and especially ousting eight professors from the University of Belgrade would cause considerable disapproval in the free world. It would urge progressive people everywhere to range your country among the authoritarian regimes that must be resisted. Culture and science are universal human achievements and belong to humankind as a whole. They can develop only in freedom, in dialogues, in a struggle of different ideas. Ideas should be defeated by better ideas – not by force. Therefore I ask you to consider once more whether by returning to repressive cultural policies you do not undertake a course which is bound to be counterproductive: ruing the reputation of your country, mutilating the human face of socialism.
Prof. Dr J.P. van Praag, Chairman
Letter of the IHEU Chairman 8.1.1974
'Developments in Yugoslavia (1974)', Humanists International, Board of Directors, 1974