Stipe Šuvar

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Stipe Šuvar
12th Chairman of the Presidium of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia
In office
June 30, 1988 – May 17, 1989
Preceded by Boško Krunić
Succeeded by Milan Pančevski
21st Vice-President of the Presidency of SFR Yugoslavia
In office
May 15, 1990 – August 24, 1990
President Borisav Jović
Preceded by Borisav Jović
Succeeded by Stjepan Mesić
Personal details
Born (1936-02-17)February 17, 1936
Zagvozd, Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Died June 29, 2004(2004-06-29) (aged 68)
Zagreb, Croatia
Nationality Croatian
Political party League of Communists of Yugoslavia (1955–1990), Socialist Labour Party of Croatia (1997–2004)
Spouse(s) Mira Šuvar

Stipe Šuvar (February 17, 1936 – June 29, 2004) was a leading Croatian and Yugoslav politician and sociologist. He entered top politics in 1972 being co-opted to the Central Committee (CC) of the League of Communists of Croatia (LCC). Two years later he became Croatian minister of education and performed a controversial educational reform in Croatia. From 1982 to 1986 he was a member of the CC LCC Presidium, in 1986 he was elected to the Presidium of the CC of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) and became a chairman of the body in June 1988. In May 1989 Croatian Parliament elected Šuvar the Croatian member of the Presidency of Yugoslavia but dismissed him in August 1990 when, after the first multi-party elections in Croatia, it was already controlled by Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) of Franjo Tudjman. After the collapse of socialism and of Yugoslavia, Šuvar remained politically active in Croatia, founded the magazine Hrvatska ljevica in 1994 and the Socialist Labour Party of Croatia (SRP) in 1997. Šuvar resigned as the party's president in 2004, shortly before his death.

Academic work and early political career[edit]

Šuvar was born in 1936 in the Dalmatian village of Zagvozd. At the age of 19, he joined the League of Communists of Yugoslavia. He studied at the Law Faculty in Zagreb, where he received a sociology doctorate in 1965. From 1960 through till the 1980s he taught sociology at the University of Zagreb and at other universities in Yugoslavia and published a number of books on both sociological and political topics.[1]

From 1963 to 1972 he was a chief editor of the Zagreb monthly Naše teme. In 1969, Šuvar in a polemic with Matica Hrvatska official Šime Đodan denied the claims by Maspok ideologists that Croatia was being exploited by other Yugoslav republics. During time Šuvar was also active in several other periodicals, lastly in LCY-run “Socijalizam” (Socialism] in the 1980s.[2]

In 1972, after the Maspok had been defeated and the leadership led by Mika Tripalo purged from the top of the LCC, Šuvar was co-opted to the CC LCC. Two years later he became Croatian secretary (minister) for culture and education and stayed at that position until 1982.[3][4]

The "White Book"[edit]

From 1982 to 1986 Šuvar was a member of the Presidium of the League of Communists of Croatia, since 1983 he was responsible for the ideological section of the CC. Holding this office, in 1984 Šuvar organized a discussion about the ideological struggle on the cultural front. Participants of the meeting were given a material containing quotations from texts of 186 (mostly Serbian and Slovene) authors, which had been published in the Yugoslav media between 1982 and 1984. The quoted works were labeled in the material as unacceptable, antisocialist and more or less openly nationalist. The document, nicknamed then the "White Book" (B(ij)ela knjiga) and "Flower of Evil" (Cv(ij)eće zla), was roughly condemned especially by the Serbian intelligentsia as a Stalinist attack on freedom of thought.[5]

Member and chairman of the CC LCY Presidium[edit]

In 1986, Šuvar was elected to the LCY Presidium as a representative of the Croatian Party branch along with Ivica Račan. In June 1988, when the Presidium was about to choose a new chairman between Šuvar and Račan, Šuvar won out. At the vote he was backed up, among others, by the Serb members of the Presidium including Slobodan Milošević. However, only one month later controversies between Šuvar and Milošević emerged because of Šuvar's opposition to the anti-bureaucratic revolution organized by the Serbian leader.[6] In October 1988, when a dispute between Šuvar and Milošević at one Presidium session went public, a campaign for Šuvar's dismissal took place in Serbia.[7]

In the first days of October 1988, rallies in Novi Sad supported by Milošević forced out the Vojvodinian leadership, while Montenegrin establishment, with the support of the LCY Presidium and of the federal Presidency, resisted rallies in Titograd. On 17 October, in the heated political atmosphere, the LCY Central Committee met up at its 17th plenary session in Belgrade to discuss general political situation in Yugoslavia. Yugoslav media expected the session to be crucial for country’s future and also more than 200 foreign journalists were about to attend the plenum.[8] In his address to the plenum, Šuvar called for economic and political reforms within the frameworks of socialism and for combating nationalism in the entire country. He expressed the conviction that nationalism wouldn’t succeed neither in destroying Yugoslavia nor in turning it into a centralized country.[9] Most of the Yugoslav communist officials’ addresses were in mutual accordance about the need of reforms and of unity and the plenum was therefore seen as successful by most Yugoslav media. However, mutual attacks of the republics’ leaders started again after the session and the political situation kept getting worse.[10][11]

In January 1989, after the Montenegrin leadership was brought down during new rallies in Titograd and a few days before the 20th session of the LCY Central Committee was to take place, a conference of the Vojvodinian communists attacked Šuvar and asked the LCY Presidium to dismiss him, what was supported by the Serb leadership and followed by a new inflammatory campaign in Serbian media and Party organizations against Šuvar. The Yugoslav Federal Presidency, afraid of the overthrow of the LCY leadership in the same way as it had happened with local party leaderships in Vojvodina and Montenegro, put the country's police forces on a state of alert and warned the Serbian leadership of a state of emergency being possibly declared if more demonstrations took place in Belgrade during the session. The session itself went in a normal way but didn't bring any positive results.[12] Before the session Šuvar had promised that he would call the things their right names meaning, supposedly, directly condemn Milošević's policy, but at the end he withdrew a sharper version of his report and presented a less explicit one.[13][14]

At the same time, Šuvar was continuously opposing separatist tendencies in his own Croatia and in Slovenia. He frequently warned against the rise of Croat nationalism which, in his view, was at that time most visible in discussions about language policy.[15] Šuvar also opposed demands of Slovenes for a broader autonomy of their republic and criticized public attacks on the Yugoslav People's Army in Slovene media. In June 1988 at LCY Presidium session discussing the case of Janez Janša, Šuvar said:

"Socialist forces in Slovenia are in defense in the face of a mass movement. This movement in Slovenia includes not only elitist petty-bourgeois circles but also the youth. They regard the Army an occupier and Yugoslavia a burden and an exploiter. A phobia of the people from the country's South prevails there. Petty-bourgeois arrogance has assumed a racist dimension."[16]

According to Šuvar himself, in June 1988 the three Slovenian members of the Presidium voted for Račan to become Presidium chairman.[14]

In February 1989, Šuvar negotiated with the miners in the 1989 Kosovo miners' strike as a representative of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia.[17]

Member of the Presidency of Yugoslavia[edit]

In Spring 1989 the Croatian Parliament elected Šuvar the Croat representative to the Presidency of the Federation, the collective head of state of Yugoslavia. The new Presidency was constituted in the Yugoslav Assembly on May 15 and two days later Šuvar resigned from the party Presidium as well as from the Central Committee. In April 1990 multi-party parliamentary elections took place in Croatia, in which Franjo Tudjman's HDZ won with an independence programme. Tudjman asked Šuvar to resign but he refused; on the 24th August 1990 Croatian Parliament dismissed Šuvar from the Yugoslav Presidency, choosing Stipe Mesić of HDZ in his place. On that occasion in the Parliament, Šuvar held his last speech while holding a political office. He warned against hostilities and possible ethnic conflicts in Yugoslavia and in Croatia, called for a new agreement on Yugoslavia and for respecting rights of Serbs within Croatia. He expressed the hope for a new rise of the left in its struggle for socialism and ironically congratulated HDZ for completing the Serb-driven anti-bureaucratic revolution by eliminating him from politics. The speech was twice interrupted by an uproar of the HDZ deputies and followed by sharply critical replies of several of them while nobody of Šuvar’s own LCC spoke up.[14][18][19]

Late years[edit]

After he had left a political scene, Šuvar returned to Zagreb University as a professor of sociology. In 1994 he founded the magazine Hrvatska ljevica (The Croatian Left) and in 1997, regarding Račan's Social Democratic Party as not being sufficiently leftist, he returned to the political scene creating the Socialist Labour Party of Croatia. Šuvar succeeded in bringing some respectable personalities around the party, but the party itself never got more than 1% of the votes in Croatian parliamentary elections. He was its chairman until 2004, when, shortly before his death, he resigned.

After 1990 Šuvar continued publishing, for example Hrvatski karusel ("The Croatian merry-go-round") in 2003. He gave a number of interviews to the media, in which he reflected on both his role in politics of former Yugoslavia and events after the country's break-up. Šuvar, unlike many of his former communist fellows, didn't abandon socialist ideals and stayed staunchly critical towards all kinds of nationalism, including the one of his own nation.[20] At the same time he stated his regret on some of the more radical policies he supported during SFRJ, and argued in favour of democratic socialism.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stipe Šuvar: Nezavršeni mandat. Tom 2. Zagreb, 1989. p. 472
  2. ^ Šuvar 1989, tom 2, p. 472
  3. ^ Short biography of Stipe Šuvar (in Croatian) (Croatian)
  4. ^ Slobodan Stankovic: Professor Suvar’s finest hour. Radio Free Europe Research, 20 December 1973
  5. ^ Dušan Bilandžić: Jugoslavija poslije Tita. Zagreb, 1986. pp. 202-205.
  6. ^ Raif Dizdarević: Od smrti Tita do smrti Jugoslávie. Praha, 2002. p. 224
  7. ^ Dizdarević 2002, p. 170
  8. ^ Šuvar 1989, tom 2, p. 160, 163
  9. ^ Stipe Šuvar: Da socijalizam ponovo počne koračati u bolju budućnost. Uvodno izlaganje na 17. sjednici CK SKJ. In: Stipe Šuvar: “Nezavršeni mandat. Tom 1. Zagreb, 1989. p. 70–108
  10. ^ Šuvar 1989, tom 2, p. 168-183
  11. ^ The New York Times, 18 October 1988: "Yugoslav Party Opens Pivotal Session"
  12. ^ Dizdarević 2002, p. 223–229
  13. ^ The New York Times, 31 January 1989: "Yugoslav Military Warns Feuding Politicians"
  14. ^ a b c Radio Slobodna Evropa: “Stipe Šuvar: Moji obračuni sa njima.” Interview with Stipe Šuvar for RFE (Croatian)
  15. ^ Šuvar 1989, tom 2, p. 8
  16. ^ Dizdarević, p. 189
  17. ^ "40,000 Protest to Back Yugoslav Miners' Strike". Los Angeles Times. 1989-02-25. Retrieved 2012-03-11. 
  18. ^ Hrvatski Sabor: Fonogram rasprave o razrješenju člana Predsjedništva SFR Jugoslavije iz Republike Hrvatske, održane 24. kolovoza 1990.
  19. ^ RIP Stipe Šuvar (Stipe Suvar) (1936 – 2004)
  20. ^ Interview with Šuvar for BH Dani BH Dani 24 May 2002: “Vi ćete sasvim sigurno dočekati ukidanje entiteta!” (Interview with Stipe Šuvar) (Croatian)
Party political offices
Preceded by
Boško Krunić
Chairman of the Presidium of League of Communists of Yugoslavia
Succeeded by
Milan Pančevski
Political offices
Preceded by
Borisav Jović
Vice-President of the Presidency of SFR Yugoslavia
Succeeded by
Stjepan Mesić