The Coalition’s Secret Courts and Communist Yugoslavia’s Gulags


Inmates at a Soviet Gulag

Many bloggers, including myself, have raised the issue of the Coalition’s increasing intolerance, its attempts to close down freedom of speech and the press through legislation such as the anti-lobbying bill. Vox Political yesterday reblogged a piece showing that Britain had fallen from 29th to 33rd place in the world for press freedom following the government’s campaign against the Guardian for publishing the revelations of comprehensive British and American secret surveillance.

One of the most alarming developments in the Coalition’s creation of an increasingly authoritarian and dictatorial state are the secret courts, which have been set up with the full backing of those champions of freedom and democracy, the Lib Dems. Another Angry Voice has particularly blogged and commented on them. He gives this brief description of them:

For those of you that don’t know about what the Tory “Secret Courts” bill entails, here’s a brief description: As it now stands, defendants (or claimants in civil cases) can be excluded from the hearings where their fates are decided; they will not be allowed to know what the case against them is; they will not be allowed to enter the courtroom; they will not be allowed to know or challenge the details of the case; and they will not be allowed representation from their own lawyer, but will instead be represented (in their absence) by a security-cleared “special advocate”.

See his post ‘Secret Courts: The Very Illiberal Democrats’ at

This legislation places Britain alongside the nightmarish perversions of justice described in fiction by Franz Kafka in his novels The Castle and The Trial, in which the hero has been arrested and repeatedly interrogated for an unknown crime. He does not know himself what he is supposed to have done, and the authorities never tell him. This grotesque injustice was the reality in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Under the Ba’ath legal code, there were a set of laws, knowledge of whose existence was also prohibited and for which individuals could be arrested and tried. I can remembering hearing about this through the BBC’s radio coverage of the arrest and eventual execution of Bazoft, a British journalist of Iranian origin, who was arrested for spying by Hussein’s regime. The passage last March of the Secret Courts bill, and the government’s attempt to prosecute the Guardian for Snowden and clamp down on other forms of dissent, raises the real possibility that such a grotesque miscarriage of justice will also occur in Britain.

Apart from Hussein’s Iraq, it is also very, very much like the totalitarian regimes of the Stalinist Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, where anyone considered to be a threat to the regime was subject to summary arrest and deportation into the concentration camps and gulags. Further communication with them was difficult, if not impossible. In both regimes those arrested simply disappeared. For the Nazis, such unexplained disappearances were a deliberate part of the system of arrest and imprisonment. It was called ‘Nacht und Nebel’, or ‘Night and Fog’, and was intended to cause even further terror of the Nazi dictatorship.


Milovan Djilas, Yugoslav Communist leader and dissident

The Yugoslavian Communist regime of Marshal Tito also established a gulag after it’s split with Stalin in the late 1940s. The Yugoslavs were resisting Stalin’s attempt to turn their country into a satellite of the Soviet Union. Undercover of diplomatic missions, joint Yugoslav-Soviet companies and even a Soviet film of Tito’s victory in the Second World War and the rise of the Communist government in Yugoslavia, Stalin’s regime attempted to recruit spies against Tito’s government. The international Communist organisation, the Cominform, was also used to recruit agents and spread discontent in order to undermine Yugoslavia’s independence.

The regime responded with the summary arrest of anyone suspected of pro-Soviet sympathies and the establishment of a gulag for them on Goli Otok, or Bare Island. Milovan Djilas, a former Vice-President of Yugoslavia, President of the National Assembly and later leading dissident, describes the system of arrests and the brutal conditions under which the inmates were held in his autobiographical account of the regime and his part in it, Rise and Fall.

He notes the camp’s extra-legal basis, and the way it was established at the highest authority.

The camp for Cominformists on Goli Otok (“Bare Island”) in the northern Adriatic was organized without a legal basis. At first, Cominformists were simply taken into custody and shipped there. A law was passed later covering obligatory “socially useful labor,” as the camp activities were innocently designated for official purposes. Moreover, not even the Politburo, or its inner circle, the Secretariat, ever made any decision about the camp. It was made by Tito himself and implemented through Rankovic’s State Security apparatus. (p. 235).

After examining the motives behind those who joined the Cominform against the Yugoslavian regime, including personal rivalry and frustration at their lack of personal advancement, Djilas describes the harsh conditions in the camp.

Sentences to Goli Otok were imposed by the security organ. By law, no term could exceed two years, but there was no limit on its renewal. Inmates who languished there for ten years were not uncommon.

On his passage to the island the prisoner was shoved-in fact, hurled- to the bottom of the boat. Then, when he emerged on Goli Otok, he had to run the gauntlet. This was a double line of inmates, who vied with one another in hitting him. If gouged eyes were a rarity, broken teeth and ribs were not. There were also incorrigibles, who were subjected to lynching, sometimes spontaneous, sometimes not.

The inmates had no visitation rights. They received neither letters nor packages-at least not in the early period. Until word leaked out unofficially, their families had no idea where they were; letters were addressed to a number, as to soldiers in wartime. Their labor was not only hard and compulsory, but often meaningless as well. One of the punishments was carrying heavy stones back and forth. Work went on in all kinds of weather. What stuck in their tormented memories, as I can well understand, was labouring on rocky ground in scorching heat. State Security got carried away with making a productive enterprise out of Goli Otok, for this was the period when the Security bosses were tinkering with our economy and founding export firms; yet nothing came of this “production” but suffering and madness. Then, when finally released, inmates were sworn to silence about the camp and its methods. This could have been taken for granted, yet little by little the truth came out anyway, especially after the fall of Rankovic in 1966. (pp. 241-2).

Tito was intent on suppressing the Cominform in Yugoslavia with as little bloodshed as possible. The camp was intended on ‘re-educating’ the political prisoners, rather than murdering them, a process that was nevertheless carried out with extreme brutality.

This nuance of his-on the head but not off with it-explains why so few Cominformists were killed. But it also became the basis for unimagined, unheard-of coercion, pressure, and torture on the island. There, re-education, or “head-knocking”, was made the responsibility of certain inmates- the “reconstructed” ones-who in effect collaborated with Security. The latter involved itself as little as possible, leaving the re-education to “self-managing units” made up of reconstructed inmates, who went to inhuman extreme to ingratiate themselves and win their own release. They were inventive in driving their fellow victims similarly to “reconstruct” themselves. There is no limit to the hatred and meanness of the new convert toward yesterday’s coreligionists. (p. 241).

Djilas makes it clear that many of those interned in the camp would not have been imprisoned if they had instead been tried in an open court.

But regardless of any such factor, there is no question that the vast majority of Cominformists would never have been sent to Goli Otok had the proceedings been the least bit legal, reasonable and undogmatic. People were arrested and committed to the camp for failure to report intimate “cominformist” conversations or for reading leaflets and listening to the short-wave radio. Subsequent victims included those who at the time of the resolution said that we ought to have attended the Bucharest meeting at which our party was condemned.

Djilas recognised that Communist ideology played a part in the construction of the camp and the terror they inflicted in order to destroy Stalin’s influence in Yugoslavia. He also cautions, however, against viewing such human rights abuses as a purely Communist phenomenon.

But the way we dealt with those arrested and their families-that was something else again. There was no need to behave as we did. That conduct sprang from our ideological dogmatism, from our Leninist and Stalinist methods, and, of course, in part from our Balkan traditions of reprisal.

But analyses can be left to historians and philosophers. My business is to get on with the tale, a tale of defeat and disgrace, not only for Yugoslav Communism but also for our times and humankind. If the Yugoslav gulag, like the Soviet, is explained purely in terms of the “inhuman” or “antihuman” nature of Communism, that is an oversimplified judgment that in its way is just as ideological. Ideology, I think, was only a motivational expression, the appeal to an ideal, justifying the insane human yearning to be lord and master. Sending people off to camps is neither the invention nor the distinction of Communists. People like those of us at the top of the heap, with our ideals and absolute power,, are bound to throw our opponents into a camp. yet if the treatment of the inmates had come up for discussion-if discussion had not been precluded by Tito’s omnipotent will-different views would have emerged among us and more common-sense and human procedures would have been instituted. Some of us were aware of this paradox: a camp must be established, yet to do so was terrible. (pp. 236-7).

The Western press was also content not to report the existence of the forced labour camp.

Characteristic both of the time and of the relationships then unfolding was the attitude towards the press, Eastern as well as Western, toward the camp. The Western press by an large showed no interest in it, certainly no critical interest. The same could be said of the Western diplomatic corps. Whenever the persecution of Cominformists came up, as if by agreement these diplomats displayed a tacit understand: our independence and the state were threatened by a combination of external and internal pressure. But there was also a note of ambiguity, of malicious joy behind the Westerners’ façade of understanding: let the Communists exterminate each other and so reveal the very nature of Communism. (pp. 242-3).

All these elements are present in the policies the Coalition has adopted towards press freedom and the unemployed. The secret courts set up by the Coalition would allow those deemed to be a threat to be tried without the normal conventions to ensure justice and protect the accused until they are found guilty. This is important: in British law, you are innocent until the court is convinced of your guilt, and the onus is on the prosecution to prove their case.

The Coalition have also shown themselves more than willing to use psychological techniques to indoctrinate their policies’ victims. The unemployment courses and forms drawn up with the advice of the Nudge Unit are designed so that the unemployed will blame themselves for their joblessness, rather than the economy.

Elements within the Conservative party have also at times called for the establishment of camps for individuals they judged to be a threat to the British state. One of the reasons behind the assassination of Airey Neave, Margaret Thatcher’s political mentor, in the 1970s by the INLA was because Neave had called for the establishment of internment camps in northern Ireland. And as workfare shows, there is a strong impulse towards using compulsory ‘voluntary’ labour to support big business in Britain, just as it was used in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, and, for that matter, Tito’s Yugoslavia.

Nor can the British press be depended on to guard traditional British freedoms of speech and justice. AS Mike over at Vox Political has shown, part of the reason for the marked decline in press freedom in this country is due to the Right-wing press’ collusion with the authorities in attacking the Guardian and Edward Snowden. It’s has been alleged by Lobster that in the 1980s the Sunday Times under Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil was a conduit for disinformation from the British security services. Certainly Neil has shown no qualms about making unsupported claims about Allende’s democratically elected Marxist government in Chile in order to support the coup led by Thatcher’s friend, General Pinochet.

These secret courts, the gagging laws and workfare have to be stopped now, before they develop into something exactly like the forced labour camps of the Nazis and Communists. And that has to start by voting out the Coalition.

Cameron Pic

Nick Clegg

David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Together their reforms are laying the foundations for a police state and forced labour camps.

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7 Responses to “The Coalition’s Secret Courts and Communist Yugoslavia’s Gulags”

  1. pippakin Says:

    Reblogged this on Political Pip Spit or Swallow its up to You and commented:
    How easy it is to dismiss posts like this as exaggerated, hysterical nonsense but the problem with such denial is that in some ways and some instances it is already happening. Our politicians are no longer believed and their answer to that is not to simply tell the truth but to make it easier for themselves to cover up the truth under more lies and laws.

  2. Mike Sivier Says:

    Reblogged this on Vox Political.

  3. amnesiaclinic Says:

    Guantanomo comes to mind and the NDAA in America. However, I think the whole system has to come down. The left has a no better record than the right. Think Blair and the end of Habeus Corpus.

  4. Florence Says:

    So well put. The problem, as you nailed it here, is that unless people know about the past, can relate to what is happening here & now, and take a hard look at what is already in the pipeline, this bunch of despots will lead us all down this well-worn and bloody path.

    A commenter on one site today – and I’m sorry to whoever it was for this link, I respect your contribution – pointed me this – a think tank proposing that the HS2 is built using “disabled” people.

    Absolutely chilling. Who, before this bunch of despots took over, would have DARED make this type of pronouncement, They likened it to the French who employed (big word) disadvantaged people for large engineering projects. So employed disadvantaged becomes free labouring disabled? I can’t say how I feel, words are beyond being numb, The BTL comments on the article show a large number just criticising the budget estimates!!!!! I’m sure someone noted that too, in calculating how well this would play in the gutter press.

    As a disabled person, I cannot believe that they are already floating this stuff in National newspaper, obviously to test the water. It reeks of work camps for people who CANNOT work, to be worked without mercy in physical labour. To subsidise the private company sector profits with slave labour provided by the state is now to be lauded?. Uncle Joe, Tito, Mao, Hitler, Kim Jong Il, they would be proud. Perhaps the up-coming Universal Credit, and it’s debt trap, will be the feeder mechanism for work camps too. A greater disincentive to claim any benefits, for anyone?

    I’m sure we will see even more brazen attempts using the poodle media to progress on these lines, to use the excuse that these disabled, ill, or otherwise pointy-finger-all-round scroungers and dissidents should be given the “opportunity” to “repay” society for letting them live? Finding a use for the “others” or the outsiders as John Mitchell called them/us.

    And the description of the inmates being used to scourge the inmates in the gulag is already in place, in the modern form of the DWP. They are playing it to the full with the excruciating attempts at censorship on Twitter, in the JCP targets for making families utterly destitute, and now the suggestion of work camps for the disabled (aka the misfits, scroungers, frauds, and useless eaters) to build HS2. I could actually see how it could be used as a modern gulag on this small island. North Korea, after all, incarcerates whole families, so there’s no-one left looking for you, so whole families could be swept up because one parent was selected for this week’s sanction.

    The secret courts may well be used to populate the Titan prisons with the likes of all of us here on the opinion sites, aka dissidents, as they are being built in remote places. More modern gulags. More captive labour for free, too.

    (sorry, words didn’t fail me, after all. I have no intention of having “worked and died for the glory of HS2 and our beloved leaders” on my gravestone.)

  5. Paul Smyth Says:

    Reblogged this on The Greater Fool.

  6. Eijnar Says:

    On Wednesday,5-2-2014 at 16.50 my 93 year old father-in-law died right in front of me.He was murdered by a hospital doctor who had administered a “muscle relaxant” 15 minutes earlier supposedly to aid in the fitting of a feeding tube.However the doctor didn’t wait for the drug to take effect and fitted the tube within a minute of the drug being injected. He admitted during the fitting of the tube that the drug would not take effect for 15-20 minutes and could not have “kicked in” yet so clearly the drug was never intended to “help” with the fitting of the tube!

    I have since learnt that “muscle relaxants” are used to paralyse the chest muscles and prevent them from expanding thus starving you of oxygen and killing you.The NHS thus use the same technique as the American Correctional Department does for Death by Lethal Injection.

    I reported this to the police and they took a few “notes” but no official statement,no crime number was issued and a full forensic autopsy was not performed so they can avoid finding any evidence!

    When he was first admitted to A&E with a head injury and concussion the duty doctor REFUSED to give him a brain scan and insisted the injury was only superficial.It took 3 hours for them to relent and THEN when they confirmed that he had internal bleeding and swelling of the brain they REFUSED to do ANYTHING to reduce the pressure or the bleeding!!!

    Despite being very seriously injured,and them finally having the evidence to prove it,he was NOT sent to Intensive Care nor to the Head Injury Unit. He was instead sent to the VASCULAR UNIT which largely contained people having elective treatment for leg veins and who were mostly self caring!

    He was labeled as Do Not Resuscitate and we were told he was in his last few hours.They offered to move him to a hospice,the one thing they didn’t do was try and TREAT HIM!

    Ten days AFTER being told he was in his “last few hours” he was not only now confirmed to have suffered a stroke AND a heart attack a week AFTER being admitted but was STILL getting stronger every day! The man they said was “in his last few hours” had to be prevented from getting out of bed to go to the toilet on his own and was talking and sharing a joke!

    After 14 days he was keen to have a shave and felt his chin with great care afterwards to check the result,so he wasn’t a drooling vegetable in need of a quiet death!

    The initial refusal to give him a brain scan and also to refuse to take the word of his own family that he was concussed and not normally confused is clear evidence of the hospital operating a system of TRIAGE whereby they ration care and deny it to the elderly so as to speed them on their way to the morgue.

    Ask yourself if he had been a man in his 20’s would they have refused to give him a scan,would they make him wait 3 hours when standard medical practice stresses the vital importance of EARLY intervention and “The Golden Hour” is the one immediately after the injury occurs?

    So how do I know that he was murdered,well the fitting of the feeding tube was supposedly urgent as he had not been fed anything in 14 days.After it was fitted it could not be used until an x-ray confirmed it was correctly fitted. So WHY did they not simply perform the x-ray at once using the mobile machine we had seen used many times over the previous 14 days? They calmly announced that they would send him down later in the evening,why the delay when the fitting of the tube was so urgent that they didn’t even wait for the drug to take effect?

    This took place in the Liverpool Royal Hospital and it was this very hospital that pioneered the Liverpool Care Pathway,now supposedly abolished,yet the very people who invented it AND operated it for many years,are STILL there and they have the same beliefs and ethos they have always had! The LCP was an official method of “managing death” which to the layman is no different from murder.

    One of the favoured methods is to fit a drip which set at too rapid a rate and thus floods the lungs.You gasp for breath and risk heart attack or stroke and thus a “natural death”,another possibility is that you might get Pneumonia and die from that,once again a “natural death”.In this case it has been put down as the original injury,you know,the “superficial” one that was trivial!

    I know how he was murdered,I know how I could prove it, but he is not going to get a FORENSIC AUTOPSY so the system can remain safe as without that the REAL cause of death will simply not be found because nobody wants to even look for it.

    Our family is Working Class,we have no contacts and no wealth to fund fighting this so nothing will be done.This is the same government that closed down REMPLOY and has smashed the benefit system.They will carry on screwing the poor for every penny they can until the poor eventually die out or fight back.

    I don’t know how you will respond to reading about my family’s experiences but I have made myself a vow,if I am ever diagnosed with a terminal illness I will not waste the freedom such knowledge gives.I will engage in my own form of “TRIAGE” and bring a new meaning to the “Liverpool Care Pathway”!

    Henry Lang.
    Born April 10th 1920.
    Murdered February 5th 2014

  7. stewilko Says:

    Reblogged this on stewilko's Blog.

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