elders, drawn principally from Croat Catholic academic clubs (e.g.
) and theological associations (e.g.
It served as the Cath-olic movement’s executive branch, gave it ideological guidance and oversaw theorganisation of Catholic lay societies. It was only in November 1918, during thelast days of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, that the Seniory determined toestablish a political party. This occurred in May 1919, with the formation of theCroat People’s Party [
It was not until June 1920,however, that the ‘Populists’ [
], as they were commonly known, succeededin forming a centralised party organisation; at that point, they consolidated, undera Supreme Council, the heterogeneous regional party councils of pre-war Croatia-Slavonia, Dalmatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Thus was born the first modernCatholic political party in Croatia.The Populists were strongest in Dalmatia, where they attracted some promi-nent intellectuals, clergy, peasants and landless agricultural labourers, in addi-tion to recruiting amongst the Catholic peasants of Backa province, i.e. the
. Yet they never managed to make serious inroads amongCatholic Croats in pre-war Croatia-Slavonia or Bosnia-Herzegovina. This is because, with the formation in December 1918 of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croatsand Slovenes (Yugoslavia),
Croatian politics coalesced around the issue ofopposition to Serbian centralism. Stjepan Radi
’s Croat Peasant Party [
, HSS] became the dominant political force in interwar Croatia,represented the mainstream variant of Croat nationalism and led the resistanceto Serbian state centralism.
The other Croat parties, namely, the Croat Union[
] and Croat Party of Right [
Hrvatska stranka prava
], werequickly marginalised. While the Croat Union represented Croatia’s nascentmiddle class and intellectual elite, and the historicist Croat Party of Right of AntePaveli
the lower middle class and nationalist intelligentsia, the HSS everywherecaptured the peasant vote. This left the Populists in a rather precarious position,as a result of which they were compelled, in the 1920s, to follow the political leadof Anton Koro
ec’s Slovene People’s Party, a Catholic party with a mass follow-ing in Slovenia. In the November 1920 elections to the Constituent Assembly, theCroat Populists gained nine seats, but were decimated in the 1923 and 1925parliamentary elections; in the 1927 elections – the last before the imposition ofthe royal dictatorship – they won only one seat in parliament and gained 2% ofthe popular vote in Croatia. The Croat Populists thus remained on the marginsof Croatian politics.
Croat Catholicism and Yugoslavism
The Croat Populists supported the creation of Yugoslavia even as theyresisted state centralism as implemented by the National Radical Party and theDemocratic Party, the two leading parties of the 1920s. The National Radicalswere a Great Serbian party who supported state centralism as the best way ofpreserving the recently obtained unity of all Serbs. The Democrats, on the otherhand, attracted Serb, Croat and Slovene supporters, and espoused the theory of
[national oneness], according to which these peoples were‘tribes’ of the trinomial Yugoslav nation. Together the National Radicals andDemocrats successfully promulgated the Vidovdan Constitution (June 1921),which enshrined a highly centralised state system on the logic of Yugoslavistunitarism. The Croat Populists’ Yugoslavism was not of the integral variety.
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D o w nl o ad ed B y : [ N E I C O N C o n s o r ti u m] A t : 14 :37 7 M a y 2009