The Yugoslav Affair

(August 1948)

From Fourth International, Vol. 9 No. 8, December 1948, pp. 235–242.
Translated by Ed Wilde.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The break between the Kremlin and the Yugoslav Communist Party, brought into the open by publication of the Cominform resolution on June 28, is an event of historic importance for an understanding of Stalinism, both in its present situation and development, as well as for the entire revolutionary working-class movement.

At the very moment when the power and internal stability of the Stalinist apparatus, directing the USSR and the Communist parties from the Kremlin, seemed to many people more impressive than ever, the Yugoslav affair came to remind them of a factor on Which revolutionary optimism rests, namely: the laws of history which will in the final analysis prove stronger than any type of bureaucratic apparatus.

For the Yugoslav affair is in reality an expression of the internal crisis of Stalinism, which is constantly nourished by the profound organic contradictions inherent in this regime. Far from diminishing with the postwar Stalinist expansion over a great part of Europe and Asia, these contradictions have, on the contrary, become more acute, and are driving toward even more powerful explosions as the process of convulsive disintegration of Stalinism unfolds.

The Yugoslav affair is an expression of the general crisis of Stalinism which has developed under the new conditions of the rise of Communist parties to power in a number of countries under the Kremlin’s control. The explanation why the crisis first broke out in Yugoslavia is to be found in the specific conditions in that country, but similar processes are generally ripening throughout the “buffer zone.”

(Since this article was written, the crisis has extended to the Polish Workers Party which has manifested “rightist and nationalist deviations” and whose general secretary Gomulka, unwilling to disavow Tito, has been dismissed; it has extended to the Czechoslovak Communist Party, which has been severely criticized by the Cominform organ; and to the Hungarian Communist Party, which has just undergone a widespread purge. Moreover, a “purge,” that is to say, the Kremlin’s attempt to secure absolute control over all Communist parties through its direct agents, is currently in full swing in all the “buffer-zone” countries.)

A bureaucratic police system so extremely rigid as the Stalinist system is able to win victories by employing its mechanical strength much more easily in an isolated country and under conditions of demoralization and prostration among the masses who have been subjected to its crushing pressure for a long time, than it is able to do when it expands into other countries, where there is a different set of economic, political and historical conditions, and where fresh human reserves are available.

Stalinist expansion into the “buffer zone” has in fact introduced centrifugal forces and new ferments into the bureaucratic system, which are aggravating all the contradictions within the regime. Although characterized by a set of specific factors, the Yugoslav affair is nonetheless a warning of far more general significance.

What Is the Nature of This Crisis?

Bourgeois politicians and journalists, on the one hand, and representatives of anti-Stalinist tendencies in the labor movement from Rosmer and the “Proletarian Revolution” group in France, to Shachtman, on the other hand, have closely studied the Tito case in search of the causes underlying his clash with the Kremlin. The most varied hypotheses have been offered. Let us summarize the most important explanations.

Tito came into conflict with the Kremlin for reasons of foreign policy, that is, because Moscow withdrew its support of Tito’s “nationalist” and “imperialist” claims. (Trieste, Austrian Carinthia, Balkan Federation, etc.)

Tito revolted against the exploitation of Yugoslavia by the USSR and is seeking support from Washington. He has broken with the Kremlin on a rightist basis, as an expression of capitalist and imperialist pressure upon the USSR.

Tito and Stalin, each representing a bureaucratic class, have come into conflict in order to decide the question of who will exploit Yugoslavia, exclusively and better. Involved here is only an internal conflict of the Stalinist bureaucracy.

It is only fair to note that serious bourgeois periodicals such as the English Economist, the French Le Monde and the American New York Herald Tribune, have attributed the crisis to the Kremlin’s attempt to impose its absolute control over Tito and the latter’s resistance.

Lacking a theoretical understanding of the nature of Stalinism and of the new conditions of its development after the second imperialist war, these explanations err at the very least in that they exaggerate one element from among all those which have played a role in the development and outbreak of this conflict. Every natural and social event is the product of many causes; but what is important from the standpoint of Marxist analysis is to determine the principal factor or factors which have given rise to a particular event. Now the Tito case is not an instance of the personal relations between Tito and Stalin nor is it an instance of the relations between the bureaucratic Yugoslav CP leadership and that of the Kremlin. It is a manifestation of the internal crisis of Stalinism under the new conditions of its expansion into the “buffer zone.”

Tito and the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party have as their base a mass party which experienced a specific evolution during the second imperialist war. Moreover, this party is bound up with a real movement of worker and peasant masses in Yugoslavia, embracing several million people. Stalin and the Kremlin, on the other hand, represent specific social forces in the USSR and in the world. In order to arrive at a Marxist understanding of the Yugoslav affair, it is necessary to review the nature of Stalinism in the light of the new conditions which arose after its expansion into the “buffer zone”: and, within this framework, to review the special conditions of the Yugoslav situation.

Events which have taken place since publication of the Cominform resolution, condemning the leadership of the Yugoslav Communist Party, have by and large dispelled Certain doubts on a number of points which might otherwise have persisted up to this moment.

Tito and his group are fiercely defending themselves against charges of their desiring to break with Stalinist ideology (which they confuse with Marxism-Leninism) and with the foreign policy of the USSR, and of their seeking to join the camp of the capitalist West in one way or another. Neither on the economic nor on the political level has Tito formulated fundamental differences with the Kremlin such as would allow us to assert that he had already in the past developed a coherent and firm opposition on important points to policies followed by the Kremlin.

Finally, for reasons related to: (1) the pro-Stalinist and pro-Soviet education of Tito’s party and the mass movement on which it is based; (2) the economic needs of Yugoslavia, linked by numerous ties to the other countries of the “buffer zone” and to the USSR, and fear of economic reprisals; and (3) his own ideological considerations – it is Tito who is seeking grounds for compromise with the Kremlin. And by refusing all compromise and by aggravating the conflict with its ferocious attacks which are increasingly oriented toward civil war in Yugoslavia and toward the overthrow of Tito at any cost, it is the Kremlin which is demonstrating in life the organic incompatibility of its regime with every tendency which is free from or which may escape its direct and absolute control.

The Preliminaries to the Conflict

It was the Kremlin which began hostilities against the leadership of the Yugoslav party by the first letter addressed by the CC of the Russian Communist Party to the CC of the Yugoslav party on March 27, 1948. Up till then the impression was that Tito’s Yugoslavia, touted so highly by the world Stalinist press, represented the vanguard of the “People’s Democracies.” Belgrade had been selected as the seat of the Cominform, and the Yugoslav Communist Party was considered as the most zealous partisan of the Stalinist “left” turn inaugurated by the Information Bureau.

The Soviet press itself was unsparing of praises for Yugoslavia. For instance, in the article which Pravda, October 18–19, 1947, devoted to the occasion of the appearance of the first issue of For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy at Belgrade, we read under the signature of M. Maritine: “The report of Edouard Kardelj presents a truly grandiose chart, of the very important historical reforms accomplished in Yugoslavia in the last few years.” The author then goes on to completely endorse Kardelj’s report on Yugoslavia, as well as Kardelj’s conclusion that:

“Yugoslavia is no longer a capitalist country, nor is it a country with a dominant capitalist sector. But it is a typical country realizing the passage from capitalism to socialism, a country where a socialist economy rules, as a result of the struggle conducted by the working class and all the toilers.”

On the other hand, it has now been established, by publication of the correspondence since March 28, 1948 between the Russian Communist Party and the Yugoslav Communist Party, that the principal charge made by the former in the beginning comes down to the accusation that the Yugoslav leadership was following a “hostile” policy toward the USSR. Accusations concerning the “anti-Marxist” policy of the Yugoslav party toward the peasants, the role of the Communist Party, the internal party regime and “nationalism,” did not crop up until later, as the struggle unfolded. This is particularly important for an understanding of the real reasons underlying the struggle.

Before the Kremlin dressed itself up in some “ideological” semblance of “doctrinal” differences over an “anti-Marxist” policy toward the peasants, over internal party regime, internationalism, etc., its attack was levelled against the resistance encountered by its Russian and Yugoslav political and military agents in Yugoslavia, when they tried to establish direct and absolute control over the Yugoslav government and party.

What does the Russian Communist Party actually complain about in its first letter of March 28, 1948, to the Yugoslav party? It complains:

1) That Yugoslav party members secretly revile the USSR and the Russian Communist Party while hypocritically praising them in public; 2) that leading Yugoslav figures slandered the Red Army, while Soviet specialists in Yugoslavia were subjected to surveillance by Tito’s secret police; 3) that the Yugoslav party cadres were under the surveillance of the Minister of the Interior and that neither democracy nor opportunity for criticism existed inside the party, but there was a system of military leadership (the Cominform resolution will later call it a “Turkish system”).

This last point was principally aimed at measures taken against Andrija Hebrang and Sreten Zudovic, direct Yugoslav agents of the Kremlin, who tried to foment an opposition within the Yugoslav party against the Tito leadership.

In its reply of April 13, 1948 to this first letter of the Russian Communist Party, the Yugoslav leadership refutes these accusations and adds:

“... On the contrary, as has been established by several reports of members of the Yugoslav Communist Party to their organizations, as well as by statements of other citizens of this country, it is they who have all been, from liberation to the present time, under the surveillance of the Soviet secret police. The CC of the YCP considered, as it still does, as inexcusable such an attitude toward a country where the Communists are the leading party and which is developing toward Socialism. The CC of the YCP considered, as it still does, that relations between Yugoslavia and the USSR should be based on absolute confidence and sincerity, and on the basis of this principle, organs of the Yugoslav State have never even entertained the idea of placing under surveillance or controlling Soviet citizens in Yugoslavia.” (See the pamphlet published by Yugoslovenka Knjiga, Statement of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia)

That Tito’s police kept the direct agents of the Kremlin, Russian and Yugoslav, under observation, certainly cannot be doubted for a moment. And it was precisely this activity – the clearest indication of Tito’s determination to resist the “Russification” of the Yugoslav government and party, which the Kremlin was trying to achieve through its direct agents Russian and Yugoslav alike – which resulted in embittering the struggle, and pushed the Kremlin toward the complete break. And now we approach the real reasons for the struggle which in appearance begins on a plane pertaining exclusively to matters of police and mutual espionage.

The Kremlin and the Communist Parties In the “Buffer Zone”

Why does the Kremlin spy upon Tito, mistrust him, plot against him? Tito resists. Why is he able to resist successfully? To answer these questions, which outline the development of the Yugoslav affair, is to reach a concrete understanding of this affair.

It is necessary to recall and underscore the fact that relations between the Kremlin, representing the Russian Soviet bureaucracy, and the Communist parties outside the USSR, have been regulated over a long period on the basis of the direct dependence of the latter upon the Kremlin, of direct and absolute control by Moscow over all the Communist parties. They are nothing but executive agencies for orders issued by the Kremlin and have no independence whatever.

Soviet expansion into a series of European and Asiatic countries and the rise of Communist parties to power have created a new situation in their relations with the Kremlin. On the one hand, the policy of the Soviet bureaucracy in these countries is dictated in a general way by their own interests as a privileged Russian caste and not by anxiety for “socializing” these countries and allowing them an independent development. On the other hand, the rise of Communist parties to power in these countries has provided them with a basis of a different order of importance from that which they possessed as mere political parties in capitalist countries, owing their influence over the masses to their role as official representatives of the USSR. These parties now possess their own state apparatus; they control important sections of the national economy, and assume responsibility for the general policy of an entire country.

Because of this, they are subject to a whole series of influences and reactions, and within these, tendencies may show up which may at a given moment be opposed to the interests of the Soviet bureaucracy. Against the danger of the Communist parties in power becoming, even in a partial and distorted way, the agents of interests other than its own, the Soviet bureaucracy has no other method of struggle than the maintenance of its own absolute control over Communist parties through leaderships composed of its direct agents. For this reason the Kremlin has imposed upon the ruling Communist parties in the “buffer zone” men who have spent a long time in Moscow and offer every guarantee of complete devotion to the Kremlin, in the place of those native leaders who did not leave their countries during the war.

Such an operation was especially necessary in the leadership of the Yugoslav party which, of all the European Communist parties, is the one which experienced a specific development during the war that was likely to prove favorable to resistance against the direct and absolute control of the Kremlin.

The Special Conditions of the Yugoslav Situation

In its struggle against the Cominform, the Tito leadership has placed the emphasis on a number of points which clearly bring about the special conditions of the Yugoslav situation and which have in a large part been the determining factors in the struggle. These are: (1) The reorganization of the Yugoslav Communist Party by Tito since 1937 and its development during the war. (2) The character of its activity during this period and immediately after “liberation.” (3) Its policies since that time. (In this connection see the publications of the Yugoslav Communist Party answering the charges of the Cominform, principally the reports of the Fifth Congress of the Yugoslav Communist Party, published by the Yugoslav New Telegraph Agency Tanjug.)

The Yugoslav Communist Party was reorganized in 1937 by Tito on his return from Spain. Until the occupation of Yugoslavia by the Germans, however, this party still remained quite weak. Rankovic, who made the report on the organizational work of the Yugoslav party at the Fifth Congress, gave the number of party members at the time of the Fourth National Conference, held in October 1940 at Zagreb, where a new Central Committee of 29 members was elected, as 6,000 for the party and 15,000 for the Youth. But within a few months, after the party began its armed struggle against the occupying forces, this membership had already doubled. (All figures are Rankovic’s.)

At the end of the war, the party numbered around 141,000 members, and the figure rose to 468,000 by July 1, 1948. Development of the Youth was no less impressive – 1,415,000 enrolled members.

The social composition of the party is currently as follows: about 30% workers; about 15% intellectuals; about 55% peasants.

Development of the party during the war was achieved mainly in the partisan army, said to have numbered some 300,000 combatants, poor peasants and workers, and led by the Communist Party.

This army, which was the most important partisan movement in occupied Europe, immobilizing more than 30 German divisions, became from its very beginning the instrument of a merciless struggle both against the imperialist occupation and the national bourgeoisie. The Yugoslav leaders are particularly insistent on this point, which according to them distinguished their activity during the war in a fundamental way from the activities of all other Communist parties. They attribute this to the clear positions which they took from the very beginning. “When the people of Yugoslavia rose against the occupation forces in order to conduct a struggle for liberty and independence, their objective from the beginning was for liberty and independence of a different kind from those which they had experienced in the old decaying Yugoslavia. Our people, when they rose arms in hand against the occupation forces, did not for one moment intend to fight for the resurgence of the old Yugoslavia.” (Joseph Broz-Tito: Bases of a Democracy of the New Type, Democratie Nouvelle, No. 3, March 1947)

This declaration, in an even mote explicit form, reappears in all discussions at the recent Congress of the YCP and motivates the criticisms of and attacks against the other Communist parties on this score, particularly against those of France, Hungary, and Bulgaria, which were unable to combine the struggle for “national liberation” in an effective way with the struggle for the revolutionary transformation of their countries.

The Yugoslav leaders take pride in the fact that even during the war, which took over 50,000 victims among its party and youth, they succeeded in replacing “the smashed apparatus of the old administration with a new authority, new in its form and content.” (Speech of Ivan Gosnjak at the Fifth Congress of the YCP.)

“Immediately upon the liberation of territories under the old administrative apparatus, the old State forms were destroyed down to their very foundations,” declared Kardelj in his report on Yugoslavia published in the first number of the Cominform organ For a Lasting Peace, For a New Democracy.

“The slogan of the National Liberation Front was: The whole power in liberated territory, to the degree that it is not restricted for reasons of a purely military character, belongs to the Committees of National Liberation; or, to put it another way. the entire people – peasants, workers, all toilers and honest patriots – must take this power.”

On November 29, 1943, the Central Committee of Liberation proclaimed the overthrow of the emigrant Yugoslav government, banned the return of the dynasty into the country, and transformed Yugoslavia into a federated state on the basis of national equality. The Central Committee confirmed the local People’s Committees in their function as the “sole and competent organs representing the people’s will inside the country.” (Article of N. Maritine in Pravda, October 18–19, 1947)

Consequently, of all the countries in the Soviet “buffer zone,” only Yugoslavia really had, on the day after “liberation,” a pyramidal system of people’s committees on which the government rested.

These committees, however bureaucratized they might have been, nonetheless represented a real mass movement, led by the Yugoslav Communist Party, of far greater scope and depth than in all the other countries subject to Soviet influence.

This fact also finds its expression in the activities associated with the “revolutionary transformation” of Yugoslavia, undertaken as far back as the war period.

Despite rich deposits of lead, zinc and bauxite, Yugoslavia is a country where “rural economy is dominant, and where industry is little developed,” admits E. Varga. (E. Varga, Democracy of a New Type, Democratie Nouvelle, No. 9, September 1947)

According to Boris Kidric (report on the building of the socialist economy to the Fifth Congress of the YCP) the distribution of the Yugoslav national income in 1937 was as follows: Out of 44,221 million dinars, urban capitalist elements absorbed 7,312 millions, or 16.5%. All capitalist elements took 46.1% of the national income; the capitalist State, through its monopolies and other revenues absorbed 15.9%; the workers and salaried employees 14.2%; the middle and small peasants 19.1%; while all other petty-bourgeois layers, artisans, etc. took 4.7%. Politically, pre-war Yugoslavia was subject to a government of national oppression for the special profit of the Serbian big bourgeoisie; as regards the proletariat and poor peasants, who constitute the majority of the population, it was a government of reaction.

What reforms has the State of the “New Yugoslavia” introduced into this slate of affairs?

If we are to believe the Yugoslav leaders, this country has already ceased to be a country in which a capitalist economy predominates and is proceeding with socialist construction, the “power of the exploiters” having been definitely smashed.

The Yugoslav leaders were, even before their struggle with the Cominform, most resolutely opposed to all interpretations of their “New Democracy” as being a “stage” on the road to socialism, and had on many occasions defended the thesis that Yugoslavia was already building socialism.

As Kardelj expressed it in his previously mentioned report on Yugoslavia, “the advance of the people’s democratic revolution – in Yugoslavia – became infused with socialist principles which have today become dominant.”

When the struggle with the Cominform was already developing in April 1948 and the Kremlin’s agents in the Yugoslav party, Hebrand and Zujovic, taking up Varga’s arguments on the nature of the “new democracies,” challenged the “socialist” character of the “New Yugoslavia” and defended the theory of “stages,” the Yugoslav leaders replied as follows through the lips of Kidric, President of the Economic Council, in his speech before the National Assembly:

There are “theories” spread in our midst which seek to challenge the socialist character of our nationalized economic sector. These “theories” go hand in hand with “theories” to the effect that the economic forces of our country are inadequate for the building of socialism. Veiled with leftist phraseology, these “theories” even claim that our people’s democracy is merely a stage and that our political leaders have not succeeded in defining the character of our revolution and of our economy.

Simultaneously pretending that the nationalized sector of our economy is nothing else but state capitalism, that we do not have sufficient resources of our own, and that resistance is encountered by measures to reorganize our economy whenever these measures are directed toward cleaning out all capitalist forms and remnants in our nationalized sector, these “theories” of “stages” and state capitalism in the new Yugoslavia are actually nothing else but a method of struggle against the building of socialism in our country. (Borba, April 29, 1948.)

What are the precise premises on which these “super-egotistical” statements of the Yugoslav leaders are based?

In chronological order, the economic and social reforms introduced in Yugoslavia since its “liberation” are as follows:

The First Nationalizations of Industry

On November 21, 1944, the authorities emerging from the “war for liberation” decided in effect to confiscate and place under state control the properties and enterprises belonging “to Germans, Yugoslav war criminals and their accomplices.”

As was the case in other “buffer zone” countries, this economic sector had in reality been abandoned by its runaway or slain German or Yugoslav collaborationist owners, and represented 82% of the entire industry of the country. Although this percentage appears impressive, the objective itself was actually a very limited one, for in Yugoslavia, just as in Bulgaria, “there were few elements for nationalization,” and the economic importance of nationalization of the great industrial enterprises in these countries “is relatively weak,” as E. Varga admits in his foregoing article.

a) Agrarian Reform

On August 23, 1945, the Yugoslav government promulgated its agrarian reform. In this country where the peasants constitute about 80% of the population, the agrarian question retains all of its sharpness, despite the fact that “in certain areas the land has been placed under agrarian reform.” (See the previously mentioned article by Tito.) An examination of statistics brought out, for example, that “200 great landowners held almost as much land as 300,000 poor peasants, holdings. Among these great landowners were a number of foreigners and the Catholic Church.” (The Yugoslav Constitution, By E. Fajon, Democratie Nouvelle, February 1947)

The agrarian reform law confiscated without indemnity the domains of great landowners exceeding 35 to 45 hectares (as the case might be), of which 25 to 30 hectares at most could be tillable land, and set the legal maximum holding of land property at the same limits. By this reform “95% of the cultivated lands passed into the hands of working peasants.” (Ibid.)

In an article published by V. Begovic in Borba, July 27, 1948, he compares the Yugoslav agrarian reform with that of Poland (legal maximum 50 hectares and in East Poland even 100 hectares), and finally with Hungary where there arc still domains of 400 hectares. In this same article, Begovic lauds the graduated income tax imposed on the peasants which favors the poorest among them, as well as the development of agricultural cooperatives embracing around 2,200,000 members and 10,000,000 consumers in 1948. (A new law on the taxation of agricultural production, effective since September 1, 1948, sharpens still further these measures against the well-to-do peasants and favors those peasants who do not employ outside labor, as well as the cooperatives of “working peasants.”)

b) The Five-Year Plan

On November 27, 1947, Tito proposed to the Assembly a Five-Year Plan, designed to transform Yugoslavia from an agricultural country to an industrial country, and to solve the problem of peasant overpopulation by an intensive industrialization of the country based primarily on hydroelectric energy. According to this plan, national income in 1951 would increase 193% as compared with 1939; industrial production would be multiplied five times in value; production of electricity would go from 71 KW per inhabitant to 272 KW in 1951 and 1952.

In September 1947, according to the previously cited report of Kardelj, industrial production had already reached 167% of the prewar level. (The Five-Year Plan projected specifically: a) investments of about 1½ billion pounds sterling; b) quadrupling the production of iron and steel; c) increase of 272% in the output of the principal mines; d) quadrupling the production of electric energy; e) irrigation of 8 million hectares of land; f) construction of 15,000,000 square meters of housing; g) building of 110 hospitals; h) increase in live stock.)

c) New Nationalization

In April 1948 a new law was adopted, nationalizing 3,100 enterprises, above the level of small shops and small businesses, and “thereby accomplishing the nationalization of all Yugoslav industry.” These are the measures which Kidric presented to the Assembly as signifying “first of all that the socialist sector of our economy is already consolidated to such a point, and socialist construction of our country, endowed with so solid a framework, has made such progress, that we can without danger of delay, take over under the effective direction of the State even the management of small businesses.” (Borba, April 29, 1948) These same measures were subsequently criticized by the Cominform as demagogic and adventuristic.

In explaining the motivations for this new law on nationalization (see previously cited article by Tito), insistence was placed on the fact that after the first nationalizations, a certain number of enterprises continued to remain in the hands of individuals. These enterprises, “neither by their size nor importance, can be considered as having either a federal or republican importance. Their importance is purely local. Nevertheless they are very important for the socialist economy.”

“The experience with the first year of the Plan has shown that we cannot depend on these enterprises in realizing the Plan and that we cannot struggle successfully against speculation” while these enterprises remain in the hands of individuals.

This new law also planned the nationalization of a certain number of vessels in river and maritime navigation, as well as (a) all health institutions, hospitals, sanatoriums, bathhouses, etc., (b) printing houses, lithograph plants, and motion picture houses, (c) hotels catering to tourists.

To what extent have all these reforms really changed the country’s economic and social structure?

Again according to the report presented by Kidric to the Fifth Party Congress, the scope of these changes is reflected in the following distribution of the national revenue for 1947, which it is useful to compare with that of 1937 previously quoted:

Out of a total of 935,905 million postwar dinars, the urban capitalist elements absorbed 3.4%; the rural capitalist elements 11.7%; “The Socialist State” (according to Kidric) 35.97%; the workers and salaried employees, 23.1%; the middle and small peasants 22%; the other petty-bourgeois layers, artisans, etc. 1.8%.

According to the same report, redistribution of the national income for 1948 will be as follows:

Urban capitalist elements 1.55%; rural capitalist elements 9.67%; workers and salaried employes 25.07%; middle and small peasants 23.55%; other petty-bourgeois layers 4.83%; “The Socialist State” 38.33%.

Kidric consequently concludes: “There is absolutely no doubt that Socialism in our country is developing more rapidly than capitalist elements, and consequently that the relative importance of capitalist elements is declining.”

Naturally this bold declaration is based on the relationship between what Kidric calls “The Socialist State” and the combined capitalist elements of the city and country, a relationship viewed through a comparison of their respective shares in the national income. In reality, comparison between the capitalist sector and the state-ized sector (which Kidric calls socialist) should be made bearing in mind that in the capitalist sector must be included the entire sphere of private property in the means of production, peasant, artisan, small business; whereas in the so-called Socialist State’s sector, it should be remembered that appropriation of the surplus value produced by this sector is in part recaptured by bourgeois elements through the channels of trade.

The Reasons for Yugoslav Resistance

After the above analysis, it is easier to see why Tito has resisted, and has been able to resist up to now, the attempted “Russification” of his government and his party by the Kremlin.

As against all the other Communist parties in the “buffer zone,” which won their power thanks to the direct support of the Kremlin and the Red Army, the Yugoslav Communist Party during the war led a real mass movement with distinct revolutionary tendencies which brought it to power. Tito and the “band of partisan leaders who surround him” (according to the characteristic expression of the Polish Vice-Marshal Zombrowski) were intimately linked during the whole war with this plebeian movement supported by the majority of workers, poor peasants, and other exploited layers of old Yugoslavia. Between this group, which conducted a bold and difficult struggle, at the head of an army of rugged and proud men, and those groups of functionaries who spent the entire war period at Moscow, there is naturally considerable difference in how each conceives and understands the mutual relations with the Kremlin. The Yugoslav Communists emerged from the war, proud of their exploits and enthusiastic for “socialist reconstruction.” Contact with the “Soviet brothers” sent from the Kremlin was probably not the happiest. Their conditions of poverty and the austerity of their behavior, including that of their own rising bureaucracy, contrasted sharply with the life and attitude of the representatives of the old bourgeoisified and corrupted Soviet bureaucracy. The work of surveillance and espionage by the GPU, prime duty of every orthodox Stalinist toward his own brothers, shocked them and put them on their guard.

It is quite possible that the leadership of the Yugoslav Communist Party and other party cadres may very well have expressed their discontent and disapproval on all these points. It is quite possible that cadres and members of the party may well have whispered “strange” remarks in the corridors “about the degeneration of the USSR.” It is also quite possible that on even more important questions, the Yugoslav leadership may have taken, or tried to take points of view different from the Kremlin.

It is possible, for example, that on the question of the Balkan Federation, so ardently desired, as has now been proved, by the Yugoslavs, Bulgarians, and Albanians as a far greater framework for their economic development, differences may well have become manifest against the Kremlin’s policy; but these never reached the level of a real opposition.

As regards economic relations between Yugoslavia and the USSR, there are no facts to prove that these relations could have been considered as disadvantageous for Yugoslavia or that they could have been the motivation for any kind of negative reaction on its part. On the contrary, from this point of view Yugoslavia occupied a privileged position in comparison with all the other “buffer-zone” countries, maintaining far greater economic relations with the other countries of the “buffer zone” than with the USSR itself. In this sphere, Yugoslavia appears even to have received more from the USSR than it gave in return.

Thus the real stumbling-block in Belgrade-Moscow relations does not seem to be some kind of coherent and firm opposition by Tito. It rather lies in the independent character of Tito’s movement and of his party, which if left to its own development, contains a real threat of leading to serious differences with the Kremlin. In the long run these differences would be between “socialist reconstruction” and Yugoslav policy in general, as viewed from the angle of Yugoslav interests, and Russian policy, as viewed from the angle of the special interests of the Soviet bureaucracy. In order to avoid such a development, the Kremlin, forewarned by a series of minor facts and always guided by its refined sense of smell which can so rapidly sniff out suspicious situations, and even potentially suspicious ones, has set itself the task of eliminating Tito. However, this task has failed in Yugoslavia, having encountered the organized resistance of an apparatus with state power at its command, and supported by a party and a mass movement which still surround it, despite its bureaucratization, with a genuine devotion.

Whither Yugoslavia?

Tito has won the first round. But at the same time by his type of defense he has put himself in a position which can only lead to his defeat if he persists in it.

The leadership of the Yugoslav party reaffirmed their attachment to Stalin at the Fifth Congress and likewise affirmed that “no fundamental theoretical difference” exists between them and the Stalinist doctrine. By this they mean, more specifically, the theory of “socialism in one country” which they hold dear, and “monolithism” of the revolutionary party, which liquidates ideological tendencies counter to the policies of the leadership by calling in the secret police. But at the same time they must be in considerable difficulty to pretend to be unaware that Stalin is the great instigator of the campaign which is being conducted against them by all the Communist parties, a campaign whose objective, as has become increasingly clear, is the violent overthrow of Tito. For Stalin will never pardon the defiance hurled by the Yugoslav leadership against his direct and absolute control over all Communist parties, which is the cardinal rule of the Stalinist game, the essence of its regime.

In its resolution on the struggle with the Cominform presented at the Fifth Congress, the Yugoslav leadership, by the moderation of its language and its circumspect attitude toward the Russian Communist Party and toward Stalin in particular, made a final effort to reach a direct compromise with the master in the Kremlin. It was, in fact, fearful of the consequences of a complete break and it was, on the other hand, under pressure from its rank and file, which had been brought up in the pro-Stalinist and pro-Soviet cult. But it soon had to change its tone. The Kremlin apparatus directed by Stalin started marching as a phalanx to crush the “renegade” of Belgrade, whose example could become so dangerously contagious.

In Yugoslavia itself and in all countries under Soviet control, from the Albania of Enver Hodza – who only yesterday was praising the benefits of Yugoslavia’s “generous” assistance – all the direct agents of Stalin are concertedly conducting a political, economic and police campaign which is aimed at bringing about Tito’s fall. Tito is compelled to reply by strengthening the centralization of his government and of his party and by leaning more and more on his faithful police apparatus rather than on the conscious support of the masses. For in order to mobilize the latter against his enemies, be would have to denounce what they stand for ideologically, be would have to put Stalinism on trial and break with it. It is more than doubtful that Tito and his group can take this step by themselves. But the members of the Yugoslav Communist Party and the Yugoslav masses in general have been placed in an objective situation which compels them to search for a way out. For Yugoslavia the way out can only be the path toward the real road of proletarian revolution and socialism, breaking with the Kremlin and denouncing it openly.

The present position of the Yugoslav leadership is untenable. It will demoralize the rank and file of the Yugoslav party as well as the masses of the country. In the absence of a revolutionary way out of this struggle, the Yugoslav leadership, isolated within the “buffer zone” and increasingly isolated from the masses, will accentuate the Bonapartist character of its regime and can eventually become, unless overthrown or liquidated previously by the direct agents of the Kremlin, an instrument of other class interests than those which it represents at the present time.

The class struggle goes on in Yugoslavia and is organically linked to the international class struggle. Tito and the Yugoslav leadership represented for a period the bureaucratic distortion of an anti-capitalist, revolutionary plebeian current. But on the morrow this Bonapartist apparatus, under the conditions of isolation, inevitable internal difficulties, and the sharpening of imperialist pressure, can imperceptibly become the spokesman for reactionary forces. As against the perspective of elimination by the direct agents of the Kremlin or that of capitulation to imperialism, there is only one solution: To place one’s confidence in the Yugoslav and world masses, lean upon them exclusively, install genuine democracy in the party and in the country, break with Stalinism and expose it, call for the real socialist revolution by the masses and for the masses, within the buffer zone, throughout Europe and the world.

Here is the only road of salvation for Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav Communist Party. Here lies its immeasurable historical mission for the future of the entire world working-class movement. And toward that end it is the duty of all the forces of the Fourth International to work.

August 1948

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Michel Pablo
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Marxist Writers’

Updated on: 10 April 2015