Tony Cliff

On the Class Nature of the “People’s Democracies”

III. On the attitude to Tito

In formulating their attitude to the Tito regime the IS (International Secretariat) showed the most unprincipled approach possible. Unashamedly they changed overnight from calling the regime a capitalist regime with an “extreme form of Bonapartism” to an all-out uncritical evaluation of Yugoslavia as a workers’ state, without even the reservation “degenerated”. Tito’s past and present are rewritten.


Tito’s Stalinist past

The moment Stalin conflicted with Tito, all the Stalinist hacks began to rewrite Tito’s past, making out that he had always been an enemy of Moscow. Conversely, the IS, until the excommunication of Tito, repeatedly exposed him as a Stalinist par excellence, the most damning example of counter-revolutionary Stalinism; but they have now forgotten all this, and it seems that since the Partisan war against Germany, or even perhaps earlier, Tito has not been a fully-fledged Stalinist. Let us try to keep the record clear. Tito became the General Secretary of the CP of Yugoslavia in 1937, at the height of the Moscow Trials, when thousands of foreign Communists in Russia were executed. Tito became the Secretary of the Party because of the execution of Gorkich, the former General Secretary, as well as the majority of the Central Committee, by Stalin. The leading layer of the present CPY not only condoned the murder of all oppositionists in the Yugoslav CP, but passed through the school of the Spanish GPU murders of Trotskyists, POUM’ists, etc. On coming back from the International Brigade to Yugoslavia, their readiness to murder all oppositionists did not abate. As proof we may see the boast of Tito at the Fifth Congress of the CPY in 1948, that he and his friends knew how to tackle “Trotskyist-fascists” by bringing them before the People’s Courts and making them pay the supreme penalty. As Borba of 4 July 1948 puts it: “... a handful of Trotskyists, who showed their true faces in the war as collaborators and agents of the invaders, ended shamefully before the People’s Courts.” The Militant of 5 July 1948 correctly wrote:

Tito knows no other school of politics than Stalinism. The hands of this shady adventurer drip with the blood of hundreds of Yugloslav Trotskyists and other militants whom he murdered during the civil war in Yugoslavia. He began his service as a purger of Stalin’s political opponents as far back as 1928 ... Everywhere his specialty was purging “Trotskyists”. It was precisely in this capacity as an unquestioning and willing tool of the GPU that Tito was permitted to rise to the top.

During the Partisan war against Germany, Tito’s policy was that of the Stalinist “People’s Front”. The social programme he put forward was exactly the same as that of the Spanish Stalinists, standing for) the social status quo. Thus the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation (AVNOJ) – the Partisans’ parliament – at its first meeting in Bihach on 26 November 1942 declared for a six-point programme, two points of which were:

(2) The inviolability of private property and the providing of every possibility for individual initiative in industry, trade and agriculture.

(3) No radical changes whatsoever in the social life and activities of the people except for the replacement of reactionary village authorities and gendarmes who may have gone over to the service of the invaders by popularly elected representatives truly democratic and popular in character. All the most important questions of social life and State organisation will be settled by the people themselves through representatives who will be properly elected by the people after the end of the war.

These aims were constantly reiterated by the Partisans’ press and radio during the whole war.

There was some opposition to this policy in the ranks of the CPY. An uprising in July 1941 in Montenegro raised the banner of “Soviet Montenegro”. Similarly, the Party organisations in Herzegovina deviated from the Party line, calling forth the harsh criticism of Rankovich. (Proleter, December 1942.) In spite of some leftist deviations, however, the Bihach programme was consistently implemented until the liberation of all Yugoslavia from Germans. Even after that, the Yugoslav leaders continued to insist that they intended sticking to the Bihach programme. Thus on 14 February 1945, vice-Premier Kardel stated in a broadcast that the economic structure in Yugoslavia had not abandoned and would not abandon the general framework of capitalism. A similar statement was made by Tito on 13 November 1945 in an interview with the special correspondent of The Times.

To emphasise the conservatism of their programme, a confessor or chaplain (vjerski referent) was attached to all the large military units, and a religious oath was made compulsory. Thus every Croat volunteer had to take the following oath:

I swear by God Almighty and by all I hold dear that on my word of honour I shall always be true to the traditions of my ancestors, I will always fulfil my trust towards the Croat people and will defend with my blood my national home from the German, Italian and Hungarian oppressors, and the traitors of my people. So help me God. (Radio Free Yugoslavia, 13 June 1943.)

As in Spain, one of the first and most important tasks of the Stalinists was to abolish the plebeian democratic character of the armed forces and transform it into a regular army hierarchically organised, with ranks, medals, etc. On 1 May 1943 the ranks of officers and non-commissioned officers were introduced, and in the next four months about 5,000 officers and generals were created, and Tito was raised to the rank of Marshal. These higher layers of the Tito army took the commanding positions in state administration and economy when at the end of 1944 Belgrade, Zagreb and the other important towns were liberated from the Germans.

The policy of national unity with (to use Trotsky’s own words about Spain) the “shadow of the bourgeoisie” and the raising of a hierarchical bureaucracy behind the façade of the “People’s Front” which would be ready to take control in the interests of the Stalinist bureaucracy, was more easily carried out in Yugoslavia than in Spain; first of all because the Yugoslav CP was incomparably stronger than the Spanish CP, and was not confronted with any organised opposition, no matter how muddled, centrist and reformist, like the POUM, the Anarchists, and the Socialists; secondly, the Yugoslav Stalinists had the advantage of not having to begin by tackling an industrial working class like that of Barcelona or Madrid.

For three years the Partisans were far away from the industrial centres of Yugoslavia, and limited to the most backward, poverty- stricken parts of the country. Hence the workers fulfilled a very small role in the Partisan movement. As Bogdan Raditsa, a former press service director for the Tito government, put it: “The working class was far from being a vital factor in the resistance, as the Communists allege in their propaganda. For the workers remained in the big-city factories or were sent into Hitler’s labour camps” (New Republic, 16 September 1946).

The fact that in these backward, mountainous regions of Yugoslavia, landed property was divided more or less equally before the war (the main land reform after World War IIbeing carried out in the Danube area in the north) made it even easier for the Yugoslav Stalinists to impose the conservative Bihach programme as a screen behind which, in the name of national unity, a bureaucratic, hierarchical administration arose. No flight of imagination could succeed in presenting Tito’s policy in Yugoslavia during the war as more revolutionary and progressive than the policy of Pasionaria during the Spanish Civil War.

The policy of Tito on the national question during the war is a chapter on its own. Seeing that the German invasion broke Yugoslavia up into, different national units, and that no one nation had an absolute majority, it was essential for the Stalinists to put forward a programme of national equality, and this they did. Hence they built up military units of Italians, Hungarians, Czechs, and even Germans (of the minority living in Yugoslavia – Volksdeutsche). But after the successes on the military front, and with the increasing “Slav” propaganda from Moscow, Belgrade becoming the centre of the Pan-Slav World organisation, Tito abruptly changed his policy towards the Germans. The whole German minority in Yugoslavia, of about half a million, were expelled from the country. Instead of trying to win over German POW’s to the side of the Partisans, Tito put forward a new line: “One German officer, for interrogation purposes,” he said, “was enough of prisoners.” The fate of the rest is clear. When at the end of the war scores of thousands of German POW’s fell into the hands of the Yugoslav army, their exploitation was very harsh. 85,000 of them were put to work barefooted, very badly nourished and treated, and not allowed to be visited by the Red Cross.

The religious policy followed the same pattern as that of Russia. We have seen that Tito had a more than benevolent attitude to religion in the Partisan Army. After the war, when the Stalinists waged their struggle against the Catholic hierarchies (and in one case – Bulgaria – the Protestant hierarchy) but did not touch the Greek Orthodox Churches, whose eyes are turned towards the Patriarch in Moscow, Tito did the same, condemning Stepinac, the Catholic Archbishop, to sixteen years’ imprisonment, while embracing Patriarch Gavrilo, head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, whose activities under the dictatorship of Alexander and Peter were notorious.



On which side of the dividing line between Stalinism and Trotskyism does Tito stand?

Any serious thought must, inevitably, lead to the conclusion that on every important issue on which Trotsky fought Stalin, Tito in the past stood and today stands on the same side as Stalin.

Everyone knows that the fundamental dividing line, the question of life and death, which separated Trotsky and Stalin, was the question of “socialism in one country”. The central theme of the propaganda of Tito and his associates is the possibility of building socialism in one country, and Yugoslavia at that. They thus out-Herod Herod: in a country with a population less than 10% of that of Russia, an area much smaller even than that, with natural wealth which cannot compare with Russia’s riches, it is possible to establish socialism! It would demand the worst type of Stalinist double-thinking to proclaim Stalin’s theory of “socialism in one country” as an out-and-out betrayal of socialism, an out-and-out counter-revolutionary conception, and overlook Tito’s conception of “socialism in one country”, or at best propose friendly criticism of this conception.

As regards the political regime in Russia herself, Trotsky declared the Stalin Constitution of 1936 to be a plebiscitary, Bonapartist regime, legalising the one-party-bureaucracy rule behind the façade of general elections where only one list is allowed. As a counter to this, Trotsky put forward the slogan of the legalisation of all Soviet parties. The Yugoslav Constitution is a copy, almost word for word, of the Stalinist Constitution of 1936, as may be seen by a comparison article by article. In the Yugoslav elections the one list of candidates (26 March 1950) got 94.2% of the votes (the comparative figures in the Czechoslovakian elections were 89.2%, in Hungary 95.6%, Bulgaria 97.66%). The fact that legally people were allowed to put other candidates to the one list exposes even more clearly the plebiscitary character of the regime. Every hundred citizens, according to the law, are allowed to put up a candidate of their own (the comparative figure in Bulgaria is every ten citizens). But among the many million Yugoslavs not a hundred Cominform supporters, Socialist Party supporters or Peasant Party supporters could be found to do this. At the same time we are told that 5.8% of the electorate, or 613,125 people, voted against the government. Why did they not put up any candidate? It cannot be explained otherwise than the fact that 300,000 people in the USSR, voted against the Government in the last general elections, but put up no independent candidate even though by law they are allowed to do so, as in Yugoslavia.

As regards the Party, the central fight between Trotsky and Stalin was round the question of the right to build factions. On this question Tito certainly stands with Stalin against Trotsky; he put forward as; an axiom “that every factionalist is not far from being a provocator or similar enemy of the working class” (Quoted in Fourth International, October 1949). We are told by Tito to believe that there is unanimous voluntary support of the leadership of the CP of Yugoslavia, as we are told to believe that there is unanimous, voluntary support of the Stalin leadership in the CPSU. Consider that 468,000 Party members are educated day and night to believe that Stalin played a revolutionary role as leader and teacher of the international working class now with the Cominform-Tito rift, no paper published a single letter of these Party members justifying the Cominform or casting doubt on Tito’s line in the conflict. The six Congresses that took place immediately after the Cominform resolution unanimously passed all the resolutions put forward by Tito condemning the Cominform. In the Congress of the CPY the Prime Minister of Croatia said that among the 82,000 members of the Party in Croatia three opposed the line of the leaders. A list can be made of many more than three Croatian leaders who were arrested at the time, and of more than a hundred rank-and-file members whose arrests were mentioned in the press.

The IS knows very well that on these two vital issues (the legalisation of all Soviet parties, and the right of factions inside the CP) Tito stands squarely with Stalin in the agelong fight against Trotsky. They therefore do not even propose to ask for the right of having a Trotskyist faction inside the CPY. They think, it seems, that it is not tactful, but it can be not tactful only if Tito is as firmly opposed to democracy as Stalin is. Therefore to avoid putting forward the two central political demands of the Bolshevik-Leninist Opposition is tantamount to cowardice before calling things by their right names, to capitulation before a bureaucracy.

In the fight between Trotskyism and Stalinism, Trotsky was emphatic in saying that the leader-cult is not an accidental aberration of a healthy democratic regime, but the summit of a bureaucratic, Bonapartist dictatorship. Where does Tito stand on the question of the leader-cult? The answer is clear to anyone who looks into the Yugoslav press, who reads reports of conferences and meetings, which always reach their climax in prolonged applause for Tito, at which time he himself stands up and applauds – the same habit Stalin cultivated. The Marshal’s pictures are as prominent today in Yugoslavia as the Generalissimo’s were in Russia years after he was firmly established. Stalin has his Stalingrad; Tito has his Titograd.

Trotsky emphasised that “lying is a weapon of reaction”. Stalin perfected the lie machine, presenting every opponent as a “fascist”. Where does Tito stand in the choice of weapons to fight his opponents? The record of the Titoists in the last two years is damning. No.1 pro-Stalin leader of the CPY was Hebrang. Tito did not hesitate to call him an Ustashi (a quisling Croatian fascist) and police spy. The fact that Hebrang spent twelve-and-a-half years in fascist prisons as a member and leader of the CPY, that after 1942 he occupied one of the highest positions in the Partisan army and the Government, does not deter Tito from making such an accusation.

Or to take the case of Kostov: Stalin’s agents “proved” that he was a “police spy” – since he opposed the national subjugation of Bulgaria. At the same time Tito, who was opposed by Kostov on the question of the ways and means of federating Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, also accused him of being a “police spy”.

Djilas, head of the agitation and propaganda department of the CPY, said in a speech on 1 September 1948 that all the supporters of the Cominform in Yugoslavia “who have fled to the other People’s Democracies and to the USSR” were “traitors to socialism, opportunists, Trotskyists, malcontents with unlimited ambitions”. Such cynical demagogy, coming on the morrow of devoted friendship, would not be swallowed by its hearers unless the people were thoroughly terrorised. This being the case, Djilas was applauded.

Soon after the publication of the Cominform Resolution, 233 students were expelled from the University of Belgrade and technical institutes on charges ranging from criticism of the authorities to spy work, collaboration with the enemy during the war, stealing public property, speculation, and so on. What an amalgam!

In his report to the Third Congress of the People’s Front of Yugoslavia (9 April 1949), Tito attacks Yugoslav supporters of the Cominform Resolution. One, he says, “was Nedich’s district police officer during the Occupation and ... tortured patriots. He succeeded in covering up his past and smuggling himself into our party.” Another was “Pavelich’s district chief of police”, another a “Gestapo agent”, and so forth, To sum up: “In the case of at least 95% of them you will find that either they have a marked record [have been police spies – TC] or that they are people of ambition, cowards and weaklings, class enemies, kulak’s sons or Chetniks and Ustashi elements, White Guards, etc.” – in short, “human rubbish”. To crown the amalgam Tito says in the same speech that in Prague a “well-known Trotskyist was attacking Yugoslavia on behalf of the Cominform”.

Tito says that the Cominform supporters in Trieste collaborate with the Italian fascists and “have the wholehearted support of the Anglo- American Occupation Authorities”. This was in protest against a “calumnious article” published in the Polish daily Tribuna Ludu (13 February 1939) entitled The Anglo-American Forces of Occupation Support Tito’s Clique in Trieste.

Borba said:

The Bulgarian Communist regime is rife with civilians and officers who committed war crimes in Yugoslavia during the Bulgarian occupation of parts of Serbia and Macedonia. Some of the officers received promotions, other got pensions and some of the civilians hold important posts in the Bulgarian Communist Party.

The Budapest Communist regime is employing Hungarian war criminals and former spies of the pro-German Hungarian Army.

Former Gestapo members are active in the Rumanian Communist police.

If all this is true, one may ask, why was it not mentioned ‘in the years between the establishment of the “People’s Democracies” and Tito’s rift with Stalin? Or take the attitude of the Titoists to Dimitrov. As long as he was alive, Dimitrov was one of the main targets of their attack, accused of being a pan-Bulgarian chauvinist, fostering the oppression of the Macedonians in Bulgaria, etc. Especially articulate in this campaign was Mosa Pijade. As soon as Dimitrov died, the same Pijade declared that Dimitrov was the best friend of the CPY and that he told the Yugoslav leaders to be adamant in their stand against the Cominform.

If the IS protests against Tito’s, Kostov’s and Rajk’s being called “fascists, police spies”, etc., by the Stalinists, do they not think that it is as much their duty to protest against Hebrang’s, Kostov’s and other anti-Titoists being called “fascists, police spies”, etc., by the Titoists?

In choosing methods of struggle against the political opposition Tito stands squarely with Stalin and against Trotsky.

Besides covering his opponents with mud, Stalin also finds it necessary to use extreme methods of terror. It is true that if the Yugoslavs had to choose between Tito and Stalin, the overwhelming majority of them would freely choose the former, so that Tito has not so far found it necessary to use terror on a very large scale. Nevertheless, in fighting his Cominform opponents, he makes use of the old terroristic NKVD methods. Let us give a few examples. The Times correspondent wrote from Trieste on 22 August 1948:

In the Yugoslav zone of the Free Territory Yugoslav police have been breaking up meetings of Italian Communists, and several Italian Communist leaders who have attempted to voice their criticism of the Tito regime have been placed under arrest.

On 2 December 1949, the Ljubljana District Court charged two men with distributing pro-Cominform leaflets. One was sentenced to twelve years’ hard labour, the other to eight. On 11 March 1949, The Times correspondent wrote from Belgrade:

Sentence of death has been passed by the District Court of Osijek on four employees of a state farm at Josipindvor, Slavonia, for poisoning pigs. The men, according to the Belgrade press, were members of an underground group formed last July [i.e. immediately after the Cominform excommunication of Tito – TC] to carry out economic sabotage and later to take armed action against the State.

When an attempt is made to study the economic conditions of the people, the difficulties met with are not smaller than those connected with such a study of Russia. Yugoslav statistics are comparable to Russian in their efforts to cover up the facts. There are no statistics as regards the division of the national product between workers, factory managers, high government dignitaries, etc. Even the achievements of the Plan are given in percentual form, which makes any check very difficult. No index of the cost of living is published. Even foreign trade is kept like a military secret (and the only way to study Yugoslav trade is to find out from the countries which do publish their trade figures their trade with Yugoslavia).

Nevertheless some facts showing the real economic position of the people do come to light. First of all there is the regimentation of labour.

An advance over Russia’s Labour Book is the Yugoslav Karakteristika: each citizen has a sealed book in which his political reliability is recorded, and he has to show this when he takes on any job; he is never allowed to know its contents, so that he cannot appeal against what is written in it.

As regards the freedom of workers to change their place of labour: on 16 April 1948 a law was passed prohibiting any state employee from leaving his place of work without permission from a special government commission.

As in the other “People’s Democracies” the Yugoslav Constitution does not include the right of strike. The explanation was put in a nutshell by the spokesman of the Yugoslav Government when replying to a proposal to include “freedom to strike” in the Constitution: “Now, when our Constitution fully guarantees the rights of the working class such a proposal is outright reactionary and anti-national” (20 January 1946). Like Russia since 1928, Yugoslavia since Tito’s rule has not had a single strike.

In denying another freedom to the people of Yugoslavia, Tito again copied Stalin: the law of 22 April 1948 prohibits marriage between Yugoslav citizens and foreigners unless special permission is granted by the authorities.

If slave labour does not exist to any great extent in Yugoslavia, while it does exist in Russia, we must not forget that it does not exist in any of the other “People’s Democracies” (increasing industrialisation and “collectivisation” together with a surplus agricultural population and lack of capital are necessary conditions for a wide use of this sort of labour, which is very unproductive and wasteful).

Like the Russian Government, the Yugoslav Government inflicts the severest penalties for theft, reminding one of the punishments meted out to thieves at the time of “primitive accumulation of capital” in England. To quote one example: Reuter reported from Belgrade on 30 December 1948: “A Zagreb court has sentenced two officials to death by shooting for stealing clothing coupons, fourteen others charged with economic sabotage by stealing clothing coupons and selling them on the black market, received prison sentences ranging from two to twenty years.”

That Yugoslavia is one of the hungriest, if not the hungriest, countries in Europe is testified to by all correspondents, even those who have no reason to hold Yugoslavia in disfavour as against the other “People’s Democracies”. Under such conditions, nevertheless, the bureaucracy, it seems, does not suffer at all. We give a few quotations from the press. A banquet given by Tito, which lacked none of the brilliance characteristic of those given by Stalin, was described thus by a Swiss paper:

In a great hall 300 generals waited, covered from head to foot with gold and silver braid and decorations. With them were women in gorgeous evening gowns. The waiters were in snow-white, gold-trimmed dress-coats. You felt you were in a Hollywood fairyland. The tables groaned under the weight of huge gold and silver dishes laden with food. Eighty different kinds of hors d’oeuvres were served. There was an abundance of Tokay, Bordeaux, Frascati and, of course, champagne. (Er und Sie, 29 February 1949.)

Another correspondent described the position three years earlier thus:

Frequently, in city hotels, I felt ashamed to eat magnificent meals of goose or duck, caviare or filleted salmon, chicken or veal, when I remembered the “diet” of men, women and the few miraculously surviving children in the forgotten villages of distraught Bosnia ... (The Contemporary Review, February 1946.)

And Vernon Bartlett wrote as late as 25 April 1949 from Belgrade:

Here, as in Moscow during the war, I am shocked that leaders who boast so much of the dictatorship of the proletariat, should enjoy privileges that are relatively far greater than those enjoyed by any privileged class in Britain or in most of the other countries condemned by Moscow as Fascist and imperialist. (News Chronicle, 26 April 1949, Tito has Special Luxury Shops for Friends, Workers are Barred)

That the Yugoslav propaganda agencies are doing their best to hide the abyss between the position of the toilers and that of the bureaucracy (no less than the agencies of the other “People’s Democracies” and Russia) is clear. To bring only one interesting fact illuminating Titoist hypocrisy on the question: the letter of Tito and Kardelj to Stalin and Molotov of 13 April 1948 claimed that the salaries of Russian experts – colonels, generals, etc – were much higher than the salaries of Yugoslav experts (and therefore Yugoslavia had to reduce the number of Russian experts in the country); the answer of the cc of the Russian Party (4 May 1948) says on this point: “But the Yugoslav generals, apart from drawing salaries, are provided with apartments, servants, food, etc.” This the Yugoslav letters did not deny, but as the fact must be hidden from the public, the Yugoslav publication of the correspondence between the CC of the CPY and the CC of the CPSU wrote, instead of “apartments, servants, food, etc”: “a flat, food, and similar things”. A small correction: the servants are hidden from the public eye!

Russia’s efforts to industrialise, because of her economic and cultural backwardness, inevitably pushed her to capitalist relations of production which raised the bureaucracy to be the ruling class. Yugoslavia is even more isolated than Russia. She is much poorer in national resources and population, and her point of departure was not the rule of the Soviet system, of a Bolshevik Party with an internally democratic life, with workers’ control and management of industry, but a totalitarian, oligarchic bureaucracy. That such a regime, making efforts at industrialisation, at “fighting barbarism with barbaric methods”, could develop into something different in kind from Russia, can be believed only by shallow impressionists.

Here we must come back to the question of Tito’s “socialism in one country”. Trotsky emphasised that the source of Stalin’s ‘theory’ of socialism in one country was not in his faulty understanding, but in the material interests of the Russian bureaucracy. Does this not apply also to Tito’s “socialism in one country”? That it does is clear also from Tito’s foreign policy.

Marxism teaches us that the foreign policy of a country is a continuation of its internal policy. Hence we showed that the foreign policy of Russia – towards the League of Nations, her secret diplomacy, etc – are in themselves condemnations of the internal policy of her bureaucracy. The accessibility to information on foreign policy, which by its very nature is much greater than accessibility to information on internal policy, so well veiled in Russia, has made this connection an important element in our arsenal of weapons against Stalinism. What is the nature of Tito’s foreign policy? The Titoists are even more enthusiastic about UNO than ever Stalin was about the League of Nations. And if Stalin proclaimed that socialism and capitalism can live together peaceably, the Titoists go even further and proclaim that it is not true that capitalism leads to wars, that generally the question of war and imperialism has nothing to do with the social regime, but are the result of “hegemonistic tendencies among the rulers”. This is an example of the crude way in which the Titoists, like Stalin, are ready to create ad hoc “theories” to justify the immediate interests of Yugoslav foreign policy. It has even less to do with Marxism, if this is possible, than Stalin’s one-time formulation that it is not capitalism that leads to war, but only fascism.



The “democratisation of Yugoslavia’ and the perspectives of the FI

The 1948 World Conference defined the “People’s Democracies” (including Yugoslavia) as “an extreme form of Bonapartism”. Trotsky considered it impossible to remove Bonapartist rulers by way of reforms, without a revolution. Now there is no mention whatsoever of the Bonapartist character of the Tito regime by the is. The idea of the need to remove the Titoist leadership by revolution is shunned, and instead a friendly attitude, at the most watery criticism of this leadership, is adopted. Declarations of the Yugoslav leaders about democratic elections taking place in Yugoslavia are printed in the press of the FI without any mention that these elections are Bonapartist plebiscites, but they are taken at their face value. [1]

If this attitude really corresponded with the facts, if a Bonapartist police regime of yesterday could be transformed by evolutionary development into a more or less democratic regime, then Trotsky’s line of argument would have to be totally reversed. When he declared the Russian regime to be Bonapartist, he said that the way to reform was closed. Two conclusions followed from this: in Russia the poli-tical revolution had to be carried out, and on a world scale a new international had to be built. The only conclusion from the is position on Yugoslavia must be that till 1948 a revolution and the building of a party in opposition to the CP of Yugoslavia were necessary, but that afterwards no more than reform was needed, and there was no place for an independent Trotskyist party. If it is true that a Bonapartist regime which had existed for a number of years in a small and backward country could in the space of a few months become more and more humane and transform itself into a democracy, there is no ground at all to assume that the Stalinist Bonapartist dictatorship will not transform itself into a democracy when the pressure of the capitalist Western world becomes lighter relatively to the internal strength of the country. In other words, if it is accepted that in Tito’s Yugoslavia the Bonapartist regime dies a natural death with no uprising of the working class against it – in a country more backward than Russia and more exposed to world economy – there is no ground at all for excluding the same possibility for the Stalinist regime. If we accept the idyllic descriptions given by the FI leadership of Yugoslavia today, we shall have to deny to the FI even the function of carrying out the political revolution after the Stalinists carried out the so-called “social revolution”.



The correct attitude to the Tito-Stalin conflict

The first duty of socialist-internationalists is to fight for the independence of Yugoslavia; for the defence of Yugoslavia from Russian aggression. It is necessary to expose the barrage of lies spread by Moscow and its agents about Yugoslavia. This exposure will be helped on by the fact that the inventions and exaggerations the Stalinist bureaucracy, so accustomed to totalitarianism and absolute control, naturally makes use of, are readily refuted by the Yugoslav reality (through reports of Youth Brigades visiting Yugoslavia, through read-ng the propaganda literature spread by the Yugoslav Government, etc). The exposure of Moscow lies about Yugoslavia will help to expose other lies spread by the Kremlin, as, for instance, the Moscow Trials which created a wall of prejudices insulating the CP rank and file from our influence.

Titoism causes a breach in the front of monolithism so long preserved by the Kremlin. It brings into question the omniscience of Stalin. For this it is not at all necessary that the Tito regime be different from Stalin’s. Even if the two are basically the same, and at the same time in bitter conflict, it exposes Stalinism very clearly.

What impresses anyone who reads what the Titoists say about their regime is the similarity with what the other “People’s Democracies” and Russia say about theirs. When a rank-and-file member of the CP compares the Yugoslav Fortnightly with Moscow News, Free Bulgaria, Polish Facts and Figures, Rumanian News, etc., he finds out that in all of them there is news of tremendous material and cultural archievements, a great rise in the standard of living of the people (expressed in the nebulous form of percentages), in all of them everybody is happy – there are pictures of smiling men, women and children – in all of them complete democracy prevails, etc. etc. The similarity readily leads to a disbelief in all of them, a disbelief in the omniscience of absolute authority.

The fact that two “infallible” Popes now preach the same thing, brings into doubt the authority of the Popes as such. An historical precedent reveals this. The appearance side by side between 1378 and 1417 of a number of Catholic Popes, each attached to a national monarchy, did great damage to Catholicism as such. When Henry VIII quarrelled with Rome and decided to cut the connection between the Church in England and the Pope without greatly modifying the religious rites and dogmas, he opened the door to nonconformism: if each secular imposes his truth as the absolute and only one, conformity as such is exposed.

With the deep contradictions in Stalinist reality, and the contradictions between the theory and practice of Stalinism, only iron totalitarian discipline can keep the system together. Titoism breaks this discipline, and at the same time exposes in practice the false basic psychological assumption of the whole edifice – that there is a choice only between Moscow and Washington, that there is no place for small independent nations which think and decide for themselves, that in every nation there is no place for more than one party, faction and opinion. However unpalatable those conclusions are, not only for Stalin, but also for Tito, they are inevitable as long as Yugoslavia does not revert to the private ownership of industry, come into the United States orbit or become a dependency of Russia. When Henry VIII burnt heretics in Smithfield, many of them Catholics, he did not put an end to heresy, but prepared the ground for the abolition of the national “Inquisition” headed by an English king, and the international Inquisition headed by the Pope of Rome. The persecution of Cominform “dissenters” by Tito, and the persecution of Titoist “dissenters” by Stalin, will prepare the ground for the really consistent dissenters, the revolutionary Marxists.

Titoism can help to expose the rapacious, exploitative, aggressive character of Russian imperialism. When explaining the motives of capitalist Britain in the conquest of India, let us say, the Marxists showed that it was because the British ruling class found cheap sources of raw materials there, good markets for British products, and a good field for exploitation by establishing British-owned enterprises. The Titoists prove, by a wealth of facts, that Russia capitalistically exploits the “People’s Democracies”, first of all, by buying their products very cheaply.

To give two examples. The Russo-Polish agreement dated 16 August 1945 stipulated that from 1946 onwards, Poland was to deliver to Russia at a special price (said to be two dollars per ton) the following quantities of coal: 1946, 8 million tons; from 1947-50, 13 million tons each year; and subsequently 12 million tons annually as long as the occupation of Germany goes on. This coal is not to be paid for by Russian products, but by reparations taken from Germany by Russia. As far as is known, Poland did not get anything on this account. Anyhow, 12-13 million tons of coal at two dollars a ton, when the price of coal in the world market is 12-16 dollars a ton, gives a net profit to Russia of 10-14 dollars a ton, or altogether 120-180 million dollars a year (a sum comparable with the maximum annual profits of British capitalists from their investments in India).

Borba of 31 March 1949 writes that a ton of molybdenum, an essential ingredient of steel, that cost Yugoslavia 500,000 dinars to produce, was sold to the USSR for 45,000 dinars. Examples of cases in which the “People’s Democracies” are capitalistically exploited by Russia as the seller are also cited in plenty. Thus, for instance, in 1948 when, because of the drought, Czechoslovakia had to buy 600,000 tons of grain from Russia, she paid more than £1 a bushel, when the world market price was only 12s 6d. As regards the ownership of enterprises and the capitalist exploitation of the workers in them, we have already given some facts about the SAGs and the Mixed Companies; the Titoists again supply an abundance of information on this.

The gist of all the Titoist explanations of the conflict with Russia is that they did not want Yugoslavia to be an exploited colony. To gloss over this basic aspect of the conflict between Tito and Stalin, and to speak in general terms like “a struggle for national independence”, etc., without showing the material content of the national struggle, does not befit Marxists. To show the economic drive behind the Tito-Stalin conflict, to expose the capitalist-imperialist exploitation of the “People’s Democracies” by the Russian bureaucracy, is to expose its aggressive aims, to show up its “peace campaign”, just as its “democracy” or “socialism”, for the fraud it is. The Titoists claim that Russia wanted to establish many Mixed Companies in Yugoslavia which would have served to exploit the Yugoslav toilers by Russia, and they, the Yugoslav rulers, refused. Now Russia directly owns a third of all German industry in her zone, controls more than half Rumanian industry, an important part of Hungarian industry, etc. What is more natural than that the Stalinist bureaucracy would strive to conquer new territories, new fields for state-exploitation? This is the real motive behind what Tito calls “Russian expansionism and aggression”, “Russian war-mongering”. When laying bare the motives of Russian expansions, the Titoists cannot but speak of Russia as a power endangering world peace by her exploitive, aggressive actions and designs. This is an excellent weapon to explain Stalinist Power politics in the last decade or so, and an indispensable weapon in exposing Stalinism as a reactionary force. [2]

In fighting Moscow, Tito will probably try to build Titoist parties outside Yugoslavia. He would try in this way to strengthen his political influence over the people of Yugoslavia, pointing out to them that he is not isolated, and counteracting the Moscqw accusation that his only allies are the us and British imperialists. That is why such prominence is given to visits of Rogge, vice-President of the American Progressive Party (Wallace) and Zilliacus to Belgrade. A Titoist party outside Yugoslavia will definitely have to deny the liberatory role of the Russian Army and to emphasise that “the working class of every country can liberate itself”, that small countries can think and act for themselves. This in addition to the internal logic of fighting against the existing high-handed CP bureaucracy will give “a momentum of its own” to the rank and file of the Titoist party against any bureaucratism. On the other hand the dependence of the Titoist party on a ruling bureaucracy will condemn it to the twists and turns of foreign policy, the inculcation of half-truths, etc, of which the experience of the Comintern headed by the CPSU is a grim warning. The necessary double character of a Titoist party outside Yugoslavia will give the Trotskyists the possibility of using it as a step forward in the building up of the revolutionary party. For this the Trotskyists must, while being tactically flexible (under certain conditions not excluding entry into a Titoist party as a faction), stick firmly to their principles: against “Socialism in one country” as a counter-revolutionary conception, for Soviet democracy, etc. etc.




1. To quote one example: In May 1950 Comrade Pablo tried to prove the existence of real plebeian democratic committees in Yugoslavia by quoting Article 6 of the Constitution: “The people exercise their authority through the medium of the freely elected representative bodies of the state power, etc.” He forgets to mention that this article is copied almost word for word from Stalin’s Constitution of 1936 and is to be found in all the Constitutions of the “People’s Democracies”. Furthermore, Article 6, adopted on 31 January 1946, did not prevent Comrade Pablo from voting for the Resolution of the Second World Congress of the FI (April 1948) which states that Yugoslavia was “an extreme form of Bonapartism”.

Each of the Constitutions proclaims the freedom of press, association, the duty of every official elected to report back to his electors and the right of the electors to recall him. The Russian press, as well as that of the “People’s Democracies”, is full of proclamations against bureaucratism, for popular initiative, for criticism and self-criticism, etc. It is full of criticism of local officials, factory managers, etc. But in no case is any leader criticised, or the Party as such, or the Party line; the “criticism” of the lower officials makes them scapegoats and creates a target for mass dissatisfaction. All this propaganda waits for a Pablo to “prove” from it that democracy exists in the “People’s Democracies” or in Russia.

The practice, now becoming a habit in the FI press, of whitewashing Tito’s regime by quoting his attacks on Stalin’s regime, is no better. It is not more legitimate than to draw the conclusion that there is no exploitation and oppression in Russia from Stalin’s attacks on the exploitation and oppression prevailing in the USA.

2. The supporters of the conception that Russia is a degenerated workers’ state of course gloss over all the Titoist information regarding the capitalist exploitation of the “People’s Democracies”, regarding the fight for Yugoslavia against this exploitation as the basic cause for the Tito-Stalin rift. They also fail to quote Yugoslavia’s accusation that Russia is actively pushing towards imperialist expansion and war. If not for this oversight, these members would have to state their policy of defence of Russia thus: in case of war, it is the duty of every worker to help Russia to achieve military victory over the USA (with Yugoslavia as the USA’s ally?), so that the SAGs will exist not only in Eastern Germany, but also in Western Germany and other Western countries. And the justification for this policy, as Comrade Grant will have to say, is that Russia will “develop the productive forces” in the West – a justification coming fifty years after Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky have taught us that the productive forces in Western Europe are sufficiently mature for building socialism!


Last updated on 18.10.2002