Hal Draper


Class Forces Behind Tito

Conclusion of a Study on the Contradictions
of the Stalinist Empire

(November 1948)

From The New International, Vol. XIV No. 9, November 1948, pp. 271–277.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

In the first part of this study (The Economic Drive Behind Tito, last month) we investigated the economic root of the dispute between Tito and Moscow and found this in the conflict over the industrialization of Yugoslav economy. We sought to show that this was not merely a difference of opinion or conjunctural desire but was founded on the conflict of interest between an imperialist bureaucratic-collectivist class (Russia) and a native bureaucratic-collectivist class-in-formation (Yugoslavia).

It is our purpose now to trace, in the Tito-Cominform clash, some consequences and manifestations of this phenomenon, with the aim of exploring the nature of Stalinism and of Stalinist imperialism.


It is this conflict over industrialization which gives meaning to an otherwise most peculiar controversy which raged through the polemics between the Yugoslavs and their Cominform critics. It will be necessary to start with some representative quotations since this element in the dispute did not at all penetrate into the American press reports – the correspondents, no doubt, deeming it meaningless “Marxist” hair-splitting.

The subject of this controversy was: the possibility of building socialism in one country!

First, some samples from the Cominform mouthpieces:

... the leaders of Yugoslavia are distorting the Marxist- Leninist doctrine on the possibility of building socialism in one country alone. Socialism cannot be built in one or several countries without the aid of the USSR or against it, without the aid of the popular democracies or against them ... [Georghiu Dej, general secretary of the Rumanian Stalinist party]

The draft program [of the CPY] ... follows the un-Marxist un-Leninist nationalist idea that Yugoslavia can supposedly build socialism by herself, and the question of aid from the other Communist Parties and the Soviet Union and from the popular democracies in building socialism in Yugoslavia is to all intents and purposes ignored. [Yudin, Russian representative in the Cominform.]

Yugoslavia thinks that she is able to build socialism herself ... the Soviet Union built socialism alone in isolation, for she was surrounded by capitalist countries. Today, however, the countries of popular democracy which are building socialism are not isolated any longer. The cooperation with the Soviet Union ... constitutes one of the mainstays of the planned economy, and the aid from the Soviet Union does not contain any political clauses. [Polish radio summary of article in Glos Ludu, Polish Stalinist organ]

The main rejoinder for the Yugoslavs was made by Milovan Djilas, No. 4 man in the Tito hierarchy:

The question of the possibility of building socialism in one country surrounded by capitalism has already been worked out by Comrade Stalin. Comrade Stalin’s teachings show that it is possible in one country but not in all countries. Such a country was the USSR. However, Comrade Stalin does not say that the USSR is the only such country.

But to pose the possibility of building socialism in a country without the cooperation of the USSR and the other democratic countries is just as absurd as to say that other socialist countries can leave a socialist state isolated in the face of imperialism. This is absurd because Lenin’s law is correct that the socialist economies of different countries must draw close to one another, must link up and not be separated. This rapprochement can take place solely on the basis of mutual cooperation, by taking into account historical peculiarities and stages of development, on the basis of voluntary agreement and mutual confidence ...

However, the question is raised whether Yugoslavia is a country which can build socialism with its own forces, even without the aid of other countries. We leave this question unanswered, because cooperation with other countries already exists. It would be monstrous if Yugoslavia were to be forced by other countries with socialist economies to prove whether she could not build socialism alone.

If anyone had said that the Yugoslavs’ tempo of socialist construction is too fast or that the Yugoslavs should have renounced one thing or another for the sake of the realization of the common socialist aim – if that had been said, it could have been discussed. But this is not what has been done. Instead, something which is obviously against the principles of Leninism is thought up, is then attributed to the Yugoslavs as their concept, and then our critics inveigh against it. [Borba, July 5]

Djilas (we see in the lines I have italicized) delicately complains about the fact that the Cominform has hypocritically pitched the question on the “lofty” level of the theory of socialism-in-one-country when what is really at stake is a couple of other things: the Yugoslavs’ tempo of industrialization, and whether they “should have renounced one thing or another for the sake of the realization of the common socialist [read: Russian] aim.” This last circumlocution means exactly the same thing as the policy ascribed to Zujovic: slowing or renouncing industrialization in the “higher interest of Soviet policy.”

Aid on a Silver Platter

The defensive protestation quoted from Glos Ludu should also be noted: “the aid from the Soviet Union does not contain any political clauses,” it assures us. This merely reveals that the Yugoslavs are aware that it does, and don’t like it.

It is in fact this question of “aid from the Soviet Union” which is the meaningful heart of the controversy, and not the question of socialism-in-one-country – which is only the theoretical mask conferred by the Cominformers.

One needs only a slight acquaintance with Russian economic policy vis-à-vis its satellites [1] to know what the Russians mean when they insist that the latter must “build socialism” only “with the aid of the Soviet Union.”

To put it bluntly (as the Titoists energetically avoid doing in their public articles and speeches – while talking about the “degeneration of the Soviet Union” in private bull sessions) it means: reconstructing the native economy in dependence on the Soviet Union, adjusting the native economy to Russia’s needs and its “higher interests.”

This is also the content of the “political clauses” which the Yugoslavs fear. The relationship and reaction is, mutatis mutandis, analogous to that of the Western nations to the Marshall Plan. Tito’s reaction to Ella Winter’s question about the Marshall Plan was not a vagary.

We have questioned the meaning of the phrase “aid from the Soviet Union,” which is used in practically all the Cominform fulminations on this subject, and have interpreted it. It is interesting to find that Kidric raises the same suspicion about the cliché.

Those comrades who accuse us of posing the building of socialism without the aid of and even against the socialist camp have nowhere defined what they actually mean by the term “aid.” Let us therefore be permitted to define the question of aid ourselves ...

Economic aid can be understood in various ways. One may understand aid to mean a gift without any counter-services – so to speak, aid on a silver platter. On the other hand, aid can be understood as increasingly closer mutual economic cooperation and mutual facilitation of economic development

By the second, Kidric makes clear in his report, he means the mutual aid which is the outcome of normal foreign-trade and exchange relations between friendly but sovereign states. What he rejects is – getting something for nothing! Surely a curious point to polemize about at some length, as Kidric does ... He continues:

As to the first kind of aid – aid on a silver platter – we can and must openly and clearly say that we never requested it either of the Soviet Union or of the popular democracies, not because we were hostilely inclined toward the Soviet Union but ... because the Soviet Union for us is a too precious fortress of international progress.

A touchingly generous reason, followed immediately by something less angelic:

What would such aid mean from the Soviet Union? It would mean, for example, to request – without any of our own efforts, without the development of the forces of production in our country by our working people, without economic counter-services – that the Soviet Union, at its own expense, with the efforts of the Soviet people themselves, create a heavy industry, etc., in our country. [My emphasis – H.D.]

With the usual Aesopian language (although we must admit that Kidric is the most outspoken because of the nature of his subject) he neglects to add (but clearly conveys) that in the contingency described –

  1. the industry so built by Russia “at its own expense” would naturally belong to Russia and not to Yugoslavia;
  2. it would be built and planned to conform to Russia’s needs and economic pattern for Eastern Europe, and not to Tito’s vision of an industrially self-sufficient Yugoslavia;
  3. it would be built at the tempo, and to the degree, and with the distribution of such categories as consumers’ goods and heavy industry, as were convenient to the Kremlin;

— that, in other words, it would mean the Russification of Yugoslav economy.

This is what “aid on a silver platter” means. The Russians offer a poisoned bonbon, and Tito politely demurs: “No, no, thank you, it would spoil my appetite, if you don’t mind.”


Just as the economic drive behind Tito explains the meaning of the controversy over “socialism in one country,” so also it must be taken into consideration in fitting another piece of the jigsaw puzzle into the picture. This is the demand raised by the Yugoslavs for a Balkan Federation.

To be sure, in this case the immediately visible motivations are sufficient to account for this demand without any deeper probing. Tito knows that there are two strikes against him if he tries to stand alone and isolated against powerful Russia; he knows too that the Stalinist bureaucracies of the other satellites are, like him, chafing at Russian domination, even if – unlike him – they dare do nothing about it. Nothing could be more natural, therefore, than that he should look to an alliance with his fellow sub- dictators for mutual defense of their national independence against Russification. In addition, in this split-up corner of Europe where the crisscrossing of national and ethnic lines is wellnigh unravelable, the idea of Balkan Federation has historically been a standard slogan of all socialists and Marxists and indeed of all enlightened elements.

The idea of Balkan Federation is, therefore, in any case an inevitable accompaniment of any movement for autonomy from Russia in this region. But in addition, given the specific economic drive behind Titoism, Balkan Federation also becomes an economic necessity and not merely a political weapon.

For the Cominform accusations of “adventurism” directed against Tito have more than a kernel of truth. The frenzied pace of industrialization and economic development which is set by the Yugoslav Five Year Plan has, as we have seen, the slim physical basis of a country which is quite small, is lacking in many critical raw materials (like oil), is short on capital and skilled labor, etc. The belief is widespread, even among foreign observers rooting for Tito’s anti-Cominform resistance, that the marshal is riding for a fall, that he will infallibly break his neck in this attempt to leap over his own head, now that the rest of the Russian empire is mobilized against him.

That the Five Year Plan is in dangerous straits is obvious, and – even before the break with Moscow and the subsequent partial economic blockade – speeches by Edvard Kardelj and authoritative articles made it clear that the plan was encountering hard sledding, lagging badly, and meeting heavy (if passive) resistance especially from the peasantry.

The Balkan Federation Slogan

Backward Yugoslavia alone is too slim a basis for such ambitions as Tito’s; his economic aspirations demand a wider economic area on which to rest. The traditional slogan of Balkan Federation therefore, takes on new meaning as an economic necessity in proportion as a counterweight is sought to the Russification of Balkan economy.

The slogan of Balkan Federation is in any form, inherently an anti-Russian slogan today, and it was by no mere whim of the Kremlin that Dimitrov of Bulgaria was slapped down when he breathed it in January. [2] For Russia has its own solution to the “Balkanization” of the Balkans: namely, the integration of these states into the Russian empire (whether this means formal absorption into the USSR is immaterial). Balkan Federation solves nothing that “Russian federation” does not also solve; it therefore has meaning today only as an alternative to domination by Russia.

As long as capitalism ruled in the Balkans, the Stalinists could be champions of Balkan Federation as a handy weapon which hit against each national group of rulers; now that Russian imperialism rules, it is equally true that the slogan hits objectively at the current rulers. Thus the slogan which, before the war, expressed the negation of national sovereignty and Balkan separation, today means – separatism from the Russian empire. The “traditional” slogan is only apparently traditional; its content is new.


To give a practical meaning to the adventurist program of hothouse industrialization and bureaucratization, Tito is, then, forced to look outside his own borders for a bigger and more viable ground of operations against the Russian overlordship. He cannot find this by submitting to the West because his own social basis (bureaucratic economy) is thereby jeopardized. He therefore looks to the section of Europe already under bureaucratic collectivism, he seeks an “Eastern Union” which will bear to the Russian giant a relationship similar to that sought by Churchill in Western Union vis-à-vis the American giant.

But nowadays there is no fine line between imperialist oppressor and imperialist subject. Just as, under the hierarchic structure of feudalism, a landholder was a lord over his vassals and at the same time often himself the vassal of a more powerful lord, so today: the overlordship of American imperialism presently threatens the national sovereignty of and evokes the spirit of national resistance in states which are themselves the actual or would-be imperialist oppressors of other nations. So also Yugoslavian bureaucratic-collectivism, in the very process of attempting to mobilize the other satellites against Russia in the name of national independence, at the same time tries to dominate them. Tito dreams not merely of autonomy from Russian rule but of himself becoming No. 1 in Eastern Europe.

Yugoslav Sub-Imperialism

Dreams? More than that. His mouthpieces constantly insist that Tito-Yugoslavia is No. 1 in the world of the “popular democracies.” This is truly remarkable in view of the fact that this claim recurs in the midst of appeals to these states to support Tito against the Cominform. It does not sound like a very diplomatic tack to take! The appeal is not: “Let us both assert our independence”; it is: “Support me, your leader.”

The superiority of Yugoslavia over the other satellites is rubbed home in a number of ways in the course of appeals for support to these same satellites:

Every other party, with the exception, of course, of the CPSU, would have collapsed in a struggle such as the one that has been imposed upon us. [Djilas, Borba, July 5]

No other Communist Party, except the All-Union [Russian] Communist Party could withstand such blows without falling to pieces like a house of cards. [Report of Tito to Fifth Congress; this sentence provoked “prolonged applause.”]

... our party succeeded in ... achieving in practice the greatest results after the All-Union Communist Party. [Ibid.]

[Our] Communist Party ... has made the greatest advance toward socialism, after the All-Union Party. [Moise Pjade, Borba, July 10.]

... certain heads of other parties who arrived in their free countries in planes with pipes in their mouths, and who for four years, four times daily, vainly called on the masses to struggle, via radio, while we won our freedom with arms in our hands. [Ibid.]

And so on. At the Fifth Congress, Kidric’s report dwelt for a whole passage on the “essential difference between us and the other popular democracies” with regard to the path and tempo of economic and social development since liberation, in a manner highly uncomplimentary to all the others.

This could be, of course, the “swell-headedness” of which the Cominform complained; and it cannot be denied that Tito and his entourage have grandiose plans for themselves. It is scarcely, however, a question of a personality trait. The Yugoslavs see a role opening before them.

The Case of Albania

The reaction of the other satellite dictators to Tito’s break was complicated by the existence of this tendency. On the one hand (as was explained in the greatest detail by Max Shachtman in the August NI) Dimitrov, Rakosi, Pauker, et al. have the same yearning for a free hand from Russian tutelage as Tito struck out for. On the other hand, however, Tito is a rival bidder for domination over them. [3]

The matter went furthest in the relations between Yugoslavia and Albania, because of Albania’s geographical position and size. It is well known that before the break Albania was practically a sub-satellite of Belgrade. Yet with the Cominform blast it was little Albania which went furthest in words and deeds in breaking off friendly relations. The day after the break, the Albanian CP statement flatly launched the accusation: “The leaders of the ... Yugoslav Communist Party tried to convert the country ... into a colony of their own. The Trotskyist leaders of the Yugoslav Communist Party have attempted ... to annihilate the independence of our country and of our party.”

On July 6 Borba, replying, unwittingly painted a detailed picture of a Yugoslavia engaged in as thorough a process of economic infiltration in Albania as characterizes Russian policy in, say, Rumania. Just as in the latter case the Russification of Rumanian economy has taken place largely through the formation of “mixed companies” in which Russian capital has the predominant control, so also were Yugoslav-Albanian mixed companies formed to develop the latter country. Borba itself underlines that this was done “on the model of Soviet mixed companies formed after the liberation of some popular democracies.” The article reveals that – at a time, when Yugoslavia itself is starving for machinery, technical equipment and personnel, and investment capital! – Tito poured quantities of these precious resources into Albania, just as if it were a province of his own. Thus were constructed or reconstructed Albania’s naphtha industry, mining industry, the Durres-Pecin railroad, the hydroelectric power station near Tirana, copper production, new chromium mines, and a long list of various kinds of factories.

Borba’s argument, of course, is that these sacrifices were made purely out of the generosity of the Yugoslav heart: “these facts ... serve to unmask the utter shamelessness of the lies about the mixed companies being a Yugoslav government instrument for the exploitation of Albania” – but the reader is reminded of Kidric’s strenuous objections to getting “something for nothing” in the case of his would-be benefactor Russia.

Borba further reveals: Under an agreement made in June 1947, Yugoslavia granted Hoxha’s satrapy a credit of two billion dinars. In the first half of 1947 goods valued at several hundred million dinars went there. This was followed by further deliveries amounting to 1,350 million dinars. In 1948 an additional credit of three billion dinars was approved, and by June 1948 Yugoslavia had sent in 675 million dinars worth of goods out of its own production.

One can see, concludes Tito’s organ, that there is no basis for “the wretched and insane clamoring about new Yugoslav imperialism, about the enslaving intentions which were allegedly to turn Albania into a colony.” But the parallel, between the Yugoslavs’ protestations to the Albanians and Russia’s to the Yugoslavs, is almost exact. And the Hoxha bureaucracy or its leading section obviously had the same thoughts about “aid on a silver platter.”

Naturally, Tito’s hopes of becoming the dominant power among the satellites was not based upon his claims to prowess during the “war of liberation.” Such an exalted position could be secured and maintained by Yugoslavia only on the basis of superior economic power. Hence the frantic drive to refit Yugoslavia’s economy for its sub-imperialist mission in Eastern Europe by outbuilding and outstripping all the other satellites in industrial construction. Tito is goaded to an adventuristic pace in the Five Year Plan not only by the desire for independence from Russian domination but also by the desire to substitute his own hegemony over the southeast portion of the bureaucratic-collectivist world.


From the plethora of copy poured out by commentators of all stripes, one would have gathered that the chief (if not the only) economic point of controversy involved in the break was over a question quite different from that of the industrialization of Yugoslavia: namely, the apparent dispute over the rate of collectivization of agriculture. There is, however, plenty of evidence that this cannot account for the break; on the contrary, the conflict, once it arose for other reasons, accounted for the pseudo-dispute over agrarian policy.

In the first place, for what it is worth, the Cominform resolution – even as an afterthought – did not criticize the Yugoslavs for lack of collectivization. The actual accusation in this section is something else: the CPY leaders

“deny that there is a growth of capitalist elements in their country and, consequently, a sharpening of the class struggle in the countryside ... The Yugoslav leaders are pursuing an incorrect policy in the countryside by ignoring the class differentiation in the countryside and by regarding the individual peasant as a single [i.e., undifferentiated] entity ...” [4]

In the omnibus reply to the Cominform made by the Yugoslav leaders on June 29 [5], they list ten Cominform charges, including some not even contained in the Cominform resolution. The question of the collectivization of agriculture figures nowhere among them.

Zujovic and Hebrang were, as we have discussed, the main mouthpieces of the Cominform in the Tito regime. All documents and the subsequent voluminous speeches and articles of charge and countercharge show that these two men did not as much as raise the question of speeding up the collectivization of agriculture. (The aforementioned rebuttal by the Yugoslavs refers to the pro-Cominform economic policy of this pair only in the following terms: “destructive sabotage of the tempo of the development and industrialization of Yugoslavia.”)

Collectivization Soft-Pedaled

The Titoists were able to show at their Fifth Congress that Yugoslavia is not behind the other satellites in the collectivization of agriculture. In fact, as a result of the stir created, Rakosi of Hungary had to make a speech on July 2 in which, after the usual attacks on Tito, he assured his own peasants that the anti-Tito turn did not mean collectivization in Hungary : “The Cominform resolution,” he said, “does not speak of collectivization, but emphasizes that it is not enough to build up socialism in the cities; socialism must also be built in the villages.” (Socialism in the villages without collectivization? This of course is simply doubletalk.) Kidric’s economic report at the CPY congress made a sharp point: “Some critics” attack us, he said, “because we have not carried out nationalization of the land,” and he added: “Incidentally, this crime is not attributed to us by the Communist Parties of the popular democracies but by the Communist Parties of France and Italy.”

Like the Western CPs, it is only the Western journalists who have brought up the question of collectivization as any important element in the dispute.

Let us therefore return to the charge which is made by the Cominform mouthpieces: that Tito refused to “sharpen the class struggle in the countryside” and struggle against the “kulaks.” Against this charge the Yugoslavs defended themselves vigorously at their congress, with serried ranks of statistics, citations of laws passed, measures taken, and the like. We should also recall (as was described in last month’s article) that the problem of the atomization of landholding is a hundred times more of an economic problem in Yugoslavia than any non-existent mass of “kulaks.” Nor did the spate of denunciations of Tito by the Stalinist hacks of the neighboring satellites ever add any evidence to the general charge of the Cominform.

In short, the Cominform accusation about failure to “sharpen the class struggle in the countryside” and “pro-kulak leanings” cannot be taken at face value. But this is not to say that there is any mystery about why the accusation is made. It is, however, not a question of a dispute over economic policy but of a struggle over the social basis of the Tito regime.

Totalitarianism Reproduces

We have pointed out that the Tito bureaucracy needs an industrialized economy if it is to become an indigenously-rooted Yugoslav ruling class and not merely a proconsular administration for Russian domination. Bureaucratic collectivism requires an industrial basis; an agrarian hinterland can be ruled by a foreign bureaucratic-collectivist exploiting class, but it cannot provide the socio-economic basis for a native bureaucratic-collectivist ruling class.

Russia, however, has no desire to see its provincial gauleiters sink independent roots which inevitably give them a certain amount of independence from Moscow. If the over-all plan, from the point of view of Moscow’s empire-wide integration of Eastern Europe in coordination with its own war economy, assigns to Yugoslavia the role of “an agrarian country [which] should deliver to industrially developed countries [Poland and Czechoslovakia] raw materials and food, and they to Yugoslavia finished industrial consumers goods” [6], then the drive toward industrialization which arises from Yugoslavia’s own needs raises all the questions of national sovereignty.

But the Tito regime seeks native social roots in Yugoslavia even before its industrialization has gotten far – in fact, in order to have a native base on which it can rest while asserting sufficient independence from Moscow to go ahead with its own plans. This base can only be among the peasantry, the Yugoslav proletariat being tiny. Tito can remain in power only by neutralizing (certainly, by not exacerbating) peasant resistance, which is a continual problem even at the best. If Tito cannot depend on peasant support (more to the point: peasant toleration or passive acceptance), then he can rule Yugoslavia only as a simple agent of the Kremlin.

Therefore, wherever the danger of an independent national orientation raises its head (and this is true actually or potentially in every satellite) it is in the interest of Russia to drive its local Stalinist agency into collision with the popular masses so that the CP will have to fall back on the Russian master as its sole support and the sole insurance of its rule.

Paradoxically, Russia cannot afford to permit its satellite Communist Parties and their leaders to be “popular” – i.e., to gain independent support among the masses. As agents of a terroristic dictatorship, they must rule by terror alone. Russian imperialism must reproduce its own totalitarian image in each of its vassals. (We are reminded of the not improbable theory that Kirov, the Leningrad boss who was supposed to have stood for a “soft” policy, was assassinated by the GPU precisely because his greater popularity with the masses tended to make him less dependent for his political existence on the all-powerful Vozhd.)

This is the meaning of the Cominform demand that Tito “sharpen the class struggle in the countryside.” It is not an economic directive – hence the lack of any specification – but a political injunction: break with your native mass support, rely only on the Kremlin!

It is curious to note how this was formulated into a specific charge in the case of Constantin Doncea, the Stalinist vice-mayor of Bucharest who was recently purged. An AP dispatch of August 25 listed the accusations against him, and on the list is literally the following: “trying to make himself popular!” This comes next in line after: “neglecting the party line, surrounding himself with bourgeois [i.e., non-Stalinist?] elements, acting independently and taking no party advice ...”

The case of Wladislaw Gomulka in Poland raises the same question. Whether he was or was not actually guilty of “Titoism” or any other heresy, the fact is that Gomulka was the only figure in the regime who enjoyed an independent popularity of his own. This is impermissible in itself.


This discussion also casts light upon another of the issues vaguely raised in the Cominform resolution which was tossed from pillar to post in the numerous exegeses on the subject. This was the accusation that the Yugoslav leaders “belittle the role of the Communist Party and actually dissolve the party in the non-party Popular Front ... it is only the Popular Front which figures in the political arena, while the party and its organizations do not appear before the people in their own name ...”

There is a great, deal of truth in this charge. Hal Lehrman wrote back in 1946:

While Grol’s opposition Democrats, who boycotted the elections and are now practically invisible, are a legally recognized party, Yugoslavia is the only country in Eastern Europe, or for all I know in the world, where the Communist Party is still illegal ... Yugoslav parties were required to file their by-laws with the minister of the interior. The Democrats complied, and the Communists refused. Indeed, the only public admission of the Communists’ existence is their official newspaper, Borba (Struggle), which confesses it in the masthead. Not even the number or identity of Communist deputies is formally known; they all registered themselves in the parliamentary lists after election as “People’s Front” or “Independent.” Notwithstanding this mummery, the Communists are in full control of the country, and other parties which once had meaning in the Front have become ciphers. [Nation, June 22, 1946]

Lehrman explains this mummery as due to “the renowned Communist weakness for secrecy,” and even appears to be content with the explanation. Aylmer Vallance, the Stalinist fellow traveler whom we have quoted before, notes another peculiar fact with a parenthetical raised eyebrow:

Today, though the pre-war law outlawing Communism has (oddly enough) never been repealed, the party is much more openly avowing its existence as the spearhead of social progress. [New Statesman and Nation, August 2, 1947]

CP and Popular Front

In spite of these odd facts, as both Lehrman and Vallance indicate, it is only the second part of the above quotation from the Cominform resolution which is true; it is not true that the CP was “dissolved in the non-party Popular Front.” Its relationship is a different one. The CP holds the only power as in any of the other satellites.

Thus in May 1946, speaking before his party convention while still a member of the government presidium, Dr. Dragoljub Jovanic (leader of the Serbian Peasant Party, and not related to two others of the same surname figuring in recent Yugoslav politics) said:

The CP has monopolized the National Front, the factories and public offices. In every ministry, in every public enterprise and institution, there is a confidential man from the CP who takes care of every individual, follows everything and decides his destiny. [7]

What was the actual relationship in Yugoslavia between the CP and the Popular (or National) Front? [8] In the first place, the Yugoslav Popular Front (at least by the time of the break) was not a coalition of political parties but was an integral organization. It was also the only public political organization presenting its face to the people. [9] The CP, as has been said, did not function publicly. Yet it existed – as the inner machine which ran the Popular Front.

The relationship can be better explained perhaps by a comparison. In his path to power in Russia, Stalin was faced with the existence of a mass party, the Bolsheviks. Within that party he built up his own bureaucratic machine, which was not the less well-knit, disciplined and powerful for the fact that it did not function openly. Only after some years of development did the Stalin machine and the party become coextensive.

In Yugoslavia before 1941 the CP was small. The mass movement that Tito built and led to power was the Partisans. Within the Partisans, the CP was the inner machine of control. With the “liberation,” the Partisans and the National Committee of Liberation gave way to the present Popular Front. The Stalin machine was to the Bolshevik Party what the Yugoslav CP is to the Popular Front.

The CP was not “illegal,” of course; the Stalinists simply refrained from bringing it to public attention even to the extent of going through the forms of setting it up in the light of day.

Kremlin’s Vanguard

This course was antipathetic to Moscow for the same reason we have sketched in the preceding section. For Russia, the CP was the natural channel through which the Cominform as an outside force could wield control of the country. In a Pickwickian sense, the Russians require a vanguard party in their satellites, not a popular mass party; they require a party of a selected minority which is the vanguard of Russian power in the land. Tito, as the only one of the Stalinist sub-fuehrers with native roots in a mass movement, did not need to rest on such a transmission belt for outside influence; he turned toward emphasis on the broader all-national apparatus, in which (most important!) the predominating peasantry could be most easily involved. The CP was turned into a conspiratorial apparatus within the Front; the less it showed its face, the better. This development was peculiar to Yugoslavia and was part and parcel of the process whereby the Tito bureaucracy sought to transform itself into a native bureaucratic-collectivist ruling class.

The Russians understood the meaning of this development, as they understood the threat implicit in a Doncea’s attempt to “make himself popular,” and reacted accordingly. Under pressure from the Cominform, as we have mentioned, the Yugoslav CP not only emerged into the open with all the fanfare of the Fifth Congress, but later even purged the cabinet of all non-CP elements. This may have been merely a concession to the Cominform, to permit the Titoists to argue that the CP does publicly play the leading role in the nation, contrary to the accusation; or it may reflect a narrowing of the base of the regime under Moscow’s blows; or both. On this, time will tell.


We began by inquiring into the specific national features of the Tito revolt, but have seen that these specific features account only for the fact that Yugoslavia led the way in the inherent tendency of the satellites to break away from Moscow’s complete domination. If in Yugoslavia the specific economic content of the dispute is over industrialization, this is only one form of the general question of the Russification of economy in Eastern Europe which applies with full force to all the other “popular democracies.”

Under Russian bureaucratic collectivism, where political terrorism and the economic forms of complete statification are fused into an integral set of productive relations, planning (including planning for war) can take place only from above down, and only through totalitarian mechanisms; and this applies to its empire as to its home territories.

Within Russia the inherent contradiction between planning and totalitarianism (so vividly described by Kravchenko) stands in the way of the development of the forces of production. In the empire, the extension of this social system stimulates the development of a native bureaucratic-collectivist class in the satellites and thus produces the disintegrative tendency directed at the totalitarian unity of the empire.

One is reminded of the way in which modern capitalist imperialism, driven by its internal needs to export capital, stimulates the development of a native capitalist class and a native proletariat – that is, a rival capitalism and a potential gravedigger of imperialism. The disease calls forth the antibodies.

Some wave-of-the-future theoreticians (like Burnham) have speculated about the possibility of a “softening of the dictatorship” of Stalinism as its power increases. This is one version of the familiar neo-Stalinist apologia for Russian terrorism: it is regrettable but temporary, and will disappear as the capitalist world ceases to be a threat to the dictator (Henry Wallace).

But events have shown that the terrorism of the Stalinist system is not a defense mechanism against capitalist encirclement but an inherent part of bureaucratic collectivism. Just as American capitalism shows its basically anti-democratic character more clearly in its imperialist ventures abroad than in its bailiwick at home, so the immanent driving forces of bureaucratic-collectivist totalitarianism show up more starkly in its empire than in Moscow or even Irkutsk.

The dictatorship of the bureaucracy will not “soften” with years; it can only grow brittle, before it is shattered by the irrepressible revolt of the people.

* * *


1. See Valentin Toma’s The Russification of Economy in Rumania in the August NI.

2. A week before the Yugoslav explosion, the Belgrade news agency Tanjug announced that, the Balkan Youth Council (a Balkan federation of the youth organizations) had been dissolved, after a meeting in which Guy de Boisson, chairman of the World Federation of Democratic Youth, laid down the line to representatives of the Yugoslav, Bulgarian, Greek and Triestine youth groups. Each national group would henceforth work under the direct control of De Boisson’s young Cominform.

3. “In Hungary, Rumania and Trieste there is panicky fear of Yugoslav ‘expansionism’,” reports the well-informed weekly East Europe, published in London by émigrés (July 22).

4. The resolution points out, following this charge, that there is no reason for “smugness and complacency” on the part of the Tito regime in view of the fact that the land is not nationalized, etc. This is the only reference to collectivization even in passing.

5. The complete text is available in English in a pamphlet published by the Tito government in Belgrade, distributed through the Yugoslav embassies.

6. See the quotation from Begovic at the end of last month’s article.

7. The speaker’s destiny was taken care of immediately after this speech: he was removed from his seat in parliament, lost his membership in the presidium and his professorship at the University of Belgrade.

8. With the outbreak of the fight with the Cominform, of course, the CP had to come out into the open, and staged its Fifth Congress. The opening words of Tito’s report there were: “Nearly twenty years have passed since the Fourth Congress of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. This is a unique example in the history of the working-class movement, but ...”

9. This was made clear as far back as 1945. We quote the same Zujovic who was later liquidated: “There is no one-party system, but it is quite clear that the National Liberation Front is the only political organization in our country.” (Quoted from his radio broadcast of March 1, 1945 by Constantin A. Fotic in The Political Situation in Yugoslavia Today, pub. April 1945)

Last updated on 19 October 2018