Hal Draper

Tito Reveals Basic Economic Cause
for Break with Russia, Cominform

(3 January 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 1, 3 January 1949, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Uncertainty about the “mystery” of the Tito-Stalin break was abruptly ended last Monday when Tito himself, in a speech to his parliament, opened up with the most important revelations made since last July, when the Fifth Congress of the Yugoslav Communist Party answered the Cominform blast against it.

Tito’s sensational disclosures made it clear that the “basic” cause for the split was the Yugoslavs’ economic drive toward industrialization and the Russians’ opposition thereto.

As the Times’ correspondent Handler summarized his speech: “... he made assertion that the fundamental issue at stake between the Yugoslav Communists and the Cominform was the desire of the Soviet bloc to place Yugoslavia in a position of economic servitude by reducing her to the status of a supplier of raw materials and prevent her industrialization.”

The most important passage in Tito’s speech underlines this point in his own words:

“It is easy to understand that the basic trouble is that we want to bring socialism and industrialize our country as rapidly as possible, and that we are not remaining a backward rural country which only sends out raw materials. Our country need not remain only as a source of raw materials for industrialized states and buy manufactured goods from them at high prices. That is the way it was in the past.

“At the beginning of the five-year plan there were statements from responsible people in the East [that is, Russia] to the effect that we were to remain only a supplier of raw materials. These Marxist wiseacres tried to enforce their distorted views with citations from Marx and Lenin.”

Thus a quietus is given to the various theories which have circulated for a half year as to the “real truth behind the break” – most of them revolving around such issues as the collectivization of agriculture, personal conflicts, desire for neutrality in war, etc., not to speak of the crop of crackpot hypotheses which sprang up everywhere. We can point out that the analysis of the conflict which was given in our own press has been confirmed to the hilt, both in general line and in some detail.

Russia Didn’t Deliver

Tito prefaced his remarks by indicating that up to now there have been reasons for giving no publicity to this “basic” cause of the split. “Things have come to such a pass today,” he said, “that I must say something about this, if not everything, and for understandable reasons.”

The “pass” to which things have come, he explains, stems from the refusal of Russia and the Russian satellites to carry out their economic agreements with Yugoslavia to deliver heavy capital equipment for the industrialization of the country; and the Cominform states’ economic blockade, which has now assumed a “hostile character.”

The fact is, however, that this is not the immediate reason for making the disclosures at this time. The economic difficulties of which Tito complains are neither new nor recent, having started soon after the break itself, when Rumania took the lead in withdrawing its oil from trade with Yugoslavia.

What has recently happened, on the other hand, is the fact that the Yugoslavs have succeeded in coming to an economic agreement with Britain, whereby they hope to make up for the lack of supplies from the East. The “understandable reasons” for their silence up to now has been the fact that, until they were sure of this alternative, they did not want to take the initiative in embittering relations further with their sister “popular democracies” in the hope that economic aid might be still forthcoming. With the British agreement in his pocket, Tito can now afford a cockier sort of pressure upon the Russian Empire’s economic arrangements.

It would be a mistake to conclude from this development that Tito is making or planning a turn to the West politically. While we have said before that even this eventuality is not an impossibility in the event that the Yugoslav dictatorship runs into catastrophic economic difficulties, this does not appear to be immediately in sight; and in any case such a solution of Yugoslav difficulties would mean an overturn in the whole regime and its bureaucracy, which is founded on a bureaucratic nationalization of the economy under the totalitarian state. Such a turn, which is still occasionally wistfully hoped for in the West, would therefore not in any case be a matter of deliberate policy but a course of desperation associated with breakdown.

The next move is up to the Cominform (i.e., Russian) leaders. Will it be in the direction of intensified hostility, or of overtures for compromise? Far from venturing a prediction on this question, we would rather emphasize that in our opinion the Russians themselves have still to decide this question for themselves. If – as has been so often the subject of speculation – there is a “hard” and a “soft” wing vying for influence in the Moscow hierarchy, it is at this point that the two lines will have to fight it out.

Last updated on 30 December 2018