Hal Draper

Three Lines on Tito: Footnotes on Politics

(12 September 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 37, 12 September 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

With no new developments of importance in the Yugoslav-Russian tug of war this week, we take time out to observe some fringe effects of the Tito-Stalin struggle as reflected in radical politics in this country. Served up for observation will be one Stalinist, one Social Democrat and a couple of Martians.

Among the three we will see three lines – or rather, two lines and a corkscrew. In the Stalinist line we will observe a slight wiggle; in the Social-Democratic line, we will note a U-turn that would be illegal in almost any heavy traffic zone; and as for the Martian corkscrew – only a hopped-up hyperatomic encephalograph could follow its convolutions adequately.

The general Stalinist line on Tito and Titoism requires no exposition at this late date, not at least by us. What is news of a sort is that we are in a position to put the finger on an American deviationist in the highest circles of the Daily Worker – its foreign editor, no less.

Starobin Slips a Cog

On September 2, the N.Y. Daily Compass carried a debate on Tito vs. Stalin between Joseph Starobin, the aforesaid foreign editor, and the Yugoslav minister of information, each contributing an article for his side. Starobin’s apologia does not add any more light on the subject than he is paid to do, but it contains an interesting Freudian slip straight out of the clinic. He begins his article by saying that the Tito-Stalin fight “is ceasing to be a family affair.”

This may not strike the casual reader as an offense against the Workers’ Fatherland, but it happens to be both a deviation from the Cominform line and an interesting revelation of the state of mind within the Stalinist movement on Tito. As far as the Cominform is concerned, Titoism ceased to be a “family affair” over a year ago.

That term “family affair” has been widely used to refer to the struggle, but not by the Stalinists. For what it meant was that Tito vs. Stalin was a struggle within the Stalinist family – that is, a struggle between Stalinists, a struggle within the world of the “popular democracies.” But almost from the start of the break, the fulminations from the Cominform press and radio in the East Europe satellites read Tito out of the family, expelled him from their “socialist world,” called him a “Trotskyite” and – soon after – an agent of imperialism,

All the imprecations of their controlled papers and airwaves, however, could not eradicate the underlying sympathy for Tito held among even bureaucratic circles in the other satellites – who only wish that they were in a position to follow his example. In spite of all, in spite of the Cominform’s excommunication with bell, book and candle, Tito has been regarded even behind the Iron Curtain precisely as a member of the family who has strayed or gone too far, but they have not believed the charge that he has gone over to Western imperialism.

That charge has been dinned by the Cominformers for over a year, but Starobin, foreign editor of the Daily Worker, writes: “ceasing to be a family affair” only now.

Yugoslavs Rejoin “Civilization”

Our Social Democratic subject is William E. Bohn, editor of the New Leader, whose column of September 3 in that organ of social-octogenerianism marks a turn that was as inevitable as anything is in this world of uncertainty. Yesterday Tito was a totalitarian dictator who obeyed Stalin’s orders. Today Tito is a totalitarian dictator who does not obey Stalin’s orders. The Social Democrat hauls out his bucket of gilt paint and sets to work.

To support Tito as against Moscow’s drive to crush Yugoslav national independence is one thing. To whitewash him is another. Independent Socialists were quite willing to give military support even to a hangman like Chiang Kai-shek as against Japan’s pre-World-War-II assault on China’s national independence. But we are not prepared to gild totalitarian dictators merely because of a new lineup in the imperialist world’s cold war.

Bohn has just discovered that the Yugoslavs are a “civilized people.” He found it out listening to a Yugoslav delegate at a UN talkfest on conservation of resources. The state of Yugoslav civilization was demonstrated to him by two facts: (1) “I have often heard Yugoslav delegates make their speeches. Heretofore they have always followed the Russian lead.” Now, you see, they don’t. (2) The Russians boycotted this particular UN group. The Yugoslavs didn’t. They sent a delegate who, Bohn admiringly points out, was handsome and spoke excellent French. “And, after all, he was there. He was saying to the Western world – and incidentally, to the Russian: We Yugoslavs are civilized people and we belong here with the civilized men of the West.”

Polish, Czech, Rumanian and Bulgarian delegates, presumably, can be neither handsome, polylingual nor civilized, or if they are, it certainly is not worth mentioning. It takes a break with Stalin to bring out the gilt objectives.

We expect to see Tito described as the George Washington of Yugoslavia in any number of publications from the New Leader to the Saturday Evening Post.

Amazing Story

Anyone not aware that the Martians are organized in the United States has been understandably neglectful of a weekly called The Militant, which speaks for the Socialist Workers Party, a front organization for the Martian underground. Any oversophisticated reader who tends to be skeptical about interplanetary connections is simply ignorant of this group’s “line” (excuse the expression) on the Tito question. There is no doubt at all that it is out of this world.

The savants of this tribe, viewing the Tito-Stalin fight from their own canals, have issued accounts which we here transliterate as closely as our knowledge of their language permits.

It must first be firmly fixed in mind that in their view Russia is a workers’ state – degenerated, to be sure, under Stalin’s counter-revolutionary rule, but still a workers’ state in essence because it is still based on nationalized economy. In this workers’ state, the workers themselves are in chains and have no rights – it is, in fact, a prison for the working class – but in spite of all, this enslaved working class is the ruling class of the prison state, ruling over their wardens because the cell blocks are collective property.

Yugoslavia, on the other hand, they have conclusively proved from telescopic photographs to be a capitalist state. Not an old-fashioned kind of capitalist state, naturally! Yugoslavia is a capitalist state In which the overwhelming percentage of industry is nationalized. Doesn’t this make it a workers’ state like Russia? No, because there are two slivovich-bottling plants in Belgrade which are still not nationalized; so all we can say is that It is an excellent example of bureaucratic state capitalism, by no means to be confused with the genuine degenerated article.

All this is clear enough to anyone heavily influenced by the above-mentioned slivovich. Russia, as a workers’ state, is to be defended in war. Our Martians in 1939 were for her defense against Finland and also for her defense against the rapacious assault launched against her by Poland as a result of the Stalin-Hitler pact. It was a matter of defending a workers’ state against a capitalist state, and who could boggle, let alone palter?

Now this workers’ state is in a tug-of-war with Tito’s undegenerated capitalist state, and Martian ahkoon M. Bartell (according to The Militant for September 5) declares that “we are not neutral in this fight.” Naturally. They support ... Tito.

They support Tito, totalitarian head of the bureaucratic capitalist state, against the country where the working class is still the ruling class “at bottom.” Reason? George Clarke in the same issue explains Moscow is seeking “the subjection and plundering of small nations.” Russia is a BIG workers’ state; Yugoslavia is a SMALL capitalist state (obviously much smaller than Finland); anyone can see the necessary conclusion.

The same Clarke says that the Yugoslav crisis reveals Stalin’s “terror, purges and mass murder against its opponents on the left, against opposition in the workers’ movement ...” (Our emphasis) The Yugoslav-“capitalist” leaders are to the left of the Russian workers’ state ... Tito is a Stalinist too, and Clarke is for the defense of Russia, but not for the defense of Russia against capitalist states led by Stalinists ... Clarke’s tribe has called for unity between the Fourth International and Tito’s CP, but is against unity with Stalin’s CP, even though Tito’s CP has not yet nationalized those slivovich plants ... Tito is addressed as “comrade” while Stalin is a “butcher” ...

Ho, my space ship! Blast off, Buck!

Last updated on 28 August 2021