Hal Draper

Tito’s “Left Wing”

The Fossil-Trotskyists Whitewash Tito Regime

(10 October 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 41, 10 October 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

A new document has recently been issued by the official-Trotskyist movement (so-called Fourth International – Cannon’s Socialist Workers Party in this country) which may be of interest to a few of our readers as the latest manifesto of muddleheadedness by some of the most expert practitioners in this field to be found on two planets.

As we have pointed out before, in Labor Action and The New International, in this group we see one of the most eye-popping oddities in the radical movement. They mix the following three propositions with that sure mastery and confidence which comes only from long practice in making water flow Uphill: (1) Stalinist Russia is a workers’ state, albeit degenerated. (2) Stalinist Yugoslavia, like Russia’s Eastern European satellites, is contrariwise a bureaucratic state capitalism, totalitarian to boot like Russia itself and therefore – in common parlance – fascist. (3) But (or maybe therefore – who knows?) they defend Tito’s “fascist state” against Stalin’s “degenerated workers’ state.”

The fact is that these sad people are being tormented by two opposed pulls. On the one hand, they must hang on to Trotsky’s view that Russia is a workers’ state, because Trotsky is no longer here to change their minds for them; and they currently have difficulty pinning the workers’ state label on anything in East Europe for the simple reason that this would mean that a social revolution must have taken place there recently without their noticing the event. On the other hand, they are quite determined to support Tito. How reconcile the pulls?

Our subjects are pulled apart. They have taken two donkeys facing in opposite directions; they have yelled Giddap at both in the firm, confident voice so becoming to generals of the revolution; and now they are doing their damnedest to hang on to both saddles by fingernails, eyebrows – and ears. As the ears get pulled out longer and longer under the consequent strain, they become all the more firmly convinced of their fundamental kinship with the two other characters in the experiment.

The new document makes a new discovery in kinship. The Cannonites and their favorite International now proclaim that Tito – the Stalinist branch dictator who broke with the central office and set up in business for himself – is returning to the principles of Leninism. He isn’t there yet, you understand. He has taken only the “first step” on the road “toward a return to the principles of Leninism.” In fact, they are careful to deny that he is a Trotskyist (yet). In this they cautiously distinguish themselves from such as the British Trotskyist who recently argued in print that Tito is an “unconscious Trotskyist.”

Gingerly Defend Tito Police Regime

The document is an open letter To the Members of the Communist Parties, to All Communist Workers in defense of Tito, signed by the International Secretariat of the Fourth International, published in La Vérité (organ of the French Trotskyists). An English translation (with differences to be mentioned) has been mimeographed by the SWP here for distribution to Stalinists.

Much of this open letter is taken up with refutations of Cominform slanders against the Titoists – the Belgrade Borba does it better – and other pearls have been assayed by us before, but one passage in particular deserves notice. The Fourth International, says the letter, defends Tito’s Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav Communist Party against the Russian bureaucracy “without reservations.” (What “reservations” are thus being abandoned is not said.) But “On the economic and social plane, we have numerous criticisms to make of Tito’s policy in Yugoslavia.”

For people who have proclaimed in outsize resolutions that Yugoslavia is a bureaucratic Bonapartist state capitalism (fascism), this sentence gleams like a polished gem in the annals of understatement. The particular “economic, and social” criticisms are not mentioned by another word – the regime may be fascist indeed, but why should one drag such things in by the hair when the important thing is to defend Tito against the Cominform charge that Yugoslavia is ... a police dictatorship?

Ill the most delicate tones the open letter candidly admits that “It is true that many Cominform supporters have been jailed by the Yugoslav secret police. It is also true that an implacable repression exists in Yugoslavia against the enemies of the present regime” – from which it could scarcely be gathered that in point of fact a dictatorship of typically Stalinist police terror exists under Tito – but after these two tongue-clucking reservations, the open letter launches into a long “You’re another” denunciation of the the accusers in defense of Tito’s internal regime.

In the course of this defense, the fact that Tito published the Cominform attack upon him is held up as a shining example of “objective reporting” in the Yugoslav press, as contrasted with the bad ways of the Cominform powers. One might conclude that freedom of the press almost exists in Titoland – but naturally, everyone knows the Cannonites make no such claim – they have merely (shall we say) neglected to mention the seamy side of things side by side with their impassioned defense of Tito ...

F.I. Proclaims Itself “Left Wing” of Tito-Stalinism

The section that follows this is a brighter jewel of the same cut. For reasons we would not dare to guess at, the SWP’s English translation omits precisely this whole passage. We reproduce it, therefore, not only for the cheated customers, but also as a startlingly new kind of proof that Yugoslavia is not a police dictatorship:

“In such a heap of slanders and lies, there is always one which sharply lights up the character of the whole system and reveals its absurdity in a single flash. The anti-Titoist slanderers have recently been caught red-handed. On Thursday, September 8, the French CP’s paper L’Humanité published on its first page a news item concerning the ‘fascist’ anti-Communist repression in Yugoslavia. It was about the seizure, in the Belgrade kiosks, of the organ of the Union of Yugoslav Writers, Knjizevne Novine, on the evening of September 7. The official version given out by the Yugoslav government was that one of the articles ‘misinterpreted the foreign policy of Yugoslavia.’ L’Humanité concluded that the journal had been suppressed because it ‘did not sufficiently glorify the anti-Russian policy’, of Tito. It was ‘definitive’ proof of the police and anti-Soviet character of the Titoist regime.

“Now it turns out, this journal was suppressed because it published an article ‘with an inconsistent and seditious tone with regard to the USSR,’ says the official Yugoslav communiqué of September 9 condemning the article.

“But L’Humanité was forced to lie to the Communist workers, for it could not have ‘proved’ the ‘definitive passage of the fascist Tito over to the imperialist camp’ by – the suppression of an article harmful to the prestige of the USSR.”

What a triumphant demonstration! And what does it demonstrate? It demonstrates that L’Humanité is a base slanderer when it speaks of a “police regime” in Yugoslavia! The article that was suppressed by Tito’s GPU was too critical of Russia – that’s why it was suppressed ...

And it seems to escape completely from the notice of the authors of the open letter that they are really citing as gross an instance of police suppression of expression as could be found anywhere under Stalin! It escapes their notice – just as it escapes the notice of many varieties of Stalinoids and crypto-Stalinists!

We have said before that these fossil-Trotskyists were fast becoming the “left-wing” of Stalinism, In the most conscious, deliberate and even aggressive fashion, they are already proclaiming themselves the “left wing” of the Titoist variety of Stalinism.

Last updated on 28 August 2021