E. Germain

First Balance Sheet of the Yugoslav Affair

June 28, 1948–June 28, 1951

(July 1951)

From Fourth International, Vol.12 No.4, July-August 1951, pp.107-109.
Translated from La Vèrité, 18 July 1951.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

From the beginning of the break of the Yugoslav Communist Party with the Kremlin, the Fourth International greeted the event as a turning point in the history of the working class movement. For the first time an entire Communist Party had wrested its independence from the Soviet bureaucracy. Since July 1948 we have said that for this reason the Yugoslav CP has ceased being a Stalinist party in the accepted meaning of the term and would inevitably enter a period of growing political differentiation.

Understanding, at first instinctively and then consciously, the deep-rooted causes for the unrestrained attack of the Soviet bureaucrats upon the Yugoslav revolution, the Yugoslav CP could grasp the significance of the bureaucratization of a proletarian revolution and begin to combat the manifestations of bureaucratism in its own country. It offered proof that the bureaucratic degeneration of the proletarian revolution, even in a small backward country, is not some inevitable phenomenon against which the revolutionary and proletarian vanguard could not possibly intervene. An attempt could be undertaken to combat the danger of bureaucratism consciously based upon an expansion of working class democracy. Thus the proletarian revolution would be raised to a higher level, just as the October Revolution of 1917 had marked a leap forward in relation to the Paris Commune of 1871.

Historical Potentialities

Such a possibility was of tremendous importance. Like every victorious proletarian revolution it would bring about an invaluable reinforcement of the international working class. But even beyond that, such an advance of the Yugoslav revolution and the Yugoslav CP could still more radically change the alignment of forces within the international labor movement. The crisis of Stalinism, which was kept under cover before the outbreak of the Yugoslav affair, could now appear in the full light of day. This experience could convince thousands of communists in all countries not only of the infamously slanderous nature of the Kremlin’s policy but also of the obvious falseness of the fundamental proposition on which the present power of Stalinism rests: “To break with Stalin means to pass into the camp of American imperialism.”

Here is a Communist Party which only yesterday was praised to the skies. Here is a proletarian country where the bourgeoisie has been thoroughly expropriated. And this country breaks with Stalin, maintains its proletarian character and remains more hostile than ever to capitalist politics and economy!

What a magnificent lesson that would have been for the communist workers of the entire world! Add to that the force of attraction that could have been exercised upon the workers and intellectuals of all countries by the concrete proof that there exists a different way to industrialize a workers’ state than that of bureaucratic oppression and a monstrous inequality of incomes – and you have the reason why the Fourth International enthusiastically rallied from the start to the aid of the Yugoslav CP and of Yugoslavia squeezed between the Stalinist blockade and imperialist blackmail.

Internally: Continued Progress

Today it is possible to draw up a first balance sheet of the Yugoslav affair. This balance sheet is not simple or of a single color. On the internal plane, the Yugoslav CP began by fulfilling in large measure the promises and hopes contained in its break with the Kremlin on June 25, 1948.

The law on the participation of workers councils in the administration of factories and branches of industry; the democratization of the peasant cooperatives; the introduction of the law and the practice of the recall of elected representatives; the increasingly active participation of councils of parents and students in the administration of education; the introduction of the most progressive legislation on social security; the legalization of abortion; the introduction of a beginning of free expression and creation for intellectual workers; and above all, the abolition of all bureaucratic privileges and the introduction of the communist principle: NO ONE SHALL HAVE MORE TO EAT THAN A WORKER ENGAGED IN A HARD JOB – all these comprise a series of steps along the road to proletarian democracy.

Even if the extent of these measures has been restricted by the absence of genuine democracy within the Yugoslav CP itself, expressed especially in the absence of the right to form temporary tendencies, they amply justify, not only the defense of Yugoslavia as a workers state confronting restorationist attempts by imperialism, but also the defense of this workers state which is incomparably less bureau-cratized and far more advanced toward proletarian democracy against the Kremlin’s efforts to reimpose its bureaucratic straitjacket as well as economic plunder and national oppression upon it.

Opportunist Foreign Policy

On the other hand, just as much as the balance sheet of internal development in Yugoslavia appears positive at first from the standpoint of the international labor movement, so the balance sheet of the international action of the Yugoslav CP has become increasingly negative with each passing day following the abrupt opportunist and rightward turn Yugoslav foreign policy has undergone since the summer of 1950.

Feeling menaced by the new international situation after the outbreak of the Korean war; having no confidence in the forces of the world proletariat and the colonial peoples to safeguard them against a Stalinist military assault; getting ready to appeal to the United Nations in case of attack and seized in addition with anguishing economic difficulties, especially by the threat of famine, the Yugoslav leaders bowed down before the imperialist pressure exerted upon them. In the United Nations they demanded the withdrawal of Chinese troops from Korea and spoke against the withdrawal of the American fleet from the waters around Formosa. In their press and their speeches they have echoed the American propaganda condemning the heroic North Korean army as the “aggressor.” They have sung the praises of the UN, this mechanism for rubber-stamping the decisions of the State Department. They have condemned the revolutionary policy of Peoples’ China as an “aggressive Great Power policy.” They have forsaken the cause of Ho Chi Minh and the resistance movement of the Vietnamese. They have gone so far as to hail the “strategic value of the opening of the Belgrade-Salonika railroad.” From all appearances, they have championed the positions of American imperialism on a growing number of questions.

“Theoretical” Justifications

This entire opportunist and rightward course, which has cut off the cause of the Yugoslav leaders from that of the colonial revolution and of the revolutionary working class movement of the West, has been clumsily justified after the fact by the elaboration of a scarcely novel political philosophy: the discovery of the “State Capitalist” nature of the USSR. They define Soviet foreign policy as characterized by the “old imperialist methods,” more aggressive and warlike than American imperialism which would be satisfied with a peaceful penetration of the world (see the articles by Djilas in Themes Contemporains) and discover that socialist forces are progressing throughout the world under new and non-revolutionary forms, and so forth. Is it surprising under such conditions that the Yugoslav CP has had to resort in its turn to the weapon of slander against the revolutionary criticism of the Fourth International by accusing the Trotskyists of being “wholly on Stalin’s side” in the domain of foreign policy (Tanjug Bulletin, January 12, 1951).

Last summer it could still be asked whether the opportunist declarations, speeches and writings of the Yugoslav leaders were not to be explained by the perilous situation and the famine in Yugoslavia and whether they might not have only a passing influence on the international working class movement. Could no more be involved than mere words, which few people after all take at their face value? That was an error which seriously underestimated the repercussions of the Yugoslav revolution upon tens of thousands of communists the world over.

The rightward turn of Yugoslav foreign policy, which inevitably looked like a real slap in the face to the Korean and Chinese masses struggling against their imperialist enemy, quickly discredited the Yugoslav cause in the eyes of hesitating communist militants, and tended to give a certain basis to the Stalinist slander that “Tito had passed into the imperialist camp.” The argument that this was needed for the delivery of wheat from America is not well founded. If Washington decided to deliver wheat to Yugoslavia, it is not because the opportunist speeches of Kardelj seduced the American bourgeosie, but because the Pentagon strategists consider it advantageous to tie down twenty Stalinist divisions in the Balkans, even if it is a workers state that has to keep them tied down.

However, since then, deeds have followed upon words. It is no longer simply the objective result of the rightist Yugoslav policy which delays and obstructs the regrouping of the revolutionary forces but the deliberate intervention of the Yugoslav CP and the political forces it inspires which have more and more become one of the main checks upon this regroupment. In the British Labor Party it is not the left wing but the reformist and pro-imperialist leadership that Djilas and Pijade are embracing, declaring that it represents the principal socialist force today and keeping silent over the fact that it maintains colonial exploitation over half of Africa. In the French and Italian labor movement it is no longer a communist le/t supported by Yugoslavia which condemns the Stalinists for having ruined the excellent chances for a revolutionary conquest of power in 1944-48 by their policy of class collaboration. It is on the contrary an opportunist and reformist right-wing that, with Yugoslav backing, calls upon the communist workers to defend their bourgeois fatherland against an eventual “Soviet aggression/’ as Cucchi and Magnani have done (Politica Nuova, February 24, 1951) as well as Michel-Morin (in the “Free Forum” of l’Unité, November 26, 1950 and January 9, 1951) and Darius Le Corre (La Paix du Monde, February 25, 1951.)

Obviously, on this basis, a veritable selection in reverse is taking place among the thousands of communists who had begun to be shaken in their Stalinist convictions by the Yugoslav affair. The most proletarian, the most revolutionary and the most communist elements in the deepest sense of the word have been thrown back into the arms of Stalinism and their hesitations and doubts have in a large measure been dissipated. At the same time the petty-bourgeois elements, or the reformist workers won over to the Communist parties during their “National Front” policy who have never overcome their yearning to return to this period, have been attracted toward these new formations and serve, not as a catalytic agent for a revolutionary regroupment, but as a mere bridge toward the decayed Social Democracy.

Why This Contradictory Development

How has this two-sided and contradictory development of the Yugoslav affair been possible? Left to the forces of its own small country alone, the Yugoslav revolution could not solve all its problems. But the era of such national isolations of the revolution has definitively gone by. Today the revolution rebounds from one year to another into new countries, into new continents. Victorious in China, it advances toward Korea, Indochina, Burma, Malaya and Indonesia. Lifting its head in Spain, it already casts its shadow upon France and Italy.

A genuine revolutionary party, after having conquered power even in a small country must depend on these forces to overcome the fundamental difficulties of its situation, meanwhile maneuvering in a principled manner. Along this road it may now and then be forced into compromises while talking in such terms as Lenin and Trotsky employed at Brest-Litovsk, when they were infinitely weaker and more isolated than the Federated Republic of Yugoslavia is today.

By abandoning, on the contrary, all efforts aimed at an international extension of the revolution; by basing themselves essentially on aid from imperialism to surmount their immediate difficulties, the Yugoslav CP leaders have actually left the flanks of the Yugoslav revolution wide open. A growing and formidable pressure from hostile class forces – world imperialism and the well-to-do peasantry within the country itself – is beginning to undermine the gains of this revolution. Planning is encountering ever greater obstacles. Prices have been virtually freed. The “unrestricted operation of economic laws” is being restored more and more. It matters little that all this is taking place under the cover of what is called a “withering away of the State in the economic sphere.”

What Is Really Happening?

In reality, the restoration of capitalism is becoming a real threat for the Federated Republics of Yugoslavia, as the rightward course of foreign policy is now beginning to be extended into domestic affairs. In this respect the decisive importance of the utmost clarity in program and firmness in revolutionary principle is again being confirmed. To be sure, in the last analysis, peculiar objective conditions explain the entire course of the Yugoslav revolution. But just as the Yugoslav CP leadership can rightly pride itself on its specific role in the organization of the revolutionary struggle of 1941-45 and in the struggle for proletarian democracy of 1949-1950, so the same heavy responsibility rests upon it now as its policy drags the Yugoslav revolution toward its downfall.

Defense and Criticism

The Fourth International does not subordinate the interests of the world revolution to any special cause. No more than they countenanced or accepted Stalinist justification for the political capitulations beginning with 1923 on the pretext of the tremendous burdens on the USSR, do the Trotskyists acknowledge that the dangers threatening Yugoslavia justify the abandonment of the cause of the colonial peoples and of the proletarian revolution in the West. That is why it is their duty to expose, with all the necessary political clarity and without the slightest compromise, the terrible political errors committed by the Yugoslav CP which are likewise blows delivered to the international revolutionary movement.

At the same time, the Fourth International regards the cause of the working class as indivisible in all countries. Whatever Tito does or Kardelj says, neither Stalin nor Truman should be permitted to profit thereby in order to eliminate the elements of proletarian democracy in Yugoslavia or to restore either national oppression or capitalist property there. That is why we will continue to defend Yugoslavia against all its enemies so long as it remains what it is today. Far from being in contradiction, the tasks of defending Yugoslavia and of criticizing the policy of the Yugoslav CP are complementary to each other. At bottom these are two aspects of a single policy which defends the common interests of the workers and every one of the struggles they are conducting for their freedom, whether in Yugoslavia or Korea, in Europe, Asia or America.


Last updated on 7.12.2005