Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Charles Elias

Tito: Fighter for National Independence

First Published: The Call, Vol. 9, No. 8, February 25, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The serious illness of Yugoslavia’s President Tito has aroused grave concern around the world. His impending death will mark the end of a generation of national leaders who directed the struggle against Hitler fascism during World War II. It could also represent a signal to today’s warmongers to launch a new offensive against this Balkan country whose independence Tito never compromised.

Josip Broz Tito, 87, has had a long bout with various health problems which led recently to the amputation of his leg and to heart and kidney complications. While his passing will cause great sorrow, it will not catch the people of Yugoslavia unprepared. Tito himself in 1974 promoted the country’s new constitution, which organized a nine-member presidium to collectivize leadership after his death. Yet, with outside interference by its Soviet neighbor a present reality, the danger of instability remains in this strategically important country of nearly 22 million.

Tito has long been a thorn in the side of the Soviet Union, particularly for his opposition to the Brezhnev Doctrine of “limited sovereignty” for the countries of Eastern Europe. A leader and outspoken defender of the nonaligned movement, Tito is held in high regard by the countries of the third world who are resisting the hegemony of the two superpowers. He has played an overwhelmingly positive role in defending, the national independence and national rights of all those countries who historically have been bullied and threatened by big-power politics.

Only a few leaders in history have had the kind of national following or been as personally associated with the history of their country.


Tito was the guiding force in building the communist party (League of Communists) and the father of the anti-fascist resistance following the German, Italian invasion of 1941. Where many other antifascist resistance movements failed, Tito succeeded in leading the Yugoslav people to seize power, establishing the Yugoslav Peoples Republic in 1945. Under the leadership of the Party, the people took up arms and waged an incredible partisan war against the invaders and the reactionary Chetniks, a Serbian separatist movement in the service of the fascists.

Throughout this struggle, Tito name became synonymous with resistance to aggression. The victories against the fascists caused Winston Churchill to ask: “Who is Tito? A woman? A man? Or simply a myth?” Throughout Europe, Tito had become legend.

After the victory, the Party under Tito’s leadership led the people in the collectivization of agriculture and the rebuilding of their war-torn country under the socialist system. Among its key tasks was the unification of that country’s various nationalities and religious groupings which included Croats, Serbs, Slovenes, Macedonians Montenegrins, and Moslems. A federative state was established with six republics and two autonomous regions.

Even before the war ended, Tito was already concerned over the future of his country’s independence. In a speech in 1944, he expressed the fear that Yugoslavia, which had sacrificed so much for its liberation, would not have the right to determine its own future.

“Even if we are a small country,” he said, “we have shown by our actions that we are a brave people. We will not accept to find ourselves in a position where our country is made some petty question, or where some others decide our future destiny over our heads.”

Tito concluded: “I am convinced that we in our own right will receive support from our powerful allies, that they will show understanding for our demands and aspirations, for this is what our people have earned as shown by paying such a high price for their belief in our common cause.”


Here Tito was referring without distinction to the U.S., Britain and the Soviet Union who were to meet at Yalta to make the post-war agreement. Tito’s unwillingness to give up even the slightest part of Yugoslavia’s sovereignty earned him the hatred of the Western powers. It also led to some distrust on the part of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc nations, who looked upon Tito with disfavor as a “maverick.”

The struggle with Tito, which was to rock the communist movement, came at a time when American imperialism was stepping up its post-war efforts to completely dominate Europe, making use of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. The U.S. expansionist designs created a situation where the world became divided into two camps–an imperialist camp headed by the U.S. and a socialist camp headed by the USSR.

The U.S. plan was to rebuild yesterday’s aggressors into new instruments of domination. These countries would then aid the U.S. in its struggle with socialism, whose influence in Europe after the war was great. In response, the socialist camp tried to close ranks and present a unified face to the West.

But Tito resisted what it perceived as too much Soviet authority in the effort to integrate Yugoslavia economically and politically into the camp. While the Soviet Union gave massive aid to Yugoslavia, there were also problems of big-nation chauvinism which offended Tito as well as the people.

Tito also had his own ideas on socialist economy. These ideas, such as “worker self-management” which combined central planning with the laws of the market, were alien to the Soviet model. This independent economic trend was at odds with what the Soviets perceived as a need for a monolithic economic bloc in the face of imperialism’s aggressive tactics.

Finally, in 1948, the Cominform (an information bureau of nine European parties, set up after the dissolution of the Communist International) worked out a resolution expelling the Yugoslav League of Communists (YLC). They openly denounced Yugoslavia for departing from Marxism-Leninism and pursuing a “leftist, nationalist and petty-bourgeois adventurist policy.” Later Tito was even characterized as a “fascist,” a “slaughterer,” and a “spy.”

An economic blockade was imposed, but Tito refused to bend. When he opened up to the West for badly needed economic assistance, he was denounced as a “tool of imperialism” who had allowed Yugoslavia to be “completely taken over” by the U.S. Tito’s name was added to Trotsky’s as the main “renegades” from the communist movement.

Looking back at the history of this struggle, it could be argued that while Yugoslavia had some erroneous and divisive policies, its expulsion and isolation were wrong. No one would argue today that Yugoslavia’s economy and military were under the control of the U.S.–a charge even China made in its 1963 polemic, “Is Yugoslavia a Socialist Country?”

At the time of the expulsion, China had accepted the verdict of the Cominform for which Mao Zedong later apologized to Tito. He pointed out that China was at war when the decision was made and didn’t really know very much about the inner workings of Yugoslavia. China simply accepted the USSR’s assessment.


Even then, China never went along with the charges that Tito was a “fascist,” and a session of the Chinese party’s Central Committee in 1959 pointed out the fallacy of this view. In 1955 relations were established between the two parties. At this time, Mao praised the Yugoslavs for their achievements in socialist construction.

But in 1958 the struggle sharpened as China and Albania exchanged heated polemics with Yugoslavia. This was the beginning of an ideological struggle that would ultimately mark the break with Khruschcv revisionism. On China’s part, the polemics were indirectly aimed at the Soviet Union and Khruschev.

But the Chinese charge that Yugoslavia was a “capitalist country” could not be backed up with facts and was later taken back. Over the past decade and a half, relations between the two countries have steadily grown. Yugoslavia, for example, firmly backed China’s right to have a seat in the United Nations.

In 1975 Tito visited China and Chairman Mao praised him as “firm like iron in defying pressure from the Soviet Union.” (In Chinese, the character for Tito means “iron.”) In 1978 Tito received Chinese Premier Hua Guofeng in Belgrade, and the two of them warned the world of the danger of the growing contention between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. That same year, Tito visited the U.S. and gave the same message to President Carter.

What China and the rest of the third world like most about Tito is his stand on international relations. A prominent figure in the 1955 Bandung Conference, Tito took the initiative to help form the nonaligned movement, which had its first meeting in Belgrade in 1961. At last year’s Havana meeting, Tito stood against attempts by the Soviets and their proxy Castro to divert this movement from its stated purposes and to turn it into an instrument of Soviet expansionism.

Tito and Yugoslavia have had a strong interest in preserving the non-aligned movement and in opposing hegemonism. Strategically located in the Balkans, Yugoslavia borders both the Soviet bloc and Western Europe. In 1968, Tito voiced strong opposition to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and most recently Yugoslavia sharply criticized the assault on Afghanistan.

What worries Moscow the most is that Tito, aside from being a prominent figure in the nonaligned movement, also sparked some independent thinking in the other Eastern European countries who today are bearing much of the burden for the Soviet war machine. Tito has refused to allow his country to be used for Soviet military bases.

As a result, Yugoslavia has become the target of continual attempts by Moscow to organize factions within the YLC. Many Soviet agents and spies have been caught in that country and arrested. As the rumors grew of Tito’s impending death, Warsaw Pact troops mobilized for massive maneuvers near Yugoslavia’s border with Bulgaria.

For all these reasons and more, it is not unlikely that Tito’s legacy of unremitting struggle for national independence will soon be tested. As the world holds its breath to see what the two superpowers will do, the threat of instability in Yugoslavia could be a factor in the growing danger of war.

The final evaluation of Tito the President, of Tito the communist, will take some time because of the complicated nature of the present situation in the world as well as in the Marxist-Leninist movement. Many of Yugoslavia’s earlier policies which were considered revisionist (such as their view which minimized the leading role of the party) have been criticized and changed by the YLC itself since 1968. Perhaps the jolt of the invasion of Czechoslovakia made Tito more aware of the weaknesses in the Soviet party’s political line.

Whatever the reason, Tito moved to rectify the view held earlier that the “state is dying out,” maintaining instead the need to strengthen the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” He firmed up the All People’s Defense to guard against a similar assault on Yugoslavia and took measures to strengthen the planned nature of the state economy to a certain degree. Many aspects of Tito’s economic thinking have now come to be accepted by other socialist countries, including China.

Yugoslavia’s economic growth seen with envy by its Soviet-bloc neighbors. At the same time, it has big problems, such as high unemployment causing many workers to seek jobs other countries. There are also prominent inequalities among different class and strata, as well as national antagonisms, which still persist and run count to socialist aims.

All this shows that there is more than one road to socialism based upon the concrete conditions in each country. No country or party can force its will upon another or impose its version of Marxism on another. Each country must be allowed to make its own errors. Tito fought fiercely for this principle.

Whatever the final verdict may be Tito’s role within the international working class movement, one thing certain. His role as a liberator, an anti-fascist fighter and supporter of the worldwide struggle against imperialism represent the essential part of his life. It is for this that he will long be remembered and honored by the people.