MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: 1951 3rd Congress of the FI

Yugoslavia: Review and Outlook

By Harold Livingstone

Written: 1951, by Harold Livingstone.
First Published: 1951.
Source: Fourth International, Vol.12 No. 6, November-December 1951, pp. 177-83.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido & David Walters, November, 2005.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2005. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.

The three years which separate the Second from the Third World Congress might well be called the “Yugoslav Period” of the Fourth International. The phrase is used advisedly. It represents our contact with a living revolution; our participation in its defense; our utilization of its progressive features to deepen the crisis of Stalinism; our analysis of its course of development. It represents a signal triumph of the Trotskyist program over sectarianism and opportunism.

Yet the paradox of this period is symbolized by the fact that while the delegates to the Second Congress finished their labors without an inkling of the decisive events then in the offing, the delegates today are called upon to draw up a balance sheet of the events and of the theoretical and practical work accomplished, rather than to formulate new tactics for positive opportunities—no longer provided by the Yugoslav affair.

The Yugoslav revolution is not dead. The workers’ state still stands. But its progressive influence on the world labor movement—in deepening the crisis of Stalinism and in giving new impetus to the forces of revolutionary Marxism—is now a thing of the past. It remains to be seen whether this is a permanent or temporary phenomenon. In any case, contrary to the preceding period, our possible influence on the course of developments is greatly restricted, depending far more on objective factors outside of our control than in the past.

Yet we come to this Congress without the slightest regrets. Our policy and tactics have been entirely correct, and moreover completely vindicated by the events which have transpired. To be sure all of our hopes have not been realized, and the practical results, although not inconsiderable, have been less than we expected. One might say that if anything our fault was an excess of optimism. But that has always been the fault of revolutionists. Here we are in good company. The Russian Bolsheviks, to cite one instance among many, seized power in October 1917 on the optimistic perspective that they would soon be joined by successful proletarian revolutions in the advanced countries of the west and especially Germany.

What is more decisive is that Trotskyism alone of all tendencies in the workers’ movement has successfully coped with the test of the Yugoslav events and the problems posed by them, both on the theoretical and the practical domain. Through them, and through the rich discussion which ensued, we have enriched our ideological arsenal; we have come to a fuller and more mature comprehension of our epoch, of the forces in motion, and of the many and varied problems presented by it; we have corrected much of the formalism and rigidity of thought that was present in the past, Above ail, it is thanks to the Yugoslav events and to the lessons learned from them that we have been enabled to elaborate a strategy for the great revolutionary developments on the horizon. In Yugoslavia we were confronted with the complicated and seemingly contradictory forms of the revolutionary process that has characterized the post-war era. A semi-Stalinist party, still basing itself on a Menshevik program and still partly linked with the Kremlin, successfully guided a revolution to the conquest of state power by the proletariat. It was part of the same process, although different in form, from that which had occurred in the rest of Eastern Europe.

We did not predict the forms of this development, but basically it occurred as a result of a Situation which we had correctly analyzed, although interpreted in a one-sided fashion.

The principal causes can be attributed in the main to four factors: 1. the general belatedness of the socialist revolution; 2. the advanced decay of capitalism; 3. to revolutionary victories occurring first in the more backward countries; 4. to the lack of a conscious and consistent revolutionary leadership.

An analysis of the developments has demonstrated, however, that the Yugoslav revolution did, in fact, follow specific laws and has confirmed our basic conceptions. And it is precisely in the analysis of this revolution, and in corollary questions, that the Fourth International has made its most important contribution to living Marxism since the death of Trotsky.

Permanent Revolution in Yugoslavia

We discover first of all in these events a confirmation of the theory and the dialectics of the permanent revolution.

  1. The struggle against national oppression in Yugoslavia during the war quickly gave rise to the hegemony of the proletariat, in the form of the leadership of the CP over the resistance forces, to the formation of proletarian combat units as the decisive forms of struggle in the partisan war and to dual organs of power which steadily assumed more scope and authority. On the other hand the native bourgeoisie demonstrated that it was thoroughly incapable of representing the progressive and historic interests of the nation, being completely aligned with all the reactionary forces of imperialist oppression. This led inevitably to the unity of all the oppressed forces in the nation behind the proletariat and the Communist Party.
  2. Once in power, although it had assumed it only with the professed aim of resolving the national and democratic task, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia was quickly obliged to eliminate all vestiges of the old regime such as the monarchy, to break up its coalition with representatives of the former ruling bourgeoisie, and to pass over to nationalization and planning, i.e., the socialist tasks of the revolution.
  3. The beginning of socialist reconstruction posed the question of the international character of their revolution before the Yugoslav Communists—whether they understood this consciously or not—both on the economic and political plane. The survival of their revolution required a completion of the process of social transformation in Eastern Europe and its integration into a common economic unit or federation—and they become directly affected by the fate of the revolution in Greece, Italy and to a lesser extent Austria.

It is symbolic that the Soviet bureaucracy, which began its existence in struggle against the theory of the permanent revolution, came into bitter conflict with the permanent revolution as it manifested itself in life at each of its stages in the course of the Yugoslav developments.

The Kremlin Meets a Revolution

From this conflict there emerges the second important aspect of the Yugoslav affair: the light it sheds on the role of the Soviet bureaucracy.

If there was ever any question that the Kremlin is an essentially counter-revolutionary force, and not an active, conscious generator of social revolutions, or even of “bureaucratic revolutions,” as Shachtman would have us believe, it was definitely set at rest by the deliberate and criminal sabotage of the partisan struggles led by a party completely loyal to the Russian bureaucracy. Tito could swear on a stack of bibles that he remained an undying enemy of Trotskyism, but to Stalin “proletarian brigades,” “people’s committees” and the refusal to collaborate with Mikhailovich smacked of “permanent revolution,” precisely because such measures engendered and extended the revolution and sharpened the conflict with world imperialism.

What is more important is that it demonstrates again, if demonstration is needed, that the bureaucracy is no omnipotent power, that its propensities for counter-revolution are limited not by its intentions but by objective forces far stronger than itself, that the sweep of a revolutionary movement of the masses is more powerful than the police measures of a Bonapartist regime. For US this aspect of the question is far more decisive even than the fate of the Yugoslav regime itself, which in the final analysis will be determined by the ebbs and flows of the world revolutionary process.

The bureaucracy proved incapable, with all its threats and cajoling, of persuading the Yugoslav communists to follow a “Kuomintang” line. It was unable to deliver the partisans to the arms of reaction as it had done with the Warsaw insurrectionists. It was in fact unable of honor its agreement with the imperialists for a division of influence in Yugoslavia.

Nevertheless, had the Kremlin been able to control the Yugoslav regime it would certainly have found a way to live with it. The question of the internal regime, of bureaucratic methods was not basically involved in this period. Nor was the question of the plunder and exploitative economic methods of the Kremlin the most decisive one, as Yugoslavia had the least to offer economically of the Eastern European countries and suffered the least from the Kremlin’s depredations.

What was involved was the dynamism of the Yugoslav revolution itself. From the beginning the Yugoslavs were under greater pressure from imperialism, and in constant conflict with it precisely because of the definitive character of their revolution. This was an intolerable situation for the Kremlin which sought to live in peace with imperialism, to honor its agreements regardless of the cost.

The difficulties were further aggravated by the effects of the Yugoslav revolution on the communist cadres of the other Eastern European countries and its demands for the completion and coordination of the social revolution in these countries. Such a policy could only have led to a greater conflict with imperialism and to the undermining of the Kremlin’s power in the buffer zone.

As it turned out, it was the left turn of the Kremlin in Eastern Europe, their definitive break with the native bourgeoisie which began with the Prague events of February 1948 under pressure of the Marshall Plan and its threat of an economic invasion by imperialism that forced the Kremlin into its rupture with the Tito regime. Understanding and fearing, as always, that a left turn could favor the independent revolutionary forces, the Kremlin as always in the past struck immediately at these forces, i.e., at the Yugoslavs.

Limits of Kremlin’s Power

Here again we have another example of the limits of the counter-revolutionary possibilities of the Kremlin, which stopped short of direct military action against Yugoslavia, although the years 1948-49 were the most favorable time for such an attack. Yet it was precisely in these years that the Kremlin had its hands full in a major struggle against the remaining forces of capitalism in Eastern Europe, a struggle which tended to bring forward the independent elements in the Communist parties of those countries. A major diversion against Yugoslavia in that period would easily have had disastrous consequences for the Soviet bureaucracy in one or more of the countries of Eastern Europe. The fact that Stalin was obliged to confine himself to half measures—to the political excommunication of the Tito regime, to threats and to economic blockade—gave the Yugoslav revolution a respite of three years and, under more favorable world conditions, could have led to a decisive rupture of the Stalinist movement on a world scale.

That this situation has no accident, no “Balkan eccentricity,” is demonstrated by the fact that at the very same time Stalin was having similar troubles, at the other end of the world, in his relations with Mao who was preparing to take the power against Stalin’s advice and despite his compromises and agreements with Chiang Kai-shek and imperialism.

Evolution of “Titoism”

The third important aspect of the Yugoslav experience can be summarized in this question: How was it possible for a workers” party and leadership which overthrew the rule of the bourgeoisie and conquered state power to identify itself with the imperialist camp, to oppose the colonial revolution, to justify social patriotism in the capitalist countries, to revise Marxism to the point where they see an organic evolution of American monopoly capitalism to socialism and see only the worst features of centralized, regimented capitalism in the nationalized property relations and planned economy of the Soviet Union?

How was this possible without a fierce internal struggle in the party and a major split in the leadership? The contrast with the Soviet Union is striking where this transition from Bolshevism to Menshevism required a 15-year struggle, practically a civil war which ended with the extermination of the entire Bolshevik wing of the party, in fact, of the party itself.

The explanation is lodged in the nature and history of the CPY and its leadership and the manner in which it came to power. The phenomenon of the CPY is summarized in the Theses when speaking of the possibility of a Stalinist party joined to a real mass movement and under its constant and revolutionary pressure, and amidst favorable conditions—i.e. extreme weakness of the native bourgeoisie and divisions in the imperialist camp—going beyond the aims set for it by the Soviet bureaucracy and even projecting a revolutionary orientation.

What is the significance of this statement? It is not at all, as our enemies would like to attribute to us, that a Stalinist party can, by some automatic process, without a thoroughgoing reevaluation of all its basic conceptions and without altering its leadership, become a revolutionary, a Bolshevik party.

Centrism and Bolshevism

To be sure the party ceases to be a brake on the proletariat as it was in the past, it becomes more susceptible to the program of Bolshevism, but that does not yet mean it has become the conscious master of the objective forces in society. When we say that such a party ceases to be Stalinist, i.e. primarily a frontier guard, a pressure instrument and a tool of the Soviet bureaucracy, and becomes centrist, we say in effect that while it continues fundamentally to remain one of the blind and unconscious objective factors of the class reality it has become more sensitive to the progressive impact of the proletarian masses who at a certain point attempt to utilize this party as the vehicle for the realization of their revolutionary aspirations.

The masses do not demand that the party change its revisionist theoretical conceptions or its class collaborationist program; they demand merely that it give leadership in the armed struggle against the bourgeoisie, that it create the class organs of power to serve that struggle. Under certain fortuitous conditions, as existed above all in Yugoslavia, this proves sufficient to guarantee the success of the revolutionary struggle.

The importance of these fortuitous objective conditions must be emphasized because centrist parties have many times in the past been confronted with revolutionary situations, and because Stalinist parties have shown traits of centrism when thrust into revolutionary situations. Yet precisely because the relationship of forces was more unfavorable, as for instance in the Chinese revolution of 1925-27 and in the Spanish civil war, the centrism of the Comintern and the Chinese CP in the one case, and the POUM in the other, proved itself totally insufficient for and, in effect, one of the barriers to the victory of the revolution.

Thus if the Yugoslav development helps to provide us with a better understanding of the role and evolution of Stalinist parties under specific conditions and to formulate a realistic strategy for our movement in such eventualities, it gives absolutely no justification whatever for those who draw the conclusion that the organized communist vanguard, basing itself on a revolutionary Marxist program, has no longer any role to play. The entire history of the CPY itself proves the contrary. Precisely the centrism and opportunism of the CPY leadership has exposed the Yugoslav revolution to the greatest dangers.

Roots of Yugoslav Centrism

Not only was their revolution carried through without consciousness of its real character, but theoretically they still clung to the conceptions of Popular Frontism, which in effect have remained part of their ideological baggage to this very day. It was a matter of good fortune for them that Anglo-American imperialism, occupied with Greece and lacking the strength to intervene more directly, could not exploit the occasion provided by the coalition government of 1945.

The policy of the Yugoslavs in the world labor movement today is in direct continuation, and is based on the same general Stalinist class collaborationist conceptions, as those they held during the war. Only now, because the situation is more unfavorable for them and the pressures of world capitalism stronger, their deeds are more in accord with their theories than they were during the years of the partisan wars.

Second, their treacherous and capitulatory policy to world imperialism today has its ideological roots in their essentially social patriotic position in the Second World War which they considered a war of “democracy” against “fascism”—a position they have never reconsidered—so that it is merely necessary for them to pin the “fascist” label on the Soviet Union today in order to justify their lining up in the imperialist camp.

Third, their failure to understand the class nature of the Soviet Union, the reasons for its degeneration and the role of the Soviet bureaucracy, which almost resulted in disaster for the revolution between 1945 and 1948, has facilitated their adoption today of an anti-Soviet position which opens the country to the danger of capitalist restoration or of conquest by the Soviet bureaucracy. As in the past they continue to identify the Stalinist caste with Soviet society, the only difference being that today they consider it “reactionary” and “fascist,” whereas yesterday they considered it “progressive” and “socialist.”

Fourth, their unchanging adherence to the theory of “Socialism in one country” has given rise to the historical absurdity that it is not only possible to build a national socialist society but even for the state to “wither away” in Yugoslavia alone. This theory—i.e. this opportunist lack of confidence in the forces of the world revolution—led them, as it did the Stalin wing of the Russian Bolshevik party, to prefer an alliance with imperialism regardless of the cost than with the international working class and the colonial peoples.

Yugoslav centrism has reacted in almost chemically pure fashion to objective conditions. They were to the left as regards imperialism between 1945-48, when the relationship of forces was favorable to them. Then after a brief interim of an intermediary position they moved sharply to the right after the outbreak of the Korean war when the relationship of forces was reversed. Similarly as regards Stalinism: left when the crisis in the buffer zone was at its height, immobilizing the Kremlin; and then right after the attainment of a form of stability there freed the Kremlin’s hands to a certain extent.

We do not mean by this to overlook the effects of the blockade and of the drought. But where the regime of Lenin made many tactical maneuvers and concessions under such conditions but never changed its basic orientation, the Yugoslavs fundamentally revised their strategy under these pressures.

The final test of Yugoslav centrism is now before it: unlike the years of the partisan wars and the years immediately following, the internal relationship of forces has now become more favorable to the capitalist elements than at any time since the end of the war. Although other factors enter into the picture here, it remains to be seen how Yugoslav centrism succeeds in coping with this situation. We shall return to this problem later.

Loyalty to Principles First

But before leaving this question, it is necessary to say a word regarding those who believe we have been too harsh in our criticism, too inconsiderate in our understanding of the problems and difficulties faced by the Yugoslav regime. We must reject this criticism first because it is false: we have reiterated time and again that no revolutionist could object to the widest maneuvers, or even to extensive economic concessions on their part provided they remained within the framework of loyalty to class principles.

Second, this argumentation appears to us to be of a similar type to the rationalization that has often been made in defense of Russian Stalinism for its abandonment of the world revolution. The task of the October Revolution was to help generate the revolution in the west. Stalin’s dereliction in this regard constitutes his first and basic betrayal.

The task of the Yugoslav revolution, once it broke with the Kremlin, and became at least partly conscious of its role, was to generate and aid in the precipitation of the crisis of Stalinism in a revolutionary direction. On this path also lay the real salvation of the Yugoslav revolution. Tito’s betrayal consists in his abdication of this task which, as with Stalin under different circumstances, has led to the road of least resistance, i.e., accommodation to imperialism.

The rejection of such rationalizations is in line with the whole tradition of our movement, in line for instance with Trotsky’s break with the POUM, with Sneevliet, etc., and, in fact, with the entire course of our movement itself which has suffered persecution and isolation despite the thousand siren calls that have beckoned it to opportunism and away from its intransigence to principles. The Kremlin’s break with Yugoslavia, its political warfare and military threats and provocative mobilizations on its frontiers, its economic blockade increasing Yugoslavia’s dependence on world capitalism, has set into motion two important trends within the country which have been at work in the whole last period and are still in evolution today. On the one side, the regime was obliged to seek a more solid base of support among the proletariat. The peasantry, it knew, in a struggle with the Kremlin, would quickly shift its allegiance to the side of imperialism.

In the struggle for the support of the workers, it ran into conflict with the competition of the Cominform which was making its own bid for their allegiance. The Cominform propaganda, demagogic and hypocritical, consisted in the main of an attack on the bureaucratic and police state features of the Tito regime, on its lack of democracy, etc., etc. But even if the Yugoslav workers didn’t believe a solitary word of this propaganda, the regime was obliged to provide material reasons which would dispose the Yugoslav proletariat to defend the regime despite the hardships that would result from expulsion from the Soviet bloc. They had to see a difference between a regime of Kremlin puppets and that of Tito in order to make the sacrifice that they would be called on to make.

Still, we know, the centrists faced the situation empirically, seeking all sorts of expedients and compromises to the point where Tito himself admitted that the regime had almost foundered because of the predisposition of the leadership to take the road of least resistance. For more than a year their chief reply to the Kremlin was a defensive one, accompanied by futile attempts at reconciliation, by reiteration of their loyalty to the basic precepts of Stalinism and mortal enmity to Trotskyism—and of course by wholesale arrests and imprisonments. When the struggle against bureaucracy was finally launched and the first steps towards workers’ democracy taken in 1950, we greeted this as a great event for the world proletariat. We were correct in our emphasis because of the historic importance of these measures, and because of the revolutionary weapon it placed in the hands of revolutionary militants in the struggle against Stalinism.

But still it is necessary to look the facts coldly in the eye. Yugoslav workers’ democracy—extending as far as self-management—was still not of the same caliber as that which existed in the first years following the October Revolution growing up in struggle against the Russian capitalists and consciously promoted and encouraged by the Russian Bolsheviks. Workers’ democracy in Yugoslavia was granted by decree by a regime which had a long record of stifling criticism and repressing independent actions by administrative measures. The workers had to be convinced by experience that the regime was sincere. Many reports at the outset indicated the general skepticism and incredulity of the masses. Only one year has passed since that time—not too long a period—but unfortunately that period has run straight across the Korean War and the rightward turn of the CPY leadership.

How much of a reality has this workers’ democracy today? And how solid as a consequence is the loyalty of the Yugoslav proletariat to the regime? The evidence needed for the answers to these questions is not yet completely available or clear. Although on the answer to them depends much of the outcome of the sharpening class conflicts maturing in Yugoslavia today. This much can be said: that a rightward political turn accompanied by an extension of workers’ democracy is a contradiction in terms and completely contrary to the Russian experience. More likely is the face that the continued arrest of “Cominformists” and the failure of any revolutionary tendencies to develop in opposition to the policy of the regime indicates that the tender plant of workers’ democracy in Yugoslavia has not had a very vigorous growth.

Retreat on the Economic Front

The second tendency set into motion by the Kremlin break has been that of retreat on the economic front and the beginning of a period not only comparable with the NEP but with that which followed between 1923-28 in the Soviet Union. The expulsion from the Soviet bloc and the consequent greater dependence of Yugoslavia on the capitalist world for trade, loans, raw materials, capital goods, machine tools—and even for foodstuffs for a certain period—has led to a slowing down of industrialization, to a drastic and constant downward revision of all plans, and to an inevitable weakening of the socialist sector of the economy in a predominantly peasant country.

The question that remains to be answered is whether such complete dependence on the capitalist market, given the unfavorable trade arrangements that Yugoslavia must make because of the backward state of its economy and industrial technique, given the reluctance of imperialism to provide the type of loans and capital goods that will favor real socialist construction, given the present world shortage of raw materials which in any case are being allocated to the important capitalist countries for their rearmament programs, and above all given the narrow and limited material base of Yugoslavia itself—the question remains m to whether this dependence will not compromise, if it has not already done so, the very possibility of planning. Certain moves which have thus far been made indicate the beginnings of a certain breakdown in planning which provide a breach for the entry of capitalist property relations.

Approximately a year and a half ago, a mole toward the decentralization of economic controls was instituted by the state. The principal object of this move vas to cut down on the heavy overhead charges of bureaucratic management. Under favorable conditions this measure might have acted as a stimulus to production and augmented the efficiency of the plan. However, one of the runt aspects of this decentralization program is the right granted to the individual trust, corporation or enterprise to enter into direct contact with the consumer and to enter into business arrangements with him, which in effect means the peasantry for the most part. These arrangements have still to be ratified by higher organisms, but the possibility of deceit or evasion must be counted on as a strong possibility in such a system.

This situation is precisely one that Trotsky warned against m the result of blind, bureaucratic methods in the Soviet Union—one whose only consequence must be the development of separate interests apart from the needs of the economy as a whole, and hence the breakdown of planning and the entry of new capitalist elements into the economy.

In line with this dangerous innovation, and even more serious in character is a decree of last July which goes by the name of “The Democratization of Foreign Trade.” According to this decree, separate branches of industry and agriculture, with the exception of non-ferrous metals still remaining under centralized control, can make their own trade arrangements with foreign importers. These Yugoslav concerns are permitted to retain a certain percentage of the foreign currency resulting from such trade which they can freely use to import not merely capital goods, raw materials, etc., but also consumer goods. The consequences of this move should be clear enough not to need further elaboration. Suffice it to say, if carried to its logical conclusion, without active and serious restriction by the state, it can not only lead to the complete breakdown of planning but to the invasion of cheap capitalist goods and the destruction of the nationalized economy of Yugoslavia.

Danger of Capitalist Restoration

The second and more important danger spot to the Yugoslav economy is the agricultural sector. Primarily a peasant nation, the alliance of the proletariat and the peasantry is indispensable for the survival of the workers’ state, an alliance that can only be maintained in the last analysis by steps leading towards the socialization of agriculture.

In the past the Tito regime has moved with commendable caution in collectivizing agriculture, waiting until it could provide a proper machine basis for the collectives and thus avoid the tragic mistakes of Russian Stalinism. This policy provoked one of the most violent attacks of the Kremlin, which had hoped that Tito, by reckless bureaucratic methods, would come into head-on conflict with the peasantry and thus become completely dependent on Russian support. But precisely the contrary occurred. After the break with the Cominform, Tito became eyen more cautious in his peasant policy. The rate of collectivization has been constantly slowed down until today the slogan is merely to preserve those collectives that already exist.

At the same time, because of the lack of consumer goods and the inability of the state to minister to the needs of the peasants, further concessions have been made. Forced delivery of peasant crops to the state now occupy a much smaller place than before, while the free market for peasant trade has been widely extended. Obviously this process is closely linked with the much slower pace of industrialization and with the difficulties encountered’ in planning.

The result, however, is unquestionably to give rise to a new stratum of rich peasants, whose position becomes more and more powerful vis-à-vis the state, resembling that of the Russian kulak in 1928. Like his Russian counterpart, the Yugoslav kulak is using the threat of starvation against the cities, deliberately refusing to plant or harvest a full crop, in order to force his will on the regime. With this strengthened economic position come inevitably increased economic demands for the abolition of the monopoly of foreign trade (to permit the entry of cheap and plentiful consumer goods), and it is not unlikely that the decree on “Democratization of Foreign Trade” may be a concession precisely to such demands. Equally serious is their growth as a political force, their undoubted contacts with the old bourgeois politicians and with western imperialism.

This tendency has been favored by the diplomatic alliances of the regime and its capitulatory foreign policy, by the anti-Soviet campaign of the CPY leadership and by its embellishment of “democratic” capitalism. All of this has not been lost on the rich peasantry, which is not satisfied to view the right turn as a temporary maneuver but is pressing to go the whole road.

The danger for Yugoslavia today, a greater danger than ever before, is the danger of capitalist restoration from within, indirectly supported by the imperialists at least in the first stages—and imperialism would certainly go the whole way were it not for the possibility that in the chaos of the ensuing struggle it might lose Yugoslavia as a military base. Thus far the only program of the regime to ward off this danger is to demand larger loans from the imperialists, which increase the country’s economic dependence—such as the projected entrance into the European Payments Union—and solve nothing fundamentally except to temporarily assuage the rich peasantry.

A Program of Struggle

In the best case, the situation is a difficult one and offers no easy solutions. But the danger can only be fought by the revolutionary mobilization of the Yugoslav proletariat, the organization of the poor peasantry for sharpened class war on the countryside, by vigorous economic measures to curb the power of the kulaks, and above all by a turn to a policy of revolutionary internationalism on the world arena.

Such a turn depends now first of all on the rise of a revolutionary opposition within the CPY and among the Yugoslav masses. And this in turn, because of the multitude of problems which beset the country, complicated above all in the eyes of the masses by the hostile and bellicose attitude of the Kremlin, depends more and more on external forces, on a new upsurge of the masses in the capitalist countries, on new developments within the buffer zone countries and on the maturing of the crisis of Stalinism. Only such a development can check the present rightward course and the treachery of the CPY leadership. And in a more pressing sense than in the case of the Soviet Union, only such a world development can save Yugoslavia from capitalist restoration.

Yugoslavia and the War

It may be however that none of these problems will reach their climax before the outbreak of the war, and it remains for us here to resolve our attitude toward Yugoslavia—towards this Yugoslavia, the one which exists today with its present leadership, its present policy and the direction in which it is moving, and not the one we hoped would exist—in the event of war, and not any war, but a specific war, i.e.. a world counter-revolutionary imperialist attack on the USSR with all the revolutionary consequences it will bring in its train.

The ineradicable lesson driven home by Trotsky in the 1939-40 struggle with the petty-bourgeois opposition in the SWP was that our attitude in a war was determined not by the political character of the regimes but by the class nature of the states involved. This position, mind you, was not a new one, but one he found necessary to reiterate even before the USSR became involved in the general war and when it was merely engaged in a local—but reactionary—encounter with Finland.

We were confronted with a somewhat different question when the danger arose of a possible Kremlin attack on Yugoslavia. Obviously our position could not be determined by the mere class criteria regarding the class nature of the states because two workers’ states were involved. Nor could it be determined by the progressive internal nature of one of the regimes as against another. We were entirely correct in our defense of Yugoslavia before there were any measures for the establishment of workers’ democracy and when its leaders still stoutly defended their bureaucratic regime and police measures.

What determined our position then was the fact that Yugoslavia by its struggle against Stalinist domination and for the right of national autonomy for its workers’ state, represented the interests of the world revolution to which our defense of the Soviet Union has always been subordinated. But in saying this we are saying that our attitude was determined by class criteria—that is, a Kremlin attack on Yugoslavia would represent objectively an act favoring world imperialism and hence also a blow to the Soviet Union.

We were not long in waiting for the confirmation of our analysis—and this while the Kremlin’s war remained only in the preparatory stage. The results are only plain: the Kremlin’s cold war against Yugoslavia has given imperialism at least the promise of military bases in Yugoslavia in the event of war, it has helped liquidate the Greek partisan war, strengthened the position of imperialism in Greece and Turkey, and provided it with a foothold in Albania.

Tito, imperialism and the USSR

The likelihood however is not of an isolated war between the Kremlin and Yugoslavia but one that will occur within the framework of an imperialist assault on the Soviet Union. Nor do we have to await the outbreak of war to see this configuration of events. It was already indicated by the fact that Yugoslavia was forced to line up politically in the Western camp in the Korean War. Since then the political and military contacts of the Yugoslav leaders with the State Department and the Pentagon have become more frequent and their commitments more definite. It is frankly and freely acknowledged that Yugoslavia’s abstention from participating in the military alliances is now more a matter of expediency than of principle.

Our amendments to the resolution take cognizance of such a possibility—a Yugoslav line-up with imperialism in a war with the USSR—and establish our position toward it. Here again, despite the evident intention of the Kremlin to crush Yugoslavia’s independence, to destroy all measures aimed at establishing workers’ democracy, our position must be determined by class criteria first of all.

The nature of a common military struggle of imperialism and the Yugoslav regime against the Soviet Union would not be determined by the desire of the Yugoslav communists to preserve their workers’ state but by the overwhelming predominance of imperialism in this alliance and by its aim of crushing the Soviet Union. The defeat of the Soviet Union would naturally strengthen reaction on a world scale and would result in the speedy extinction of the Yugoslav workers’ state, provided it was able to survive the crushing embrace of its more powerful capitalist ally during, the war itself. That would be the greater evil to a victory of the USSR in which the bureaucracy would be obliged, in any case, to preserve the non-capitalist property relations in Yugoslavia. To be sure, the counter-revolutionary character of the Stalin regime will pose many complicated problems for revolutionists seeking to preserve the independence of the workers’ movement or of workers’ states during the war and will require great adroitness and ability to maneuver.

But there are limits to this maneuvering—class limits. An alliance of a workers’ state with one group of capitalist states to protect itself from the attack of another group was envisaged by Lenin and was recognized by Trotsky as justified even when practiced by the Stalin regime. But under no conditions is it possible to justify the alliance of a workers’ state with capitalist powers against another workers’ state. That belongs in the same category with social democratic support of their own imperialism against the Soviet Union. And it is thus not by accident that the Titoists in the capitalist countries are now unanimous in their social patriotic positions.

It is not easy to draw up a strategy for the Yugoslav communists; their position is by no means an enviable one. But in the event of an open betrayal of their leadership permitting their country to become a military base for the imperialist armies, which inevitably means a loss of both their independence and of their social gains, we must counsel them to overthrow their leadership, to organize their forces independently for the common struggle against imperialism, but to remain ever vigilant, ever prepared to fight against possible bureaucratic repression by the Kremlin. There is no other road for revolutionists.

Balance Sheet of Events

The evolution of the Yugoslav government and the CPY has proceeded with breathtaking rapidity. Within the past three years they severed all ties with the Kremlin, dropped a good deal of their Stalinist baggage, came within breathing distance of Trotskyism with which they concluded an informal alliance in the European workers’ movement, beginning at the same time a searching criticism in words and deeds of the process of bureaucratic degeneration—only at the very height of the process to veer sharply to the right allying themselves objectively with the imperialist camp against the USSR and the colonial revolution, while politically taking the road back to social democracy. It has been a dizzy pace. And it is understandable that some comrades have been thrown off balance.

There are those for whom the break with the Kremlin was so precipitate, so inexplicable that they have lacked the time to shake off their original skepticism and adapt themselves to the new development. They are now in the strange position of the Yugoslav events catching up with them without their having moved an inch. The only trouble is that a whole historic epoch passed them by in the interim.

There are others who took much longer in appreciating the progressive aspects of the Yugoslav affair but by this time Tito and Co. had already turned to the right. Here the tables are turned. Where only a relatively short time ago they considered our attitude too uncritical, they now find themselves reproaching the International for being too harsh and intransigent. It is not a serious tendency, but even where it exists, if it is not checked in time it could lead to an opportunist adaptation to the Yugoslavs—and that would be a real disgrace for our movement. It is difficult to think of anything more contemptible. The International has every reason to be proud of its record. We alone correctly analyzed and understood the development in all its stages. From the beginning we called attention to its historic importance not for the sake of self-justification but for the purpose of aiding the progressive evolution of Yugoslavia and of mobilizing a movement in its behalf.

By our correct tactics and prompt action, we prevented the rise of a new centrist current competing with us for leadership of the advanced revolutionary workers. In most of the maneuvers with them it is we, with our principled line, who have gained despite all the machinations they learned in the Stalinist school.

Perhaps even more important hate been the ideological consequences of the affair, providing a serious corrective to tendencies to Stalinophobia which were imperceptibly developing in our ranks but also indicating how wretchedly incompetent are the centrists and opportunists, even those who have successfully blundered through a revolution, in solving the great problems of our epoch and how vitally necessary is the role of world Trotskyism.

Finally, the Yugoslav revolution, in the course of its development, gave a crushing refutation to those who conceive of bureaucratic degeneration as a normal process and indicate the enormous power that can reside in a conscious proletarian leadership in combating such trends. It was a vindication in life of conceptions only the Trotskyism have held and of the program for which the Russian opposition fought from its inception.

We do not put a cross on the Yugoslav revolution. The workers’ state still stands. The traditions of the partisan struggles still live in the consciousness of the masses, the progressive measures taken since 1948 can have their own logic which the Yugoslav leaders may yet have to reckon with. But it is clear that a chapter is closed—that must be recognized. The next stage of the development of the Yugoslav affair can only be opened under the impact of vast revolutionary struggles on a world scale.


Last updated on 13 April 2009