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

The Yugoslav Revolution

Resolution Adopted by the
Third Congress of the Fourth International—Paris, April 1951

Adopted: 1951.
First Published: 1951.
Source: Fourth International, Vol.12 No.6, November-December 1951, pp.200-207.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido & David Walters, November 2005.
Proofread/Edited: Scott Wilson, 2006
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.

1. The victorious proletarian revolution in Yugoslavia is fundamentally the product of two historic factors: the revolutionary upsurge of the toiling masses expressing itself in the movement of the armed partisans, and the specific policy followed by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia in the important turns of the objective revolutionary process.

The movement of the masses of workers and poor peasants against the imperialist occupants, in conditions of extreme sharpening of social contradictions, swelled the cadres fighting for national emancipation, broadened it into a struggle against the Yugoslav exploiters, took the first steps toward their expropriation and, in the very course of this struggle, destroyed the old state apparatus on the largest part of Yugoslav territory. The specific policy of the CPY, distinguishing itself from that of all the other Communist parties of Europe, primarily under the pressure of the masses, successively accepted, then took over the leadership in the destruction of the old bourgeois state apparatus; legalized, then generalized the construction of a new proletarian state apparatus; consolidated, then broadened the conquests of the proletarian revolution, by refusing to capitulate before the Soviet bureaucracy and by engaging in a resolute struggle against the bureaucratic deformations of the Yugoslav workers’ state.

Three Stages of Yugoslav Revolution

  1. The first decisive stage of the Yugoslav revolution was crossed on Novembcr 29, 1943 at the meeting of the second session of the AVNOJ (Yugoslav Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation) at Jayce. On this occasion a provisional government was constituted which exercised its authority over all the territories occupied by the partisans which soon embraced the major part of Yugoslavia. The constitution of this government, basing itself on people’s committees of national liberation, which came into existence in 1941, signified that the dual power, which had existed in Yugoslavia from the beginning of the partisan insurrection, was being overcome. From this time on, there can be no further question of the existence of a centralized bourgeois state apparatus in Yugoslavia; there remained only the ruins of bourgeois power, just as the successive measures of expropriation and confiscation let only the ruins of bourgeois property. The new centralized state apparatus, bred on the people’s committees, which the AVNOJ began to construct, was a preponderantly proletarian state apparatus. The CPY having in fact conquered power in the liberated territories, this part of Yugoslavia ceased to be a bourgeois state; under a workers’ and peasants’ government it advanced toward the final accomplishment of the proletarian revolution.
  2. The second decisive stage of the Yugoslav revolution was crossed in October 1945 with the withdrawal of the two last bourgeois ministers from the central provisional government. The very constitution of this government in 1944 was only an episode in the unfolding of the Yugoslav revolution and was imposed by the joint pressure of imperialism and the soviet bureaucracy. While retarding the complete victory of the proletarian revolution, this episode, however, did not interrupt its progress. During the very period of the coalition government, the new state apparatus based on the people’s committees was extended over the whole Yugoslav territory. During this period all the remnants of bourgeois political power were eliminated. The withdrawal of the two bourgeois ministers from the central government was only the final expression of the fact that the bourgeoisie as a class had lost power and that the new state apparatus was of a socially different character than that of prewar Yugoslavia. Beginning with this time, the transition between the workers’ and peasants’ government and the dictatorship of the proletariat was being completed and Yugoslavia became a workers’ state. That was manifested by the fact that the conquests of the Yugoslav proletarian revolution were generalized and legally consolidated in 1945-46 by the law on the people’s committees, the law of nationalization of the means of industrial production, the mines and the banks and by the law on the confiscation of property, the law on agrarian reform and the annulment of peasant debts, etc.
  3. The third decisive stage of the Yugoslav revolution was crossed on June 28, 1948 by the split which occurred between the Kremlin and the CPY. After the consolidation of the conquests of the Yugoslav revolution, the CPY proceeded to their extension by the nationalization of wholesale trade and a considerable part of retail trade; the establishment of a monopoly of foreign trade; the beginning of the collectivization of agriculture and the five-year plan of industrialization and electrification of the country. At the same time bureaucratic deformations of the proletarian power developed in Yugoslavia both as a result of the backward character of the country and of the Stalinist policy of the leadership of the CPY, imitating the institutions of the bureaucratized USSR. The split between the Kremlin and the CPY, the expression of the refusal of the CPY to subordinate the interests of the Yugoslav revolution to those of the Soviet bureaucracy, opened the road to the struggle against these bureaucratic deformations. The principal measures taken within the framework of this struggle were: the constitution of workers’ councils and the beginning of workers’ management of the enterprises; the democratization of the cooperatives; the abolition of the privileges of the functionaries of the party and the state; the decentralization of the directing apparatus of the economy; the beginning of the democratization of cultural and ideological life, etc.

Permanent Revolution Confirmed

3. The dynamics of the Yugoslav revolution confirms the theory of the permanent revolution on all points:

  1. It confirms the point that the struggle of the toiling masses for national liberation against imperialism can only be victorious if it is transmuted into a proletarian revolution. This transmutation in Yugoslavia was not due to particular or conjunctural factors but constituted the application of the general strategy formulated by the Fourth International for all countries occupied by imperialism in Europe during the Second World War. If this strategy was successfully applied only in Yugoslavia, that is due to the specific character of the CPY which headed the movement of the masses.
  2. It confirms the point that a backward country can resolve the historic tasks of the bourgeois resolution (solution of the agrarian question, elimination of semi-feudal survivals in the state power, conquest of genuine national independence, etc.) only by the conquest of power by the proletariat which, in such conditions, finds itself compelled to grapple simultaneously with the solution of the historic tasks of the proletarian revolution.
  3. It confirms the point that the development and broadening of proletarian democracy after the consolidation of proletarian power is both possible and necessary to effectively combat the anti-socialist and bureaucratic tendencies which exist and develop in the workers’ state. In this, it represents a confirmation and a positive historical justification of the entire struggle of Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition in the USSR between 1923 and 1927, just as the degeneration of the USSR constituted a justification along negative lines.
  4. It confirms the point that a victorious proletarian revolution in a backward country, in the midst of a hostile world, necessarily develops through growing difficulties and contradictions which are reflected in economic crises and successive social tensions within the workers’ state. Only an international extension of the revolution and the aid given to the Yugoslav revolution by the victorious proletariat of several advanced countries can assure a real and harmonious solution of the problems posed by industrialization and the voluntary collectivization of agriculture.

At the same time the dynamics of the Yugoslav revolution confirms the analysis made by the Fourth International of the questions of the USSR and of Stalinism. It confirms the character of the Stalinist parties as degenerated workers’ parties, an indispensable explanation in understanding the new course taken by the Yugoslav revolution since the break between the CPY and the Kremlin. It especially confirms the fundamental thesis of the Trotskyist movement which maintains that Stalinism is a phenomenon characteristic of a period of ebb in the revolutionary struggles of the masses, and that it can be overcome only by a new rise of revolutionary struggles. In Yugoslavia, the first country where the proletariat took power since the degeneration of the USSR, Stalinism no longer exists today as an effective factor in the workers’ movement, which however does not exclude its possible reemergence under certain conditions.

Relationship of Class Forces Internally

4. The perspectives of the Yugoslav revolution are fundamentally determined by the relationship of forces between the classes on the national and international arenas.

In Yugoslavia, the workers’ state is confronted with growing pressure from the peasant proprietors who seek to pass from simple commodity production to capitalist accumulation by means of the private appropriation of the means of production. This tendency develops automatically and necessarily on the basis of the present economic and technical development of the country and coincides with tile tendency of the kulaks to effect their fusion with the international capitalist market.

At present this is being held in check as follows:

  1. By the slow modification of the relationship of social forces resulting from the industrialization of the country, from the numerical increase of the proletariat, of its cohesion, its political consciousness and its growing cultural progress, thanks to the beginning of the development of proletarian democracy, etc.
  2. By the differentiation within the peasantry itself, resulting from the support given by the workers’ state to the poor peasants and to the development of agricultural cooperatives.
  3. By measures of coercion taken by the workers’ state hindering the development of this automatic economic process: prohibition of the sale and purchase of land over 30 hectares; dual price sector; progressive quotas of forced deliveries of farm products (tax in kind); etc.

Nevertheless, so long as the industrial production of objects of consumption does not assure to the peasants a real growing return parallel with the growth of agricultural production, and so long as the mechanization of agriculture is not able to create a healthy economic base for the collectivization of agriculture, industrialization will be carried on amidst the hostility and resistance of a section of the peasantry. Under these conditions only the conscious participation of the proletariat in the exercise of power can protect the conquests of the revolution in the immediate period. Only a considerable extension of the present measures of democratization and of the struggle against bureaucratism can assure the conscious support of the proletarian masses for the workers’ state.

However, the measures of democratization introduced in 1950 have only very slowly, altered the attitude of the industrial proletariat, as a result of its justified past distrust toward this course of the CPY, as a result of the pressure of famine and poverty upon the workers and as a result of unfavorable objective conditions for a broad revolutionary mobilization of the masses. The needs of the industrial proletariat also began to come into conflict with the inherent logic of the rightward course and the official ideology of the government and the CPY. Because of this fact, the relationship of forces between the classes within Yugoslavia have begun to alter beginning with 1951 to the disadvantage of the proletariat. The workers’ state has been obliged to make a series of concessions to the class enemy consisting notably of the following:

  1. The removal of controls from prices and trade, permitting an accelerated private accumulation on the part of rich peasants and tradesmen-speculators.
  2. The halting of agrarian collectivization and the permission granted to the peasantry to withdraw from certain types of agricultural cooperatives.
  3. The decentralization of foreign trade which threatens to rapidly undermine the state monopoly of foreign trade.

Under Imperialist and Kremlin Pressure

5. On the international plane, a growing pressure is being brought to bear upon the Yugoslav revolution by its two mortal enemies, world imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy:

  1. World imperialism seeks to destroy the conquests of the Yugoslav revolution, the regime of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the collectivized property in the means of production in industry and in the mines. It reckons on succeeding by stages in this game: first by the utilization of political and economic pressure, then by an open or camouflaged armed intervention. Its objectives at the present stage are the inclusion of Yugoslavia in the imperialist diplomatic front and in its Mediterranean military alignments. With that beginning, it seeks to obtain at a later stage the right to supervise Yugoslav economy, the right of investment in the mines and industry, the legalization of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois political parties, the virtual destruction of the monopoly of foreign trade, etc.
  2. The Soviet bureaucracy seeks by all means to bring about the destruction of a regime of the dictatorship of the proletariat independent of the Kremlin, a mortal threat to the influence of Stalinism over the international workers’ movement, and in the long run also to the power of the bureaucracy in Eastern Europe and in the USSR itself. The destruction by imperialism of the conquests of the Yugoslav proletarian revolution represents a lesser evil to the Kremlin than the independent development of proletarian Yugoslavia. Up to now, the entire policy of the Kremlin toward Yugoslavia (economic blockade, provocative military demonstrations, propaganda campaigns, etc.) is aimed at forcing this country into the imperialist camp. This policy, however, is only a preparation for another stage of the counterrevolutionary strategy of Stalinism toward Yugoslavia which would consist of an attempt to include Yugoslavia in the sphere of influence of the Soviet bureaucracy by means of military intervention.

In the long run, this hostile, twofold pressure brought to bear on the Yugoslav revolution can only be successfully counteracted by the conscious support of the world proletariat and the international victory of the socialist revolution. For the present, the situation of unstable equilibrium between imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy accords a certain respite to the Yugoslav resolution. But this respite occurs, especially since the outbreak of the war in Korea, within the framework of an increased parallel pressure brought to bear upon Yugoslavia, a pressure which is not neutralized by a sufficiently extensive international proletarian action for the aid of Yugoslavia. In these conditions the Yugoslav state has found itself constrained to make a series of concessions to its enemies on the international plane. It has led to an opportunist deviation in its foreign policy and especially that of the CPY (idealization of the UN, neutralism, petty-bourgeois concept of aggression, pacifist conception of class collaboration in the struggle against war, etc.).

Without a radical alteration of the relationship of forces between the classes on the international arena, this tendency threatens to deepen and to hurtle the Yugoslav revolution to its doom. The contradiction between the progressive evolution of the Yugoslav state itself in 1950 and the rightward evolution of its foreign policy which, at the present stage, is the expression of the crisis of isolation of the Yugoslav revolution, will find a solution at a later stage in one of two ways: either the Yugoslav socialist revolution will fuse with the revolutionary movement and with the international revolution, or international concessions to imperialism will be followed by concessions within Yugoslavia itself.

But despite the right deviation of its foreign policy and despite all the concessions which it has already been obliged to make to the class enemy in Yugoslavia itself, the leadership of the CPY and of the Yugoslav workers’ state cannot itself peacefully abolish the material bases of this state without destroying itself. American imperialism and the rich peasantry of Yugoslavia have only a transitory interest in dealings with the CPY and in wresting concessions from it; their fundamental interest requires the destruction of the workers’ state and the return to power of the bourgeois politicians who are already raising their heads. That is why the policy of the CPY in the period ahead, a period of sharpened social struggles in Yugoslavia, will be characterized by its vacillating centrist character which can abruptly change its rightward course to an adventurist struggle against the kulaks and an attempt to keep the power by all means. Fundamentally, the question of whether the CPY will be obliged to deepen workers’ democracy, a step which cannot fail to have its repercussions on the foreign policy of the party, will depend on the degree of the real activity of the Yugoslav proletariat in the workers’ councils and the people’s committees, or whether in the absence of a real mobilization of the masses, the regime will take more and more bureaucratic forms.

Character of Yugoslav Communist Party

6. It is impossible to determine the dynamics and the perspectives of the Yugoslav revolution without at the same time defining the character of the CPY. If Stalinism can be defined as the subordination of the interests of the workers of every country to those of the Soviet bureaucracy, the CPY, beginning with 1941, outlined an orientation which was to lead to the break of 1948 and, because of this fact, it ceased to be a Stalinist party in the full meaning of the word. The difference in orientation between the CPY and that followed by the other CPs of Europe was effected in the first place under the pressure of the masses. But that does not suffice to explain the evolution of Yugoslavia. In other countries, where the revolutionary upsurge at least at the beginning, was as powerful as in Yugoslavia (Spain 1936, Greece 1944) the CPs took a diametrically opposite course to that of the CPY. The difference in orientation between the CPY and those of the other CPs of Europe could result only from an interaction between the revolutionary pressure of the masses and the changes of strategic conceptions which they produced in the leadership of the CPY under favorable conditions, to which should be added the absence of a Kremlin control apparatus operating on the scene.

In the first stage, these changes expressed themselves in an attempt of the leadership of the CPY to conciliate the interests of the Yugoslav revolution with those of the Soviet bureaucracy (1941 to early 1948). For this reason, while remaining within the international framework of Stalinist policy and while publicly and unreservedly accepting the internal and external policy of the Soviet bureaucracy, the CPY nevertheless differentiated itself at the time from Stalinist policy on the following points:

  1. The creation, in 1941, of “people’s committees of national liberation” and of “proletarian brigades” in the partisan movement.
  2. The refusal to collaborate, in 1942, with Mikhailovich’s Chetniks and with the bourgeois government-in-exile.
  3. The orientation, in 1943, towards the actual seizure of power by the CPY and the constitution of an apparatus of a new state, of a proletarian type.
  4. Elimination, in 1945, despite the agreements of “the Big Three,” of the last vestiges of bourgeois power in the country and the completion of the proletarian revolution.
  5. The pursuit of a foreign policy and an economic orientation more independent from the Kremlin than that of the other countries of the buffer zone.

The accumulation of all these actions, accompanied by an initial private criticism of the whole of Stalinist policy (notably: criticism of the more exorbitant privileges of the top functionaries of the USSR; criticism of the relations of economic plunder imposed on the buffer zone countries by the bureaucracy; criticism of the policy of the French, Italian and Greek CPs, at the time of the “liberation,” etc.), led the Kremlin to the preventive split with the CPY. This split was inevitable because of the irreconcilability of interests between the Yugoslav revolution and the Soviet bureaucracy.

Beginning with this split there opened a second stage of differentiation between the CPY and Stalinism. Progressing in a purely empirical fashion, the CPY has successively emphasized:

  1. The subordination of the international communist movement to the interests of the Kremlin and the defeats to the workers’ movements of several countries caused by this subordination.
  2. The total political, economic, military, and cultural grip of the Soviet bureaucracy on the countries of the buffer zone and its horrible consequences for the toiling buffer of these countries.
  3. The fundamental orientation of the Soviet bureaucracy toward a division of the world through the establishment of a modus vivendi with imperialism and the utilization of the workers’ movement as barter for this purpose.
  4. The degeneration of the USSR as a result of the isolation of the first workers’ state and of its backward character and the formation of a privileged bureaucratic caste which has usurped all power in the USSR.
  5. The danger of bureaucratism in every proletarian revolution, a danger which can be combated only by increasing proletarian democracy.
  6. The necessity of reconstructing the workers’ movement in several countries.

Centrist Policy and Ideology

Beginning with this time, the CPY ceased to be a semi-Stalinist party and evolved as a centrist party, carried to power by the revolutionary masses. On the other hand, it is characterized by right-opportunist deviations, the most important being:

  1. The empirical character of its ideological development which has still not grasped the full Leninist conception of the nature of our epoch.
  2. The pragmatic and unprincipled character of the foreign policy of the CPY, tending to justify the diplomatic maneuvers of the Yugoslav state.
  3. The underestimation of the international workers’ movement and the lack of understanding of the theory of the permanent revolution as a whole.
  4. The absence of the right to form tendencies within the CPY.
  5. An opportunist conception of the construction of revolutionary parties in the world (generalization of the Yugoslav experience, underestimation of the importance of program, etc.).
  6. Since the right turn in Yugoslav foreign policy, the pragmatic elaboration of a theory of “State Capitalism” on the USSR joined to neo-reformist conceptions on “new forms” of capitalism, etc.

Only a modification of the international relationship of forces between the classes, a rise of the world revolutionary movement, assistance and fraternal criticism from this movement and a growing understanding on the part of the leaders and cadres of the CPY, will enable it to avoid crystallizing on false positions which would lead to the liquidation of the progressive effects of the Yugoslav affair.

Already, the positions taken as a result of the war in Korea have in part vitiated the effects of the Yugoslav affair on the international crisis of Stalinism; in these conditions and in the absence of a sufficiently strong revolutionary international leadership, it is not excluded that Stalinism can regain a foothold in the ranks of the CPY.

In this connection, the positions and the attitude the CPY takes toward Trotskyism—whether openly or by attempting to ignore it—acquires considerable political importance. What is involved is not merely a historic rectification of the past; it is the test of whether a workers’ current which has emerged from Stalinism has succeeded in linking itself with the tradition and program of Bolshevism, and thereby in definitively and decisively surmounting Stalinism.

Tasks of the Fourth International

7. The tasks of the Fourth International toward the Yugoslav revolution are established within the framework of its general strategy, conforming to this analysis of the character of the Yugoslav state and the CPY:

  1. The Fourth International unconditionally, defends the conquests of the Yugoslav revolution against world imperialism and against the Soviet bureaucracy. It conceives of this defense both as a strategic task—the junction of the international revolution with the Yugoslav revolution—and as an immediate tactical task: mobilization of the international revolutionary vanguard and of the proletarian masses of all countries for concrete actions in defense of the conquests of the Yugoslav proletarian revolution.

    This defense cannot enter into collision with the interests of the world revolution of which the conquests of October form part. The Fourth International will likewise assure the defense against any attempt by internal forces to utilize Yugoslavia against the interests of the world revolution.
  2. In the event of war by the Soviet bureaucracy against Yugoslavia, the Fourth International will be for the defense of Yugoslavia against the counter-revolutionary action of the Kremlin. This policy, based on the interests of the world revolution, will be pursued regardless of all material aid Yugoslavia may eventually receive from capitalist countries. In event of an extension of the conflict this position will be reexamined in each specific case.
  3. The Fourth International will attempt to involve the CPY in united front actions for specific objectives. Each of these actions presupposes our principled agreement regarding the objective to be attained, and cannot in any case eliminate the right of the international revolutionary movement to criticize the policy of the Yugoslav government and the CPY. The practical possibility of realizing such actions is extremely limited because of the present rightward course of the CPY.
  4. The Fourth International believes that one of its principal contributions to the consolidation of the conquests of the Yugoslav revolution consists in a frank and uncompromising criticism of all the political errors and opportunist deviations on the part of the CPY. These criticisms should take as their point of departure the concrete experiences of the international workers’ movement which must be communicated to the CPY as well as of the peculiar experience of the Yugoslav revolution; they should tend to impel the Yugoslav communists to replace their present opportunist leadership by a revolutionary leadership which in practice applies a policy corresponding both to the interests of the international proletariat and the safeguarding of the Yugoslav revolution: a break with the imperialist diplomatic front, a halting to the economic and political concessions to imperialism, an effective mobilization of the workers and poor peasants against the kulaks and speculators, a deepening of workers’ democracy, freedom of discussion, assembly and press for all the currents of the workers’ movement basing themselves on proletarian power in Yugoslavia, support to the international workers’ movement and genuine support to a real international revolutionary regroupment.

A Critique of Past Positions

8. It is the duty of the Fourth International to critically reexamine, in the light of the events which have occurred since 1948, its past analysis of the Yugoslav revolution and the dynamics of this revolution which events have placed in a new light.

From 1942 on, the Fourth International had, in general, correctly estimated the movement of the Yugoslav partisans and the civil war which unfolded as a consequence. This analysis continued along correct lines up to the beginning of 1946. From that time and until June 28, 1948, the International committed serious errors of evaluation regarding the Yugoslav revolution; they consisted notably in an identification of the Yugoslav developments with those of the other buffer zone countries; in confounding the CPY with the Stalinist Parties in the buffer states; in the erroneous hypothesis that the revolutionary movement of the masses had been arrested by the CPY and that the new centralized state apparatus constructed by the CPY was a bourgeois state apparatus in its structure, despite the elimination of the bourgeoisie from the political and economic life of the country which had been noted by the International.

After the break of the Kremlin with the CPY, the Fourth International was the only tendency of the international workers’ movement to immediately understand the progressive significance and the historic importance of this event and to undertake an international campaign for the defense of Yugoslavia; it linked the analysis it made of the causes of the break with the analysis it had made before 1946 of the depth of the revolutionary mass movement in Yugoslavia. The campaign for the defense of Yugoslavia was, however, partly hindered by the delay of the International in recognizing the character of Yugoslavia as a workers’ state. This delay was due fundamentally to a false appraisal of the nature of the centralized state apparatus set up in Yugoslavia in 1945.

These various errors of evaluation were caused by:

  1. The absence of precise information on Yugoslav events and institutions beginning with the years 1945-46.
  2. The absence of all public differentiation by the CPY in relation to the Soviet bureaucracy and to Stalinism before June 28, 1948.
  3. The fact that the correct general analysis of the primarily counter-revolutionary role of the Soviet bureaucracy in the buffer zone led the International to identify a priori, without separate analysis of each case, the policy of the CPs with that of the bureaucracy (which was not only wrong for Yugoslavia, but also for China).

The lesson to be drawn from these errors of evaluation is the imperious necessity of concrete and precise analyses of the national peculiarities in the development of the workers’ movement of every country. However important in our epoch are the laws of development for sectors of the world or for the entire world, these laws can never be substituted for the particular analysis of each country in the determination of a correct day-to-day revolutionary policy.

The rapidity and the unanimity with which the Fourth International was able, on the morrow of June 28, 1948, to make a turn for the defense of Yugoslavia, as well as the concrete manner it has followed and appraised the evolution of the CPY since then, prove that these errors of evaluation were not at all due to an erroneous general conception, but rather occurred despite the correct evaluation made by the Fourth International of the nature of Stalinism and its dialectical relationship with the mass movement. It is only in the light of this appraisal that the Yugoslav revolution becomes comprehensible and assumes its full significance as an important stage in the world crisis of Stalinism.


Last updated on 13 April 2009