MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: 1948 Yugoslavia

Yugoslav Events and the World Crisis of Stalinism

Statement by the Political Committee of the Socialist Workers Party 1948

Adopted:3 August, 1948
First Published: August 1948
Source: Fourth International, New York, Volume IX, No. 6, August 1948, pages 176-81.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido and 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 open break between the Cominform and the Communist Party of Yugoslavia is the clearest expression to date of the deep crisis convulsing Stalinism. The Kremlin regime came out of the war seemingly strengthened at home and abroad: in the first instance, by the territorial gains of the Soviet armies; the revolutionary wave following the war likewise brought about an unexampled growth of Stalinist parties in Western Europe. But all this served merely to obscure for a while the unsolvable internal crisis of Stalinism.

The proponents of the theory that Stalinism represents a new class seized upon this territorial expansion of the Kremlin as “proof positive” of their anti-Marxist views. They argued that this expansion marked a definitive consolidation of a new class system; they hastily claimed it as n refutation of Trotsky’s conception of Stalinism.

In reality the Yugoslav events have brought a confirmation of Trotsky’s analysis and prediction concerning the nature and ultimate fate of Stalinism, the most unstable and crisis-ridden regime in history. Stalinism lacks an independent class base of its own and, in protecting its own privileges and interests, it invariably comes into sharpest collision, in every sphere, with the interests and needs of the masses. The Stalinist regime is nothing else but a historical episode, a parasitic growth upon the workers’ state, a specific form of the degeneration of the October Resolution, the product of the isolation of the proletarian revolution in a backward country.

Resting on the property relations established by the October Revolution, the Stalinist bureaucracy collides, on the one side, with the imperialist encirclement, and, on the other, with the revolutionary masses. They have sought in the recent postwar days to overcome this twofold contradiction by the method of territorial expansion, reparations and plunder.

The Yugoslav events provide definitive proof that the Kremlin’s expansion, far from resolving the contradictions of Stalinism, actually projects beyond the Russian frontiers the internal contradictions which convulse the regime at home. No sooner are these contradictions of the Stalinist regime projected outwardly than they tend to assume their most aggravated forms.

Counter-Revolutionary Kremlin

The utterly reactionary, counterrevolutionary character of Stalinism has been most crassly expressed in the relations between the Kremlin bureaucracy and the Eastern European satellite states. Regardless of the existing capitalist property relations in these countries, the Kremlin seeks to integrate them with the Soviet economy, without the slightest consideration for the needs and interests of their peoples.

This places the satellite countries in an intolerable position. Severed from their traditional economic ties with Western Europe and the rest of the capitalist world, these countries of Eastern Europe find themselves today in an economic blind alley. They are being economically strangled. The Kremlin refuses to allow them the least degree of independence. Stalin has vetoed even the project of a Balkan federation as a means of solving the existing difficulties of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania.

The Kremlin’s primary aim in the satellite countries is to exploit them and drain their resources for its own benefit, and in order to try to extricate itself from the difficulties of the Russian economy. This policy of plunder and naked oppression can be carried out only by the imposition of a ruthless regime of oppression utterly subservient to the dictates of the Kremlin bureaucracy.

But instead of solving the problems confronting Stalin’s regime, this policy itself gives rise to new contradictions.

On the one hand, the Kremlin finds itself compelled to eliminate the resistance of the capitalists in those countries who have the backing of Washington. Czechoslovakia is a good example of this. The Czech capitalists were strong enough to present a serious challenge to the Stalinist machine. The Kremlin was unable to cope with this challenge without a partial mobilization of the masses.

But, on the other hand, the moment the masses are mobilized, even if partially, the laws of the class struggle begin to assert themselves, driving the masses into conflict with the Kremlin. The case of Yugoslavia shows how correct the Kremlin is in fearing even a degree of independence. If grave difficulties arise for the Kremlin when the masses are set partially in motion, as happened in Yugoslavia in the course of the wartime Nazi occupation and civil war there, what would happen in a country where the masses started moving under a really independent banner?

Class Criteria

When, one speaks of the effects of the Kremlin’s policies on satellite countries, it is necessary each time to analyze the effects on the different classes, along with the manner in which each class reacts.

The satellite countries are far from homogeneous. They have not eliminated the class struggle. From the economic standpoint, Yugoslavia does not differ radically from Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria or Albania. If Yugoslavia differs from them at all, it is in having advanced furthest along the road toward destroying capitalism. The capitalist elements in Yugoslavia, as elsewhere, naturally look to Washington for salvation. And Washington, benefiting from the Stalinist policies, just as naturally tries to bring to bear every weapon at its command to draw Yugoslavia, along with the rest of Eastern Europe, back into the imperialist orbit.

But the Stalinist policies clash not merely with the capitalist elements in each satellite country, but also with the working class. Furthermore, they clash with the peasantry, in all its layers. However, the workers, smarting under the bureaucratic Stalinist regime of plunder and oppression, do not turn to Washington for salvation. The most conscious proletarian elements in Yugoslavia, as in other satel1ite countries, are striving for a socialist solution. These socialist aspirations of the working class likewise run directly counter to the interests and policies of the Stalinist bureaucracy.

Precisely because the Kremlin is unable to permit the slightest degree of independence to any of the satellite countries, it can maintain its hold in Eastern Europe only by naked police-terror methods. For this same reason, it cannot tolerate in the party leadership or in the government anyone except puppets, completely dependent for their high positions not on any abilities or talents of their own, or their popularity among the masses, but solely upon their blind obedience to the orders of the Kremlin.

Peculiar Features

The peculiarity of Yugoslav developments has been such as to preclude the complete handpicking of puppets, along the customary Stalinist pattern. Indeed, the Yugoslav Communist Party has undergone an independent development, even though in its internal regime and policies it hewed as closely as it could to its Russian prototype.

To cite two outstanding features of Yugoslav developments: 1. Unlike the native Russian bureaucracy or most of the other Stalinist leaderships in Europe, the Yugoslav CP actually led a successful civil war, applying class-struggle methods, even if in a highly distorted form. 2. Under Tito, the leading Yugoslav cadres gained domination not with the aid of Russian bayonets, but through the mobilization of the Yugoslav masses around a program of social demands, in many instances of a revolutionary character.

This independent course of Yugoslav development is one of the root-sources of the long friction—and now the open break—between the Kremlin and Tito.

Revolutionists can only hail this development—this first rift in the ranks of world Stalinism which must unfold in open view of the world working class.

It is especially welcome to us because it throws into the full limelight the reactionary nature of Stalin regime, illuminating it in a manner which can be most easily understood by workers throughout the world, and in particular by the militants who are in the ranks of the Stalinist parties everywhere.

It brings out of the shadows and into the light of day the terrible internal contradictions of the Kremlin regime which are bound to lead to its downfall.

What is more, it confronts the rank and file of the Yugoslav CP and of Stalinist parties elsewhere with the need of reexamining the ideas and methods of Stalinism. Having said A, they must go on to say B. That is to say, they are bound by the logic of the situation to review and reexamine the entire past history of Stalinism, in the first instance, and of the quarter of a century of the life-and-death struggle of Trotskyism against Stalinism.

Events Favor Us

The course of events will work in favor of the revolutionists. The incumbent Yugoslav regime is caught in a vise. To be sure, Tito and his friends possess a certain amount of room to maneuver not only against the masses at home but also with respect to both the Kremlin and Washington. But the moment of decision for Yugoslavia cannot be postponed indefinitely.

The alternatives facing Yugoslavia, let alone the Tito regime, are to capitulate either to Washington or to the Kremlin— or to strike out on an independent road. This road can be only that of an Independent Workers and Peasants Socialist Yugoslavia, as the first step toward a Socialist Federation of the Balkan Nations. It can be achieved only through an appeal to and unity with the international working class. That is to say, it can be achieved only by Yugoslavia’s rallying to the banner of the European Socialist Revolution, and calling upon the international working class to aid her in the struggle against both the Kremlin oligarchy and American imperialism.

For revolutionists, however, it is not enough to welcome a great opportunity. This is only the beginning for the next step, namely their seizing the opportunity and intervening, above all in order to raise the conscious level of the world working-class militants.

The logic of the Stalin-Tito struggle is such that it is bound to impel the militants in Yugoslavia and elsewhere—not to the right but to the left. This will happen independently of whether Tito himself moves to the right, or whether he seeks to straddle the fence somewhere between the Kremlin and imperialism.

But the precondition for how far the masses will move to the left lies not in their own wishes or their spontaneous movements but in how able and effectively the conscious revolutionary vanguard, the world Trotskyists, will intervene as a dynamic factor into the situation.

The Way to Begin

To intervene effectively, we must BEGIN by patiently explaining the political meaning of the Stalin-Tito rift; we must lay bare the root causes of Stalinism, its origin, its reactionary nature, its naked brutality. In this way, by introducing the maximum of political clarity into the situation, revolutionists will be able to intervene most swiftly and effectively and help the militant workers and peasants in Yugoslavia.

Far more than Yugoslavia itself is involved here. The Yugoslav events are only a component part of the unfolding international crisis of Stalinism. This is evidenced by the tremors already produced in Stalinist parties the world over as a consequence of the Tito-Stalin rift. These repercussions are only the beginning. It is by no means excluded that the chain of events, whose starting point is represented by Yugoslavia, will continue to unfold until the Soviet Union itself becomes involved. Let us recall that the Soviet masses have waited long and anxiously for help from the outside against the Stalinist despots.

At all events, the effective and vigorous intervention of the Trotskyists into the Yugoslav events and the maturing crisis of international Stalinism cannot fail to facilitate and speed up the emergence onto the highway of the socialist revolution of the militant workers and peasants of Yugoslavia, of the rest of Eastern Europe and, consequently, of Europe as a whole.

August 3, 1948.


Last updated on 11.19.2005