MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: International Communist League/Spartacists—PRS 4

Circular to the Leadership of All Sections

30 June 1948

Written: 1948
Source: Prometheus Research Library, Prometheus Research Series No. 4, New York, 1993
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2007/Prometheus Research Library. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive & Prometheus Research Library as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.

The following unsigned circular was issued by the International Secretariat of the Fourth International. The original is in the archives of Natalia Sedova Trotsky at the Trotsky Museum in Coyoacán, Mexico; a photocopy is in the collection of the Prometheus Research Library.

June 30, 1948

Circular No. 16
To the Leadership of All Sections


The Tito affair has an exceptional importance from two points of view: externally for our attitude to Stalinist workers in particular and to revolutionary workers in general, and the conclusions that we can draw in regard to our appreciation of the USSR and Stalinism.

It goes without saying that the leaderships of all sections will have understood immediately the importance of the events and the necessity of taking the initiative in this respect. However, the I.S. thinks it necessary to make known its point of view in order to facilitate prompt and coordinated action of the whole International.

Significance of the Conflict

The resolution of the Cominform and the reply of the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party clearly show that the origin of the conflict lies in the attempt of the Kremlin to strangle completely the latter and the Tito government.

GPU agents endeavoured to create a tendency inside the Yugoslav CP to “Russify” it completely, to undermine the personal prestige of Tito and to get rid of him. The Kremlin, estimating that in Yugoslavia it did not possess an absolutely docile instrument, and fearing an independent role on the part of Tito, however limited, attacked him by mobilising at the same time its direct agents in Yugoslavia and the prestige of the Russian Communist Party and the Cominform against the Yugoslav Communists; it attempted to create a faction of its own in the Yugoslav CP capable of overthrowing them.

This is an example of the extreme rigidity of the Stalinist bureaucratic machine, incompatible with the least opposition and which, driven by its own internal logic, is forced to nip in the bud the slightest sign of independence, in order to safeguard its prestige as well as its apparent unity and stability. But the attempt of the Kremlin in Yugoslavia misfired for a whole series of reasons. Tito and the leadership of the CP were strongly entrenched in a movement and a party which they had led during the last few years of struggle under the occupation and immediately after, without the direct support of the Kremlin, and of which they have been considered as the natural leaders. They have constructed on the other hand a strong state apparatus, which inspires them with a different assurance from that which formerly characterised various attempts at opposition in the Communist parties of the capitalist countries in the face of the all-powerful Kremlin. Yugoslavia is the only country of the glacis where the government had not been imposed by the entry of the Red Army and the Soviet occupation, but which had been brought to power by the revolutionary movement of the masses.

Tito personally is a bureaucrat to the hilt; past master in the bureaucratic and GPU Kremlin machine he served for several years and which he has known how to stand up to energetically in his own country.

The resistance of Tito has probably surprised and exasperated Stalin. Before the failure of his attempt, Stalin could either try to secure the unconditional submission of Tito, or eliminate him through the action of his agents in Yugoslavia. Stalin has preferred the former course despite all the inconveniences of mobilising his international machine and openly excommunicating Tito.

We shall see in the days and weeks to come on what supplementary trump cards Stalin has in the long run based his decision, and what will be the breadth of Tito’s resistance.

The Cominform Resolution and the Yugoslav Reply

The charge sheet of the Cominform against Tito is a typical product of the Kremlin machine of lies, calumnies, and amalgams. Tito is accused at the same time of “nationalism,” “Trotskyism,” “Bukharinism,” of basing himself on the kulaks and wishing to destroy the kulaks, etc.... This document is conceived in order to drown the facts of the case in an ocean of assertions, in appearance “Marxist-Leninist,” contradictory and confused, which allows anyone in Stalinist world public opinion or in Yugoslavia to find reasons to criticise and condemn Tito. The reply of the Yugoslav party enables us, naturally without solidarising with it or with Tito, to attack the resolution of the Cominform and the attitude taken by the different Communist parties, who have rushed to align themselves completely with the resolution, without even knowing Tito’s reply and without even publishing in their press an objective résumé of that reply.

The reply of the Yugoslav party shows in effect that its case has been judged by the leaderships of the various Communist parties and the Cominform on the basis of unilateral accusations brought against it by the Russian Communist Party and without it even being able to make known its point of view. Our organisations, in their press, and by special leaflets addressed to the Stalinist workers and to revolutionary workers in general, should underline the enormous proof, afforded by this action of the Kremlin, of the monstrously bureaucratic character of Stalinism. Between one day and the next, a whole party, standing at the head of a country considered to be the vanguard of all glacis countries, was condemned solely on the basis of unilateral accusations, without the contrary point of view of the accused party ever having been discussed by the militants of the Stalinist organisations.

This enables us to make clear before the masses the whole nature of Stalinism and to recall examples from the past, the accusations brought against Trotskyism, the Moscow Trials, etc....

Activities Towards the Yugoslavs

The International Secretariat is preparing a document addressed to the Yugoslav Communist Party which it will try to send to Yugoslavia and circulate amongst the Communist workers of Yugoslavia. We ask all sections, when they receive the text, to transmit it by delegations to Yugoslav consulates and embassies asking them to forward it to the CC of the Yugoslav CP. On the other hand, we ask all sections to let us know immediately any contacts or any means which will permit an intervention on the part of the International in Yugoslavia, and to send by these means their own publications on this subject.

Conclusions on the USSR and Stalinism

The Tito affair permits us to draw important conclusions on the following points:

a)  Concerning the stability of the Stalinist bureaucracy;

b)  Concerning the question of the extension of Stalinism in the world without rifts, and the revisionist theory of “bureaucratic collectivism”;

c)  Concerning the nature of the glacis countries.

The Tito affair shows that the extreme rigidity of the Stalinist bureaucratic machine will have considerable difficulty in incorporating in its complicated and contradictory movements, without cracks, fissures and grave crises, the glacis countries as a bloc, each component part of which has been submitted to a whole series of different economic, historical and political conditions.

Stalinism is not a product that is capable of universal export and in proportion to its expansion its internal contradictions, far from disappearing, become more violent and explosive. The attempted assimilation of the glacis by Stalinism can well produce centrifugal forces in the international Stalinist edifice and even in the USSR itself.

In the Stalin-Tito controversy the Stalinists themselves put their finger on the capitalist nature of the structure of these countries in alleging that the regime of private property in agricultural production, commerce and petty enterprises, that is to say in the essential domain of the whole economy in these countries, where petty individual exploitation constantly engenders capitalism.

Where Is Tito Going?

We should follow with great interest but also with caution the evolution of the Moscow-Belgrade conflict.

The reply of the Yugoslav party indicates that Tito is not ready to capitulate and his reconciliation with the Kremlin remains problematical, if not impossible, after such a passage at arms.

There remain consequently three possibilities:

a)  That Tito will be overthrown by the revolt of the Stalinist wing of the Yugoslav party, which does not appear in any case to be very important.

b)  That he will maintain his present like of independence, which poses necessarily a more radical rupture with the Kremlin and the Stalinists.

c)  That he will go over to American imperialism and the bloc of western democracies. But this last eventuality seems in any case only capable of realisation after a long evolution, his present base having been established on socialist ideas and anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggles. Above all the most important point for us is not the personal case of Tito, a bureaucrat of the old stock with bonapartist ambitions and tendencies, but the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, the proletariat and poor peasantry placed by the conflict with Moscow in a favourable situation to advance in the path of a more radical rupture with Stalinism.

It is in this direction that the International should act.

The International Secretariat