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Fourth International, July-August 1950


George Clarke

10 Years After the GPU Assassination

Leon Trotsky – A New Vindication


From Fourth International, Vol.11 No.4, July-August 1950, pp.99-105.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Ten years after his assassination, the epic struggle of Leon Trotsky to defend the heritage of Leninism against the counter-revolutionary Kremlin bureaucracy, which ordered his death, approaches vindication. The ideas and program of the great theorist and practitioner of the science of Marxism are being tested and confirmed in the crisis of world Stalinism and especially in its most dramatic and positive expression, the Yugoslav revolution.

Trotsky did not – and could not – specifically predict the Yugoslav revolution, nor its collision and rupture with the Soviet bureaucracy. What he foresaw was the dynamics qf social forces and the main lines of their development.

Stalinism, he never tired of reiterating, is a transitory phenomenon born out of working class defeats and reaction. It is not a stage of social evolution comparable to slavery, feudalism or capitalism. The bureaucracy is a cancerous growth on Soviet society, sapping its vital powers, obstructing its healthy growth, and not a new class organically tied to the development of the productive forces.

Stalinism in the Soviet Union was and remains a crisis regime. The parasitism and plundering of the privileged ruling caste clashes violently with the needs and interests of the masses. Hence the ruthless, barbaric, totalitarian dictatorship.

The conflict inevitably spread to the world arena where the Soviet bureaucracy ran afoul of the socialist and revolutionary aspirations of the proletarians of other countries. The Communist workers viewed Stalinism as the banner-bearer and inheritor of the October Revolution. But the Kremlin gangsters were neither impressed nor influenced, because to spur the revolution abroad meant digging their own grave in the Soviet Union. They could not permit the workers’ movement any other role than that of human merchandise to be traded for machines or treaties in diplomatic haggling with world imperialism. Hence the counter-revolutionary policies of Stalinism which has led to the extension of its crisis far beyond the borders of the Soviet Union.

Although confirmation of Trotsky’s analysis of Stalinism was not lacking in his lifetime, it was largely negative in character. There were the extinction of the political and social gains of the revolution, the terror against the Bolsheviks and the masses, the monstrous growth of inequality, the Moscow Trials, the purges. There were the capitulation to the British labor fakers and Chiang Kai-shek in the Twenties and to Hitler in the Thirties, the betrayal of the Spanish civil war, the policies of social patriotism, class collaboration, People’s Fronts and the Hitler-Stalin alliance. But Trotsky above all had no illusion that this negative corroboration of his ideas would increase their popularity except among a few objective social thinkers – and they were few indeed! – and among the sparse cadres of the new revolutionary internationalists.

Trotsky predicted that in the victory or defeat of the revolutionary upsurge generated by the war the “Russian Question” would be decided. He believed that the bureaucracy spawned in the backwash of capitalist reaction would be consumed in war, the most virulent form of that reaction, and with it would perish the last remaining conquests of October, the socialized property forms. Or, the proletarian revolution resurgent in the West or the East would reinvigorate the Russian masses to restore the workers’ state to its robust original health by cutting away the unnatural and hideous growths of Stalinism.

The Conditional Test of the War

The conclusion of the war apparently refuted this prognosis of Trotsky. The proletarian revolution had not triumphed anywhere in the capitalist world. Far from being overthrown, the Kremlin had emerged a mighty military power, extending its control over one-third of Europe and dominating the working class movement on the entire continent. But the refutation was only apparent. Stalinism survived not because of intrinsic strength or stability. It had profited from a temporary conjuncture, from a temporary stalemate between the principal contending classes, neither of which proved able to to resolve the social crisis definitively in its favor.

Western imperialism was debilitated by the war; the economic and financial structures of all the great powers but the United States were in a state of paralysis or collapse; it was shaking from the assault of a great revolutionary upsurge. Immediately after Germany’s defeat, Anglo-American imperialism was in no position to join the decisive issue with the Soviet Union. On the other hand, the European proletariat, although exhibiting an unprecedented revolutionary consciousness and will, lacked the leadership to bring its struggles to a successful culmination. Stalinism prevented it from dealing a death blow to capitalism throughout Europe, but the working class could not liberate itself from this treacherous parasite without first submitting its illusions about Stalinism to the test of experience.

In awe, fright and consternation before the expanding power of Stalinism, which now appeared omnipotent to them, a great stampede began among the petty-bourgeois empiricists and intellectuals. One section fled toward the Kremlin and another away from it, both sections dropping Marxism by the way like so much encumbering ballast. Both saw in the Soviet bureaucracy a new, powerful and stable anti-capitalist social force. The Stalinophiles in Europe, feeling the pressure of the Kremlin at close hand, considered it a necessary social evil, which despite its crimes and barbaric methods had become the locomotive force of history. They urged the proletariat, whose independent historic mission, they said, had been pre-empted by the Russian bureaucrats, to accommodate themselves to the Soviet ruling caste and await liberation at the hand of its GPU divisions. The Stalinophobes, particularly in the United States, also believed that Stalinism was an evil and the bureaucracy had supplanted the working class as an independent social factor. But they differed from their intellectual counterparts in Europe in wanting to oppose the evil by urging the workers of America and Europe to accommodate themselves to US imperialism for this purpose.

Deutscher’s Adroit Apology

The most adroit of the apologists for Stalinism is Isaac Deutscher. In his recent biography of Stalin he more or less follows Trotsky’s analysis of the degeneration of the Soviet state. He does not hide the perfidy, brutality and crimes of Stalinism. But he appends to them a new interpretation: they grew out of the general contradictions of all revolutions where the psychological and material heritage of the capitalist past collides with the equalitarianism of the communist future, and out of the particular conditions of Russian backwardness. Therefore, since Stalinism was historically inevitable, it is a necessary, justifiable and progressive force. Moreover, Stalin and his bureaucracy were at the helm during the five-year plans which entitles them to credit for the industrialization of the USSR which Deutscher calls “the second revolution”; the Kremlin successfully defended the Soviet Union during the war; it expanded the revolution into Eastern Europe. Says Deutscher:

Stalin has been both the leader and the exploiter of a tragic, self-contradictory but creative revolution. Like Cromwell, Robespierre, and Napoleon he started as the servant of an insurgent people attd made himself its master. Like Cromwell he embodies the continuity of the revolution through all its phases and metamorphoses, although his role was less prominent in the first phase. Like Robespierre he has bled white his own party; and like Napoleon he has built his half continental empire and carried revolution beyond the frontiers of his country. The better part of Stalin’s work is as certain to outlast Stalin himself as the better parts of the works of Cromwell and .Napoleon outlasted them. But in order to shape it for the future and to give it its full value, history may yet have to cleanse and reshape Stalin’s work as sternly as it once cleansed and reshaped the work of the English revolution after Cromwell and of the French after Napoleon.

Leaving aside the highly questionable value of these analogies (we prefer Trotsky’s parallel of Stalin with “Mustapha Kemal Pasha or perhaps Porfirio Diaz” as closer to historical truth and reality), what political conclusions are to be drawn from Deutscher’s super-objective historical evaluation? Stalinism, after all, is not a phenomenon of the past but of the present, and very much of the present. The Russian masses must live under its brutal and parasitic despotism. Should they reconcile themselves to it and abandon all hope for its overthrow? Should Tito and the valiant Yugoslav insurgents bend the knee before the Great-Russian overlord? Should the workers of the capitalist world entrust their hopes for liberation to “revolutionary” bureaucrats under the leadership of this modern Robespierre-Napoleon-Cromwell? An affirmative answer logically flows from what Deutscher says.

Laboratory of Eastern Europe

How do matters stand in life? The outcome of the war has provided a great test in Eastern Europe. At first blush it appeared that, with expansion into Vast new territories, Stalinism had been enormously strengthened. On one side the frightful plunder and pillage seemed to bear out the Stalinophobe theory of the existence of a new imperialist ruling class in the Soviet Union. On the other side it inspired those like Deutscher who saw “the revolution from below” being replaced by the “revolution from above,” i.e., by bureaucratic manipulators and Napoleonic conquerors. Deutscher went so far, in fact, as to elevate Stalin’s policy of expediency, maneuvers and deals with imperialism into a grand revolutionary strategy as follows:

Lenin and Trotsky had their eyes fixed on the German, French and British working classes as the main agents of the revolution of the twentieth century; Stalin’s eyes were fixed primarily on revolutions in Warsaw, Bucharest, Belgrade and Prague. To him socialism in one zone, in the Russian zone became the supreme objective of political strategy for a whole historical epoch.

(What a colossal distortion of the facts! Was it not Lenin, in conflict even with Trotsky over the receptivity of the Polish workers and peasants, who approved the advance of the Red Army into Poland in 1920? Wasn’t it Stalin who dissolved the Polish Communist Party in the late Thirties and agreed to the partition of Poland in 1939 when Hitler took the major portion including Warsaw? Finally didn’t Stalin agree to a division of Yugoslavia into spheres of influence on a fifty-fifty basis with Churchill? The facts do not agree with the theory? – then away with the facts!)

Into this medley of half-baked and preconceived notions, the crisis of Stalinism in Eastern Europe, detonated by the Yugoslav revolt, exploded like a bomb. Purge followed purge in dizzying succession. The staunchest Kremlin agents were suddenly proclaimed heretic and quickly paid for their “deviations” on the gallows like Rajk, Rostov, Xoxi, or by “natural death” like Dimitrov and Kolarov, or by removal from all positions like Gomulka and others. The Communist parties were shaken up and “cleansed” from the lowest to the highest ranks. Government apparatus, police and army came in for sweeping reorganizations. And the end is by no means in sight.

It was simple enough for the Stalinophobes and Stalinophiles to find a facile explanation for the earlier purges of bourgeois politicians like Mikolajyck in Poland, Masaryk in Czechoslovakia, Nagy in Hungary. This was simply a matter, pontificated the Stalinophobes, of one ruling class supplanting another, a new form of exploitation replacing the old. No, the Stalinophiles countered, the “revolution from above” was being completed. However different in appearance, these explanations were similar in sociological content. But the new crisis which has wracked the Stalinist apparatus itself in all the satellite countries caught both types of theorizers flat-footed. They had not foreseen this development nor could they explain it except by the most sterile and philistine comments.

Crisis in Stalinist Parties

How explain such convulsions in the governing Communist parties which were by definition immutable totalitarian agencies? How explain the conflict between top leaders in these parties and the Kremlin? How explain the extension of this crisis to the Stalinist organizations in the capitalist countries? How explain the parallel eruption of a crisis of culture in the Soviet Union? (We leave aside the Yugoslav development which is dealt with in another article in this issue.) Only Trotsky had allowed for this development in advance. His line of explanation alone has been proved correct. We have only to adapt to current conditions his masterful analysis of the role of the Soviet bureaucracy in the territories it occupied in agreement with Hitler n 1939-40, to see that the present crisis has a historic lawfulness that accords with the dialectics of the “Russian Question.”

Contrary to Trotsky’s expectations, the war against Nazi imperialism did not terminate by an immediate continuation of the military onslaught against the Soviet Union by Anglo-American imperialism but with an agreement between Stalin and Roosevelt-Churchill to divide Europe and Asia into spheres of influence. (How basically correct Trotsky was is indicated by the rapid breakup of the wartime coalition and the launching of the “cold war” less than two years after the termination of hostilities.) The “Big Three” agreement was due neither to Roosevelt’s “soft-headed” diplomacy, as his present-day Republican opponents contend, nor to Stalin’s brilliant strategy of “socialism in one zone.” It was dictated primarily by the revolutionary upsurge of the masses of Western Europe, a mortal danger both sides were determined to overcome. Hence the agreement to recognize Stalin’s suzerainty over Eastern Europe in return for his betrayal of the workers’ struggle for power in Italy, France and other countries.

The Kremlin’s occupation forces in Eastern Europe, while giving a certain impetus to agrarian reform, first carried through directly what its agents were doing indirectly in Western Europe – that is, put down all manifestations of the proletarian revolution. It was thus revealed that the counter-revolutionary methods of the Kremlin are inherent in its social character and are not some Machiavellian maneuver to deceive the bourgeoisie.

“Socialism in One Zone”

The second stage was one of unrestrained plunder, the dismantling of factories, the pillage of consumer goods, huge reparations. This piracy was no temporary orgy, no mere lust for revenge. The parasitic bureaucracy’s primary concern was to replace the material privileges lost in the war and to add new ones from the more advanced economies of the countries on its western borders. It was impelled with a sense of urgency lest the situation suddtnly take an unfavorable turn. This totally irrational economic act indicated that the Kremlin had given no thought to the future and was far from planning integration of Eastern Europe into the economy of the Soviet Union in “a socialism in one zone.” The horizons of the Soviet bureaucracy were and remain nationally limited.

The facts of life soon caught up with the Kremlin in the third stage. It was compelled to devise a more permanent economic arrangement in the areas under its control. Its first reformist inclination to collaborate with the native bourgeoisie – and coalition governments were created for this purpose – collided both with the interests of the bourgeoisie and of the bureaucracy. No sooner had the first phase of reconstruction passed, than the bourgeoisie of East Europe sought to link the economic systems of its countries with that of the capitalist West. The projection of the Marshall Plan sent the danger signals flying. Had the bureaucracy yielded, it would have only been a matter of time before Eastern Europe would have slipped out of its orbit economically, politically and militarily.

The Kremlin moved at once, as Trotsky had predicted in September 1939, to “carry through the statification of the means of production ... not because the bureaucracy remains true to the socialist program but because it is neither desirous nor capable of sharing the, power, and the privileges the latter entails, mith the ruling classes in the occupied territories.” In short order the political representatives of the bourgeoisie were then ejected from the coalition governments and from positions of authority in the state.

But this too happened along the lines Trotsky had traced. The masses were called into the streets for stage-managed demonstrations, in some places like Czechoslovakia in carefully controlled armed “workers’ guards,” or in giant mass meetings as in Hungary and Bulgaria to overwhelm whatever strength the bourgeoisie still possessed.

The appeal to independent activity,” wrote Trotsky, “to the glasses in the new territories – and without such an appeal, even if worded with extreme caution it is impossible to constitute a new regime – will on the morrow undoubtedly be suppressed by ruthless police measures in order to assure the preponderance of the bureaucracy over the awakened revolutionary masses.

This fourth stage now prevails throughout Eastern Europe. The Kremlin has come into conflict with the elementary needs of the masses, with their aspirations for independence, and even with the highly bureaucratized formations known as Communists parties. Placing its parasitism over all else, the Russian bureaucrats continue to dislocate the economic life of Eastern Europe, to disrupt its progress and plans by the more subtle plundering methods of mixed companies and unequal trade treaties. To meet this tribute, heavy burdens have been placed on the worker and peasant masses who counter these extortions with sullen and continuing resistance.

Resistance from Within

The new factor which has confounded the theories of the revisionists has been the resistance encountered by the Russian Proconsuls within the Communist parties of Eastern Europe. An unexpected phenomenon? Yes, to those who like Shachtman saw in them nothing but a GPU apparatus, “neither worker nor bourgeois” in class character and to all those who saw in the transformations of Eastern Europe merely aspects of totalitarian manipulation. Actually, judged in terms of Trotsky’s analysis, this development is not so strange.

The Communist parties had become mass organizations in all the countries of Eastern Europe for the purpose of serving as the agency of struggle against their own bourgeoisies when the post-war coalitions began to founder. Through them the Kremlin channeled its restricted “appeal to the independent activity of the masses.” The membership of these parties was closely tied to the entire working class while the leaders, especially those who had spent the war years in their own country and not in Moscow, suddenly found themselves at the head of a mass movement, which despite all bureaucratic controls, prodded the leaders with its pressure, its grievances, its demands and aspirations. These parties had become a new force, vying with the Kremlin for influence over the native Stalinist leadership, which was strongly tempted to strike out on a more independent road. They were also inspired by the Yugoslav example. Dreading the role of GPU puppets, some took the road of secret resistance, others wavered, waiting to see Tito’s fate, awaiting a favorable opportunity.

Meanwhile the Kremlin struck. First at the top – in order to behead any mass resistance – then in the ranks purging, expelling and jailing thousands of “Titoists,” “Trotskyists” and deviationists in all countries of the Eastern buffer zone. But the Kremlin has won a pyrrhic victory. Now it must resort increasingly to the “Rokossovsky” method with new puppets hitherto unknown to the masses openly assuming the role of Quisling, glorifying everything Russian and deprecating their own nation, their own culture, their own people.

Dynamite of Nationalism

Thus on top of an explosive social situation the Great-Russian bureaucracy has piled the dynamite of nationalism – just as it has- done in the Soviet Union itself. It is true that the accumulation of these combustible materials may provide Western imperialism with a favorable opportunity. But there is also Tito – there is also the trail the Yugoslav Communist Party has blazed in its combined struggle tor national independence and socialism, and there are millions of eager feet in Eastern Europe drawn irresistibly to that trail.

In the face of this chronic and deepening crisis of the Soviet bureaucracy – now projected over a new, vast area with more advanced cultures, higher standards of living and more conscious proletarians – only cretins can speak of a new “ruling class” or of a “revolution from above” and “socialism in one zone.” Let these ideologues of despair and retrogression show how the post war development of the Soviet bureaucracy has diverged in any main essential from Trotsky’s fundamental diagnosis!

True we are offered fatuous explanations of conflicts between different national “bureaucratic collectivist classes.” Let us grant for a moment that this could be so. What then accounts for the simultaneous outbreak of a crisis in Communist parties in the capitalist world – varying in scope and degree, to be sure – from Norway to Japan? The theory of “bureaucratic collectivism” excludes the possibility of the Stalinist organizations being workers’ organizations and characterizes them as totalitarian GPU adjuncts of the Kremlin, pure and simple. Yet unfortunately for this “theory,” these parties, despite Kremlin control and GPU supervision, are beginning to react like other organisms in the workers’ movement to revolutionary events and to the betrayals of leadership. They produce splits, internal conflicts and factional struggles even though grossly distorted by the bureaucratic regime in these parties. Beneath this turmoil is the growing consciousness of ever larger numbers of Stalinist workers that the Kremlin is the main impediment to their own revolutionary struggles. Their ferment finds expression, as did that of their forebears against the post-World War I social democracy, in a generally favorable revolutionary climate. Meanwhile, within the USSR itself, the Great-Russian egotism of the bureaucracy has run amok.

Cultural Counter-Revolution in USSR

Drawing his conclusions on the historic role of the Stalin regime, Deutscher says:

It should be remarked that, although Stalin has kept Russia isolated from the contemporary influences of the west, he has encouraged and fostered every interest in what he calls the “cultural heritage” of the west. Perhaps in no other country have the young been imbued with so great a respect and love for the classical literature and art of other nations as in Russia. This is one of the important differences between the educational methods of nazism and Stalinism.

Hardly had Deutscher’s book come off the press than the Stalin regime officially plunged the country into a debauch of Russian chauvinism. The cultural and scientific attainments of the West are belittled and denigrated; the history of science, art and literature is subjected to the most ludicrous falsification in order to assert Russian primacy; and the Russian language has even been proclaimed the language of “progress and socialism.” Those suspected of fidelity to the cultural heritage of the West are condemned as “homeless cosmopolitans” in a campaign conducted with definite anti-Semitic overtones, much as Hitler warred on the culture of “decadent democracy” as the product of the “international jew.”

Stalinism and fascism,” Trotsky observed, “in spite of deep differences in social foundations, are symmetrical phenomena. In many of their features they show a deadly similarity.

The Thermidorian counter-revolution in the Soviet Union first tested its spurs in the early Twenties on the backs of the Georgian people and their national rights. For Lenin this outcropping of bureaucratic centralism and Great-Russian chauvinism was the antithesis of socialist internationalism, the undoing of the work of the revolution, and he sought even from his death-bed to launch a showdown struggle with Stalin on this issue. The present chauvinist orgy not only reflects the reactionary role of the Soviet bureaucracy as an impediment to the progress of Soviet society, but is a sign that the Bonapartist regime is approaching its final crisis. The sharp division of the world into two camps places before the Soviet Union the alternatives of international revolution or capitulation to imperialism – and no other.

The Kremlin stands in mortal dread of both. It knows that a section of the bureaucracy is no longer spell-bound by the privileges of their poverty-stricken paradise of “socialism in one country” and looks with longing to the material advantages of the capitalist West. On the other hand, the entire bureaucracy knows, especially from its recent experiences in Eastern Europe, that the triumph of the proletariat in the West will undermine their claim to special rights and advantages as the representative of the only workers’ state and thus spur the Soviet masses to struggle against their autocratic rulers.

The Kremlin vainly wrestles with this dilemma. Its only solution is to seal off Russia’s borders from the world. This is the meaning and aim of the present cultural counterrevolution. But it will be no more successful than were the Japanese samurai in their self-imposed isolation. Either the guns of imperialism will batter down these walls – or the Soviet proletariat, seeing “the revolutionary dawn in the West or the East,” will demolish them itself.

Yugoslavia and Permanent Revolution

The most heartening and gratifying aspect of the rich and varied post war experience has been the positive verification of Trotskyism in the test of the Yugoslav revolution. Here is to be found brilliant confirmation of Trotsky’s famous contribution to Marxism, the concept and strategy of the Permanent Revolution. It is not decisive for Marxists that this process is not yet openly recognized by the Yugoslav leaders. The consciousness of men, formed by environment, molded by training, hampered by prejudice and ego, influenced by obscure psychological reflexes – as the history of thought so often reveals – lags notoriously behind events. What is decisive is the actual process itself. Let us pause for a moment to recapitulate the historic struggle after Lenin’s death over “the Permanent Revolution” in order to place the Yugoslav developments in their proper framework. This conflict between Trotskyism and Stalinism was no mere doctrinal dispute – as the philistines allege – but a struggle over the program and strategy of world communism and for the very soul of the Russian Revolution.

The watchword of the Thermidorian bureaucrats, as they rose to power in 1924, was “Down with the Permanent Revolution.” A world of meaning was concealed behind this slogan. They were tired of class war. They wanted to elbow the revolutionary proletarians out of their commanding positions in the country. They wanted to enjoy the fruits of the revolution in the form of material privileges for themselves. From this flowed their bitter hatred of the Leninist axiom that the Soviet Union was merely the first outpost of the world revolution and that its fate was inextricably linked to that of the mass movements in the capitalist countries. In essence, although not expressly stated at the beginning, what they sought was indefinite collaboration with the capitalist rulers of the world instead of continued struggle for international socialism.

Subsequently it became impressed upon them, as it does to the most insignificant bureaucrat in a union, that this collaboration could only be obtained by sacrificing the interests of the masses. A new world policy began to take shape in the Third International. In backward countries, such as China, the Stalinists justified their class collaborationism on the theory that the Chiang Kai-sheks were “anti-imperialist.” In the West, by the theory that a section of the bourgeoisie was “anti-fascist,” and therefore politically progressive. The sharper the class conflicts, the more treacherous was the role the Kremlin had to play. The struggle against the “permanent revolution” was metamorphosed into open counter-revolution.

At Every Stage of Events

In Yugoslavia, the struggle over the “permanent revolution” – often contracted simply to the word “Trotskyism” – has been relived at every stage of the revolutionary process, only this time the movement took a different and progressive direction.

“On April 1, 1942,” writes the conservative historian Wayne S. Vucinich [1], “after consultation with his military advisors, Prime Minister Jovanovic [of the Royal Yugoslav Government in London], prompted by [General] Mik hailovich’s [commander-in-chief of the remnants of the Royalist army operating in Yugoslavia] complaints against the Partisans as international brigands, called their leaders Trotskyites, and urged the Soviets at least to prevent the Partisans from attacking the Chetnicks [Mikhailovich’s forces] even if the former were not willing to accept the united command.”

Had the leaders of the Yugoslav Communist Party it the head of the Partisan forces seen this message they would certainly have rubbed their eyes in amazement. Were they not nursed on anti-Trotskyism, trained in a party which time and again had purged “Trotskyism” from its ranks, written the most venomous attacks against Trotsky into their program and daily propaganda? Were they not correct to a fault in their blind loyalty to Stalin?

Not the Chinese Line

Yet the Royalist Jovanovic, following class instinct, was eminently correct on two counts.

First, Tito and his leading staff, notwithstanding their anti-Trotskyism, were pursuing a policy which had been denounced by Stalin as “Trotskyist permanent revolution” when it appeared in the Chinese revolution of 1925-27. Instead of subordinating themselves to Mikhailovich, as the Comintern had to the Kuomintang, the Yugoslav CP leaders rejected any alliance in the resistance war against Hitler and Mussolini’s occupation troops except on. terms of equality. Instead of disarming the workers, as the Comintern agent Borodin had done at Shanghai in 1927, Tito created Proletarian Brigades wearing the red star in their army caps. Instead of suppressing the Soviets as had been done in China, the Yugoslav CP sponsored the creation of Peoples’ Committees as the sole governmental authority in the territory liberated from the Germans and Italians by the Partisans.

Second, Stalin would not hesitate to sacrifice the Yugoslav Partisans – even though their guerrilla operations were diverting up to a score of Wehrmacht divisions from the Russian front – on the altar of his alliance with Anglo-American imperialism. The inside story is now well known. Jovanovic got speedy satisfaction from Stalin. Moscow gave no aid to the hard-pressed Partisan armies on the pretext of technical obstacles, although at the same time Churchill found it possible to supply Mikhailovich. Stalin entered into secret deals with the Royal Yugoslav Government, raising its Moscow Legation to the status of an embassy at the very moment Mikhailovich, in secret collaboration with the Occupation, was attacking the Partisan army. Stalin urged the Partisans to submit to Mikhailovich’s terms and denounced the formation of Red Star Proletarian Brigades and Peoples’ Committee as “embarrassing” to his international intrigues.

Crashing headlong into the revolutionary torrent unleashed by the civil war, Stalin’s treacherous plotting failed – the first time since he had usurped power. But that did not prevent him from attempting to cheat the Partisans of their victory in the very hour of their triumph. In 1944 an agreement was reached with Churchill in Moscow to divide Yugoslavia into a British-Russian sphere of influence and joint pressure was applied to force the incorporation of Royalist ministers into the new Yugoslav government. For a moment the revolution rolled back. Had it not been for the firmness of the Yugoslav leaders and the power of the mass movement on which they were based, Yugoslavia might have become another Greece. But within eight months of its creation, the coalition government was smashed. The revolution proceeded to solve the democratic tasks the native bourgeoisie had proved incapable of solving: to abolish the monarchy, to establish equal rights for the various nationalities within the nation’s borders, to divide the large landed estates where they still existed.

We did not want to stop half way: to overthrow the king, abolish the monarchy, to ttake the authority and then share it with the representatives of the capitalist class who could continue exploiting the working masses of Yugoslavia. Neither the working class nor the large majority of the peoples of Yugoslavia would have this. Therefore we decided to go boldly along the path of complete liquidation in Yugoslavia.

This is Tito reviewing the immediate past in 1948 when he was still singing hosannahs to the “Great Stalin” and would have hotly rejected the observation that he and his associates had pursued the “strategy of permanent revolution.”

The Anti-Capitalist Stage

The revolution moved irresistibly forward into its anti-capitalist stage. But as the Yugoslav leaders approached the task of industrializing their country and reorganizing its economy on a planned socialist basis, they again encountered resistance from the Kremlin which considered Yugoslavia a source of raw materials, and therefore of its own privileges, and feared it as an autonomous extension of the socialist revolution. Once again Tito and his Central Committee were to hear the charge of “Trotskyism” hurled against them. This was 1946 and it came from two of Stalin’s Yugoslav agents, Zuyovich and Hebrang, members of the Central Committee who occupied key positions in the economic apparatus of the state and urged the CP leadership to abandon its “over-ambitious” plans in the “higher interests of the Soviet Union.”

When Zuyovich and Hebrang were defeated and removed, their place was taken by the Soviet embassy in Yugoslavia, the Russian military attaches and their GPU staffs who directly took over the work of sabotage and resistance. The sharpening clash rushed to a climax. But before the break became definitive, the Kremlin again warned Tito of the danger of “Trotskyism.” On March 27, 1948, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union wrote him:

It is worth recalling that Trotsky, when he intended to declare war on the CPSU also began by charging the CPSU with degeneration, nationalism and big-state chauvinism. [The statement had previously accused Djilas, Vukmanovich, Kidric and others of making such criticisms.] Of course, he concealed all this under leftist phrases about world revolution. Still, as is known, Trotsky himself turned out to be a degenerate, and later, after he was exposed, he openly moved over to the camp of the avowed enemies of the CPSU and the Soviet Union. We think that Trotsky’s political career is sufficiently illuminating.

Tito, Djilas and other indignantly denied the comparison. “Did we enter the life and death struggle on the side of the Soviet Union in 1941 on the basis of Trotskyist conceptions,” Tito asked rhetorically at the 5th Congress of the CPY in 1948, “or because of loyalty to Marxism-Leninism (tumultuous approval and hails of ‘Tito-Party!’), a theory that was being realized and is being realized in the USSR under the leadership of Stalin?”

But forces moving toward socialism did not permit them to “stop half-way.” The “permanent revolution” of the proletariat was actively at work. Stalin began his attempt to strangle the Yugoslavs economically and thus drive them into the arms of imperialism, or failing that, to make an agreement with imperialism for a free hand to crush Yugoslavia by force. The Kremlin’s pressure had its effects, but again not the effects anticipated. Within hearing distance of the firing squads in the countries at its borders, the Yugoslav leaders began to clarify their conceptions of Stalinism in a revolutionary direction and to begin the struggle for workers’ democracy in Yugoslavia.

Two years ago Milovan Djilas, Secretary of the CPY, had characterized Trotskyists at the 5th Congress of the CPY, for the benefit of the Kremlin with whom reconciliation was still being sought, as those who “disseminated bourgeois lies and slanders about the Soviet Union, about the supposed bureaucratic authority in the USSR, about the supposed falsification of the trial of the Trotskyist, Zinoviev and Bukharin ...” In March 1950, he was to write as follows:

The development of the productive forces in the Soviet Union has reached such a point that they no longer correspond to the methods of management of the productive process itself nor to the manner of the distribution of products ...

From these facts [Djilas had listed various aspects of the degeneration of the Soviet state], namely that the USSR was the only socialist country and moreover a backward one surrounded by capitalism where the consciousness of the masses in the struggle for the building of socialism was relatively weak as were internal and external revolutionary forces, there resulted the creation of a privileged strata of the bureaucracy, bureaucratic centralism and the provisional transformation of the state into a power above society.

Ten years after his death a leader of a formerly Stalinist party holding state power repeats Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet bureaucracy almost word for word! And this, we are supremely confident, is only a first installment of a great historical vindication.

The film of revolutionary progress unwound in reverse direction after Stalin took power in the Soviet Union. The bureaucracy assaulted and crushed workers’ democracy. At the same time it turned its back on the revolutionary masses of the world, and finally landed in the camp of counter-revolution.

In Yugoslavia the film is now being rearranged in its revolutionary perspective. Their irreconcilable conflict with imperialism brought the Yugoslav leaders into opposition to the Kremlin. Forced into struggle with Stalinism, they have turned to their own working class for support, launching a vigorous campaign against bureaucratism, liberating educators, scientists and artists from the stifling ultimatums of the state, and opening the first outlets for free working-class discussion and criticism. At the same time, they are slowly entering the path of Lenin and the October 1917 Revolution on the world arena.

Whatever the outcome of these stirring events – and we have every reason to hope and fight for the most favorable outcome in this resistance against Stalinism and imperialism – the spirit and movements of Trotskyism is clearly on the march. The Old Man should have lived to see it!


1. Yugoslavia, edited by Robert J. Kerner. University of Cal. Press, 1949.

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Last updated on: 18 March 2009