From Fourth International, Vol.11 No.6, November-December 1950, pp.188-192.
Reprinted from Janata, October 1, 1950. (Copyright in India, Pakistan and Ceylon).
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The following excerpts from the interview with Marshal Tito by the Indian Journalist Kamalesh Banerji on July 15, 1950 offer a rounded presentation of the views held at the time by the head of the Yugoslav government. This interview is of particular interest in the light of recent changes in foreign policy by Belgrade. The text is reprinted from the Oct. 1 issue of Janata, organ of the Socialist Party of India – Ed.
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I was to meet Marshal on the Adriatic Island, Brioni, one-time resort of the Hapsburg nobility. Since that time, many changes have taken place. It is now the summer residence of the one-time Croatian metal worker, the most plebeian Head of State of our time.
The grandeur of the old Brioni is gone with the Hapsburgs. What little remained was reduced to rubble by the bombing of the last war. It is now a quiet, unpretentious, lovely little watering-place, one of the best in the world.
I arrived at Brioni the 15th of July, accompanied by the bright and charming young US-born Columbia graduate, Kordija Miloshevitch, who returned to her country about three years ago. She is now a high ranking Yugoslav civil servant. She was to act as the interpreter.
At four o’clock in the afternoon of July 15 we reached the Marshal’s modest villa. As we entered the house, I was greeted by a strikingly handsome man of about 58, who looks at least 15 years younger. The Marshal was neatly and. simply dressed.
We got down to brass tacks at once. I immediately asked a whole series of questions on Russia. I was anxious to find out how far the political and theoretical break with Russia was complete. His replies were frank. He never spoke with his tongue in his cheek. There were no cryptic answers of “yes” or “no.” In fact the interview lasted two hours. I do not think that Tito had ever given such detailed replies to any other journalist before.
I asked: “How do you explain the hostility of Russia toward socialist Yugoslavia on a Marxist basis? Any antagonism between socialist states is not consistent with Marxist theory. Does it mean that Marxism is wrong? Or, if not, that the USSR has ceased being a socialist state and that the Soviet bureaucratic caste has become a class?”
I knew very well that the ruling clique in the Soviet Union is considered by all good Marxists outside the official Communist parties as a bureaucracy, which has the monopoly of all powers and privileges in the country, but in their view, it is not a class of private proprietors.
Marshall Tito replied: “This is an interesting question and I will begin from the end. Undoubtedly, the bureaucratic caste has taken hold in the Soviet Union and is now governing the country. This doesn’t mean that Marxism is wrong, but that the Soviet leaders have deviated from the science of Marx and Lenin, regarding relations between socialist countries. The character of the hostility of the Soviet Union towards Yugoslavia is not the same as that between socialist and capitalist countries.
“It is a hostility of a caste towards a socialist country and not the hostility of the people of the Soviet Union. That caste became infuriated when a socialist country resisted its attempts at economic subjugation. The domination by this caste is not a class phenomenon as yet. The USSR is a socialist country regardless of the mistakes its leadership is making.”
According to Marxian economy, the labor expended on a commodity determines its value. Since the productivity varies between backward and advanced countries, Russia is exploiting the undeveloped countries by demanding the same world prices for buying and selling’. Russia, being the first socialist country, demands heavy sacrifice from other socialist states. Marshal Tito then passed on to characterize the Russian policy as “imperialist,” which he would never have done even one year ago.
“This caste,” continued Tito, “has introduced elements into the relations of the socialist countries, which are not unknown in the capitalist world.
“For example, the trade of the Soviet Union With the socialist countries is carried on a purely capitalist basis. They sell as high as possible and buy as cheaply as they can, trying to get as much as possible from socialist countries under the pretext of strengthening the international working class movement by helping the ftrst country of socialism. Actually this means helping one imperialist country since Soviet foreign policy deviated completely from the right path – a path which consists of all-out aid to a small socialist country and noninterference in the affairs of other countries.”
The next question was difficult for the head of a state to answer. What would be his attitude toward a movement for the overthrow of the regime in Russia ? I could see this startled the Marshal a little. “In these circumstances,. is the bureaucratic caste in the USSR counter-revolutionary, and if there were a movement to overthrow it, how would you look upon it?”
Marshal Tito replied: “This is a big question. All factors tending to weaken the international working class movement contain elements of counter-revolution. The question of the overthrow of such a caste is not a simple one. The moment is not at all suitable for such a matter and I do not care to discuss the question further.”
Next I asked: “Since the European Communist parties have become the agents of the Kremlin, would you view with favour the growth of independent Communist parties?”
This is the first time that Tito had called upon the Communists the world over to throw off the yoke of Moscow. He declared that the Communists had lost the confidence of the working classes and that conditions were ripe for building up new Communist parties, independent of the Kremlin. This is what the Marshal said:
“This is a timely question, because the Communist parties and trade union movements in many countries have regressed. This holds true of England, Germany, France, Belgium and almost all capitalist countries, because the working class has lost confidence in its leadership, due to the fact that the Communist parties no longer follow independent policies and that the main struggle is not for the improvement of the living standards of the toiling masses, but on the contrary, they are becoming more and more instruments of the policy of the Soviet Union.
“The fact that they do not pursue an independent policy is becoming more and more evident to the masses, who see that their leaders obey dictates from outside, without any regard for the objective conditions in their own countries. The masses are deserting’ their organizations in large numbers and becoming a prey to non-Marxist influence.
“It is now necessary to create new organizations on a class basis. The conditions for building new parties exist in all capitalist countries. It is not important what they are called. What is important is their aim. This shouldn’t mean the formation of splinter parties and small groups but the rallying of all such groups and individuals who are already organized within the working-class movement. Tho such a movement should be founded on a class basis as regards fighting for the day-to-day interests of the workers, it should at the same time be broad enough politically to rally all progressive people to fight for peace and progress and against reaction and calumny.”
The question that naturally arises now is what is his attitude toward a new Communist International. Again for the first time, he explained in detail his reasons for opposing it. This reply can be divided into two parts. In the first place, he is of the opinion that the working class movement in each country should be strengthened. In the second place, he thinks that such an international organization should under no circumstances exercise centralized leadership.
Tito replied: “It is important that the labor movement in each individual country become strong. However, if the Communist parties in various countries cannot mobilize the masses, because they have lost the confidence of the working class, thanks to their own incorrect policy which consists in the subordination of the working class interests to those of the USSR, in that case the masses must be mobilized in some manner in their struggle for higher living standards and a better life. Any talk of building an international is for the time being premature, because there are no organizations that could constitute such a body.
“Even if some such organization existed this should not mean the founding of a new organization center for the world proletariat, and it would not be in the interests of the working class for such an international to exercise centralized leadership.”
Is it because Tito has burned his own fingers that he added the following?
“It was proven by Moscow that this is a poor policy. If such an international were founded, after individual Communist parties were strengthened, it would have to be a medium of exchange of experience among them, without the power to dictate from above. We reproach the Communist Party of the Soviet Union because they dictate to others. We do not want to play such a role or allow any other party to play this role. The labor movement can very well progress without such a center. In the event that such an organization existed, it would be a co-ordination center or a body publishing a paper for the exchange of ideas, such as the Cominform journal was meant to be. But it degenerated into the ordinary mouthpiece of the Cominform.”
This answer will doubtless disappoint many dissident Communists, who expected Tito to appear in the role of the Peter the Hermit of a new crusade. For them Tito’s International is neither the Comintern in the days of Lenin, nor what it had become under Stalin – that is to say, the Stalintern – nor the latest version of the Communist International, that is to say, the Cominform.
Tito’s International doesn’t have the teeth. This is neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring.
Tito is against Titoism. He is very much opposed to naming the new oppositional tendency in the Communist movement after himself. On the question of Titoism as an international phenomenon, he declared:
“In general it is not correct to speak of Titoism and look upon it as some new tendency. We, Communists in Yugoslavia, are only fighting against revisionism. We have nothing that would correct the science of Marxism and Leninism from a theoretical point of view. We have only applied the science of Marx and Lenin to our specific conditions. There is no new tendency that could be called Titoism. This must be explained to the masses. Otherwise, it would be harmful to the international working class movement, if it were thought that this is some new tendency. A new theory is not needed.
“It is only necessary that the science of Leninism and Marxism be correctly applied and that the struggle be carried on against the perversion of this theory for momentary purposes, as the Soviet Union is doing in order to achieve the end of its imperialist policy.”
We then came to a very ticklish subject, namely – Chinese “Titoism!” In the past the Marshal had consistently and carefully avoided this matter. I had a feeling that my fate was going to be no different. I was naturally pleased when he answered the question in great detail.
“Do you think,” I asked, “that the Communist parties in the Far East are likely to play independent roles in view of the little practical aid that they have received from Moscow?”
“These tendencies toward independence, in so far as the Far Eastern countries are concerned, will not manifest themselves for some time to come, because this struggle against the Soviet domination can only arise out of the attempts of the USSR to interfere in their internal affairs. If it interferes more and more in the affairs of these countries, these parties will offer resistance. In this connection it would be useful to bear in mind the difference between the Communist parties in the capitalist countries and those in power. Where a Communist party is in power it cannot accept dictation from abroad in the form of crude economic exploitation, without undermining national independence. After the Yugoslav experience, I think the Soviet Union will be more careful in interfering in the internal affairs of other socialist countries.
“This question of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries doesn’t have an ideological character but is of an economic nature.”
Tito made the important point that the influence of the Soviet Union in regard to the Communist parties not in power assumes only an ideological character. As long as the Communist parties are not in the government, the Soviet influence, of necessity, cannot take the form of economic exploitation.
“The Soviet Union,” Tito went on, “didn’t put pressure on Yugoslavia for ideological reasons, because there were none, but in order to exploit her economically and subject her economy to its own. The Soviet Union is subjugating the Eastern European countries not in order to maintain them on a level of ideological purity, but in order to exploit them economically. If the Chinese people ever finds itself economically exploited, it is certain to resist.”
A good deal of confusion exists about the question of Yugoslav participation in future wars. On this I found that many Yugoslavs were not quite clear in their minds. Whether morally Yugoslavia is going to be on the side of Russia in case of war is a matter which is worrying a lot of people. I think that Tito’s reply finally disiposes of this question, which was declared bv the United Press to be the first definite pronouncement of Tito on war.
This is how I put it: “In case of war would you maintain the policy of independence with respect to the two blocs, if your country is not made a battlefield by one or the other?”
Marshal Tito: “Yugoslavia does not belong to any bloc. If not attacked, she will not participate in any war. She will only go to war if attacked. No aggressor can count on the sympathy of the Yugoslav people, irrespective of who he is, since this would be incorrect from the moral point of view. Aggression is not our method of spreading the revolutionary movement in the world.”
Since the beginning of the Korean war, Tito had not expressed any opinion. The fact that Yugoslavia recognized the North Korean regime and didn’t vote for the US resolution at the Security Council appeared disturbing. What Tito said in this connection dissipates all doubts:
”The struggle of Korean people for unification and independence would be unconditionally just, provided that the Korean people were solving it themselves. But what are the motives of today’s struggle? Will this struggle of the North Korean people against the South Koreans lead to independence? I doubt it. The Korean people, of course, has the right to find the solution to its own problems itself.”
In his conversation with me, Tito again and again came back to the question of the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. His main concern was to eliminate bureaucratism in his own country. I expressed the opinion held by many that the power of the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union was the result of the lack of vigilance on the part of Lenin’s party, which degenerated without Lenin. Tito’s remarks in this connection were revealing:
“Bureaucracy in the Soviet Union didn’t spring up because of the lack of vigilance on the part of the Soviet leaders, but because of the method of leadership of the Soviet Union, which is directed from top to bottom. Nothing can be achieved there without approval from the top. There are no independent decisions.”
As to what he said about the composition of the Communist Party in Russia, with the knowledge and authority of a man who was so closely connected with it until 1948, ought to be an eye-opener to those who think that there still exists a Communist Party in Russia in the real sense.
“What is the Communist Party in the Soviet Union?” Tito asked. “It has about five million members. The million people in the NKVD (secret police) are party members, the members of the party in the militia, in the army – officers and generals – and in the bureaucratic apparatus and government institutions. This is the entire party. It is identical with the state apparatus and in no way represents the rank and file workers and peasants.
“This is a party of leaders, a party of bureaucrats. This is what has led the Soviet Union to the wrong road – from Stalin downwards.”
This is definite proof for me that Tito has shed all Stalinist influences, politically, theoretically and even ideologically.
We then passed on to the question of the new law affecting the workers in Yugoslavia, insofar as the management of industries is concerned. In terms of this new legislation, workers’ councils have been set up with a view to eliminating bureaucracy in the sphere of industry.
To Tito Russia is not an example but a warning. The new law has introduced workers’ control and management of industries, as opposed to state control. This is considered as “the beginning of the withering away of the state” to use a Marxian phrase.
At the next stage, the factories, mines, etc., are proposed to be transferred directly to the workers. Tito is mindful of the difficulties of such a step. Besides, if the state dies in Yugoslavia, it still exists in the surrounding countries. Is not this process of “decentralization” as it is called in Yugoslavia, an invitation to aggression in the present state of international relations?
Tito replied: “There are many well-meaning socialists outside our country who think that decentralization will weaken our state in the sphere of foreign policy. This is not accurate.
“Such decentralization is simply applied Marxism. We are giving factories to the workers, and this strengthens our state and makes the workers feel, more than ever, that it is their state, that they are the owners of the means of production and that it is they who are creating the prosperity of the country. This consciousness of the workers creates a moral factor which makes us monolithic and strong. The workers will defend the factories which they feel are their own. This is a source of strength and not of weakness.”
Tito came back to the question of bureaucracy once again in this connection. “Bureaucracy is a very dangerous matter,” Tito continued, “even in socialist countries, as has been proven in the Soviet Union. It is most dangerous when used as a method of leadership in a powerful centralized apparatus. There is no more fertile soil for the growth of bureaucracy than strong centralism. The working masses want to struggle against bureaucracy. Consequently, we do not risk anything and are not traveling along an insecure path.
”We know what the results are going to be. Today we are giving factories to the workers, not to be able to tell the Eastern European countries and the USSR that we have stolen a march on them, but because we consider that we have reached the stage of our development when it is necessary to undertake such measures, according to the science of Marxism and Leninism.
”Although not much time has passed since we took this step, we can already see that it is justified. In my report to both houses of the legislature, I referred to many difficulties facing us in our further construction. It is precisely because of these difficulties that it was necessary to undertake these steps, so that the workers, who perhaps are not conscious of this, should come to the realization that they are the real owners of the means of production. We will not push ahead where we are not certain, and where it is not necessary, but only there where we see that it is useful for our country. We are not afraid of decentralization, not afraid that the workers will not know how to run the factories., In addition, state functions in the economy have not ceased altogether, but they now play a secondary role. The state still has the functions of control, planning and co-ordination.”
I asked Tito how he envisaged the transfer of factories directly to the workers and the distribution of profits which are unequal in different industries. Whether the difference in income is going to lead to inequality in living standards? Tito appeared to have a complete blueprint for the plan. Tito said:
“Our state has an overall plan and each factory receives the part of this plan which it is to work out according to its possibilities. Our factories are at various levels of productivity. Some that we are building now are modern, others are old. Our atate also has a general fund for capital accumulation, and each factory is obligated to give a part of its accumulation fund to the state accumulation fund in relation to its productivity.”
This is about all that the factories are to contribute to the general industrial development. After all these deductions are made, the rest goes to the workers.
”Surplus above this,” continued the Marshal, “which is the result of the organizational capacity and the measure of endeavor of the workers is utilized to improve their living standards. Of course, there will be inequality in relation to living standards, but it will be a stimulant for the workers to make the greatest possible effort. In addition, our state fund is used for the modernization of all factories, especially those with a lower productivity. Also, a large percentage of the accumulation fund is assigned to those republics whose industry is undeveloped, as for example, Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro. The workers will also endeavor to raise the productivity of their own labor, since they know that it will be in their own interest to do so.”
Tito was quite alive to the danger of the growth of bureaucracy in Yugoslavia and the ways and means to combat it. If in Russia a powerful totalitarian bureaucracy has grown up, the same conditions exist in Yugoslavia. Tito made this point in his speech on the 26th of June. In what manner can the bureaucracy act as a brake on popular organization, and what are the remedies? Tito said:
”Bureaucracy in Yugoslavia mainly expressed itself in a tendency toward leadership through administrative measures. Consequently, the administrative apparatus was overburdened and inefficient. This complicated matters, increased the cost of production, etc. We therefore began reducing the apparatus already last autumn. Non-productive administrative workers were transferred to direct production or to the provinces where they need experienced personnel. This process continues. It is a dangerous matter when many people are unproductive and expensive too, because it raises the cost of production. We have completed the decrease in the state and economic apparatus.”
We then discussed the differences between the Kremlin and Yugoslavia during the war. Tito was extremely guarded in his statement on this issue.
It is perfectly clear that Tito was already pusuing a different policy from other Communist parties during the war. He refused to co-operate with the royalist forces in the country when they openly supported the Germans and the Italians. In fact, no co-operation was possible at that stage.
It was Churchill and not Stalin who realized that Tito was doing all the fighting during the war. It is significant that the first aid to Tito came from Churchill, and Stalin only followed suit a few years later. One thing was quite clear to Stalin: Tito was going to play an independent role. From that very moment Stalin really washed his hands of Tito.
Stalin had already written off Tito. Cordell Hull in his Memoirs reveals how Molotov and Eden made a deal behind the scenes, according to which half of Yugoslavia and Greece was to pass to the British in return for a Russian free hand in the Balkans.
This is the nub of the question. Differences between Tito and Stalin were already well advanced during the war. Tito did not deny these far-reaching differences during that period. What he said is very clear: “Ideological and political differences were not the reason for the break, at least not from our side. We had specific conditions in our country created through the uprising. As soon as our uprising started it took on a class character more and more. The bourgeoisie of Yugoslavia was on the side of the invader, so that our national liberation was simultaneously linked up with the class struggle. We had a People’s Front with democratic forces led by the Yugoslav Communist Party. Our uprising was revolutionary from the very beginning. Such conditions existed nowhere else, thanks to the incorrect policy of the Communist parties, as for example in France.”
Tito also drew a distinction between the resistance organizations in Yugoslavia and Moscow-dominated countries. This in my view was a cause of the break which came to light only in 1948.
Tito said: “Before the war we had a People’s Front with progressive forces which, perhaps, were not numerically strong. This front was created in the struggle against the centralistic regime of Belgrade and against national oppression. It was strongest amongst the oppressed nationalities and did not have merely a rhetorical character, as was the case in France, but it actually achieved something.
“In the struggle against the invader the People’s Front grew stronger and took on a mass character. All those who loved their country rallied round the People’s Front. Broad masses, the working class and the citizenry in general began to look upon the Communist Party of Yugoslavia more and more as a leading force.
“Under these conditions the People’s Front in Yugoslavia took on a different character from what it had in other countries. It was born before the war and grew powerful in the course of it.”
These remarks clearly showed that the People’s Front in Yugoslavia was fundamentally different from those in Moscow-dominated countries. The fissure constantly widened, culminating in the rupture of 1948. To my mind it was a difference of principles, however loath Tito may be to admit it, for reasons which are obvious.
To the question of whether the slogan of the defense of Yugoslavia should be popularized everywhere, Tito replied:
“This should be done by all means. I think that it would be useful. It would help us and the labor movement throughout the world which would also gain from it in the struggle for its own objectives, if it would support us in our peaceful construction of socialism and our struggle against the slanderous campaign led from the East.”
Tito is aggrieved that other Communist parties did not take up his cause at the time of his expulsion.
“If the Communist parties,” said Tito, “were sufficiently brave at the time of exchange of letters between us and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to stand up and demand the investigation of our guilt, the situation today would not be such as it is. The labor movement would prove to the Soviet Union that it cannot gain everything that it wishes. This was the major mistake of the Communist parties.”
Is Tito a Trotskyist? His reply speaks for itself.
“I do not agree with the Trotskyist Fourth International, nor with the Trotskyist ideology, with which I am acquainted from the time of Trotsky’s struggle against Lenin.
“The Soviet Union today is using many Trotskyist precepts. The Trotskyist movement has no chance of growing stronger. I know that amongst them there are honest people but I do not agree with their ideology.”
Tito, in my opinion, was still influenced by the Kremlin campaign against Trotsky. I should have thought it possible for a Marxist to disagree with Trotsky without believing what Stalin and his official historians say about him. I wish I had asked exactly what Trotskyist “precepts” had been adopted by Stalin after his extermination of Trotskyists and Trotsky himself, as well as of many more in the name of Trotskyism.
Tito only wanted moral support in building socialism in Yugoslavia. He said that the progressive people in all countries should bscome acquainted with the truth about Yugoslavia and not fall prey to the various lies and provocations concerning his country. I was convinced that Tito needed moral aid, but that could hardly be enough. He would need other help too.
Tito then enumerated the specific contributions of Yugoslavia to the cause of socialism.
“The fundamental lesson of the Yugoslav revolution is, that it demonstrated that it is necessary to rely upon one’s own internal forces, without waiting for liberation from outside. The second lesson is linked up with the breadth of our movement.. We have proven that ths working class can rely upon its allies, the middle and poor peasants and on the progressive forces. Also, our country proved that one small state under the leadership of the Communist Party can build socialism without the aid of other socialist countries, if it mobilizes all its forces.”
Tito was of the opinion that the Yugoslav example was important for the colonial countries fighting for their independence.
“The importance of the Yugoslav revolution for colonial and semi-colonial people has already been proven. Concerning the national question I think we have solved it in the best manner possible.”
To the question as to whether Yugoslavia can hold out without the help of the international working class and socialism in other countries, Tito replied:
“It can hold out. Why not? The best methods by which we can help the international working class consists of this: that we struggle to construct socialism in Yugoslavia with the fastest possible tempo and for the raising of the living standards, in one word, for the creation of socialism. This would be the best example for other countries.
”We are not afraid of being alone. It would be well if only the capitalist countries were against us, but we also havo the socialist countries or those who call themselves socialists against us.”
Marshal Tito in his two-hour talk never faltered for a moment in giving a ready answer to all the problems I raised, many of which were not so simple. He is quickwitted. His intellectual grasp is amazing. He hopped from one question to another doing justice to everything, although he had not the foggiest notion of the subject matter before the interview started. I was impressed by the Marshal. I came out with the feeling that I had met a great man.
Last updated on: 18 March 2009