Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History


Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History

When Tito was a Revolutionary, according to Pierre Frank and Gérard Bloch

The following piece was published in the French weekly Lutte Ouvrière, no.149, 6-12 July 1971, and appears in English translation for the first time, with their kind permission. It illustrates the lack of comprehension by the International Secretariat of the Fourth International of the phenomenon of the spread of Stalinism in the post-war world, as well as the illusions it entertained with regard to it. A much more critical view was to be found among the British Section, the Revolutionary Communist Party, which in 1948 published a pamphlet by Ted Grant and Jock Haston, Behind the Stalin-Tito Clash, (cf. Al Richardson and Sam Bornstein, War and the International, London 1986, pp.212, 218-21, 232-3, and Ted Grant, The Unbroken Thread, London 1989, pp.251-5).

It was this political orientation that impelled Natalia Trotsky to break from the International Secretariat in a letter she published in Max Shachtman’s Labor Action on 11 June 1951, of which the most accessible copy is to be found in Natalia Trotsky and the Fourth International, London, 1972, which also includes the reply of Michel Pablo, Ernest Mandel and Pierre Frank of the International Secretariat, which first appeared in Quatrième Internationale, Volume 9, nos.5-7, May-July 1951. It was reprinted along with other documents on the occasion of Natalia’s funeral, by Grandizo Munis in Aujourd’hui comme Hier, in Paris in 1962.

Other useful background reading to the events alluded to here includes Ian Birchall, Workers Against the Monolith, London 1974, chapter 4, The Stalin-Tito Split, pp.48-52; Milovan Djilas, Tito: the Story from the Inside, London 1981; Fernando Claudin, The Communist Movement: From Comintern to Cominform, London 1975, chapter 7, The Yugoslav Breach, pp.480-548, and Adam Westoby, Communism Since World War II, Brighton, 1981, pp.69-72. Still good for a laugh are James Klugmann’s From Trotsky to Tito, London 1951, and Derek Kartun’s Tito’s Plot Against Europe, London, 1949.


In the years 1948-50 the comrades of the official Trotskyist organisations assigned to Tito the part they did not hesitate to ascribe to others afterwards: Castro, Che Guevara or Ho Chi Minh. Thus it was that the official Fourth International, the international organisation whose heritage in France today is shared between the Ligue Communiste, the OCI and the AMR [1] put out at this time the most adulatory material about so-called ‘Yugoslav Socialism’. The following few extracts from the magazine Quatrième Internationale will convey a slight impression of the passing infatuation of these comrades for Tito and his associates.

Although the attitude of the Fourth International was favourable towards Tito in 1948 (Quatrième Internationale, August-September 1948) it was prudent, nonetheless:

The class struggle is continuing in Yugoslavia, and it is organically connected to the international class struggle. Until now the Yugoslav leadership represented the bureaucratic deformation of a plebeian current that was anti-capitalist and revolutionary. But in conditions of isolation, of inevitable internal difficulties, and of increased pressure from imperialism, tomorrow this bonapartist apparatus can become the mouthpiece of reactionary forces without knowing it. There is only one way forward against the fate of elimination by the direct agents of the Kremlin or capitulation in the face of imperialism: to place its confidence in the hands of the Yugoslav and world masses; to rely entirely upon them; to install real democracy in both party and country; to break with Stalinism and denounce it; to call for a real Socialist revolution by and for the masses in the Buffer Zone [2], in Europe, and the world.

But despite all, the militants of the PCI thought it necessary to offer advice to the leading Yugoslav ‘comrades’:

Your duty as well as your self-interest is to lift the analysis of your dispute with the Cominform to the level of real ideological reasons, which are linked to the nature of Stalinism. In this way alone can you equip your party and the Yugoslav masses to resist the formidable assault unleashed against you by the Kremlin, which is now seeking to destroy you. Bureaucrats rely for their defence only upon the police apparatus. Revolutionaries above all rely upon the political and ideological mobilisation of the masses. Which of these ways will you choose?

Yugoslav Communists!

It is necessary to advance. It is necessary to confront Stalin with the real face of revolutionary Marxism!

An article of the same date by Pierre Frank on the “ideological evolution” of the YCP [3]:

In fact the Stalinist system has cracked in the face of the development of the revolution in Yugoslavia ... the theoretical progress accomplished in so short a time by the Yugoslav Communist Party is proof at one and the same time of the power of the revolutionary movement in Yugoslavia and one of the best defences of the Communists of that country against the dual pressure of imperialism and the Stalinist bureaucracy.

The tone becomes even more warm from the pen of Gérard Bloch (one of the present leaders of OCI) in the issue for March/April 1950:

The greatest merit of the Fourth International for the historian of the future will be that, alone among all trends of world public opinion, from the open rupture of the Cominform with Tito it understood the profound significance – the class content – of the event, and more than a year in advance of any other working class tendency resolutely pronounced in favour of unconditional support to the Peoples’ Federal Republic of Yugslavia, and of the YCP, against the Cominform.

And yet more, from the pen of Gérard Bloch:

With good reason we can perceive in the Yugoslav revolution the distant echo of the Bolshevik October of Lenin and Trotsky, deafened and deformed by 20 years of Stalinist counter-revolution. As for passing judgement upon revolutionary organisations, the attitude taken towards Yugoslavia could become a crucial test, as was the attitude taken up towards the October Revolution for the last 30 years ... The Russian Revolution was the springboard from which the Third International launched itself into history. The Yugoslav Revolution could become the springboard from which the Fourth International leaps forward to the conquest of the masses.

Infatuation for the Yugoslavia of Tito was such in the official Trotskyist milieu that ‘youth brigades’ were created on the spot and sent to help Tito construct Socialism! Quatrième Internationale magazine for May/July 1950 mentions “the success encountered in France and several other European countries by the campaign of the Committees for sending youth brigades to Yugoslavia, a step that can be weighty with consequences. That is the most striking indication of what the Yugoslav revolution has contributed to assisting the formation of a mass movement that will help to shift the most extensive mass currents from the path of Stalinism into the path of the revolution.”

And yet again in the same issue:

From the standpoint of the revolutionary programme, the Yugoslav revolution – whatever paths it may follow in future – has supplied incontestable proof of the programme elaborated by the Bolshevik-Leninists under the leadership of Trotsky ... Now there is an entire party and an entire state breaking with Stalinism and carrying on the revolutionary struggle, which far from rediscovering in reaction to Stalinism what might be many revisionist concepts created by theoreticians bereft of any responsibility in the class struggle, has recreated whole chunks of the Trotskyist programme ... And that is why this 28 June 1948, from which the Yugoslav revolution has begun its onward march by breaking with the Kremlin, will remain an unforgettable date in the history of the international working class movement.

And once more, in an account of the eighth session of the Executive Committee of the Fourth International in the same issue of May/July 1950:

By completely distancing itself in its understanding of the crisis of Stalinism from all other currents which, lacking any serious theoretical basis, have shown proof of confusionism and the greatest sectarianism in this instance, our movement has factually demonstrated that it is the most sensitive to the really revolutionary tendencies that arise from the different experiences in the mass movement, and that it is capable at the same time of understanding them and adopting a proper attitude towards them in order to assist their progress towards the basic positions of revolutionary Marxism.

When the Korean War broke out on 25 June 1950, and immediately Tito’s Yugoslavia wholeheartedly sided in the UNO with the USA and supported the United Nations’ military intervention, the comrades of the PCI altered their attitude towards Yugoslavia. Any serious theoretical justification? None.

All that we find instead of a political explanation are lamentations of this type in a succession of articles in the magazine Quatrième Internationale (November 1950/January 1951);

One of the basic hallmarks of the Imperialist Epoch is sudden changes in a situation that is in perpetual and rapid evolution. It is more difficult than ever for human knowledge and understanding to follow the rhythm of objective evolution and adapt itself to its requirements and lessons, and this flows from this feature inherent in the nature of contemporary reality. The evolution of Yugoslavia is a significant example of this proposition.



1. AMR ’ Alliance Marxiste Revolutionnaire ’ the French section of the international grouping led by Michel Pablo.

2. This was the term used by the International Secretariat of the Fourth International for the countries of Eastern Europe dominated by the Soviet Union. In 1948 it still maintained that they were capitalist states.

3. Yugoslav Communist Party.

Updated by ETOL: 14.7.2003