Judd (Stanley) Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Henry Judd

Books in Review

The Question of Tito

(March 1951)

From The New International, Vol. XVII No. 2, March–April 1951, pp. 125–128.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Le Communisme Yougoslave
by Louis Dalmas; preface by Jean-Paul Sartre
Terre des Hommes, Paris 1950, i–xliii, 220 pgs.

The question of Yugoslavia, or “Titoism,” has had a most curious evolution, scarcely foreseen by those who concerned themselves with the issue when it first burst into the world four years ago. Not only in retrospect, but particularly from the standpoint of today, the analysis made of Titoism by all parties and political tendencies of the left – regardless of the viewpoint they proposed – seems to have been marked by shortsightedness, superficiality and a failure to grasp the full significance of this development. The outstanding example of this was, of course, the so-called “official” Trotskyist movement which generally outdoes all others in ignorance, incompetence and narrow-mindedness. With the same degree of violence with which they formerly embraced Tito and all his doings, they now denounce and attack this latest in a long line of “traitors” (the same Tito) who has sold himself to the American camp! But no one takes these people seriously, and everyone understands that their real bitterness against Tito is the fact that he refused to create a “new international” into which they could cheerfully liquidate that pitiful body known as the “Fourth International.” In reviewing any work on Yugoslavia, such as that offered by Louis Dalmas, the real question is: has the socialist and revolutionary left properly understood this development, has it made proper use of it in its own socialist interests, has it established the necessary objective and subjective climate within which it can exert certain influence on Titoism and assist it along the path of its own evolution?

From such a standpoint we propose to review this work of Dalmas and measure its contribution in accomplishing this task. The author, known as one of the leading “Titoists” in France, is concerned with much more than a mere description of the rupture with Stalin, and the facts of Yugoslavian economic, political and social life thereafter. He has a theory of Titoism, which he presents with force and conviction, and which he considers to be essential to an understanding of the greatest problem of all: how to bring about a revival of the now defunct international revolutionary movement. Therefore, despite many naive and impulsive remarks of a subjective nature which mar the book throughout, his work demands a serious and earnest consideration.

The problem of Titoism is an international one which will certainly have a long and profound development except for those individuals adept in the art of political abstraction who think that the Stalinist-influenced masses and parties can brusquely leap over their Stalinist history straight onto the pinnacles of revolutionary socialism. In this sense, then, it is absurd to be “pro-Titoist” or “anti-Titoist”; to “prove” that Yugoslavia is a “workers’ state” or a “national-Stalinism.” The real fact of the matter is that both in terms of internal political ideology and international politics, Titoism has already passed beyond its early characteristics which permitted it to be defined more or less correctly, if abstractly, as a Stalinist movement, or a bureaucratic clique seeking to retain power by a neutralist position in a divided world. Titoism must now be redefined as a legitimate and serious international tendency, politically and ideologically, within the revolutionary movement; it must be recognized as the first of many other similar developments which, springing out of the world of Stalinism, must be accepted as harbingers of new, hitherto unknown, ideological currents with which socialists must sympathetically collaborate. Another and parallel example is that ideology represented by the British Labor Government, which, although originating in the capitalist world, nonetheless has characteristics strikingly similar to that of Titoism. This, however, is a theme for another subject and we must return to the work of Dalmas.

The work may conveniently be divided into three sections: the preface furnished by Jean-Paul Sartre, which must certainly be considered as an important political statement on the part of this leading European intellectual; the historic and factual account of Titoism given by Dalmas and a concluding section in which the author advances his “theory of Stalinism” and the place occupied by Titoism in this theory. Needless to say, these sections are of highly unequal value. This is a work requiring concentrated patience and effort by the reader, particularly if he is to overcome his indignation at some of the absurdities of Dalmas ... and Sartre! Both, it becomes clear, are saying perhaps more than they themselves are aware of.

The preface of Sartre, complex, difficult and expressed in the pseudo-philosophic language associated with the philosophy of existentialism, indicates a serious reflection and study by the author not only of the Yugoslavian question, but of Marxist doctrine in general. Sartre attempts to penetrate the complex questions of the relationship between “objective” and “subjective” factors in revolutionary history – both before and after the social revolution, and the place occupied by the Titoist revolution in this schema. It is impossible to detail his argument here, certainly the most provocative and interesting part of the book. We must limit ourselves to its broad outline, as well as some comments thereon.

Sartre finds the struggle of Tito against Russian Stalinism progressive and revolutionary because, in his terms, it marks a rediscovery of the subjective factor in revolutionary consciousness, as opposed to what he calls “Stalinist objectivity.” “In a word,” he says, “the pressure of objective circumstances and the contradictions of objectivism itself have led them [the Titoists – H.J.] to reevaluate the subjective, in spite of themselves. But this reevaluation, in its turn, demands a theoretical revision: they must rethink Marxism, they must rethink Man.” (pg. xlii) Precisely. And it is on this point that both the critics and supporters of Titoism have gone astray; the one and the other accepting Titoism “in itself,” divorced and unrelated to the world, deprived of any inner dynamics, bare and abstract. This reviewer includes himself among those whose approach to the problem was guided by sectarian considerations. Nobody, says Sartre, can foresee today what will become of Titoism; no one can yet grasp its total and final significance. “It is for this reason that we must place our bets on it. When the die is cast, nothing continues and man disappears. What measures the human grandeur of an enterprise is the fact that one may bet for or against its chances of success up to the end.” In the additional sense that Titoism has broken apart the vast, frozen icefields of Stalinist ideology, we cannot but agree with the spirit of Sartre’s fundamental approach to this issue.

The first phases of the revolution, pursues Sartre, are marked by grave contradictions, particularly between the subjective desires of the workers and objective economic and social realities. The Stalinist leadership has been unable to “constitute a theory of subjectivity adapted to the new phase of the revolution” to resolve these contradictions. Calculating ideological specialists are created by Stalinism, and what Rosa Luxemburg described as the masses acting as their own executive organs of conscious action fails to develop; on the contrary, is stifled. In Korea, for example, “The revolutionary consciousness of the Korean masses has become, for the Soviet leaders, an objective element in their calculations.” (pg. xix) In enlarging this conception, Sartre develops at some length what we may describe as the psycho-philosophic process behind the various trials which have taken place in the Soviet satellite lands (Rajk, Kostov, etc.); a most interesting description, we may add.

But in the last few pages of his lengthy introduction, Sartre stumbles and stumbles badly. It is here that he must give both an evaluation of Titoism and an estimation of its consequences upon the Stalinist movement internationally. He accepts the “socialist” definition of the Titoist state implied throughout the book (although even Dalmas is constrained to admit the possibility of its degeneration into a “police state”), and commits the even more serious error of splitting apart the “state” of a socialist society and “the movement of collectivity”; i.e., the organized revolutionary masses. Falsely calling upon Rosa Luxemburg this time, Sartre quotes her well- known remarks about the conservative role of the Social Democratic leadership as against the labor movement and concludes that the task of the workers’ organisms in Yugoslavia is to “demand a greater number of powers than the State has attributed to it”; i.e., conduct a running battle with the state apparatus. This analogy between state and party is, of course, false and an evasion of the primary issue in any evaluation of the Yugoslavia regime: namely, if the mass, popular organisms of the masses do not in themselves constitute the state, in what sense can one speak of a workers’ or socialist state? This key question has been treated elsewhere (cf., for example, our article in November–December issue of The New International), and we shall not touch upon it.

Finally, Titoism in its break with Stalinism has advanced much further than Sartre, or his friends, in analysing the role of Stalinism. The noticeable cooling off of the pro-Titoists (under the guise of Tito’s reorientation toward the American camp) is really attributable to the depth and extent of his split with Stalinism, whereas the band of European intellectuals feel far deeper ties to the Stalinist movement. What a monstrous and capitulationist formula Sartre develops when, denouncing the idea that one should look forward to a split in the Communist movement over Titoism, he says, “... we cannot even say that a worker joins the Communist Party; we must rather say that he is born in it, for to be a proletarian and to be a Stalinist is all one.” (pg. xlii) At most, one must hope that Titoism, in disturbing the assurity of the Stalinist worker, may give rise to a reawakening of his consciousness. This conception of the impossibility of any revolutionary activity outside of the limits of the Stalinist world is no doubt Sartre’s conclusion from the check of the French RDR movement, and is shared by many, including Dalmas. But is this not in full contradiction with the development of Titoism itself? Up to now, it. has been a simple affair for all leftists to proclaim their readiness to defend Yugoslavia in case of an isolated war involving a frontal attack by Russia (a highly dubious and hypothetical situation, at best). But are we not correct in questioning the durability of their position in the event of a general war, with Yugoslavia occupying, formally at least, a place in the camp of the West; put otherwise, may we not suspect a more basic tendency present among the pro-Titoists, namely, the tendency of capitulation to Stalinism?

These matters are handled more crudely and naively by Dalmas, who contributes the bulk of the book. This man, whatever his sincerity may be, is a master confusionist who, alas, has succeeded in confusing himself most of all! He substitutes enthusiasm for analysis and emotionalism for politics. His theoretical efforts never rise above the level of vulgar rationalizing for his preconceived notions or better said, his obsession with the belief that Stalinism constitutes the only revolutionary force in existence. This forces him to make certain statements of such an extravagant nature – for example, his monstrous accusation that the Independent Socialist League, because of its denial that the Stalinist movement is a legitimate working class movement, is in an anti-communist bloc with the State Department and gives a “... so-called Marxist cover to bourgeois anti-communist repression” – that the reader is obliged to hold back his temptation to abandon the book. Dalmas, who admires Tito beyond belief and imagines him to be of the class of the great Marxists, renders serious disservice to all those concerned with an objective analysis of Titoism by his vulnerable manner of writing and reporting. He relies solely upon official government sources, admits he has never verified any of the descriptive material he presents and accepts verbatim whatever is told him.

There is little purpose in listing the many dubious statements made by Dalmas. However, in justice to him, it should be remarked that he gives a detailed and factual account of the early beginnings of the Titoist tendency, and the factors behind the split. It is his evaluation of the regime, its relations with the workers and its internal politics which receive either little or wrong attention from him. If Titoism marks a progressive break away from Stalinism (undoubtedly true), the task of socialists is to assist this evolution rather than bringing it to a halt midway. If Dalmas' description is correct, then Yugoslavia today is far more of a socialist and workers' state than Russia was under Lenin and Trotsky! This holds for all spheres of the country’s life, too. The author contributes nothing to helping the Yugoslavs in their “rethinking of Marxism.”

In fact, Titoism has outstripped the Dalmasian type of pro-Titoist, in many respects. Whereas Titoism is clearly deepening the gap between itself and Stalinism, Dalmas is most anxious to narrow that gap. Surely the author must disagree with the present evolution of Titoism; perhaps he is ready to place his small coin, like the Trotskyists, on the new hero of despairing people, Mao Tse- tung. In any case, the essence of Dalmas’ book is more concerned with his “theory of Stalinism” which, in his words, may be summarized as follows: “... communism is not necessarily Stalinism, but at the same time Stalinism is also communist.” (p. 143) From this, the corollary that the task of the socialist today is to make Stalinism independent of the Kremlin (that is, early Titoist). Expressed with much less sophistication, this is the same theory as that advanced by Deutscher in his biography of Stalin. It is a theory of political capitulation to Stalinism as the inevitable “wave of the future.” As such, unfortunately, it is highly prevalent among European left-intellectual circles some of whom – our author included – even describe it as a position of independence between the two blocs! (Cf. pg. 210–11) With these people, one must start almost from the first teachings of Marxism: the labor movement as an independent movement not handcuffed to a state; what is meant by revolutionary consciousness and activity; what is a workers’ state, etc. Titoism, because of its inner dynamics and its response to objective circumstances, will surely remain in existence, even in event of war. Let us hope that other and more fruitful contributions to understanding and influencing it will be made.

Isaacs Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 21 November 2018