Fourth Congress of the Communist International - Resolutions 1922

Resolution on the Yugoslav Question

Source: Published in Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922 (, pp. 1075-1079.
Translation: Translations by John Riddell
HTML Markup: David Walters & Andy Blunden for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018
Copyright: John Riddell, 2017. Republished here with permission.

The Communist Party of Yugoslavia was formed from the old Social Democratic parties in the different regions that now make up the country. First the right-wing forces, and later also the centrists were removed from the party, which affiliated to the Communist Party (Vukovar congress, 1920). The general revolutionary ferment in Central Europe at that time (the Red Army’s advance on Warsaw; occupation of the metalworking factories in Italy), combined with the strike movement that had broken out in Yugoslavia with elemental force, led to the growth of the Communist Party. In a short time it developed into a mass party that exerted significant influence on the broad masses of workers and peasants. That was shown by the results of the municipal elections, in which the party won control of many municipal governments (including that of Belgrade). Moreover, in the later elections for the Constituent Assembly, the party won the election of fifty-nine deputies.

This threatening growth in the Communist Party’s influence so alarmed the ruling oligarchy of generals and bankers that they unleashed a campaign of systematic destruction against the Communist movement. After the forcible suppression of the general strike of transport workers (April 1920), they expelled Communists from the municipal council of Agram [Zagreb] (June), suspended the Communist municipal administration in Belgrade (August), and, in a decree issued 29 December, banned all Communist and trade union organisations, suppressed the Communist press, and handed over the party’s clubs and institutions to the social patriotic party. In June, the law on order and state security illegalised the Communist Party and expelled it from its last refuge in parliament and the municipal administrations.

The destruction of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia can be ascribed not only to the objective conditions, but also, to a significant degree, to its own internal weaknesses. It lacked both a developed and consolidated organisation appropriate to its overall growth, and also sufficient Communist consciousness among its membership. The party did not have enough time to complete its evolution toward communism. Nonetheless, it is now clear that the party leadership was guilty of major errors and mistakes, which can be traced back to their incorrect concepts regarding the Communist International’s methods of struggle.

These errors and mistakes made the task of the counter-revolutionary government much easier. The working masses demonstrated their revolutionary energy and will through a number of powerful strikes, but the party displayed very little revolutionary initiative. Thus when the police banned the 1920 May Day demonstration in Belgrade, the party leadership did not even make the attempt to rally the masses in a protest meeting. The next year, the same thing happened. Similarly, the party did not undertake any mass actions to defend the municipal councillors in Agram, who were forcibly expelled. When the municipal administration in Belgrade was ripped out of the party’s hands in most brutal fashion, it did nothing. Its passivity gave courage to the government to go the limit. At the end of December, the government took advantage of the miners’ strike to ban the party and the trade unions. At this crucial moment, the party, which had received approximately 210,000 votes in the elections and had sent fifty-nine delegates to parliament, did not respond with any mass action.

The party’s passivity under the brutal blows of reaction arose from its lack of a sufficiently Communist orientation. It had not yet fully shaken free of the old Social Democratic outlook. The party had originally affiliated to the Communist International with enthusiasm – evidence that the masses were ready for struggle. But the party leadership felt a certain unease about this new course. So it did not venture to publish the Twenty-One Conditions adopted by the Second World Congress or the Theses on Revolutionary Parliamentarism.[1] It thus left the party and its masses of supporters fully unaware of all that the Communist International demands of its member parties in order to become genuinely Communist.

The party leadership, for its part, took no serious steps to prepare the party and the masses to struggle against the threat of reaction, whatever the circumstances. Its attention was fixed above all on the party’s electoral successes. It was careful not to scare away petty-bourgeois forces by revealing to them the nature of the Communist Party and its methods of struggle. And while the Belgrade oligarchy of bankers and generals were preparing for a decisive, hard, and ruthless struggle against the revolutionary workers movement, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia concentrated the party’s attention and energy on parliamentarism, a quite secondary question, and left the party’s back exposed, without organised protection. That was its fundamental mistake.

The party was shown to be powerless and unable to defend itself against the White Terror. It did not have any underground apparatus that would have made it possible to work and to maintain a link with the masses under the new conditions. It was the parliamentary fraction that served, until its dissolution, as the link between the centre and the regions. Subsequently, this link was broken. After the arrest of leading comrades in the centre and the regions, the movement was beheaded. The party suddenly ceased to exist, as it were. The local party branches suffered the same fate, creating the danger that the workers, left to their own devices, would be scattered. The Social Democrats, supported by the police, made efforts to gain from this favourable situation, without any real success.

Under the reign of White terror, the party leadership moved gradually to adopt the organisational forms and methods of struggle demanded by the new situation. For a long time it remained passive, expecting that the terror would die down without the active intervention of the proletarian masses, and relying exclusively on the contradictions and struggles within the ruling classes and parties. It hoped that the Communists appearing for trial would be acquitted, and then that they would be pardoned on the occasion of the king’s marriage. Only when these hopes had been dashed did the leadership move to reorganise the party and bring it back to life.

In July 1922, at last, the party convened in Vienna in its first extended plenum. This conference was the first attempt to reconstitute the party, and it must be warmly welcomed, even though its composition did not fully correspond to the provisions of the party statutes. The prevailing conditions in Yugoslavia, in which a number of members had been arrested or had betrayed, and the changes resulting from 11/2 years of inaction, made it impossible to hope that a plenum with a quorum could be convened, one truly representative of the party. The Communist International Executive Committee therefore acted rightly in authorising the expanded plenum to act on behalf of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. The Executive confirmed its decisions, although with some quite reasonable changes regarding the composition of the newly elected Central Committee. For the same reason the attempt by some Yugoslav comrades to leave the conference on 16 July, and thus to break with it, must be condemned, despite their good intentions, as an action objectively harmful to the party.

The decisions of the Vienna conference on the general situation in Yugoslavia and the immediate tasks of the Communist Party, on the trade union movement, and on the party’s reorganisation have not revealed any significant disagreements between representatives of what have been called the party majority and minority. Nor is this the case with the resolutions of the Third Communist Conference of the Balkans,[2] which were endorsed without change by the Communist International Executive Committee. This unanimity with regard to the most important questions before the party is convincing evidence that there are no grounds at present to divide the Yugoslav party into factions termed majority and minority, and that the split that took place in the leadership at the Vienna conference was due entirely to disagreements of a personal nature. At the moment of its rebirth, the Yugoslav party must be treated as fully united.

At the same time, however, it is absolutely necessary to safeguard its unity in the future. Nothing would be so disastrous for the party and the revolutionary movement in Yugoslavia as a factional split in the face of the capitalist and Social Democratic reaction raging in the country. Therefore, the new party leadership must do all in its power and take all necessary steps to reassure the unquiet spirits in the party, in order to restore the necessary trust within the party and to unite around the party banner all the activists who have held firm during the counter-revolutionary storm.

This goal can be achieved, first, by implementing the Vienna conference decision regarding ridding the party of compromised elements and, secondly, by integrating the active comrades of the Vienna conference minority into responsible work. Here the Yugoslav party can receive fruitful support from the Balkan Communist Federation. But for this it is essential that it follow the example of the other Balkan Communist parties by immediately naming and sending its representatives to the Balkan executive committee. In its process of reconstruction and internal consolidation, the Yugoslav party can also count on the support of the Communist International, whose Executive must maintain more intimate ties to the party than has been the case in the past.

But the party’s future rests above all in the hands of the comrades who have remained firm both politically and morally. Enriched by the hard experiences of the recent past, unified organisationally and in their ardent belief in the victory of international revolution, they will succeed in gathering and uniting the proletarian elements now scattered and left without leadership. They will organise and strengthen the Yugoslav section of the Communist International.

The congress instructs the Executive of the Communist International to take the organisational measures dictated by the circumstances.


1. For the Twenty-One Conditions, see Riddell (ed.), Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite! (New York: Pathfinder Press 1991), vol. 2, pp. 765 – 71.

2. The third conference of the Balkan Communist Federation took place in Moscow, 19 – 22 July 1921.