Ted Grant

Behind the Stalin-Tito Clash

Yugoslavs too Independent

Written: July 1948
Source: Socialist Appeal
Transcription/Markup: Emil 1999
Proofread: Emil 1999

The sensational expulsion of the Yugoslavian Communist Party from the Cominform(1) and the open breach between Moscow and Belgrade has aroused a lively discussion in the ranks of the working class. What lies behind these sensational events? That is the question everyone is asking. Only political children accept the statement issued by the Cominform as to the basis of the dispute.

Whatever it is, however, it must be of tremendous importance for the Stalinists to precipitate the open breach which amounts to a considerable diplomatic and political set-back.

The conflict will undoubtedly have wide repercussions in the Communist Parties on an international scale. It marks a new stage in the development of international Stalinism which must be closely followed by revolutionary and militant workers.

The struggle must have been going on behind the scenes for a considerable time. Moscow would only have brought the question out into the open when it had failed to gain control of the Yugoslav Communist Party, when the Russian secret police, the MVD, in Yugoslavia had suffered a decisive defeat; when it was considered no longer possible to win Tito or his supporters; and probably, when Tito was gaining support for his policy against Moscow in the other Balkan Communist Parties. This latter event would be the most potent factor in arousing the hatred and fear of Moscow.

The real issues of the dispute come out only covertly. What appears to be at stake is the demand by the Russian bureaucracy in Moscow for complete and absolute control over the satellite states, even to the smallest detail of internal policy, and Tito's hostility and opposition to complete subjugation to Russia.

Moscow is faced with two possibilities in the evolution of its policy towards the satellite states in the coming period.

The first is to incorporate these states openly into the USSR as a means of ensuring complete and undisputed control; the second is to accept the nominal independence of these states but to try so to organise their internal regimes and arrange their relations with each other as to ensure that the real control is centred in Moscow.

The first policy has considerable disadvantages in that it would violate the national aspirations of the people of the border states and meet with widespread opposition not only from the broad mass of the people, but even from the ranks of the Communist Parties themselves. It could only be carried out after long preparation and the assurance of one hundred per cent state domination centrally and in the localities by the Russian Stalinists. To carry it out with any measure of force would arouse the hostility of the whole of the European working class.

Stalin's Great Russian Chauvinism

The second policy would not ensure such complete subjugation and control of the border states but it has certain advantages in that the real control would rest in Moscow while thc nominal independence of these countries could be used to diplomatic and economic advantage. It would still be possible to prevent the federation of the border states strengthen their relative independence in relation to Moscow.

The whole history of Stalinism - of great Russian chauvinism - and especially the most recent conflicts of policy, indicate that Stalin will fight with every possible weapon to prevent the creation of independent groups of states within the Eastern European countries.

A key to the conflict is given in the repeated demand from Tito for the Federation of Bulgaria, Albania and Yugoslavia and his reported ambitions for a federation of the Balkan countries. The importance of this policy as an issue in dispute is seen in the fact that the Yugoslavian Communist Party has restated its Balkans federation policy immediately following on the heels of its expulsion. It must be remembered that Dimitrov(2) was recently hauled over the coals by Moscow for advocating a federation. In a federation of the three countries, Yugoslavia would obviously play the dominant role.

Such a federation at the present time would undoubtedly result in a strengthening of the Communist Parties of these countries and their states as against the domination of Moscow. It is, therefore, one policy which Moscow will fight with every weapon it can muster until and unless, it is assured of absolute control through puppets.

In the statement of the Cominform, as quoted in the Daily Worker of June 30th, they say:

"The leadership of the Yugoslav Communist Party is carrying out a policy unfriendly toward the Soviet Union and to the All-Union Communist Party. In Yugoslavia an unworthy policy of belittling Soviet military experts and discrediting the Soviet Army has been permitted. Soviet civilian specialists in Yugoslavia have been subjected to a special regime, on the basis of which they were put under the surveillance of State security organs and subjected to shadowing. The representative of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) at the Information Bureau, Comrade Yudin, and a number of official representatives of the Soviet Union in Yugoslavia, were subjected to the same shadowing and supervision on the part of the State security organs of Yugoslavia.

"All these and similar facts prove that the leaders of the Yugoslav Communist Party have taken up an attitude unworthy of Communists, on the basis of which the Yugoslav leaders began to identify the foreign policy of the USSR with the foreign policy of the imperialist powers and behaved towards the Soviet Union in the same manner as toward the bourgeois states. Precisely as a consequence of that anti-Soviet attitude, slanderous propaganda - borrowed from the arsenal of counter-revolutionary Trotskyism - on the degeneration of the All-Union Communist Party, on the degeneration of the Soviet Union and so on has become current in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia."

The same issue of the Dally Worker quotes the reply of Tito and Co to the accusation that Russian "specialists" were shadowed, as follows: "This is a definite lie…it is a definite lie that anybody was followed. From the liberation until today all members of the Party have given full co-operation to Soviet citizens."

The Daily Worker did not finish the quotation and in this it both deliberately misinformed its readers, and indicated that its editors were not prepared to state the case for the Yugoslavs fairly and objectively. Already they had taken sides in the dispute as mere Russian hacks. The Yugoslavian Communist Party statement went on to declare that: "On the contrary, it is absolutely true, as pointed out in our letter of April 13th, that from the time of the liberation until today members of the Soviet intelligence service attempted without consideration to recruit Yugoslavs." Let the editors of the Daily Worker explain to its readers the omission of this fundamental part of its brother Party's reply.

The facts are that the Stalinist military and "civil" specialists in Yugoslavia, as in all other satellite countries have, or seek, what amounts to extra-territorial rights. The apparatus of the MVD is built to ensure the carrying out of Russian policies and the elimination of anti-Stalinist elements. But it seems that Tito was not prepared to give Stalin freedom to build an independent military and police apparatus which could be used against himself and the other members of the Yugoslav Communist Party who supported the orientation of achieving a large measure of independence from Moscow.

The Daily Worker was guilty of a further distortion. In printing Tito's protest against accusations that there had been no elections in the Yugoslav CP, they had refused to print the reply that Stalin's Party was no better. "As for the fact that in a few sections there have been no elections, this was caused only by war-time conditions. It has been the case in many parties including the Russian Bolshevik Party."

That the Stalinist secret police have been defeated is indicated by the complaints in the Cominform statement both as regards the supervision of Russian "specialists" and by the demands for democracy in the Yugoslav CP.

The Yugoslav pupils seem to have learned too well from the Russian master. They got in first and expelled Stalin's stooges from the Party. It cannot be excluded that the recent execution of leading members of the Yugoslav Communist Party as "British agents" was another example of the Stalinist method of eliminating political opponents. A little Balkan version of the Moscow Trials.

The Cominform declaration that the "Yugoslav leaders began to identify the foreign policy of the USSR with the foreign policy of the imperialist powers…" is clear evidence that the Yugoslavs were objecting to the demands of the Russians, which they considered to be in violation of the interests and national aspirations of the Yugoslavs.

Lenin Opposed Stalin On National Question

The tendency of Stalin to Great Russian chauvinism is nothing new. He has been built up as the great "Leninist authority" on the National Question. In fact, one of the last struggles which Lenin conducted against Stalin before he died was precisely to oppose Stalin's bureaucratic policy towards national minorities. But this, like Lenin's last letter to the Bolshevik Party demanding the removal of Stalin from the position of General Secretary of the Party, has been hidden from the rank and file communists until this present day. This tendency against which Lenin fought, became more pronounced after his death when Stalin succeeded in usurping complete control. During the great purges, the entire Governments of National Republics were wiped out, massacred, as part of Stalin's policy of national oppression. Tito appears to have learnt some lessons from the purges.

If the leaders of the Yugoslavian Party have indeed criticised Moscow as the Cominform statement alleges, with arguments "borrowed from the arsenal of counter-revolutionary Trotskyism - on the degeneration of the All-Union Communist Party, on the degeneration of the Soviet Union and so on…", we can only hope that some spark of light has penetrated the ranks of the Yugoslav Communist Party. One thing we know. Tito is no Trotskyist. Organisationally and ideologically he is the enemy of Trotskyism. At the period of the liberation of Yugoslavia, Tito was responsible for the physical annihilation of the "Trotskyists".

If the pressure fails to take effect and Tito refuses to capitulate, Stalin may be compelled to come to some agreement.

Even now, far from attacking the real crimes of the Stalinist bureaucracy, it appears that Tito will try to arrive at some compromise. Experience teaches that Stalin will stop at nothing to wipe out the opposition of the character with which he is now faced in Yugoslavia. The whole monstrous apparatus of Russian propaganda will be turned against the leaders of the Yugoslav regime. The miserable Stalinist hacks in this country, who only yesterday were blazoning Yugoslavia, Tito and his achievements in their press, will now turn their pens against the regime to undermine it and denigrate its leaders.

For the first time, and only in order to discredit the dissident Tito and his regime, the Stalinists now blurt out some truths. Criticisms that Trotskyists have made of the regime in Yugoslavia, are now revealed as true by the Stalinists themselves. The Cominform statement says:

"Inside Yugoslavia the Party does not have any internal party democracy, elections are not held, there is no criticism or self criticism. The Central Committee of the Party…consists in its majority not of elected but co-opted members…It is quite intolerable that in the Yugoslav Communist Party the most elementary rights of party members are being trampled upon, that the slightest criticism of the incorrect way in which things are run in the Party is followed by grave repressions. The Information Bureau regards as disgraceful such facts as the expulsion from the Party and arrest of members of the Central Committee Comrades Zujovic and Hebrang, because they dared to criticise the anti-Soviet attitude of leaders of the Yugoslav Communist Party and to advocate friendship between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Such an ignominious, purely Turkish [!!] terrorist regime cannot be tolerated by the Yugoslav Communist Party…the leaders of the Yugoslav Communist Party, are infected by excessive ambition, haughtiness and conceit."

If ever there was a case of a pot calling the kettle black, here it is! Tongue in cheek, the Moscow bureaucracy attacks Tito for the lack of democracy. This bureaucracy which murdered practically all the leaders of the October Revolution, which killed and exiled millions to Siberia for opposition to their regime, which is so contemptuous of the rights of the rank and file, that in violation of the Constitution, they have not bothered to hold a Party Conference in Russia for nearly ten years. The last Congress of the Russian Communist Party was held in October 1938. In Lenin's time the Congress was held at least once a year, even during the Civil War.

Any who dare offer a criticism of Stalin are soon on the road to Siberia or destined to die at the hands of a hired assassin. Tito's regime is probably a model of democracy compared to the Russian regime which is the most totalitarian and bureaucratic in the whole of history.

Some of the economic criticisms are undoubtedly correct. They repeat in a distorted way, the criticism which Trotsky made of Stalin's policy from 1923 to 1927. First that Tito underestimated the Kulak elements in the villages, and the danger which arises from this, then, after criticism, reversed his policy and proceeded to nationalise small shops and other small industries and to take action in the villages before the economic basis had been prepared. Precisely the way Stalin proceeded! From opposing collectivisation to "liquidating the Kulaks as a class" and introducing 100% collectivisation. The bureaucrats in Moscow and in the Cominform must have necks of brass to make the criticism that there is no nationalisation of the land in Yugoslavia. This is a correct criticism. But it happens that they have not nationalised the land in a single one of the satellite states either.

The question immediately springs to mind: why were the facts now enumerated by the Cominform concealed for years? Why is it revealed only when Tito refuses to bow the knee to Stalin and uses Stalin's tricks against him? In place of Stalin's MVD, Tito has an efficient instrument of his own and is arresting Stalin's stooges, apparently on charges of being in the pay of British and American imperialism! It may even be true that in the circles of the Yugoslav CP, Marshall Tito while he does not dare bring this into the open, has been secretly denouncing the degeneration of the Russian Communist Party and regime.

In the past Moscow succeeded in asserting its will, and removing or destroying the leadership of national sections without a serious crisis. The history of the Comintern is saturated with the bureaucratic elimination of Stalin's opponents and agents who have been sacrificed in the interests of the bureaucracy.

In Russia, every member of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party who was in the leadership of the revolution from 1917 to 1921 - every member other than those who died at the hands of the capitalist counter-revolution or by natural means - has been shot or otherwise driven to death. Madame Kollontai and Stalin are the sole survivors of the 24 members.

The Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party and Young Communist League were massacred to a man when living in Russia because of illegal conditions, not once but twice during the late 1930s.

These purges took place without great disturbance. But once the national parties have control of their own state apparatus, all the levers of finance, economy, the military and the police, the inevitable effect of such a transformation is to strengthen the position of the national leadership and to create conditions of independence from Moscow.

The importance of the present conflict lies in the fact that it is the first important crack in the international front of Stalinism since the end of the war. It is bound to have profound effects on the rank and file members of the Communist Parties throughout the world, especially in Western Europe and Britain. It is the beginning of a process of differentiation within the Communist Parties, which in the long run will lead to splits.

The extension of the power of the Russian bureaucracy further west from the Russian borders creates new problems for them. While temporarily strengthening them, in the long run it will undermine their position.

It is clear that any Leninist must support the right of any small country to national liberation and freedom if it so desires. All socialists will give critical support to the movement in Yugoslavia to federate with Bulgaria and to gain freedom from direct Moscow domination. At the same time the workers in Yugoslavia and these countries will fight for the installation of genuine workers' democracy, of the control of the administration of the state and of industry as in days of Lenin and Trotsky in Russia. This is impossible under the present Tito regime.

For an Independent Socialist Soviet Yugoslavia within an Independent Socialist Soviet Balkans. This can only be part of the struggle for the overthrow of the Capitalist Governments in Europe and the installation of Workers' Democracy in Russia.

Communism means the widest possible freedom and democracy for the people. Without the participation and control of the workers there can be no transition to socialism. These developments in the Balkans are a symptom of the real situation which exists in Russia and the Eastern States. The sole solution lies in a genuinely democratic Soviet regime with full autonomy and freedom for the national states within the boundaries of a socialist federation of states.


(1) The Cominform - The Communist Information Bureau was established following the March 1947 "Truman Doctrine" whereby US President Truman launched an "ideological and economic crusade against communism". This included the Marshall Plan of economic aid for Europe which had as one aim to assist the recovery of capitalism in Eastern Europe. The Cominform was founded in Warsaw in September 1947 primarily to consolidate the domination of the Russian bureaucracy over their "fraternal" allies in Eastern Europe.

(2) Georgi Dimitrov, 1882-1949 - Premier of Bulgaria from 1946-49. Secretary of the Communist International from 1934 to its dissolution by Stalin in 1943.