MIA: History: ETOL: Document: Workers Party/Independent Socialist League: Neither Capitalism nor Socialism

Workers Party/Independent Socialist League

E. Haberkern & Arthur Lipow (eds.)

Neither Capitalism nor Socialism


Hal Draper

The Economic Drive Behind Tito


Neither Capitalism nor Socialism, pp. 187–206.
The New International, Vol. XIV No. 8, October 1948


The general driving motivation behind the Tito-Stalin split is fairly clear now – though naturally not to everyone.

It was not merely a personal spat between tinseled marshals, as some of our contemporaries put it in first reaction. It did not mean that the Yugoslavs were going over to Wall Street. There were other attempts at the “real lowdown” on Tito, ranging from the merely ignorant to the fantastic.

There was Henry Wallace (at his press conference in Philadelphia on July 23) who opined that the Yugoslavs had been suffering from a “semi-feudal” land-ownership system and that the Cominform was wroth because Tito was slow in reforming it. This congenital blunderbuss simply did not know that well nigh the last remnants of feudal relations had been wiped out after the First World War, even in Croatia where they hung on longest.

There was Louis Adamic, the Stalinist bedfellow who before June 29 was Tito’s chief horn-tooter in the U.S. Torn between his Stalinoid fellow-traveler mentality and his Yugoslav nationalism, the best Adamic could do was this:

Then, what is the rift? On the one side, poor manners which go with the idea on the part of some Soviet and/or Cominform leaders that Yugoslavia ought to do so-and-so and thus-and-thus; on the other side, resentment of such manners ... Essentially, the crisis between the Cominform and the Yugoslavs is not political but in human relations. [9]

There was the egregious Rebecca West, whose recent concern with world affairs has sadly deprived the literary world of her contributions without any visible benefit to politics: her theory was that the split was a jointly staged affair designed to give Stalin an excuse to march troops through Yugoslavia to Italy’s gates ...

There was the Spanish Anarchist underground radio which figured out on July 1: ”Tito ... was in the Spanish [civil] war, and may well have contracted the shortcoming of Spanish indiscipline.” We admit to throwing this in for comic relief.

In the first issue of Labor Action after the news broke, we put the stress on the driving force behind Tito’s apostasy: his aim “ to blackmail Russia into accepting him within the Russian war bloc with a status similar to that which, for example, Churchill hopes to attain for a Western Union within the American bloc.”

“Tito is in reality asking for promotion from the status of branch manager to that of junior partner with Stalin.” The question of national independence involved – and it is involved – is for him the independence of the native Yugoslav ruling bureaucracy from control by the Russian: the conflict between the Yugo and the Commissar is over who is to benefit from the exploitation of the masses.

Essentially, this is the same kind of impulsion that drives the rising bourgeoisie of a colonial country to seek increasing independence from the bigger capitalist nation that rules it. It has been demonstrated once again that this is not the era for the building of new stable empires over the bent backs of the peoples, and that Stalinist imperialism falls heir and victim to the same disintegrative forces which are also tearing capitalist imperialism apart.

This general impulsion means that there is an inherent conflict of interests between the Russian imperialist colossus and its satellites – an inherent contradiction leading to national resistance, which opens the door to the revolt of the masses against both the foreign and the home-grown oppressor.

But in what form did this general conflict concretize itself in Yugoslavia? It is precisely when we seek to inquire into the more immediate wellsprings of the Yugo-Stalinist heresy that the view clouds; the materials for an analysis are fragmentary and misleading. I certainly do not have the intention of putting forward any all-embracing hypothesis under the now-common title The Real Truth Behind the Tito Break.

It is possible, however, to throw a spotlight on one aspect of the struggle as it took shape in Yugoslavia – its economic basis, the economic issues underlying the general motivation of national autonomy.

This is not the economic question which has come into most notice in the charges pro and con – the dispute over collectivization of agriculture – although there is a relationship. The issue in Yugoslavia was and is: the industrialization of the country.

Yugoslavia according to Robert St. John’s books, is The Land of the Silent People. The “silent people” are the peasants. It is their land par excellence.

Yugoslavia is the most agrarian country of all Europe, the most thoroughly peasant land on the continent. Here in a mountainous area about the size of Oregon, 77–80 per cent of the population is engaged in agriculture. (Significantly as we shall see, the runner up – Bulgaria with 74 per cent – is the other country in Stalin’s empire which first publicly raised the proposal for Balkan federation.)

This was the picture when Tito took over:

Among its 15½–16 million people (10½ million on the land) there are two million separate peasant holdings. It is a land of small peasants. Only every second one of them even owns a plow of his own. The overwhelming majority of them own the land they work – 92.5 percent of the area under cultivation belongs to the peasants who till it.

There are few large estates and still fewer “great landowners.” Only 7 percent of the cultivated land is in farms of 200 acres or more, and many of these are worked by large peasant families. The average family holding is only 13 acres; two-thirds of the farms are smaller than this.

Among the Serbians, fully 80 per cent are peasants. Here, among the dominant nationality of this multi-national state, there is one city of over 100,000, one other of over 50,000 and a sprinkling of towns; the rest is village. In Macedonia there is a single more or less modern city. In Montenegro (which is, with Croatia, the basis of the CP’s strength) there is nothing that can be called a city, and only two towns of 10,000. Croatia and Slovenia are the most industrialized sections, but still mainly village, farm, forest and countryside.

Now pre-1917 Russia, as is well known, was also a predominantly peasant land, but it would be deceptive to equate the two. Russia had its sector of big industry, its giant plants, in which the revolution incubated. Yugoslavia does not.

In all Yugoslavia there are only 475,000 industrial and transport workers, a majority of whom are in Croatia and Slovenia. In 1929 Charles A. Beard wrote that “according to recent figures only twenty-two [factories] employ more than one thousand workers.” Ten years later the figure would be somewhat higher but not enough to change the picture. What manufacturing industries there are engage in producing mainly consumers’ goods, but 75 per cent of the manufactured products required are imported.

Zagreb in Croatia is a big Balkan banking and financial center, but “the organization of domestic commerce in Yugoslavia could be compared more or less to that prevailing in the smaller communities or rural districts of the United States.”

Of the less than a half million industrial and transport workers – constituting less than 3 per cent of the population – perhaps 63,000 belong to trade unions. (That was 1940; even today Tito’s compulsory “trade unions” claim a membership of only 662,000.) And of this number a large proportion work in small family shops, or at handicrafts; others are semi-proletarians eking out miserable peasant incomes with miserable factory wages.

This then is the face of Yugoslavia, the country whose people first took up arms against the Nazi conqueror and which now is also the first to revolt against the new Russian conqueror.

It might seem that in this, the most economically backward country of all Europe, the question of industrialization is the most utopian or at least furthest removed from the top of the agenda, at any rate least pressing.

The contrary is true, for three reasons which point to a single end. The first of these reasons applies to most peasant countries; the second applies especially to a peasant country on the European continent; and the third applies to a European peasant land within the Stalin empire. All three are not merely “objective forces” at work but consciously held drives and motivations.

(1) Industrialization is the only basic solution of the key peasant problem of this peasant country. Western Marxists tend to think of the peasant question in the old world in terms of the slogan “Land to the peasants” – the breaking up of the large estates – as a result of the revolutions in Russia and Spain. But this program is almost irrelevant in Yugoslavia. The peasants already had the land. Yet they sank deeper and deeper into poverty and misery.

The operative cause is the phenomenon of agrarian overpopulation, which “has been recently the most important economic problem of Yugoslavia ... [and] agrarian overpopulation ... will remain the central economic problem of Yugoslavia in the near future.” [10]

This phenomenon, common to backward peasant economies, arises from the tendency for the increase of population on the land to outstrip the capacity of the land to support them under the given technological conditions. Even where an excess can still be fed, they are not needed for production and depress the standard of living proportionately. Where the excess grows huge, the problem assumes overwhelming importance.

What is the way out of this automatic poverty producing mechanism? The Yugoslav economic study we have quoted comes to the conclusion that it lies only in intensified industrialization, other solutions being very limited in effect.

Agrarian overpopulation came to an end in the countries of the Northwest only when they became strongly industrialized. Yugoslavia will have to look for a lasting solution in the same way. [11]

The conclusion was accepted among bourgeois specialists even before the war; it is not new. The fierce economic drive behind industrialization is, therefore, from this point of view, not peculiar to the Tito bureaucracy. The latter inherited it. On it, however, are superimposed two others.

(2) Industrialization is the key to national sovereignty.

The important point is not merely that this is true but that this truism plays a leading role in the thinking of the Yugo-Stalinists. Naturally they must recognize that even an industrialized country can enjoy only a limited national sovereignty in Europe these days, but an agrarian backwoods can enjoy little if any.

Back in 1944 Edvard Kardelj, No. 2 man in the Tito apparatus, was already laying stress on this point as a guide to post-war reconstruction. In an article in the then Tito organ New Yugoslavia he gives it first place among the “general questions concerning the present position of small nations.”

The Nazis’ economic penetration, he explains, meant – the “reorganization” of the economy of the small nations in accordance with the economy of the larger fascist countries such as fascist Germany. In practice this meant preventing the independent development of the industrialization of small countries and transforming the existing industries of the small countries into mere appendages of the industry of fascist Germany. Such a plan means keeping us down to the level of agrarian countries to feed the industrial countries, and in the first place Hitlerite Germany. According to this plan, therefore, the whole of Southeastern Europe would have become a sort of agrarian appendage to Germany.

This means, he concludes, reducing us “to the level of colonial countries.” Change “Germany” to “Russia” and we have (as we shall see) the underlying economic basis of the dispute which later proved irrepressible. The general motivation of national independence is translated in economic terms into the aim of industrialization; and contrariwise, opposition to industrialization will raise fundamentally the question of national independence.

(3) The third reason behind the dynamic of Yugoslav industrialization concerns the nature of the new ruling group in Yugoslavia, the Titoist bureaucracy. We shall have more to say about this later. At this point, however, it is necessary to point out that the relationship between the bureaucratic-state economy and the goal of industrialization cuts both ways. Just as the bureaucratic collectivism of Titoist Yugoslavia makes possible a perspective of rapid industrialization as compared with private capitalism, so also the objective necessity of industrialization pushed even the pre-Tito bourgeois governments in the direction of the bureaucratization of the economy (statification specifically).

Thus Mirkovic, the bourgeois editor of the Jugoslav Postwar Reconstruction Papers, concludes his Problems of Industrialization:

The public (the State in the first place) has played and will play an increasingly important role in all industrialization schemes (which is true of all countries of the East). The State (the public in general) remains the only significant investor in an economy where private savings are relatively insignificant and where the role of foreign investment is as yet uncertain. [Vol. 4, No. 1.]

The bourgeois state recognized that the road to industrialization lay through statification:

Public planning will have to play an essential role in post-war reconstruction of the region. The fact that Eastern Europe is just at the beginning of its industrialization process will help toward that effect. Even prior to the war most of the essential enterprises (posts, telegraphs, railways, power plants, steel mills, forestry resources, steamships) were in the hands of the public (state, communities, cooperatives). [Vol. 1, No. 6.]

If for the bourgeoisie industrialization meant statification, then for the bureaucratic-collectivist ruling class under Tito, the terms of the equation are multiplied and transferred right to left: thorough statification requires thorough industrialization.

Otherwise the ruling bureaucracy can never transform itself into an indigenously rooted ruling class but is doomed to remain merely a proconsular apparatus for the foreign exploiter – even if the foreign exploiter is a bureaucratic-collectivist state.

When the Tito machine took power, it was not yet a class in its own right. What we are witnessing are its strivings to achieve the status of the ruling class of Yugoslavia, to become a Yugoslav class in the first place. It can achieve a distinctive role in the process of production only in proportion to the industrialization of the country. The rulers of a land of small-holding peasants can only be either bourgeois or tax-farmers for a foreign conqueror.

The dynamic social forces behind the question of industrialization should be clear. In this single economic question are wrapped up –

  1. the solution to the over-riding economic problems of the country;
  2. the key to Yugoslav national-independence sentiments;
  3. the sine qua non for the transformation of the bureaucracy into an indigenous ruling class.

We shall be prepared, then, to see in its proper light the actual industrialization program which the Titoists put into effect leading up to the split with the Cominform.

The Yugoslav Five Year Plan was adopted on April 28, 1947. Its sweep and scope were unexpected.

The Stalinist Doreen Warriner (a British version of Louis Adamic), writing in the New Statesman and Nation for April 11 on the eve of its unveiling, rhapsodizes about the Polish Three Year Plan – why, this writer exclaims, it aims at increasing the total national income to sixteen per cent higher than pre-war, “a very ambitious target.” And in contrast – Yugoslavia’s industrialization will be a long process, for 75 per cent of the population are still in agriculture, as against 60 percent in Poland and 50 per cent in Czechoslovakia.

Three weeks later Yugoslavia announced its own target – an increase of the total national income over pre-war of 93 per cent!

Later, writing in the quarterly Yugoslavia Today and Tomorrow, the same author rhapsodizes about the way in which Yugoslavia’s plan is different from those of other satellites:

... of all the East European plans, Yugoslavia’s is the most ambitious. It aims, not as the other plans in the main do, at the restoration of production to pre-war levels, but at the complete transformation of the country from a backward and undeveloped area to a modern industrial economy. [Winter 1948]

It is clear that Russia set its face against this perspective for Yugoslavia.

It thereby fell afoul of the feverish ambitions and hopes boiled up by the forces we have described, and unleashed the full fury of Yugoslav nationalism as filtered through the special needs and aims of the Yugo-Stalinist bureaucracy. (Like other national-resistance movements and tendencies today, this is not merely the continuation of the “old” Balkan nationalism but is the old spirit of nationalist resistance given new forms, motivations and drives.)

It is this conflict over industrialization which gives meaning to an otherwise most peculiar controversy which raged through the polemics between the Yugoslavs and their Cominform critics. It will be necessary to start with some representative quotations since this element in the dispute did not at all penetrate into the American press reports – the correspondents, no doubt, deeming it meaningless “Marxist” hair-splitting.

The subject of this controversy was: the possibility of building socialism in one country! [12]

First, some samples from the Cominform mouthpieces:

... the leaders of Yugoslavia are distorting the Marxist-Leninist doctrine on the possibility of building socialism in one country alone. Socialism cannot be built in one or several countries without the aid of the popular democracies or against them ... [Georghiu Dej, general secretary of the Rumanian Stalinist party.]

The draft program [of the CPY] ... follows the un-Marxist un-Leninist nationalist idea that Yugoslavia can supposedly build socialism by herself, and the question of aid from the other Communist Parties and the Soviet Union and from the popular democraciesin building socialism in Yugoslavia is to all intents and purposes ignored. [Yudin, Russian representativein the Cominform.]

Yugoslavia thinks that she is able to build socialism herself ... the Soviet Union built socialism alone in isolation, for she was surrounded by capitalist countries. Today, however, the countries of popular democracy which are building socialism are not isolated any longer. The cooperation with the Soviet Union ... constitutes one of the main stays of the planned economy, and the aid from the Soviet Union does not contain any political clauses. [Polish radio summary of article in Glos Ludu, Polish Stalinist organ.]

The main rejoinder for the Yugoslavs was made by Milovan Djilas, No. 4 man in the Tito hierarchy:

the question of the possibility of building socialism in one country surrounded by capitalism has already been worked out by Comrade Stalin. Comrade Stalin’s teachings show that it is possible in one country but not in all countries. Such a country was the USSR. However, Comrade Stalin does not say that the USSR is the only such country.

Djilas delicately complains about the fact that the Cominform has hypocritically pitched the question on the “lofty” level of the theory of socialism-in-one-country when what is really at stake is a couple of other things: the Yugoslavs’ tempo of industrialization, and whether “they should have renounced one thing or another for the sake of the realization of the common socialist [read: Russian] aim.”

The defensive protestation quoted from Glos Ludu should also be noted: “:the aid from the Soviet Union does not contain any political clauses,” it assures us. This merely reveals that the Yugoslavs are aware that it does, and don’t like it.

It is in fact this question of “aid from the Soviet Union” which is the meaningful heart of the controversy, and not the question of socialism-in-one-country – which is only the theoretical mask conferred by the Cominformers. One needs only a slight acquaintance with Russian economic policy vis-à-vis its satellites to know what the Russians mean when they insist that the latter must “build socialism” only “with the aid of the Soviet Union.”

To put it bluntly (as the Titoists energetically avoid doing in their public articles and speeches – while talking about the “degeneration of the Soviet Union” in private bull sessions) it means: reconstructing the native economy in dependence on the Soviet Union, adjusting the native economy to Russia’s needs and its “higher interests.”

This is also the content of the “political clauses” which the Yugoslavs fear. The relationship and reaction is, mutatis mutandis, analogous to that of the Western nations to the Marshall Plan.

We have questioned the meaning of the phrase “aid from the Soviet Union,” which is used in practically all the Cominform fulminations on this subject, and have interpreted it. It is interesting to find that Yugoslav spokesman, Boris Kidric, raises the same suspicion about the cliche.

Those comrades who accuse us of posing the building of socialism without the aid of and even against the socialist camp have nowhere defined what they actually mean by the term “aid.” Let us therefore be permitted to define the question of aid ourselves ...

Economic aid can be understood in various ways. One may understand aid to mean a gift without any counter-services – so to speak, aid on a silver platter. On the other hand, aid can be understood as increasingly closer mutual economic cooperation and mutual facilitation of economic development.

By the second, Kidric makes clear in his report he means the mutual aid which is the outcome of normal foreign-trade and exchange relations between friendly but sovereign states. What he rejects is – getting something for nothing! Surely a curious point to polemize about at some length, as Kidric does ... He continues:

As to the first kind of aid – aid on a silver platter – we can and must openly and clearly say that we never requested it either of the Soviet Union or of the popular democracies, not because we were hostilely inclined to the Soviet Union but ... because the Soviet Union for us is a too precious a means of international progress.

A touchingly generous reason, followed immediately by something less angelic:

What would such aid mean from the Soviet Union? It would mean, for example, to request – without any of our own efforts, without the development of the forces of production in our country by our working people, without economic counter-services – that the Soviet Union, at its own expense, with the efforts of the Soviet people themselves, create a heavy industry, etc., in our country.

With the usual Aesopian language (although we must admit that Kidric is the most outspoken because of the nature of his subject) he neglects to add (but clearly conveys) that in the contingency described:

  1. the industry so built by Russia “at its own expense” would naturally belong to Russia and not to Yugoslavia;
  2. it would be built and planned to conform to Russia’s needs and economic pattern for Eastern Europe, and not to Tito’s vision of an industrially self-sufficient Yugoslavia;
  3. it would be built at the tempo, and to the degree, and with the distribution of such categories as consumers’ goods and heavy industry, as were convenient to the Kremlin; – that, in other words, it would mean the Russification of Yugoslav economy.

This is what “aid on a silver platter” means. The Russians offer a poisoned bonbon, and Tito politely demurs: “No, no, thank you, it would spoil my appetite, if you don’t mind.”

Just as the economic drive behind Tito explains the meaning of the controversy over “socialism in one country,” so also it must be taken into consideration in fitting another piece of the jigsaw puzzle into the picture. This is the demand raised by the Yugoslavs for a Balkan Federation.

To be sure, in this case the immediate visible motivations are sufficient to account for the demand without any deeper probing. Tito knows that there are two strikes against him if he tries to stand alone and isolated against powerful Russia; he knows too that the Stalinist bureaucracies of the other satellites are, like him, chafing at Russian domination, even if – unlike him – they dare do nothing about it. Nothing could be more natural, therefore, than that he should look to an alliance with his fellow sub-dictators for mutual defence of their national independence against Russification. In addition, in this split-up corner of Europe where the criss-crossing of national and ethnic lines is well-nigh unravelable, the idea of Balkan Federation has historically been the standard slogan of all socialists and Marxists and indeed of all enlightened elements.

The idea of Balkan Federation is, therefore, in any case an inevitable accompaniment of any movement for autonomy from Russia in this region. But in addition, given the specific economic drive behind Titoism, Balkan Federation also becomes an economic necessity and not merely a political weapon.

For the Cominform accusations of “adventurism” directed against Tito have more than a kernel of truth. The frenzied pace of industrialization and economic development which is set by the Yugoslav Five Year Plan has, as we have seen, the slim physical basis of a country which is quite small, is lacking in many critical raw materials (like oil), is short on capital and skilled labor, etc. The belief is widespread, even among foreign observers rooting for Tito’s anti-Cominform resistance, that the Marshall is riding for a fall, that he will infallibly break his neck in this attempt to leap over his own head, now that the rest of the Russian empire is mobilized against him.

Backward Yugoslavia alone is too slim a base for such ambitions as Tito’s; his economic aspirations demand a wider economic area on which to rest. The traditional slogan of Balkan Federation therefore, takes on new meaning as an economic necessity in proportion as a counterweight is sought to the Russification of Balkan economy.

The slogan of Balkan Federation is in any form inherently an anti-Russian slogan today, and it was by no mere whim of the Kremlin that Dimitrov of Bulgaria was slapped down when he breathed it in January. For Russia has its own solution to the “Balkanization” of the Balkans: namely, the integration of these states into the Russian empire (whether this means formal absorption into the USSR is immaterial). Balkan Federation solves nothing that “Russian federation” does not also solve; it therefore has meaning today only as an alternative to domination by Russia.

As long as capitalism ruled in the Balkans, the Stalinists could be the champions of Balkan Federation as a handy weapon which hit against each national group of rulers; now that Russian imperialism rules it is equally true that the slogan hits objectively at the current rulers. Thus the slogan which, before the war, expressed the negation of national sovereignty and Balkan separation, today means – separation from the Russian empire. The “traditional” slogan is only apparently traditional; its content is new.

To give a practical meaning to the adventurist program of hothouse industrialization and bureaucratization, Tito is, then, forced to look outside his own borders for a bigger and more viable ground of operations against the Russian overlordship. He can not find this by submitting to the West because his own social basis (bureaucratic economy) is thereby jeopardized. He therefore looks to the section of Europe already under bureaucratic collectivism. He seeks an “Eastern Union” which will bear to the Russian giant a relationship similar to that sought by Churchill in Western Union vis-à-vis the American giant.

But nowadays there is no fine line between imperialist oppressor and imperialist subject. Just as, under the hierarchic structure of feudalism, a landholder was a lord over his vassals and at the same time often himself the vassal of o more powerful lord, so today: the overlordship of American imperialism presently threatens the national sovereignty of and evokes the spirit of national resistance in states which are themselves the actual or would-be imperialist oppressors of other nations. So also Yugoslavian bureaucratic-collectivism, in the very process of attempting to mobilize the other satellites against Russia in the name of national independence, at the same time tries to dominate them. Tito dreams not merely of autonomy from Russian rule but of himself becoming No. 1 in Eastern Europe.

Dreams? More than that. His mouthpieces constantly insist that Tito-Yugoslavia is No. 1 in the world of “popular democracies.” This is truly remarkable in view of the fact that this claim recurs in the midst of appeals to these states to support Tito against the Cominform. It does not sound like a very diplomatic tack to take! The appeal is not: “Let us both assert our independence”; it is: “Support me, your leader.”

The reaction of the other satellite dictators to Tito’s break was complicated by the existence of this tendency. On the one hand Dimitrov, Rakosi, Pauker, et al. have the same yearning for a free hand from Russian tutelage as Tito struck out for. On the other hand, however, Tito is a rival bidder for domination over them.

The matter went further in the relations between Yugoslavia and Albania, because of Albania’s geographical position and size. It is well known that before the break Albania was practically a sub-satellite of Belgrade. Yet with the Cominform blast it was little Albania that went furthest in words and deeds in breaking off friendly relations. The day after the break, the Albanian CP statement flatly launched the accusation: “The leaders of the ... Yugoslav Communist Party tried to convert our country ... into a colony of their own. The Trotskyist leaders of the Yugoslav Communist Party have attempted ... to annihilate the independence of our country and our party.”

On July 6 Borba, replying, unwittingly painted a detailed picture of a Yugoslavia engaged in as thorough a process of economic infiltration in Albania as characterizes Russian policy in, say, Rumania. Just as in the latter case the Russification of Rumanian economy has taken place largely through the formation of “mixed companies” in which Russian capital has the predominant control, so also were Yugoslav-Albanian mixed companies formed to develop the latter country. Borba itself underlines that this was done “on the model of Soviet mixed companies formed after the liberation of some popular democracies.” The article reveals that – at a time when Yugoslavia itself is starving for machinery, technical equipment and personnel, and investment capital! – Tito poured quantities of these precious resources into Albania, just as if it were a province of his own. Thus were constructed or reconstructed Albania’s naphtha industry, mining industry, the Durres-Pecin railroad the hydroelectric power station near Tirana, copper production, new chromium mines, and a long list of various kinds of factories.

Borba’s main argument, of course, is that these sacrifices were made purely out of the generosity of the Yugoslav heart: “these facts ... serve to unmask the utter shamelessness of the lies about the mixed companies being a Yugoslav government instrument for the exploitation of Albania” – but the reader is reminded of Kidric’s strenuous objections to getting “something for nothing” in the case of his would-be benefactor Russia.

One can see, concludes Tito’s organ, that there is no basis for “the wretched and insane clamoring about new Yugoslav imperialism, about the enslaving intentions which were allegedly to turn Albania into a colony.” But the parallel, between the Yugoslavs’ protestations to the Albanians and Russia’s to the Yugoslavs, is almost exact. And the Hoxha bureaucracy or its leading section obviously had the same thoughts about “aid on a silver platter.”

Naturally, Tito’s hopes of becoming the dominant power among the satellites was not based upon his claims to prowess during the “war of liberation.” Such an exalted position could be secured and maintained by Yugoslavia only on the basis of superior economic power. Hence the frantic drive to refit Yugoslavia’s economy for its sub-imperialist mission in Eastern Europe by outbuilding and outstripping all the other satellites in industrial construction. Tito is goaded to an adventuristic pace in the Five Year Plan not only by the desire for independence from Russian domination but also by the desire to substitute his own hegemony over the southeast portion of the bureaucratic-collectivist world.

Russia, however, has no desire to see its provincial gauleiters sink independent roots which inevitably give them a certain amount of independence from Moscow. If the over-all plan, from the point of view of Moscow’s empire-wide integration of Eastern Europe in coordination with its own war economy, assigns to Yugoslavia the role of an “agrarian country [which] should deliver to industrially developed countries [Poland and Czechoslovakia] raw materials and food, and they to Yugoslavia finished industrial consumer goods,” [see Kidric’s remarks above] then the drive towards industrialization which arises from Yugoslavia’s own needs raises all the questions of national sovereignty.

But the Tito regime seeks native social roots in Yugoslavia even before its industrialization has gotten far – in fact, in order to have a native base on which it can rest while asserting sufficient independence from Moscow to go ahead with its own plans. This base can only be among the peasantry, the Yugoslav proletariat being tiny. Tito can remain in power only by neutralizing (certainly, by not exacerbating) peasant resistance, which is a continual problem even at best. If Tito cannot depend on peasant support (more to the point: peasant toleration or passive acceptance), then he can rule Yugoslavia only a simple agent of the Kremlin.

Therefore, wherever the danger of an independent orientation raises its head (and this is true actually or potentially in every satellite) it is in the interest of Russia to drive its local Stalinist agency into collision with the popular masses so that the CP will have to fall back on its Russian master as its sole support and the sole insurance of its rule.

Paradoxically, Russia cannot afford to permit its satellite Communist Parties and their leaders to be “popular” – i.e., to gain independent support among the masses. As agents of a terroristic dictatorship, they must rule by terror alone. Russian imperialism must reproduce its own totalitarian image in each of its vassals. (We are reminded of the not improbable theory that Kirov, the Leningrad boss who was supposed to have stood for a “soft” policy, was assassinated by the GPU precisely because his greater popularity with the masses tended to make him less dependent for his political existence on the all-powerful Vozhd.)

This is the meaning of the Cominform demand that Tito “sharpen the class struggle in the countryside.” It is not an economic directive – hence the lack of any specification – but a political injunction: break with your native mass support, rely only on the Kremlin!

It is curious to note how this was formulated into a specific charge in the case of Constantin Doncea, the Stalinist Vice-mayor of Bucharest who was recently purged. The AP dispatch of August 25 listed the accusations against him, and on the list is literally the following: “trying to make himself popular!” This comes next in line after: “neglecting the party line, surrounding himself with bourgeois [i.e., non-Stalinist?] elements, acting independently and taking no party advice ...”

The case of Wladislaw Gomulka in Poland raises the same question. Whether he was or was not actually guilty of “Titoism” or any other heresy, the fact is that Gomulka was the only figure in the regime who enjoyed an independent popularity of his own. This is impermissible in itself.

We began by inquiring into the specific national features of the Tito revolt, but have seen that these specific features account only for the fact that Yugoslavia led the way in the inherent tendency of the satellites to break away from Moscow’s complete domination. If in Yugoslavia the specific economic content of the dispute is over industrialization, this is only one form of the general question of the Russification of economy in Eastern Europe which applies with full force to all the other “popular democracies.”

Under Russian bureaucratic-collectivism, where political terrorism and the economic forms of complete statification are fused into an integral set of productive relations, planning (including planning for war) can take place only from above down, and only through totalitarian mechanisms; and this applies to its empire as to its home territories.

Within Russia the inherent contradiction between planning and totalitarianism (so vividly described by [13]) stands in the way of the development of the forces of production. In the empire, the extension of this social system stimulates the development of a native bureaucratic-collectivist class in the satellites and thus produces the disintegrative tendency directed at the totalitarian unity of the empire.

One is reminded of the way in which modern capitalist imperialism, driven by its internal needs to export capital, stimulates the development of a native capitalist class and a native proletariat – that is, a rival capitalism and a potential gravedigger of imperialism. The disease calls forth the antibodies.

Some wave-of-the-future theoreticians (like Burnham) have speculated about the “softening of the dictatorship” of Stalinism as its power increases. [14] This is one version of the familiar neo-Stalinist apologia for Russian terrorism: it is regrettable but temporary, and will disappear as the capitalist world ceases to be a threat to the dictator.

But events have shown that the terrorism of the Stalinist system is not a defense mechanism against capitalist encirclement but an inherent part of bureaucratic collectivism. Just as American capitalism shows its basically anti-democratic character more clearly in its imperialist adventures abroad than in its bailiwick at home, so the immanent driving forces of bureaucratic-collectivist totalitarianism show up even more starkly in its empire than in Moscow or even Irkutsk.

The dictatorship of the bureaucracy will not “soften” with the years; it can only grow brittle, before it is shattered by the irrepressible revolt of the people.



9. Trends and Tides, July–Sept. 1948.

10. Yugoslav Postwar Reconstruction Papers [JPRP], Vol. 3, No. 5, ed. by Nicholas Mirkovic; published 1942–43 by the Office of Reconstruction and Economic Affairs of the pre-Tito bourgeois Yugoslav government-in-exile; a 4-volume collection of studies of Yugoslav economy as a guide to post-war economic planning.

11. JPRP, Vol. 3, No. 5.

12. The reference is to the debate in the Russian Communist Party and subsequently in the international movement over this slogan in the 1920’s. The slogan encapsulated the new bureaucracy’s desire to enjoy its privileges in peace. In a backward country like Russia, this meant consigning the hopes of the majority of the population for a better life to the next millennium. The slogan rallied the newly privileged against the socialist principles of the opposition.

13. Victor Kravchenko, I Chose Freedom, The Personal and Political Life of a Soviet Official (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York 1952).

14. See chapter two of this book.

Last updated on 8 November 2020