Written: 1993
Source: Prometheus Research Library, Prometheus Research Series No. 4, New York, 2000
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2007/Prometheus Research Library. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive & Prometheus Research Library as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.


In digging up the history of the discussion in the Fourth International about Yugoslavia and East Europe, we have discovered that the positions of the Haston/Grant RCP were not only ignored, they were systematically distorted. Thus Morris Stein claimed, during the continuation of the discussion on East Europe in the SWP leadership, that “To the RCP, Stalinist control of state power also amounts to an automatic social change but they term it a workers’ state.”[1]Ernest Germain (Mandel) likewise claimed that, for the RCP, “Since from all evidence the bourgeoisie of the buffer countries no longer controls the state apparatus which has now fallen into the hands of the Stalinists...it logically follows that the state has ceased being a bourgeois state.”[2]

Following this same characterization we have ourselves written that

...the analysis of the British Haston-Grant RCP majority, borrowed by the SWP’s Los Angeles Vern-Ryan grouping, achieved the beginning (but only the beginning) of wisdom in recognizing that in the immediate post-war period an examination of native property forms would hardly suffice since the state power in Eastern Europe was a foreign occupying army, the Red Army.[3]

Yet the RCP's amendments at the FI's Second World Congress (which were never published by the SWP) did not say that the countries of East Europe became deformed workers states with the Red Army victory in 1945 (as Vern-Ryan did), but rather that this was a process still under way in 1948. As the basis for the overthrow of capitalist rule, the amendments listed not only the preponderance of Soviet military force, but also “the balance of forces between the workers and Stalinist forces and the residues of the ruling class.”[4] Moreover, Bill Hunter's May 1949 document, written for the RCP majority, noted that it was the change in the international situation—namely, the onset of the Cold War—that led Stalin to change his policy from coddling the East European bourgeoisies to expropriating them:

True, for a period there existed Stalinist coalitions with the bourgeoisie, or with the shadow of the bourgeoisie.... In the first period following the war, the shadow of the bourgeoisie could have gained and was gaining substance. Given a different relationship of forces internationally, developments could have been entirely different to those which actually took place. However, because it could not afford to share the power, and because of its struggle against world imperialism, the bureaucracy, calling on the pressure of the masses, shattered the bourgeoisie completely. [5]

It is indeed unfortunate that the RCP's writings on East Europe and Yugoslavia were ignored, dismissed and largely suppressed.  The Haston/Grant grouping was characterized by impressionism, earlier supporting the rightist Goldman/Morrow opposition in 1945-46 and later liquidating into the Labour Party. Moreover, a political tendency is more than just its stated program—and there is much we don't know about the actual functioning of the Haston/Grant-led RCP.  But the struggle in the Fourth International might have followed a different course had their voices been around in 1951-53 to add theoretical understanding to the fight against Pabloism—and Pablo's bureaucratic treatment of them certainly foreshadowed the organizational methods he was to use again on the French PCI, and attempt to use on the American SWP. It is suggestive that, explaining the “impasse” of the RCP in 1950, Ted Grant pointed first of all to the “capitulation to Tito-Stalinism internationally.”  Among the factors which permitted the rise of Stalinist-ruled, bureaucratically deformed workers states in the postwar period, he listed:

The fact that the revolution in China and Yugoslavia could be developed in a distorted and debased character is due to the world factors of
   (a) The crisis of world capitalism
   (b) The existence of a strong, deformed workers state adjacent to these countries and powerfully influencing the workers' movement.
   (c) The weakness of the Marxist current of the IVth International.
These factors have resulted in an unparalleled development which could not have been foreseen by any of the Marxist teachers: the extension of Stalinism as a social phenomenon over half Europe, over the Chinese sub-continent and with the possibility of spreading over the whole of Asia.
This poses new theoretical problems to be worked out by the Marxist movement. Under conditions of isolation and of paucity of forces, new historical factors could not but result in a theoretical crisis of the movement, posing the problem of its very existence and survival.[6]

These comments could have been the beginning of wisdom, and they foreshadow in many respects the Spartacist analysis of the formation of a deformed workers state in Cuba a decade later. But by then the ravages of Pabloism had destroyed the Fourth International.




1 “Stenogram of Discussion in the Political Committee of the Socialist Workers Party on the Buffer Countries,“ SWP Internal Bulletin, Vol. XI, No. 5, October 1949, 23.

2 Ernest Germain (Mandel), “The Yugoslav Question, the Question of the Soviet Buffer Zone, and Their Implications for Marxist Theory,” SWP, International Information Bulletin, January 1950, 15.

3 “Genesis of Pabloism.”

4 “RCP Amendments to the Thesis on Russia and Eastern Europe.”

5 Bill Hunter, “The I.S. and Eastern Europe,” 8.

6 Unsigned (Ted Grant), “Statement to the BSFI [British Section of the Fourth International].”

Letter on Yugoslavia Sent to the IEC by the RCP (Britain)

Written: 1948
Source: Prometheus Research Library, Prometheus Research Series No. 4, New York, 1993
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2007/Prometheus Research Library. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive & Prometheus Research Library as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.

The following letter to the International Executive Committee of the Fourth International by British Revolutionary Communist Party leader Jock Haston is undated, but apparently written in the summer of 1948 and was never published in the internal bulletins of the American Socialist Workers Party. The text is taken from a photocopy in the collection of the Prometheus Research Library. Excerpts from the Open Letters by the International Secretariat of the Fourth International cited in the text are from a different translation than the English versions reprinted in this bulletin.

To the IEC

Dear Comrades,

The Yugoslav-Cominform dispute offers the Fourth International great opportunities to expose to rank and file Stalinist militants the bureaucratic methods of Stalinism. It is possible to underline the way in which the Stalinist leaderships suppress any genuine discussion on the conflict by distorting the facts and withholding the replies of the YCP leadership from their rank and file. By stressing such aspects of the Yugoslav expulsion, we can have a profound effect on militants in the Communist Parties.

However, our approach to this major event must be a principled one. We cannot lend credence, by silence on aspects of YCP policy and regime, to any impression that Tito or the leaders of the YCP are Trotskyist, and that great obstacles do not separate them from Trotskyism. Our exposure of the bureaucratic manner of the expulsion of the YCP must not mean that we become lawyers for the YCP leadership, or create even the least illusion that they do not stillremain, despite the break with Stalin, Stalinists in method and training.

In our opinion, the Open Letters of the IS to the YCP Congress failed to fulfil these absolutely essential conditions. They failed to pose directly and clearly what is wrong, not only with the CPSU, but with the YCP. The whole approach and the general tone of the letters are such as to create the illusion that the YCP leadership are communists, mistaken in the past, and discovering for the first time the evils of the bureaucratic methods of Moscow, instead of leaders who have actively participated in aiding the bureaucracy and acting as its agents in the past.

The letters appear to be based on the perspective that the leaders of the YCP can be won over to the Fourth International. Under the stress of events, strange transformations of individuals have taken place, but it is exceedingly unlikely, to say the least, that Tito and other leaders of the YCP can again become Bolshevik-Leninists. Tremendous obstacles stand in the way of that eventuality: past traditions and training in Stalinism, and the fact that they themselves rest on a Stalinist bureaucratic regime in Yugoslavia. The letters failed to point out the nature of these obstacles, fail to underline that for the leadership of the YCP to become communists, it is necessary for them not only to break with Stalinism, but to repudiate their own past, their present Stalinist methods, and to openly recognise that they themselves bear a responsibility for the building of the machine now being used to crush them. Here it is not a question of communists facing a “terrible dilemma,” with an “enormous responsibility” weighing on them, to whom we offer modest advice: it is a question of Stalinist bureaucrats becoming communists.

The aim of such Open Letters can only be limited. By placing on record a correct and principled analysis of the role of the Stalinist bureaucracy and that of the YCP leadership, by offering aid to the YCP in a clearly defined communist struggle, the Open Letters could be useful propaganda, aiding the approach to the rank and file seeking a communist lead.

As they stand, however, by their silence on fundamental aspects of the regime in Yugoslavia and YCP policy, the letter strike an opportunist note.

It is not our experience that the most courageous and most independent communist militants “are today stimulated by your [the YCP] action.” The Cominform crisis has rather sown confusion in the CP ranks and disorientated its supporters. That is to our advantage. But although it is a relatively easy task to expose the Cominform manoeuvres, there is sufficient truth in some of their accusations against Tito—particularly with regard to the internal regime, the National Front—to cause among Stalinist rank and filers an uneasiness with regard to the leaders of the YCP. That gives us an opportunity to win these militants not to the cause of Tito, but to Trotskyism.

Tito is attempting, and will attempt, to follow an independent course between Moscow and Washington, without altering the bureaucratic machine or turning to proletarian internationalism. A bureaucratic regime, resting as it does mainly on the peasantry, can have no independent perspective between the Soviet Union and American imperialism. The main emphasis of the letters should have been to show the necessity for a radical break with the present policy of the YCP, the introduction of soviet democracy within the party and the country, coupled with a policy of proletarian internationalism. The position must be posed to Yugoslav militants, not as a choice between three alternatives—the Russian bureaucracy, American imperialism, proletarian internationalism—but, first and foremost, as a choice between proletarian democracy within the regime and party, proletarian internationalism, and the present bureaucratic setup which must inevitably succumb before the Russian bureaucracy or American imperialism.

The IS letters analyse the dispute solely on the plane of the “interference” of the CPSU leaders, as if it were here solely a question of that leadership seeking to impose its will without consideration for the “traditions, the experience and the dealings” of militants. But the dispute is not simply one of a struggle of a Communist Party for independence from the decrees of Moscow. It is a struggle of a section of the bureaucratic apparatus for such independence. The stand of Tito represents, it is true, on the one hand the pressure of the masses against the exactions of the Russian bureaucracy, against the “organic unity” demanded by Moscow, discontent at the standards of the Russian specialists, pressure of the peasantry against too rapid collectivisation. But on the other hand, there is the desire of the Yugoslav leaders to maintain an independent bureaucratic position and further aspirations of their own.

It is not sufficient to lay the crimes of international Stalinism at the door of the leadership of the CPSU. Not only in respect to Yugoslavia, but also in respect to other countries, the Open Letter gives the entirely false impression that it is the Russian leadership which is solely responsible. To pose the relations in the international Stalinist movement in the manner of the IS letter—that the leadership of the CPSU “forced Thorez to disarm the French partisans,” “forced the Spanish communists to declare...that the seizure of the factories...was ‘a treason’,” “completely prohibits the leaderships of the Communist Parties in the capitalist countries from speaking of revolution”—can create illusions that the leaders of the national Stalinist parties could be good revolutionists, if only Moscow would let them. It is true that the degeneration of the CPs flowed basically from the degeneration in the Soviet Union. But the sickness of the Stalinist movement is also accountable by the utter corruption of the national leaderships who are bound up in the bureaucratic machine. These leaders actively participate in the preparation of the crimes. So also for Tito, it was not a matter of having been “forced” to carry out the wished of Moscow in the past.

It is impermissible to slur over the nature of the YCP, its identity on fundamental points with other Stalinist parties. Such a slurring over can only disorientate Stalinist workers. Yet every attempt is made by the IS to narrow the gulf that separates the policy of the YCP from Bolshevik-Leninism. What other conclusion can we draw from statements such as the following:

“...the Cominform accuse you of misunderstanding ‘proletarian internationalism’ and of following a nationalist policy. This is said by that same Russian leadership whose chauvinist propaganda during the war...is largely responsible for the absence of a revolution in Germany, whereas [our emphasis] in Yugoslavia the partisan movement was able to draw to its ranks thousands of proletarian soldiers from the armies of occupation. This is said by Togliatti, who has not hesitated to throw himself, alongside the real fascists of the Movimento Sociale el Italia (MSI), in a chauvinistic campaign for the return to the capitalist fatherland of its former colonies. This is said by Thorez, whose nationalist hysteria on the question of reparations for imperialist France delights the bourgeois heirs of Poincaré.”

It is true that the Yugoslav Stalinists settled, with some success, the national problem inside their own country. It was their programme with regard to this question that enabled them to win over members of the quisling armies. But the comrades must be aware that the propaganda of the YCP towards Germany was of the same chauvinistic character as that of the Russian and other Stalinist parties. The IS letter deals with the necessity for proletarian internationalism in the abstract, without taking up the concrete question of YCP policy today and in the past. It was surely necessary to point out concretely what this proletarian internationalism means, by dealing with the past and present policy of the YCP, which has been no whit less chauvinistic than that of other Stalinist parties. The IS mentions Togliatti’s chauvinism, and Thorez’ nationalist hysteria, and leaves the impression of a favourable comparison between the policy of other Stalinist parties and that of the YCP. We cannot be silent on the YCP’s chauvinistic campaign around Trieste, their attitude towards reparations, their uncritical support for the Russian bureaucracy’s demand for reparations from the German people. It is necessary to take up these questions so that it shall be clear precisely what the gulf is between a nationalist and an internationalist policy, and precisely what it is that Yugoslav militants must struggle against.

But there is another aspect of the IS letters which cannot pass by without the IEC adopting an attitude and expressing an opinion.

The World Congress majority adopted a position that the buffer countries, including Yugoslavia, were capitalist countries. It rejected the resolution of the RCP that these economies were being brought into line with that of the Soviet Union and could not be characterised as capitalist. The amendment of the British party to the section “The USSR and Stalinism” was defeated. But it is evident from these letters that the IS has been forced by events to proceed from the standpoint of the British party, that the productive and political relations in Yugoslavia are basically identical with those of the Soviet Union.

If indeed there exists in Yugoslavia a capitalist state, then the IS letters can only be characterised as outright opportunist. For the IS does not pose the tasks in Yugoslavia which would follow if bourgeois relations existed there as the dominant form. The letters are based on conclusions which can only flow from the premise that the basic overturn of capitalism and landlordism has taken place.

The second Open Letter gives several conditions necessary if Yugoslavia is to go forward with true revolutionary and communist progress. Yet nowhere does [it] call for the destruction of bourgeois relations in the economy and the overturn in the bourgeois system and regime. The tasks laid down in the latter are:

“The committees of the Front...must be organs of soviet democracy....

“To revise the present Constitution [based on that of the Soviet Union]....

“To admit in principle the right of the workers to organise other working class parties, on condition that these latter place themselves in the framework of soviet legality....

“To procure the broadest participate of the masses in the sphere of planning....

“To establish the full sovereignty of the factory committees...to set up a real workers’ control of production.”

And so on. Nowhere did the IS deem it necessary to call on the Yugoslav workers to overthrow capitalism. Had the IS been able to base itself on the World Congress document, that would have been their foremost, principled demand. The comrades will remember that the Congress document gives as its first reason why “the capitalist nature of the buffer zone is apparent,” that “Nowhere has the bourgeoisie as such been destroyed or expropriated.” Why no mention of this in the Open Letters? Of all the seven conditions given in the Congress document as making “apparent” the capitalist nature of Yugoslavia and other buffer countries, the IS letter mentions only one—the nationalisation of the land. But even here, the question of the failure to nationalise the land is raised not from the point of view of proving the capitalist nature of Yugoslavia. It is raised to point out, correctly, that the nationalisation of the land is necessary in order to combat the concentration of income and of land in the hands of the kulaks. The question is raised in the general context of the letter, as an aid to the socialist development of agriculture in a country where capitalism and landlordism have been overthrown, but the danger of a new exploitation is still present in the countryside.

Not only are the main tasks posed in the Open Letter identical to those to be carried out to cleanse a state similar in productive and political relations to the Soviet Union, but we must add that the impression given is that these relations are a great deal healthier than in Russia.

The articles appearing in our international press revealed one thing: the thesis adopted by the World Congress failed to provide a clear guide to the problems that arose from the Cominform-Yugoslav split and the tasks of the revolutionaries in connection with the regime and its economic base.

We appeal to the IEC to reject the orientation in the Open Letter, and to correct and repair the damage which has been done, by re-opening the discussion on the buffer zones and bringing our position into correspondence with the real economic and political developments of these countries.

With fraternal greetings, 
J. Haston 
on behalf of the Central Committee, RCP


The Yugoslav Revolution

Resolution Adopted by the
Third Congress of the Fourth International—Paris, April 1951

Adopted: 1951.
First Published: 1951.
Source: Fourth InternationalVol.12 No.6, November-December 1951, pp.200-207.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido & David Walters, November 2005.
Proofread/Edited: Scott Wilson, 2006
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2005. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.

1. The victorious proletarian revolution in Yugoslavia is fundamentally the product of two historic factors: the revolutionary upsurge of the toiling masses expressing itself in the movement of the armed partisans, and the specific policy followed by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia in the important turns of the objective revolutionary process.

The movement of the masses of workers and poor peasants against the imperialist occupants, in conditions of extreme sharpening of social contradictions, swelled the cadres fighting for national emancipation, broadened it into a struggle against the Yugoslav exploiters, took the first steps toward their expropriation and, in the very course of this struggle, destroyed the old state apparatus on the largest part of Yugoslav territory. The specific policy of the CPY, distinguishing itself from that of all the other Communist parties of Europe, primarily under the pressure of the masses, successively accepted, then took over the leadership in the destruction of the old bourgeois state apparatus; legalized, then generalized the construction of a new proletarian state apparatus; consolidated, then broadened the conquests of the proletarian revolution, by refusing to capitulate before the Soviet bureaucracy and by engaging in a resolute struggle against the bureaucratic deformations of the Yugoslav workers’ state.

Three Stages of Yugoslav Revolution

  1. The first decisive stage of the Yugoslav revolution was crossed on Novembcr 29, 1943 at the meeting of the second session of the AVNOJ (Yugoslav Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation) at Jayce. On this occasion a provisional government was constituted which exercised its authority over all the territories occupied by the partisans which soon embraced the major part of Yugoslavia. The constitution of this government, basing itself onpeople’s committees of national liberation, which came into existence in 1941, signified that the dual power, which had existed in Yugoslavia from the beginning of the partisan insurrection, was being overcome. From this time on, there can be no further question of the existence of a centralized bourgeois state apparatus in Yugoslavia; there remained only the ruins of bourgeois power, just as the successive measures of expropriation and confiscation let only the ruins of bourgeois property. The new centralized state apparatus, bred on the people’s committees, which the AVNOJ began to construct, was a preponderantly proletarian state apparatus. The CPY having in fact conquered power in the liberated territories, this part of Yugoslavia ceased to be a bourgeois state; under a workers’ and peasants’ government it advanced toward the final accomplishment of the proletarian revolution.
  2. The second decisive stage of the Yugoslav revolution was crossed in October 1945 with the withdrawal of the two last bourgeois ministers from the central provisional government. The very constitution of this government in 1944 was only an episode in the unfolding of the Yugoslav revolution and was imposed by the joint pressure of imperialism and the soviet bureaucracy. While retarding the complete victory of the proletarian revolution, this episode, however, did not interrupt its progress. During the very period of the coalition government, the new state apparatus based on the people’s committees was extended over the whole Yugoslav territory. During this period all the remnants of bourgeois political power were eliminated. The withdrawal of the two bourgeois ministers from the central government was only the final expression of the fact that the bourgeoisie as a class had lost power and that the new state apparatus was of a socially different character than that of prewar Yugoslavia. Beginning with this time, the transition between the workers’ and peasants’ government and the dictatorship of the proletariat was being completed and Yugoslavia became a workers’ state. That was manifested by the fact that the conquests of the Yugoslav proletarian revolution were generalized and legally consolidated in 1945-46 by the law on the people’s committees, the law of nationalization of the means of industrial production, the mines and the banks and by the law on the confiscation of property, the law on agrarian reform and the annulment of peasant debts, etc.
  3. The third decisive stage of the Yugoslav revolution was crossed on June 28, 1948 by the split which occurred between the Kremlin and the CPY. After the consolidation of the conquests of the Yugoslav revolution, the CPY proceeded to their extension by the nationalization of wholesale trade and a considerable part of retail trade; the establishment of a monopoly of foreign trade; the beginning of the collectivization of agriculture and the five-year plan of industrialization and electrification of the country. At the same time bureaucratic deformations of the proletarian power developed in Yugoslavia both as a result of the backward character of the country and of the Stalinist policy of the leadership of the CPY, imitating the institutions of the bureaucratized USSR. The split between the Kremlin and the CPY, the expression of the refusal of the CPY to subordinate the interests of the Yugoslav revolution to those of the Soviet bureaucracy, opened the road to the struggle against these bureaucratic deformations. The principal measures taken within the framework of this struggle were: the constitution of workers’ councils and the beginning of workers’ management of the enterprises; the democratization of the cooperatives; the abolition of the privileges of the functionaries of the party and the state; the decentralization of the directing apparatus of the economy; the beginning of the democratization of cultural and ideological life, etc.

Permanent Revolution Confirmed

3. The dynamics of the Yugoslav revolution confirms the theory of the permanent revolution on all points:

  1. It confirms the point that the struggle of the toiling masses for national liberation against imperialism can only be victorious if it is transmuted into a proletarian revolution. This transmutation in Yugoslavia was not due to particular or conjunctural factors but constituted the application of the general strategy formulated by the Fourth International for all countries occupied by imperialism in Europe during the Second World War. If this strategy was successfully applied only in Yugoslavia, that is due to the specific character of the CPY which headed the movement of the masses.
  2. It confirms the point that a backward country can resolve the historic tasks of the bourgeois resolution (solution of the agrarian question, elimination of semi-feudal survivals in the state power, conquest of genuine national independence, etc.) only by the conquest of power by the proletariat which, in such conditions, finds itself compelled to grapple simultaneously with the solution of the historic tasks of the proletarian revolution.
  3. It confirms the point that the development and broadening of proletarian democracy after the consolidation of proletarian power is both possible and necessary to effectively combat the anti-socialist and bureaucratic tendencies which exist and develop in the workers’ state. In this, it represents a confirmation and a positive historical justification of the entire struggle of Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition in the USSR between 1923 and 1927, just as the degeneration of the USSR constituted a justification along negative lines.
  4. It confirms the point that a victorious proletarian revolution in a backward country, in the midst of a hostile world, necessarily develops through growing difficulties and contradictions which are reflected in economic crises and successive social tensions within the workers’ state. Only an international extension of the revolution and the aid given to the Yugoslav revolution by the victorious proletariat of several advanced countries can assure a real and harmonious solution of the problems posed by industrialization and the voluntary collectivization of agriculture.

At the same time the dynamics of the Yugoslav revolution confirms the analysis made by the Fourth International of the questions of the USSR and of Stalinism. It confirms the character of the Stalinist parties as degenerated workers’ parties, an indispensable explanation in understanding the new course taken by the Yugoslav revolution since the break between the CPY and the Kremlin. It especially confirms the fundamental thesis of the Trotskyist movement which maintains that Stalinism is a phenomenon characteristic of a period of ebb in the revolutionary struggles of the masses, and that it can be overcome only by a new rise of revolutionary struggles. In Yugoslavia, the first country where the proletariat took power since the degeneration of the USSR, Stalinism no longer exists today as an effective factor in the workers’ movement, which however does not exclude its possible reemergence under certain conditions.

Relationship of Class Forces Internally

4. The perspectives of the Yugoslav revolution are fundamentally determined by the relationship of forces between the classes on the national and international arenas.

In Yugoslavia, the workers’ state is confronted with growing pressure from the peasant proprietors who seek to pass from simple commodity production to capitalist accumulation by means of the private appropriation of the means of production. This tendency develops automatically and necessarily on the basis of the present economic and technical development of the country and coincides with tile tendency of the kulaks to effect their fusion with the international capitalist market.

At present this is being held in check as follows:

  1. By the slow modification of the relationship of social forces resulting from the industrialization of the country, from the numerical increase of the proletariat, of its cohesion, its political consciousness and its growing cultural progress, thanks to the beginning of the development of proletarian democracy, etc.
  2. By the differentiation within the peasantry itself, resulting from the support given by the workers’ state to the poor peasants and to the development of agricultural cooperatives.
  3. By measures of coercion taken by the workers’ state hindering the development of this automatic economic process: prohibition of the sale and purchase of land over 30 hectares; dual price sector; progressive quotas of forced deliveries of farm products (tax in kind); etc.

Nevertheless, so long as the industrial production of objects of consumption does not assure to the peasants a real growing return parallel with the growth of agricultural production, and so long as the mechanization of agriculture is not able to create a healthy economic base for the collectivization of agriculture, industrialization will be carried on amidst the hostility and resistance of a section of the peasantry. Under these conditions only the conscious participation of the proletariat in the exercise of power can protect the conquests of the revolution in the immediate period. Only a considerable extension of the present measures of democratization and of the struggle against bureaucratism can assure the conscious support of the proletarian masses for the workers’ state.

However, the measures of democratization introduced in 1950 have only very slowly, altered the attitude of the industrial proletariat, as a result of its justified past distrust toward this course of the CPY, as a result of the pressure of famine and poverty upon the workers and as a result of unfavorable objective conditions for a broad revolutionary mobilization of the masses. The needs of the industrial proletariat also began to come into conflict with the inherent logic of the rightward course and the official ideology of the government and the CPY. Because of this fact, the relationship of forces between the classes within Yugoslavia have begun to alter beginning with 1951 to the disadvantage of the proletariat. The workers’ state has been obliged to make a series of concessions to the class enemy consisting notably of the following:

  1. The removal of controls from prices and trade, permitting an accelerated private accumulation on the part of rich peasants and tradesmen-speculators.
  2. The halting of agrarian collectivization and the permission granted to the peasantry to withdraw from certain types of agricultural cooperatives.
  3. The decentralization of foreign trade which threatens to rapidly undermine the state monopoly of foreign trade.

Under Imperialist and Kremlin Pressure

5. On the international plane, a growing pressure is being brought to bear upon the Yugoslav revolution by its two mortal enemies, world imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy:

  1. World imperialism seeks to destroy the conquests of the Yugoslav revolution, the regime of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the collectivized property in the means of production in industry and in the mines. It reckons on succeeding by stages in this game: first by the utilization of political and economic pressure, then by an open or camouflaged armed intervention. Its objectives at the present stage are the inclusion of Yugoslavia in the imperialist diplomatic front and in its Mediterranean military alignments. With that beginning, it seeks to obtain at a later stage the right to supervise Yugoslav economy, the right of investment in the mines and industry, the legalization of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois political parties, the virtual destruction of the monopoly of foreign trade, etc.
  2. The Soviet bureaucracy seeks by all means to bring about the destruction of a regime of the dictatorship of the proletariat independent of the Kremlin, a mortal threat to the influence of Stalinism over the international workers’ movement, and in the long run also to the power of the bureaucracy in Eastern Europe and in the USSR itself. The destruction by imperialism of the conquests of the Yugoslav proletarian revolution represents a lesser evil to the Kremlin than the independent development of proletarian Yugoslavia. Up to now, the entire policy of the Kremlin toward Yugoslavia (economic blockade, provocative military demonstrations, propaganda campaigns, etc.) is aimed at forcing this country into the imperialist camp. This policy, however, is only a preparation for another stage of the counterrevolutionary strategy of Stalinism toward Yugoslavia which would consist of an attempt to include Yugoslavia in the sphere of influence of the Soviet bureaucracy by means of military intervention.

In the long run, this hostile, twofold pressure brought to bear on the Yugoslav revolution can only be successfully counteracted by the conscious support of the world proletariat and the international victory of the socialist revolution. For the present, the situation of unstable equilibrium between imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy accords a certain respite to the Yugoslav resolution. But this respite occurs, especially since the outbreak of the war in Korea, within the framework of an increased parallel pressure brought to bear upon Yugoslavia, a pressure which is not neutralized by a sufficiently extensive international proletarian action for the aid of Yugoslavia. In these conditions the Yugoslav state has found itself constrained to make a series of concessions to its enemies on the international plane. It has led to an opportunist deviation in its foreign policy and especially that of the CPY (idealization of the UN, neutralism, petty-bourgeois concept of aggression, pacifist conception of class collaboration in the struggle against war, etc.).

Without a radical alteration of the relationship of forces between the classes on the international arena, this tendency threatens to deepen and to hurtle the Yugoslav revolution to its doom. The contradiction between the progressive evolution of the Yugoslav state itself in 1950 and the rightward evolution of its foreign policy which, at the present stage, is the expression of the crisis of isolation of the Yugoslav revolution, will find a solution at a later stage in one of two ways: either the Yugoslav socialist revolution will fuse with the revolutionary movement and with the international revolution, or international concessions to imperialism will be followed by concessions within Yugoslavia itself.

But despite the right deviation of its foreign policy and despite all the concessions which it has already been obliged to make to the class enemy in Yugoslavia itself, the leadership of the CPY and of the Yugoslav workers’ state cannot itself peacefully abolish the material bases of this state without destroying itself. American imperialism and the rich peasantry of Yugoslavia have only a transitory interest in dealings with the CPY and in wresting concessions from it; their fundamental interest requires the destruction of the workers’ state and the return to power of the bourgeois politicians who are already raising their heads. That is why the policy of the CPY in the period ahead, a period of sharpened social struggles in Yugoslavia, will be characterized by its vacillating centrist character which can abruptly change its rightward course to an adventurist struggle against the kulaks and an attempt to keep the power by all means. Fundamentally, the question of whether the CPY will be obliged to deepen workers’ democracy, a step which cannot fail to have its repercussions on the foreign policy of the party, will depend on the degree of the real activity of the Yugoslav proletariat in the workers’ councils and the people’s committees, or whether in the absence of a real mobilization of the masses, the regime will take more and more bureaucratic forms.

Character of Yugoslav Communist Party

6. It is impossible to determine the dynamics and the perspectives of the Yugoslav revolution without at the same time defining the character of the CPY. If Stalinism can be defined as the subordination of the interests of the workers of every country to those of the Soviet bureaucracy, the CPY, beginning with 1941, outlined an orientation which was to lead to the break of 1948 and, because of this fact, it ceased to be a Stalinist party in the full meaning of the word. The difference in orientation between the CPY and that followed by the other CPs of Europe was effected in the first place under the pressure of the masses. But that does not suffice to explain the evolution of Yugoslavia. In other countries, where the revolutionary upsurge at least at the beginning, was as powerful as in Yugoslavia (Spain 1936, Greece 1944) the CPs took a diametrically opposite course to that of the CPY. The difference in orientation between the CPY and those of the other CPs of Europe could result only from an interaction between the revolutionary pressure of the masses and the changes of strategic conceptions which they produced in the leadership of the CPY under favorable conditions, to which should be added the absence of a Kremlin control apparatus operating on the scene.

In the first stage, these changes expressed themselves in an attempt of the leadership of the CPY to conciliate the interests of the Yugoslav revolution with those of the Soviet bureaucracy (1941 to early 1948). For this reason, while remaining within the international framework of Stalinist policy and while publicly and unreservedly accepting the internal and external policy of the Soviet bureaucracy, the CPY nevertheless differentiated itself at the time from Stalinist policy on the following points:

  1. The creation, in 1941, of “people’s committees of national liberation” and of “proletarian brigades” in the partisan movement.
  2. The refusal to collaborate, in 1942, with Mikhailovich’s Chetniks and with the bourgeois government-in-exile.
  3. The orientation, in 1943, towards the actual seizure of power by the CPY and the constitution of an apparatus of a new state, of a proletarian type.
  4. Elimination, in 1945, despite the agreements of “the Big Three,” of the last vestiges of bourgeois power in the country and the completion of the proletarian revolution.
  5. The pursuit of a foreign policy and an economic orientation more independent from the Kremlin than that of the other countries of the buffer zone.

The accumulation of all these actions, accompanied by an initial private criticism of the whole of Stalinist policy (notably: criticism of the more exorbitant privileges of the top functionaries of the USSR; criticism of the relations of economic plunder imposed on the buffer zone countries by the bureaucracy; criticism of the policy of the French, Italian and Greek CPs, at the time of the “liberation,” etc.), led the Kremlin to the preventive split with the CPY. This split was inevitable because of the irreconcilability of interests between the Yugoslav revolution and the Soviet bureaucracy.

Beginning with this split there opened a second stage of differentiation between the CPY and Stalinism. Progressing in a purely empirical fashion, the CPY has successively emphasized:

  1. The subordination of the international communist movement to the interests of the Kremlin and the defeats to the workers’ movements of several countries caused by this subordination.
  2. The total political, economic, military, and cultural grip of the Soviet bureaucracy on the countries of the buffer zone and its horrible consequences for the toiling buffer of these countries.
  3. The fundamental orientation of the Soviet bureaucracy toward a division of the world through the establishment of a modus vivendi with imperialism and the utilization of the workers’ movement as barter for this purpose.
  4. The degeneration of the USSR as a result of the isolation of the first workers’ state and of its backward character and the formation of a privileged bureaucratic caste which has usurped all power in the USSR.
  5. The danger of bureaucratism in every proletarian revolution, a danger which can be combated only by increasing proletarian democracy.
  6. The necessity of reconstructing the workers’ movement in several countries.

Centrist Policy and Ideology

Beginning with this time, the CPY ceased to be a semi-Stalinist party and evolved as a centrist party, carried to power by the revolutionary masses. On the other hand, it is characterized by right-opportunist deviations, the most important being:

  1. The empirical character of its ideological development which has still not grasped the full Leninist conception of the nature of our epoch.
  2. The pragmatic and unprincipled character of the foreign policy of the CPY, tending to justify the diplomatic maneuvers of the Yugoslav state.
  3. The underestimation of the international workers’ movement and the lack of understanding of the theory of the permanent revolution as a whole.
  4. The absence of the right to form tendencies within the CPY.
  5. An opportunist conception of the construction of revolutionary parties in the world (generalization of the Yugoslav experience, underestimation of the importance of program, etc.).
  6. Since the right turn in Yugoslav foreign policy, the pragmatic elaboration of a theory of “State Capitalism” on the USSR joined to neo-reformist conceptions on “new forms” of capitalism, etc.

Only a modification of the international relationship of forces between the classes, a rise of the world revolutionary movement, assistance and fraternal criticism from this movement and a growing understanding on the part of the leaders and cadres of the CPY, will enable it to avoid crystallizing on false positions which would lead to the liquidation of the progressive effects of the Yugoslav affair.

Already, the positions taken as a result of the war in Korea have in part vitiated the effects of the Yugoslav affair on the international crisis of Stalinism; in these conditions and in the absence of a sufficiently strong revolutionary international leadership, it is not excluded that Stalinism can regain a foothold in the ranks of the CPY.

In this connection, the positions and the attitude the CPY takes toward Trotskyism—whether openly or by attempting to ignore it—acquires considerable political importance. What is involved is not merely a historic rectification of the past; it is the test of whether a workers’ current which has emerged from Stalinism has succeeded in linking itself with the tradition and program of Bolshevism, and thereby in definitively and decisively surmounting Stalinism.

Tasks of the Fourth International

7. The tasks of the Fourth International toward the Yugoslav revolution are established within the framework of its general strategy, conforming to this analysis of the character of the Yugoslav state and the CPY:

  1. The Fourth International unconditionally, defends the conquests of the Yugoslav revolution against world imperialism and against the Soviet bureaucracy. It conceives of this defense both as a strategic task—the junction of the international revolution with the Yugoslav revolution—and as an immediate tactical task: mobilization of the international revolutionary vanguard and of the proletarian masses of all countries for concrete actions in defense of the conquests of the Yugoslav proletarian revolution.

    This defense cannot enter into collision with the interests of the world revolution of which the conquests of October form part. The Fourth International will likewise assure the defense against any attempt by internal forces to utilize Yugoslavia against the interests of the world revolution.

  2. In the event of war by the Soviet bureaucracy against Yugoslavia, the Fourth International will be for the defense of Yugoslavia against the counter-revolutionary action of the Kremlin. This policy, based on the interests of the world revolution, will be pursued regardless of all material aid Yugoslavia may eventually receive from capitalist countries. In event of an extension of the conflict this position will be reexamined in each specific case.
  3. The Fourth International will attempt to involve the CPY in united front actions for specific objectives. Each of these actions presupposes our principled agreement regarding the objective to be attained, and cannot in any case eliminate the right of the international revolutionary movement to criticize the policy of the Yugoslav government and the CPY. The practical possibility of realizing such actions is extremely limited because of the present rightward course of the CPY.
  4. The Fourth International believes that one of its principal contributions to the consolidation of the conquests of the Yugoslav revolution consists in a frank and uncompromising criticism of all the political errors and opportunist deviations on the part of the CPY. These criticisms should take as their point of departure the concrete experiences of the international workers’ movement which must be communicated to the CPY as well as of the peculiar experience of the Yugoslav revolution; they should tend to impel the Yugoslav communists to replace their present opportunist leadership by a revolutionary leadership which in practice applies a policy corresponding both to the interests of the international proletariat and the safeguarding of the Yugoslav revolution: a break with the imperialist diplomatic front, a halting to the economic and political concessions to imperialism, an effective mobilization of the workers and poor peasants against the kulaks and speculators, a deepening of workers’ democracy, freedom of discussion, assembly and press for all the currents of the workers’ movement basing themselves on proletarian power in Yugoslavia, support to the international workers’ movement and genuine support to a real international revolutionary regroupment.

A Critique of Past Positions

8. It is the duty of the Fourth International to critically reexamine, in the light of the events which have occurred since 1948, its past analysis of the Yugoslav revolution and the dynamics of this revolution which events have placed in a new light.

From 1942 on, the Fourth International had, in general, correctly estimated the movement of the Yugoslav partisans and the civil war which unfolded as a consequence. This analysis continued along correct lines up to the beginning of 1946. From that time and until June 28, 1948, the International committed serious errors of evaluation regarding the Yugoslav revolution; they consisted notably in an identification of the Yugoslav developments with those of the other buffer zone countries; in confounding the CPY with the Stalinist Parties in the buffer states; in the erroneous hypothesis that the revolutionary movement of the masses had been arrested by the CPY and that the new centralized state apparatus constructed by the CPY was a bourgeois state apparatus in its structure, despite the elimination of the bourgeoisie from the political and economic life of the country which had been noted by the International.

After the break of the Kremlin with the CPY, the Fourth International was the only tendency of the international workers’ movement to immediately understand the progressive significance and the historic importance of this event and to undertake an international campaign for the defense of Yugoslavia; it linked the analysis it made of the causes of the break with the analysis it had made before 1946 of the depth of the revolutionary mass movement in Yugoslavia. The campaign for the defense of Yugoslavia was, however, partly hindered by the delay of the International in recognizing the character of Yugoslavia as a workers’ state. This delay was due fundamentally to a false appraisal of the nature of the centralized state apparatus set up in Yugoslavia in 1945.

These various errors of evaluation were caused by:

  1. The absence of precise information on Yugoslav events and institutions beginning with the years 1945-46.
  2. The absence of all public differentiation by the CPY in relation to the Soviet bureaucracy and to Stalinism before June 28, 1948.
  3. The fact that the correct general analysis of the primarily counter-revolutionary role of the Soviet bureaucracy in the buffer zone led the International to identify a priori, without separate analysis of each case, the policy of the CPs with that of the bureaucracy (which was not only wrong for Yugoslavia, but also for China).

The lesson to be drawn from these errors of evaluation is the imperious necessity of concrete and precise analyses of the national peculiarities in the development of the workers’ movement of every country. However important in our epoch are the laws of development for sectors of the world or for the entire world, these laws can never be substituted for the particular analysis of each country in the determination of a correct day-to-day revolutionary policy.

The rapidity and the unanimity with which the Fourth International was able, on the morrow of June 28, 1948, to make a turn for the defense of Yugoslavia, as well as the concrete manner it has followed and appraised the evolution of the CPY since then, prove that these errors of evaluation were not at all due to an erroneous general conception, but rather occurred despite the correct evaluation made by the Fourth International of the nature of Stalinism and its dialectical relationship with the mass movement. It is only in the light of this appraisal that the Yugoslav revolution becomes comprehensible and assumes its full significance as an important stage in the world crisis of Stalinism.

Yugoslavia, East Europe and the Fourth International:
The Evolution of Pabloist Liquidationism

by Jan Norden

August 1992 (revised March 1993)

Written: 1993
Source: Prometheus Research Library, Prometheus Research Series No. 4, New York, 1993
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2007/Prometheus Research Library. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive & Prometheus Research Library as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.

On the eve of the Second World War, Leon Trotsky wrote in the 1938 founding document of the Fourth International:

All talk to the effect that historical conditions have not yet “ripened” for socialism is the product of ignorance or conscious deception. The objective prerequisites for the proletarian revolution have not only “ripened”; they have begun to get somewhat rotten. Without a socialist revolution, in the next historical period at that, a catastrophe threatens the whole culture of mankind. It is now the turn of the proletariat, i.e., chiefly of its revolutionary vanguard. The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership.[1]

The second imperialist world conflagration was certainly such a catastrophe threatening to engulf all of mankind. The outcome of that war, centrally the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Soviet Red Army and the imperialist hegemony of the United States, set the international framework in which class struggles were waged for the next four and a half decades.

In the last several years, we have witnessed the spreading collapse of Stalinist regimes from East Europe to the Soviet Union. This, too, was long ago predicted by Trotsky, who insisted that in the absence of socialist revolution in the imperialist centers and proletarian political revolution in the USSR to oust the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy, the Soviet workers state faced destruction at the hands of economically more powerful imperialism. But the effects on the workers and oppressed of the world of the destruction of these bureaucratically degenerated (in the case of the Soviet Union) and deformed workers states are no less devastating for having been foreseen long ago. Capitalism continues to decay, and the treacherous misleaders of the working class continue to betray, paralyzing the workers in the face of a worldwide counterrevolutionary offensive. Today, no less than when Trotsky wrote half a century ago, “the crisis of the proletarian leadership, having become the crisis in mankind’s culture, can be resolved only by the Fourth International.”[2]

Yet the Fourth International itself was destroyed as the world party of socialist revolution some 40 years ago, at the hands of a liquidationist current headed by Michel Pablo (Raptis). The Pabloists abandoned the fight for an independent Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard of the proletariat and instead chased after the Stalinists and a host of other petty-bourgeois and even bourgeois misleaders, justifying their capitulation by relying on the pressure of the supposed “objective revolutionary process.” The Spartacist tendency, now the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), has fought from its inception for the rebirth of the Fourth International through the political defeat of Pabloism by authentic Trotskyism. That requires a study of its origins and development, which we have addressed in numerous documents and in “Genesis of Pabloism.”[3] The first appearance of the Pabloist revisionist current (though elements of it can be found earlier) came over the Tito-Stalin split in 1948, when the leadership of the Fourth International embraced the dissident Stalinist regime in Tito’s Yugoslavia.

For many years, those who laid claim to the heritage of the anti-Pablo forces grouped in the International Committee (IC), notably Pierre Lambert in France and Gerry Healy in Britain, virtually ignored the Yugoslav affair because of their own complicity. Thus in his 1966 pamphlet dedicated to justifying the expulsion of Spartacist from the London “International Committee” conference, Healy introduces Pabloism with the laconic comment: “Then, in 1951, came Pablo, at that time Secretary of the International, with his theory that because of the imminence of the third world war, the Stalinist parties could, under the impact of this war, transform themselves into revolutionary parties.”[4] Pablo’s theory apparently dropped from the sky.

On the other hand, a number of small centrist groups, which split off from the larger by-products of the explosion of the Fourth International, have declared that it was the FI’s capitulatory line on Tito that marked its definitive political degeneration. The result, and indeed the purpose, of this is to turn the 1951-53 fight against Pabloism into an aftereffect, in order to declare both sides bankrupt, the Fourth International politically degenerated, and the revolutionary continuity broken. This, in turn, frees the born-yesterday centrists to pursue their eclectic, anti-internationalist lashups with abandon, combining and recombining with other denizens of the pseudo-Trotskyist swamp, while conveniently amnestying their own revisionist history. Hence the British Workers Power group claims:

The historical continuity of Trotskyism was shattered....The opposition in America, Britain and France that did emerge in 1952-3 was subjectively committed to opposing Pablo. However, they have to be judged not by their impulse but by their politics. Their “orthodoxy” was both sterile and based on postwar revisionism, prompted by the Yugoslav events. It was not authentic Trotskyism. Thus we cannot view either component of the 1953 split as the “continuators” of Trotskyism. Both were centrist.[5]

In contrast, we have sharply criticized the errors and failures of those, particularly in the American Socialist Workers Party (SWP), who opposed Pabloism, as we take their side in this crucial fight for the survival of Trotskyism. Key to reforging the Fourth International, we wrote two decades ago, “is an understanding of the characteristics and causes of Pabloist revisionism and the flawed response of the anti-Pabloists who fought, too little and too late, on national terrain while in practice abandoning the world movement.”[6] But while recognizing the inroads of opportunism over the Yugoslav affair, we emphasized:

It is crucial that the organizational weakness, lack of deep roots in the proletariat and theoretical incapacity and disorientation which were the precondition for the revisionist degeneration of the Fourth International not be simply equated with the consolidation and victory of that revisionism. Despite grave political errors, the Fourth International in the immediate post-war period was still revolutionary. The SWP and the International clung to sterile orthodoxy as a talisman to ward off non-revolutionary conclusions from world events which they could no longer comprehend....Pabloism was more than a symmetrical false theory, more than simply an impressionistic over-reaction against orthodoxy; it was a theoretical justification for a non-revolutionary impulse based on giving up a perspective for the construction of a proletarian vanguard in the advanced or the colonial countries.[7]

As we will show in what follows, based on an examination of the public and internal materials of the Fourth International, those who write off the FI over Yugoslavia are in fact renouncing the struggle for the Trotskyist world party and its program, the Bolshevism of today.

The “Tito Affair” Explodes

The Fourth International had indeed been confused by the fact that Stalinism emerged from World War II greatly strengthened, contrary to Trotsky’s prognosis. In Italy and Greece there were attempted revolutions, in France, Belgium and elsewhere there were great strike waves, but the Stalinists managed to douse these fires and thus save the bourgeoisie. Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s sway had been extended through the Red Army’s defeat of Hitler’s Germany. The resolution on “The USSR and Stalinism” at the Second World Congress of the Fourth International (1948) declared categorically about East Europe, “In the ‘buffer’ countries [‘glacis’ in French] the state remains bourgeois.” It listed seven factors determining the “capitalist nature of the economy” in East Europe, and ruled that “on so large a scale as half of Europe, structural assimilation [to the Soviet Union] of the ‘buffer’ countries was impossible,” in part because destruction of the bourgeois states “can take place only as a result of the revolutionary mobilization of the masses.”[8]

This was in April 1948, two months after the so-called “Prague coup” which was the benchmark for the Stalinist consolidation of power throughout East Europe. The revolutionary upsurge of the masses at the end of World War II had been suppressed in the interests of the pact with the “democratic” imperialists at Yalta and in agreement with the local bourgeoisies. But the American Marshall Plan in 1947 made it impossible for the “buffer zone” states in the Soviet sphere of influence to be maintained except by expropriating the bourgeoisie. In industrialized Czechoslovakia, with its traditionally strong Communist Party, this was accompanied by a bureaucratically controlled mobilization of the masses. In much of the rest of East Europe it was carried out in a completely “cold” manner by a police purge of the bourgeois parties (the Stalinists having everywhere controlled the political police since 1945). Within a year, the East European bourgeoisies had been liquidated economically and purged from the state apparatus except for purely symbolic tokens. At the time of the FI’s Second World Congress, the “people’s democracies” were bureaucratically deformed workers states in the process of consolidation.

With its disorienting position on the class nature of East Europe, the Fourth International was thrown into tremendous confusion by the bombshell of Stalin’s excommunication of Tito in the “Communist Information Bureau” (Cominform) communiqué of 28 June 1948. For the first time, an entire Communist party, and moreover one holding state power, was no longer under Kremlin control. The Cominform statement bandied about the spectre of Trotskyism, declaring that “slanderous propaganda about the ‘degeneration’ of the CPSU (B), about the ‘degeneration’ of the USSR, and so on, borrowed from the arsenal of counter-revolutionary Trotskyism, is current within the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.”[9]

What did this signify? It is important to recall that this was the first time that a national Stalinist party had actually broken with the Kremlin, and thus a certain amount of disorientation was to be expected. For the Fourth International, this represented both a significant opportunity and a theoretical predicament. An opportunity, because many Communist Party members in East and West Europe would find it hard to swallow the overnight transformation of Tito from hero of the anti-Nazi Partisan struggle and shining star of the Cominform (whose HQ had been placed in Belgrade) to “Hitlero-Trotskyite” and even “fascist beast at bay.” A theoretical quandary, because Yugoslavia was supposed to be capitalist. Over the next three years, the International Secretariat (I.S.), the International Executive Committee (IEC) and the Third World Congress of the Fourth International declared that the Yugoslav Communist Party (YCP) had “ceased to be a Stalinist party,” but rather was centrist and indeed “left-centrist” evolving toward revolutionary.[10]

The leadership of the FI assumed that any split from Stalin had to be to the left. Yet, as Stalinism was based on the nationalist dogma of building “socialism in one country,” Trotsky had long foreseen the possibility of competing Stalinist nationalisms. Thus in his 1928 critique of the Stalin-Bukharin draft program of the Comintern, Trotsky wrote: “If it is at all possible to realize socialism in one country, then one can believe in that theory not only after but also before the conquest of power.”[11] And after the 1938 Munich pact, he added:

Ten years ago it was predicted that the theory of socialism in one country must inevitably lead to the growth of nationalist tendencies in the sections of the Comintern....Today, we can predict with assurance the inception of a new stage. The growth of imperialist antagonisms, the obvious proximity of the war danger, and the equally obvious isolation of the USSR must unavoidably strengthen the centrifugal nationalist tendencies within the Comintern....Henceforth the Communo-chauvinists will have to worry about their own hides, whose interests by no means always coincide with the “defense of the USSR.”[12]

The Fourth International’s line of tailing after Tito was certainly the starting point for Pabloism, which became a full-fledged revisionist program ultimately explicitly liquidating the raison d’être of the Fourth International as the indispensable independent proletarian vanguard of the working class. Already in the first of two open letters sent to the Yugoslav Communist Party in July 1948, the International Secretariat led by Michel Pablo referred to the YCP as a “revolutionary workers party.”[13] The second letter ended with the call: “Yugoslav Communists, let us unite our efforts for a new Leninist International!”[14]

There was turmoil and serious political disorientation over Yugoslavia throughout the Fourth International. But it would be a mistake to think that when the leaders and cadres of the FI picked up their morning papers on 29 June 1948, they were suddenly stricken with irremediable revisionism. In fact, the declarations of the FI are not at all uniformly opportunist. Thus a 30 June 1948 circular by the International Secretariat, “To the Leadership of All Sections,” notes:

Yugoslavia is the only country of the glacis where the government had not been imposed by the entry of the Red Army and the Soviet occupation, but which had been brought to power by the revolutionary movement of the masses.

Tito personally is a bureaucrat to the hilt, past master in the bureaucratic and GPU Kremlin machine....The reply of the Yugoslav party enables us, naturally without solidarising with it or Tito, to attack the resolution of the Cominform.[15]

The circular urged FI leaders to “follow with great interest but also with caution the evolution of the Moscow-Belgrade conflict.” Yet the initial “Open Letter to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia” issued the next day (1 July) did politically “solidarize” with the YCP leaders, calling on them to “Keep up your fight! Deepen the significance of your struggle with Moscow and its international machine!...Long Live the Yugoslav Socialist Revolution!” And by July 13, the I.S. had thrown caution to the wind in its second open letter, calling on the YCP to become the “mobilization point” for the “mass of revolutionary workers.”

The first two open letters on Yugoslavia by the International Secretariat could not have involved much consultation with the American SWP, which was initially a good deal less enthusiastic about Tito, as will be shown below. A third open letter from the I.S., dated September 1948, pulled back. In the meantime, the Yugoslav CP had held its Fifth Congress (July 1948), which took a purely defensive posture, and at the end of Tito’s report all those attending arose chanting, “Stalin-Tito!”[16] At the congress, in response to the Cominform charges, Tito boasted that he knew how to handle “Trotskyist-fascists.” The YCP’s paper Borba (4 July 1948) reported: “A handful of Trotskyists, who showed their true faces in the war as collaborators and agents of the invaders, ended shamefully before the People’s Courts.”[17] This may have given pause to those Trotskyists who were eagerly embracing the Yugoslav leader.

Thus the new I.S. letter to the YCP noted that “Your leaders and delegates at the Congress have reaffirmed the position, long held by your party, to the effect that Yugoslavia is already a country where socialism is being built and that it is possible to do this.” The letter polemicized against the Stalinist conceptions of “socialism in one country” and a “monolithic” party. It urged “Yugoslav Communists” to “institute a real regime of proletarian democracy in the party and in the country!” and to “call for the real proletarian revolution in other countries of Eastern Europe! And of all of Europe and the world!”[18]

After the initial rush of enthusiasm for Tito by the FI’s International Secretariat, there was nervousness over the implications. A resolution on Yugoslavia at the Sixth Plenum of the IEC, in October 1948, was relatively restrained. Yet it described “Tito and the leadership of the Yugoslav Communist Party” as representing, “thus far, the bureaucratic deformation of a plebeian, anti-capitalist revolutionary current,” and declared that “from the moment that there is a conflict and break between a Communist party and the Kremlin, this party ceases to be a Stalinist party like the rest.”[19] These conclusions opened a breach in the Trotskyist program through which opportunists could drive a truck, and they did.

For a time, the positions taken by the Fourth International were notable mainly for their rampant confusion. Thus the IEC resolution adopted at the Seventh Plenum (April 1949) goes through a tortuous argumentation, calling the East European states a “hybrid transitional society in the process of transformation, with features that are as yet so fluid and lacking precision that it is extremely difficult to summarize its fundamental nature in a concise formula.” Opting for a “definition by description,” the resolution details a long list of factors, finally declaring the buffer zone countries to be “capitalist countries on the road toward structural assimilation with the USSR.” But the resolution quickly adds that this “does not at all imply that the bourgeoisie is in power as the dominant class in these countries”; indeed, a “military-political overturn” had “eliminated the big bourgeoisie and the bulk of the middle bourgeoisie.”[20]

A capitalist country in which the bourgeoisie is not the ruling class, and indeed has been largely “eliminated” as a political and economic force! As Max Shachtman once wrote (speaking of the American CP’s talk of a “labor party” that would be neither reformist nor revolutionary), such a phenomenon “has never been and never will be seen by God or man or beast or the elfin folk who see pretty near everything.”[21]

Only the elimination of borders, literally incorporating East Europe into the Soviet Union and making planning possible, would be a sure sign marking a qualitative social transformation, according to the IEC’s Seventh Plenum. On the other hand, the plenum noted that in Yugoslavia, unlike in the rest of East Europe, the bourgeoisie had largely been liquidated and the bourgeois state apparatus destroyed as a result of the Partisan struggle. The IEC took note of the possibility of “a real differentiation in the workers’ movement following the Tito crisis, despite the undeniable existence of a police regime in this country.”[22] While the IEC hesitated to make the leap, Pablo insisted that the analysis presented “should logically lead to the conclusion that Yugoslavia has ceased to be a capitalist country.”[23] The plenum formally opened up a discussion in the International on the Yugoslav question.

But as Stalin’s anti-Yugoslav offensive mounted, particularly with the Rajk trial in Hungary and similar purges throughout East Europe, Tito and his associates, their backs to the wall, began talking of “bureaucratic degeneration” in the Soviet Union, founding Titoist parties in Germany and Italy and a pro-Tito trade-union current in France. YCP theoretician Moshe Piyade wrote in the Belgrade party daily Borba (6 October 1949), “Since that very day when they proclaimed that Trotskyism was no longer a tendency in the international workers movement and had become an agency of fascism,” henceforth “there remains only physical extermination and the burning of heretics, all discussion being excluded.”[24] The leaders of the FI jumped on these openings, producing paroxysms of praise, sending work brigades and trade-union delegations to Yugoslavia, publishing articles and interviews, and distributing books by YCP leaders.

At its Eighth Plenum (April 1950), the IEC fulsomely hailed “the progressive evolution of the Yugoslav CP,” which “surpasses the most optimistic forecasts,” and stressed “the depth of the revolutionary movement which bore this party to power and the remarkable qualities of its leading cadres”! This supposedly confirmed “the declaration made by our International upon the outbreak of the Yugoslav affair that the rupture of a Stalinist party with the Kremlin necessarily involves a differentiation from Stalinism, which under certain conditions can be highly progressive.”[25] A separate resolution declared that despite continuing differences over the stages of development of the Yugoslav Revolution, with “the victory of the proletarian revolution in Yugoslavia, a workers’ state and a regime of the proletarian dictatorship exists in this country.”[26] Yet what took place in Yugoslavia was not a proletarian revolution but a peasant-based revolution militarily organized by a Stalinist party, the majority of whose members were peasants, giving rise to a bureaucratically deformed workers state.

So whereas in April 1949 the IEC referred to “the undeniable existence of a police regime,” in April 1950 it saw in the evolution of the Yugoslav CP “an ever more clear and powerful affirmation (in the field of ideas and of the political and economic organization of the country) of the highly democratic essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat.”[27] Indeed, while the IEC admitted that “bureaucratic deformations continue” in Yugoslavia, it declared that “a serious struggle is being conducted by the Yugoslav Communists against these deformations.”[28] In addition to this remarkably clean bill of health for the Yugoslav workers state (in effect, no worse than the Soviet Union under Lenin ca. 1920-21), the Fourth International leadership saw a rosy future ahead for it:

To the degree that the Yugoslav CP persists along this road and, by ridding itself of the last ideological vestiges of Stalinism, it will renew the organic bonds between the unfolding Yugoslav and world revolutions, that will entail the regrouping of revolutionary forces on an international scale and it will become the most powerful springboard from which to launch the decisive assault against Stalinism in its crisis.[29]

The task the IEC laid out, therefore, was “to surround the Yugoslav revolution with a widespread and active sympathy by the international revolutionary vanguard and the conscious segment of the working class,” as well as to promote and regroup “the new Communist opposition” in the CPs “stimulated precisely by the Yugoslav example.”[30]

Belgrade’s “Right Turn” Over Korea

But at the same time that Tito & Co. were denouncing “bureaucracy” at home and in the Soviet Union, the imperialists were turning the screws on Yugoslavia. And then came the decisive event in the evolution of the Yugoslav affair: the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. For a time, the YCP tops had sought to maneuver between the Kremlin and imperialism, but now that the issue of war was posed there was no escaping. Belgrade at first tried to take a waffling line of neutrality, speaking in the UN against labeling North Korea the aggressor and voting against the sanctions that gave a UN cover to the American expeditionary force in Korea.[31] But Yugoslavia eventually caved in to Washington, criminally abstaining on the resolution authorizing General MacArthur to cross the 38th parallel into North Korea, and then opposing the resulting Chinese intervention and voting against the Chinese resolution demanding U.S. withdrawal from Korea.

The Fourth International responded with articles such as “Yugoslav Foreign Policy Continues Drift to Right.”[32] A November 1950 appeal by the FI’s International Secretariat declared, “proletarian Yugoslavia appears to be abandoning its independent policy and seems to be lining up with the imperialist bloc led by Washington,” and called for an end to “the prostration of the Yugoslav Revolution before imperialism.”[33] A series of circulars by the I.S. noted “widespread illusions [among the Yugoslavs] concerning the role of the UN” (June 1950), then a “combination of a leftist course internally and a course which has shifted to the right internationally” (September 1950), and finally a series of positions “which can no longer be considered errors resulting from political confusion, but must be regarded as the expression of a new course taken by the leadership of the YCP which...is tending to associate it with the imperialist bloc” (November 1950). The final circular concluded that “we don’t call yet for the constitution of an opposition tendency,” but rather called on the YCP as a whole to renounce its policy toward Korea.[34]

At the end of November 1950, the FI International Executive Committee held its Ninth Plenum and passed a resolution which was then adopted, with very few modifications, by the Third World Congress of the Fourth International in August 1951. This was the last major statement by the FI on Yugoslavia. The IEC resolution declared that there was a “Yugoslav proletarian revolution” (whose conquests were “generalized and legally consolidated in 1945-46”), and held that with the break from Stalin the YCP “ceased to be a Stalinist party in the full meaning of the word.” The resolution claimed that in Yugoslavia “Stalinism no longer exists today as an effective factor in the workers’ movement,” and went even further to assert: “The dynamics of the Yugoslav revolution confirms the theory of the permanent revolution on all points.”[35]

What about Trotsky’s insistence that “the realization of the revolutionary alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry is conceivable only under the political leadership of the proletarian vanguard, organized in the Communist Party”?[36] The need for an independent, Bolshevik-internationalist vanguard party, the key to Trotsky’s program, was not mentioned, for the simple reason that this task had been ceded to the Stalinist YCP under Tito. The Workers Power obituary on the Fourth International claims that:

In 1951 the centrist positions of the Third World Congress on Stalinism, on Yugoslavia, and general perspectives (the impending “civil war” perspective) proved, beyond doubt, that a programmatic collapse of the Fourth International had taken place. The fact that no section voted against the Yugoslav resolution—the cornerstone of all the errors—is a fact of enormous significance. The FI as a whole had collapsed into centrism.[37]

In reality, while reflecting the deep inroads Pabloism had already made, the IEC resolution on Yugoslavia adopted by the Third World Congress was not quite so seamlessly opportunist as Workers Power would have it. Reflecting mounting disenchantment with the Tito regime, the resolution notes that the “right turn in Yugoslav foreign policy” over the Korean War had “in part vitiated the effects of the Yugoslav affair on the international crisis of Stalinism.” It also vowed to make “frank and uncompromising criticism of all the political errors and opportunist deviations on the part of the CPY.” In one of its few amendments to the IEC resolution, the Third World Congress insisted that these criticisms “should tend to impel the Yugoslav communists to replace their present opportunist leadership by a revolutionary leadership.”[38]

Moreover, the Third World Congress resolution on international perspectives declared that “we shall work for the creation of a Bolshevik tendency in the YCP, against the policy of surrender and capitulation of the leadership, and for its replacement.”[39] So by August 1951 the Fourth International was calling, softly, for the ouster of the Tito leadership. The report on Yugoslavia to the congress by Harold Livingstone (George Clarke) was harder. While saying that “the Yugoslav revolution is not dead,” it declared “its progressive influence on the world labor movement—in deepening the crisis of Stalinism and in giving new impetus to the forces of revolutionary Marxism—is now a thing of the past.”[40]

While Clarke said that “we do not put a cross on the Yugoslav revolution,” in fact Yugoslavia hardly appeared after that in the press or statements of the Fourth International up to the split in 1953. An article reporting on the Third World Congress wrote of Yugoslavia that “the events which have occurred since mid-1950 have demonstrated all the profound opportunism of a leadership nurtured within the Stalinist camp, and the extreme danger this opportunism constituted for the preservation of the revolutionary gains.”[41] And an article by Pablo summed up:

After a brief left-centrist period which followed their break with the Kremlin, the Yugoslav leadership in their attempt to safeguard the regime with the money, the military and diplomatic guarantees of Western “democratic imperialism,” has been liquidating the proletarian power in Yugoslavia bit by bit and preparing its total demise....It is now more necessary than ever that the revolutionary Marxists of the YugoslavCommunist Party organize into a Leninist tendency and align themselves against the treacherous policies of their leaders.[42]

For all of 1952 we found not one article on Yugoslavia in Quatrième Internationale, the press of the French Parti Communiste Internationaliste, or the press of the American SWP; for 1953 we found only one.[43] Having been burned by their handling of the Tito affair, the FI leaders dropped it like a hot potato. They backed away from the Belgrade regime, but there was no reckoning with the theoretical and programmatic questions Yugoslavia had posed for the Fourth International. In early 1953, SWP leader Joseph Hansen could say: “Our co-thinkers now call for a political revolution in Yugoslavia such as we advocate against the Kremlin. This means that the Tito regime is judged to be politically counter-revolutionary.”[44] But what happened to the earlier appraisal of the Tito regime as “left-centrist” and the “remarkable qualities of its leading cadres”? This was essentially swept under the rug.

At the time of the split with Pablo in November 1953, the document by the SWP plenum published under the title “Against Pabloist Revisionism” had only this to say:

Yugoslavia and China show that under certain exceptional conditions the leadership of a Stalinist party, caught between extermination by the counter-revolution and an extremely powerful revolutionary offensive of the masses, can push forward to power....But it would be unwarranted to generalize too broadly and hastily on this point. It should be remembered that while the Yugoslavs marched to power, the CP’s in other countries remained subordinate to the Kremlin and facilitated the work of the counter-revolution. Two Communist parties, the Yugoslav and Chinese, met the test in one way; the others in a directly opposite manner.

The specific conditions which forced the Yugoslav and Chinese CP’s onto the revolutionary road must be analyzed and understood.[45]

While the FI reaffirmed the need for a new revolutionary leadership of the proletariat, the study of the implications of the Yugoslav and Chinese revolutions did not take place. It took until 1955 for the SWP to characterize China as a deformed workers state, and even then it placed the qualitative transformation in 1951-53, when as a result of the Korean War (most of) the capitalists were expropriated, rather than in 1949 when the revolution took place.[46] This was continuing the same methodology which had led to enormous confusion over East Europe. Yet the May 1957 SWP convention declared that “the Titoites have demonstrated throughout that they are in no sense to the left of the Soviet bureaucracy.”[47] And an SWP resolution on the Hungarian Revolution said of Tito’s support for Moscow, “When the cards were down, the fact that Tito represents simply a variety of Stalinism proved decisive—despite his differences with Khrushchev & Co.”[48] The fact that these issues were dealt with only empirically and the theoretical questions raised by the deformed workers states after WWII were never fought out was a major failure of the anti-Pabloists. This was later to feed into the SWP’s capitulation to Pablo/Mandel over Algeria and Cuba, facilitating the formation of the Mandelite “United Secretariat” (USec) characterized by its perennial search for “new vanguards.”

Who Opposed FI Capitulation to Tito?

But to recognize and criticize these weaknesses and failures, as we more than any other tendency have done, is far from dismissing the struggle against Pabloism. Those who use the Yugoslav affair in order to equate pro-and anti-Pablo groupings in the Fourth International, who talk of the definitive degeneration and political collapse of the FI during 1948-51, are throwing up a smokescreen to obliterate what the fight during 1951-53 was all about: the continuity of Trotskyism. To accomplish this they simply disappear all opposition to the tailing after Tito pushed by Pablo and adopted by the I.S./IEC. Thus Workers Power writes:

As the FI leadership’s world view became increasingly at variance with reality, so their orthodoxy became ever more fragile. All that was needed to dislodge the FI from the orthodox positions it held until 1948 was a sharp twist in world events.

That twist in events came almost immediately after the 1948 Congress. In the summer of 1948 the Tito-Stalin split was made public....Out of the Yugoslav events the FI developed centrist conclusions and positions....Pablo’s positions on Yugoslavia were adopted by the FI at its Third World Congress in 1951. They were subscribed to by all the major sections and leading figures of the FI.[49]

This picture of a uniform capitulation to Pablo is utterly false. To understand the real development of Pabloism it’s necessary to look at the opposition that did arise over the Yugoslav affair, and its weaknesses.

Naturally, from outside the FI there was criticism from Max Shachtman’s Workers Party. Workers Party leader Hal Draper wrote of the “galloping political degeneration” of the FI, concluding: “The Stalinotropism of the Fourth International leadership is flowering.”[50] A similar tone was struck by the “Revolutionary Faction of the Mexican Section of the Fourth International.” Its “Critique of the ‘Open Letter’ of the I.S. to the Yugoslav CP” accuses the I.S. of “a grave opportunist deviation” as it “places Tito and the Yugoslav ‘Communist’ Party to the left of Stalin, thereby creating illusions about a future revolutionary role of a party that despite everything continues to be Stalinist.”[51] True enough, but in the very next sentence, it lets the cat out of the bag, declaring, “in the USSR there is no workers state, however degenerated they portray it to us, but rather state capitalism.”

Somewhat later, in May 1951, Natalia Sedova Trotsky wrote to the American SWP, breaking all ties with the Fourth International to protest its stands on Yugoslavia, East Europe and the Soviet Union. She declared that “your entire press is now devoted to an inexcusable idealization of the Titoist bureaucracy,” which “is only a replica, in a new form, of the old Stalinist bureaucracy.” She rightly noted that “It is absurd to believe or to teach that the revolutionary leadership of the Yugoslav people will develop out of this bureaucracy or in any way other than in the course of struggle against it.” Yet while she was able to take to task the SWP and the FI for their opportunist line on Yugoslavia, her starting point was the declaration that “Stalinism and the Stalinist state have nothing whatever in common with a workers’ state or with socialism.”[52] Natalia rejected Trotsky’s policy of unconditional defense of the Soviet Union, claiming it had become capitalist. Thus she refused to support the Soviet Union and North Korea (“the armies of Stalinism”) against U.S. imperialism in the Korean War.

So the purveyors of the thesis that the Soviet Union was a new exploitative class society, whether “bureaucratic collectivist” (Shachtman) or “state capitalist,” accused the I.S. of selling out to Stalinism. Of course, they wrote off the whole affair as a squabble between two bureaucrats. “Go to it, bandits! Deepen the rift between you!” wrote Shachtman,[53] while Draper declared that “the conflict between the Yugo and the Commissar is over who is to benefit from the exploitation of the masses.”[54] This is hardly surprising: their line was crystallized Stalinophobia. Thus Shachtman vituperated against “Stalinist imperialism,” while Draper opposed the Yugoslav call for a Balkan federation in denouncing “Yugoslav sub-imperialism.” Ultimately Shachtman’s line would take him from the mythical “Third Camp,” to pro-imperialist “neutrality” in the Korean War, to direct support for imperialism at the time of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and in the Vietnam War.

(Parenthetically, any honest believer in “state capitalism” should have realized the falsity of this construct by the time of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, when the Stalinist bureaucracy acted not as an exploiting class, which would have defended its property and class interests to the bloody end, but rather as a fragile, parasitic layer which quickly shattered, with whole sections going over to the insurrectionary workers. Today, as imperialist pimps, the “state caps” are enjoying the collapse of Stalinism. But if there were any shame among revisionists, by rights Tony Cliff et al. ought to be embarrassed into nonexistence by the stark revelation of the fallacy of their schema. If it’s only the change from one form of capitalism to another, then why the mass bloodletting in Yugoslavia, mass hunger in Poland, mass unemployment in East Germany, not to mention the emboldening of world imperialism for, e.g., the mass slaughter in Iraq?)

But there was plenty of unease over the Fourth International’s line on Yugoslavia from those who saw themselves as orthodox Trotskyists. The American SWP took a distinctly different tack at first from that of the I.S. An initial editorial in the Militant declared, “All that Tito and his clique are striving to defend are their own material interests, their power and privileges. All they ask is to be permitted to rule in Yugoslavia as Stalin rules in Russia.”[55] In the same issue John G. Wright, a leading SWP cadre, sounded almost like Shachtman: “The Dictator-in-Chief in the Kremlin has decided to veto the Little Dictator in Yugoslavia.”[56] This soon changed. Directly contradicting Wright’s rather Stalinophobic articles, Joseph Hansen declared: “Far more is involved than the fight between a big dictator and a little dictator. The struggle initiated by Tito...may well become the starting point for new, large-scale regroupments and developments in the international working class movement.”[57] That was quite true.

A 3 August 1948 statement by the Political Committee of the SWP was not nearly so effusively capitulatory as the I.S. Open Letter of July 13. Nevertheless, the SWP statement was marked by the objectivism which was characteristic of much of the FI’s writings on Yugoslavia:

The course of events will work in favor of the revolutionists....The logic of the Stalin-Tito struggle is such that it is bound to impel the militants in Yugoslavia and elsewhere—not to the right but to the left. This will happen independently of whether Tito himself moves to the right, or whether he seeks to straddle the fence somewhere between the Kremlin and imperialism.[58]

Over the next year and a half, the SWP continued to keep some distance from the Tito regime. Thus in November 1948 Joseph Hansen wrote an article, “Tito Flounders with Stalin’s ‘Theory’ of Building ‘Socialism’ in One Country.”[59]Nine months later a Militant editorial commented: “Thus far Tito has been fighting the Kremlin with measures and weapons borrowed almost exclusively from the arsenal of Stalinism,” to wit, the false claim of “building socialism” in one country, making deals with imperialism and “bureaucratic police measures” internally.[60] However, in late 1949 the SWP began to shift when a National Committee statement declared: “Stalinist in origin and ideology, the Tito leadership has nevertheless been compelled by the logic of the struggle to question some of the fundamental premises on which Stalinism rests....The Yugoslav struggle has given rise to a new form of centrism, a tendency between Stalinist reformism and revolutionary Marxism.”[61]

By the spring of 1950, the SWP had become positively euphoric over Tito. James P. Cannon sent a telegram to the YCP Central Committee hailing the latter’s May Day manifesto: “workers everywhere will acclaim your appeal to defend Yugoslavia and restore revolutionary movement to Leninism as opposed to Stalinism and Social Democracy.”[62] An article in the same Militant proclaimed, “Above all, the Yugoslav manifesto indicates that the final crisis of world Stalinism is at hand.”[63] (This paean was occasioned by a single reference in the YCP manifesto to “the struggle against the revision of Marxism and Leninism.”) Two months later, the Militant headlined “Tito Denounces Bureaucracy as Foe of Socialism,” and editorialized that Tito’s June 27 speech denouncing the “huge, bureaucratic, centralistic apparatus” in the USSR and attacking Stalin by name was “a great mile stone in the development of the international working class and socialist movement.”[64]

But as Belgrade lined up with imperialism over the Korean War, the SWP’s enthusiasm quickly cooled. From November 1950 to January 1951 the Militant published an eleven-part cautionary series by Ernest Mandel, who at the time wrote under the name Ernest Germain, titled “Yugoslavia Seen with Open Eyes.” This was followed by another four-part series by John G. Wright on “Yugoslavia’s Foreign Policy.” Wright accused the Yugoslav leaders of “more and more tending” to “trade away their democratic and socialist principles in exchange for material and military aid” from the imperialist West.[65] “What blinds the Yugoslav Communists is that their own leaders themselves still cling to the illusory reactionary goal of building socialism within the confines of Yugoslavia, just as they keep clinging to the Stalinist conception of a ‘monolithic’ party,” Wright concluded.[66]

The policy of the French Parti Communiste Internationaliste (PCI) on Yugoslavia was broadly similar to that of the American SWP, although the swings were more pronounced since the issue was much more immediate in Europe. At the Fifth Congress of the PCI in July 1948, the majority led by Jacques Privas (Jacques Grimblatt), Michèle Mestre, Pierre Lambert, and Marcel Marin (Marcel Gibelin) passed a motion directly opposing the I.S. Open Letter of July 13 “for idealizing Tito and the Yugoslav CP,” while making clear their intention to abide by international discipline.[67] The PCI motion insisted that the Tito-Stalin split was part of the general crisis of Stalinism in the buffer zone, which it attributed to “exploitation” of these countries by the Kremlin. The I.S. was supported by a minority led by Pierre Frank and Marcel Favre-Bleibtreu. At a PCI Central Committee meeting in late 1948, Bleibtreu and Frank fulsomely supported the Yugoslavia motion adopted by the October 1948 IEC plenum, insisting in particular that the YCP had ceased to be “a Stalinist party like the rest.” The majority of the PCI Central Committee, while viewing the relatively restrained IEC motion as a step in the right direction, still insisted that the IEC disavow Pablo’s August 1948 article, “The Yugoslav Affair,” as well as the Open Letter formulations which idealized Tito.[68]

On the other hand, during 1950, the French PCI practically became a publicity agency for the Yugoslavs. A January report on the PCI’s Sixth Congress declared that “above all the defense of Yugoslavia is the defense of a proletarian revolution”:

The reporter [Bleibtreu] fought the doubts and hesitations which threaten to weaken the intervention of the party. He showed:

—that it is wrong to speak of a Yugoslav bureaucratic caste of the same nature as the Russian bureaucracy;

—that it is wrong to accept the idea that the YCP has capitulated or is in the process of capitulating to imperialism. No vote of Yugoslavia in the UN, no trade agreement can justify such a claim.[69]

The resolution “Hands Off the Yugoslav Revolution” voted by the congress declared that the Yugoslav CP had “return[ed] to Leninism on a series of important strategic questions.” It characterized the YCP as representing “left-centrism in the process of evolving,” citing factors “which objectively push the YCP onto the road of the revolutionary program.”[70]

The PCI regularly advertised works by Yugoslav leaders such as Milovan Djilas and Edvard Kardelj (People’s Democracy in Yugoslavia) and urged readers to tune in to the broadcasts of Radio Belgrade. A headline proclaimed “The Magnificent Election Campaign of the YCP,” while the article declared: “The YCP and the Fourth International are hated for the same reason: because they express the greatest force of our epoch, the force of the proletarian revolution, the invincible strength of the working people of all countries.”[71] On May Day 1950 a French delegation visited Belgrade; PCI leader Pierre Lambert reported, “I believe that I saw in Yugoslavia a dictatorship of the proletariat, led by a party which passionately seeks to combat bureaucracy and impose workers democracy”! (At the same time he reported that typical slogans carried in the demonstration were “Tito, Central Committee, Party, Yugoslav Peoples,” and “Tito Is with Us, We Are with Tito.”)[72]

The PCI held meetings in defense of Yugoslavia which had to be physically defended against Stalinist attacks. It also took the lead in sending youth work brigades (called the Jean Jaurès Brigades after the French Socialist leader) and trade-union delegations to Yugoslavia, which eventually totaled some 2,000 young workers. La Vérité bombastically headlined the report of one delegation, “Those Who Have Seen the Truth in Yugoslavia Say It: YES, This Is a State Where Socialism Is Being Built, This Is the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” Denouncing reactionary and Stalinist accounts of a “police state” in Yugoslavia, the article declared, “This state is a WORKERS STATE, resolutely engaged on the road of SOCIALIST DEMOCRACY.” However, elsewhere in the reportage, La Vérité admitted that “the French delegation was struck by...a certain bureaucratic plethora,” and “a certain insufficiency of political life and discussion” in the ranks of the Yugoslav party and trade unions.[73]

Eventually, the Tito regime’s capitulation to imperialism over the Korean War could no longer be ignored. In December 1950 La Vérité candidly expressed the sense of disillusionment among the PCI ranks, particularly the youth who had enthusiastically joined the work brigades: “All this is extremely painful for the revolutionary friends of Yugoslavia who have hoped that its leaders would really keep their promises to consistently defend Marxism-Leninism against Stalinist revisionism.”[74] The trade-union grouping led by Lambert around the journal L’Unité, in which PCI militants cooperated with pro-Tito elements and which was reputedly financed by the Yugoslav government,[75] eventually fell apart.

In “Genesis of Pabloism,” we wrote that “Virtually without exception the Fourth International was disoriented by the Yugoslav revolution.”[76] With the documentation now available to us, we can say that this is not entirely true. The British Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) at least understood that capitalism had been abolished, not only in Yugoslavia but in the other countries of East Europe as well, and opposed the capitulation to Tito. Yet the RCP’s line was dismissed out of hand, not only by Pablo but also by the SWP, and, most importantly, almost none of its documents were widely disseminated in the FI. At the April 1948 Second World Congress, the RCP submitted amendments to the resolution on the USSR and Stalinism in which they opposed the description of the East European states as capitalist, noting instead:

a) The basic overturn of capitalist property relations has already been, or is in the process of being completed. b) The capitalist control of the government and the apparatus of the state has been, or is in the process of being destroyed. c) This process of assimilation is the necessary and inevitable product of the class character of the Russian economy, and of the preponderance of the Russian state as the dominant military and political force in the existing relations of world powers on the one hand, and the balance of power between the Stalinist and working class organisations and the remnants of the ruling class, on the other.[77]

At the same time, the RCP was careful to underline that “the destruction of capitalism in these countries must not be taken as a model for the general overthrow of capitalism, nor does it prove that capitalism can be destroyed in Western Europe coldly, by terror from above.”[78]

So unlike the rest of the International, the British RCP did not face a theoretical quandary in dealing with the Tito-Stalin split. RCP leaders Jock Haston and Ted Grant, in a July 1948 article, noted that this “marks a new stage in the development of international Stalinism which must be closely followed by revolutionary and militant workers,” but they cautioned: “One thing we know, Tito is no Trotskyist. Organisationally and ideologically he is the enemy of Trotskyism.” Their article concluded:

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....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.[79]

A powerful letter to the International Executive Committee by Jock Haston, “on behalf of the Central Committee, RCP,” undated but probably written in late summer 1948, criticized the Open Letters of the I.S., noting that while they exposed the bureaucratic expulsion of the YCP from the Cominform, this “must not mean that we become lawyers for the YCP leadership, or create even the least illusion that they do not still remain, despite the break with Stalin, Stalinists in method and training.” Haston criticized the Open Letters for failing to fulfill these conditions and appearing to be “based on the perspective that the leaders of the YCP can be won over to the Fourth International.” While individuals may change, Tito et al. “themselves rest on a Stalinist bureaucratic regime in Yugoslavia.” Thus, “by their silence on fundamental aspects of the regime in Yugoslavia and YCP policy, the letters strike an opportunist note.” Haston’s letter contained the essentials of a Trotskyist position on Yugoslavia:

Tito is attempting, and will attempt, to follow an independent course between Moscow and Washington, without altering the bureaucratic machine or turning to proletarian internationalism. A bureaucratic regime, resting as it does mainly on the peasantry, can have no independent perspective between the Soviet Union and American imperialism. The main emphasis of the [I.S.] letters should have been to show the necessity for a radical break with the present policy of the YCP, the introduction of soviet democracy within the party and the country, coupled with a policy of proletarian internationalism....

It is impermissible to slur over the nature of the YCP, its identity on fundamental points with other Stalinist parties. Such a slurring over can only disorientate Stalinist workers. Yet every attempt is made by the I.S. to narrow the gulf that separates the policy of the YCP from Bolshevik-Leninism....

It is true that the Yugoslav Stalinists settled, with some success, the national problem inside their own country. It was their programme with regard to this question that enabled them to win over members of the quisling armies. But the comrades must be aware that the propaganda of the YCP towards Germany was of the same chauvinistic character as that of the Russian and other Stalinist parties....The I.S. mentions Togliatti’s chauvinism, and Thorez’ nationalist hysteria, and leaves the impression of a favourable comparison between the policy of other Stalinist parties and that of the YCP. We cannot be silent on the YCP’s chauvinistic campaign around Trieste, their attitude towards reparations, their uncritical support for the Russian bureaucracy’s demand for reparations from the German people. It is necessary to take up these questions so that it shall be clear precisely what the gulf is between a nationalist and an internationalist policy, and precisely what it is that Yugoslav militants must struggle against.[80]

Haston also nailed the I.S. on the glaring contradiction between the latter’s defense of Yugoslavia, which the FI’s Second World Congress two months earlier labeled a capitalist state, against the Soviet degenerated workers state led by Stalin:

The World Congress majority adopted a position that the buffer countries, including Yugoslavia, were capitalist countries. It rejected the resolution of the RCP that these economies were being brought into line with that of the Soviet Union and could not be characterised as capitalist. The amendment of the British party to the section “The USSR and Stalinism” was defeated. But it is evident from these letters that the I.S. has been forced by events to proceed from the standpoint of the British party, that the productive and political relations in Yugoslavia are basically identical with those of the Soviet Union.[81]

Haston appealed to the International Executive Committee to “reject the orientation in the Open Letter” and, in order to correct the damage done, to reopen the discussion on the buffer zone. At the IEC’s Seventh Plenum in April 1949 (which voted the “definition-description” of the buffer zone as still capitalist), the representatives of the RCP introduced the substance of their Second World Congress amendments as a countermotion.[82] It was not until the IEC’s Eighth Plenum in April 1950 that the Fourth International characterized Yugoslavia as a workers state, and only at the Ninth Plenum in December of that year did it finally declare that capitalism had been overthrown in the “buffer zone countries.”

If, as we have written, the American SWP leadership’s approach to East Europe amounted to a “wooden orthodoxy,” insistently ignoring reality until finally forced by events to recognize it (but failing to draw the theoretical lessons), the Haston/Grant leadership of the British RCP tended toward empiricism. They recognized that events in Europe had not conformed to Trotsky’s prognosis, particularly following the defeat of the Italian workers uprising in 1944-45; but on this basis they declared a phase of “bourgeois ‘democratic’ counter-revolution.” Haston/Grant had supported the rightist Goldman-Morrow tendency in the SWP, which put forward a “democratic” minimum program for constituent assemblies as opposed to a fight for soviets. Seeing the British Labour government elected in 1945 carrying out more extensive nationalizations than had been expected, Haston speculated in 1946 about a worldwide trend to “state capitalism” and began questioning the character of the Soviet state. But in a sign of political vitality, the discussion which followed in the RCP produced a corrective and a switching of positions.

Tony Cliff, who had arrived in Britain from Palestine in late 1946, was assigned by the I.S. to argue against Haston in favor of the Trotskyist characterization of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers state. But Cliff then went over to “state capitalism” and in 1948 published his book, Russia: A Marxist Analysis. In contrast, in the course of restudying the question, going back to Capital and the works of Lenin and Trotsky, the Haston/Grant leadership came back to the original Trotskyist position. As a result of this study and under the impact of events in East Europe, the RCP leaders were able to adopt a coherent position on the “buffer zone” and Yugoslavia which, at least on paper, neither denied reality nor gave up the struggle for the Trotskyist program. And they were able to do so with a trenchant analysis that could have armed the International for future events. Thus a 25 June 1949 letter of the RCP to the I.S. stated: “We cannot fail to comment here that your uncritical letter to the Yugoslav Communist Party precisely lends weight to the point of view that Tito is an ‘unconscious Trotskyist’.”[83] A decade and a half later, the founding document of the United Secretariat, which brought the SWP together with the main forces of the European Pabloists, approvingly cited radical journalist I.F. Stone’s observation of the Fidelistas in Cuba: “the revolutionists there are ‘unconscious’ Trotskyists.”[84]

But at the same time, Haston and Grant were under constant attack by the I.S., which was supporting the RCP minority led by Gerry Healy. Cannon supported Pablo in Paris, and Healy was Cannon and Pablo’s man in London. As early as August 1945, Healy, instigated by Pierre Frank, was calling for the British section to enter the Labour Party. In June 1946, the IEC was pushing the RCP to put most of its forces into the Labour Party “with the object of patiently building up an organised Left Wing”—a foretaste of Pablo’s later call for “entrism sui generis” (of a distinct type), whose purpose was not to polarize an existing left wing but to bury the Trotskyists in this reformist party “for a long time.” The RCP majority opposed this liquidationist line. In September 1946 the IEC supported Healy when he threatened to split the RCP in order to enter the Labour Party, and they recognized two British organizations, the Haston/Grant RCP and Healy’s entrist group.

This heavy-handed treatment was repeated again in 1949, when Haston/Grant finally capitulated to the pressure and agreed to enter the Labour Party. To get around the fact that Haston/Grant still had the larger forces, Healy demanded (and the I.S. backed him) that he have a majority on the leading bodies of the fused group until an election the next year! As occurred with the French in 1951-52, liquidationist politics went hand in hand with a bureaucratic internal regime. In the end, the result was the destruction of the RCP, in which the FI’s wrong position on Yugoslavia was an important element.

Continue on...


1 Leon Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International (the Transitional Program), reprinted in The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution, 3rd ed. (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1977), 112. 

2 Ibid., 113. 

3 “Genesis of Pabloism” was originally published in Spartacist (English edition) No. 21, Fall 1972. 

4 Gerry Healy, Problems of the Fourth International (1966), 274. 

5 Workers Power, The Death Agony of the Fourth International and the Tasks of Trotskyists Today (London: Workers Power and Irish Workers Group, 1983) (hereafter referred to as Death Agony), 36. 

6 “Genesis of Pabloism.” 

7 “Genesis of Pabloism.” At the time we wrote “Genesis of Pabloism,” our documentation consisted largely of the internal bulletins of the American Socialist Workers Party. The present article draws as well on materials from the holdings of the Prometheus Research Library (New York), and from CERMTRI, the Centre d’Etudes et de Récherches sur les Mouvements Trotskyste et Révolutionnaires Internationaux (Paris). 

8 “The USSR and Stalinism,” Fourth International, June 1948, 118-19. The theses are also available in French as “L’URSS et le stalinisme (thèses),” in R. Prager, ed., Les congrès de la IVe Internationale (hereafter referred to asLCQI), Vol. 3, Bouleversements et crises de l’après-guerre (1946-1950) (Montreuil: Editions La Brèche-PEC, 1988), 155-201. 

9 The Soviet-Yugoslav Dispute (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1948), 62. 

10 “Resolution on the Yugoslav Revolution and the Fourth International,” SWP International Information Bulletin, January 1951, 16-18. This resolution is also available in French as “Résolution sur la révolution yougoslave et la IVe Internationale,” LCQI, Vol. 4, Menace de la troisième guerre mondiale et tournant politique (1950-1952) (Montreuil: Editions La Brèche-PEC, 1989), 249-60. 

11 Leon Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin (New York: Pioneer Publishers, 1936), 72. 

12 Leon Trotsky, “A Fresh Lesson,” Writings of Leon Trotsky (1938-39), 2nd ed. (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1974), 71. 

13 “An Open Letter to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia” (1 July 1948), Militant, 26 July 1948. 

14 “An Open Letter to the Congress, Central Committee and Members of the Yugoslav Communist Party” (13 July 1948), Fourth International, August 1948. This letter is also available in French as “Lettre ouverte au congrès, au comité central et aux members du Parti communiste yougoslave,” LCQI, Vol. 3, 394. The English translation significantly distorted the last quote to read, “Yugoslav Communists Unite for a New Leninist International!” 

15 This circular exists in the archives of Natalia Sedova Trotsky at the Leon Trotsky Museum in Coyoacán, Mexico; a photocopy is in the holdings of the Prometheus Research Library. 

16 Josip Broz Tito, Rapport politique du Comité Central presenté au Cinquième Congrès du Parti Communiste de Yougoslavie (Le Livre Yougoslave, 1948), 156. 

17 Cited in Tony Cliff, “On the Class Nature of the ‘People’s Democracies’,” The Origins of the International Socialists (London: Pluto Press, 1971), 44. 

18 This third open letter, dated September 1948, was published in the Militant, 20 September 1948. 

19 “Résolution sur la Yougoslavie et la crise du stalinisme,” LCQI, Vol. 3, 421-22. 

20 “Evolution of the Buffer Countries,” SWP International Information Bulletin, June 1949, reprinted in SWP Education for Socialists, “Class, Party and State and the Eastern European Revolution” (November 1969) (hereafter referred to as CPSEER). The material quoted appears on pages 13-14 of CPSEER

21 Max Shachtman, “The Problem of the Labor Party,” New International, March 1935, 37. 

22 “Evolution of the Buffer Countries,” op. cit., 15. 

23 “Déclaration du camarade Jérôme [Pablo]” on “Résolution sur l’évolution des pays du ‘glacis’,” LCQI, Vol. 3, 439. 

24 Quoted in Michel Pablo, “Evolution of Yugoslav Centrism,” Fourth International, November 1949, 296. 

25 “Resolution on the Crisis of Stalinism and the Developments of the Yugoslav Revolution,” SWP International Information Bulletin, September 1950, 5. 

26 “Resolutions on the Class Nature of Yugoslavia,” SWP International Information Bulletin, September 1950, 8. 

27 “Resolution on the Crisis of Stalinism and the Developments of the Yugoslav Revolution,” op. cit., 5. 

28 “Resolutions on the Class Nature of Yugoslavia,” op. cit., 8. 

29 “Resolution on the Crisis of Stalinism and the Developments of the Yugoslav Revolution,” op. cit., 5-6. 

30 Ibid., 6-7. 

31 I.F. Stone, The Hidden History of the Korean War (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1988 [1952]). 

32 Militant, 13 November 1950. 

33 “Assiégée par le Kremlin, la Yougoslavie est sous le chantage de l’impérialisme,” La Vérité No. 261, second half of November 1950. 

34 All these circulars were quoted in “Circulaire du S.I.: à toutes les sections de la IVe Internationale,” 15 November 1950, Supplement No. 158 to La Vérité No. 260, second half of November 1950. 

35 “Resolution on the Yugoslav Revolution and the Fourth International,” op. cit., 13-14, 16. 

36 Leon Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution (1929), reprinted in The Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects, 3rd ed. (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1969), 277. 

37 Workers Power, Death Agony, 35. 

38 “The Yugoslav Revolution,” Fourth International, November-December 1951, reprinted in CPSEER, 59-60. 

39 “La lutte contre la guerre impérialiste et pour la victoire de la révolution socialiste mondiale (résolution sur la situation et les tâches),” LCQI, Vol. 4, 183. 

40 Harold Livingstone (George Clarke), “Report to the Congress—Yugoslavia: Review and Outlook,” Fourth International, November-December 1951, 177-83. 

41 “Les transformations sociales en Europe orientale,” La Vérité No. 283, 25 October-7 November 1951. 

42 “Tito Regime Adjusts Its Policies to Suit Aims of U.S. Imperialism,” Militant, 12 November 1951. 

43 Gérard Bloch, “Contre-réforme agraire en Yougoslavie,” La Vérité No. 316, 12-15 June 1953. 

44 Joseph Hansen, “What the New York Discussion Has Revealed,” SWP Discussion Bulletin, Vol. XV, No. 4, February 1953, reprinted in SWP Education for Socialists, “International Committee Documents, 1951-1954” (March 1974) (hereafter referred to as IC Documents), Vol. 1, 38. 

45 “Against Pabloist Revisionism,” Fourth International, September-October 1953, reprinted in IC Documents, Vol. 3, 147. 

46 “The Third Chinese Revolution and Its Aftermath” (resolution adopted by the 1955 SWP convention), SWP Discussion Bulletin A-31, October 1955, reprinted in SWP Education for Socialists, “The Chinese Revolution and Its Development” (November 1969), 3-10. 

47 “The Soviet Union Today,” SWP Discussion Bulletin A-33, December 1955, reprinted in SWP Education for Socialists, “‘De-Stalinization,’ the Hungarian Revolution and World Trotskyism” (February 1978) (hereafter referred to as De-Stalinization), 21. 

48 “The Hungarian Revolution and the Crisis of Stalinism” (January 1957), reprinted in De-Stalinization, 38. 

49 Workers Power, Death Agony, 28-29. 

50 Hal Draper, “‘Comrade’ Tito and the 4th International: Left-Wing Stalinism—A Senile Disorder,” New International, September 1948, 208, 212. 

51 Fracción Revolucionaria de la Sección Mexicana de la IV Internacional, “Crítica a la ‘Carta Abierta’ del Secretariado Internacional al PC Yugoeslavo,” Boletín Interno, September 1948, 17-18. 

52 “Text of Letter to SWP from Natalia Trotsky,” Militant, 4 June 1951. 

53 Max Shachtman, “Tito Versus Stalin,” New International, August 1948, 178. 

54 Hal Draper, “The Economic Drive Behind Tito,” New International, October 1948, 230-31. 

55 “Meaning of the Yugoslav Crisis,” Militant, 5 July 1948. 

56 John G. Wright, “Public Break with Tito Highlights Kremlin Crisis,” Militant, 5 July 1948. 

57 Joseph Hansen, “Tito-Stalin Conflict,” Militant, 6 September 1948. 

58 SWP Political Committee, “Yugoslav Events and the World Crisis of Stalinism,” Fourth International, August 1948, 175. 

59 Joseph Hansen, “Tito Flounders with Stalin’s ‘Theory’ of Building ‘Socialism’ in One Country,” Militant, 29 November 1948. 

60 “Yugoslavia and the Kremlin,” Militant, 15 August 1949. 

61 “The Tito-Stalin Conflict,” Fourth International, October 1949, 262-63. 

62 “Yugoslav May Day Manifesto Hailed by SWP Leader,” Militant, 8 May 1950. 

63 “Yugoslavs Issue Appeal for Return to Leninist Principles,” Militant, 8 May 1950. 

64 “Tito’s June 27 Speech,” Militant, 10 July 1950. 

65 John G. Wright, “Yugoslavia’s Foreign Policy,” Militant, 5 March 1951. 

66 John G. Wright, “Stalin’s ‘Socialism in One Country’,” Militant, 26 March 1951. 

67 Jacques Privas and Marcel Marin, “Résolution Privas-Marin sur la crise yougoslave,” La vie du parti No. 1 (PCI internal bulletin), August 1948. 

68 Partial minutes of this Central Committee meeting were published in La vie du parti No. 5 (supplement to La Vérité No. 229), February 1949. Pablo’s article, written in August 1948 and published in Fourth International, December 1948, described the YCP as leading a mass movement with “distinct revolutionary tendencies.” 

69 “Le rapport sur la défense de la Yougoslavie,” La Vérité No. 246, second half of January 1950. 

70 “Bas les pattes devant la révolution yougoslave, résolution du VIe congrès du PCI,” La Vérité No. 247, first half of February 1950. 

71 “La magnifique campagne électorale du PCY,” La Vérité No. 251, first half of April 1950. 

72 Pierre Lambert, “1er Mai à Belgrade,” La Vérité No. 254, second half of May 1950. 

73 “Ceux qui ont vu la vérité en Yougoslavie la disent: OUI c’est un état où se construit le socialisme, c’est la dictature du prolétariat,” La Vérité No. 258, first half of October 1950. 

74 “La Yougoslavie sur la voie glissante,” La Vérité No. 263, second half of December 1950. 

75 Michel Lequenne, “A propos de la crise et de la scission de la section française (1951-1952),” LCQI, Vol. 4, 487, reports of L’Unité that “its material existence largely depended on Yugoslav financial support.” 

76 “Genesis of Pabloism.” 

77 “RCP Amendments to the Thesis on Russia and Eastern Europe,” Spring 1948. A photocopy of this document, from the archives of Sam Bornstein, is in the collection of the Prometheus Research Library. The French version was published as “Amendements soumis par le RCP de Grande-Bretagne,” LCQI, Vol. 3, 204-5. These amendments were not printed in the SWP internal bulletins. 

78 Ibid. 

79 Ted Grant and Jock Haston, “Yugoslavs Too Independent: Campaign Commences to Liquidate Tito,” Socialist Appeal, July 1948, reprinted in Behind the Stalin-Tito Clash: Trotskyist Analysis (Revolutionary Communist Party, 1948), 5-11. 

80 Jock Haston (on behalf of the Central Committee, RCP), “Letter on Yugoslavia Sent to the IEC by the RCP (Britain)” (n.d., late summer 1948). The material quoted appears on pages 64-65. This letter was not printed in the SWP internal bulletins; it was published in a 1991 special supplement of Workers News, “The Fourth International and Yugoslavia (1948-50),” by the British Workers International League. 

81 Ibid. 

82 “Contre-résolution présentée par les 2 cam. représentants du RCP (anglais),” La vie du parti, special issue (supplement to La Vérité No. 236), second half of June 1949, 15-16. Again, this countermotion was not published in the SWP internal bulletins, although other dissident motions at the Seventh Plenum were. 

83 Cited in Sam Bornstein and Al Richardson, The War and the International: A History of the Trotskyist Movement in Britain 1937-1949 (1986), 219. 

84 “Dynamics of World Revolution Today” (June 1963), International Socialist Review, Fall 1963, 129. 


Hal Draper

“Comrade” Tito and the 4th International

Left-Wing Stalinism – A Senile Disorder

(September 1948)

From New InternationalVol.14 No.7, September 1948, pp.208-212.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Now ’tis the spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted;
Suffer them now, and they’ll o’ergrow the garden,
And choke the herbs for want of husbandry.

– Henry VI, 2: III, i.

The galloping political degeneration of the leadership of the Fourth International goes on apace. The latest product of its brain trust, however, is something of a departure even for these theoreticians. For one thing, obviously, it can no longer be explainedmerely on grounds of political stupidity.

We are referring to the Open Letter to the Congress, Central Committee and Members of the Yugoslav Communist Party signed by the International Secretariat of the Fourth International. [1]

This hair-raising document reaches a new high in Stalinotropism – a new high, that is, for people who call themselves “Trotskyists,” indeed “orthodox Trotskyists.” It does not quite come out of a clear blue sky, it is true, having been foreshadowed in a degree by the political support which these people gave to the Stalinists in the last Italian election and elsewhere, as well as by the whole course of their political devolution.

Yugoslavia as a “Capitalist State”

Or, as philosophers, who find
Some favorite system to their mind,
In every point to make it fit,
Will force all nature to submit.

– Jonathan Swift

Some preliminary information will be useful before we present the pièce de resistance itself. At the Second Congress of the Fourth International, which took place only a couple of short months before our subjects were unhinged by the Tito explosion, a resolution was solemnly passed on the nature of Russia’s satellite states in Eastern Europe, including Yugoslavia (the so-called glacis or buffer countries).

They had a head-breaking problem to work out in doing this. According to them, Russia itself is a (degenerated) workers’ state – the criterion being its nationalized economy. Then how about Yugoslavia and the other satellites – in which industry has been nationalized anywhere from 60 to 90 per cent? By all logic and using the same criterion, they should label these “workers’ states” also. But this conclusion they rejected – adamantly and without equivocation!


The explanation for the resulting inconsistency is also clear. To admit that Yugoslavia (letting this country stand for all of these states) is now a “workers’ state” is to admit that a social revolution has taken place there – a social revolution made not by the working class or under revolutionary socialist leadership, but a social revolution bureaucratically imported by the Stalinist totalitarians. One is therefore constrained to conclude that Stalinism – whatever distasteful characteristics it may have – is capable of spreading international revolution and overthrowing capitalism, leaving workers’ states in its wake.

But if Stalinism does have this revolutionary mission, even if it accomplishes that mission by methods we do not prefer, there is no historical reason for existence for an independent revolutionary party and certainly no future for it. At best, one can only look toward the role of a democratic opposition in, or wing of, the Stalinist wave-of-the-future, going along with it in its revolutionary role while seeking to moderate or relax its unpleasant features.

To avoid this hard but inescapable deduction from their position, logic and reality were ruled off the agenda by the FI congress and the following conclusions installed in their place:

In the “buffer” countries the state remains bourgeois: (a) Because the state structure remains bourgeois; ... (b) Because the function of the state remains bourgeois. Whereas the workers’ state defends the collective ownership of the means of production, arising from a victorious socialist revolution, the state of the “buffer” countries defends property which, despite its diverse and hybrid forms, remains fundamentally bourgeois in character ...

Thus, while maintaining bourgeois function and structure, the state of the “buffer” countries represents at the same time an extreme form of Bonapartism ...[Fourth International, June 1948, p.119.]


From the bourgeois character of the state in the “buffer” countries results the necessity for the violent destruction of its bureaucratic machine as an essential condition for the victory of the socialist revolution in these countries. [Quatrième Internationale, March-May 1948, p.39.]

The thesis furthermore speaks of the “Stalinist police dictatorship in these countries.” A little later it draws a couple of concrete political corollaries:

The fact that capitalism still exists in these countries side by side with the exploitation by the Stalinist bureaucracy must fundamentally determine our strategy. The capitalist nature of these countries imposes the necessity of the strictest revolutionary defeatism in wartime. [Fourth International, p.121.]

And – a sentiment to be especially kept in mind as we read the Open Letter –

Likewise, from the Russian occupation forces or from pro-Stalinist governments, which are completely reactionary, we do not demand the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, the setting up of a real foreign-trade monopoly, an effective struggle against speculation and the black market. [Ibid., p.121. My emphasis.]

To sum this up:

  1. The satellite states are capitalist states.
  2. These capitalist states are furthermore “police dictatorships” and “an extreme form of Bonapartism” – that is, to translate, they are” fascist states.
  3. These capitalist-fascist state machines run by the Stalinists must be destroyed by violence (that is, they cannot be reformed) and this is moreover an “essential condition” for the socialist revolution.
  4. These Stalinist-dominated capitalist-fascist states cannot be defended in any war. Not only is it necessary in time of war to apply the policy of revolutionary defeatism but the strictest revolutionary defeatism. This would naturally hold in case of a conflict between one of these states and another capitalist state. But if this is so, then in case of conflict with a workers’ state (say, Russia), the policy of revolutionary defeatism would not only have to be the “strictest” but – what word would be adequate? – the most rigid and intransigent ... and, in fact, not only plain revolutionary defeatism but indeed military defeatism and sabotage at home.
  5. One does not make demands on these states (let alone suggestions, let alone pleadings!) for progressive anti-capitalist measures, any more than socialists raised such demands for accomplishment by the Nazi state. On the contrary. We remember that not long before the Second World War, before the People’s Front line was torpedoed by the Stalin-Hitler Pact, the Italian Communist Party started a campaign appealing to “honest” Fascists to force Mussolini to carry out his original demagogic program of anti-capitalism – and we remember with what scandalized horror we pointed to this as revealing the depths to which the Stalinist movement had sunk.

Every one of these five points was tossed out of the window in the most unceremonious fashion in the production of the Open Letter, without even a decent leavetaking. We can spare barely a sentence to wonder how an executive committee can dare to do this only a couple of months after a “world congress” (following their leadership too!) has laid down the line. Our subjects evidently absorb more from the Stalinists than merely their politics ...

This, at any rate, was the line adopted by our “orthodox Trotskyists” in opposition to the dastardly attempts by petty-bourgeois revisionists. and other canaille to tempt them from the path of virtue.

The Small Chameleon

The small chameleon has the knack
Of turning blue or green or black,
And yet, whatever hue he don,
He stays a small cha-me-le-on.

– Samuel Hoffenstein

This analysis and line on the satellite states was barely passed when the Tito events presented it with its first test. What attitude would seem to be required by the terms of the resolution?

The Yugoslav-Russian break represented a conflict between a capitalist state on the one hand and a “workers’ state” on the other (to use the FI’s labels) . Setting itself up against “workers’ Russia” was a state in which the bourgeoisie had preserved “the maintenance of its essential social privileges,” in which “capitalist production relations” still existed, etc., as we have seen. There would seem to be no doubt about where the sympathies of the FI should lie – with Russia as against Tito.

In fact, on this basis one could even make a case for claiming that the resolution had “predicted” some such break, for in several passages it speaks of the stiffening resistance to Russian domination by the bourgeoisies of the satellite countries (see especially Point 21 of the resolution). In point after point, it paints a picture of the bourgeoisie beginning to feel its oats again, of the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie being taken in tow by the bourgeoisie, etc. What more natural than to conclude, therefore, that Tito has capitulated to the pressure of the Yugoslav bourgeoisie and is being pushed by the latter to break with the foreign oppressors? If any attitude flows from the resolution, it is precisely this: condemnation of the Tito split as a bourgeois-restorationist move.

But our theoreticians, far from having the courage of their convictions, themselves looked upon the resolution as a mere exercise in apologetics. Yugoslavia had been labeled a capitalist state in the first place, as we pointed out, only in order to avoid an unwelcome conclusion, the theory of the bureaucratic road to the social revolution. Now, in order to avoid another unwelcome conclusion – support of Stalin against the Tito rebels – the whole fantastic structure upon which the first apologia was based had to be simply junked. Reeling from side to side under the impact of real events, they finally ended up by falling on their face.

In the United States, the Militant of the Socialist Workers Party (Cannonites) was faced on June 29 with the same problem as the Daily Worker: how to handle an event which failed to jibe with previous notions. Its first reaction was:

(1) This is just a scrap between rival dictators.

Tito and Stalin want the workers to choose between them ... Regardless of what Tito and Stalin want, the workers will surely reject this trap of choosing between the type of gold braid worn in Belgrade as against the type Stalin prefers in the Kremlin. [Militant, July 19]

(2) Tito is not a Trotskyist, they indignantly explain. Unaware of the fact that he is talking about a “comrade” of the Fourth International, John G. Wright even goes into detail:

Tito knows no other school of politics than Stalinism. The hands of this shady adventurer drip with the blood of hundreds of Yugoslav Trotskyists and other militants whom he murdered during the civil war in Yugoslavia. He began his service as a purger of Stalin’s political opponents as far back as 1928 ... Everywhere his specialty was purging “Trotskyists.” It was precisely in this capacity as an unquestioning and willing tool of the GPU that Tito was permitted to rise to the top. [Militant, July 6]

Let us keep this truthful description of “Comrade” Tito in mind. Even as it came off the press, the International Secretariat of the Fourth International was sending its first billet-doux, the Open Letter of July 1, followed up two weeks later by the longer letter we have mentioned.

Mash Note to Tito

It seemed to Jurgen that King Smoit evinced embarrassment, but it is hard to be quite certain when a ghost is blushing.

– Brunch Cabell

The first thing that hits a socialist in the face, reading this letter to the bloody-handed totalitarian dictator of Belgrade and his party, is its tone. The Open Letter of July 1, being brief, exudes it in condensed form:

Comrades: ...
The official press of the Communist parties is seeking to engulf you in a flood of slanders and insults ... this system of slander campaigns which has in the past destroyed so many precious forces in the labor movement. ... Now you are in a position to understand ... the real meaning of the Moscow Trials ...

You hold in your hands a mighty power if only you summon enough strength to persevere on the road of the socialist revolution and its program ... Keep up your fight! ... [The Fourth International] wants to address itself in this our first message to you not concerning those things about which we must be critical of you with regard to your past and more recent course. We wish rather to take note of the promise in your resistance – the promise of victorious resistance by a revolutionary workers’ party against ... the Kremlin machine ...

Long Live the Yugoslav Socialist Revolution! ...

How tender, how comradely! It is with a mental wrench that one remembers that these honeyed accents are addressed to a Stalinist party ruling a police regime, to the party which is the bureaucratized apparatus of an experienced GPU butcher!

Note the reference to the Cominform’s “slanders and insults.” The second Open Letter begins by ringing further changes on this theme: “They [the Cominform] accuse your party of its ‘lack of democracy,’ ... without giving you a chance to defend yourselves ...” What slanders? Apparently the Cominform’s denunciations of Tito’s “Turkish” regime! Is this a slander, i.e., untrue? There is not a word which gainsays the air of indignant repudiation of these “slanders” against Tito’s fair name (unless we are told it is the later passage in which the party is politely urged to democratize itself!).

We are also prepared to be told that this monstrous letter is not “really” addressed to the Tito gangsters but to the “honest workers” in the Yugoslav Stalinist party. We shall see other reasons to laugh at this, but right now we can ask: If the letter is addressed not to the dictator and his gang but to “honest workers,” then why this delicacy? Why the total and complete failure to denounce (all right then, at least criticize) the fact that Tito’s party is a bureaucratized creature of the secret police, like every other Stalinist party in Eastern Europe?

We have room to cite only the vilest portions of the Open Letter, Content to point out that a complete reading is necessary in order to savor its full-bodied flavor of fawning flattery.

(1) The Fourth International pledges itself to be the devil’s advocate:

It [the FI] calls upon the Communist workers of all countries to send their delegations to Yugoslavia, in order to find out on the spot the real policies pursued by your party. Tomorrow it will make known your documents in twenty different languages, because a Communist cannot tolerate that militants be judged without a hearing. It asks you to permit a delegation of its leadership to attend your congress, to make contact with the Yugoslav Communist movement to knit close fraternal tics with you, which can only be of service to the world Communist movement.

(2) It represents Tito’s party machine as the rallying center for revolutionary workers, the decisive force for revolution in the country:

Your choice will decide for years, if not for decades, the fate of your country and its proletariat ...

On this road [if you capitulate to American imperialism] the work undertaken by your party will only come to complete ruin ... [The policy we advocate] will permit you to hold out while awaiting new mass struggles, to stimulate these and to conquer with them.

We have already quoted the previous exhortation to “summon up enough strength to persevere on the road of the socialist revolution and its program.”

(3) It tells the Titoists there are three roads, three possible choices, before them. These are: capitulation to the Cominform; attempting to balance between Western imperialism and Russia, or even capitulation to Western imperialism; and (the only correct road) “a return to the Leninist conception of the social revolution.” There is one possible choice, road or perspective which the letter does not even mention: namely, the very perspective which the Tito Stalinists do in fact propose for themselves.

This piece of stupidity is so typical of our subjects that we must pause. Everybody knows, except the IS, that the road which the Titoists have chosen for themselves is: not capitulation to the Cominform’s demands; not capitulation to Western imperialism; and not balancing between East and West. They proclaim that their road is that of remaining within the Russian bloc as an independent partner. Now it may be argued that this is impossible, that the Russians will not permit them to do so, etc., but the fact is that this and no other is the direction in which their faces are set. And it is precisely this that the Open Letter does not even mention as a possible choice, let alone as the choice actually made!

The Clank of Chains

                                         ... can it be that ye
Have wasted inspiration on dead cars,
Dulled with the too familiar clank of chains?

– James Russell Lowell

(4) We raised the question of whether the Open Letter is addressed to the Tito bureaucracy or to “honest Communist workers” against the Tito bureaucracy. Let us try to overlook the fact that there is not a word in it differentiating between the two, since we will be told that this is after all a matter of diplomacy (diplomacy with a totalitarian butcher!). But the letter specifically opposes a change in leadership!

There are certainly militants among you who ... even propose that it is preferable, under these conditions, to make a public apology, to declare acceptance of the Cominform’s “criticism” and even to change your leadership ... Such a decision would be, in our opinion, an irreparably tragic error ... Together with your present leadership they [the Cominform] would completely eliminate all cadres with any independence of thought ... [My emphasis.]

Of course, the question of a “change in leadership” is here raised in connection with capitulation to the Cominform, but nowhere is there the slightest hint that some kind of change in leadership might be of benefit to the “honest workers.” On the contrary, the “present leadership” is bracketed together with “all cadres with any independence of thought”!

The “honest workers” – that is, the rank and file – come in for consideration a little later, not as the force which is to be directed against Tito in order to return to the “Leninist conception,” but as an obstacle to such a possibility.

We do not hide the fact that such a policy [return to Leninism] would come up against very great obstacles in your own country and even in your own ranks. A complete re-education of your cadres [active militants] in the spirit of true Leninism would be necessary.

This is the only “obstacle” mentioned – the necessity of re-educating the rank-and-file militants of the party. Who is to re-educate them?

Precisely the party leadership, of course, to whom this letter is appealing. Would a “return to Leninism” explode the whole bureaucratic Stalinized structure upon which Tito rests, the Yugoslav Communist Party? No, argues the Open Letterit would strengthen you!

It is necessary to launch not only a vast campaign of reeducation but also a period of discussion and free expression for all workers ... Your party has nothing to fear from such a development. The confidence of the masses in it will grow enormously and it will indeed become the collective expression of the interests and sentiments of the proletariat of this country.

The Fourth International has come full circle back to the days of the Left Opposition, when the Trotskyist movement considered its task to be the reformation of the Communist Parties, the task of saving the Communist Parties from themselves.

(5) It is this “left opposition” approach which alone explains such an eye-goggling passage as the following. Speaking of the danger of capitulation to the Cominform –

Such a decision would deal a still heavier blow to the international Communist movement. In every country the most courageous and independent Communist militants would he reduced to silence. The most servile elements would triumph everywhere.

In very truth, the Fourth International is mentally back in the days when Stalin and Trotsky were still struggling for ascendancy in the Comintern! Comrades of the IS: in what country of the world have “the most servile elements” not yet triumphed in the CPs? In what country of the world have “the most courageous and independent militants” (which, we take it. means truly revolutionary workers) not been reduced to silence in the CPs – and indeed to a more deathlike silence than that of the dumb? Or is the phrase about “every country” supposed to point to Yugoslavia, where Tito, Kardelj, Djilas, Rankovic & Co. are among “the most courageous and independent militants”?

(6) Comrades of the Yugoslav CP, says the Open Letter, democratize yourselves and your party!

The Front committees must he organs truly elected by the workers of city and country ... They must become real state organs, and take the place of the present hybrid organs, which are relics of the bourgeois stale apparatus. [Etc., etc.]

How delicately our subjects dance around the necessity of designating the state as “capitalist” with the fine; brashness which characterizes its private resolution! The present organs of the state are ... relics of the bourgeois state apparatus – which can only imply that the bourgeois state apparatus is a thing of the past. Aren’t we fortunate that, having access to the private resolutions of the Fourth International, we are privy to the secret that all this is ... diplomacy? Shall we expect that a suitor for the Borgia’s hand will inconsiderately refer to her peccadilloes with poison?

(7) And finally – the passage that one waits for with bated breath: the discussion, promised in the Open Letter of July 1, “concerning those things about which we must be critical of you,” We are compelled to admit that there is such a passage. It consists of exactly three sentences.

We have numerous and important differences with your past and recent policies. We are in complete disagreement with the theory and practice of “popular democracy,” for we do not believe there is any road other than the dictatorship of the proletariat between capitalism and socialism. We believe that the use and propagation of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois customs (liveries, titles, offices’ stripes, decorations) can only cause the demoralization of real communists.

That is all. These are the two criticisms singled out for mention in an address to the rulers of a Stalinist police dictatorship led by a bloody-handed GPU graduate. It would be quite useless to point out that Criticism No.1 would fail to impress the Yugoslav Stalinists who carefully explained at their recent Fifth Congress that the “people’s authority” in their “popular democracy” is the essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat in their opinion – that is, they are hanging on to the phrase. But this sentence in the Open Letter is not intended to impress any Yugoslavs: it is inserted as gingerly as possible merely in order to be able to say: See, we aren’t entirely uncritical, are we? ... The second “criticism” is simply a poor joke.

(8) In closing, the Open Letter calls for nothing less than unity. Its climactic slogan is: “YUGOSLAV COMMUNISTS, LET US UNITE OUR EFFORTS FOR A NEW LENINIST INTERNATIONAL!”

Back to the Womb

He touches the remotest pole, and in the center weeps
That Man should labor and sorrow, and learn and forget, and return
To the dark valley whence he came, and begin his labors anew.

– William Blake

It does not, of course, take great perspicacity to understand that the authors of the Open Letter look upon it as a clever maneuver. We are even willing to admit, for the sake of argument, that it will arouse the sympathy of a few Stalinist workers (in France or England or Belgium – not in Yugoslavia, of course, where it will never see the light of day!) in direct proportion to the extent to which it succeeds in convincing them that the “Trotskyists” are not so far from Stalinism as they thought.

Why has the Open Letter nothing to say about the crimes of Tito and the other ringleaders of the Belgrade dictatorship? Because our clever maneuverers are themselves trying to capitalize on the cult of Tito which was built up in the Communist Parties by the Stalinist propaganda apparatus. [2] Instead of drawing a line of demarcation between the Fourth International and at least the leadership of the Yugoslav Stalinists, the Open Letter is deliberately and carefully written to make an amalgam of the two in the mind of a confused Stalinist worker in whose ears the hosannas to Tito are still resounding.

The “clever maneuver” is to take a ride on the tail of Tito’s popularity. Very literally, the purpose of the Open Letter is to try to convince a Stalinist militant here or there that the Fourth International does represent a kind of left-wing Stalinism and that he should therefore not be “afraid” of it. The history of this type of clever maneuver is an overabundant one: it in the maneuverers who wind up by being convinced of what they are saying, and it is their own ranks which are disoriented.

The Stalinotropism of the Fourth International leadership is flowering. We have seen how great is the gravitational pull of the Stalinist movement on the working class of Europe. Not its most important manifestation but certainly its extremest one is its effect on this section even of the Trotskyists.

It would be correct but superficial to compare the present trend of the FI with the “left opposition” days of 1929-33: that was an expression of the infancy of the movement; this is a phenomenon of senility. Or: in those days the movement had not yet broken its umbilical cord; today our subjects are dreaming of crawling back into the womb.

With these politics we have nothing in common. The other side of the same coin is the gravitational pull of Western imperialism on the social-democracy and reformists. Not between both but against both is the only course for a socialist solution of the crisis of civilization.


1. The copy from which passages in this article will be quoted is the French text as mimeographed and distributed by the IS, eleven pages long single-spaced, dated July 14. We expect that the Socialist Workers Party (Cannonites) of this country will do its duty and publish it in full in its press. Under date of July 1. the IS had previously indited a short Open Letter to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia which ended by promising the longer follow-up; this was published in The Militant of July 26. The latter document is referred to in this article as the Open Letter of July 1, in order to differentiate.

2. Consider the following: from (he organ of the Belgian section of the Fourth International. The lead article says the Cominform statement reminds one of the Moscow Trials “where one saw the most prominent leaders of the Bolshevik Party accused of crimes which were invented out of whole cloth by the GPU.” As if the comparison itself were not enough to choke them, it immediately continues: “There is however a difference between the case of Tito and that of the accused in the Moscow Trials Tito does not confess but defends himself by attacking.” (Lutte Ouvrière, July 10.) There it is before one’s popping eyes, in plain French. Noble, noble Tito! not only to be compared with Lenin’s old Bolsheviks, but compared to his own advantage! In Belgrade, the chanting sycophants merely call him “Hero Tito.”