June 30, 1948
Circular No. 16
To the Leadership of All Sections
The Tito affair has an exceptional importance from two points of view: externally for our attitude to Stalinist workers in particular and to revolutionary workers in general, and the conclusions that we can draw in regard to our appreciation of the USSR and Stalinism.
It goes without saying that the leaderships of all sections will have understood immediately the importance of the events and the necessity of taking the initiative in this respect. However, the I.S. thinks it necessary to make known its point of view in order to facilitate prompt and coordinated action of the whole International.
Significance of the Conflict
The resolution of the Cominform and the reply of the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party clearly show that the origin of the conflict lies in the attempt of the Kremlin to strangle completely the latter and the Tito government.
GPU agents endeavoured to create a tendency inside the Yugoslav CP to “Russify” it completely, to undermine the personal prestige of Tito and to get rid of him. The Kremlin, estimating that in Yugoslavia it did not possess an absolutely docile instrument, and fearing an independent role on the part of Tito, however limited, attacked him by mobilising at the same time its direct agents in Yugoslavia and the prestige of the Russian Communist Party and the Cominform against the Yugoslav Communists; it attempted to create a faction of its own in the Yugoslav CP capable of overthrowing them.
This is an example of the extreme rigidity of the Stalinist bureaucratic machine, incompatible with the least opposition and which, driven by its own internal logic, is forced to nip in the bud the slightest sign of independence, in order to safeguard its prestige as well as its apparent unity and stability. But the attempt of the Kremlin in Yugoslavia misfired for a whole series of reasons. Tito and the leadership of the CP were strongly entrenched in a movement and a party which they had led during the last few years of struggle under the occupation and immediately after, without the direct support of the Kremlin, and of which they have been considered as the natural leaders. They have constructed on the other hand a strong state apparatus, which inspires them with a different assurance from that which formerly characterised various attempts at opposition in the Communist parties of the capitalist countries in the face of the all-powerful Kremlin. 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 he served for several years and which he has known how to stand up to energetically in his own country.
The resistance of Tito has probably surprised and exasperated Stalin. Before the failure of his attempt, Stalin could either try to secure the unconditional submission of Tito, or eliminate him through the action of his agents in Yugoslavia. Stalin has preferred the former course despite all the inconveniences of mobilising his international machine and openly excommunicating Tito.
We shall see in the days and weeks to come on what supplementary trump cards Stalin has in the long run based his decision, and what will be the breadth of Tito’s resistance.
The Cominform Resolution and the Yugoslav Reply
The charge sheet of the Cominform against Tito is a typical product of the Kremlin machine of lies, calumnies, and amalgams. Tito is accused at the same time of “nationalism,” “Trotskyism,” “Bukharinism,” of basing himself on the kulaks and wishing to destroy the kulaks, etc.... This document is conceived in order to drown the facts of the case in an ocean of assertions, in appearance “Marxist-Leninist,” contradictory and confused, which allows anyone in Stalinist world public opinion or in Yugoslavia to find reasons to criticise and condemn Tito. The reply of the Yugoslav party enables us, naturally without solidarising with it or with Tito, to attack the resolution of the Cominform and the attitude taken by the different Communist parties, who have rushed to align themselves completely with the resolution, without even knowing Tito’s reply and without even publishing in their press an objective résumé of that reply.