An Open Letter

To the Congress, Central Com­mit­tee and Members of the
Yugoslav Com­mu­nist Party

This text of the 13 July 1948 Open Letter from the In­ter­na­tion­al Secretariat to the Yugoslav Com­mu­nist Party corresponds to the English version published in the American Socialist Workers Party’s Fourth Inter­na­tional, August 1948. In addition to minor spelling revisions, the first of the two slogans which conclude the letter has been retranslated from the French original.206 (The Fourth Inter­na­tional version read: “Yugoslav Com­mu­nists Unite for a New Leninist In­ter­na­tion­al!”)

Continued from left column

Such a decision would be in our opinion an irreparable and tragic error and would do the greatest damage not only to your own party and your own working class but to the in­ter­na­tion­al proletariat and com­mu­nist move­ment, above all to the workers in the USSR. You must by now know the methods and ideas of the Central Com­mit­tee of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party sufficiently well to under­stand that that body will never be satisfied by public declarations and political decisions. It will demand that all power in the party and the country should pass into the hands of its own “civil and military agents” and of those among you whom it believes it can manip­ulate like puppets. It will com­plete­ly elim­inate, along with your present leaders, all cadres which think in­de­pen­dently, all members who dare raise their voices in protest. It will com­plete­ly subordinate the interests of the workers and poor peasants of Yugoslavia to the needs of its own diplomatic maneuvers with im­pe­ri­alism. It will smash your party as an inde­pen­dent force and will deal a terrible blow to the socialist consciousness of the workers of your country. It will wind up by physically liquidating all those who dared resist for a moment. The tragic example of so many old Bolshevik leaders in Russia shows that it never pardons even a passing opposition, even when such pardon has been “bought” a thousand times by self-criticism and breast-beating of the most humiliating kind.

Such a decision would deal an even greater blow to the in­ter­na­tion­al com­mu­nist move­ment. In all countries, the most courageous and inde­pen­dent Com­mu­nist members, who are today stirred by your action, would be reduced to silence. The most servile elements would triumph every­where. The pernicious principle that “whoever criticizes the Soviet govern­ment is an agent of im­pe­rialism,” which has already cost the in­ter­na­tion­al Com­mu­nist move­ment so dearly, would be more firmly entrenched than ever. Thousands of sincere rev­olu­tion­ary workers, who have with good cause been revolted by the anti-Leninist policies pursued by the Cominform leaders, would fall back again into passivity and skepticism, thereby increasing the isolation everywhere of the com­mu­nist forces and thereby strengthening the forces of reaction and im­pe­rialism. The road would be cleared for new defeats for the in­ter­na­tion­al proletariat.

A second road will cer­tainly be suggested, consisting essentially of retiring into Yugoslavia, repelling the attacks and the eventual violence and provocations of the Cominform and its agents, and attempting to “build socialism” in your own country, while concluding trade relations with the powers of Eastern Europe as well as with those of the imperialist West. We will not conceal from you, comrades, that we consider this second road just as pernicious as the first.

It is com­plete­ly utopian to think it possible to “maneuver” during a whole period between the USSR and the USA without being subject during this same period to a growing pressure from these two giants. The success of “maneuvers” depends in the final analysis on the relationship of forces, and, on the plane of economic, political and military power, the relationship of forces is obviously not in your favor. American impe­ri­al­ism will gladly make some advances to you for that would increase the weight of its arguments in its conversations with Moscow. But what it is looking for basically is not to support you against the USSR but to conclude a com­pro­mise with Russia, if necessary at your expense. Not only would the present leaders of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party have no hesitation about accepting such a com­pro­mise, but they would even work furiously to create the greatest economic difficulties for you so as to force you to capitulate or to surrender com­plete­ly to Yankee impe­ri­al­ism, in order thereby to “demonstrate” to world working-class opinion that every rupture with Moscow signifies going over to the “American camp.”

On the other hand, you must be aware that impe­ri­al­ism will rapidly become increasingly demanding toward you, espe­cially if it is encouraged along this road by Moscow, as is to be feared. Its pressure will first be concentrated on your trade relations. Its first objective will be to include you in the Marshall Plan zone. In the course of putting this into effect, it will aim subsequently to destroy all the social reforms brought about in Yugoslavia in the past three years. To the extent that Russia will isolate you and that your economic difficulties will increase and imperialist pressure sharpen, reaction within your own country will lift its head. The kulak would attempt to make contact with the in­ter­na­tion­al market. American capital would penetrate through all the crevices in your mixed economy in order to help them achieve this. Your days would be numbered.

Every policy set up on the basis of ignoring the in­ter­na­tion­al contradictions, which are the all-embracing framework in which all problems of Yugoslav policy are posed; every policy which would pose questions of industrialization inde­pen­dently of the problem of securing equipment by means of in­ter­na­tion­al trade, and consequently, inde­pen­dently of the pressure of the capitalist world market; every policy of this kind must be rejected forthright. Otherwise the work undertaken by your party can only meet with complete ruin. In view of the slan­derous accusations of the leaders of the Cominform, it is imperative to be sharply conscious of the lurking danger of imperialist pressure, so that you will take no step without carefully considering the con­se­quences on that score. Therein lies the main guarantee of genuine rev­olu­tion­ary and socialist progress on your part.

Finally, there remains the third road, the most difficult, bristling with the most obstacles, the genuine com­mu­nist road for the Yugoslav party and proletariat. This road is the road of return to the Leninist conception of socialist revolution, of return to a world strategy of class struggle. It must start, in our opinion, with a clear under­standing of the fact that the Yugoslav rev­olu­tion­ary forces can only become stronger and consolidate their positions thanks to the conscious support of the working masses of their own country and of the entire world. It means above all to under­stand that the decisive force on the world arena is neither impe­ri­al­ism with its resources and arms, nor the Russian state with its formidable apparatus. The decisive force is the immense army of workers, of poor peasants and of colonial peoples, whose revolt against their exploiters is steadily rising, and who need only a conscious lead­er­ship, a suitable program of action and an effective organization in order to bring the enormous task of world socialist revolution to a successful conclusion.

We do not presume to offer you a blueprint. We under­stand the tremendous difficulties which you must contend with in a poorly equipped country which has been devastated by war. We desire only to point out to you what are, in our opinion, the main lines through which to concretize this in­ter­na­tion­al rev­olu­tion­ary policy—the only policy which will enable you to hold out while waiting for new struggles of the masses, to stimulate them and to conquer with them.

To commit oneself to this road means, espe­cially in Yugoslavia itself, to base oneself openly and com­plete­ly on the rev­olu­tion­ary dynamics of the masses. The Front com­mit­tees must be organs which are genuinely elected by the workers of city and country, arising from a tightly knit system of [com­mit­tees of] workers and of poor farmers.

They must become genuine state organs and must take the place of the present hybrid organs which are relics of the bourgeois state apparatus. They must be the organs of Soviet democracy, in which all workers will have the right to express their opinions and their criticisms without reservation and without fear of reprisal. The right of workers to organize other workers’ parties must be laid down as a principle, subject only to the condition that they take their place within the framework of Soviet legality. The present hybrid constitution must be revised and a new one, taking its inspiration from the Leninist constitution of 1921, must be set up by an assembly of delegates from the workers’ and poor peasants’ com­mit­tees.

These decisive political changes must be con­ceived as the end result of a real mass mobilization, to be brought about by your party through carrying these Leninist ideas into the most distant villages of your country, explaining the dif­fer­ences between the Soviet state and other state forms, and the superiority of the former type. That is the way Lenin did it in 1917, with the greatest simplicity. A vast campaign of re-education must be started, together with a period of discussion and of unhampered expres­sion of opinion by the workers. The latter will express their criticisms of the present state of affairs in their assemblies. The party will finally know, directly, what the real aspirations of the masses are, and will obtain the constructive suggestions of the working-class masses, whose vast creative energy is the surest guarantee of socialism. Your party has nothing to fear from such a development. The confidence of the masses in it will grow enormously and it will become the effective collective expres­sion of the interests and desires of the proletariat of its country.

It will not be enough, however, to reestablish the complete sovereignty of the com­mit­tees, to change the standing army into a genuine workers’ and peasants’ militia, to replace appointed judges with those elected by the masses, to re-establish and firmly maintain the principle of payment of func­tion­aries on the basis of the average wages of a skilled worker. The problem of the rev­olu­tion­ary trans­for­ma­tion of your country is essentially an economic one, in which the question of the peasantry takes first place.

There is but one Leninist way to approach this problem: to seek support from the poor and exploited layers of the country and to be careful not to violate the laws whereby your economy func­tions, but on the contrary to utilize them in the interests of socialism. The land must be nationalized and a struggle waged against the concentration of income and property in the hands of the kulaks. But these measures cannot be made solely by administrative means, neither by decrees nor by force. What is necessary is that the immense majority of the peasants must view it as in their own interests. For this, a review of the Five Year Plan and the relations between agriculture and industry is necessary. The plan for industrialization must be able, above all things, to guarantee a growing quantity of consumer goods for the peasants. By means of stabilizing the dinar and a strict system of dividing industrial consumer goods, the state can offer more to the small and middle peasant than the kulak will be able to give him. It is necessary at the same time to give the utmost support to the freely formed cooperatives of the small peasants, to reserve all modern working equipment for them, grant them cheap credit, and to establish such conditions for them that they will live better and earn more than the middle peasants who continue to work their lands as individuals. This will prove to be the surest method of isolating the kulak in the village and of developing and accelerating voluntary coopera­tion locally.

Progress of this kind will be realizable only by changing the method of drawing up and verifying plans. No group of spetzes can ascertain math­emat­ically the real equi­lib­rium between the needs of the workers, those of the peasants, and the capital needs of the economy, upon which equi­lib­rium depends the harmonious planning and development of the country. It is essential that the masses be induced to participate as actively as possible in the work of planning, that the greatest heed be paid to their complaints, and that the needs expressed by them be the primary factor in planning.

Complete sovereignty of the factory com­mit­tees must be established in the plants, and genuine workers’ control of production must be instituted. The trade unions must be granted their real function, which is to defend the interests of the workers, even against the Soviet state if necessary, as Lenin repeatedly asserted. In a word it is necessary to give the workers and poor peasants the clear feeling that they are the masters in the country, and that the state and the progress of the economy are in direct correspondence with their own interests.

We do not at all conceal that such a policy will encounter very great obstacles in your country and even in your own ranks. A complete re-education of your cadres in the spirit of genuine Leninism would be necessary. Still less do we conceal that world impe­ri­al­ism and the present lead­er­ship of the Russian state would furiously attack your policy, for it would appear to them a mortal threat to their acquired positions. But if you will apply the same Leninist principles in your foreign policy, you can be sure of powerful support from the workers and the oppressed of the entire world, and your cause cannot lose.

You would have to make a sharp break with all the practices of traditional secret diplomacy and return to the rev­olu­tion­ary diplomacy practiced in the time of Lenin; you would have to become the champion and active supporter of all colonial peoples revolting against their imperialist masters; you would have to proclaim to the world the conditions for a just peace, without annexa­tions or reparations; you would have to demand the immediate withdrawal of the occupation troops of all the great powers from all occupied countries, and strict application of the right of self-determination of peoples in all disputed questions. With one blow you will gain the sympathy of the Austrian and German masses who today feel themselves deceived and betrayed by all parties. You would have to develop and sharpen your propaganda in favor of the Danubian Federation by giving it its classical com­mu­nist form and by launching the slogan for the Balkan Federation of Soviet Socialist Republics among the workers and poor peasants of neighboring countries, who would take it up with enthusiasm. And finally it would be necessary to incorporate this propaganda within the concrete framework of propaganda for the Socialist Soviet United States of Europe; to convoke a conference at Belgrade of the trade-union and workers’ representatives from all the countries of Europe, including Germany and Austria; to draw up with them a plan for the economic reconstruction of the continent on a socialist basis, in opposition to the Marshall Plan, and to make this socialist plan the central axis for rev­olu­tion­ary propaganda in Europe and in the world.

Your possibilities for action along the road of genuine Leninism disclose themselves to be enormous. But your historical respon­si­bil­ity far surpasses everything which has been outlined above. Millions of workers throughout the world are today profoundly disgusted with the policies and methods used by the present leaders of the Cominform. Unwilling to pass over into the imperialist camp in any guise whatever, they vainly seek a new pole of attraction, a new political lead­er­ship. Only the vanguard of this mass has at this time found the road toward our organization, the Fourth Inter­na­tional. You can become the mobilization point for this mass of rev­olu­tion­ary workers and thus, with a single blow, com­plete­ly change the present condition of paralysis within the world working-class move­ment, the stranglehold of the agents of Washington and of the degen­er­ated Russian bureaucracy. The social strug­gles which are developing and will develop within all countries will thereby be given the opportunity for a successful rev­olu­tion­ary con­clu­sion. The Third World War, which threatens to throw the USSR and all of Europe into an abyss, can be prevented. The socialist future will unfold in all its glory before humanity.

Comrades, we address this letter to you because we are conscious of the terrible dilemma in which you find your­selves; because we under­stand exactly the tremendous respon­si­bil­ity weighing upon you, and because we consider it our com­mu­nist duty to assist you in resolving the present crisis in com­mu­nism along pro­le­tar­ian and Leninist lines.

We have many and important dif­fer­ences with your past and recent policies. We are in complete disagreement with the theory and practice of “People’s Democracy” for we do not believe in any other road from capitalism to socialism than the dictatorship of the proletariat. We believe that the use and propagation of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ways of living (servants, livery, titles, officers’ stripes, decorations) can only serve to demoralize real com­mu­nists. But we are conscious of the enormous difficulties involved in a discussion between us, in view of the separation in activities which has existed between us for so many years. For this reason we consider it our duty to convey our ideas to you in a long and fruitful discussion, in the course of which we can each advise the other of our experiences in the rev­olu­tion­ary struggle and can clarify our dif­fer­ences in a spirit of genuine pro­le­tar­ian and com­mu­nist fraternity.

Our organization, the Fourth Inter­na­tional, originated in the Left Opposition of the Bolshevik Party, which 25 years ago already saw the germs of the degeneration of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party which you are discovering today. Hunted, persecuted, expelled, the Left Opposition fought nevertheless for ten years for reintegration into the official Com­mu­nist move­ment. Only when the present lead­er­ship of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party surrendered the German proletariat to the executioner Hitler without a struggle, and thereby opened a period of bloody defeats for the world working class, did our move­ment come to the conclusion that a new rev­olu­tion­ary Inter­na­tional had to be built. Since then, the bureaucrats who now lead the Russian state have poured a ceaseless stream of vile slander over our Inter­na­tional and no crime has been too sordid for them in their attempts to destroy us. Just as today they call you “agents of impe­ri­al­ism,” so they have labeled us “fascist spies,” when in reality hundreds of our best cadres and leaders gave their lives in the struggle against fascism. Just as today they are organizing the assassination of your lead­er­ship, so did they manage to assassinate Leon Trotsky, organizer of the October victory, creator of the Red Army, the greatest leader of the Com­mu­nist move­ment since the death of Lenin—Trotsky, who just a few days before his death, expressed his unshakable devotion to com­mu­nism and to the real Soviet Union of the workers and peasants in his moving “Letter to the Soldiers of the Red Army.”

But all these crimes did not succeed in smashing the Fourth Inter­na­tional because nothing can smash genuine Leninism! Today it has sections in 35 different countries on all continents, consisting of battle-tested and experienced rev­olu­tion­ary com­mu­nist members who stand for what is best in their class. Although weak in material resources, its Second World Congress, held last April in Paris, demonstrated that it was strong in political co­he­sion, in program, and in its clear under­standing of present-day reality. Today it is launching in all countries a vast campaign protesting against the bureaucratic measures which the Cominform has taken against you. It appeals to com­mu­nist workers of all countries to send their delegations to Yugoslavia, in order to make a spot check of the real policy followed by your party. Tomorrow it will make your documents known in 20 different languages—for workers’ democracy is not just an idle phrase to the Fourth Inter­na­tional, and a com­mu­nist cannot permit a member to be judged without a hearing. It asks that you allow a delegation from our lead­er­ship to attend your Congress, in order to establish contact with the Yugoslav com­mu­nist move­ment and to set up fraternal ties which can serve only the interests of the world com­mu­nist revolution.

Comrades, the cause of com­mu­nism, of the rev­olu­tion­ary emancipation of the proletariat is invincible. No force in the world can prevent the genuine com­mu­nists from ridding themselves of slanderers and would-be assassins so that they can go forward boldly toward their rev­olu­tion­ary goal. The quicker this task is done, the faster will the world revolution triumph.

Yugoslav Com­mu­nists, Let Us Unite Our Efforts for a New Leninist Inter­na­tional! For the World Victory of Com­mu­nism!

The Inter­na­tional Secretariat
of the Fourth Inter­na­tional
July 13, 1948

206 R. Prager, ed., Les congrès de la IVe Inter­na­tionale, Vol. 3, Boule­verse­ments et crises de l’après-guerre (1946-1950) (Montreuil: Editions La Brèche-PEC, 1988), 394.  Back


At its last session the Cominform passed a res­olu­tion excommunicating your party and its lead­er­ship. This has deeply stirred the members of Com­mu­nist parties and rev­olu­tion­ary workers throughout the world. How, indeed, could they fail to be stupefied by such an abrupt about-face by the Cominform leaders who suddenly compel them to disparage a country which only yes­ter­day was pro­claimed the best model of “People’s Democracy.” Only three months ago, l’Humanité, central organ of the French Com­mu­nist Party, sang praises to the “land of Tito.” Today, l’Humanité cannot find a slander too vile with which to besmirch your party.

Only recently, Enver Hoxha, premier of Albania, declared at the fourth session of the Albanian People’s Assembly:

Our people could neither enjoy the fruits of their war victories nor be assured of recon­structing their coun­try and progress toward a better life, if it were not for the powerful, fraternal assistance accorded us in all spheres of life by the new Yugoslavia.

Today, the same Enver Hoxha cynically says:

The Central Com­mit­tee of the Yugoslav Com­mu­nist Party and its chieftain Tito have disrupted all the economic and political relations with our country....They aim to transform it into a colony of Yugoslavia....They have tried to suppress its inde­pen­dence....

The servility with which most of the lead­er­ship of the Com­mu­nist parties have carried out the orders handed down from above is surpassed only by their evident dishonesty. Your party is accused of “lack of democracy.” At the same time your accusers set up a hue and cry in which your party is condemned without the Com­mu­nist Party members having been informed objectively about the existing dif­fer­ences, without affording you an opportunity to defend your­selves, without letting the members of various Com­mu­nist parties become acquainted with the text of your reply to the Cominform res­olu­tion.

The double-dealing of these “leaders” is shown even more clearly by their refusal to accept your invitation to attend your Congress. This refusal means nothing else but that the leaders of the Com­mu­nist parties refuse to acquaint their members with the real situation in Yugoslavia. They prefer to despicably deceive the Com­mu­nist workers throughout the world rather than “disobey” an order sent by Russia.

These facts, coupled with the treatment you are receiving, illustrate the methods of “persuasion” used by the leaders of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party. They intervene in the life of other Com­mu­nist parties by means of brutal and ultimatistic ukases; they arbitrarily impose their rule on all parties, without the least con­sid­era­tion for the traditions, experiences or sentiments of the respective party members. At the same time, the leaders of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party jealously guard their own privileges, regarding as treachery the slightest criticism of their own policies, and arrogating to themselves the right to excommunicate anyone who balks at following slavishly the countless zigzags of their tortuous party line.

The evil you have suddenly discovered, however, has existed for a long time. It existed during the final decade of the Com­mu­nist Inter­na­tional as well as during the five years since its dissolution. The grave sickness of the Com­mu­nist parties and the main cause of the innumerable setbacks and bloody defeats they have suffered are to be found in the absolute control arrogated to themselves by the leaders of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party. This control has led to a constant subordination of the interests of the socialist revolution, in one country after another, to the episodic needs confronting Russia.

Today the Kremlin is determined to force you to abandon your industrialization policy, just as in January 1945 it forced Thorez to disarm the French partisans for the benefit of de Gaulle. During the Spanish Civil War, when the workers seized the factories, the Kremlin forced the Spanish Com­mu­nists to declare that this was “treason.” It instructed the German Com­mu­nist Party to follow the suicidal course from 1930 to 1933 which permitted Hitler to seize power.

But events each time proved that far from rendering the Soviet Union stronger in the face of the imperialist forces, the weakening of the in­ter­na­tion­al proletariat isolated the Soviet Union still more and permitted the imperialists to deal terrible blows, such as that of 1941.

Once again today, in order to maintain their absolute sway over the Cominform, the leaders of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party do not hesitate to employ against your party, policies which play into the hands of American impe­ri­al­ism and which can be utilized by all the enemies of the working class against the Soviet Union itself.

Comrades, you your­selves have already raised the question of the reason for this non-com­mu­nist conduct of the Russian lead­er­ship toward the Com­mu­nist parties of other countries. In this connection you might indeed have used the term “degeneration” in your reasoning. One should not fear this word, nor its real meaning and content. The outstanding trait of a Bolshevik is his courage in approaching reality and seeing it as it actually is, no matter how bitter the truth, no matter how painful the examination of this reality may be. It is a crime for a com­mu­nist to deceive the workers or his own comrades—and this happens to be the real crime that the Com­mu­nist Party leaders of many countries have just committed once again. But it is an even bigger crime to deceive oneself through fear of the sad reality which one does not wish to accept.

It would be the grossest self-deception to assume even for a moment that a country, governed by a party whose conduct toward its sister parties is so utterly non-com­mu­nist, can nevertheless play the role of the vanguard of socialism. It would be self-deception to assume that policies which led to crises in so many Com­mu­nist parties can still remain Leninist policies.

Yes, the Soviet Union and the lead­er­ship of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party have degen­er­ated. Yes, they have ceased to represent the vanguard of the world com­mu­nist forces since the time they subordinated the interests of the world revolution to their own interests. We repeat: They act in their own interests and not those of the Russian proletariat. The interests of the workers and the oppressed of all countries are one and the same, and the interests of com­mu­nism are indivisible the world over. That is why the abandonment by the Russian leaders of the cause of com­mu­nism beyond the Soviet frontiers proves beyond doubt that they have abandoned this same cause inside the Soviet Union itself; that is to say, their degeneration is profound.

Causes of the Degeneration of the Soviet Union

However painful it may seem to you, it is now necessary to put your finger on the social origin of this degeneration. In Lenin’s time, and even after, Com­mu­nist func­tion­aries in both the party and the government strictly adhered to the rule that their salaries could not be higher than the average wage of a skilled worker. Non-Com­mu­nist specialists and technicians, whom the young Soviet Republic sorely needed, were of necessity paid higher salaries, but they were placed under the strict control of the workers lest they should abuse those advantages which the state had been compelled to grant them. The workers remained the masters in the factories, in the soviets, in the party. Com­mu­nist discipline was voluntary, arising from the enthusiasm for the class struggle and the victorious revolution. The party’s internal life, along with that of the Com­mu­nist Inter­na­tional at the time, was regulated by discussion, as impassioned as it was free. The most important decisions were reached on the basis of genuine conviction, that is to say, in accord with the experience and level of consciousness of the party members. The party was intimately tied to its class and through these ties brought the entire proletariat into participation in the running of the state and the economy.

Today all this is changed in the Soviet Union. The soviets are dissolved. The workers do not exercise the slightest control in the factories; instead they are com­plete­ly at the mercy of the factory manager’s every whim. The discrepancies in basic earnings are even greater than in capitalist countries. Com­mu­nist func­tion­aries collect salaries as high as those of petty-bourgeois spetzes (specialists). An abyss separates the living conditions of the working masses from those of the bureaucracy which runs the economy and the state. This bureaucracy has com­plete­ly wiped out inner-party democracy; it has elim­inated and murdered the Old Guard Bolshe­viks; it has converted the party into a vehicle for protecting its own privileges; it has destroyed the party as the instrument of in­ter­na­tion­al com­mu­nism.

This bureaucracy has today become a closed caste which guards its positions as jealously against the workers at home as it is doing against you.

One of your most remarkable accom­plish­ments in Yugoslavia, just as in the October Revolution in Russia, is the extension of free high school and college education to all children of workers and poor peasants. You must be aware of the fact that as far back as eight years ago the Russian government abolished this enormously progressive development and reintro­duced the system of paying for high school and college education, thereby in practice restricting such education to the children of func­tion­aries and well-to-do petty bourgeois, and sentencing the overwhelming majority of children to semi-ignorance. Is this not the best proof that the leaders of the Russian state and party have stopped the forward march toward socialism, and in fact have gone into reverse gear toward an ever increasing social inequality?

The existence of these bureaucratic privileges in Russia, far from being combatted by the leaders of the Com­mu­nist Party of the USSR, is systematically protected; this also explains at the same time the ideological form assumed by the degeneration of this lead­er­ship. In Lenin’s time, the lead­er­ship of the Bolshevik Party and of the Com­mu­nist Inter­na­tional, even when directly engaged in ne­go­ti­a­tions with imperialist powers, openly declared to the world proletariat that capitalism and socialism are two incompatible regimes. Not for one minute did it suspend calling upon the workers of all the capitalist countries to overthrow the rule of their own exploiters, and actively preparing them for it. It always fitted the domestic and foreign policy of the USSR into the framework of the strategy of world socialist revolution, and considered its prime task to be that of giving maximum assistance to the Com­mu­nist parties of other countries so that they could take advantage of every rev­olu­tion­ary situation which opened up before them for the overthrow of capitalism.

Of course Lenin and the lead­er­ship of the Bolshevik Party and the Com­mu­nist Inter­na­tional at that time, could not exclude the possibility, even the necessity, of temporary com­pro­mises with impe­ri­al­ism. Every sane revolutionist under­stands that every war, and cer­tainly the social war of the working class against the capitalist class, is nec­es­sar­ily inter­rupted by periods of calm, of truces and of armistices. But as Lenin so lucidly explained in “Left-Wing” Com­mu­nism: An Infantile Disorder, such com­pro­mises in the class struggle are allowed solely on condition “of knowing how to apply these tactics in such a way as to raise and not lower the general level of pro­le­tar­ian class consciousness, rev­olu­tion­ary spirit, ability to fight and to conquer.”

This conception of Lenin flowed logically from the doctrine of the Bolshevik Party and of the Com­mu­nist Inter­na­tional, according to which the socialist revolution can be only the work of the conscious and sovereign working masses.

Results of Degeneration

The social degeneration of the USSR has brought it to a complete revision of these fun­da­men­tal principles of Leninism. Today it proclaims and makes all the leaders of the parties which follow it also proclaim that capitalism and socialism are two systems which can live side by side in complete peace and harmony. It categorically forbids the leaders of the Com­mu­nist parties in bourgeois countries to speak of “revolution” or of the overthrow of ca­pi­talism in their countries. On the contrary it orders them to restrict their propaganda to the “defense of the national inde­pen­dence” of their own capitalist countries! These same leaders who today accuse you of “misunder­standing the Marxist-Leninist conception of class and of the state” have themselves kept the com­mu­nist workers of the capitalist countries in the darkest ignorance on these questions. They were not content only to enter the capitalist governments of France, Italy, Belgium, etc. from 1945 to 1947 and to forget everything that Lenin wrote against the reformist Social-Democracy on the impossibility of “con­quer­ing” the bourgeois state apparatus from within and on the necessity of destroying it and replacing it with a new workers’ Soviet state apparatus. They have gone so far during this period as to forbid the workers to make use of strikes for improving their miserable living conditions, and this in countries which are the bastions of European capitalism!

All these maneuvers have not in the least deceived the imperialist bourgeoisie, as the emissaries and foreign agents of the leaders of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party would have us believe. The bourgeoisie has not for a moment given up its view that the Soviet Union is a mortal enemy. But they have confused, disoriented and deceived the workers of the capitalist countries. Only yes­ter­day the workers saw the leaders of the Com­mu­nist parties opposing their class move­ments, whereas today such move­ments are abruptly and bureau­cratically launched. Thus the workers have the impression of being the dupes of a policy which is foreign to their own interests and of being utilized solely as a “maneuverable mass” by their leaders.

This policy broke the rev­olu­tion­ary fervor of the masses which, in France, Italy and elsewhere in 1944, equaled the fervor you experienced in your country. This is explained precisely by the fun­da­men­tal revision of the very conception of socialism wrought by the leaders of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party. Whereas Lenin and the Com­mu­nist Inter­na­tional in its initial period considered socialist revolution in the capitalist world the product of mass action, the present lead­er­ship of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party is preoccupied exclusively with the military, economic and territorial expansion of the USSR. Whereas Lenin and the Com­mu­nist Inter­na­tional in its initial period considered it their most important task to assist the Com­mu­nist parties of other countries onto the road of rev­olu­tion­ary mobilization of the masses in their own countries, the present lead­er­ship of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party, contemptuous of foreign Com­mu­nist parties and workers—as you know well from your own sad experience!—does not in the least hesitate to bar the rev­olu­tion­ary and socialist road to its fellow parties when this is required by its own sordid con­sid­era­tions. This break with the Leninist conception of world revolution is the most conclusive ideological proof of the profound degeneration of the present lead­er­ship of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party and of its complete rupture with the interests of the world proletariat.

Under these conditions, it seems particularly cynical for the present leaders of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party and of the Cominform to accuse you of misunder­standing “pro­le­tar­ian in­ter­na­tion­alism” and of following a nationalist policy. This is said by those same Russian leaders whose chauvinistic propaganda during the war, in which they refused to draw a distinction between the German workers and their Nazi butchers, was chiefly responsible for the absence of a revolution in Germany, whereas in Yugoslavia the partisan move­ment was able to attract into its ranks thousands of worker-soldiers from the occupation armies. This is said by a Togliatti who did not hesitate to launch, along with the genuine fascists of the MSI (Movimento Sociale dell’Italia), a chauvinist campaign for the return of former colonies to his capitalist country. This is said by a Thorez whose nationalist hysteria on the question of reparations for imperialist France gives untold satisfaction to bourgeois politicians in the Poincaré tradition. Really, these people are cer­tainly in a very poor position to give lessons on in­ter­na­tion­alism to anybody.

It is no less true, comrades, that the nation­al­ism introduced into the Com­mu­nist parties corresponds precisely with this same kind of degeneration which you now discern in Russia. No progress can be made toward socialism unless every trace of nation­al­ism is extirpated from the thinking of com­mu­nist militants. To fight for the right of self-determination of each nation, to struggle against national oppres­sion, continually introduced and extended under impe­ri­al­ism in its decadent phase, is a primary task for the com­mu­nist move­ment. And genuine com­mu­nists are distinguished from petty-bourgeois nationalists precisely by the fact that they conduct this struggle in an in­ter­na­tion­alist spirit, always drawing a line between the bourgeoisie and proletariat of the imperialist country, carrying on the struggle within the framework of the rev­olu­tion­ary struggle for the overthrow of ca­pi­tal­ism in their own country. It is particularly necessary to elim­inate from propaganda all appeals to a national tradition which can injure the workers of other countries, all attacks against nations as such, all territorial demands based on chauvinist arguments. The Austrian and Italian bourgeoisies are today hoping that the Com­mu­nist parties of their countries, under the directives from the Cominform, will line up in the capitalist camp to “solve” the problem of Carinthia and Trieste in the interests of impe­ri­al­ism. You must under­stand that there is only one way to foil the infamous maneuvers of the bourgeoisie and of the leaders of the Cominform against your party: that is to appeal boldly to the in­ter­na­tion­al solidarity of the workers, to proclaim aloud the right of peoples to self-determination, and to propose solutions of outstanding problems along this line.

You have settled the national question in your country with some degree of success. A truly com­mu­nist and in­ter­na­tion­alist attitude toward in­ter­na­tion­al problems would not fail to strengthen immeasurably your position in the consciousness and feeling of millions of workers throughout the entire world.

What Road Will You Follow?

Comrades, your Congress which is about to meet, the delegates which will compose it, and the thousands of com­mu­nist members whom they will represent, find themselves, on this day following the Cominform res­olu­tion against your party, confronting decisions of truly historical import. Three roads are open to you and you must choose one of them. Your choice will decide for years, if not for decades, the fate of your country and of its proletariat, and will exercise a profound influence on the evolution and future of the entire world com­mu­nist movement.

The first road open to you would be to consider that despite the serious injuries dealt you by the leaders of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party, it is above all necessary today, in the present world situation, to maintain a complete monolithic unity with the policies and ideology of the Russian Com­mu­nist Party. There are cer­tainly members in your midst who will propose such a course and will even suggest that it is preferable, under these conditions, to make a public apology and a declaration accepting the “criticism” of the Cominform, even to change your lead­er­ship, and wait for a “better occasion” to defend your particular conceptions within the “big com­mu­nist family.”