Letter on Yugoslavia

Sent to the IEC by the RCP (Britain)

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.

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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. 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 dell’Italia, in their 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 souls of 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 I.S. 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 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.

But there is another aspect of the I.S. 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 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.

If indeed there exists in Yugoslavia a capitalist state, then the I.S. letters can only be characterised as outright opportunist. For the I.S. 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 letter are:

That 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 I.S. deem it necessary to call on the Yugoslav workers to overthrow cap­i­talism. Had the I.S. 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 I.S. 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 zone 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

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 still remain, despite the break with Stalin, Stalinists in method and training.

In our opinion, the Open Letters of the I.S. 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 letters 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 I.S. 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 feelings” 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 I.S. 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 wishes of Moscow in the past.