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

Reforge a Fourth International That Trotsky Would Call His Own!
by Jan Norden

Continued from left column

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’ coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion.” 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.

Discussion on Yugoslavia: Round One with Pablo

At its Seventh Plenum in April 1949, the IEC decided to open a discussion in the Inter­na­tional on Yugoslavia. This discussion was marked by rampant confusion, as could be imagined from the FI’s shifting pro­gram­matic state­ments. Over the course of three years, a number of individuals changed position: Pablo was initially the most enthu­si­as­tically pro-Tito, but after the outbreak of the Korean War he most strongly emphasized the deformed character of the Yugoslav regime; in the French section, Lambert was initially critical of the I.S.’ capitulatory policy toward Tito, but by 1951 was criticizing Pablo for being too harsh on Yugoslavia; Bleibtreu was consistently soft on the Yugoslavs, first supporting Pablo, then Lambert; Mestre in turn was consistently harder on Yugoslavia, initially aligned with Lambert, later with Pablo; and Germain was consistently confusionist. Yet amid the confusion, one can discern the early stages of a battle which by 1951-53 was to put into question the very existence of the Fourth International.

At the heart of the internal struggle over Yugoslavia was a drive by Pablo to deny the need for an inde­pen­dent Trotskyist vanguard. He gener­al­ized his liquidationist program of chasing after Stalinist forces from initially tailing Tito to seeing rev­o­lu­tionary possibilities in the Kremlin itself and the European CPs which followed its orders. On the other hand, the response of those who opposed Pablo was marked by a formalistic pseudo-orthodoxy that was unable to explain events in East Europe when reality didn’t square with their undia­lec­tical cat­e­gories. Reasoning that Stalinism, as a coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tionary force, could never carry out a social rev­o­lu­tion, how­ever bureau­crat­ically deformed, they first denied that Yugoslavia had overthrown capitalist rule, only to then claim that there had been an authentic pro­le­tar­ian rev­o­lu­tion and Tito’s YCP had been able to establish a workers state because it was not Stalinist. The theo­ret­ical confusion that resulted from such con­tor­tions ser­i­ously under­mined the struggle against Pabloist liquidationism, and eventually fed into the American SWP’s embrace of the same revisionist program a decade later over Cuba.

As head of the Inter­na­tional Secretariat, Pablo was responsible for the initial “Open Letters” which embraced the Tito regime. In his first signed article on the Tito-Stalin split, “The Yugoslav Affair,” writ­ten in August 1948, Pablo argued that the Yugoslav CP during the war “led a real mass movement with distinct rev­o­lu­tionary tendencies which brought it to power.”85 A year later, Pablo was already raising many of the themes which he later elaborated into a wholesale attack on Trotskyism. In September 1949 he wrote:

Thus, in the historic period of the transition from capitalism to social­ism we shall witness the rise not of normal workers’ states, but of more or less degen­er­ated workers’ states, that is, states with strong bureau­crat­ic deform­a­tions which can reach the point of complete political expropriation of the pro­le­tar­iat.86

Asserting that “in our epoch, the pro­le­tar­ian power established in a single country will inevitably and rapidly become bureau­crat­ized,” Pablo argued that “there is no other remedy than to bring to bear the weight of the world organ­i­za­tion of the pro­le­tar­iat,” which “alone is capable of coun­ter­balancing the corrupting influence of national isolation upon the party in power.”87

Thus Pablo declared that Stalinist degeneration was no longer an exceptional situation but rather constitutedmodifications in the norm of pro­le­tar­ian power”! In asserting that bureau­cratization was “inevitable,” he simply wrote off the Trotskyist program of pro­le­tar­ian political rev­o­lu­tion to overthrow the Stalinist bureaucracy. Moreover, these “modified norms” were destined to last for a considerable time:

…in the whole historic period of the transition from capitalism to social­ism, a period which can extend for centuries, we shall encoun­ter a much more tortuous and complicated development of the rev­o­lu­tion than our teachers foresaw—and workers’ states that are not normal but necessarily quite deformed.88

This is the revisionist per­spec­tive that came to be characterized by Pablo’s opponents as “centuries of deformed workers states.” It liquidates the need for the Fourth Inter­na­tional as an inde­pen­dent rev­o­lu­tionary leadership, at best reducing it to the role of oppo­si­tion after the necessary/inevitable bureau­cratization of the rev­o­lu­tion, or, more likely given Pablo’s later evolution, to the role of “Marxist” braintrusters to the Stalinist regimes—or even to left-talking rulers of capitalist states. (In the early 1960s Pablo [Raptis] acted as a government adviser to Ben Bella’s Algeria, and in the early 1970s to a lesser extent to Allende’s Chile, peddling “self-management” schemes borrowed from Tito’s Yugoslavia.)

Already in 1949, Pablo referred to Yugoslavia as “a workers’ state deformed from its birth,” which was “led and controlled by a caste forming into a bureaucracy.”89 But he pointedly did not call for a workers political rev­o­lu­tion to oust this bureaucracy. (Logical enough, since according to him bureau­cratization was “inevitable.”) Unfor­tun­ately, how­ever, the far-reaching liquidationist implications of his analysis were largely ignored at the time, since his opponents were arguing that Yugoslavia along with the rest of East Europe remained capitalist. Thus most of his initial document was taken up with long quotes from Yugoslav officials demonstrating that the bour­geoisie had indeed been liquidated. Pablo again took up this same theme in February 1950, arguing against Germain’s con­struct of the East European states as capitalist states on the road to structural assimilation into the USSR.90

The main response to Pablo was given by Germain.91 In his opus, Germain adduced all manner of arguments to show that the states of the “buffer zone” remained capitalist. But how did he square this with the Marxist definition of the state, since the armed force was entirely in the hands of the Stalinists (local and Soviet), and the economies had by this time been essentially collectivized except for agriculture? Referring to Engels’ “jewel-like formula” of the state as a body of armed men, he waved this aside, averring that it “suffices to explain to novices the Marxist theory of the state and to find one’s way in cases which are comparatively simple,” but was of no use at all in this complicated situation. Likewise he rejected the criterion of what class interests the state serves and dismissed the evidence of the expro­priation of the bour­geoisie throughout East Europe, claiming that Mussolini did the same in his 1943-44 “SalÚ Republic” (in German-occupied northern Italy)!

Instead the erudite Marxist savant discerned “an entirely special type of capitalism.” He discovered an entirely new category, a “bastard” bour­geois state, or, “if one wishes,” “a degen­er­ated bour­geois state on the road to structural assimilation with the USSR”!92 It is easy to poke holes in this contorted concoction. Germain in fact threw the Marxist theory of the state out the window in his desperate attempt to maintain the classification of the East European states as capitalist. To get around the problem of defending Belgrade against Moscow while arguing that capitalism hadn’t yet been destroyed in Yugoslavia, he labeled it a “workers and peasants government”—essentially giving Tito & Co. a certificate of rev­o­lu­tionary good conduct. His invention of a “bastard/degenerated bour­geois state” was simply playing with words, allowing him to keep on calling the buffer zone capitalist while emptying this term of all verifiable content. But why did he go to such absurd lengths?

Following Trotsky’s observation that “every sociological definition is at bottom an historical prognosis,” Germain warned that those who defined East Europe as workers states were adopting “a per­spec­tive of the possibility of a growth and increasing development of Stalinism on an inter­na­tional scale in the years and decades to come!” That “would oblige us to revise from top to bottom our historical appraisal of Stalinism….We would then have to repudiate the entire Trotskyist argument against Stalinism since 1924, a line of argument based on the inevitable destruc­tion of the USSR by imper­ialism in the event of an extremely prolonged postponement of the world rev­o­lu­tion.”93 Germain was quite wrong to insist that recognizing East Europe as deformed workers states would mean abandoning Trotsky’s analysis and rev­o­lu­tionary program against Stalinism. But he did accurately discern that this is what Pablo & Co. were driving at. The same concern was voiced by various leaders of the SWP who were clearly driven by fear of the potential implications of recognizing the East European regimes as deformed workers states. Morris Stein, in a February 1950 report to the SWP National Committee plenum, noted: “their ‘workers states’ have come into exis­tence not by means of pro­le­tar­ian rev­o­lu­tion but through bureau­crat­ic coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion. How square this with our Marxist concepts of the pro­le­tar­ian rev­o­lu­tion?”94 John G. Wright, who called Germain’s tortured document “brilliant,” wrote:

Finally, to call the regimes in Eastern Europe “workers states” is to say that the Stalinists have been and are carrying out rev­o­lu­tionary tasks there, in a bureau­crat­ic way, in a “deformed” way, qualify it how you may, rev­o­lu­tionary nonetheless. We must challenge that. We must say that just the contrary is true. It is the coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tionary essence of Stalinism that has come to the fore in Eastern Europe, and not the reverse.95

This wooden orthodoxy of the SWP was based not on a dialectical and materialist analysis of the situation, but on fear that if it were admitted that capitalist rule was destroyed in the states of the Soviet-dominated “buffer zone,” then all of Marxism would collapse along with the jus­ti­fi­cation for the very existence of the rev­o­lu­tionary party. The bankruptcy of this “method” was shown by what happened when the fact of the expropriation of the bour­geoisie in East Europe could no longer be denied. Only five months after writing his treatise, Germain flipflopped and at the Eighth Plenum of the IEC (April 1950) suddenly declared that Yugoslavia was now “a non-degenerated workers’ state”!96 And when they had to face the truth on the buffer zone, Germain’s supporters simply pretended that his criteria for “structural assimilation” into the Soviet Union had been accomplished. Thus Murry Weiss, reporting for the National Committee to the SWP’s November 1950 convention, declared: “The salient characteristic of the whole process has been the destruc­tion of these states as separate states, and their incorporation, in one form or another, into the USSR.”97

This is not successive approximations, but rather repeated obfuscation. In fact, Trotsky had laid the theo­ret­ical basis for recognizing that the Stalinists could, under unusual conditions, overthrow bour­geois rule. The Transitional Program states: “one cannot categorically deny in advance the theo­ret­ical possibility that, under the influence of completely exceptional cir­cum­stances (war, defeat, financial crash, mass rev­o­lu­tionary pressure, etc.), the petty-bourgeois parties, including the Stalinists, may go further than they themselves wish along the road to a break with the bour­geoisie.”98 But where Trotsky wrote of this as a “highly improbable variant,” the Pabloist revisionists seized upon this phrase and turned it into the norm. The anti-Pablo forces denied reality as long as they could and then capitulated, rather than insisting that even in those exceptional conditions where rev­o­lu­tions led by Stalinist and other petty-bourgeois forces overthrow capitalism, this is accomplished against their own program, and the resulting bonapartist regimes remain a roadblock to inter­na­tional social­ist rev­o­lu­tion.

In the fight over Yugoslavia in the Fourth Inter­na­tional, one can see the origins and early stages of Pabloism. Yet it was not yet the full-blown liquidationist program. One indication of this is that the lineup over Yugoslavia was not identical to that in 1953, when the battle came to a head. In the former case, not only those who later stood with Pablo, such as Bert Cochran (who used the name E.R. Frank) and Michèle Mestre, called for recognition that Yugoslavia and the rest of East Europe were workers states, but also Joseph Hansen, who was one of the leaders of the fight against the pro-Pablo Cochran-Clarke faction in the SWP. In a December 1949 document, Hansen noted: “Labelling such a country in Eastern Europe as Yugoslavia a ‘workers state’ concedes nothing to Stalinism and does not involve a revision of the Marxist theory of the state.” He stressed that events in Eastern Europe were merely “the positive side of a development that was a major blow to the social­ist movement. While the bor­der­lands experienced an upset in property rela­tions, Stalin’s henchmen in France and Italy were knifing workers’ uprisings in the back. All Europe, including Germany, might have been social­ist today were it not for the crimes of Stalinism at the close of the war.”99

Yet Hansen didn’t recognize that Tito, too, was a Stalinist, and the SWP went along with the FI’s capitulatory line on Yugoslavia. Once again, in this discussion the only treatment of Yugoslavia and East Europe that followed the lines of Trotsky’s own writings on Soviet Stalinism came from the British RCP. A May 1949 document by Bill Hunter, “The I.S. and Eastern Europe,” pointed out anew how events had confirmed the RCP’s amendments at the Second World Congress a year earlier. Hunter noted that the position that Yugoslavia was a workers state, but the rest of East Europe wasn’t, amounted to a “halfway house,” insisting that comrades who took that line couldn’t hold to it for long. Hunter went back to Trotsky’s 1940 work, In Defense of Marxism,100 for some guidelines:

Trotsky said of Poland in 1939, “This overturn was forced upon the Kremlin oligarchy through its struggle for self preservation under specific conditions.”

It was that same struggle for self preservation which was the determining factor of the Kremlin’s post war policy in Eastern Europe….The fact [that] Stalinism under certain specific cir­cum­stances carries out rev­o­lu­tionary measures does not cancel out its past, its origins, its conservative and counter-revolutionary aspects, its bureau­crat­ic base and the effect of its methods on the world working class movement. On the other hand we cannot be blinded to the particular pro­gres­sive measures Stalinism is forced to carry out because of the viability of the property form on which it rests. The Fourth Inter­na­tional is not to be justified by ignoring facts, or attempting to pour them into preconceived theo­ret­ical vessels. In that way lies a fog of mysticism.

To declare that under every and all particular conditions the Stalinist bureaucracy must com­promise with the bour­geoisie means never to understand the events in Eastern Europe.... How­ever, this does not mean that the bureaucracy has taken up the banner of world rev­o­lu­tion. Its struggle still remains a defensive one within the framework of gaining the best possible compromise with world impe­ri­alism.101

Unfor­tun­ately, even though Hunter’s document was promised in the introduction to the first SWP Inter­na­tional Information Bulletin announcing the start of discussion on Yugoslavia in the FI, it never appeared.102 For that matter, as far as we could discover, none of the RCP’s letters and state­ments against the I.S./IEC line(s) on Yugoslavia and East Europe were ever widely circulated, or published in the SWP’s internal bulletins. Instead, Morris Stein, in opening the discussion on East Europe in the SWP Political Committee, simply dismissed them with a wave of the hand, remarking, “I am not dealing with the position of the British RCP,” since it “rep­re­sents no new factor” and its views were already “over­whelmingly rejected” by the 1948 World Congress.103


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. Back

2 Ibid., 113. Back

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

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

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. Back

6 “Genesis of Pabloism.” Back

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).  Back

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 as LCQI), Vol. 3, Bouleversements et crises de l’après-guerre (1946-1950) (Montreuil: Editions La Brèche-PEC, 1988), 155-201. Back

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

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. Back

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

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

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

14An 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 membres 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!” Back

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. Back

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

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. Back

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

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

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 CPSEERBack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 Ibid., 6-7. Back

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

32 Militant, 13 November 1950. Back

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

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. Back

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

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

37 Workers Power, Death Agony, 35. Back

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

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. Back

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

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

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

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

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. Back

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

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. Back

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. Back

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

49 Workers Power, Death Agony, 28-29. Back

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

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. Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.” Back

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

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

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

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

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. Back

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

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.” Back

76 “Genesis of Pabloism.” Back

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. Back

78 Ibid. Back

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. Back

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). 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. Back

81 Ibid. Back

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. Back

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. Back

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

85 Michel Pablo, “The Yugoslav Affair,” Fourth Inter­na­tional, December 1948, 241. Back

86 Michel Pablo, “On the Class Nature of Yugoslavia,” SWP Inter­na­tional Information Bulletin, December 1949, 2. Back

87 Ibid., 3. Back

88 Ibid., 3. Back

89 Ibid., 27. Back

90 Michel Pablo, “Yugoslavia and the Rest of the Buffer Zone,” SWP Inter­na­tional Information Bulletin, May 1950. Back

91 Ernest Germain (Mandel), “The Yugoslav Question, the Question of the Soviet Buffer Zone, and Their Implications for Marxist Theory” (October 1949), SWP Inter­na­tional Information Bulletin, January 1950. Back

92 Ibid., 32. Back

93 Ibid., 42. Back

94 Morris Stein, “The Class Nature of the Buffer Coun­tries in Eastern Europe,” SWP Discussion Bulletin No. 3, June 1950, 8. Back

95 John G. Wright, “The Importance of Method in the Discussion on the Kremlin-Dominated Buffer Zone,” SWP Discussion Bulletin No. 2, April 1950, 5. Back

96 Ernest Germain (Mandel), “Draft Resolution on the Development of the Yugoslav Revolution,” SWP Inter­na­tional Information Bulletin, September 1950, 12. Back

97 Murry Weiss, “Report on Yugoslavia and Related Questions,” SWP Discussion Bulletin No. 6, January 1951, 2. Back

98 Leon Trotsky, Transitional Program, 135. Back

99 Joseph Hansen, “The Problem of Eastern Europe,” SWP Internal Bulletin Vol. XII, No. 2, February 1950, reprinted in CPSEER, 33. Back

100 Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism (New York: Pioneer Publishers, 1942). Back

101 Bill Hunter, “The I.S. and Eastern Europe.” A photocopy of an original from the archives of Sam Bornstein is in the holdings of the Prometheus Research Library. Back

102 Inter­na­tional Secretariat, Introduction (October 1949), SWP Inter­na­tional Information Bulletin, December 1949. Back

103 “Remarks by M. Stein Opening Political Committee Discussion on IEC Resolution on Eastern Europe” (12 July 1949), SWP Internal Bulletin, Vol. XI, No. 5, October 1949, reprinted in CPSEER, 17. Back


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 Yugoslav Com­mu­nist 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 coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tionary.”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 coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion 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 coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion. 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