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New International, July–August 1950



The Nature of Titoism

An Exchange of Views on Tito’s Yugoslavia

(January 1950)


From New International, Vol. XVI No. 4, July–August 1950, pp. 234–237.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Comrade Hal Draper, in his articles on Titoism (in the December issues of Labor Action), has written that “Titoism is spreading as a disintegrative force in the Russian empire not because it is ceasing to be a form of Stalinism, but precsiely because it is a form of Stalinism.” Furthermore, he wrote that Titoism “spreads as a disease of Stalinism.” In my opinion, a disease in a living organism (cancer in human beings, for example) is never of the same form or nature as the threatened organism. Titoism, it may be, is a “cancer” in the “organism” of Stalinism, and only thus might it be said that it is the beginning of its end. But in spite of this simple logic Comrade Draper wants to assure us that the cancer and the human body are of the same essence, form and nature, that Titoism is a form of Stalinism, that it is the same social system of bureaucratic collectivism.

For the most part I agree with Comrade Draper that all wish-fantasies must be left aside. But just because of that agreement, I want to draw our joint attention to several facts which gainsay his conclusions.

Is Titoism the same social system as Stalinism? My answer to this question is: As yet, it is not.

There are the following facts:

  1. In its historical social progress, Stalinism is an accomplished, completed social system; it is state-capitalism. Titoism is only seven years “old”; it has reached its present stage only four years after the revolution in Yugoslavia. In such a short time, no definite social system could be constructed, except on paper.
  2. Stalinism is a new class society with an upper exploitive class of party magnates and bureaucrats who possess, de facto, the right of collective property and of exploiting all the means of production and all labor power. There is no individual private property in the means of production. Titoism, on the contrary, in its present stage is a social system with a mixed economy of private capitalism, and partially nationalized means of production. The petty-bourgeois peasantry, which is about 90 per cent of the whole population, has the means of production in its own individual private possession. To be sure, a bureaucracy exists (as in every other state), but it is not yet a social class as it is in Russia.
  3. Stalinism is a totalitarianism in which the dictatorship of a single party and the police has been brought to the highest extreme. In Yugoslavia the dictatorship of the CP is based on a larger part of society which is united in the People’s Front. Inner-party democracy has existed hitherto, and that could be proved, for instance, by the lively discussions in the party press. Besides, nobody can affirm, especially after his break with Moscow, that Tito’s regime has no support from the side of the Yugoslav workers and peasantry.
  4. The organizational forms of a new state-capitalist society in Russia are wholly completed. In Yugoslavia they are not. There are still several possibilities open for that or for another direction of development and progress. Indeed, Titoism tries to find this other direction; this could be proved through examining the direction of the collectivization of agriculture, which is really different from the Stalinist development. For instance, in a single Russian collective farm (kolkhoz) 73 per cent of production is taken away by the state; in a Yugoslavian cooperative farm only 5 per cent of production is bought in accordance with the plan (but not confiscated!) by the state, and the rest of the produce is subject to the free will of the cooperative members. In a Yugoslav cooperative farm with 1,000 members there are only two administrative employees (bureaucrats); in a Russian kolkhoz there are at least 25! The plan of agricultural work in every farm in Yugoslavia is being prepared by the cooperative farmers themselves; in Russia, “the vanguard of the world proletariat,” the Central Committee of the CP every year dictates the day and the distance for the weeding of the sugar beat crop. One says nothing about forced collectivization in Russia and the voluntary process in Yugoslavia, etc. Similarly in the case of organizational forms in industry, in the trade unions, in the carrying out of the administration of the plants, etc.

Thus, the facts assert that Titoism and Stalinism are not the same social system. Unfortunately, this is not the place to discuss these facts more broadly, and also not the place to consider the social origin of Titoism which is, by the way, different from Stalinism too.

Comrade Draper says that Titoism is “national-Stalinism.” In that case, one could say that Russian Stalinism is a national form of Titoism, is it not?! Surely Russian Stalinism is much more nationalistic than mere Yugoslav Titoism! But, taking the problem seriously, one could agree that Titosim is, in a certain degree, the pure national manifestation of Yugoslav nationalism. But as such it is not a new phenomenon in history. For instance, in the Russian Ukraine in the 1920s and early 1930s there were Ukrainian national “Titos” in the persons of several prominent Bolsheviks, members of the Ukrainian Communist Party – a party which was later liquidated by the Stalinist “Communist” Party (Bolshevik) of the Ukraine – such as Skrypnyk, Shumsky, Volobuyiv, Khvylovy and others. But they really were only a national manifestation, an opposition to Stalinist Russia’s imperialistic national policy; and just because of this fact they were unsuccessful in their struggle.

If Titoism were only a nationalist phenomenon, I surmise it would follow its Ukrainian “predecessors” in not too long a time. But just as we saw above that, in my opinion, it is not as yet the Stalinist social system, so also would it be risky to affirm that it is only the pure manifestation of Yugoslav nationalism. We must not forget that Yugoslav at present consists of six federated national republics, the national aspirations of which are not always the same.

What are the perspectives of Titoism in Yugoslavia? In Comrade Draper’s consideration they are very vague. I have no taste for telling fortunes, anymore than for being led by wish-fantasies, but in my opinion it is possible to mark specified perspectives of development in a given direction. This direction, about which one can speak more or less surely, will be clearer if the question asked above is reformulated: what are the perspectives for the degeneration of Titoism? As I stated above, Titoism is not yet the completed new social system; it is not yet Stalinism. One can therefore ask: when and under what circumstances could Titoism become Stalinism, degenerate into it? The analogy with the historical development of Stalinism can help us to answer that question.

The existing Tito dictatorship is really the regrettable, but at the same time also inevitable, factor. It is inevitable because any relaxation of it could lead inevitably to Stalin’s victory. On the other hand, we know that every dictatorship can lead to totalitarianism, and totalitarianism in its turn lead to the degeneration of society. It is precisely the Stalinist totalitarianism that has led the Russian Revolution to degeneration. The Tito dictatorship today is not yet totalitarianism. It is very similar politically to Kemal Ataturk’s dictatorship in Turkey in the 1920s. But it is a left dictatorship. This “left Kemalism” of Tito’s is needed and inevitable in the face of the existence of tasks which are of the highest importance in present-day Yugoslavia: the struggle against the remnants of capitalism and the struggle against Russian-Cominform imperialism.

And here we approach a very interesting conclusion. If there were no Stalinism in Russia, Tito’s “left-Kemalist” dictatorship would gradually degenerate into totalitarianism. But it is precisely the nearness of Stalinist Russia which makes the degeneration of Titoism into totalitarianism (into Stalinism!) quite impossible, because every manifestation of totalitarian degeneration in Titoism (for instance, forced collectivization of agriculture) would inevitably be followed by sharp inner contradictions in society, stimulated by Stalinist propaganda, and possibly even military “liberation” of the workers. Sooner or later it would end with the complete destruction of Titoism and Yugoslav independence. In this way Stalinism itself compels Tito not to become a Stalinist. Logic says, therefore, that Tito is compelled to liquidate capitalism but not in the same way as Stalin did. About this “other way” we cannot here elaborate; but one must assume that Tito is not so politically blind as not to look for this “other way” and not to wish it. The conclusion is just the opposite of Comrade Draper’s conclusion that Tito “wants to be like Stalin.”

But in spite of all, my views do not mean that there are no other possibilities of degeneration in Titoism. There are. For instance, degeneration is possible if Titoism should close itself behind the frontiers of Yugoslavia only; that is, if it does not become an international and revolutionary phenomenon, etc. But this is not the subject I wish to speak of; I have concerned myself with the possibilities of the Stalinist degeneration of Titoism only. I do not consider Titoism “on our side” or myself “on his side,” but in my opinion it would be much better not to hurry to condemn this new experience of struggle against capitalism and Stalinism, not to place a taboo on it, but on the contrary to give more solid and objective information about the inner and outer situation of Titoist Yugoslavia.

January 1950

(Comrade H.F. is a European friend who writes from Germany.)

Hal Draper’s Reply

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