Tito and the Soviets

July 16, 1958

A document from the CQ Researcher archives:

Report Outline
New Communist Attacks on Yugoslavia
Tito’s Postwar Relations with Kremlin
Significance of Tito’s Independent Role

New Communist Attacks on Yugoslavia

A threat by President Tito of Yugoslavia to make public secret documents alleged to prove Soviet responsibility for the execution of Imre Nagy of Hungary has brought relations of Belgrade with the Kremlin almost to the breaking point. Soviet Premier Khrushchev, addressing an East German Socialist Unity [Communist] Party congress on July 11, sharply assailed Tito and defended Stalin’s rupture with Yugoslavia in 1948. At the same congress the day before, Walter Ulbricht, East German party leader, condemned Yugoslavia’s “revisionism” as an “open attack on the Socialist [Communist] bloc” and warned the Yugoslavs that “the fate of the Nagy government shows where revisionism leads.” Red China’s delegate called, July 12, for an “extreme fight” against Titoism.

The current Soviet offensive against the Yugoslav brand of Communism and its backers, under way since spring, assumed ominous overtones with the announcement in mid-June that Nagy and three other leaders of the Hungarian revolt of November 1956 had been put to death. Nagy was declared a traitor for supporting nationalism and revisionism—the same ideological sins for which the Yugoslavs have been assailed. At the same time, the Yugoslav embassy in Budapest, which had sheltered Nagy, was accused of conniving with him in counter-revolutionary activities. However, seizure of Nagy by the Russians when he left the embassy, after the uprising had been suppressed, breached the safe-conduct negotiated for him by the Yugoslavs with the Hungarian government of Janos Kadar. And the death sentence violated subsequent promises to Tito that Nagy would not be harmed.

Western observers have viewed the execution and the renewed attacks on Tito as part of a plan to tighten Russian control over other Communist countries. Secretary of State Dulles characterized the Soviet moves, June 17, as “another step in the reversion toward brutal terrorist methods which prevailed for a time under Stalin.” Dulles surmised that the execution of Nagy “might be a suggestion to President Tito that if he is not more compliant, he may sooner or later suffer a like fate.” Tito, for his part, has refused to be intimidated. He told veterans of his wartime partisan forces, July 4, that “We will never be broken” and that Yugoslavia “will build her life as she finds it suitable.”

Points of Conflict Between Tito and The Soviets

First signs of a fresh rift within the Communist bloc appeared last November, when Tito failed to attend the celebration in Moscow of the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution. His representatives were Yugoslav Vice Presidents Edvard Kardelj and Alexander Rankovic. They refused to sign the 12-nation Communist manifesto, issued Nov. 22, which denounced aggressive Western imperialism and declared the Soviet Union the “head of the Socialist camp.” Yugoslavia’s defection was described by one expert on Communist affairs as “a significant and painful hitch in the Soviet leaders’ carefully laid plans.” 1

Kremlin disapproval of Tito’s behavior was not made official until early April, when it was announced that Russia would not send delegates—only observers—to the seventh congress of the Yugoslav League of Communists. Just before that meeting, a long article in the Soviet theoretical journal Kommunist criticized the draft program for the congress prepared in Belgrade. Points stressed in the article made it clear that a veritable ideological abyss had opened between Yugoslav and Soviet Communists.

The Kommunist article criticized the Yugoslavs for misinterpreting the course of events both in Western nations and in the Soviet Union. They were accused of thinking that capitalist nations were halting their traditional exploitation of the proletariat and that “parallel with revolutionary Socialist changes, an evolutionary process of the transformation of capitalism into Socialism is taking place,” Such a thesis amounted to “denial of the leading role of the [Communist] party” and a contradiction of the principles of Marxism-Leninism.

Furthermore, “the authors of the draft [program] see the main reason for international tension not in the aggressive policy of the imperialist states, but in the existence of two military blocs.” Thus, in Yugoslav thinking “the foreign policy of the Socialist camp” was wrongly placed “on the same level with that of the imperialist camp.”

The Yugoslav program angered the Soviets also because it concentrated attention “on the drawbacks and mistakes which the U.S.S.R. had in the past.” It criticized Soviet Communists for “a tendency to turn the state apparatus into a master of society” and for the development of “some sort of bureaucratic state.” The authors of the program completely ignored “the U.S.S.R.’s experience in what is.…one of the major and most complicated problems of construction of Socialism”; namely, the collectivization of agriculture. They criticized the party for exerting a dominant influence in politics.

Above all, the Yugoslavs committed a major ideological error in over-emphasizing the value of national independence. The essence of the difference between Soviet and Yugoslav views,Kommunist pointed out, lay in the fact that “in the draft of the program proletarian internationalism is reduced exclusively to the principles of equality and non-interference in internal affairs and that the necessity for strengthening the unity and cooperation of Socialist countries and the Marxist-Leninist parties is buried in oblivion.” The demand for recognition of the equality of nations was “characteristic of petit-bourgeois nationalism,” 2

Red China’s Accusations; Loss of Soviet Aid

The Russian attack on Yugoslavia was echoed in all the Soviet satellite countries. Only the Poles made an attempt to present the Yugoslav point of view. Soviet and satellite observers attended the congress of the Yugoslav League of Communists, but they all—with the exception of the Polish ambassador—walked out on April 28 when Yugoslav Vice President Rankovic declared that his country would not accept Soviet leadership.

The most vigorous attack on Tito’s policies was delivered, May 5, in an article in the newspaper organ of the Chinese Communist Party. It accused the Yugoslavs of formulating “an anti-Marxist-Leninist, out-and-out revisionist program” which substituted “sophistryfor revolutionary materialistic dialectics” and “reactionarybourgeois nationalism for revolutionary proletarian internationalism.” The article concluded that the Cominform had done the right thing when it expelled Yugoslavia in 1948.

Moscow took a decisive step, May 28, by announcing that it would not go through with a long-standing plan to lend Yugoslavia around $285 million.3 Credits in that amount were to be used to construct aluminum, hydroelectric, and fertilizer plants. Indefinite postponement of the financial assistance was criticized by the Yugoslav foreign ministry as a “glaring contradiction with established standards in international relations.”

Against the background of rising concern caused by the growing isolation of Yugoslavia by other members of the Communist bloc, the execution of Nagy and his colleagues came as all the more of a shock to the West. The Soviet-Yugoslav quarrel seemed to have passed beyond the stage of an ideological dispute and to threaten revival of cold war tensions comparable to those of Stalin’s day. Two big questions about recent Soviet behavior puzzle Western analysts: First, why did the Soviet Union crack down at a time when it appeared to be gaining ground through its well-advertised policy of peaceful co-existence? Secondly, who is responsible for the new and harsher policy?

Speculation on Timing and Causes of Attacks

The simplest explanation for the timing of the attacks on Yugoslavia is that the Soviet leaders were, like Stalin, angry at the cockiness and independence shown by the Yugoslavs in issuing their own ideological program with its criticism of Soviet Communism. Such a claim to equality in doctrinal leadership had to be chastized quickly and severely lest it find support in other parts of the Soviet empire.

Some experts on Soviet policy note, however, that Russia’s hostility toward Yugoslavia and its efforts to wipe out all defiance of Soviet dominance may stem from the Hungarian and Polish revolts and more specifically from Yugoslav refusal to sign the Moscow declaration of November 1957. Commenting on the terms of that declaration, one writer concluded that:

These guidelines for the Communist parties hardly show any departure from those of the Stalinist era.…It is difficult to escape the conclusion that a new orthodoxy—hardly differing from Stalinist orthodoxy—has been reimposed on the Communist movement.…Khrushchev’s attempt to break with the harshest.…aspects of Stalin’s way of doing business.…was no break with the essentials of the system.4

Tito’s refusal to conform to the new orthodoxy made him an obvious target for Soviet attack, and Nagy’s sympathy for Titoism made him an obvious victim. “How better to impress upon Poland’s Gomulka—and upon the United States—that the Kremlin means business when it says that satellite loyalty is absolutely essential and that the discussion of freedom for the satellites at a summit meeting is inadmissible?” 5

Others have ascribed Soviet conduct to supposed power rivalries between Khrushchev and either Chinese Communists or Stalinist elements within Russia. Tito himself accused the Chinese leaders, June 15, of instigating the campaign against Yugoslavia in order to divert attention from internal difficulties. He implied that the Chinese wanted to get economic and political benefits from the Soviet Union at the expense of Yugoslavia.

U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of State Robert D. Murphy said in a speech on July 1:

The Chinese revolution is at a much earlier stage than the Russian. Peiping is much more doctrinaire in its Marxism than seems to be the case of the Moscow leadership. Yet Moscow cannot afford to antagonize Mao and his fervent associates. I believe they stand for an even more aggressive attitude than does Khrushchev. Even though the two of them appear to be working closely together today, the Sino-Russian relationship is a source of difficulty for Moscow and, partially at least, explains some of the erratic trends which often mystify the West.

Chinese Communists were deeply alarmed by the strength of anti-Communist feeling revealed in China after Mao Tse-tung’s invitation in February 1957 to “let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.” Since then, they have dealt rigorously with dissenters at home and abroad. An American writer on Soviet affairs has called Mao “the chief promoter of the drive against revisionism.” 6

Polish Communists have taken the view that a power struggle may be going on in Russia between Khrushchev, who initiated the more liberal Communist policies, and Stalinists like Mikhail A. Suslov, a member of the Presidium, and former Foreign Minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov, who was ousted from power a year ago ostensibly because of his harsh attitude toward Yugoslavia, But in the absence of clear evidence of internal rivalries and in the presence of the Nagy execution, more and more observers are accepting the theory put forward in the magazine East Europe early in June—the theory that “the campaign against Yugoslavia is a well-thought-out, concerted policy agreed upon by the entire Soviet bloc leadership (with the exception of the Poles).” Implications of Moscow’s present course are “explosive,” East Europe warned, “because it must have arisen from a fundamental decision by the Soviet leadership to sacrifice world public opinion on the altar of party conformity.”7 The recent East German party congress seemed amply to bear out that theory.

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Tito’s Postwar Relations with Kremlin

Despite the menacing trend of Soviet actions, Tito appears to be far more secure today, after ten years of independent national rule, than he was in 1948 when Stalin launched the first open Soviet attack on Yugoslav Communism. Yugoslavia was then a weak, war-ravaged nation, politically and economically dependent on the Soviet bloc; its leaders faced a hostile Western world and a strongly anti-Communist national peasantry. When Stalin hurled his thunderbolt, June 28, 1948, in the form of a public denunciation of Tito and the Yugoslav Communists by the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform), few expected Tito to survive.8

The Cominform declaration charged that the Yugoslavs were departing from the principles of Marxism-Leninism, “pursuing an unfriendly policy toward the Soviet Union,” and “suffering from boundless ambition, arrogance, and conceit” in denying and concealing their mistakes instead of trying to mend their ways. The declaration maintained that “the basis of these mistakes…lies in the undoubted fact that nationalist elements” had reached “a dominant position in the leadership of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.”

Yugoslav Nationalism vs. Soviet Imperialism

According to Hamilton Fish Armstrong, editor of Foreign Affairs, the trouble at bottom was that the Yugoslavs openly resented Russian imperialism under Stalin. Soviet economic exploitation of Yugoslav resources, unwillingness to assist Tito’s industrialization program, infiltration of the Belgrade government by Soviet agents and, in particular, Soviet efforts to transform Tito’s partisan guerrilla forces into a mere auxiliary of the Red Army were the main factors behind Yugoslav defiance.9

Stalin, on the other hand, regarded Tito’s nationalism as a threat to Soviet supremacy in Eastern Europe. The Yugoslav leader had shown his ambition to exert wider influence when he attempted in 1947 to form a Yugoslav-Bulgarian federation. His daring use of the Cominform as a forum to counsel other Communist leaders was regarded as a direct challenge to the leadership of Moscow. Stalin’s anger over what he regarded as Tito’s impertinence and contempt for authority was implicit in the remark, later attributed to him by Khrushchev, that “All I have to do is raise my little finger and Tito will cease to exist.”

The dispute between Tito and other Communist bloc nations remained on an ideological level, obtensibly between the respective Communist parties, until the end of 1948. When the Yugoslav people showed no signs of overthrowing Tito, but on the contrary appeared to back his bold defiance of Stalin, more drastic action was taken. Soviet trade with the offending nation was curtailed in 1949 to about one-eighth of its volume in the previous year. Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland suspended trade relations with Yugoslavia altogether in mid-1949. Because the country’s postwar commerce had been almost entirely with the Soviet bloc, the stoppage presented a grave threat.

In the autumn of 1949 the Soviet Union and all the satellites (except Albania, which feared a Greek invasion) denounced the 20-year pacts of friendship and mutual assistance, entered into after the war, as they related to Yugoslavia. The Cominform, originally intended to symbolize “Socialist solidarity,” was transformed into a weapon against Tito. Wherever Yugoslavs came into contact with their Communist neighbors—campaigning for election to a seat on the U.N. Security Council, at meetings of the Danube River commission, or elsewhere—their claims were opposed by their old Red colleagues.

The satellite armies were expanded far beyond normal strength and in 1951 and 1952 conducted maneuvers along the Yugoslav frontiers. Belgrade recorded 937 frontier incidents in 1950, 1,517 incidents in 1951, and 2,390 in 1952. The incidents were debated in the U.N. General Assembly in 1951, but Yugoslavia’s neighbors rejected recommendations that the disputes be settled through diplomatic negotiation.

West’s Aid to Tito After Split of Reds in 1948

What enabled Tito to withstand Stalin’s maneuvers and to consolidate his own control over Yugoslavia was Western assistance, both economic and military. Within three weeks of the Cominform declaration in 1948, Washington unfroze Yugoslav assets in the United States, including $47 million in gold. This country in August 1949 offered to export materials for a steel-finishing mill, and other industrial and mining equipment was made available. American trade with Yugoslavia nearly tripled from 1948 to 1949. Great Britain and Italy concluded large-scale trading agreements with the Yugoslavs in that period.

To forward Yugoslavia’s economic development plans, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the International Bank, and the International Monetary Fund granted loans and credits that ultimately totaled more than $400 million. Following a drought in 1950, the United States sent emergency relief shipments amounting to about $85 million. Apart from loan-credit aid, U.S. grants to Yugoslavia from 1949 through 1955 totaled more than half a billion dollars.

Western military support contributed to Tito’s strength. George V. Allen, then ambassador to Greece, indicated in December 1949 that the United States would oppose aggression against Yugoslavia as strongly as it opposed aggression against any other country. In response to Yugoslav requests for military supplies, the United States shipped more than $750 million worth of modern military, naval, and air equipment between 1951 and 1957. No strings were attached to American assistance. However, as Tito pointed out last June 15, Washington did not furnish aid “in order that Socialism can triumph in Yugoslavia” but rather “because Yugoslavia would in this way be able more easily to resist Stalin’s pressure and strengthen its independence.”

Although Western support for Tito did not weaken his allegiance to Communism, it did bring important benefits to the free world. Yugoslavia’s borders were closed to Greek Communist insurgents in 1949, thereby enabling Greek forces with U.S. aid to end the long and costly civil war in Greece. Yugoslavia concluded a five-year treaty of friendship and cooperation with Greece and Turkey in February 1953 and a military alliance in August 1954; the latter agreement provided that aggression against any one of the three countries would be considered aggression against all. The long-festering Trieste question was settled in 1954 by division of the disputed area between Yugoslavia and Italy.

Purges of Suspected Titoists in Eastern Europe

Within the East European satellite countries Tito’s defection from Moscow had less happy results.

The emergence of “Titoism” in Yugoslavia offered the Russians and those leaders of the native Communist parties who were most subservient to them an extraordinary opportunity to publicize the dangers of opposition to Moscow) and at the same time to get rid of anybody in their party whom they disliked or feared by trying and condemning him as a “Titoite,”.…Thus 1949 saw the Communists in neighboring states seize on “Titoism” as a major heresy and use it as a pretext for their own party purges, and to serve as a horrible example to those Communists who might be tempted to allow their national loyalties to get in the way of their loyalty to Moscow.10

The first victim was Gomulka, then secretary general of the Polish Communist Party, who was accused of rightist deviations and of aspiring to independence from Soviet control. Dismissed from office in 1948, he was later imprisoned. More violent purges took place in Albania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia, where scapegoats were tried, condemned, and executed by their Stalinist rivals. Denunciations, arbitrary arrests, and show trials kept people all over Eastern Europe in a state of fear and submission.

Period of Reconciliation After Death of Stalin

Provocative actions toward Yugoslavia continued until the death of Stalin in March 1953. The following two years brought a gradual relaxation of tensions in Eastern Europe. Some of those who had been executed were reburied with full honors; others, like Gomulka in Poland and Imre Nagy in Hungary, who had escaped death were rehabilitated with honor.

A dramatic reconciliation between Moscow and Belgrade was effected in May 1955, when Soviet Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin and Party Secretary Nikita S. Khrushchev went to visit Tito. The Russians conceded that Stalin had erred, and they agreed that each Communist country was free to shape policy in accordance with national conditions.

Fuller explanation of Khrushchev’s virtual submission to Tito’s demands was supplied during the 20th congress of the Russian Communist Party, held in February 1956 at Moscow. Khrushchev on that occasion startled the world by a vigorous denunciation of Stalin and Stalin’s misdeeds and by what appeared to be a promise of greater national independence within the Communist sphere. Abolition of the Cominform, in April 1956, was reportedly the price exacted by Tito for renewal of his friendship. A final seal was put on the reconciliation when Khrushchev and Tito signed in Moscow, June 20, 1956, a joint declaration which proclaimed that “the conditions of Socialist development are different in different countries.” The statement recorded Soviet-Yugoslav agreement to cooperate in “complete freedom of will and equality.”

Break With Kremlin Over Hungary and Poland

Soviet-Yugoslav relations continued close during the following months; Tito and Khrushchev met again in August and September. But the rapprochement, by directly encouraging Tito’s brand of national Communism, soon turned to Soviet disadvantage. As one expert on East European affairs has written:

It was more than coincidence that Tito’s return to Yugoslavia in …[June] 1956 coincided with the Poznan riots in Poland, the first step in the Polish revolution.…The calculated risk the Soviet leaders took toward Tito and toward relaxing control over Eastern Europe turned out to be a failure. It led to a chain reaction culminating in a successful Polish revolution against Soviet control and in a bloody revolt in Hungary, which was crushed in November 1956 by 200,000 Soviet troops and 5,000 Soviet tanks.11

While the uprisings were in progress, Yugoslavia’s policies diverged sharply from those of the Soviet Union. Tito gave full support to Gomulka for the development of a pattern of national Communism for Poland. The Yugoslavs also supported the Nagy government in Hungary, until Nagyappeared to be turning against Communism itself.12

Meanwhile, Khrushchev, alarmed by vehement anti-Russian feeling throughout East Europe, apparently decided that the Titoist example of greater national independence must be dealt with. Over Yugoslav opposition, he tried to get the support of Communist parties around the world for creation of another Cominform, which in effect would have consolidated Russian control over the various national parties. When the Chinese, Italian, and Polish as well as Yugoslav parties objected, the proposal was dropped.13

During the past year and a half Soviet and Yugoslav policies have differed most markedly over Poland. Tito encouraged the Poles to play an independent role, and Gomulka shared with Tito the view that relations between their countries and the Soviet Union should develop bilaterally on terms of mutual equality rather than on the principle of “proletarian internationalism,” which has become a euphemism for Soviet domination. However, Moscow gradually forced Gomulka to curtail individual liberty in Poland, to reduce the influence of the workers, to bear down more heavily on the peasants, and especially to tighten Poland’s ties with the Soviet Union.

At the same time Gomulka tried, until new tension arose over the execution of Nagy, to keep up close relations with Tito. He visited Yugoslavia last September, and on Feb. 21, 1958, Poland and Yugoslavia signed an economic agreement which provided for direct contacts between Polish industries and their decentralized Yugoslav counterparts. It was to avoid embarrassing Gomulka with the Kremlin that Tito in May canceled a plan to visit Poland. Even so, Gomulka was finally forced to bow to Soviet pressure; on June 28 he denounced both Tito and Nagy as revisionists. This apparently was not enough, however, for Gomulka was conspicuously missing from the group of satellite leaders attending the East German party congress a fortnight later, and Khrushchev in his speech there failed to include Poland among the Communist countries on which he bestowed praise.

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Significance of Tito’s Independent Role

Modification of Communist Economic Practices

Because Tito has thrown off Soviet domination while maintaining ideological allegiance to Communism, Tito and Titoism have come to occupy a position of international importance far out of proportion to Yugoslavia’s own power and resources. The significance of Titoism—whether measured in terms of domestic developments in Yugoslavia, relationships with other countries of Eastern Europe and with neutral nations, or associations with the United States and its allies—has received strong emphasis in the Communist sphere and in the free world.

Within Yugoslavia, Titoism quickly developed into something more than mere defiance of Stalin. When the Yugoslav Union of Communists (Communist Party), hitherto an unpopular clique dependent for power on secret police methods and brute force, found itself no longer able to place ultimate reliance on Red Army backing, it was compelled to turn to the Yugoslav people for support. In the process the principles of Communism were adapted to the practical limitations of what ruggedly individualistic Yugoslav peasants would accept. “In essence the resulting system is a blend of Marxism-Leninism and certain carefully selected Western liberal democratic institutions and practices.” 14

Indirect control through economic decentralization and political liberalization has been the key to Tito’s internal policies. A system of so-called workers’ self-management was instituted in June 1950, by means of which every economic enterprise is supervised by a council of employees elected annually from the work force. Marketing also has been released from central authority. Under an outline plan for over-all development, local government bodies and individual enterprises calculate their own purchasing and selling requirements. Most prices reflect the free play of supply and demand, and production is channeled naturally into areas of greatest demand. Workers are allowed higher wages or bonuses when the enterprise shows a profit.

Tito abandoned the traditional Communist pattern of forced collectivization of agriculture in 1953, when it was found that passive resistance was severely undermining productivity. Within a year the number of collective farms was reduced from 7,000 to 4,000 by disbanding of inefficient groups. Peasants were granted the right to buy and sell land freely in mid-1954. Today they are encouraged to produce the crops which offer the largest financial return. A law adopted in 1957 even permits individual farmers to contract with the better-equipped state farms for goods and services. However, these concessions have won only grudging acceptance from the Yugoslav peasants, roughly three-fifths of the population; they do not forget that as long as the Reds remain in power, collectivization of agriculture will be one of their ultimate goals.

Limited Political Liberalization in Yugoslavia

A mild decentralization of authority has taken place on the political side. The Fundamental Law of January 1953 reorganized the federal and provincial parliaments, provided special representation for productive industries, and set up standing committees of economic experts to study—and criticize—proposed legislation. Police state methods have been gradually abandoned; the courts have been reformed and even given power to question certain administrative actions. As a result, one American authority has pointed out, “There is a steadily growing respect for the technique of rule by law and a constant growth in the legal-mindedness of those in whose hands the country’s immediate destiny resides.” 15

Tito, tackling the problem of reforming the Yugoslav Communist Party, has tried to eliminate the economic and political privileges which long set party members off from the masses. The party has been ordered to persuade rather than force the country into a greater “Socialist consciousness.”

The dictator has received due credit for Yugoslavia’s modest political and economic advances. One writer has commented that “Tito is today as popular a leader as a Communist dictatorship can have.” 16

Despite the wider distribution of authority, which Yugoslav Communists describe as the “withering away of the state” predicted by Marx, Yugoslavia remains a totalitarian state. The overall decision-making power is more firmly than ever in the hands of a small group of loyal Titoists at the top.

The extent of individual liberty prevailing in the country at different times has been demonstrated by the case of Milovan Djilas, a Yugoslav Communist, and former Vice President. Djilas criticized the foundations of Red rule in a series of articles published in the Yugoslav newspaper Borba in December 1953, in an article in the American magazine New Leader in November 1956, and in a book, The New Class, published in the United States in August 1957. In the last-named work Djilas condemned most Communists as members of “a new class of owners and exploiters” who ruled only “in behalf of their own narrow caste interest.”

That Djilas “developed his own ideas without external compulsion and did not fear to state his conclusions” has been viewed as “unique in the case of a Communist holding high office.” 17 It has been taken to indicate the existence of considerable ideological ferment within the Yugoslav party. However, Djilas finally overstepped the bounds. After a trial in which the author refused to recant a single word, he was sentenced to jail in October 1956 for three years, and in October 1957 for an additional seven years, on the charge of “slandering Yugoslavia.”

Appeal of Titoism in Other Communist Nations

Although Westerners condemn many of Tito’s internal policies as totalitarian, most plain citizens behind the Iron Curtain regard Titoism as a great improvement over the Communist system ordained by the Kremlin. The amount of personal freedom in Yugoslavia, though slight by Western standards, compares favorably with the little tolerated in the satellite states. Yugoslav economic progress has not been spectacular, but attempts at least have been made to meet the needs of the Yugoslav people rather than to serve a particular world strategy.

Most of all, Yugoslavia’s agricultural program, stressing increased productivity instead of collectivization, has excited envy throughout the predominantly agricultural countries of East Europe. So-called liberal Communists like Gomulka, the late Imre Nagy, and even Janos Kadar always leaned toward the Yugoslav view in that respect. They believed that forced collectivization would generate violent opposition.

Observers have noted the ironic fact that current Soviet denunciations of Titoism come at a time when the Soviet Union itself is embarking upon a new economic course which shows many resemblances to Tito’s program. The decentralization of industry implemented May 10, 1957, the abolition of the machine tractor stations announced March 1, 1958, and the plan for a freer market for agricultural produce announced June 23, 1958, parallel Tito’s earlier reforms. But Khrushchev’s willingness to experiment within the U.S.S.R. has not been matched by willingness to permit unorthodox practices in the satellite countries—particularly when the experiments might be identified with Titoism and enhance the Yugoslav leader’s already considerable prestige among the masses in other Communist lands of Eastern Europe.

Tito’s ability to maintain Yugoslavia’s independence and at the same time allow some relaxation of internal discipline apparently made him a doubly potent threat to Soviet power in Eastern Europe. His popularity even in the Soviet Union was proved during his June 1956 visit to Moscow, when the popular demonstrations for the one Communist who had dared to defy Stalin were so enthusiastic that Khrushchev himself became alarmed.

Even though Tito may never realize his former ambitions for a Balkan federation or his plans for a loose commonwealth of independent Communist states, the mere existence of Titoism provides a continuing incentive for other East European leaders to move in the same direction. As one historian suggested last year, “Yugoslavia may prove to have been the instigator of a disruptive process that will tear apart the whole Soviet bloc and open up a new era in the history of world Communism.” 18

Tito’s Influence in the Uncommitted Countries

Tito’s influence has not stopped at the boundaries of Eastern Europe. Cooperation with Asian and African countries in the neutral group of uncommitted nations has had “many attractions for the Yugoslavs because of the common antipathy to capitalism, opposition to the domination of international relations by the big powers, a desire not to be closely identified with either the Eastern or the Western bloc, and interest in the problems of rapidly industrializing undeveloped countries.” 19

The Yugoslav dictator toured India and Burma in 1954–55, Egypt and Ethiopia in 1955–56. Prime Minister Nehru of India and President Nasser of Egypt conferred with Tito at his Brioni island retreat in July 1956, and the three confirmed their belief in the equality of nations and the policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. In the United Nations Yugoslavia has joined other neutralist countries in urging nuclear disarmament, disengagement, and an end to “power politics” of both East and West.

Thus Soviet attacks on Tito for his neutrality in the cold war, among other things, can be expected to have wide repercussions among the neutral countries. Nehru condemned Communist Party attitudes toward Yugoslavia, May 12, as an interference in internal affairs. Although refusing to take sides, Nehru made it clear that his sympathy was with the Yugoslavs.

Nasser’s most recent sojourn in Yugoslavia, his fourth, was widely interpreted as a manifestation of Egyptian disillusionment with Soviet policies. State Department officials did not conceal their hope that Tito would impress on Nasser the risks of tying his country and its economy too closely to the Soviet bloc. The joint communique issued at Belgrade on July 10, following a protracted meeting of the two leaders at Brioni, said they agreed, among other things, on “the importance of undertaking necessary measures to terminate.…foreign domination, interference in the affairs of some countries by other countries, and the use of pressure, force and threats against one country by others.”

Western Gamble in Aiding National Communism

The significance of Tito’s role for the United States and its allies has three principal aspects. First, Tito’s independence tends to weaken the Russian position in East Europe. Secondly, Titoism as a system of government promises somewhat more individual freedom than Soviet-type Communism. And thirdly, U.S. relations with Yugoslavia have put on view the contrast between American foreign aid policies, entailing a minimum of interference in a country’s internal affairs, and the sometimes domineering, sometimes insidiously ingratiating attitude of the Soviet Union toward countries to which it extends assistance.

Even with these possible advantages in mind, Washington always has regarded military and economic aid to Tito as a gamble. In 1956 and 1957, when the Yugoslav leader seemed to be lining up consistently with the Soviet Union and against the United States, many voices were raised against continuation of Western assistance. The State Department moved to reconsider the policy on the ground that Tito was not pursuing an independent policy. Military aid was suspended in October 1956 and not renewed until May 1957, when Tito’s differences with the Kremlin over Hungary and Poland had been clearly demonstrated.

Yugoslavia’s recognition of East Germany in October 1957 precipitated threats of another reassessment by this country. To forestall such a move, Tito asked the United States, Dec. 9, to terminate military aid. Recently, however, Yugoslav representatives have been pressing for expedited delivery of vital replacement parts for military equipment. Although no formal requests for increased military or economic assistance have been made known, Vice President Mijalko Todorovic hinted, June 26, that Moscow’s abrupt cancellation of the credits promised Yugoslavia might force a plea for economic help “from the other side.”

Continued congressional reluctance to aid Communist countries was most recently displayed in June, when the Senate knocked out of the foreign aid authorization bill a provision which would have specifically authorized extension of economic aid to most Communist countries. However, an amendment to bar aid to Yugoslavia was rejected.20

President Eisenhower reaffirmed the policy of assisting Yugoslavia, June 18, when he declared: “I will help, I would give aid to anything that I think would help to weaken the solidarity of the Communist bloc. If we can set up centrifugal forces, we are, in my mind, doing a great service for the free world.” In the face of Soviet efforts to reestablish the facade of Communist solidarity in Eastern Europe, American support for Yugoslavia may heighten East West tensions; at the same time, it may serve to clarify for the uncommitted nations the true nature of Soviet purposes and policies.

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