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The Cominform: Tito's International?

  • Geoffrey Swain (a1)

Although it is now recognized that the Stalin-Tito dispute was sparked off by Tito's desire to intervene decisively in the Greek civil war, the ideological context of that decision has never been fully explored. This article suggests that, since the early days of the Second World War, Tito had been committed to establishing a popular front ‘from below’, i.e. under clear communist control. He did this not only in Yugoslavia, but used his position in the war-time Comintern to persuade other communist parties to do the same. As a result he was dissatisfied with the all-party coalition governments established with Stalin's consent throughout Europe in 1945. Tito favoured a communist offensive, while Stalin, aware of the international position of the Soviet Union, favoured a more cautious approach. When Stalin summoned the first meeting of the Cominform in September 1947 and made Tito its de Facto leader, Tito mistakenly assumed he was to head a new international committed to a revolutionary offensive not only in Eastern Europe but in Greece and even Italy and France.

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1 Banac I., With Stalin against Tito (Cornell, 1988).

2 Banac, With Stalin, pp. 3741.

3 Especially Dedijer V., The battle Stalin lost (New York, 1971).

4 Warriner D., Revolution in eastern Europe (London, 1950), p. 42.

5 Banac, With Statin, p. 28.

6 Brezinski Z. K., The Soviet Bloc (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1960), p. 63.

7 Dedijcr V., Novi prilozi za biogrqfiju Josipa Broza Tita (5 vols., Rijeka and Belgrade, 1984), iii, 306; Banac, With Stalin, p. 42.

8 Dimitrov G., For the unity of the working class against fascism (London, 1975), pp. 98102.

9 Diaz J., ‘Ob urokakh voyny ispanskogo naroda’, Bol' shtvik, 02. 1940, p. 34. For a discussion of Togliatti's role in Spain in 1938, see Swain G. R., ‘The Comintern and southern Europe’, in Judt T. (ed), Resistance and revolution in Mediterranean Europe (London, 1989).

10 Thus although in mid-August 1941 other parties were invited to join a national liberation committee, it was made clear such a committee would not be based on parity and compromise, but unity under communist leadership, see Petranovic B., Revolueija i kontrartvoludja u Jugoslaviji, 1941–45 (2 vols Belgrade, 1983), 1, 216. Tito's terms for a deal with his nationalist rival Mihailovic were similar: liberation committees had to be extended to areas controlled by Mihailoviè, see Wheeler M., Britain mi tht war for Yugoslavia, 1940–1943 (New York, 1980), p. 88.

11 Thus talk of ‘strengthening the worker-peasant core’ of the committees all but disappeared and the watchwords became solidarity and sacrifice for victory, not a soviet republic. Similarly goods were requisitioned in the name of the war effort, not on the basis of class, while executions became the sole preserve of the army, not the liberation committees. Although the official party line was for many yean that these ‘sectarian excesses’ were few and far between, more recent research makes clear they were indeed frequent, see Petranoviè B., ‘O levim skretanjima KPJ krajem 1941g. i u prvoj polovini 1942g.’, in his Istodografija i rtvoluaja (Belgrade, 1984). The whole tenor of the Uiice republic, established in Serbia from September to November 1941, was one of radicalism with huge celebrations in November 1941 for the anniversary of the October Revolution, see Glilic V., Uzicka Republika (Belgrade, 1986).

12 Petranoviè B., Rtvoludja 1 kontrartvolucija, II, 5961; his AVNOJ: Revoluiontations smena Blasti (Belgrade, 1976), pp. 105–8;Cemerlic H., ‘Posunak i razvoj narodne vlasti u Bosni i Hercegovini za vrijeme N.O. borbe’, Godisnjak istonskog dntitva Bosne i Herugovine, 1959, p. 57. Tito's attitude is perhaps best summed up in a letter he wrote to Serbian leaders in the summer of 1944. when they were about to embark on the task of establishing a new administration. He stressed the need to involve the masses, taking everyday tasks seriously and thereby winning popular acclaim, the best party cadres had to be sent to the liberation committees because party leadership was not about giving orders, but winning support. However, he went on, party control was essential. While members of other parties could be involved on committees, no ‘enemies’ were to be allowed into the ruling apparatus. See, Tito's ‘Letter to the Serbian Provincial Committee of the KPJ, 22nd July 1944’, reproduced in Dedijer V., Novi prilozi, I–II, 1077.

13 Petranoviè. Revolucija i kontrartvolvcija, II, 46.

14 For the Corsican insurrection, see Choury M., Tous bandits d'honner! Resistance et liberation de la Coru, juin 1940 — octobre 1943 (Paris 1958). For the instruction to form a Front National, see Simmonds J. C., ‘The French communist party and the beginnings of resistance, September 1939-June 1941’, in European Studits Review, xi, 4 (1981), 537; Taylor L. ‘The PCF and the French Resistance in the Second World War’, in Judt T. (ed.), Resistance and revolution, p. 69; and Tillon C., Les F.T.P. (Paris, 1962), p. 74.

15 Rupnik J., Histoin duparti communiste tchechoslovaque (Paris, 1981), pp. 155–7;Josko A. ‘The Slovak Resistance’, in Mamatey V. S. and Luia R. (eds.), A history of the Czechoslovak republic (Princeton, 1973), pp. 371–5.

16 The PCI's base in Italy was rather tenuous until 1942. However emigre groups had already begun to issue proclamations as early as summer 1941 in the name of a National Front of Struggle to be created ‘from below’. Planning for an insurrection began in March 1943, and the National Action Front was established injune 1943, see Amendola G., Storia del PCI, 1931–43 (Rome, 1978), pp. 481–91, 541–5.

17 Ibid. 557–60, 573–4, 592–6.

18 Loulis J. C., The Grtek communist party, 1940–1944 (London, 1982), pp. 3940, 85–7, 100; Iatrides J., Revolt in Athens (Princeton, 1972), pp. 22–3. Whether communist control was established by force or by inviting a figure like Papandreou to become the nominal head of EAM was a matter of tactics, not policy.

19 Swain G. R., ‘The Comintern and southern Europe’, pp. 41–6.

20 Petranovc, AVNOJ, pp. 91–3;Pano N. C., The People's Republic of Albania (Baltimore, 1968), p. 52.

21 Robrieux P., Histoirt interieure duparti communiste (3 vols., Paris, 1981), II, 27. For more on why the communists stayed in de Gaulle's government and what they hoped to achieve by using the gardes patnotiques for social revolution, sec Marty A., L'affaire Marty (Paris, 1955), pp. 38–9, 239–42.

22 Urban J. B., Moscow and the Italian communist party (Cornell, 1986), pp. 168, 202–3;Spriano P., Stona del PCI: V. La reststenza. Jogliatti e il partita nuovo (Turin, 1975), p. 137.

23 Grassi M G. (ed.) Verso ilgoverno delpopulo: Atti e documenti del CLYAI, 1943–43 (Milan, 1973), pp. 129, 160, 166, 190. While Togliatti insisted the principle was sacrosanct, there is ample evidence from the north that it was ignored. Sometimes communists would pose as fictious members of the socialist party, more usually the inclusion of mass organizations ensured communist control. See, for example, Spriano, Storia, pp. 372, 376–7, 520; Travis D.Communism in Modena: the provincial origins of the PCI (1943–5)’ in Historical Journal, xxix, 4 (1986), 881 II. 24; and Ellwood D. W., Italy, 1943–45 (Leicester, 1985), p. 158. For a discussion of the degree of opposition to Togliatti's svolta, and the strength of sectarian groups within the party opposed to collaboration with bourgeois parties, see Ragiorieri E. La terza Internationale 1 il PCI (Turin, 1978), pp. 385400.

24 Myant M., Socialism and democracy in Czechoslovakia, 1945–8 (Cambridge, 1981), p. 57; Zinner P., Communist strategy and tactics in Czechoslovakia, 1918–48 (London, 1963), p. 100; Bloomfifld J., Passive revolution: politics and the Czechoslovak working class, 1945–8 (London, 1979), p. 38.

25 Thus when the KKE founded PEEA in March 1944, it was modelled on the Yugoslav AVNOJ and was clearly a challenge to the Government-in-Exile, see Loulis, The Greek communist party, pp. 91103. Although the communists appeared only to have two ministers in this PEEA government, they in fact had five as three ministers were secret party members, see Vlavianos H. ‘The Greek communist party: resistance or revolution?’, in Judt T. (ed.), Resistance and rvolmtun, P. 179.

26 Because Soviet representatives were in contact with the PEEA delegation at the Lebanon Conference of May 1944 before establishing direct links with the mountain-based partisans in July 1944, the KKE found itself following a confusing dual policy for part of the summer. See, Woodhouse C. M., The struggle Grttce, 1941–19 (London, 1976), pp. 85–6;Vlavianos H., ‘The Greek communist party’, p. 183; Loulis, The Greek communist party, pp. 139–40; Iatrides, Rrvolt, p. 75; and Alexander G. M., The prolude to the Truman Doetrine (Oxford, 1989), p. 44.

27 Swain G. R., ‘The Comintern and southern Europe’, p. 38.

28 For Tito's offer to take over the affairs of the PCI, see Swain G. R.. ‘Comintern and southern Europe’, p. 44. A selection of telegrams relating to the affairs of these countries is published in the long appendixes attached to Dedijer V., Novi prilozi, 111. Since 1985 the authorities in Belgrade have been publishing a comprehensive collection of war-time communications from the party, the partisan command, and the liberation committees, under the title: Icvori za istonju centralnih organa KPJ, NOR, i Revolucija, 1941–45. These too contain numerous telegrams relating to the affairs of other communist parties, as does Kardclj's correspondence, see Korespondenca Edvaida Kardelja in Bonsa Kidrica (Ljubljana, 1963).

29 Tillon C., Un procès it Moscou à Paris (Paris, 1971), pp. 95–7;London A., On trial (London, 1970), p. 52.

30 Bebler A. (ed.), Nosi Spanci (Ljubljana, 1962), p. 13; andGosnjak I., ‘Jugosloveni, bivsi dobrovoljci u Spaniji, u konccntracionim logonma u Franciskoj’, in Celereset godina: seianja aktivista jugoslovtnskog revolucionamog radnilkog pokrtta (Belgrade, 1960), pp. 239–49. The mastermind of the operation was the Czech emigrè in Paris, Arthur London, who headed the PCF's emigre1 section Main d'oeuvre immigrit. While London's initial instructions came from the PCF leader Jacques Duclos, the Yugoslav connection was used from early on. Thus as early as October 1939 the KPJ representative in Paris had helped return to Moscow the leading Comintern activist, Jan Sverma, who was to die during the Slovak uprising, see London, On trial, p. 133. During his journey to Moscow at the end of 1939, Sverma attended the second conference of the Slovene CP: his favourable report did much to secure Tito in his position as party leader, see Swain G. R.Tito: the formation of a disloyal bolshevik’, Inumationai Rtview of Social History, xxxiv, 2 (1989), 88.

31 Luigi Longo, a Spanish veteran, became the leader of the Italian partisans; Franqois Vittori, the Corsican leader, had fought in Spain; while four of the Yugoslav partisan Army Commanders were ‘Spaniards’. Davidson B. — in Seemes from the anti-mazi war (London, 1980), pp. 166–7 —refers to the career of Antonio Ukmar, a veteran of Spain who had since then fought in Ethiopia, France, Corsica, Yugoslavia and Italy.

32 Spriano, Aorta, p. 377.

33 Woodhouse, The struggle, p. 56; Tito's ‘Telegram to Dimitrov’, dated ‘sometime in October 1944’, and reproduced in Dedijer, Novi prilozi, I–II, 1115–17.

34 Much has been written about the nature of Yugoslav support for the December events, and in particular the telegram sent by the KKE liaison officer with the KPJ informing the KKE leadership the ‘Tito and the Bulgarians’ advised resisting the call to disarm ELAS. The date of this telegram's arrival with the Greek communist! is disputed: Woodhouse (The struggle, p. 99) gives 97th November and Loulis the 30th, which appears on the text of the telegram reproduced in his The Greek CP, p. 168. Recent scholars have doubted the ‘Cold War’ view that the Yugoslavs instigated the uprising, seeing its origins in Papandreou's duplicity, see Vlavianos H., ‘The Greek communist party’, p. 188. However, the support of Belgrade must have given the KKE confidence, particularly the erroneous prediction in the telegram that Britain would not intervene.

35 Alexander, The prelude, p. 113.

36 Petranovié B., ‘Tito i Staljin, 1944–46’ in Jugoslotenski istorijski lasopis (1988), 151, 158–9;Strbac C., Jugoslavia 1 odnosi izmedju socialisticikih zjmaija: sukob KPJ i Informbiroa (Belgrade, 1984), P. 75.

37 For Tito's pre-war relations with Stalin, see G. R. Swain, ‘Tito, the formation of a disloyal Bolshevik’.

38 Tito did not tell Moscow of his visit to Romania in December 1947, nor of the fateful decision to send troops into Albania, see Dedijer V., Tito sptaks (London, 1954), p. 315; Markoviè D. and Krzavac S., zavtra Informbiroa (Belgrade, 1987), p. 29, citing Kardelj's memoirs. Tito admitted to the Central Committee that he had made an error in not consulting the Soviet Union about stationing troops in Albania, see ‘Minutes of the KPJ central committee meeting of 1 Mar. 1948’, reproduced in Dedijer, Novi prilozi, III, 303–6. He even offered to resign as a consequence, see Djilas M., Vlast (London, 1983), p. 139.(Djilas refers to a meeting of the ‘expanded politburo’ rather than the central committee, reflecting an ambiguity in the relationship between the two. It is clear, however, that he is talking about the body of Tito's key advisers, who can be referred to as either ‘core members of the central committee’ or ‘the expanded politburo’, rather than the ‘full plenum of the central committee’ which met in April 1948.)

39 Banac, With Stalin, p. 25–6.

40 Lister E., Basta (Madrid, 1978), pp. 180–3.

41 Tagflena M., Testimomo dt dos guerros (Mexico, 1973), pp. 513–24 One such journey via Yugoslavia, Italy and France is described in Prades E. Pons, Guervillas as pasolas, 1996–60 (Barcelona, 1977), p. 145.

42 Estruch J., Historia del PCE (2 vols., Barcelona, 1978), II, 86, 100, 120, 164; Sorel A., Guerrilla aspasele del siglo XX (Paris, 1970), pp. 5966;Ayucar A. Ruiz, El partido comunsita — treinta y siele altos dt clandestinidad (Madrid, 1976), pp. 87, 119, 13a, 150, 163–179.

43 Lister, Bcsta, p. 945.

44 Coutouvidis J. & Reynolds J., Poland, 1939–47 (Leicester, 1986), p. 250, p. 263.

45 Stalin I. V., Sochintmia (16 vols., Stanford, 1967), xvi, 41–2.

46 Daily Herald, 22 Aug. 1946.

47 Myant, Socialism and democracy, p. 138.

48 Richter H., ‘The second plenum of the KKE central committee and the decision Tor civil war’ in Baerenuen L. et al. (eds.), Studies in the history of the Greek civil war (Copenhagen, 1987), p. 186.

49 Details of the extent of Yugoslav support for the Greek partisans are given in Dedijer, Noviprilozi, III, 366. Other references of interest are Cencic V., Enigma Kopinic (2 vols., Belgrade, 1983), II, 128 andVukmanovic S. (Tempo), How and wky, p. 132.

50 Woodhouse, The struggle, pp. 181, 190; Iatrides J. ‘Civil war, 1945–49: national and international aspects’ in his Greece in the 1940s — a nation in crisis (New England, 1981), p. 207.

51 Iatrides J., ‘Perceptions of Soviet involvement in the Greek Civil War’ in Baerentzen, Studies, pp. 245–7.

52 Dedijer, Noviprilozi, III, 267; latrides, ‘Perceptions’, p. 247; Woodhouse, The struggle, p. 198. The meeting of fraternal parties held during the third plenum is referred to in an interview given many years later to the Yugoslav press by Markos, see Popovski J., ‘General Markos: “zaito me Staljin nije streljao”’, in Politika, II, 12 06. 1982.

53 Woodhouse, The struggle, pp. 212–18.

54 The Times 24 Dec. 1947. The paper's correspondent speculated that the talks broke down because the non-communists resented Yugoslav interference. However, this point is rather contradicted by a further claim in the article that the Yugoslavs were opposing the formation of a Greek democratic government because of the risk of international repercussions. Reading between the lines, it seems that the Yugoslavs were cautious about backing a government which was not broad enough to win over some degree of international recognition.

55 The Times, 24 Dec. 1947.

56 Borba, 3 Feb. 1948.

57 Woodhouse, The struggle, p. 231.

58 Matthews K., Memorus of a mountain war: Greece, 1944–49 (London, 1972), p. 248.

59 For example, the French journalist's report published in Borba, 3 Feb. 1948.

60 Woodhouse, The struggle, p. 267.

61 Dedijer, Novi priloo, III, 270.

62 Ibid. 271, 601; Markovic and Krzavac, zaver Informbiroa, pp. 131–2.

63 Dedijer, Novi proilozi, III, 271, 601; Robrieux, Histoin, p. 182; and Djilas, Vlast, p. 110.

64 Djilas, Vlast, p. 105. A conference of East European communist parties was planned for July 1947 to discuss the Marshall Plan, but Gottwald's decision to Tall into line on rejecting Marshall Aid made the conference unnecessary, see Djilas M., Conversations with Stalin, (London, 1969), p. 100.

65 The fullest account of the founding conference of the Cominform is still that of Reale E., Nascila del Cominfom (Rome, 1958). However, both Dedijer's Jiovi prilozi and Strbac's Suiob give new information. The source for both is, apparently, the minutes taken at the KPJ central committee meeting immediately after the conference which discussed its achievements; the minutes themselves are reproduced by Dedijer. Strbac reproduces the telegram inviting die KPJ to attend, and the relevant extracts from Kardelj's Mtmoirs, containing a summary of his speech. Amongst the new information provided by these sources is dear evidence of the hostility of die Polish communists to the whole venture. They asked the Russians quite bluntly what die purpose of the meeting was, and on being told an ‘information co-ordination bureau’ insisted that it, and all its activities, be legal. The Poles felt such a bureau should meet ‘only when necessary’ rather than every three or four months as the conference agreed. However, die Hungarians, Bulgarians and Yugoslavs joined in resisting die Soviet suggestion that die Cominform should have a permanent council: it was too reminiscent of die old Comintern executive. More details on die Polish atdtude to die Cominform can be found in Toranska T., ONI: Stalin's Polish pmppets (London, 1987), pp. 282–3.

66 Djilas, Vlcst, p. 113. The inclusion of Slansky amongst those singled out by Zhdanov is worthy of comment. In 1952 die trial of the CPCz General Secretary would shake the communist world. His role at die foundation conference of die Comintern suggests that while not a ‘Titoite agent’, diere were grounds for linking him to die policies of both Tito and Zhdanov.

67 For a lasting peace, for a people's democracy, 10 Nov. 1947.

68 Reale, Nascita, pp. 73, 147; ‘Minutes of the KPJ central committee meeting, 30 Sep. 1947’, in Dedijer, Novi prilozi, III, 274.

69 Kardelj, cited by Strbac, Sukob, p. 244. The Yugoslav and Soviet delegations were not agreed about everything. Their perspectives on Greece were still very different. Kardelj endorsed the Greek struggle, but Zhdanov not only ignored the topic in his speech but tried to prevent corridor discussion of it, see Reale, Nascita, p. 122; and Djilas, Vlasl, p. 113.

70 It is clear from Kardelj's memoirs — cited by Strbac, Sukob, p. 244 — that Kardelj consulted Tito by telegram on the issue of Belgrade becoming the headquarters. This appears to have happened on the night of 26–7 September. On this occasion, if on no other — and it seems likely that they were in touch throughout the conference — Kardelj had time to brief Tito before he made his speech to the Second Congress of the People's Front on the 27th.

71 I am quoting from the version published in the KPJ daily Borba, on 28 Sep. 1947. Tito's speech was given wide international coverage; even an English edition was produced. See Borba, a Nov. 1947, 27 Dec. 1947.

72 Borba, 7 Feb. 1948; Ionescu G., Communism in Romania, 1944–62 (Oxford, 1964), p. 151.

73 Bloomfield, Passive revolution, p. 187.

74 Myant, Socialism and democracy, p. 179.

75 Rupnik J., Histoire, pp. 203–4.

76 For a tasting peace, for a people's democracy, 15 Jan. 1948.

77 Zinner, Communist strategy, p. 210.

78 Borba, 28 Feb. 1948.

79 Coutouvidis J. & Reynolds J., Poland, p. 307.

80 For a lasting peace, for a people's democracy, 1 Jan. 1948 and 15 Jan. 1948.

81 Ibid. 1 Dec. 1947.

82 Estruch, Historia, II, 151; Carrillo S., Dialogue on Spain, (London, 1976), p. 96.

83 For a lasting peace, for a people's democracy, 15 Feb. 1948.

84 Ibid. 1 Mar. 1948.

84 Djilas, Vlast, p. 115. An announcement of the meeting appeared in For a lasting peace, for a people's democracy, 1 Dec. 1948.

85 This can be deduced from the order of events. We know from Dedijer, Tito speaks, p. 308, that the changes in the journal had to be made at the very last minute, after the whole issue had been typeset and proof copies run off. We also know from Dedijer in Tito speaks, p. 307 and Novi priloii, III, 331 that Zhdanov was virtually the editor of the journal, going through it line by line. For changes to be made at the very last minute, they must have gone past Zhdanov, to be stopped by Stalin. For relations between Zhdanov and Stalin, see Ra'anan G. D., International policy formation in the USSR: factional debates during the Zhdanovshekina (Hamden, 1983).

87 For a lasting peace, for a people's democracy, 1 Dec. 1947, 15 Dec. 1947; Borba 27 Dec. 1947, 15 Jan. 1948, 18 Jan. 1948, 31 Jan. 1948, 5 Feb. 1948, n Feb. 1948.

88 Barker E., ‘Yugoslav policy towards Greece, 1947–9’ in Baercntzen, Studies, p. 271.

89 Royal Institute Tor International Affairs, The Soviet-Yugoslao dispute (London, 1948), pp. 151–6.

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