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COMMUNISTS: The Best Years of Our Lives

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When Moscow excommunicated Marshal Tito (TIME, July 12), the world got a tantalizing intimation that conflicting personal and national interests can be stronger than Marxist theories as enforced by the Kremlin. Last week, historic documents on the Tito-Stalin conflict became available. Some hours after Andrei Vishinsky arrived in Belgrade for the Danube conference, pamphlets brought by his staff from Russia were shoved into Belgrade mailboxes, slipped under doors at night. They contained three letters from Moscow to Tito, written months before the public break. Last week, the Yugoslav Communist Party prepared to distribute a pamphlet containing Tito’s replies. As few other documents have in recent years, the correspondence revealed the Marxist world’s strange, stifling atmosphere of fear and arrogance, bickering and bombast. If the Earthworm Tractor Company’s Alexander Botts had a course in Leninism he could have written letters like these:

March 20, 1948

To V. M. Molotov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, U.S.S.R.

On March 16, we were informed that the government of the U.S.S.R. had decided immediately to withdraw all military advisers and instructors [from Yugoslavia] on the grounds that they were in “hostile surroundings” . . . During their entire stay, Yugoslavia’s attitude toward them was not only good but actually brotherly. Therefore, we are amazed, we cannot understand and are deeply hurt.

It is true the [Yugoslav] government decided that [lesser officials] did not have the right to give important information to anyone . . . All our clerks . . . gave various people state economic secrets which could and sometimes did fall into the hands of our common enemies . . . To obtain such information, Soviet people should go higher, that is to the Yugoslav Communist Party and the Yugoslav government . . . From all this it can be seen that the above reasons are not the real cause for the measure now taken by the Soviet government and it is our desire that the U.S.S.R. openly inform us what the matter is . . . Once again accept the expression of my respect.

(Signed) J. B. Tito, President, Council of Ministers

Moscow did not hesitate to tell Tito what the matter was. It sounded almost as though it were talking to Washington or London or other “capitalist bandits.”

March 27, 1948

To Comrade Tito and other members, Central Committee, Communist Party of Yugoslavia:

. . . We regard your answer as incorrect and completely unsatisfactory . . .

Our military advisers were sent to Yugoslavia upon your request . . . Later, however, Yugoslav officials . . . announced it would be possible to reduce the number [of advisers] by 60%. Various reasons were given: some said the Soviet advisers were too expensive; others said it was not necessary for the Yugoslav army to benefit from the experience of the Soviet army . . . Yugoslav military leaders started to insult Soviet military advisers . . . [Furthermore] Yugoslav security forces were controlling and supervising Soviet representatives . . , We have come upon similar practices in bourgeois states . . .

(This petulant squabble over what was essentially a clash between two Communist spy systems, was the expression of a far deeper rift.)

. . . You express a desire to be informed of other facts which create dissatisfaction in the U.S.S.R . . . Leading comrades in Yugoslavia are saying things like “The [Soviet] All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks) is degenerate,” and “the Cominform is a means of controlling other parties by the All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks).” These anti-Soviet phrases are usually covered up by leftist phrases such as “Socialism in the Soviet Union has ceased to be revolutionary” . . . It would be pertinent to mention that Trotsky . . . also started accusing the [Soviet] Communist Party of being degenerate . .. behind the leftist phrase of world revolution. However, Trotsky himself degenerated . . . We think that Trotsky’s political career is instructive. . . . We are disturbed by the present condition of the Yugoslav Communist Party . . . The Party cadres are under the control of the Minister of State Security. According to the theory of Marxism, the Party should control all state organs in the country . . . while in Yugoslavia we have just the opposite . . . Capitalist elements are in full bloom . . . The Yugoslav Communist Party is being put to sleep by rotten opportunistic theories of peaceful absorption of capitalist elements . . . This is nothing new. In Russia 40 years ago a faction of the Mensheviks proposed that the Marxist party be dissolved into a nonparty workers’ mass organization. As is known, Lenin classified these Mensheviks as hellish opportunists . . .

(Signed) Central Committee, All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks).

To a Communist, being called a Trotskyite or Menshevik is not the ludicrous doubletalk which it is to American ears; it is a great deal more serious than an American being accused of embezzling or Communism.

Would Tito renounce his heresies?

For three weeks, he was silent. His police arrested two pro-Stalin comrades. Then he reveals the core of his heresy—patriotism.

April 13, 1948

To Comrades J. V. Stalin and V. M. Molotov:

We are terribly surprised by the tone and content of your letter . . . Even though we love the U.S.S.R. we cannot love our own country less . . .

The wages we had to pay to the Soviet experts were three times higher than the wages of our cabinet ministers . . . This was one of the reasons which led us to request for the reduction in the number of Soviet military experts . . .

We don’t exclude the possibility that some of our people made untimely remarks. [But] we must mention that some Soviet military experts didn’t always behave as they should . . . In our trade relations . . . we do not deny there was neglect on our part . . . However, we cannot believe that could be sufficient reason to weaken our economic cooperation . . .

(Here a note of genuine disappointment and bitterness enters the letter. It is the old cry: “I have given you the best years of my life, and now . . .”)

Is it possible to believe that people who sat six, eight, ten or more years in prison—because of their popularizing the U.S.S.R—can be anti-Soviet as mentioned in your letter? No! They are the same people who in 1941 organized the uprising against the Fascist invader, deeply believing in the Soviet Union . . . who with gun in hand fought under the most difficult conditions on the side of the Soviet Union as its only true ally . . .

Love toward the U.S.S.R. did not come of itself. It was stubbornly introduced into the masses . . . by the present leaders of the New Yugoslavia . . . Completely inaccurate is your information that . . . capitalist elements . . . are being strengthened, etc. Where did that information come from? . . . We study and take as an example the Soviet system, but we are developing Socialism in our country in somewhat different forms. We do this . . . because it is forced on us by conditions in our daily life . . .

(Other grievances gush forth. Apparently Tito complained of a situation like the one that bothers Representative Mundt in Washington.)

We feel it is incorrect for the Soviet Intelligence Service to recruit our citizens in our country for their service . . . We have proof that certain members of Soviet Intelligence in recruiting our Party members have cast doubts on our leaders, harmed their reputation . . . These activities by Soviet Intelligence Service continue today . . . We cannot allow their spread.

Finally, even though we know that the U.S.S.R. is haying tremendous difficulties reconstructing; its homeland, we rightfully expect assistance . . .

. . . We are deeply convinced that [all] this is the result of misunderstanding. Therefore we propose that one or more members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union study all these questions on the spot . . . We send you our comradely greetings . . .

(Signed) Tito Kardelj [Vice Premier]

Would Moscow take this opportunity to forgive and forget?

May 4, 1948

To the Central Committee, Communist Party, Yugoslavia:

. . . Your tone can only be qualified as unboundedly pretentious. Yugoslav comrades do not accept criticism in Marxist manner but in a bourgeois manner, i.e., as an insult to prestige, which undermines the ambitions of Yugoslav leaders . . .

It is not clear why the U.S. Ambassador in Belgrade behaves as though he were host in his own house, and why his intelligence agents . . . move about freely . . . Yugoslav leaders see no difference between the foreign policy of the U.S.S.R. and the foreign policy of the Anglo-Americans . . . [typical] is Tito’s statement, May 19, 1945: “We demand everyone shall be master in his own house; we do not want to pay the bills of others; we do not want to pay money for bribery; we do not want great powers to involve us in some policy of spheres of interest . . .”

Tito said the above in connection with Trieste. Because of the exhaustion of other means, the Soviet Union had only one other method left of giving Trieste to Yugoslavia—to start war with the Anglo-Americans . . . Yugoslav comrades fail to realize that after such a serious war, the U.S.S.R. couldn’t enter into another war . . .

Regarding the alarming situation within the Yugoslav Communist Party, we know the members are afraid to give their opinion, afraid to criticize the Party system . . . Tito and Kardelj propose that representatives go to Yugoslavia to study Soviet-Yugoslav differences, but it is not a matter of verifying individual facts but fundamental differences . . . We propose that the question be discussed at the next session of the Cominform.

(Signed) Central Committee, All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks)

This was Tito’s last chance to recant and submit to Party discipline. But—

May 17, 1948

To Comrades Stalin and Molotov: It would be too much to write of the depressing effect [your letter] created.

It has convinced us all explanations were in vain . . . Even before we were informed, seven [other Communist] Parties received [copies of] your first letter and have taken their stand Not only our Party but our entire country is being insulted.

. . . We will determinedly construct Socialism and remain loyal to the Soviet Union . . . We will accomplish all we promise you.

(Signed) Tito Kardelj

These last assurances are meaningless, and both sides know it. The drama winds like a cut & dried dialectic argument, to its inevitable end.

May 22, 1948

To the Central Committee, Communist Party of Yugoslavia:

. . . The Yugoslav leaders have gone a step further in aggravating their crude mistakes of principle . . . Italian and French comrades did not oppose the rights of other parties to criticize their mistakes. They have on the contrary received blows of Bolshevik criticism and benefited from them . . . The Yugoslavs are asking for a privileged position . . . Comrades Tito and Kardelj assure us with words they will show us with deeds that they will remain true to the Soviet Union . . . After what happened, we have no reason to believe these assurances . . . By refusing to attend the Cominform meeting, they admitted their guilt and cut themselves off from the united socialist peoples’ front . . .

(Signed) Central Committee, All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks)

Five weeks later, the Cominform formally denounced and expelled Tito. The party which (in the words of its song) shall one day be the human race had heard enough.

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