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THE KREMLIN: Discrimination in a Tomb

7 minute read

Moscow went all out last week to welcome Comrade Tito, the prodigal son, and for one very good reason. For them, at this moment in history, he was the world’s most useful man. These days the Kremlin’s Communists have one basic task on their minds: they hope, by pinning responsibility for Communist crimes of the past 20 years on Stalin, to exculpate themselves from a guilt which they unquestionably shared. They do not seem to care how Khrushchev’s expose affects foreign Communist leaders who—living under no “reign of terror” in their own countries—had no excuse for their slavish subservience to Stalin’s will (see below). Instead, the Kremlin turned to the one surviving European Communist leader with a certified anti-Stalin record: Yugoslavia’s Marshal Tito. In the Kremlin’s new reckoning, Tito was a “cleanskin” who could persuade neutralist and socialist governments, and waverers in NATO and SEATO, that the Soviet change of heart is genuine.

Champagne&Cakes. Elaboratelycourted in Moscow last week, Tito was exploiting his singular advantage with evident satisfaction. In the conference room at the Council of Ministers building, the customary huge portrait of Stalin had been removed in order that Tito should not be offended. Marching sternly through the Lenin-Stalin mausoleum in Red Square in his powder-blue marshal’s uniform, Tito ignored the sarcophagus of Stalin, gave a passing glance to that of Lenin. His 5 ft. wreath was marked “To Vladimir Ilyich Lenin” from “Josip Broz Tito.” At a workers’ meeting at the Moskva Auto Works (formerly the Stalin Auto Works), he said that after an absence of ten years he was glad to meet some people who were not afraid to look him in the eye and speak up.

At luncheons and receptions in the most ornate halls of the Grand Kremlin Palace, surrounded by grinning, handshaking Russian bureaucrats and bemedaled officers of the Kremlin guard in gold-braided green uniforms. Tito contrived to look unimpressed. His handsome, dark-skinned wife Jovanka outshone the dowdy official Russian wives with her wardrobe of elegant evening gowns of white silk, black lace over bronze-red, her red stole, gold mesh bag and rubies, and her day suits of pink brocade and lavender silk. At the ballet Tito looked bored.

Walking out from his Moscow residence in a cream suit and white snap-brim hat, with his wife, Tito pointed out the house in Pushkinskaya Street where he lived in the 30’s, paid a visit to the famed Lux (renamed Excelsior) Hotel, onetime headquarters of the Comintern, from which hundreds of foreign Communists were dragged in midnight raids during the great purges. Taking refuge from crowds of gaping Russians in an ice-cream parlor, Tito ordered champagne and cakes.

He was shown an atomic reactor which Premier Bulganin said was “similar to the one we are making for you.” At Leningrad his train was mobbed as crowds broke police lines. Tito put on his man-in-the-street act, tucked children under the chin, and listened to extravagant compliments paid to him by Premier Bulganin who, just as eloquently a few years earlier, had referred to him as a “jackal.”

Perhaps the sweetest of Old Balkan Hand Tito’s satisfactions was the vengeance he was taking on the men who had spoken loudest in denunciation of him during his 1948 quarrel with Stalin. Satellite leaders who once denounced him have been shoved aside, or tremble in their jobs. Men who went to their deaths accused of trafficking with him have had their reputations posthumously “rehabilitated.” The Cominform which expelled him has been dissolved. Molotov has resigned. All these things, Tito indicated, make for a good start, but he still” has some names on his list. He has a score to settle with an old enemy, Hungarian Communist Boss Matyas Rakosi. And the Yugoslav party newspaper Borba has made clear Tito’s displeasure with France’s Maurice Thorez. Little Albania has not yet properly recanted.

Moscow needs Tito, and the price is high.

The New Role. For a long time the standard U.S. attitude has been that “Tito is too smart to get himself back into the bear’s claws,” and to let it go at that. A reappraisal is now needed. Obviously Tito is not willing to become a satellite again. But a new role is emerging for him in the Communist world—a role gratifying to his considerable ego and suited to his considerable talents.

Last week it was becoming clear what the Kremlin wants of Tito. It does not mean to destroy his independence, but to put it to use. Stalin’s old cronies and legitimate heirs want Tito to vouch for them in the world of friendly but doubting nations of Europe and Asia, when the full facts of Stalin’s crimes become known. They want Tito as a kind of ambassador extraordinary among the neutral nations, selling the Kremlin line from a new stand, using his influence to reestablish what is now, or soon will be, wholly discredited.

What will Tito gain? Behind his lordly impassivity is there a dream of becoming the great ideological and organizational genius of the world Communist Parties, laying old leaders aside and restoring order in the confused and resentful ranks of the Italian, French, German and satellite parties, a dream perhaps of uniting the world’s Communist and Socialist Parties in some kind of new International?

Tito has already shown himself skilled in pursuing the direction Moscow now wants to take. He has found a way of talking to the outside world. He has kept a tight security rein on his country without some of the more flagrant severities of Moscow. It is true that he has botched the running of his economy; the peasants are still poor and dissatisfied. But in this he is no worse than the Russians (neither dares admit that the difficulty is in the system itself). And he has shown agility and a certain style in diplomacy.

But above all, Tito provides the Kremlin with a new opening to the West. The European Communist Parties outside the Iron Curtain have diminished everywhere except in France and Italy; and in these two countries, while they hold their strength, they are isolated and sterile. A new way of infiltrating Western Europe is needed—a way of bringing down the barriers that Stalin’s madness erected against Russia. The active hostility of the Western world must be numbed; perhaps even the military resolution of NATO can be sapped. At the height of the cold war each side knew where it stood; now the Communists seek to blur distinctions, so that Moscow Communism fades imperceptibly into “independent” Communism, which in turn fades imperceptibly into neutralism, so that in time the neutralist may be hard to distinguish from the indifferent antagonist. In all this blurring of attitudes, Tito is useful, and the old hacks are in the way.

If the Thorezes and Togliattis hold back and hesitate to discredit Stalin’s memory too quickly, it is not because they hold Stalin’s memory green, but because they fear that in the process they themselves may be effaced.

Inevitable Difference. A confident Tito announced in Moscow last week that “there are no longer any important problems to solve” between Russian Communism and Yugoslav Communism. In the Kremlin’s lofty, alabaster-white, great Hall of St. George, a reporter drew Tito’s attention to U.S. congressional threats to cut off U.S. aid to Yugoslavia. Said Tito, resplendent in his blue uniform: “It is not important. Our relations with the U.S. remain as before.” But will they?

In the past the U.S. had been guarded in its trust of Tito, but generous with its money. Now that he was back in his old camp, with a certain stature of his own, he may not miss the dollars he will now lose. He knows that the U.S. will still find it necessary to talk to him and through him. But from now on, there will be an inevitable difference. Denying him dollars will itself solve little. A more fundamental response to Moscow’s new calculated blurring of distinctions is to keep distinctions clear. Tito’s return to Moscow is a useful first lesson: a Communist is a Communist.

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