The Ambassador in Yugoslavia (Cannon) to the Secretary of State 1


No. 162

Sir: I have the honor to present an organizational analysis of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) which suggests the great influence Party structure and composition may have had for the origins, development, and defense of Titoism in Yugoslavia. In this study, primarily undertaken to tabulate the elements of Titoism, and to define its terms, the Department will note certain general conditions which, if identified elsewhere, could establish a presumption of the possibility of future Titoisms.

As used in this despatch, “Titoism” should be understood as a Communist movement which seeks to establish sovereignty with regard to its internal concerns and equality with other Communist Parties in international relations. Essentially, Titoism makes a claim for the national independence of those Communist Parties which are both Parties and Governments of States, and grants, or confines, the Soviet Communist Party (SCP) to a status of primus inter pares. As such, neither the Marxist economic dogma nor the Bolshevik organizational concept is involved. Titoism is not resistance to the USSR and sovietization, whether domestic or foreign, either in an antipathy to the class war and world revolution or in a desire for some form of compromise with the civil and economic freedoms of the Western world. Resistance to the USSR has come for such reasons and doubtless will continue, but this type of opposition is a factor of an earlier period, prior to the consolidation of power by the Communist Party involved, and is a struggle contested by non-Communist groups. Titoism can thus be taken as a phenomenon of a mature Communist period, and its only surprising aspect is perhaps that it developed so soon in Eastern Europe. Its causes and conditions are to be sought within the framework of the particular Communist Party concerned.

The conditions which have been most influential in producing Titoism in Yugoslavia seem to have been: 1) prerequisites of the consolidation of state power by the CPY and the elaboration of its Party apparatus; 2) the composition of the Party itself—less than 1% of whom have been members for more than eight years, 30% of whom saw war service under Tito, and 70% of whom are very recent members, largely uneducated, unacquainted with Marxism, and ignorant of any leadership other than Tito’s; 3) the [Page 887] special characteristics of the CPY’s leadership element, particularly its continuity in Party office and its comparative national insularity; 4) the attempt by the SCP to effect a sharp alteration in a set of CPY policies—agrarian, nationality, organization, and nationalist—which had established their own organizational validity and usefulness in the specific Yugoslav situation. These several aspects of the foundation of Titoism are investigated in the sections which follow.

[Here follows the descriptive, historical, and statistical body of the despatch, covering twenty-nine typewritten pages in the source text.

The principal headings of the paper are as follows:

First Prerequisite: Consolidation of State Power
Security Apparatus
Mass Organizations
Public Opinion Media
Control of Industry and Economic Activity
The Interlocking Directorate of the CPY
Second Prerequisite: Elaboration of the Party Organization
Distribution of Party Organization
Composition of the Party Organizations
The Composition of the CPY
Development of CPY Membership
Lack of Party Experience
Lack of General and Marxist Education
Influence of the Wartime Experience
The Special Characteristics of the CPY Leadership
Post-War Soviet Policy and CPY History
The Markovic Period 1919–1928
The Martinovic-Gorkic Period 1929–1937
The First Tito Period 1937–1941
The Second Tito Period 1941–1945]

V. Conclusions

This review has posited the specific Yugoslav conditions for Titoism as: 1) the consolidation of internal state power by the Party and the elaboration of the Party organization; 2) the composition of the Party itself, 70% with less than three years Party experience, uneducated generally and in Marxism; almost 30% bound by the great emotional impact of war service under Tito; and less than 1% of the Party having an acquaintance with Communism prior to the construction of the new CPY by Tito; 3) the special characteristics—continuity, self-assurance; insularity—of Party leadership; and 4) a change in the Soviet Party line at apparent variance with the political-organizational principles which had won local success.

Certain particularities of the Yugoslav situation have been ignored—among them the national character of the Yugoslavs in general and the Serbs in particular and the personalities and temperaments [Page 888] of the topmost CPY leaders. With regard to the former the Yugoslavs have for centuries proved unamenable to foreign pressure and dictation, and to the latter, the Tito clique has abundantly displayed its tough and violent addiction to power. These elements in the situation have not been treated, first because an attempt has been made to select those conditions in the Yugoslav situation which might have some generality of application and second because evidence of greater or less devotion to freedom and independence on the part of a people and of a larger or smaller love of power on the part of individuals is difficult to come by. Other peoples now enduring the Communist dictatorship have an historic claim to strength and persistence in their struggle for freedom that seems not markedly inferior to that of the Yugoslavs. And other Communist leaders elsewhere seem no less devoted to the enjoyment of power for power’s sake than do the Yugoslav leaders. It is still perhaps an open question whether an affection for power itself would be cultivated by a Communist chieftain in servility or in resistance to Moscow. To the extent that the traditional independence of the Serbs and the established compulsions of the Tito group have been operative, they have indeed produced the first Titoism in Yugoslavia.

Of the conditions in the Yugoslav situation which have been considered significant to the development of Titoism the Embassy would unquestionably place the fact of the war foremost. That the CPY attained its power in a struggle in which the Party and its leadership actually participated—that the CPY did not depend solely or even preponderantly upon the Red Army for its subsequent accession to state power—seems to have established a climate of Communism different in kind as well as degree in Yugoslavia. Next in importance is probably the continuity of CPY leadership, the fact that the Party itself is the product of the present leadership and has been led by it for longer than the Communist experience of any but a handful of its oldest members. This element in turn has had important consequences for the acquisition and retention of the loyalties of the mass membership arid the fact that that membership is very largely uneducated formally and unversed in Marxism has in all probability facilitated the task of the leadership. Finally, the attempt by the SCP to alter Party lines that had proved their organizational validity and usefulness in the specific Yugoslav situation is to be noted. Basic to this complex of causes and conditions is, however, the power situation, for Titoism is by its nature a challenge to, and a defense of, power. Without the consolidation of domestic power that the CPY had effected and its relative imperviousness to Cominform infiltration and subversion no Titoism could be conceived or maintained.

There can be no confidence that such conditions as in Yugoslavia and the CPY produced Titoism—even were they known with far [Page 889] greater precision than at present—would inevitably effect a similar result elsewhere. It would, in any event, be impossible entirely to duplicate the Yugoslav situation if only for the reason that there is now a precedent for Titoism, and the Soviets may be presumed to be in the future more conscious of its implications—and causes. What can be suggested, however, is that wherever a set of circumstances involving a Communist Party which has largely by its own efforts achieved victory and consolidated its power, a leadership more or less continuous and isolated in some degree from direct Soviet experience, a mass membership new, uneducated, and bound to the leadership by ties of emotion and nationalism, and an attempt by Moscow to alter policies which are fundamentally organizational—’wherever such a set of circumstances, or some combination of them, is to be found, there at least a presumption of the possibility of Titoism may exist.

The projection of the Soviet system abroad by a leadership which seems so ill-fitted to the management of empire may thus encounter new realms of conflict which by doctrine, experience and temperament it is incapable of resolving. The existence of Titoism in Yugoslavia is evidence of the profound weakness presently inherent in the Soviet concept of empire. The extent to which this external weakness may in time contribute to the decay and disintegration of the Soviet domestic order cannot now be appraised but its potential influence may well become a factor of profound significance.

Respectfully yours,

Cavendish W. Cannon
  1. Copies of this despatch, which was prepared by William K. K. Leonhart, Second Secretary of the Embassy in Belgrade, were also sent to the Embassies in Moscow, London, Paris, Rome, Athens, Warsaw, and Prague, and to the Legations in Sofia, Budapest, and Bucharest. The Department of State subsequently sent copies of this despatch to posts in China.