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The Theory and Practice of communism. A series of 13 lectures drawn from the 1967 Wisconsin Alumni seminar held at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Michael B Petrovich the speaker is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin and a specialist in Russian and Balkan history. He's the author of several books and articles in today's lecture. Professor Petrovich offers the first of a two part discussion of the Yugoslav way to socialism. Now Professor Petrovitch in 1947 I was all prepared to write as a graduate student at Columbia and on the basis of ample evidence a book which was to show that Yugoslavia was the most loyal and most subservient of all of Russia's East European satellites. One year later in June 1940 Stalin ordered Yugoslavia's expulsion from the communist information bureau. The common
form. As the first step towards the extermination of Tito and his supporters Tito's and seemed imminent and today nearly 20 years later not only is Tito alive but he is flourishing. He has outlived Stalin in May 1955 he had the delectable pleasure of serving crow to Stalin successors Khrushchev and Bill Gandhi and in Belgrade itself. Tito stands today as an example of a communist who has rebelled against Moscow and who has not only lived to tell about it but has prospered. What factors account for Tito success. Undoubtedly the nature of the international situation had much to do with Tito's ability to escape Soviet retribution. Given the tension between east and west. Stalin was probably not willing to risk violence in a region where any Russian could release that pent up hatred of the oppressed millions in the satellite
states. Besides Stalin probably believed that Tito could not withstand a general boycott by the Soviet Union and its satellite governments especially if the West continue to be against Tito. But Tito did withstand one of the most vicious campaign short of war ever to be inflicted on a nation. Let's remember that Peter was not one of those satellite leaders who first heard about the liberation of his homeland on a Soviet radio and was then flown to worse our progress so the Soviet plane Tito came to power at the head of his own army while fighting against the German and Italian occupiers of Yugoslavia and behind him was in this breed a car forged in battle. Another in fact are of immense importance in Tito's success in withstanding Soviet pressure was aid from the United States. While giving aid to any kind of communist dictator. Even when he is at odds with Moscow
disturbs many Americans. The fact is that few of our American investments abroad have paid off as well. To be sure we did not convert Tito from communism. As a matter of fact our government astutely tied no strings to our help. And Tito has expressed public gratitude for this. For example in his address before the seventh Congress of the Communist Party in May 1958 Tito remarked I quote Our relation with the USSR are founded on mutual respect cooperation on an equal basis and non interference in internal affairs. We received economic and military aid from America at a time when we were in most urgent need of it. That is in a period of Stalin's political economic and propaganda pressure on our country. This helped us a great deal in overcoming the tremendous difficulties we were in then. Some people in the east wanted to take
advantage of this for propaganda purposes expressing the doubt that the aid was given without any political or other concessions but facts are facts. We did not make any concessions of that kind nor did anyone with such conditions promise at the time and approach even if at some future time Tito should turn against us which I cannot imagine. Historians may still record that this aide was one of the best investments our foreign aid program ever made because Tito ism is one of the greatest shocks communism has had to suffer in its history. Its effects in some ways have been more destructive to the Soviet might in the world than anything the United States has accomplished to counter the Soviet threat. Certainly an other reason for Tito success was that his defiance of Moscow rallied about him. Millions of Yugoslavs who had no love for communism but who
shared a national pride. This support within Yugoslavia grew steadily as Tito relaxed some of the severity of his regime and increased relations with the non communist world. When Stalin died in one thousand fifty three it must have become obvious to his successors it was fruitless for them to perpetuate one of their Master's greatest errors. And yet though Khrushchev and Bill Gagnon publicly humiliated themselves by their famous trip to Belgrade we find today that the breach between Tito and Moscow is still far from mended. Why has there not been a complete reconciliation. What is the obstacle. The answer lies in the phrase Tito ism. What is tourism. Yugoslavia is of tremendous importance as a pacemaker in the communist world today on three different occasions during the
last 20 years. Yugoslavia has charted for itself a course which has affected the outlook and practice of communism throughout Europe. The first of these occasions was Yugoslavia split with Moscow and its east European satellites in 1948. Whatever the other point to the issue were the central point was the contention of the Yugoslav Communist Party that all the nations in the socialist camp were the equals of one another in the right to conduct their own affairs. This claim of course struck directly against the heliocentric theory that Moscow was the capital and director of the world communist movement. And for this heresy quote unquote Yugoslavia was excommunicated by the common farm on June 28 1948. This act was generally regarded as the first step toward the extermination of Tito and his supporters. Indeed according to whose jobs very long speech that we spoke
about the other day Stalin boasted that all he had to do was to wiggle his little finger to accomplish this. Yet Tito and his supporters not only survived but Yugoslavia has been the most flourishing of the Communist nations of Eastern Europe. It is not my purpose here today to retell the story of Yugoslavia cism. Let us simply record that since Yugoslavia split with the Kremlin for one reason or another the theory of Moscow as the center of the Communist solar system has been shattered. And that not even Moscow clings to this theory any longer. The new order of the Communist universe is poly centric. If one indeed can refer to any order amid the disarray of the communist parties of the world the impact of the Polish and uprisings and especially the rift between Peking
and Moscow has left its marks. Yugoslavia's daring claim in 1948 of the quality of the socialist nations and their right to mutual noninterference has since become common place. The Soviet Union itself indicated its acceptance when two years after Stalin's death Khrushchev and Bill Gandhian visit to Belgrade. Today all of these once exciting events seem almost old hat. And if Yugoslavia's claim on our attention rested solely on its split with Moscow in one thousand forty eight there would be little purpose to giving Yugoslavia special treatment in this lecture series. You can be as important today lies not so much in the cism which led to Polly centrism as it does to the changes which took place in Yugoslavia as a result of this ism. These
changes did not come all at once. Indeed for about a year after the 1940 8 ex-communication. The Yugoslav leaders who seem to be in a state of shock of voided doing anything upsetting in the hope of healing the rift. It was only when they came to realize the impossibility of this that they embarked upon a course of their own. There was no full blown program to put into operation and no ready idiology on which to base it. The changes came piecemeal. As responses to outer pressures and internal predicaments of all kinds. Yet out of it all came a new system which altered Yugoslavia's life profoundly between 1950 and 1964. Many of the important changes came out of the devastating critique which the Yugoslav leaders leveled against
Soviet Stalin ism. Some changes came from Yugoslavia as need to adjust itself to the noncommunist world on which it had to rely after its ouster from the communist camp. However the most significant changes came from the sheer necessity of establishing a viable society and economy without giving up one's national independence culminating in the constitution of 1963. The new system was a conscious departure from the rigid centralism of Stalin ism especially in the area of economics turning its back on the Soviet model of the total planned economy. The new system vaunted the principle of free competition in a market economy with autonomy for Yugoslavia's enterprises and self management for its workers. Especially as far as the rest of the communist world was concerned the most challenging
development to emerge from Yugoslavia as new system was the institution of the workers councils in the factories and communes as the basis of political self-government. Don't the Workers Councils and the communes were based on the contention the true social democracy meant that the producers themselves had the right to manage their own political and economic affairs directly. In an analysis of these developments published in 1962 the Swiss journalist and how Korean minimized the effects of the Yugoslav experience on the other communist countries of Eastern Europe even in Poland and Hungary among other things Haldeman remarked quote in Poland and Hungary almost the only people to give evidence of a real understanding of Yugoslav teaching were the theoretical economists at the universities. A group which is
assigned only slight political importance in the communist system. I say this was published in 1962. Yet one need only turn to say the works of print Professor Gregory Grossman in our own country to see how important the role of the East European economists has been in introducing changes in their countries which echoed the Yugoslav experience in the Soviet Union itself. Similar changes have become synonymous with the name of an economics professor at the University of Hanukkah. You have say leap to mind. It is hardly possible to assess how much influence the Yugoslav way has had on various changes in East European countries in the past decade. After all there is always the possibility of parallel development. And yet it would be difficult to overlook the fact that you could be a initiated many of these changes and that its experience stands both as a challenge
and as an invitation to the other communist countries of Eastern Europe. Again the very fact that for one reason or other the other East European countries have adopted some of the features of the Yugoslav system would seem to do away with the need to deal with Yugoslavia separately. In any assessment of European communism However Yugoslavia has not stopped being a pace setter in July 1965 the Yugoslav federal assembly passed some 40 laws decrees and recommendations which brought further important and radical changes to the Yugoslav economic system. These laws of July 1965 are known collectively as the reform and these economic changes are even now leading to another basic overhauling of political and social relations as well though based in large measure on the already established
principles. These changes taken in their entirety and into relation constitute a qualitative leap which weight may well result in a new challenge and invitation to other communists. It is our purpose to undertake three tasks here. First to identify the main tenets of the Yugoslav communist ideology as it has developed since 1948. Second to examine the economic reform of the last two years. And third to assess some of the political effects of that reform on the Yugoslav Communist Party. Our overall aim is to help answer a crucial question. To what degree is Yugoslavia offering an effective answer to an important question in the 20th century. Namely can a society be both collectivist and democratic. It is tempting to try even in a brief summary of the Yugoslav communist
ideology to give a historical survey which would show how each Tenet came about as a response to a given situation. Nevertheless for the sake of brevity and convenience let me turn to the program of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia as codified by its 7th Congress in one thousand fifty eight. Despite certain changes of detail and emphasis this 1958 program has never been repudiated and still embodies the main premises of the Yugoslav idiology. I should be paraphrasing from now on from this 1958 programme. The Yugoslav communists see their own country as part of an inevitable historical process in which the whole world is turning from capitalism to socialism. However the development of socialism is an even as the development of capitalism has been
and each must get to the goal his own way and in his own good time. Meanwhile say the Yugoslav is no socialist country is a perfect model and all have something to learn from one another. No one has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of the other since all are sought for it. The equality is a prerequisite for true socialist internationalism. Further more socialism is in itself no guarantee of purity. Under Stalin socialism in the Soviet Union became de farm. Though since his death it has been returning to a pure Marxism Leninism. I hope everyone understands I'm still paraphrasing. However China is now the heir to deformity of socialism. As for the non communist world all countries consciously or
otherwise are on the road to socialism including the western capitalist democracies which are adopting socialist forms more and more and which are certainly not in the last stage of decay. They're for active peaceful coexistence between the socialist and capitalist systems is possible and on a lasting basis. As for the nature of socialism socialism and democracy are not only compatible says the Yugoslav programme but necessary prerequisites for one another. Building socialism is a long process which will require compromises and and adaptations. Thus Marxism is not a blueprint but a guide to be used creatively. The achievement of socialism is ultimately dependent on the attainment of a proper material basis for social democracy.
Of the two dominant economic systems in the modern world one based on private capital and the other on state ownership. Neither is the true way. Both private and state ownership of the means of production deprives the worker of surplus value and his control over it. Besides controlled by state bureaucracy brings the economy to certain stagnation. The only true way to social democracy say the Yugoslavs is by the direct participation of the producers through Workers Councils and the direct participation of citizens through social organisations such as the Socialist Alliance the trade unions and others. A socialist economy is not immune to the operations of the market. While planning is necessary a centrally controlled economy does
not work and should be rejected. Its alternative is and now I quote a free yet controlled market. Some of us are smiling. This is precisely what we have in our country. They freak control my kids. As for political power in a socialist state says the Yugoslav program it should be de-centralized and the state should wither away gradually as its functions are no longer needed are taken over by social organisations. Similarly the Communist Party should not dictate but influence by persuasion. And it too should gradually wither away. Social democracy envisages freedom of expression and development both for the individual and for social groups including various nationalities. Here then in a brief summary are the main tenets of the Yugoslav idiology.
Some call it heresy. Others call it revisionism. Still others claim that it is true orthodoxy and there are those who are regarded as sheer opportunism. Much depends of course on what one regards as orthodoxy. From an institutional viewpoint orthodoxy is whatever the central authoritative body says it is. But the point is that there is no such central authoritative body as existed in the 1930s when the Communist International as Marxism Leninism Stalin is. Today Stalinism is no longer. And even Leninism is regarded in some quarters more as a guiding method than as a set of normative principles. The very seat of communist Orthodoxy must go is being denounced today by the Chinese communists. As for Marxism itself it is becoming notoriously true even for communists who regard themselves as models of orthodoxy. The
scriptures may be read in many different ways. There are even the young Marx and the old Marx to consider. Indeed one may even recall to good advantage that Marx himself declared. We found Marxist and not a Marxist. From the viewpoint of the communists such a logical considerations are not a matter of indifference to him. They require a rationalization even if they may no longer evoke belief. In the present non-dogmatic face of communism as Miliband g last calls it when the communist ideology is being stretched and strained as never before to suit the practical needs of a variety of communist states and parties. The confrontation with the Yugoslav idiology is we submit of no small importance even if idiology were dead in communist Europe as it is increasingly fashionable to claim the Communists still feel the necessity to provide their actions with an acceptable logical
justification. Whether they are right or not as long as the Yugoslav communists cling to the claim that they are still being true to the spirit of Marxism Leninism their idiology will be of interest to other communists who may need similar theoretical justifications for their actions. Humans have shown an almost infinite capacity for validating their actions on a theological and moral grounds. No matter what these actions have been. As long as the Yugoslav communists maintain the position of being true creative Marxists and not rebellious Protestants it does not matter too much as long as their way shows results. As the programme of the seventh Congress stresses the results are the only true verdict. There is scarcely a single tenet of the Yugoslav communist Creed which is original in itself. Each has been enunciated before by someone else and at some other time
it is their combination when declared by Sovereign communist power and linked with a practical program of action which may be of enormous interest to others that makes these tenets important. The Yugoslav idiology stands not only as an indictment of both the Soviet and Chinese models but is the basis for a new kind of socialist system which commands attention. As a practical alternative to both the private capitalism of the West and the state capitalism of the Communist East. Thus without dismissing the importance of the Yugoslav ideology it is certainly more profitable to examine the actual workings of the Yugoslav system. One might well ask why the communist rulers of Yugoslavia have embarked on a program whose avowed goal is the eventual disappearance of their own power. It is axiomatic in the world of political
science that all power seeks to perpetuate itself and indeed to multiply. Without wishing to reject moral philosophical and psychological factors is irrelevant. Let me simply offer the contention that the chief and determining motivation behind the Yugoslav way to socialism has been and is economic pressure. Somewhere along the line the Yugoslav leaders came to the realization that their economic system if it could ever be called a system was not getting them anywhere. It would be superficial and be Wrone as to claim that the Yugoslav leader simply learned what lots of people would have been glad to tell them that the communist economic system is no good and doesn't work. After all that system or some version of it has raised the Soviet Union from an economically backward peasant state to the second most important industrial country in the world in just two generations. That same system had brought notable economic progress to
Yugoslavia despite great sacrifices. In the decade 1952 to 62 Yugoslavia was second only to Japan in the world in its overall rate of economic growth. Its per capita national income rose from one hundred forty dollars just before the Second World War. This is based on present purchasing power to over 500 dollars in 1964. Yes it was precisely Yugoslavia's economic progress that made it impossible to keep the system which could achieve that progress. For reasons known only to economists the figure of $500 per capita national income just cited is the dividing line between an economically underdeveloped country and a developing country. If so this means that in 1964 Yugoslavia made the transition the leap if you like from being the
most developed of the under developed countries to being the most undeveloped of the developed countries. Now this was no mere step forward but a qualitative leap into a new kind of economic world. From the bush leagues into the big league if Yugoslavia had made progress so rapidly up to that point. It was because all the authority of a powerful state controlled by centralized Communist Party had been brought to bear on industrializing an economically primitive country whose economy such as it was had been ruined during the Second World War. However whether we choose to take the $500 figure seriously or not the fact is that by sixty one thousand sixty four it was fairly clear to a more sophisticated segment of the Yugoslav communist leadership that the Yugoslav economy was approaching a data end and
The theory and practice of communism
The Yugoslav Way to Socialism
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University of Wisconsin
WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
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For series info, see Item 3358. This prog.: The Yugoslav Way to Socialism, part I
Politics and Government
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Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
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Chicago: “The theory and practice of communism; The Yugoslav Way to Socialism,” 1968-04-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 21, 2022,
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APA: The theory and practice of communism; The Yugoslav Way to Socialism. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from