The Democratic Socialist Experiment of Tito's Yugoslavia.

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The Democratic Socialism Experiment Of Tito’s Yugoslavia:
A Socialism and Marxism Learning Cluster Report

(I wrote this paper in my second learning cluster, Socialism and Marxism, during my second year at SUA, 2002-3. It's published in my "Collected Writings From Soka Univeristy of America").

Many “socialist” and “communist” systems have been plagued by authoritarian leaders, who, in the name of “bringing equality” to their societies, have instead repressed the spirit of their people and have caused them unbearable suffering. Many “capitalist” systems, in the name of “free markets” have been plagued by an extreme degree of greed and have seen a gross amount of hording of wealth in the hands of small segments of society at the expense of the greater majority.

Does this have to be so? Does socialism and communism necessarily need repressive governments? Does capitalism mean that only a few can enjoy the benefits of “freedom,” while the majority has to endure the misery of abject poverty?

Josip Broz Tito, the revolutionary leader of Yugoslavia (1945-1980) did not believe this was so. He believed it was possible to have the best of both worlds, to enjoy freedom and still have equality. Although his system was not perfect and it didn’t live up to everyone’s expectations, including his own, and although he made many mistakes, his system of “democratic socialism,” during his life, brought a level of happiness and prosperity to the people of Yugoslavia, as had never before been seen in their history.

There have existed many forms of socialism and communism in many parts of the world and all have been unique. For instance, the socialism and communism of Yugoslavia was quite different from the socialism and communism of Russia, Cuba or China. Because of these differences, socialists and communists in Russia and China have claimed that the governmental system in Yugoslavia was not “true” socialism or “true” communism. Likewise, the socialists and communists in Yugoslavia have claimed that the Russian systems under both Lenin and Stalin and the Chinese systems under Mao and others were not “true” socialist or “true” communist systems.

In this same manner, many capitalist nations have waged similar arguments, claiming that other national systems are not “real” capitalism, while theirs is, and visa versa. Comparable augments, as well, have been waged between so-called “democracies,” as to whether they are “true” democracies or not.

Just as there are many definitions for the words “capitalism” and “democracy,” and many claims as to which system represents the “true” form, there are just as many definitions for the words “socialism” and “communism.” In addition, some people refer to socialism and communism synonymously, while others claim these two systems are worlds apart. Some would even argue that the communism of Marx was not “real” communism at all, but rather, it was “Marxism,” and that the Marxist systems of Lenin or Stalin were not “real” Marxism, but were instead “Leninism” and “Stalinism,” respectively. In like manner, some will claim that the socialism or communism of Yugoslavia, was neither, Marxism, Leninism, socialism, nor communism, but was instead “Titoism.”

Leaving all these endless arguments aside, one thing, which most scholars can agree upon, is that there has never been a completely capitalist, a completely democratic, a completely socialist, nor a completely communist country in the world. All countries have had mixed political and economic systems. In the sphere of economics, some have leaned more toward capitalism, while others have leaned more toward socialism. In the sphere of politics, some have leaned more toward democracy, while others have leaned more toward totalitarianism.

As it was possible in Tito’s Yugoslavia, it is possible for an economic system to be either capitalistic or socialistic, while still having a political system that is either democratic, fascist or totalitarian. In short, the economic system does not dictate what type of political system a country will follow. With this mix of so many different types of political or economic systems, it is difficult to weigh the merits of any one economic or political ideology. Instead of buying into one of the many arguments as to whether Yugoslavia was “really” socialistic, democratic, communistic, etc., I would instead prefer to relate the many differing definitions of these words to the analogy of Socrates’s idea of a “world of forms.”

If Socrates were studying capitalism, socialism, communism, democracy or totalitarianism, he would perhaps say that “true” capitalism, socialism, communism, democracy or totalitarianism could only exist in the world of forms. He may say that any attempt to replicate the perfect idea in the physical world would never be as real as the “true” idea. As Socrates would perhaps put it, ‘ideas in and of themselves can never be the same when mixed with material reality, which is just an impermanent and imperfect model of that perfect and changeless idea (1).’

If we can accept Socrates’s notion that the idea of “chairness” can never truly or fully exist in any one chair and the idea of “houseness” can never exist completely in any one house, we must be willing to except the notion that there will never be a “truly” or “completely” capitalist, socialist, democratic, totalitarian or communist system.

With all this said, and realizing the many possible inadequacies and contradictions in definitions, for practicality’s sake, I feel justified in calling the government in Yugoslavia during Tito’s rule, “democratic socialism.”

It was “socialist” in the fact that it distributed the gains and losses of society to a semi-equal extent. For example, all of the basic needs of society, including all levels of education up through college, healthcare, job safety, food and shelter were guaranteed by the government to all its citizens, regardless of any differences these citizens may have had.

It was “democratic” in the fact that many people were able to have a say in how resources where used, how local governments would be run, who would be the bosses of factories (a system they called “socialist self-management.”) In addition, in many instances, leaders of government positions were decided by a vote from the people. As the vice president of Yugoslavia, Edward Kardelj put it,

“'…ever since the revolution' (1941 – 1945) Yugoslav Communists have recognized 'the need for certain forms of political pluralism.' Their starting point was the view that the party should not be a political force that has “a monopolistic control over society, but rather that, as the ideological and political vanguard of the working class, it had a special social role, but one that it could perform only in democratic alliance and in cooperation with all social and democratic forces (Stankovic 22).'”

To understand why Tito was able to succeed in having a mix of socialism and democracy, while the rest of the world was being torn by the two dogmatic and competing ideological camps, it is important to understand Yugoslavia’s history and the history of Tito’s revolution. The Balkan Peninsula, with its collection of south Slavic people, has been an area marred in centuries of conflict. Yugoslavia was created in 1918 as a monarchy under King Alexander. It was a mélange of many nations, which had been at one time or another, invaded, occupied or subjugated by the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire or some other outside power. The six main national groups in Yugoslavia were the Slovenes in the northwest, the Serbs in the central east, the Montenegrins in the central south, Albanians and Macedonians in the south and the Croats in the central north.

Even though, nationality was a big source of conflict, it was not always the greatest source. Differences in language, which crossed national borders and split nations apart, and differences in religion, which also crossed national borders and split nations apart, were other sources of conflict. For instance, some Serbs are Muslim, while others are either Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic. Therefore, there have been feuds over religion and prejudices over language differences even within the separate nations of Yugoslavia. At times, these differences have been overlooked, when different nations, religions and language groups have had to pull together to fight a common external enemy. It was because of the many invasions from all directions in World War I, that the many formerly opposing nations, religious groups and language groupings were able to submit to unification, with relatively little opposition. It would have been almost impossible for the many groups to survive these conflicts without the ability to compromise.

Despite many promises that their union would be beneficial to all parties concerned, between the two world wars (1918 to 1941), Yugoslavians suffered greatly under the “Royalist” government of King Alexander, Prince Paul and King Peter II. The system of land development was reminiscent of early feudal times. Although, landlords lived in comfort, most of the common people, who were still referred to as “peasants,” lived in abject poverty, whether they were Serbian, Croatian, Montenegrins, Albanian, Macedonian or Slovenian.

Some areas, such as Croatia, were more fertile and some areas, such as Serbia, were more developed, industrially. Unfortunately, these small inequities were often used by the Royalist government to pit different groups against each other, as a “divide and concur” technique, keeping all sides ignorant of how they were all being exploited more so by the government, the landlords and businessmen, who all supported the government and were supported by it.
From the beginning of their union in 1918, the many nations hoped to create a federalist system. However,

"Serbian nationalists succeeded in imposing a crude centralist system…. Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, became the capital of Yugoslavia, the Serbian King [Alexander] became the king of Yugoslavia, the Serbian army became the army of Yugoslavia, and so too with the diplomacy, police, and other branches of administration. The National Bank, a privately owned Belgrade corporation was operated for profit. Such arrangements were bitterly opposed by other nationalities (Bombelles 3)."

Josip Broz Tito, “seventh child of an ordinary peasant family in Croatia (Auty 3),” knew nothing but a life of endless suffering. He saw injustices everywhere and wanted desperately to have equality for all the peoples in all of Yugoslavia, despite what their backgrounds were. Recalling his hometown, Kumrovec, Tito saw that after years of unification,

"…nothing had changed for the better. The houses had been allowed to run down. Pale, listless children played in the open sewers of the muddy streets. Cabbage soup with no meat and little bread kept the inhabitants in a half-starved condition (Franchere 72)."

Even though Tito strongly believed that a united Yugoslavia was the only way to insure peace for the many differing groups in his country and their protection from foreign aggressors, he knew the current government was not at all in favor of having the different nations and other groups live in peace. The king was instead more interested in exploiting the differences for his own aggrandizement.

Tito came from a family of revolutionary peasants. His grandfather and great grandfather were known for their participation in famous peasant uprisings against brutal landlords. He also looked to the ideals of the communist revolution in Russia, as a model for what he thought would be the only hope in ending the suffering of the people of his country. “Although he was to change his mind later, in 1934 Josip Broz firmly believed that the Russian form of communism was the only system that made sense (Franchere, 76).”

At a young age, he illegally joined the underground communist movement, where he was trained in revolutionary activities in Russia and other countries. To keep from being caught, he traveled under many different aliases, with forged passports and other IDs given to him by the Communist International (Comintern) in Russia. At one point, the Yugoslav government jailed him for over five years for his revolutionary activities and at his sentence he yelled out, “I am not afraid of the government. Long live the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.” His jail sentence only made him a stronger advocate of communism. In fact, he gained the nickname Tito, while in jail. Using the name he gained in prison, he was determined to follow through with the determination he made in prison to never give up on his “communist” quest to improve his country.

Although he had tried for many years to gain enough communist supporters for an overthrow of the Royalist Yugoslav government, the underground movement was never quite strong enough to be successful. It was not until Germany, under Hitler, invaded Yugoslavia at the beginning of World War II in 1941 that the underground communist movement began to grow exponentially. Many different underground organizations began to work in concert to fight off German, Nazi occupation. They became known collectively as the “Partisans (2).” When the Nazis took over Yugoslavia, the Royalist government was forced into exile and at times even fought against the Partisans-afraid they may grow too strong and become the new leaders of the country. Other indigenous forces of Yugoslavians also collaborated with Nazi Germany to fight against this people’s uprising.

Although Russia at times claimed to be in support of the people of Yugoslavia, in creating their own communist state, free from both the Royalist government and the Nazi invaders, Stalin really only wanted to have Yugoslavia as its own subservient “communist colony.” He wanted to extract its many natural resources to finance Russia’s own growth. Therefore, during World War II, even though the Kremlin knew that Tito was in the lead of the Partisan uprising, to try to subvert his popularity, Russian newspapers instead credited a leader of the Royalist government for all the successes of overthrowing the foreign Nazi invaders. This leader, on the contrary, was actually working against the uprising, had no real popular support and was more subservient to the Kremlin. Therefore, Stalin thought he could fool the Yugoslavians in an attempt to reduce Tito’s popularity. While promising to help support the uprising with needed supplies, which never came through, Stalin instead tried to cause splits in the opposition, so he could have more control over it.

Despite all of this, fighting unbearable odds and always just barely surviving, Tito managed somehow to persist in developing a strong network of underground communist and other Partisan groups all over the country. Being a brilliant strategist, he waited for the perfect moment before waging his first surprise uprising against Nazi occupation. Hearing through the grapevine that Germany, despite its non-aggression pact with Russia, was planning a surprise invasion against this so-called ally, Tito knew this would be the perfect opportunity for his counterstrike against the Nazi occupation.

He waited to begin the uprising, until the German army was utilizing the bulk of its forces to attack Russia. The Nazis were never expecting the Yugoslavs to rise up against their supposed victorious occupation of Yugoslavia. In addition to this (despite Russia’s skepticism), Tito managed to get word to the Kremlin to alert Stalin of Germany’s secret intentions, which made Hitler’s invasion of Russia less successful.

With this backdrop, one can see that the establishment of the socialist system in Yugoslavia occurred much differently than the socialist systems in Russia or Cuba. Instead of a people’s revolution to overthrow the domestic government, Tito’s revolution was an underground revolution to overthrow a foreign occupying army, which had already overthrown the former “Royalist” government of Yugoslavia. Perhaps, for this reason, Tito’s revolution was even more popular amongst the common people of Yugoslavia and elsewhere than were the “communist” revolutions in Russia or Cuba.
Everyone in Yugoslavia, whether supporters of socialism or not, was opposed to the atrocities of Hitler and saw the resistance of Tito’s army as an honest fight to liberate its country from a foreign occupation. Even in so-called “capitalist” countries, in many people’s eyes, this was a “David vs. Goliath” type struggle, of a just underdog fighting off an overpowering and evil aggressor.

People the world over looked at Tito’s struggles against the Nazis, similarly to how they would later look at Nelson Mandela’s struggle against the white, South African, Apartheid government or how they looked earlier at Gandhi’s struggle against the British, imperialist government in India. In this respect as well, there are some slight similarities to the “communist” revolutions in China and Vietnam. Because the Chinese communist revolutionaries used “fighting off Japanese occupiers” as one of the reasons to rise up against the government (which was a very popular cause), many people in China supported the “communists liberators.” Similarly, Ho Chi Minh used the struggle against French imperialism as a rallying cry for a “communist” revolution in Vietnam. However, Tito’s revolution had some similarities with the war for US independence, which the US had fought against Great Britain.

If Tito had instead led a communist revolution to overthrow the Royalist government of Yugoslavia before the Germans had attacked Yugoslavia, as he had originally planned, perhaps he would not have gained as much popular support; nor would he have gained support in the west. Even though many people in Yugoslavia were suffering under the Royalist government before World War II, they were not suffering as much as they would later suffer under Nazi occupation.
A revolution to overthrow the Royalist government of Yugoslavia in pre-World War II times would have likely entailed much more suffering than the average Yugoslavian was willing to endure at that time (3). (It would be interesting, in this respect, to know whether the Chinese communists would have been able to pull off their revolution had China not been first invaded by Japan).

It was with this climate (of support for an underdog) from both the east and the west that Tito took over the reigns of government after World War II. He came to power with both fanfare from within his country and from without. In addition, because surrounding countries were exhausted by the destruction of war, he was able to drastically change every aspect of the political and economic structure of his country, without much external opposition. It was also his willingness to compromise with which he was able to instill a spirit of compromise in the hearts of so many different peoples, who had traditionally lived in a state of complete antagonism.

"It was an opportunity, which few people have had, and even fewer have, like Tito, lived to see their own creation develop for more than a quarter of a century. Lenin, after the Bolshevik revolution, had the same power and authority, but he only lived for a few years and he never had during his lifetime the personal popularity and general acclaim that were Tito’s at the end of the war, nor the special authority and veneration that Tito has had because of continuing success into old age (Auty 264)."

Despite the acclaim, from the country he hoped to get the most help and support, he instead received nothing. He tried to get aid from his former mentor, Russia. However, despite endless promises, no aid ever came. As Joseph Bombelles of the Hoover Institute explains:

"Their Communist allies from abroad, particularly the Soviet Union, did not show much enthusiasm for extending to Yugoslavia substantial material aid. On the contrary, there were indications that the Russians intended to exploit Yugoslavia in the same way they have exploited other countries in Eastern Europe (Bombelles 11)."

To make matters worse,

"In June 1948, Yugoslavia was expelled from the Cominform [International Communist Information Bureau]; soon after, the Eastern Bloc started recalling its technicians and reducing its aid. This action eventually developed into a full-scale economic blockade (Bombelles 17)."

To rebuild his war torn nation, dire economic circumstances forced Tito to take aid from any country that was willing to offer. Because all the other previous world powers in Europe and Asia had destroyed each other in the war and were looking for aid themselves, the US was the most able to offer aid. Because of Tito’s willingness to except aid from any state that offered,

"Since 1950 [up until Bombelles’ book was written in 1969], the Untied States, Great Britain, France, and some other West European countries have provided Yugoslavia with food, raw materials, industrial equipment, technical experts, military hardware, and training for native technicians. In addition, substantial aid was also provided by the Red Cross, CARE, and various other groups and organizations (Bombelles 20)."

This being the case, however, Tito managed to stay neutral in relation to the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc alliances of the cold war. Much like Canada at the time, Yugoslavia dealt with countries based on how beneficial their relationships would be to Yugoslavia, not based on what ideology each country proclaimed. Tito also quickly became disillusioned with the system of “communism” in Russia. Seeing it as too dictatorial under Stalin, he also saw the communist party in Russia as being too extravagant and appearing extremely bourgeoisish.

He witnessed on his few trips back to his training grounds that all the ideals he believe communist Russia would exemplify, were not being followed by Stalin. Therefore, he decided he would not follow Russia’s model of communism. For this, the “communists” in Russia, China and even Vietnam chastised him heavily. Enemies inside these three countries were often accused and imprisoned at times for supposedly being “Titoists.”

The many successes Tito did achieved in domestic policy would appear to many to be just a case of “beginners luck.” Because no one in his new government, including himself had any real technical experience, every change he implemented was in a sense a brand new experiment. For the most part, intuition and just a small amount of knowledge of what worked in other countries guided him and his advisors.

Tito first tried collective farms, which did not turn out as well as he had hoped. Then he tried a farming system of both individually run farms and collective farms in the areas where collective farms had previously been productive. He was much more flexible than “communist” leaders of other countries in letting farmers decide which way they would be most productive. He allowed, as well, some small private owned companies. As his vice president once said, “neither the state, nor the system, nor any single political party can bring happiness to man; only man himself can create his own happiness (Rankovic 20).”

As English journalist, Richard West noted on his stay in Yugoslavia in the early days of Tito’s government, “In the Belgrade street where I lived in 1953-4, there were rows of private restaurants, cafes and shops, selling everything from cakes to clocks, from cloche hats to religious medallion (West 244).”

However, Tito alone was not entirely to credit for either the successes or the failures of his government, he allowed many changes to be suggested and implemented by many of his close comrades in government. He did have an incredible group of younger idealists, who helped him shoulder the new government. Tito gave them a relative amount of freedom to express their views, but once his inner circle decided upon a policy, he did not allow any dissension to follow.

"As early as 1950, Kardelj and Djilas [two of Tito’s Vice Presidents] argued for the creation of workers’ self-management in the state-run companies. At first, Tito opposed this, saying the workers were immature, but later agreed to the concept, saying: ‘But this is Marxist – factories to the worker.’ Having accepted it, Tito himself advanced the “Workers’ Council plan that same year (West 244)."

Another reason why his government was so popular was, unlike the former Royalist government, which consisted almost entirely of Serbians, his inner circle consisted of members of all nationalities. The ethnic mix of Tito’s top ruling body was a big reason why his government was perceived by all segments of Yugoslavian society to be unbiased toward any one national group.

"…in the central core Edward Kardelj, a Slovene, Mosa Pijade and Alexander Rankovic who were Serbs, and Milovan Djilas, a Montenegrin. There were others close to this inner circle – Vladimir Bakaric, a Croat, Boris Kidric, from Slovenia and Vukmanovic-Tempo also a Serb, but an expert on Macedonia…. They represented a rough balance between the different national groups in the country (Auty 268)."

One downfall at the beginning though, was that the government’s first five-year economic plan was much too optimistic. This caused a lot of criticism, because it did not live up to the high expectations it created. One big fault was that the government based its projections on the economic level of the country just before World War II.

Of course, pre-war times would naturally be a time of greater production than directly after the incredible devastation of a war. Tito and his advisors did not think of this until it was too late and public opinion had already been set.
In the beginning, the government plans focused much too heavily on industrial development at the expense of agricultural development. Tito was very excited since the days of his youth, with his dream of the “electrification” of Yugoslavia. Having traveled many times to Russia before the war, which had far greater industrial development than Yugoslavia, he dreamed that someday his country too would be just as industrial. With far greater money and resources devoted to industrial development and not enough devoted to agricultural development, agriculture suffered greatly, (similarly to the “Great Leap Forward” in China) which in turn caused the whole country to suffer from lack of food.

However, because Tito was always willing to self-reflect and make quick changes, he had the humility to learn from his mistakes and quickly ameliorate them. As his vice president, Kardelj wrote in his many books (4), “Nothing that has been created should be so sacred to us that it cannot be transcended and superseded by something still freer, more progressive, and more humane (Stankovic 19).”

Many people, however, criticized Tito for being too harsh on his opponents.

"At the end of the war, although the communists were confident that the Partisan movement would gain widespread support at a general election, they were afraid of outside interference against them, and were nervous and insecure till they had an undisputable legal mandate. They kept tight control of all government machinery, throughout the country. Partisans, armed with Tommy-guns, trigger-happy and seeing potential spies in every unfamiliar face, protected all government offices and zealously patrolled towns and villages (Auty 265)."

Tito even twice jailed one of his vice presidents, Milovan Djilas, for being too critical of the government and inciting rebellion against Tito’s policies. On the other hand, this move was much more lenient than the actions of other “socialist” or “communist” leaders, like Lenin, Stalin, Castro or Mao, who instead of jailing Djilas, would have likely had him killed. Tito often allowed criticism, until he saw that it got too out of hand and began to cause rebellion. He felt he had to find a balance between being too dictatorial and being so liberal that his political system would crumble in discord.

His record, of course, was not perfectly clean. He did have many of his most vicious opponents killed. After World War II, he did have concentration camps for those in the Royalist army and other militant groups who had fought against his “revolution (5).” However, he reflected quickly on these mistakes of government and was quick to improve them. In this way, after the post war reconstruction was complete and after Tito’s government felt strongly in place, there were many reforms initiated to curb the power of the police and to decentralize the economy and to decentralize political authority, thus giving more autonomy to the separate nations (federations). Yugoslavia then became more of a federalist system, which was his original plan before he came to power. “…the Constitutional Law of 1953…. created constitutional changes of such magnitude… Its aim was to create a ‘socialist democracy’ combining socialism with elements of democracy (Hoffman 213).”

Tito also changed the name of the government party from the Communist Party to the League of Communist, Yugoslavia (LCY) and “by the late nineteen-sixties it was possible for anyone to become a party member who wished to do so (Auty 281).” In addition, as the vice president of the party said about the party,

"the LCY 'should not be the exponent of a one-party system… [it] was not and never could be a conventional political party, even though it must always see that the crucial levers of power are firmly in the hands of those politically conscious forces that stand on the side of socialism and socialist self-management (Stankovic 22).'”

Perhaps the greatest success of the Yugoslav, socialist government was its “non-alignment policy.” As a renegade, by refusing to be involved in narrow ideological disputes between countries, Tito managed to create many alliances with non-aligned (countries that were neither aligned with the Eastern Bloc or the Western Bloc of the cold war), former colonies in Africa and the Americas, south of the US.

This act helped Yugoslavia establish many trading partners outside of the country, helping to boost its economy. “Tito became the informal head of an organization of ‘non-aligned’ states that flourished during the 1960s and early 1970s (West 281).” He built close relationships with Haile Selasie, the King of Ethiopia, Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, Colonel Nasser of Egypt and Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos (who was killed by the CIA for trying to be too independent from the US). He also visited Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and the Sudan.

Yugoslavian companies such as Rade Koncar “…sold transformers and generators throughout the Third World. The shipyards of Solit and Rijeka furnished much of the Indian Merchant Navy (West 284).” In Gabon (West Central Africa), Yugoslavia built, for the Organization of African States, a conference hall, “…as well as a ‘palace complex’ in the Central African Empire (West 284).”

While not taking sides in the cold war, Yugoslavia also restored friendly relationships with most western European countries. They developed a joint venture with the Italian automaker, Fiat in Kragujevac. Yugoslavia became a vacationing spot for many Europeans. “First Austrians and then Germans started to pour into Yugoslavia as tourists, to the ski resorts in the winter and to the coast in the summer (West 285).”

Yugoslavia’s former disputed territory of Trieste, now controlled by Italy, imported most of its food from Yugoslavia. “The streets were jammed with Yugoslav cars, and the café waiters had learned to take orders in Serbo-Croat or Slovene (West 287).”

The people of Trieste envied Yugoslavians by saying, they “…don’t have our wages, but they don’t have our worries about paying for health and their children’s education (West 287).” Again, in democratic-socialist Yugoslavia, healthcare and education, all the way through college, was paid for by the state, as it is in many “socialist” countries.
With all of these successes in the Yugoslavian socialist system,

"Between 1950 and 1970, with western aid and Yugoslav effort, an industrial revolution took place, which affected every part of the country… Slowly and painfully the country moved towards a prosperity such as the people had never know before (Auty 279)."

In summery, some of the reasons the democratic socialist experiment worked in Yugoslavia were: 1. The revolution had international acclaim as a struggle of “independence.” 2. The representatives in government were a balance mix of the many national groups of the country. 3. Tito was willing to take aid from any government or outside agency. 4. Tito was quick to correct bad policies and learn from mistakes. 5. Yugoslavia traded openly without regard to political bias. 6. People in a system of “socialist self-management” felt they had a say in their own lives and took pride in being part of the country’s success.

Now with the demise of the former Soviet Union and with the US remaining the last “superpower,” many thinkers in the so-called “capitalist” countries of the west have refused to recognize any of the benefits and successes of socialism or communism. However, in many “capitalist” countries, in order to keep citizens from rising up against their governments, it has been necessary for these governments to socialize many aspect of society.

So too, in many socialist countries, in order to keep their citizens from rising up, governments have had to implement some democratic reforms. With this occurring, it would be fair to say that perhaps the best system would be a mixed system. Perhaps Tito was ahead of his time, in seeing that a mixed system would be the most enduring system for his mixed country.

While Stalin was clinging feverishly to his rigid ideology, he criticized Tito for being a “revisionist socialist” leader. Recently, however, Russia under Gorbachev and others has had to implement market reforms and easy up on individual restrictions, in order to survive.

Mao too criticized his opponents in China, calling them “Titoists.” Now, on the contrary, Mao’s predecessors have implemented Tito-like reforms to stay competitive in a changing world. If ever we do create a perfect government system, this system will probably have learned a lot from the democratic socialist experiment of Tito’s Yugoslavia.

End Notes

(1) Timothy’s own paraphrase of Socrates’s idea of the “world of forms.”

(2) The overriding name given to the many Yugoslavian groups who took part in resisting Nazi occupation in World War II.

(3) Although this is an aside to this paper’s thesis, the similarities were too great to overlook. Although the people of Yugoslavia were suffering under the Royalist government before the Nazi occupation, the people of Yugoslavia never rose up en mass against the Royalist government. However, after being occupied by the Nazis, their suffering was much greater, which caused them to finally rise up against the occupying Nazi army, once that army decided to also attack Russia. This is similar to the people of Iraq who although they were suffering under Saddam Hussein’s leadership, they never rose up against Saddam. Now however, under US occupation, their suffering has drastically increased. Will their suffering get so bad that they too will rise up en mass against the illegal occupier of their government? If the US government is as foolish as the Nazis were and it invades Iran, like the Nazis invaded Russia, perhaps the people of Iraq will take advantage of this double war, like the people of Yugoslavia took advantage when the Nazis attacked Russia, to rise up against their occupiers. Many colonies in Africa and elsewhere used similar strategies when the colonial powers of Europe were too busy attacking each other during World War II to stop the former colonies from rising up against their colonial occupiers.

(4) Programme of the LCY (League of Communist, Yugoslavia) Pg. 270

(5) Without attempting to excuse Tito’s injustices, it is wise when trying to compare socialist systems to other political systems to compare the injustices of a socialist system with the injustices of so-called “democratic” and so-called “capitalist” systems. For example, before making a criticism of Tito’s injustices, it would be more constructive to first compare the injustices of Tito’s Yugoslavia with the injustices of countries that claims to be both “democratic,” yet also “capitalistic,” like the US. We can compare Tito’s attempt to eliminate his opposition with the US’s history of exterminating opposition parties and opposition political figures. We can compare Tito’s purging of his political opponents with the bombing of the political offices of the MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia by the Philadelphia Police Department, which killed 11 member of MOVE and burned 61 houses We can also compare it with the killing of 80 dissidents in Waco Texas. ( Again we can compare it with the attach on Ruby Ridge (, the massacre at Wounded Knee ( or the jailing of political prisoners like Elmer Geronimo Pratt, Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier and the list goes on. When one tries honestly to compare the injustices of “capitalist” systems and “socialist” systems, one is left with such questions as, “Is state violence necessarily more prone under any certain political or economic system?” Alternatively, “is state violence a necessary evil to keep any political system from crumbling before the weight of critical, often violent, opposition?” It would be great if one could find a government system that wasn’t fraught with politically motivated violence against violent opposition parties, but I don’t know that one yet exists.


Auty, Phyllis. Tito: A Biography. McGraw-Hill Book Company. New York. 1970

Bombelles, Joseph T. Economic Development of Communist Yugoslavia. Hoover Institute Publications, Stanford University. California. 1968.

Franchere, Ruth. Tito of Yugoslavia. The Macmillan Company. London. 1970.

Hoffman, George W, Fred W Neal. Yugoslavia & the New Communism. Twentieth Century Fund. New York. 1962.

Stankovic, Slobodan. The End of the Tito Era: Yugoslavia’s Dilemmas. Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University. California. 1981.

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