INTRODUCTION (by N. Steinmayr); For Alliance and Communist League. Published on web June 13th 1999.
The Cominform documents have been published - in their original versions
in both Russian and English - in The Cominform:
Minutes of the Three Conferences 1947/48/49
(edited by Giuliano Procacci, in Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, Annali,
1994, Feltrinelli Editore, Milano, ISBN 88-07-99050-4).
The volume contains both the original texts (the bulk of which had never been published before) and some introductory essays and notes. This critical edition resulted from an agreement of scholarly cooperation between the Russian Centre of Conservation and Study of Records for Modern History and the Feltrinelli Foundation.
As known, nine European communist parties (from the USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, France and Italy) joined the Cominform and participated at its three Conferences - respectively, in September 1947, in June 1948, and in November 1949. No other conferences were organized from 1950 until its disbanding in 1956.
The reasons of its decline may be found in the emergence of Khrushchevite revisionism and in the new changes in the international situation (namely, the Chinese revolution and the Korean war). I have selected below only a few sections from the original documents which highlight some interesting and revealing aspects, i.e., the presence of revisionist, centrist positions in the international communist movement at that time and Dimitrov’s role in Bulgarian-Yugoslav-Soviet relations.
These original sources, as well, contribute to explain - in retrospect
- the origins of the revisionist degeneration
that later became apparent in the international communist movement. I have
numbered the various sections of the original documents I quote. The extracts
are preceded by some notes that I present.
(a) during that period of time, both Dimitrov and Kostov were the two most prominent leaders in the Bulgarian party (the former held the position of Central Committee chairman, the latter was first secretary). Both of them had remained in Moscow until November 1945 and Kostov had been appointed party secretary thanks to Dimitrov’s personal intervention and backing;
(b) Kostov was replaced by Dimitrov
as party general secretary at the fifth party congress in December 1948
(the post of party chairman having been abolished). Soon afterwards, Dimitrov
began a discussion of "mistakes" made by Kostov, accusing him of nationalism
and "intellectual individualism". Kostov was purged from the party in March
1949 while Dimitrov died of natural causes in July.
In December Kostov and others were accused of being agents of the Anglo-Americans and having committed treason in connection with the Balkan federation proposals (aimed at making Bulgaria an appendage of Yugoslavia, thus severing links with the Soviet Union and the people’s democracies). But no blame was attached to Dimitrov in connection with these proposals, while Kostov was executed immediately after the trial (he was partly rehabilitated in 1956 and completely exonerated in 1962). Kostov’s trial can eventually be regarded as an episode in the struggle for leadership within the Bulgarian party after Dimitrov’s death.
According to J.D. Bell, in The Bulgarian Communist Party from Blagoev to Zhivkov (1986):
(d) new documents have recently been declassified in Yugoslav, Bulgarian and Soviet archives with regard to the meeting on 10 February 1948 between delegations from these three countries (Bulgaria being represented by Dimitrov, Kostov and Kolarov).
What resulted from the meeting was the signing on 11 February, as proposed by the Soviet side, of agreements in which an obligation was recognized for consultation on international questions to take place between the USSR and Yugoslavia and between the USSR and Bulgaria.
The reference is, in fact, made to the agreement between the governments of the USSR, USA and Great Britain, according to which on 17-18 December 1942 each of the threee powers had made a similar declaration concerning the repudiation of the Italian occupation of Albania and support for the re-establishment of its independence. But already in November and December 1946, the Council of Foreign Ministers in New York had agreed to consider Albania an associated power with regard to the application of the peace treaty with Italy and had also recognized Albania’s right to an indemnity of five million dollars, which was to be paid by Italy in respect to war damages.
Finally, in February 1947, the peace treaty with Italy was signed (and later ratified by Tirana on 24 October 1947): Albania was not one of its signatories but ranked among the victorious states. Accordingly, Italy was bound to respect Albanian independence and Albanian legal and administrative sovereignty was sanctioned over the island of Sazan.
But, indeed, the CPA’s admission to Cominform was rejected on the basis of rather preposterous justifications on the part of the Soviet representative at the second Cominform conference in 1948! And also, Albania hadn’t been admitted at the UNO due to Anglo-American opposition: by 1947 both Washington and London had established diplomatic links with all Eastern European states - except Albania (whose gold, looted by the Germans, continued to remain kept in the vaults of the Bank of England in London).
What about all the Soviet and Cominform calls for struggle against the new American imperialist and warmongering plans to enslave Europe? Particularly in the light of the consistent Marxist-Leninist policies which had been implemented in Albania since its liberation, there can be no doubt that the Albanian communists’ continued exclusion from Cominform - even after Yugoslavia’s withdrawal from the organization - was masterminded by hidden and powerful revisionists within the Soviet leadership.
From Hoxha’s memoirs, it becames crystal clear that Stalin was personally determined to support Albania’s political stands and its independence at that crucial time. For its part, the CPA immediately and unconditionally supported the Soviet and Cominform positions on Yugoslav revisionism. The 9th Plenum of its Central Committee convened between 27 and 30 June 1948, having on its agenda analyses of the three letters addressed to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (on 27 March, 4 and 22 May 1948) and the Cominform resolution on Yugoslavia. Unanimous solidarity with and support for the stands adopted by the CPSU and the Cominform against Yugoslavia were expressed. Consequently, all the agreements and conventions which had been signed with Yugoslavia - except the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Aid of July 1946 (later abrogated by Belgrade in November 1949) - were denounced by Albania. These decisions were made public on 1 July 1948 in a communiquè of the CPA’s Central Committee.
The conference held at Bled and the decisions adopted there mark the beginning of a new phase in relations between the new Bulgaria and the new Yugoslavia and signify a big step forward in establishing close rapprochement between them. Decisions were taken at Bled on co-ordinated action and common defence of peace in the Balkans.
We are going to conclude treaties of friendship and mutual aid with Yugoslavia, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Poland which will still further strengthen Bulgaria's position in the world. . . ."
The policy of the present leaders of the KPJ is leading to rupture of the line which had been marked out and advanced for rapprochement between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. . .
. . . Comrade Kostov turns to the question of Bulgaro-Yugoslav relations and, in particular, speaks about the Macedonian question. After the First World War, says Comrade Kostov, Royal Yugoslavia annexed part of Western Bulgaria which remains to this day within the frontiers of Yugoslavia. During the Balkan Wars part of Eastern Macedonia (the Pirin region) became part of Bulgaria. The population of Eastern Macedonia speak Bulgarian and are linked economically with Bulgaria.
The process of forming the Macedonians into a nation was intensified after the creation of the Macedonian People’s Republic within the Yugoslav Federation. Even today, however, this process cannot be reagrded as complete.
Proceeding from the principles of the teaching of Lenin and Stalin, and considering the national question to be a subordinated one, we proposed to the Yugoslav comrades to consider as fundamental the possibility of a closer rapprochement between our two countries which must result in the near future in the creation of a federal state. The national question, too, could find its solution within the framework of a federation. In that there would be no special obstacles to the solution of this question, because in a federation there would be no frontier between Macedonia and Bulgaria.
Until the federation was formed we undertook, on the advice of the Soviet comrades, to promote the national development of the Macedonian people. To this end a hundred teachers were invited from Yugoslav Macedonia, agreement on this being arrived at between Comrades Dimitrov and Tito at Bled. In spite of this, differences continue to exist.
The Yugoslav comrades, especially Djilas, Vukmanovic and Kolisevski, still consider that the Macedonian question should be settled separately from the creation of the federation. Anybody who does not agree with their view they accuse of Greater-Bulgarian chauvinism. They want simply to annex the Pirin region to Yugoslav Macedonia and thereby to weaken Bulgaria. . . .
. . . In the light of the current behaviour of the leaders of the KPJ it has become clear that they were never sincere when they discussed the question of federation, that in their federation Bulgaria would not have had equal rights, that, in reality, they were trying to bring it about that, by means of federation, Tito’s Yugoslavia would become hegemon of the Balkans against the USSR. Evidently, Comrade Kostov concludes, the question of federation must be put aside for the time being. . . .
. . . Comrade Kostov proceeds to describe the situation in the Bulgarian Workers' Party (Communists) and to criticise certain mistakes made by and defects in this Party. Alongside great achievements there are, says Comrade Kostov, major defects and mistakes in the Party's work. Inner-Party democracy does not prevail at the level it should. Criticism and self criticism have not yet become the basic driving force in the Party. The CC itself does not yet work as a firmly welded collective, and command methods in relation to the Party organisations have not yet been fully outgrown. There has been no Party Congress for 20 years: since 9 September 1944 the CC has confined itself to convening enlarged plenums and conferences.
Comrade Kostov mentions the unfavourable state of affairs in respect of the Party's social composition. There are persons in it who ought to be merely candidates for membership. Certain Party members have in the past sabotaged government decisions on grain-procurement. Some have joined the Party with venal aims and some Party organisations are being torn apart by squabbles over the allotment of jobs. Within a short space of time the Party has increased its membership twentyfold, from 25,000 to 500,000.
Taking account of the danger inherent in excessive growth of the Party, the CC has taken measures to restrict recruiting, and at the moment recruiting is suspended until the congress takes place, when a probationary period for candidates for Party membership will be laid down.
Comrade Kostov says that he considers his Party's line to be fundamentally correct. They have achieved serious successes, smashed the forces of reaction, strengthened the Fatherland Front and proceeded to lay the foundations of a socialist economy. A correct general line does not mean, however, says Comrade Kostov, that the Party is free from mistakes and defects. The Party has these: underestimation of the class struggle, illusions about the possibility of softening this struggle in the conditions of present-day Bulgaria, failure to have a clear notion of the roads and tempos of developoment, talk of harmoniously combining the state, co-operative and private sectors in the economy, and so on. But all these mistakes have been corrected in good time, often thanks to advice from the CC of the VKP(B) and comrade Stalin personally.
All these mistakes of ours resulted in a number of cases in slowing down the pace of our struggle and our advance. In some cases, though, we ran too far ahead, as with the formulation about complete liquidation of the antagonistic classes. . . .
. . . On behalf of the Political Bureau of the Bulgarian Workers’ Party (Communists) Comrade Kostov declares his agreement with the conclusions of Comrade Zhdanov’s report on the situation in the KPJ."
. . . In this situation in which the danger of another war is intensifying, a great historical responsibility is imposed on the Communist and Workers’ Parties. They must use every means of struggle to ensure a firm and long-lasting peace, subordinating all their activity to this, the central task at the present time . . . .
. . . It is the duty of the Communist and Workers' Parties in the capitalist countries to merge together the fight for national independence and the fight for peace, tirelessly to expose the anti-national, traitorous nature of the policy of the bourgeois governments, which have been turned into direct bailiffs for American imperialism, to unite and weld together all the democratic and patriotic forces of each country around the slogans of doing away with the shameful slavery to America and going over to an independent external and internal policy which corresponds to the national interests of the people. The Communist and Workers' Parties must hold high the banner of protection of the national independence and sovereignty of their countries.
The Communist and Workers' Parties must unite the broad masses for defence of democratic rights and liberties, tirelessly explaining to them that defence of peace is inseparably bound up with defence of the vital interests of the working class and all the working people, that the fight for peace is at the same time a fight against poverty, hunger and fascism.
Particularly important tasks face the Communist Parties of France, Italy, and Britain, West Germany and other countries whose peoples the American imperialists want to use as cannon-fodder for carrying out their aggressive plans. Their duty is to develop still more strongly the fight for peace, to frustrate the criminal designs of the Anglo-American warmongers.
To the Communist and Workers' Parties of the people's democracies and the Soviet Union falls the task, while opposing the imperialist warmongers and their accomplices, of further strengthening the camp of peace and socialism, for the defence of peace and the security of the peoples. . . ."
Since the time of the first conference of the Information Bureau, says Comrade Chervenkov, our Party has achieved important successes on the consolidation of people's democracy in Bulgaria. . . .
. . . the people's democracy of Bulgaria has been substantially reinforced, both economically and politically, in the past two years. One of the most important factors in this reinforcement is the nation-wide and profound nature of Bulgarian-Soviet friendship, which is a most important driving force in our social development. . . .
. . . Our working people see Comrade Stalin as our direct teacher and leader. . . .
. . . ruthless struggle against any manifestations of nationalism within the CP is a direct duty, an absolutely necessary precondition, or more correctly, a component part of the fight for peace.
Comrade Chervenkov stresses that nationalism not only helps the warmongers, it is actually the ideology of the enemies of peace, the enemies of the Soviet Union, the warmongers themselves. Nationalists are direct agents of imperialism. . . .
. . . What we are dealing with is a plan by the imperialists to subvert the Communist Party from within, to implant nationalists espionage agents in the Party. . . .
. . . Comrade Chervenkov says that with the direct aid of the CC of the VKP(B) and of Comrade Stalin personally - for which the Bulgarian people will be forever grateful - Kostov, the former secretary of the Party's CC was exposed.
What did Kostov turn out to be? A British spy. He confessed that he had been recruited by British intelligence so far back as 1942 and that since 1944 he had had links with the Tito clique.
On the orders of the Anglo-American intelligence agents in our country and in conjunction with the Tito-ites, Kostov formed in the Party and the state apparatus a group of persons, spies like himself, who sought by various ways and means, exploiting our weakness, trustfulness, and carelessness, to damage the Party and the state primarily in the economic sphere, and to prepare, with the Tito-ites's help, to detach Bulgaria from the Soviet Union, restore capitalism, and bring Bulgaria into the camp of imperialism.
This separation of Bulgaria from the Soviet Union they proposed to bring about by using the slogan of a federation of the Southern Slavs and a Balkan Federation. Of course, says Comrade Chervenkov, Kostov's federation of the Southern Slavs had nothing and has nothing in common with what we mean by an alliance of the Southern Slavs, since Kostov's federation of the Southern Slavs was to have been directed against the USSR. The Kostovites wanted to unite Bulgaria with Yugoslavia, and counted on military help from the Tito-ites. . . .
. . . Our successes, says Comrade Chervenkov, would have been very much greater but for the wrecking done by the Kostovites. They did damage mainly through distorting in practice the policy of the Party and the governrnent, thereby creating discontent among the people. They harmed us especially in the sphere of our econornic policy, in our relations with the peasants. . . .
. . . All the preparation for the coming elections to the organs of state power is proceeding under the sign of ruthless criticism of shortcomings and determined reorganisation of our work. Comrade Chervenkov says that the whole of the Party's work is being subjected to thorough criticism, along with the work of the state apparatus and of the social and economic organs. The working people are being very vigorously involved in creative criticism of shortcomings and weaknesses.
Speaking of the Party's immediate tasks, Comrade Chervenkov emphasises that it is first of all necessary to purge the Party, from top to bottom, of Kostovites and of all who maintain a conciliatory attitude to them. This task will be carried out. Although a Party purge has not been formally announced, purging of the Party's ranks is going on, and after the Kostov trial this purge will be pursued still more vigorously.
It must be said, Comrade Chervenkov observes, that we exposed Kostov in good time. That we owe to the VKP(B) and Comrade Stalin.
The fight against the Kostovites, says Comrade Chervenkov, has welded our Party together as never before. Vigilance has been heightened, inner-Party democracy has been extended and strengthened, and the process of Bolshevik tempering of the Party is progressing. We realise that Kostov was not, of course, alone. Kostovites have hidden themselves in the Party. But they will not be able to go on hiding after the exposure of Kostov and his principal associates. . . ."
. . . The task of Trajcho Kostov’s gang was, with the aid of the Tito-ites, to take all power in Bulgaria into its hands, and then to wrest it from the Soviet Union and the front of peace and democracy, and behind the screen of some sort of federation to join the country to Tito’s Yugoslavia, i.e., to make it an actual colony of American imperialism. . . .
. . . Comrade Poptomov notes that the Tito clique, which previously did all it could to prevent the realization of a South-Slav federation, is now trying to appear as a warm supporter of such a federation, trying in this way to speculate on the fraternal feelings of these two Slav peoples, trying to give the slogan of a South-Slav federation an anti-Soviet character which would help to bring about a breakaway of the South Slavs from the Soviet Union. This same speculation is being practised by the Tito-ites with the slogans about a Balkan and a Balkan-Danubian federation, in an attempt to create a bloc of the peoples of South-Eastern Europe directed against the Soviet Union. . . ."