A Quick Refutation of Yugoslavia’s “Self-Administration” System

A little while ago I did a Q & A video where I said that Tito was reactionary. I said that Titoists were ‘tankies’ (uneducated poor quality communist) given their very weak understanding of Marxist theory. Titoists obviously didn’t like this and a particular one took exception to it. Essentially his argument was two Tweets that gave the following:

“Yugoslavia differed from the USSR in a significant way, the workers ownership of enterprise.”

“The USSR relied on state-run collectivization. Marxism is against the state even existing…”

There are three things wrong with these statements. First the workers did not have ownership of the enterprises. Second, the USSR did not “rely” on state-run collectivization, they’re supposed to be state-run collectivizes by Marx and Engels own writings. Third, Marxism is not against the state “even existing”. Marx and Engels made it clear that the period between capitalism and communism is a phase of socialism in which the state holds power for the proletariat.

“Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”

– Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, Chapter 4

“Moving in class antagonisms, society up to now had need of the state, that is, an organization of the exploiting class at each period for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, that is, particularly for the forcible holding down of the exploited class in the conditions of oppression (slavery, villeinage or serfdom, wage-labour) given by the existing mode of production.”

[…]

“As soon as there is no social class to be held in subjection any longer, as soon as class domination and the struggle for individual existence based on the anarchy of production existing up to now are eliminated together with the collisions and excesses arising from them, there is nothing more to repress, nothing necessitating a special repressive force, a state. The first act in which the state really comes forward as the representative of the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — is at the same time its last independent act as a state. The interference of the state power in social relations becomes superfluous in one sphere after another, and then dies away of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things and the direction of the processes of production. The state is not “abolished”, it withers away.The dictatorship of the proletariat is the working class state which oversees the transformation of society from capitalism to communism. By state is meant a special repressive force. It withers away as repression becomes gradually unnecessary.”

– Frederic Engels, Anti-Duhring

The blatant anti-Marxist nature of “Titoism” is laid bare by its most ardent defender, its theoretician Edvard Kardelj. He described in detail Yugoslavoa’s departure from socialism in his work “Directions of the Development of the Political System of Socialist Self-Administration”.

What is the System of “Self-Administration”?

The basic theory of “self-administration” holds that socialism cannot be created by having the proletarian state owning the means of production. Instead “self-administration” claims that it is built through the fragmentation of state property into individual groups of worker collectives, who in theory, own and organize it themselves. To support this idea is to completely contradict both Marx and Lenin.

“The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class… ”

– Karl Marx and Frederic Engles, The Communist Manifesto, Ch.2

Not carrying this out is a cardinal sin in Leninist theory as well. He made this point very clear when opposing anarcho-syndicalists who refused state ownership.

“…any justification, whether direct or Indirect, of the ownership of the workers of a certain factory or a certain profession for their specific production, or any justification of their right to tone down or hinder the orders from general state power, is a gross distortion of the fundamental principles of Soviet power and complete renunciation of socialism.”

– V. I. Lenin, On Democratisation and the Socialist Character of the Soviet Power

Tito actively opposed state ownership when he brought the “self-administration” law to the People’s Assembly of the People’s Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in June 1950.

“From now on state property in the means of production, factories, mines, railroads will gradually go over to the highest form of social ownership. State ownership is the lowest form of social ownership, not the highest form…”

“…the most characteristic acts of a socialist country [is] the transfer of factories and other economic enterprises from the hands of the state into the hands of the workers, for them to manage… “

“…the slogan of the action of the working class – Factories to the Workers! – will be realized.”

– “Factories to the Workers”, Prishtina 1951

This position by Kardelj and Yugoslavian “socialism” is the antithesis of Marxist-Leninist theory. This is however in line with anarchist theory; particularly Pierre Joseph Proudhon’s work “The Theory of Property” where he says:

“…the spontaneous product of a collective unit… can be considered as the triumph of freedom… and as the greatest revolutionary force which exists and which can be opposed to the state.”

In his work on “self-administration” Kardelj literally defends private property when he says:

“in our society such rights as… the right of personal property or, within given limits, also of private property… have special importance…”

On top of this the Yugoslav Constitution also defends private property.

“Private owners have the same socio-economic position, the same rights and obligations as the working people in the socio-economic organisations.”

In the Communist Manifesto Karl Marx states very clearly:

“The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”

– Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

The Yugoslavian theory of “self-management” could not be more reactionary. It openly without shame defends private property when the whole point of communism (and socialism) is to abolish private property.

One of the most important things done by reactionaries in order to restore capitalism is to decentralize the management of the economy. Afterward eventually there would be a restoration of private property. This is what Yugoslavia did under Tito. All of this is shows that “socialist self-administration” is just anarcho-syndicalism. That’s exactly what Tito’s Yugoslavia was. (In addition there was the whole living off borrowed money from the imperialist nations.)

“Self Administration” in Agriculture

One of the most important aspects of socialism is the organization of agriculture into collectives. The Tito government did have collectives but they were of poor quality not well executed. They were eventually dismantled to become private property once again restoring the kulak class. That new system restored and gave benefit to the great landlords again. The method gave land back to the landlords without causing too much of a problem. At one point 90% of Yugoslav agriculture was in private hands.

Following that the state sold off machine and tractor stations to wealthy peasants and then placed heavy taxes on all peasants. The state owned farms were made into capitalist enterprises that took in foreign investment. Local private businesses made a ton of money from the foreign capital invested. Landowners could rent, buy, sell, and mortgage land. They could also privately buy machinery and hire workers pushing out smaller farms. This is what brought back the bourgeois class in the countryside.

“Self-Administration” Preserving Exploitation

Enver Hoxha adequately explains how capitalism was restored in this manner.

“In Kardelj’s book the individual is mainly considered as a chief element of society – the element which produces, the element which has the right to organise and to distribute production. According to him this element socialises work in an enterprise and exercises its leadership by the so-called workers’ council which are “elected” by the workers and which allegedly regulates – together with the instituted administrative functionaries – the whole fate of the enterprise, the work, the income etc., within the system of “self-administration”.

“This is the typical form of capitalist enterprises where in fact it is the capitalist who rules, surrounded by a large number of officials and technicians who know the situation about the production and organise its distribution. Naturally, the bulk of the profits goes to the capitalist who owns the capitalist enterprise, that is, he appropriates the surplus value. Under the Yugoslav “self-administration” a large part of the surplus value is appropriated by the officials, the directors of the enterprises and the engineering technical staff.”

Enver Hoxha, Yugoslav “Self-Administration” – Capitalist Theory and Practice

Selling the Country to Foreign Capitalists

Yugoslavia news reported on the 16th of August 1950 of new regulative issue of the “Federal Executive Veche” concerning the foreign investments in Yugoslavia.

“Under this law the foreign partners, on the basis of the agreements concluded between them and the organisations of socialised labour of this country, can make investments in currency, equipment, semi-finished and finished products and technology. Foreign investors have the same rights as the local organisations of socialised labour which invest their means in some other organisation of united labour.”

“Under this set of regulations greater interest (on the part of foreigners) is anticipated, because it guarantees the security of the joint economic activity on a long-term basis. Besides this, there is now practically no field in which foreigners cannot invest their means, with the exception of social insurance, internal trade and social activities”.

This investment by foreign capitalists began much industrialization. It produced countless goods, most of which were not even sold in Yugoslavia. To me it seems like they were the precursor to Deng Xiaoping’s selling out of China as cheap labour. It happened then for the same reason as now, the labour was cheaper. The cost of variable capital was lower allowing the foreign capitalists to get more value from that labour. This allowed the foreign capitalists to undercut its competitors whose exploitation was hindered by trade unions.

Defending the Market

The market can exist for some time during socialism, but the goal must be to eliminate it. Kardelj outright defends its continued existence and condemns the removal of it.

“… the free exchange of labour through the production of commodities and the free, self- governed market at the present level of the socio-economic development is a condition for self-government… This market… is free in the sense that the self-governing organisations of united labour freely and with the minimum of administrative intervention, enter into relations of the free exchange of labour. The suspension of such freedom is bound to lead to the regeneration of the state property monopoly of the state apparatus.”

There could be no more flagrant denial than this of the teachings of Lenin, who wrote:

“We must foster ‘proper’ trade, which is one that does not evade state control, it is beneficial to support it …for the free market is a development of capitalism…”

– V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 32

Marx makes it very clear that the market is a huge part of capitalism. Competition is the inner nature of capital, if you want a market that implies competition as well. In doing so you retain the manyness of capital which is a defining characteristic of capitalism and commodity production in general.

“Free competition, as Mr Wakefield correctly sniffs out in his commentary on Smith, has never yet been developed by the economists, no matter how much they prattle about it, and [no matter] how much it is the basis of the entirety of bourgeois production, production resting on capital. It has been understood only negatively: i.e. as negation of monopolies, the guild system, legal regulations etc. As negation of feudal production. But it also has to be something for itself, after all, since a mere 0 is an empty negation, abstraction, from a barrier which immediately arises again e.g. in the form of monopoly, natural monopolies etc. Conceptually, competition is nothing other than the inner nature of capital, its essential character, appearing in and realized as the reciprocal interaction of many capitals with one another, the inner tendency as external necessity.”

– Karl Marx, Grundrisse, Ch.8

Finally Enver Hoxha lays it out:

Thus an anarcho-syndicalist system has been established in Yugoslavia and this has been named “socialist self-administration”. What has this “socialist self-administration” brought to Yugoslavia? All kinds of evil. Anarchy in production in the first place. Nothing is stable there. Each enterprise throws its products on the market and capitalist competition takes place because there is no coordination, since it is not the socialist economy which guides production. Each enterprise goes it alone, competing against the other, in order to ensure raw materials, markets and everything else. Many enterprises are closing down because of lack of raw materials, the huge deficits created by this chaotic capitalist development, the build-up of stocks of unsold goods due to the lack of purchasing power and the saturation of the market with outdated goods. Yugoslavia’s handicrafts services are in a very serious state, too. Referring to this problem at the meeting of Slovenia’s leading activists, Tito could not hide the fact that “Today you have to sweat a good deal to find, for example, a carpenter or some other craftsman to repair something for you and even when you find him you are fleeced so blatantly that it makes your hair stand on end.”

Conclusion

There is so much more that could be said here but that would take longer to write. This is only meant as a quick introduction as to why Tito and Yugoslavia was revisionist. To get the full story and much more information I highly suggest reading Yugoslav “Self-Administration” – Capitalist Theory and Practice by Enver Hoxha.

* * *
Sources:

Enver Hoxha, Yugoslav “Self-Administration” – Capitalist Theory and Practice
Frederick Engels, Anti-Dühring
Karl Marx, Grundrisse
Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program
V. I. Lenin, The Tax in Kind
Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto
Joseph Proudhon, The Theory of Property

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