Tito, Josip


Tito, Josip
(1892–1980)
   Tito, born Josip Broz, was one of the most prominent communist leaders of the 20th century, and his Yugoslavia stood uniquely independent of the Soviet Union and China. His political activism started in 1910 when he joined the Social–Democratic Party of Croatia and Slavonia. Despite his vehement opposition to the conflict, Tito was sent to fight in World War I, though he eventually managed to desert and flee to Russia. Here, in November 1917 he joined the Red Army and applied a year later to join the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Tito became a member of the underground Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) in 1920, and used his position as a Comintern member to liaise with Josef Stalin over its activities. In 1934 he became a member of the Political Bureau and Central Committee of the CPY, and in1937 general secretary. When in April 1941 the Axis powers invaded Yugoslavia, Tito was at the forefront of the resistance movement, becoming chief commander of the Yugoslav National Liberation Army (NLA). The guerrilla tactics of the NLA were ultimately successful as they liberated chunks of territory, earning Tito the title of marshal in 1943 and eventually forcing the fascists out.
   At the end of World War II, Tito became prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Yugoslavia as part of a fresh coalition government. Shortly afterwards, in 1953, he succeeded Ivan Ribar as president of the country under the new constitution, and a decade later Yugoslavia became the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1974 Tito was named “president for life” following five consecutive election victories, a position he occupied through to his death six years later.
   Tito succeeded in keeping the deeply fractious Yugoslavia cemented together, chiefly by diluting nationalist sentiments with common Yugoslav goals. But the country was constantly wracked by tensions among its composite peoples and Tito did have to utilize force to maintain this status quo, particularly in the “Croatian spring” when the government suppressed public demonstrations and inner-Party dissent. Tito’s Yugoslavia became the first European communist country to cut all ties with Stalin and exist without Soviet aid. As Stalin pursued full control of the “buffer states” in the Eastern Bloc, he offered his former ally Tito aid in return for obedience, but in 1948 the Yugoslavian chose personal political freedom and full independence for his country. This signified a rejection of the Soviet model of communism, and enabled the Yugoslavian government to pursue its own vision.
   As such, Tito and his key aides set about fashioning a uniquely Yugoslavian socialism, internally encouraging market socialism and decentralized worker self-management, and externally steadfastly refusing to align with either side in the Cold War. This latter policy led to Yugoslavia’s membership of the Non-Alignment Movement, which Tito founded, along with Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and India’s Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1961. Yugoslavia benefited economically from the Tito government’s version of communism, as, unlike those states relying on the Soviet Union, the country was able to form trading relationships with Western economies. Yet, totalitarian elements did surface, and with Tito unwilling to tolerate collaborators shifting too far ideologically toward Stalinist or on the other hand Western democratic viewpoints, expulsions and purges were not uncommon. “Titoism” was in practice something of a halfway house between Stalinism and Western liberalism, and it soon ceased to exist following the death of the ideology’s chief exponent. The collective leadership that Tito left behind to take the reins following his death failed to halt the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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