Since Fidel left us, many from ex-Yugoslavia shared photos in social media in which Fidel and Tito appear together. The“Yugoslavs among us” did the same indeed. On the other side it is known that political relations between Fidel and Tito was not that much cordial.
Tito and Fidel have met face to face for the first time in United Nations in 1969 when Cuba was in trouble in international relations. Giving direct support to revolutionary movements in South America, Cuba was facing with harsh sanctions from imperialism, leaded by aggressive politics of USA resulting with a diplomatic global isolation of Cuba. Exception was support of USSR. While at the same time, Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia under the rule of League of Yugoslav Communists, which was dismissed from Cominform in 1948, was enjoying close relations with the imperialist countries who were imposing unjust sanctions against Cuba. It also has to be noted that almost 8400 communists in Yugoslavia were imprisoned with the claim of being Stalinist or supporting Cominform.
Yugoslavia was in a political isolation in 1950’s and Tito’s solution for that was to become closer to imperialist countries in 1960’s. Thus, by reforms of 1965, decentralized state federative structure was strengthened and self-management was transformed into a system which was more coherent with market economy.
Of course, Yugoslavia’s move towards more harmony with market economics was not one sided. Western countries, appreciating Yugoslavia as a trump card against Soviet Union were likely to donate Yugoslavia with low-profit rated financial credits. Thanks to those Western financial credits, Yugoslavia enjoyed the most prosperous period ever. In fact, the end of 1960’s and the beginning of 1970’s are mostly referred by Yugonostalgia claimers as the time period when the life in Yugoslavia was the best. (2) On the other side, despite enjoying such a prosperous time period, the symptoms of dissolution and collapse of Yugoslavia could already be observed. Even a CIA report dated in 1970 was mentioning the beginning of the end. However, Tito and League of Yugoslav Communists were far away from reality without being able to analyze the situation. The concept of “self-management” which was certainly not specific to Yugoslavia signifies an anachronism. Yugoslav self-management practice was anachronist, since the idea of self-management of those utopic socialists of 19th century like Proudhon, Fourier and Owen was already surpassed by scientific socialism, though still referred widely by Eurocommunism in indispensable search for an alternative against Soviet experience. Indeed, the new Yugoslav constitution of 1974 was the declaration of dissolution: Yugoslavia was not anymore a federation but a confederation.
It was that time when Fidel directed harsh criticisms against Tito. He was already distant to Tito, since Yugoslavia used to sell weapons to Fulgencia Batista which were directed against revolutionaries in Cuba. Moreover, Fidel was criticizing the luxurious and hedonistic lifestyle of Tito who almost became an iconic figure of Western magazine while hanging out with Hollywood stars or enjoying safari in Africa. The principal ideological break between Fidel and Tito was during the 1979 summit of non-Aligned Movement where Fidel criticized the movement, especially Tito, for their silence against global operations of imperialism. At that time, for sure two communist leaders of two communist countries should have given sincere poses to the journalists from worldwide.
Tito and Yugoslav partisans with their mythical guerilla resistance against fascism, forcing Nazis to kneel in the Dinar Alps take an heroic place in the international history of anti-fascist struggle. However, like many other communists Fidel was also aware that Tito and Yugoslav communists could not show the same will of struggle against imperialism. It also has to be noted that one of the reasons behind the current actual weakness of left and class struggle in ex-Yugoslavia despite the ongoing economic crisis, political problems is the political legacy of Tito and Yugoslav experience which could not pass through a process of self-criticism where a quarter century passed by since the bloody dissolution of Yugoslavia.
Apart from the fact that Yugoslavia and practice of self-management and Tito did not pass through a process of self-criticism, for us Tito is still the heroic commander in the anti-fascist struggle and one of the founders of socialist Yugoslavia with the motto “Protect fraternity and unity like the apple of your eyes”. But if we will put Fidel and Tito in the same photo, it we also have to keep in mind that it is not because of Tito’s political stance, but because of the essence of international solidarity which Fidel have never left behind.
(1) For the aerticle in Bosnian language click here.