Communist Information Bureau
COMMUNIST INFORMATION BUREAU
The Communist Information Bureau was an organization, usually known as the Cominform, created by Stalin in 1947 ostensibly for the purpose of exchanging information among the communist parties of Europe. Actually, the Cominform served two purposes: 1) to solidify relationships among the communist parties of Eastern Europe as tools of Soviet foreign policy; 2) to act as a device for dealing with Tito and the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. The organization's full name was the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers' Parties, sometimes known by its Russian abbreviation, Informburo.
Following World War II, one of Stalin's primary foreign policy goals for Eastern Europe was to establish friendly (i.e., subservient) states in Eastern Europe as a buffer against a potentially revived Germany. Whereas the western allies did not dis-agree with that goal in principle, they did find the Soviet Union's revolutionary rhetoric and its aggressive policies in Poland and the Balkans unacceptable, even frightening, as they began to establish their own vision of a liberal world system. In 1947 the British decided to pull back from the international commitments that had characterized their imperial history, and the United States stepped into the breach. Citing the apparent division of the world into two camps, a free one based on "individual liberty" and an unfree one based on "terror and oppression," President Harry Truman endorsed what later became called the policy of containment, that is, limiting communism to those countries where it already existed. Shortly thereafter, the United States introduced the Marshall Plan for the recovery of Europe.
In the summer of 1947, largely in response to these western initiatives, Stalin had Wladyslaw Gomulka, head of the Polish Workers Party, invite the representatives of Communist parties of nine European countries (USSR, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, France, and Italy) to the Polish resort of Szklarska Poreba for a "private conference … to exchange information on the situation in the various countries" and perhaps to create a journal. Actually, as documents made available in the 1990s show, Stalin intended to create a mechanism for subordinating the activities of the other parties to Soviet aims.
The main speech at the conference, which convened on September 22, was made by Andrei Zhdanov, second only to Stalin in the Soviet hierarchy. In an aggressive and strongly-worded talk, Zhdanov restated the "two-camp" notion, but this time with the democratic camp (the USSR and its allies) consisting of those "antifascist" countries that had "broken with imperialism and have firmly set foot on the path of democratic development," and the imperialist camp (the U.S. and its allies) consisting of countries that relied on "reactionary, anti-democratic forces." Zhdanov characterized "America's aspirations to world supremacy" as "highly reminiscent of the reckless program … of the fascist aggressors," the Hitlerites. Stalin gave the Yugoslav party pride of place at the conference by permitting its representatives to be the harshest critics of the other parties, particularly the French and Italian, which recently had been dropped from their coalition governments. He added to Yugoslavia's prestige by making Belgrade the location of the editorial offices of the new Cominform monthly (later biweekly) publication entitled For a Lasting Peace, For a People's Democracy!
It is not clear whether Stalin was rewarding the Yugoslavs at Sklarska Poreba or setting them up. But in the winter and spring of 1948, a serious controversy arose between the Yugoslav party and Stalin that led to an exchange of messages. At one point the Yugoslavs stated that "no matter how much each of us loves the land of socialism, the USSR, he can, in no case, love his own country less." This was exactly what Stalin could not abide. The second meeting of the Cominform, which took place in Bucharest in June 1948, therefore expelled Yugoslavia from the fraternal brotherhood of socialist states (i.e., the Soviet bloc). Because the events leading up to this expulsion had been strictly secret, this expulsion produced a great sensation in Europe and the world. It put a shocked Yugoslavia on a path toward an independent style of self-managed socialism, while at the same time opening a vicious campaign against alleged "Titoism" in the socialist countries of Eastern Europe.
The Cominform, now excluding Yugoslavia, met only one more time, in November 1949 in Hungary. This meeting was devoted primarily to the "anti-Titoist" campaign. Stalin's death in 1953 and the changes in Soviet policy that ensued made the organization increasingly obsolete. Khrushchev decided in 1956 to restore good relations with Yugoslavia, and the Cominform was dissolved on April 17 of that year.
See also: stalin, josef vissarionovich; yugoslavia, relations with; zhdanov, andrei alexandrovich
Bass, Robert Hugo, ed. (1959). The Soviet-Yugoslav Controversy, 1948–1958: A Documentary Record. New York: Prospect Books for the East European Institute.
Procacci, Giuliano, ed. (1994). The Cominform: Minutes of the Three Conferences, 1947/1948/1949. Milan: Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli.