Soviet plans to establish COMINFORM in early 1946 Bulletin, Cold War International History Project, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington D.C., Issue X.

New evidence from Hungarian archives

It has been long debated by scholars when the idea of forming a new Communist World organization after the Second World War was raised. In the absence of relevant sources the still prevailing classical interpretation suggests that this idea was a Soviet reaction to the Marshall Plan introduced in the Summer of 1947 and after the Soviet Union's refusal of the plan the formation of the Eastern Bloc and its 'executive committee', the COMINFORM was a logical next step in breaking off relations with the West. Surprisingly enough, no evidence of any kind has emerged from Russian archives from the time of their partial opening in 1991 pertaining to this important topic. However, documents discovered by Russian scholar Leonid Gibianskii in the Tito archives in Belgrade show that the idea of setting up such an organization was already discussed during the talks between Stalin and the Yugoslav leader in Moscow in May-June, 1946. [Note 1: L. Gibianskii: "Kak voznik Kominfom: Po novym arkhivnum materialam", Novaia i noveishaia istoriia 1993, No. 4. 135-136, quoted by: Robert C. Tucker: The Cold War in Stalin's Time, Diplomatic History, Vol. 21. No. 2. Spring 1997, 275.]

Documents from Hungarian sources not only confirm that a Soviet plan to re-establish a Communist World organization was in the making already as early as March, 1946, but they also show that the implementation of the plan was postponed in order to avoid its potential negative effects during the forthcoming elections in France, Czechoslovakia and Romania as well as in the course of the ongoing European peace settlement.[Note 2: I first presented this finding at the international conference: Internal Factors Facilitating Communist Takeover in East Central Europe 1944-1948, Opocno, Czech Republic, 9-11. September, 1993, see: Csaba B‚k‚s: Mad'arsk politick krize na jare 1946, Suodob‚ Dejiny (Praha), 1994. No. 4-5. pp. 509- 513.]

All this proves that the idea of setting up the later COMINFORM, rather than being a reaction to the intensification of frictions between the allies, originally was a part of a wider Soviet scheme aimed at fostering Communist takeover in East Central Europe by peaceful means while preserving Soviet-Western cooperation as well.

The document published below, is a section from the speech of M ty s R kosi, general secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party at the May 17, 1946 meeting of the Central Committee of the HCP. [Note 3: Archives of the Institute for Political History, (AIPH) Budapest, 274. f. 2./34.] As part of a long survey on current issues of world politics he informed the CC members of the Soviet conception on the setting up of a new Communist World organization. He gave a detailed analysis to his audience of how this new body would be different from the KOMINTERN using exactly the same arguments presented at the time of the setting up of the KOMINFORM in September, 1947.

Between March 28 and April 2 Rákosihad been on a secret mission in Moscow, where he was trying to achieve better terms for Hungary at the forthcoming peace conference. [Note 4: For the story of this Hungarian Communist initiative see: Csaba Békés: Dokumentumok a magyar kormánydelegáció 1946. áprilisi moszkvai tárgyalásairól. (Documents on the negotiations of the Hungarian Government Delegation in Moscow in April, 1946) R‚gi¢, 1992. 3. 161-194., for an English version see: The Communist Parties and the National Issue in Central and Eastern Europe (1945-1947) An Important Factor Facilitating Communist Takeover in the Region. In: 6. Martie 1945: Incepturile communizarii Romaniei. Editure Enciclopedia, Bucuresti, 1995, 245-253.] On April 1 he met Stalin and Molotov when he must have received the information he presented later to the Central Committee.[Note 5: No minutes of that meeting have been found on either sides up to date. After returning from Moscow Rákosireported on his visit at the April 3 Politburo meeting but according to the then prevailing practice no minutes were taken. However, on April 18 he gave a speech at the meeting of party secretaries of factories and plants in Budapest, where he briefly summarized the Soviet ideas on setting up a new Communist World organization. (AIPH 274. f. 8/14)]

Besides stressing the general importance of the document as the earliest known evidence of Soviet plans for the establishment of the later KOMINFORM there are three more issues in Rakosi's speech worth paying attention to. Firstly, he mentioned that during recent talks between the Hungarian and the Yugoslav Communist leaders the latter complained about how the KOMINTERN, " unaware of local conditions, sometimes demanded quite the opposite of what they needed." Paradoxically, although Tito and the Yugoslav leaders now themselves became proponents of the new Communist top organization, their eventual rupture with the rest of the Soviet bloc was caused by exactly the same Soviet attitude. Secondly, Rákosirelated how, at their recent meeting with the leaders of the Czechoslovak Communist Party the Hungarian party was adviced to attack the Czechoslovak party while, in turn they would attack the Hungarian party. This cynical attitude sheds light on how important role the national issue played in the policy of the Communist parties in East Central Europe aimed at preparing for a future takeover. And finally, Rákosi's speech provides an important contribution to the "blueprint debate", that is whether Stalin had a plan to Sovietize these countries. The conception, outlined by R kosi, obviously repeating what he had heard in Moscow shows a cautious but determined policy: in those countries where the Communist party itself will be able to create favourable internal conditions for a smooth and peaceful takeover they will be allowed to do so. However, at this stage Stalin, eager to maintain cooperation with the Western Allies, did not plan to permit any kind of forceful takeover, relying on direct Soviet support, or implying civil war.