top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

League of Communists of Yugoslavia formed April 20, 1919

Yugoslavian stamp in honour of the 40th anniversary of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, 1959.

On April 20, 1919 a congress in Belgrade began that saw the formation of the Socialist Workers’ Party of Yugoslavia (Communist). That party became the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) in 1920 and ultimately the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) at its Sixth Congress in 1952. This was after the Communists had played a leading role in the heroic resistance to the Nazi and fascist occupation during WWII and had taken power under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito.

The LCY was the governing workers' party of first the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia and then the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia after 1963. Tragically the LCY was disbanded in 1990 during the counter-revolutionary European wave and the overthrow of socialism.

We have reprinted a comprehensive and quite even-handed history of the LCY and its evolution and congresses from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia in 1979.

League of Communists of Yugoslavia

(LCY; Savez Komunista Jugoslavije), the communist party of Yugoslavia, founded in April 1919 at a congress in Belgrade as the Socialist Workers’ Party of Yugoslavia (Communist) through the unification of the Serbian Social Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Hercegovina, leftist socialists from the Social Democratic Party of Croatia and Slavonia, and communist and socialist groups from Montenegro, Macedonia, Dalmatia, and Vojvodina (groups that had been formed in 1919). It was founded amid the upsurge in the revolutionary movement in the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (from 1929 known as Yugoslavia) in the aftermath of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia.

At its First Congress, or Congress of Unification, the party set forth the “Principles of Unification,” the principles of party organization. It condemned social chauvinism and joined the Communist International. F. Filipovic was elected chief secretary of the party. Reformist elements within the party hindered the growth of the revolutionary struggle. In April 1920 the Workers’ Socialist Party of Slovenia and the Yugoslav Social Democratic Party (Slovenia) joined the Socialist Workers’ Party of Yugoslavia (Communist), which brought to completion the unification of the Yugoslav working-class movement.

In 1920, at its Second Congress, the party, now with more than 65,000 members, changed its name to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY). The congress adopted a party program, which defined as its primary goal the making of a socialist revolution and establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat in Yugoslavia. At the same time, it was unable to take the correct stance on the national and agrarian questions. It adopted a party statute—a temporary statute had been adopted at the First Congress—and passed several resolutions, including one on open propaganda in favor of revolution and the soviet order and another on preparation of the proletariat to carry out its historical mission. Filipovic and Sima Markovic were elected secretaries of the Central Party Council, or Central Committee. In December 1920 the centrists were expelled from the CPY after they published an antiparty program, the “Manifesto of the Opposition.”

In the elections to the Constituent Assembly in November 1920, notwithstanding persecution by the authorities and falsification of ballots, the CPY received the third highest number of votes, winning 59 seats out of 419 in the assembly. In December 1920, with the revolutionary movement growing and the authority and influence of the CPY increasing, the government published a decree known as the Obznana (Notification), which prohibited all further activities of the CPY. In August 1921 the bourgeois Skupstina (Assembly) passed the Law on the Protection of Public Safety and Order in the State, which outlawed the CPY. The CPY deputies in the Skupstina were divested of their mandates, and about 2,000 communists were arrested. The CPY was forced underground. This, the mass arrests of party cadres, and the revival of reformism led to a temporary stagnation in the workers’ movement. A factional struggle broke out among the leaders of the CPY. The rightists, headed by Markovic, opposed the party’s underground activity; the leftists thought it necessary to intensify illegal revolutionary work.

In 1924 the Third Conference of the CPY, which met in Belgrade, condemned Markovic’s views and rejected the rightists’ reformist demands for “independent” trade unions. The resolutions passed by the conference acknowledged the right of nations to self-determination, even to the point of secession from the state; called for the distribution of the large landed estates, without compensation and including all inventory, to landless and land-poor peasants; and affirmed the party’s leading role in relation to the trade unions. At the CPY’s Second Conference (1923) and Third Conference, Trisa Kaclerovic was elected secretary of the Central Committee of the CPY.

After its Third Conference, the CPY strengthened its organization and more than doubled its membership; in January 1924 it had approximately 1,000 members, and in January 1925, 2,300. However, the opportunists persisted in their factional activity. In March 1925, at the request of the CPY leadership, the Executive Committee of the Communist International formed a special commission, which, upon investigation of the CPY, criticized the opportunist views of Markovic. In April 1925 the Fifth Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International condemned the factional struggle among CPY leaders and recommended that a party congress take up the issues in dispute.

In May 1926 the Third Congress of the CPY confirmed the Third Conference’s resolutions on, among others, the national question, the peasant question, the trade unions, and party organization and drew attention to the need for a united front of workers and peasants if the rule of capital were to be overthrown under the leadership of the revolutionary proletariat. It emphasized the importance of popularizing the achievements of the Soviet Union and asserted the need for the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes to extend diplomatic recognition to the USSR. It adopted a new party statute. Markovic was elected secretary of the Central Committee after he renounced his opportunist views.

After the congress, however, the factional struggle flared up again. Local CPY organizations, under leaders such as Josip Broz Tito, Djuro Djakovic, Biagoje Parovic, and Djuro Salaj, opposed factionalism and called for the unity of party ranks. In February 1928 a conference of the Zagreb party organization condemned the factional struggle among the leadership. On the conference’s resolution, the Zagreb committee of the CPY sent a letter to the Executive Committee of the Communist International, a letter in which it described conditions within the party and requested measures to correct the situation. In April 1928, at a special meeting attended by CPY leaders, the Executive Committee of the Communist International discussed the situation in the CPY; in May 1928 it published an open letter to CPY members, in which it noted that there were forces in the CPY capable of putting an end to factionalism and of forging a party leadership from among the workers themselves, a leadership that would unite the ranks of the CPY and move the party toward the creation of a fraternal alliance between the proletariat, on the one hand, and the toiling peasantry and toiling masses of the oppressed nationalities, on the other. The various organizations of the CPY discussed the open letter. The party’s factional leadership was removed, and a provisional three-man Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPY was formed under Djakovié.

In November 1928 the Fourth Congress of the CPY defined the strategy, tactics, and tasks of the party in relation to the political situation in Yugoslavia and warned of the possible establishment of a monarchist dictatorship. It condemned factional strife among CPY leaders and emphasized the need for further ideological and organizational consolidation of party organizations and for increased CPY work among peasants and youth. It condemned the anti-Soviet policy of Yugoslavia’s ruling circles. Djakovic was elected organizational secretary of the Central Committee of the CPY.

On Jan. 6, 1929, a coup d’etat established a monarchical-military dictatorship in Yugoslavia. In February 1929, at its Sixth Plenum, the CPY leadership exhorted the workers and peasants to rise in armed insurrection and install workers’ and peasants’ power in Yugoslavia. The call to armed insurrection was an error, since neither objective nor subjective conditions in Yugoslavia favored the success of an armed uprising. The reactionaries stepped up their repression against the CPY. Many local organizations of the CPY and the Union of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia (founded 1919) were broken up, and several prominent party figures, including Djakovic, fell victim to the bloody terror or were imprisoned.

From 1930 to 1934 the CPY worked primarily to consolidate its organization and ideology. In 1934 the Fourth Conference of the CPY, held in Ljubljana, took note of the need to train national party cadres and wage a more intense struggle to solve the national question; thus, it resolved to found, within the framework of the CPY, communist parties of Croatia and Slovenia (the two parties were founded in 1937) and, “in the near future,” a communist party of Macedonia. It also resolved to establish party organizations at large factories and to work more diligently in the villages and among young people. Pursuant to the resolutions of the Seventh Comintern Congress in 1935, the CPY came out in favor of a popular front, the unification of all antifascist and democratic parties and groups in the struggle against the monarchist regime in Yugoslavia.

In late 1937, Tito assumed the leadership of the CPY, which at the time had a membership of about 1,500. The CPY waged a resolute struggle against factionalism and for the strengthening and consolidation of the party organization. From 1936 to 1939 more than 1,300 Yugoslav volunteers, many of them CPY members, fought in the International Brigades in the heroic struggle of the Spanish people against fascism. In 1940 the Fifth Conference of the CPY elected Tito to the newly created office of general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPY.

After fascist Germany and its satellites attacked Yugoslavia in April 1941, the CPY assumed the leadership in the national liberation war in Yugoslavia of 1941-45 against fascist invaders, a war that dovetailed with the class struggle against the Yugoslav bourgeoisie and for a new, socialist Yugoslavia. During the struggle for liberation, the party lost about 50,000 members; in May 1945 party membership stood at more than 141,000.

After the liberation of Yugoslavia from the fascist invaders in May 1945, the CPY led the revolutionary-democratic and socialist transformation, which had begun even during the war. On Nov. 29, 1945, Yugoslavia was proclaimed a Federal People’s Republic. With the triumph of the revolution and the elimination of the bourgeois order, political power passed to the working class and toiling peasantry. The CPY became the ruling party in Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia entered the path of socialist construction.

In 1948, at its Fifth Congress, the CPY adopted a new program and a new party statute. The program defined the party’s tasks in the struggle to lay the foundations of socialism. The congress reacted negatively to the June 1948 resolution of the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers’ Parties (Cominform) Concerning the Situation in the Communist Party of Yugoslavia; it adopted a resolution on the immediate tasks of the party. In 1948 and 1949, the relations of Yugoslavia and the CPY with the socialist countries and the communist parties were suspended; they were restored only beginning in 1953 and 1954.

In 1952 the Sixth Congress of the CPY concluded that in the new social and political system based on the principles of workers’ self-management, the party’s primary task lay in the ideological and political education of the masses. It passed a resolution changing the party’s name to the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY). It also adopted a new party statute. In 1958 the Seventh Congress of the LCY made changes in and additions to the party statute, adopted a new program for the LCY, and passed a resolution on the party’s immediate tasks.

In 1964 the Eighth Congress made more changes in and additions to the party statute and passed a resolution on the party’s immediate tasks, drawing attention to the implementation of economic and social reforms aimed at continued industrialization, accelerated agricultural development, and expansion of the socialist sector in the countryside. In July 1966 the Fourth Plenum of the Central Committee of the LCY passed a resolution on the reorganization of the LCY. In October 1966, accordingly, the Fifth Plenum of the Central Committee of the LCY specifically abolished the posts of general secretary of the LCY and secretaries of the Central Committee of the LCY; it instituted the post of president of the LCY, to which Tito was elected. In January 1967 the Seventh Plenum of the LCY approved the Draft Theses on the Further Development and Reorganization of the LCY, which had been submitted by a commission of the Central Committee of the LCY, and adopted the Resolution on Changes in the Methods and Forms of Organization of the Communists.

In 1969, at its Ninth Congress, the LCY adopted several resolutions, including Socialist Development in Yugoslavia on the Basis of Self-management and the Tasks of the League of Communists; The LCY in the Struggle for Equitable International Cooperation, for Peace and Socialism; and The Ideological-Political Bases of the Further Development of the LCY. It adopted a new party statute, whose leading themes reflected the theses on the reorganization of the LCY, and the practical measures on party reorganization that had been carried out in the period between the Fourth Plenum of the Central Committee of the LCY and the Ninth Congress. The Ninth Congress abolished the Central Committee of the LCY and all its agencies, replacing it with the Presidency of the LCY; it also formed the Executive Bureau of the Presidency of the LCY. The congress elected Tito president of the LCY.

After the Ninth Congress of the LCY, apart from the successes achieved in the building of socialism, the party and Yugoslav society as a whole encountered several difficulties and troublesome phenomena—for example, growing nationalist, liberalist, and other antisocialist tendencies, the diminishing role of the party, increasing ideological and political disunity within the party, and the spread of party factions and cliques. Such phenomena were criticized at the 21st session of the Presidency of the LCY in December 1971, in a letter from the president of the LCY and Executive Bureau of the Presidency of the LCY to all LCY organizations and members in September 1972, in several speeches by Tito, and at republic-level party congresses preceding the Tenth Congress of the LCY. The chief exponents of the nationalist, antiparty, and antisocialist trends were expelled from the LCY, and it was deemed necessary to take measures on organizational and ideological consolidation of the party and on reinforcement of the party’s leading role in all spheres of public life.

In 1974, at its Tenth Congress, the LCY reviewed a report on the work of the Presidency of the LCY in the period between the Ninth and Tenth congresses and heard and discussed Tito’s report “The Struggle for the Further Development of Socialist Self-management in Our Country and the Role of the LCY.” It also adopted 18 resolutions, two of which were of genera! political significance—The Struggle for the Further Development of Socialist Self-management and the Tasks of the LCY, and The LCY in the Struggle For Peace, Equitable International Cooperation, and Socialism. The other resolutions dealt with specific areas of LCY activity and current international problems. Tito’s report and the corresponding congress resolution emphasized the prime importance of a stronger role for the LCY as the vanguard of the working class and underscored the need for further organizational and ideological-political consolidation of the party, for more activity and greater responsibility on the part of party organizations, and for consistent application of the principle of democratic centralism. These themes also found expression in the changes in and additions to the party statute, by which a Central Committee of 165 members, a Presidency of the Central Committee of 48 members, and an Executive Committee of the Presidency of 12 members were established within the LCY. A Committee on the LCY Statute and an Auditing Commission were also created. The leading organs of the LCY embody equal representation for the leagues of communists of the socialist republics and socialist autonomous regions of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and for party organizations in the Yugoslav People’s Army. The Tenth Congress elected Tito chairman of the LCY for an unlimited term of office.

In 1978, at its Eleventh Congress, the LCY noted the great achievements made by the working people of Yugoslavia in the years of people’s power. The resolutions adopted by the congress included, first, The Role and Tasks of the LCY in the Struggle for the Development of Socialist Self-management and for the Country’s Economic and Social Progress and, second, The LCY in the Struggle for Peace, Equality, International Cooperation, and Socialism All Over the World. In the wake of the Tenth Congress of the LCY the Eleventh Congress mapped out new tasks in building socialism on the basis of self-management and charted the line of the country’s development and activity in the international arena. In pursuance of the decisions of the Tenth Congress, the Eleventh Congress, gave primary attention to consolidating the role of the party. The changes in and additions to the LCY statute approved by the congress aim at increasing the role of primary party organizations and at promoting party members’ activity and initiative.

The LCY attended the international Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties in 1957 and the Conference of European Communist and Workers’ Parties in 1976.

Under the statute (adopted 1969, with subsequent changes and additions), the leading principle of LCY organization is democratic centralism. The highest LCY body is the party congress, which meets at least once every four years; between congresses, the highest party body is the Central Committee. At the end of 1975 the LCY had 1,302,843 members. The president of the LCY is Josip Broz Tito. The central press organs of the LCY are the newspaper Komunist and the journal Socijalizam.

A list of the Congresses of the LCY is given in Table 1.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page