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SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN BULGARIA ~ 9 JUNE 1923 TO 19 MAY 1934

Author: Boyan Grigorov

 

Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers Party (Broad Socialists)

Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers Party (Broad Socialists) was a reformist socialist political party in Bulgaria. The party emerged out of a division at the Tenth Party Congress of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers Party held in 1903 (the other faction forming the Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers Party (Narrow Socialists)). The 'Broad Socialist' faction had appeared inside the pre-split party around 1900, when Yanko Sakazov had started the magazine Obshto Delo ('Common Action'). The Broad Socialists, analogous to the Mensheviks in the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, argued in favour a broad social base of the party and broad class alliances.

The party was divided in right, centre and left factions. Its membership had a mixed social background. As of 1910 workers constituted about 35% of the party membership. Rural workers were generally absent in the party ranks.

The party published the daily newspaper Narod between 1911 and 1934. The rightist tendency inside the party ran a newspaper of their own, Epoha, between 1923 and 1925. The Socialist Youth Union was the youth wing of the party. The Free Trade Unions were politically close to the party.

The party was a member of the Labour and Socialist International (LSI) in 1923-1940. It was represented by Sakazov at the LSI Executive during the entire existence of the International (until August 1925 Sakazov's seat was shared with the Yugoslav socialist leader ˇivko Topalovich).

In 1948 the party merged into the Bulgarian Communist Party (into which the Narrow Socialists had developed). The process of verification of memberships began in June 1948, and around half of the Broad Socialist party members were allowed to enter the Communist Party. The merger was finalized in December 1948.

Historiography in Socialist Bulgaria consistently downplayed the Broad Socialists, repeatedly denouncing the party as 'opportunists'.

 

Yanko Sakazov

Yanko Ivanov Sakazov (1860-1941) was a Bulgarian socialist politician. A native of the northeastern city of Shumen, Sakazov went abroad for studies during his youth, studying in Western Europe and Russia. He was a student of natural sciences, philosophy and history in Germany, biology in England and literature and art criticism in France. After his return to Bulgaria, he was one of the founders of the Social Democratic Union in Bulgaria in 1892.

Sakazov was one of two candidates of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers Party elected to the National Assembly in the 1894 election (the other being Gabrovski). Sakazov represented the rural constituency Novi Pazar. Sakazov and Gabrovski were the two first socialist parliamentarians in the history of Bulgaria. Sakazov became a parliamentarian again in 1911, and as the sole socialist deputy in the National Assembly he voted against increased military spending in 1912.

In 1900 Sakazov founded the publication Obshto Delo ('Common Action'), around which the moderate faction of the party rallied. Sakazov's followers became known as 'Broad Socialists'. In 1903 the party was divided into two, with Sakazov's faction forming the Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers Party (Broad Socialists).

Sakazov served as Minister of Trade, Industry and Labour (1918-1919) in the first cabinet of Alexander Stamboliyski.

Sakazov was the representative of the Bulgarian Broad Socialists in the Executive of the Labour and Socialist International from 1923 to 1940 (the entire period of existence of the international). Until August 1925 Sakazov's seat was shared with the Yugoslav socialist leader ˇivko Topalovich.

 

Labour and Socialist International

The Labour and Socialist International (LSI) (German: Sozialistische Arbeiter-Internationale, SAI) was an international organization of socialist and labour parties, active between 1923 and 1940. The LSI was a forerunner of the present-day Socialist International.

LSI had a history of rivalry with the Communist International (Comintern), with which it competed over the hegemony of the socialist and labour movement in Europe. However, unlike the Comintern, the LSI had no control over its sections, as it was composed of autonomous national parties.

The LSI was founded at a congress in Hamburg in May 1923 through the merger of the Berne International and the Vienna International. The LSI functioned as a continuation of the Second International. The Social Democratic Party of Germany was the dominant party within the LSI.

With the rise of Nazism in Europe, there was increased pressure on the LSI to cooperate. On 19 February 1933, the LSI Bureau issued a call for joint action of the SPD and the Communist Party of Germany against the Hitler regime. The Comintern responded by stating that they were not convinced of the sincerity of the declaration. However, the Comintern did soon call of its national sections to form united fronts together with social democratic parties locally. The LSI, on its side, did not accept the notion of local social democrats forming united fronts with the communist parties. However, as the Comintern adopted a more conciliatory tone, the resistance of the LSI against forming such united fronts on the national level softened.

Within the LSI, a north-south cleavage emerged, as the Mediterrean LSI parties built fronts with the communists whilst the British and Scandinavian parties rejected the notion of cooperation with the communists. With the German party in disarray, the British and Scandinavians had become more influential within the LSI. Thus the space for socialist-communist cooperation decreased. On 25 September 1934, the Comintern Executive had issued a call for 'peace negotiations' between the two internationals, but the LSI rejected the offer.

After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the LSI and the International Federation of Trade Unions launched an 'Aid for Spain' campaign. The LSI/IFTU relief efforts were channeled through the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE).

LSI did not have the same anti-imperialist approach as the communists and were generally supportive of colonialism. For example, the participation of the British Independent Labour Party in the communist-sponsored League against Imperialism caused a controversy within LSI, and the ILP was asked to break its ties with the League. However, the support of the LSI for colonialism was not complete. Regarding the Rif War the second LSI congress, held in Marseille 22-27 August 1925, adopted a resolution calling for support to the independence of the Rif and urging the League of Nations to accept the Republic of Rif (Morocco) as a member.

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Balkan Federation and Social Democracy

The Balkan people do not seem to be very susceptible to the ideological temptations of the lackeys of Russian absolutism. The old Panslavism did not find its way into the hearts of the Balkan people. The idea of an alliance of all Slavs, naturally under the leadership of the strongest Russian branch, grew only now and then in the educated circles of the bourgeoisie at the beginning of the 1860s, but neither in the mass of the people nor in the leading political classes of the bourgeoisie did this idea find a strong following. There were instead other ideas that dominated the Balkan peoples in the second half of the nineteenth century. The oldest and most widespread of these was the idea of an independent struggle against the Turkish yoke, that came to light in local and general revolts. With the strengthening of the Turkish central power and with the modernization of warfare, that idea was gradually accompanied by two others. One was an ideology of a Federation of all Balkan peoples, Romanians, Serbs and Bulgarians, in order to smash Turkish power and distribute the inheritance among themselves. The other idea was very practical and at the same time helpless, the mystical hope of release and liberation through Russia. Here is not the place to explain how all these ideas followed one another. It is enough to say that they were closely tied to, on the one hand, the state of the power relationships in the Balkans, and on the other, to the now open, now secret propaganda of Russian agents.

The idea of Balkan Federation, which has received so much attention in recent times, experienced a different fate. It emerged with an astonishing force, in every Balkan country, shortly after the Turkish revolution of 1908. As in Turkey people were embracing each other fraternally, so the idea grew of a united federation of small Balkan states, including free, constitutional Turkey, to halt the expansion of the great powers in the North and the West. It was astonishing how fast this idea spread, and how it entered into the deepest levels of the people.

But the later events, the absence of real reform in Turkey, the contemptuous attitude of the Young Turk regime towards Bulgaria, the proclamation of independence and then the annexation of Bosnia, destroyed all these nice dreams of the Balkan people. It is true that the idea of federation was encouraged by the highest officials during the crisis, and that the Russian Foreign Minister Isvolsky recommended this idea in front of the Duma. But Russia had hardly thought seriously of a true Balkan Union, because its leaders’ first action would have been to turn on her. As the self-styled ‘Protector of the Slavs’, Russia would have very much welcomed a federation of these states, which would have been directed against Austria and would have been a toy in the hands of Russia at the same time. But a free federation, sufficient in itself, would not have suited Russia. Such a federation might have controlled the Balkan peninsula and the Bosporus, and could not have been without influence, on the integrity of the Turkish regions in Asia. In effect, the rumour was officially spread during the later Bulgarian crisis, that Russia would consider any federation with Turkey to be directed against her. But a federation just between the Balkan states — Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro — would have a character too obviously anti-Austrian to be tolerated. The zeal with which the Austrian government press followed any rumour of an alliance between Serbia and Bulgaria, showed clearly enough that Vienna and Budapest would never consent to such a federation.

Thus the idea of a Balkan federation remained far from government circles in the Balkan states, and only the opposition groups, from the radical bourgeoisie to the social democrats, could think of it and believe in it.

But strangely enough, no matter how much the people liked this idea, no matter how much it seemed justified politically, still its realization remained distant. The Young Turks spoke fondly of the fraternity of Balkan nations, but in reality, they conducted a brutal domestic policy which meant that the nationalities in Turkey were held as far away as possible from self-determination. The Bulgarians adhered to an idea of a federation of the Balkan people, but for them it meant that the Macedonians would attain the status of an autonomous and independent member of the federation, which would open up for them the markets and ports of Turkey. And what could the Serbs make of this idea? Perhaps an alliance of Bosnia with their kingdom and the opening of the Turkish border in the direction of old Serbia and the Aegean Sea! But the Romanians, even in the spring of the Turkish rebellion, were hardly caught up in the enthusiasm, and if they might find some advantage in this idea of a federation, that would hardly be the absorption of the Romanians of Transylvania into their kingdom, but rather that Bulgaria renounc the Silistra - Rustschuk - Varna triangle to the profit of the Romanian crown.

But can this idea of Balkan federation ever be realized? The fact that it is popular among the people and the intelligentsia, does not prove that it can be practical, because first of all, many utopian ideas are popular, and second, this popularity might have one reason among one people, and a quite different meaning with another.

So what is the basis for the attraction of the idea of Balkan Federation? People typically think along the following lines: the small Balkan states are the victims of the great powers. If they were united they would possess a larger economic area, a stronger political force for their defence, considerably less state costs, and a more peaceful development towards outside countries. In this nice image, it is the Bulgarians who would welcome especially a stronger economic region, but seems hardly true for the Young Turks or the Serbs. The Young Turks would prefer that the federation gave them a greater political power, but they would also like the right to use this power against the other members of the federation, and especially against their own constituent nations. The Serbs would welcome a stronger economic area, but only with the goal of being able to export their own raw goods to neighbouring countries, without being constrained to take the finished goods of their neighbours back into their own country. As you see, the different political situations and levels of development in the Balkan countries, do not permit of a common interpretation of federation, and deeply influence the attitude of the different nations towards the idea.

One must also add a very fundamental reason which makes the idea of federation undesirable to the ruling classes of the Balkan nations. This resides in the social constitutions of these layers, and the possibility of their arriving better and more easily to their goals without the help of a federation, or even against one. There is no doubt that the Turkish oligarchy would have everything to fear from a federation. Turkey could not maintain her aspirations for power without the aid of a great power that would support her dominance and exploitation within her empire. It would be naive to expect that the Turks, young or old, will be so enthusiastic for the deceptive peaceful development, or for the reduction of the expenses of their state, which the federation may offer them, that they would forget the immediate conditions of their class. Let us look now at the governing parties in Bulgaria, which are certainly more democratic than the Young Turks, and which drape themselves so willingly in the language of peaceful economic development! Is there a doubt that they would always prefer to take as large a piece as possible of a foreign country, in order to place the surplus of their excess somewhere more advantageously and with less danger? And all these expenses of militarism and bureaucracy, do they not constitute for these classes a sufficient goal, which would give them a big opportunity to enrich themselves, in one way or another? The present animosity between the Balkan peoples suits these classes, in that it allows them to maintain society in a condition of permanent insecurity, and thus keep away the lower levels of people from participation in the government and the state. To nourish these convictions, there are so many members of the powerful classes, all around the Balkans. It is superfluous to describe here the true tendencies of the ruling classes in Serbia. In all the Balkan countries, the ruling classes are against the idea of federation.

On what basis should we pose the idea of a federation, and who can realize it? We do not see the social forces which might work for its realization. There exists, it is true, a radical democracy and a social democracy, which work very energetically for the alliance of the Balkan peoples. But the radicals drop their ideas, one after the other, the closer that they approach towards power and take over the respective interests of the ruling classes. As for the social democrats, if they are able to exercise a determining influence on the governments, they will have more urgent tasks than the realization of an artificial idea of a state. Yes, if the idea of federation was on the route of Balkan development, if the conditions for the construction of this state were fulfilled in each Balkan country, and in the situation of the entire political co-operation of south-eastern Europe, it would not be impossible for two or three countries close to one another in a favourable situation and powered by a popular referendum, to be able to realize political union with each other, or even a federation. But in the actual state of things, seeing the development of the single nations, how the decisive influence of the politics of the interested great powers are acting, it is absolutely excluded to think of a federation of the Balkan people, and one most of all, which would include Turkey. The very maximum which one could expect from the actual situation would be an alliance between Serbia and Bulgaria, which would include besides a customs unions and certain forms of political association. But the governments of these countries can not even come to this result, and the interested great powers will hardly allow such a union.. And an alliance between Serbia and Bulgaria would still be far from being a democratic federation of the Balkan states!

The idea of Balkan federation, as utopian as it may be, still for a certain time, may serve well to aid the peace in the Balkans, and the agitation of socialists for the rapprochement of the Balkan people. Faced with the rabid explosion of nationalism, faced with an insatiable taste for pillage of the ruling classes of all Balkan nations, propaganda in favour of the idea of Balkan federation offers to the popular masses a real and tangible alternative to the rivalries and problems in the Balkans. This idea is taken up with enthusiasm by the working class, by the peasants, by the petit bourgeoisie, and even by numerous sections of the ruling class, and equally by the intelligentsia. Unfortunately, each day which passes removes from this idea a little more of its appeal. Global realpolitik, conducted by all sides in the East, and the rapid change in domestic and foreign circumstances which has the effect of demonstrating the practicalities or not of all new ideas, rapidly undermines the foundations also of the idea of Balkan Federation. Very few people, even among the socialists, believe in the participation of the Turks in a federation. The Romanians, solidly associated with the Triple Alliance, and little interested in a Balkan federation, can be excluded from the beginning from this combination. Only the Bulgarians and the Serbs still possess an interest in such an alliance. And if people persist in encouraging Balkan Federation, without taking account of the changes in the situation, they strongly risk the possibility of finding themselves the plaything of the bourgeois parties or of the tendencies within a certain great power.

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Addendum: We continue our systematic reviews on political parties and movements in Bulgaria, past and present. Crudely speaking, an interested reader should consult beforehand "Stoyanov, I. Liberal Party in the Principality of Bulgaria 1879-1886. Sofia, 1989" and the included commentaries for some introductory knowledge on Bulgarian Politics from the first half of XX century. Manifold are the political writings and memoirs from this important period of Bulgaria which although experiencing only a short free sovereign development for 70 years — moreover, managed to overcome its innate backwardness of 500 years Turkish dominion and catch-up to the ever going modern development in Europe and America.

This time we present in a brief account the Social Democrat idea in Bulgaria and its first party leader, MP, Yanko Sakazov (1860-1941). This titular politician (and writer) though not having the turbulent fate and ultimate renown of his colleague Dimitar Blagoev (BSDP, narrow socialist), nevertheless succeeded to partake in politics as an international tribune and outlived most of his political opponents from the left. Sakazov did not live the end of WWII to witness the ruins of war and victory of the volatile Communists. But this was not important in the long run and Sakazov proved to be the real trump of socialism in Bulgaria.

In order to be consecutive we shall try to keep some chronology. Firstly, what was the idiomatic platform of Sakazov and his followers? Though called "opportunist" the kernel of his programme preempted a warless development. Was that applicable and moreover feasible in the bloodsheds of XX century? Not highly probable but eventually no one could guarantee piece without making some concessions, worthwhile or not, to his political counterparts. Sakazov et al. from Labour and Socialist International (LSI) insisted that such a fraternity was possible; it was not an Utopia and should be realized (in the case of Balkans, this was the project for Balkan Federation). Albeit, as editor of "Obshto Delo" Sakazov wrote several mid-length pamphlets that were bound in essay form as "Caesarism or Democracy" (1905). What a shame that critics didn't appreciate his efforts but several years later those were ravaged by the disaster of the Balkan Wars 1912-1913.

Secondly, I want to introduce to the booklist another title from Y. Sakazov — viz., his full length "Bulgarians and their History" (1917) that in a concise format (466 pp.) brought chronology to the years of Balkan Wars. As committed historians seldom denounce their errors, such was the position of Sakazov's worldview as notorious Macedonist (little bit mischievous). He paid much attention to Bulgaria's Medieval glory but strictly observed the cannons of international literature that he profusely cited. Written by a non-professional historian, this book couples well with another semi-authoritative narrative by Bulgarian Horde's author Nikolai Stanishev. See how both authors call Macedonia pathetically as "Koto-Kio" (an ancient left-wing phalange of Huns Army).

We should expand this commentary in future issues of the booklist. Especially interested was the reviewer of this material on a single monograph by Greek author Lefteri S. Stavrianos "Balkan Federation: A History of the Movement towards Balkan Unity in Modern Times. Northampton, Mass., 1944". Stavrianos wrote another book, "Balkan History from 1453" (1958), that became standard reference on all Balkan problematic, ditto.

 

Pictures 1 & 2: Sample illustrations on the text above.

(i). Parliamentary Group of Bulgarian Social Democratic Party (1923-1934) — left-to-right, sitting: Dimitar Neykov, Grigor Cheshmedjiev, Yanko Sakazov (chairman), Krastyo Pastuhov, and Kosta Lulchev; standing: Dosyo Negentzov, Sotir Yanev, Iliya Yanulov, Petar Anastasov, and Hristo Barakliev.

 

 

Copyright © 2011 by the author.