The Djilas Affair and Jugoslav Communism

Courtesy Reuters

EDUARD BENEŠ once described Milovan Djilas as the only Communist leader he knew who dared to think independently. Josef Korbel, former Czechoslovak Ambassador to Jugoslavia, to whom Beneš made this statement, added his own opinion that Djilas "does not like to conceal from himself the situation as it really is, which most Communists do."[i] Stalin is reported to have considered Djilas a very frank man, who said what he thought.[ii] Djilas seemed to enjoy being something of an enfant terrible--a colorful and cocky individualist who treated everyone, even Tito, with an air of informality. In short, Djilas had many of the very characteristics which are incompatible with discipline in a Communist Party, and it is surprising that he lasted as long as he did. Despite these qualities, Djilas became one of the three or four top figures in Jugoslavia. Among other things he was President of the People's Assembly, Vice-President of the Federal Executive Council, member of the Executive Committee (Politburo) of the Communist Party, and boss of the Jugoslav press and propaganda. He was regarded by some as Tito's most likely successor.

But last fall Djilas began publishing a series of articles analyzing the faults in various areas of Jugoslav life, and finally ending in an attack upon the Communist Party and the "caste" system of the new Communist "aristocracy." After a party trial, he was stripped of his honors and reduced to the rank of an ordinary citizen, but not until he had created an international scandal by writing about the love life of a Jugoslav general and a beautiful movie actress.

The Djilas case was not just another Communist purge like those of Beria or Slansky, but was unique in several respects. In the first place, almost all of the facts are available. About most Communist purges we can only speculate; for this one the world had a ringside seat. Djilas himself in his articles presented a revealing exposé of the Communist Party, the government and the

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