Books by Milovan Djilas

Released: April 28, 1998

The last reflections—together with a lot of older ones—of Djilas (Of Persons and Ideas, 1986, etc.), one-time number three in the Yugoslav hierarchy and its most famous dissident. Djilas, who died in 1995, added an introduction and a final chapter to material that has mostly been published before. Some of the older material (theoretical arguments about what constituted advances in Marxism) has all the immediacy of last week's pizza. His more literary efforts are slightly embarrassing. But nothing can detract from the role he played in formulating the theory, dealt with in some detail here, that the supposedly classless society produced in fact a class more ruthless than any of its predecessors: —Communism,— he notes, —consisted above all of a new class of owners and exploiters.— His observations on those with whom he dealt are penetrating. Of Stalin he writes that there may never have been a figure from history with as little in common between the public persona and the private man: —Stalin was a bundle of nerves sticking out in all directions, sensitive to the most subtle allusions.— He dismisses the theory that Stalin was crazy or criminal, arguing that his murderous actions were the consequence of a perverted ideology. Tito, who, despite his break with Moscow, never abandoned the Leninist ideology, had something similar in his make-up, —an immediate, ferocious sense of danger.— Not surprisingly, Djilas's newest material is also the most interesting, and his most significant conclusion may be that the economic failure of communism was less important in leading to its demise than the failure of its ideology. The final turning point, he argues, was when President Reagan undertook the decisive policy of rearmament in response to the Soviet challenge. The final conclusions, some reflecting old battles, some devastatingly contemporary, of a brave and honest man who, for his defense of freedom, spent nine years in the jails of his former comrades. Read full book review >