Yugoslav gadfly Djilas became famous when his critique of Communist power, The New Class, came out in 1956, around the time...



Yugoslav gadfly Djilas became famous when his critique of Communist power, The New Class, came out in 1956, around the time of the Hungarian uprising. As a former top-level Communist--who broke with Tito in a 1953 series of articles calling for greater democratization, was expelled from the Yugoslav party central committee in 1954, and imprisoned in 1956--Djilas is an insider with an insider's perspective. This is the latest in a string of memoirs of his life-and-times, raking over ground covered in the volumes on Tito and Stalin. The opening words, ""If memory serves,"" are not encouraging--for sometimes only memory backs up Djilas' version of events. This is not a problem with events such as the trial of anticommunist partisan leader Mihailovic, who was found guilty of collaborating with the German occupation and executed; Djilas recalls that Mihailovic was falsely promised his life if he would admit his collaboration. And Djilas well conveys the heady atmosphere of the immediate postwar period when party leaders reveled in images of industrial growth on the basis of an often half-understood, but in any case unworkable, Marxist economics. He expands his previous report of Stalin with memory of a meeting at which the Soviet leader solemnly toasted Lenin as the purest Marxist thinker--purer than Marx or Engels, who were still caught in German philosophy. Djilas, remarking that he had forgotten that occasion before, sees it as an early sign (for him) of Soviet intentions to impose their version of Marxism on other Communist regimes--a curious revelation insofar as Moscow had been doing that, through the Comintern, for almost 30 years. Underlying much of this memoir, however, is a struggle over memory between Djilas and his former colleague Vladimir Dedijer. Their dispute takes in personal trivia, such as Dedijer's claim that Djilas practiced a double standard in his public and private life during a period of official ""revolutionary asceticism,"" and differing memories of who took what stand on Vietnam. More seriously, Djilas claims that Dedijer struck a deal with Tito whereby Dedijer would have special access to archives in order to refute Djilas' statements in earlier memoirs; that, says Djilas, explains Dedijer's relatively easy treatment by the authorities. That dispute is not going to be resolved by this volume, though it comes to dominate the latter part. For fans of Djilas, for close watchers of Yugoslav or communist affairs, there will be many nuggets; others will find this--in contrast with earlier Djilas testimony--overstocked with obscure individuals and controversies.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1984

ISBN: 0156767082

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1984