Land Without Justice
The Stone and the Violets
Contemporary Yugoslav Literature
These are baleful times for Yugoslavia. In what may be his final passion of foreboding for his country, the patriarch is trying to reverse in a few months all the trends toward disintegration but also toward libertarianism that have developed in recent years. Last year, Tito tried to suppress nationalism in the Yugoslav republics by overthrowing the leadership of the Croatian League of Communists and instituting the succession of political trials and dismissals that is still going on. This year it is the Serbs, the strongest and most cannily tolerant of the communities in Yugoslavia, who are being assailed for their liberalism.
Tito is seeking to restore the strict and centralized authority of the Party in a society that has become too plural to accept it. He is trying to draw a distinction, which perhaps exists only in his own mind, between self-management in factories controlled by their workers and the political self-management of republics, of districts, of individual men and women who declare their own interests and try to make them prevail. Hastily revising history for the sake of this distinction, Tito now announces that the famous Sixth Congress of the Yugoslav League of Communists in 1952, which introduced the program of self-managing socialist democracy, was vitiated by a “euphoria of democratization.”
If what Tito is doing is mistaken, what other coherent idea or line of criticism in Yugoslavia offers promise for that terribly near future in which he is no longer there? It is hard to find one. The atomization he speaks of is real enough. Ideas touted in Belgrade or Zagreb are wild and empty. Those who as members of the Party most furiously defend the association of self-management with political liberty are also those who believe—with almost absurd fanaticism—in the virtues of a free-market economy open to every wind of international competition that blows.
They are like fighting Darwinians. When you say that it is madness for Yugoslavia to pretend that it is Switzerland, that Western Europe will simply fall upon a “free” Yugoslav economy and swallow it industry by industry until the country becomes a colony of Brussels, they retort, “So let it happen.” Only in Yugoslavia could communists go to the barricades for what amounts to the restoration of capitalism. The Trotskyite critic Ernest Mandel observed the other day that “it isn’t even state capitalism they are trying to restore, but good old private capitalism.” One can take his statement even further, and say that they would restore good old Krupp-and-ITT economic imperialism.
Milovan Djilas, living in Belgrade and watching this mounting confusion, has at least the satisfactions of Cassandra. In The Unperfect Society (1969), he wrote, “No one can doubt that Tito’s successor will take over direction of a state that is disunited and neglected, and that may be abandoned to the cupidity of Soviet pan-Russian imperialism…” and, “Only the vision of a new Yugoslavia within which national communities are associated by agreements as between foreign states, and in which all citizens…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.