This interview with the Yugoslav writer Mihajlo Mihajlov took place recently as he was preparing to return to Yugoslavia after a visit to the US.
THEODORE JACQUENEY: Could you speak about what it is you want for your country—what kind of government, pursuing what policies?
MIHAJLO MIHAJLOV: The first goal is equality in rights. We must equalize the possession of rights. As you know, in Yugoslavia and in other countries rights are not available to all, only to some. My first goal is to equalize this inequality in the exercise of human rights.
In Yugoslavia, for example, one group of people, the people who monopolize political power in the Communist Party, can exercise all kinds of rights: the right to organize, the right to express themselves, the right to publish their views. But no one else in Yugoslavia has the same right as those who monopolize power and the party. Consequently, human rights are intricately connected to equality. And just as in South Africa, where the majority does not have the rights which the minority enjoys, simply because of the color of their skin, in Yugoslavia the majority cannot exercise the rights which the minority enjoys, simply because of the color of ideas. But essentially, the discrimination is the same.
TJ: You tried to organize an independent alternative magazine in Yugoslavia. Why did you try to do this, and what happened as a result?
MM: According to Yugoslav law, a minimum of five people have the right to organize a newspaper, magazine, or radio station; but, in reality, this is not possible. Because of allocation of power in the one-party system, rights under laws which might challenge that power cannot be exercised. In other words, the one-party system and legality are mutually exclusive.
TJ: When did you try to do this? And did you really intend to publish a journal, or did you undertake this effort only to demonstrate a political point?
MM: This occurred in 1966, after a severe purge of the Yugoslav secret police system, when the Yugoslav counterpart of Lavrenti Beria was dismissed. Our attempt to create an independent journal was made soon after this purge of the secret police in Yugoslavia. There was a wave of liberalization, and we sincerely hoped that with the help of international public opinion we would succeed in publishing one or two or three issues of our independent magazine. But it turned out that we could not publish even one issue, because ten members of the organizing committee were arrested.
TJ: The ten members of your journal’s organizing committee who were arrested in 1966—what happened to them? Where are they now?
MM: They are all free now. Of the ten, I was the only one who went to trial and then prison for an appreciable time. The others were detained for a while and then let go. Of the ten, three are now permanently in the West. One is now in England, one in Germany, one in Italy …
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The Yugoslav Dissidents July 19, 1979