The Repression at Belgrade University

(The following statement was prepared by experts on the situation in Yugoslavia whom we believe to be reliable. We think it will interest your readers.—Noam Chomsky, MIT; Robert S.Cohen, Boston University)

A. Background

1949-1950. A new generation of young philosophers and social theorists, many of whom took active part in the liberation war (1941-1945), graduated and assumed teaching positions at the universities of Belgrade and Zagreb. They appeared on the scene during Yugoslavia’s resistance to Stalin’s attempts to dominate the country. They were mostly Marxists, but from the beginning they opposed Stalinist dogmatism and emphasized freedom of research, humanism, openness to all important achievements of present-day science and culture.

1950-1960. A decade of discussions on basic theoretical issues, organized by the Yugoslav philosophical association. The debates were quite free; several groups opposed one another on different grounds. By the end of this period they all realigned along two basic lines, the orthodox one which stayed within the traditional framework of dialectical materialism and which considered theory to be essentially a reflection of the objective social situation and material surroundings, and the humanist one which emphasized the anticipatory and critical character of theory, its unity with praxis, and its great role in the process of humanization of a given society.

1960. At a conference in Bled, the humanist, praxis-oriented trend prevailed and subsequently became dominant in Yugoslav universities, journals, institutes.

1962. Yugoslav society experienced its first postwar stagnation as a result of an unsuccessful attempt to make its currency convertible. At the biannual meeting of the Yugoslav philosophical association in Skopje, November, 1962, the view was expressed for the first time that it is urgent to go beyond abstract theoretical discussion about the nature of man and knowledge, about alienation and freedom, and the relation between philosophy and science—and toward a more concrete, critical study of Yugoslav society, guided by general humanist insights.

1963. A series of conferences and discussions with the attempt to clarify some general social issues: the meaning of technology, of freedom and democracy, of social progress, of the role of culture in building a socialist society. In August, the Korcula Summer School was founded by Zagreb and Belgrade philosophers and sociologists, with the purpose of organizing free international summer discussions on actual social issues.

1964. The journal Praxis was founded by the same group. A new series of discussions, this time about sensitive issues of Yugoslav society: the meaning and perspective of socialism, bureaucratic and authoritarian tendencies in the party and the state apparatus, advantages and weaknesses of the existing forms of self-management and its possibilities for further development, the right of a minority to continue to defend its views rather than conforming to the views of the majority.

Most of these critical views and ideas seemed compatible with the liberal Program of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (accepted at the Seventh Congress, 1958), but in reality were met with intolerance by alarmed party leaders. The transition from criticism of Stalinism toward a concrete critical analysis…


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