Djilas, Milovan

   Born in Pobišcé, Montenegro, Djilas was a leading member of the Yugoslav Communist Party (YCP) and a minister in the communist government of Yugoslavia after the war, becoming vice president to Josef Tito and viewed as his likely successor. However, his chief contribution has been as a critic of communism and in particular of Stalinism.
   Djilas came from a peasant background, but gained a place at Belgrade University in 1929 to study literature. Here he became a communist agitator against the ruling dictatorship of King Alexander, and in 1932 was arrested, tortured and imprisoned. While in prison he met other communist thinkers and activists which reinforced his communism and led him to embrace a pro–Josef Stalin/Soviet Union outlook. In disputes within the YCP during the 1930s he sided with Josef Tito and Edvard Kardelj. In World War II Djilas was important in organizing guerrilla resistance to the Axis powers between 1941 and 1944. Djilas grew increasingly disillusioned with Stalin and Soviet communism, and his growing critical stance was given further impetus by the Soviet Union’s expulsion of the YCP from the Cominform in 1948. Between 1948 and 1953 Djilas, along with Kardelj and Boris Kidri, developed the idea of “self-management” which became a key part of the distinctive Yugoslav approach to communism sometimes known as “Titoism.” Self-management involved workers managing their own workplaces and the use of the market in the economic sphere. In 1950 the legislation creating workers’ self-management was passed, and at the Sixth Congress of the YCP in 1952 Djilas was involved in the change of the party name to the League of Yugoslav Communists (SKJ), along with its decentralization. However, in spite of these major changes in the theory and practice of Yugoslav communism, Djilas grew increasingly unhappy with the continuing power of the bureaucracy and authoritarian nature of the regime. He used his position as editor of the party newspapers Borba and Nova Jugoslavija to criticize Tito and Titoism, and this resulted in his being stripped of all his party and government positions at an extraordinary Third Plenum of SKJ in 1953–1954. Djilas resigned from the SKJ in 1954 and continued to be a dissident voice leading to his imprisonment between 1956 and 1961 (for his support of the Hungarian uprising), and again between 1962 and 1966. On his release in 1966 he was allowed to return to Belgrade and to travel abroad, and in 1972 he was permitted to have his writings published again in Yugoslavia.
   Djilas’ key writings include the enormously influential The New Class (1957) in which he described and criticized the growth of a new bureaucratic class in Stalinist countries. He used the Soviet Union as his model, but included other communist countries such as Yugoslavia. The new class, he argued, was composed of communist party members, some of whom were also part of the bureaucracy and as such formed a super elite. The absence of private ownership of the means of production meant the power of the elites was based on their control of state resources and institutions which they used to bolster and maintain their position and to ensure obedience to their rule. Power, privilege and a higher standard of living was passed on to their children who benefited from better educational opportunities. This new class became corrupt and alienated from the people, ultimately displaying the key characteristics of a class in the Marxist sense. Djilas saw this form of communism—Marxism/Leninism/Stalinism—as a particularly Russian form of communism that other countries had adopted or had had imposed upon them. He suggested that communism could and should take different national forms in different countries reflecting the different conditions, histories and cultures. Djilas’ other book of particular note is The Unperfect Society: Beyond the New Class (1969) in which he extended his critical view of existing communisms to suggest that Marxism itself, as an ideological goal, was impossible. A“rational core” of Marxism, based on the notions of a classless society and the economic dependence of man, remained, but communism, like capitalism, had become corrupted by the conditions in which it developed and the way ahead now lay with different national versions of democratic socialism and social democracy. He placed particular emphasis on freedom, human rights and pluralism in his revised vision of a socialist future.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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  • Djilas, Milovan — born June 12, 1911, Podbišce, Montenegro died April 20, 1995, Belgrade, Serbia Yugoslav politician and political writer. His opposition to Yugoslavia s royalist dictatorship led to a prison term (1933–36). He joined the Yugoslav Communist Party s …   Universalium

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  • Milovan Djilas — (en serbe : Милован Ђилас Milovan Đilas) (né le 4 juin 1911 Mojkovac, mort le 20 avril 1995 à Belgrade), est un homme politique et essayiste yougoslave. Membre du Parti communiste de Yougoslavie, il joua un grand rôle dans la résistance… …   Wikipédia en Français

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