Of Prisons and Ideas Milovan Djilas

ISBN: 9780151730872




Of Prisons and Ideas  by  Milovan Djilas

Of Prisons and Ideas by Milovan Djilas
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Born in Podbišće village in the Kingdom of Montenegro, he joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia as a student in 1932. He was a political prisoner from 1933 to 1936. In 1938 he was elected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party and became a member of its Politburo in 1940.

In April 1941, as Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and their allies dismembered the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Đilas helped Josip Broz Tito found the Partisan resistance, and was a guerilla commander during the war.In March 1944 he went as part of the military and party mission to the Soviet Union. During this time he met among others with Georgi Dimitrov, Vyacheslav Molotov and Joseph Stalin.

With the establishment of the Federal Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia, Đilas became Vice-president in Titos government. Đilas was sent to Moscow to meet Stalin again in 1948 to try and bridge the gap between Moscow and Belgrade. He became one of the leading critics of attempts by Stalin to bring Yugoslavia under greater control from Moscow.Having responsibility for propaganda, he had a platform for new ideas and he launched a new journal, Nova Misao (New Thought), in which he published a series of articles that were increasingly freethinking.Đilas was widely regarded as Titos possible successor and in 1953 was about to be chosen President of Yugoslavia.

He became President of the Federal Assembly of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but he only held office from December 25, 1953 to January 16, 1954. Between October 1953 and January 1954 he wrote 19 articles (only 18 were published) for Borba, where he stated that a new ruling class was formed in Yugoslavia, after many high military and state officials received benefits and expensive houses in the best parts of Belgrade.

Tito and the other leading Yugoslav communists saw his arguments as a threat to their leadership, and in January 1954 Đilas was expelled from the Central Committee of the party, of which he had been a member since 1937, and dismissed from all political functions for his criticism. He resigned from the League of Communists soon afterwards, in March 1954.

On December 25, 1954 he gave an interview to the New York Times. For his hostile propaganda he was brought to trial and conditionally sentenced to 1.5 years in prison.On November 19, 1956, Đilas was arrested following his statement to Agence France Presse opposing the Yugoslav abstention in the United Nations vote condemning Soviet intervention in Hungary and his article to The New Leader magazine supporting the Hungarian Revolution.

He was sentenced to three years inprisonment. In 1957 Đilas published (abroad) The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System. The book had a great success and was translated into more than 40 languages. For this, Đilas was sentenced in 1957 to another seven years inprisonment, (ten in all).In prison he completed a massive and scholarly biography of the great Montenegrin prince-poet-priest Njegoš and he also wrote novels and short stories.

In 1958 he published (abroad) the first volume of his memoirs, about his youth in Montenegro, entitled Land Without Justice, (finished in 1954).Đilas was conditionally released on January 20, 1961, after completing four years and two months in prison.

He would be imprisoned again in April 1962 for publishing (abroad) Conversations with Stalin, which became another international success and Đilas personally considered it to be his greatest work. For these, he was sentenced (in August 1962) to another five years – or fifteen, added to the earlier punishments – allegedly for having revealed state secrets, which he denied.On December 31, 1966 Đilas was amnestied and freed unconditionally, after nine years in jail, never to be imprisoned again. He continued to be a dissident, living in Belgrade as a controversial figure, and dying there in 1995.

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