Authors: Milovan Djilas
Copyright Â© 1962 by Harcourt Brace & Company
Copyright renewed 1990 by Harcourt Brace &Company
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0-15-622591-3 (Harvest: pbk.)
To the memory of
Note on the Spelling and Pronunciation of Serbo-Croat Words and Names
s = s as in sink
Å¡ = sh as in shift
c = ts as in mats
Ä = ch as in charge
Ä = similar to, but lighter than, Äâas in arch
Å¾ = j as in French
z = z as in zodiac
j = y as in yell
nj = n as in neutral
g = g as in go
dj = g as in George
lj = li as in million
in the nature of the human memory to rid itself of the superfluous, to retain only what has proved to be most important in the light of later events. Yet that is also its weak side. Being biased it cannot help adjusting past reality to fit present needs and future hopes.
Aware of this, I have endeavored to present the facts as exactly as possible. If this book is still not exempt from my views of today, this should be attributed neither to ill will nor to the partisanship of a protagonist, but rather to the nature of memory itself and to my effort to elucidate past encounters and events on the basis of my present insights.
There is not much in this book that the well-versed reader will not already know from published memoirs and other literature. However, since an event becomes more comprehensible and tangible if explained in greater detail and from several vantage points, I have considered it not unuseful if I, too, had my say. I hold that humans and human relationships are more important than dry facts, and so I have paid greater attention to the former. And if the book contains anything that might be called literary, this too should be ascribed less to my style of expression than to my desire to make the subject all the more engaging, clear, and true.
While working on my autobiography, the idea occurred to me, in 1955 or 1956, to set apart my meetings with Stalin in a separate book which could be published sooner and separately. However, I landed in jail, and it was not convenient for me, while imprisoned, to engage in that kind of literary activity since, even though my book dealt with the past, it could not but impinge on current political relations.
Only upon my release from prison, in January of 1961, did I return to my old idea. To be sure, this time, in view of changed conditions and the evolution of my own views, I had to approach this subject rather differently. For one thing, I now devoted greater attention to the psychological, the human aspects of these historical events. Moreover, accounts of Stalin are still so contradictory, and his image is still so vivid, that I have also felt it necessary to present at the end, on the basis of personal insights and experiences, my own conclusions about this truly enigmatic personality.
Above all else, I am driven by an inner necessity to leave nothing unsaid that might be of significance to those who write history, and especially to those who strive for a freer human existence. In any case, both the reader and I should be satisfied if the truth is left unscathed even if it is enveloped in my own passions and judgments. For we must realize that, however complete, the truth about humans and human relations can never be anything but the truth about particular persons, persons in a given time.
first foreign military mission to come to the Supreme Command of the Army of People's Liberation and Partisan Units of Yugoslavia was the British. It parachuted in during May 1943. The Soviet Mission arrived nine months laterâin February 1944.
Soon following the arrival of the Soviet Mission the question arose of sending a Yugoslav military mission to Moscow, especially since a mission of this kind had already been assigned to the corresponding British Command. In the Supreme Command, that is, among the members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia who were working at headquarters at the time, there developed a fervent desire to send a mission to Moscow. I believe that Tito brought it orally to the attention of the Chief of the Soviet Mission, General Korneev; however, it is quite certain that the matter was settled by a telegram from the Soviet Government. The sending of a mission to Moscow was of manifold significance to the Yugoslavs, and the mission itself was of a different character and quite different purpose to the one assigned to the British Command.
As is known, it was the Communist Party of Yugoslavia that organized the Partisan and insurgent movement against the German and Italian forces of occupation in Yugoslavia and their domestic collaborators. While solving its national problems through the most ruthless kind of warfare, it continued to regard itself as a member of the world Communist movement, as something inseparable from the Soviet Unionâ“the homeland of socialism.” Throughout the entire war the innermost agency of the Party, the Political Bureau, more popularly known by the abbreviated name Politburo, managed to keep a connection with Moscow by radio. Formally this connection was with the Communist Internationalâthe Cominternâbut at the same time it meant a connection with the Soviet Government as well.
The special conditions brought on by war and the survival of the revolutionary movement had already, on several occasions, led to misunderstandings with Moscow. Among the most significant I would mention the following.
Moscow could never quite understand the realities of the revolution in Yugoslavia, that is, the fact that in Yugoslavia simultaneously with the resistance to the forces of occupation a domestic revolution was also going on. The basis for this misconception was the Soviet Government's fear that the Western Allies, primarily Great Britain, might resent its taking advantage of the misfortunes of war in the occupied countries to spread revolution and its Communist influence. As is often the case with new phenomena, the struggle of the Yugoslav Communists was not in accord with the settled views and indisputable interests of the Soviet Government and state.
Nor did Moscow comprehend the peculiarities of warfare in Yugoslavia. No matter how much the struggle of the Yugoslavs enheartened not only the militaryâwho were fighting to preserve the Russian national organism from the Nazi German invasionâbut official Soviet circles as well, the latter nevertheless underrated it, if only by comparing it with their own Partisans and their own methods of warfare. The Partisans in the Soviet Union were an auxiliary, quite incidental force of the Red Army, and they never grew into a regular army. On the basis of their own experience, the Soviet leaders could not comprehend that the Yugoslav Partisans were capable of turning into an army and a government, and that in time they would develop an identity and interests which differed from the Sovietâin short, their own pattern of life.
In this connection one incident stands out as extremely significant to me, perhaps even decisive: In the course of the so-called Fourth Offensive, in March of 1943, a parley between the Supreme Command and the German commands took place. The occasion for the parley was an exchange of prisoners, but its essence lay in getting the Germans to recognize the rights of the Partisans as combatants so that the killing of each other's wounded and prisoners might be halted. This came at a time when the Supreme Command, the bulk of the revolutionary army, and thousands of our wounded found themselves in mortal danger, and we needed every break we could get. Moscow had to be informed about all this, but we knew full wellâTito because he knew Moscow, and RankoviÄ more by instinctâthat it was better not to tell Moscow everything. Moscow was simply informed that we were negotiating with the Germans for the exchange of the wounded. However, in Moscow they did not even try to project themselves into our situation, but doubted usâdespite the rivers of blood we had already shedâand replied very sharply. I rememberâit was in a mill by the Rama River on the eve of our breakthrough across the Neretva, February 1943âhow Tito reacted to all this: “Our first duty is to look after our own army and our own people.”
This was the first time that anyone on the Central Committee openly formulated our disparateness to Moscow. It was also the first time that my own consciousness was struck, independently of Tito's words but not unrelatedly, that this disparateness was essential if we wanted to survive in this life-and-death struggle between opposing worlds.
Still another example occurred on November 29, 1943, in Jajce, at the Second Session of the Antifascist Council, where resolutions were passed that in fact amounted to the legalization of a new social and political order in Yugoslavia. At the same time there was formed a National Committee to act as the provisional government of Yugoslavia. During the preparation for these resolutions in meetings of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the stand was taken that Moscow should not be informed until after it was all over. We knew from previous experience with Moscow and from its line of propaganda that it would not be capable of understanding. And indeed, Moscow's reactions to these resolutions were negative to such a degree that some parts were not even broadcast by the radio station Free Yugoslavia, which was located in the Soviet Union to serve the needs of the resistance movement in Yugoslavia. Thus the Soviet Government failed to understand the most important act of the Yugoslav revolutionâthe one that transformed this revolution into a new order and brought it onto the international scene. Only when it became obvious that the West had reacted to the resolutions at Jajce with understanding did Moscow alter its stand to conform with the realities.
Yet the Yugoslav Communists, despite all their bitterness over experiences whose significance they could comprehend only after the break with Moscow in 1948, and despite their differing ways of life, considered themselves to be ideologically bound to Moscow and regarded themselves as Moscow's most consistent followers. Though vital revolutionary and other realities were separating the Yugoslav Communists ever more thoroughly and irreconcilably from Moscow, they regarded these very realities, especially their own successes in the revolution, as proofs of their ties with Moscow and with the ideological programs that it prescribed. For the Yugoslavs, Moscow was not only a political and spiritual center but the realization of an abstract idealâthe “classless society”âsomething that not only made their sacrifice and suffering easy and sweet, but that justified their very existence in their own eyes.
The Yugoslav Communist Party was not only as ideologically unified as the Soviet, but faithfulness to Soviet leadership was one of the essential elements of its development and its activity. Stalin was not only the undisputed leader of genius, he was the incarnation of the very idea and dream of the new society. That idolatry of Stalin's personality, as well as of more or less everything in the Soviet Union, acquired irrational forms and proportions. Every action of the Soviet Governmentâfor example, the attack on Finlandâand every negative feature in the Soviet Unionâfor example, the trials and the purgesâwere defended and justified. What appears even stranger. Communists succeeded in convincing themselves of the propriety and suitability of such actions, and in banishing from their minds unpleasant facts.