The Idealism of Milovan Djilas
IN THE PERIOD shortly before the outbreak of World War II, the Communist underground in Yugoslavia was shaken by a fierce literary and intellectual conflict. At the time, the leader of literary Marxism in Yugoslavia was Miroslav Krleza-the Croatian novelist, poet, and critic. Along with such Serbian writers as Milan Bogdanovic and Marko Ristic, Krleza had been editing several magazines which, when they were not being suppressed by the censors, had begun to develop the position that literature must become independent of party dogma, specifically of the prevailing Stalinist doctrine of “socialist realism.” Though Krleza had been one of the leading figures in Yugoslav Marxism during the past two decades, he was now violently attacked for this heresy and was soon excommunicated by the underground party’s Central Committee. The leaders of the attack against him were two untalented writers, Radovan Zogovic and Jovan Popovic, and an intransigent Stalinist intellectual by the name of Milovan Djilas. In the course of the polemics that raged back and forth, Krleza published a pamphlet titled “Anti-barbarus,” which characterized this “troika,” and particularly Djilas, as fanatical barbarians, who sought to destroy the growth of culture and to keep the country submerged in primitive backwardness and illiteracy.
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