In the last year or so, theory has become news. The debate over the character of the changes taking place in Russian society has been carried on, not merely by a few radical intellectuals, but by government officials, newspapermen, indeed by anyone with the faintest interest in politics. We can measure the curious intensity of this discussion by noting only two of the recent articles which are a part of it. In their November, 1957, issue, the editors of the Monthly Review, long the most sophisticated apologists for the “progressiveness” of Russian totalitarianism, published an editorial filled with a near anguished doubt about their most fundamental assumptions. And at almost the same time, Sidney Hook was putting forth an analysis of the Gomulka regime in Partisan Review which was startling in its sympathetic attitude toward and perhaps even its illusions about Polish Communism.
The reason for such shifts is clear enough. The Twentieth Russian Party Congress, the Polish and Hungarian Octobers, Sputnik, two major purges— these constitute a torrent of new facts which challenge every preconception and demand a re-examination of all premises. Amidst all this, one book, Milovan Djilas’ The New Class, has a unique distinction. It is simultaneously a political event in the East European anti-Communist Revolution, a new fact, and an attempt to deal theoretically with that Revolution.
It is not that Djilas has written a definitive analysis of Communism. His passionate apostasy from Tito was completed in a jail, not in an atmosphere of scholarly quiet. The New Class contains some over-large generalizations and not a few illusions about the West and inevitable tendencies toward world unification. Nontheless, it represents a major statement of a basic view about Communism....
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