Milovan Djilas is in jail once more, this time because he has published, during the era of deStalinization, a book with unflattering recollections of Stalin. As he himself remarks, there is little new in what he says. Anyone who remembers the impressions left by Trotsky, Bukharin and other victims of the Stalin terror will find Djilas’ portrait of the dictator quite familiar.
“Reasons of state” are said to lie behind Tito’s decision to persecute Djilas again. These have to do with Yugoslav-Russian relations, an effort to patch a rapprochement between the Communist parties of the two countries, Khrushchev’s hostility to Djilas, etc. Such, no doubt, are the immediate causes; but if we think in terms of limiting conditions rather than operative causes, it may be useful to suggest that a more fundamental process is at work here, a process of alternate loosening and tightening in the pollitical repression of the Communist system.
For some years the Khrushchev dictatorship has been releasing a series of controlled revelations of the past. Controlled: that is precisely the point. For reasons involving the stability of the ruling elite and its relations with a people no longer cowed as it was in the past, the Russian dictatorship wishes to dissociate itself in part from the worst excesses of the Stalin terror. Yet almost in exact proportion to its need for such a dissociation, it also fears those political voices within its realm that do not confine themselves to a calculated repetition of half-truths which by virtue of being half-truths are still lies. Whole areas of the past remain unsettled; the Soviet Union finds itself in the bizarre position of not knowing at any particular moment what its history is supposed to be....
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