Yugoslavia's MILOVAN DJILAS: Why Perestroika Cannot Succeed

A Communist reformer before it was fashionable, Yugoslavia's MILOVAN DJILAS believes Gorbachev's changes are irreversible but that his attempts to fix communism will fail

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Q. Why did the Soviet bloc fall apart in 1989?

A. Communism is strong only until it tries to reform. Even so, it had no choice but to try reform because its internal crisis was so explosive. Communism cannot be changed. Communists may change, but not communism. Without a totalitarian ideology, this system cannot exist. It must have absolute "truths."

In countries where communism was introduced after a revolution, like the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, the process of change is slower because a relatively strong ruling class was formed from authentic national sources. The situation is quite the opposite in countries where communism was introduced after a Soviet invasion. Change is much faster and easier in those countries because the weakening of the system in the Soviet Union changed the international situation.

Q. What was Gorbachev's role in all this?

A. He started relatively well. Among Communists, he is the best man, but his weakness is that he still suffers under the illusion that he can improve the system without changing it. Now events are beyond his control. I don't believe he will change. So he will be attacked by conservative party bureaucrats on one side and by democratic elements and nationalistic movements on the other. I don't think he is in immediate danger, but if he continues his present policies, his position will become weaker and weaker. Perestroika in its present form cannot succeed.

Q. What do you think will be the outcome of such failure?

A. I don't believe the military as a whole would join with the conservatives who oppose Gorbachev. All changes that occur in the country occur in the army as well, though not as intensely. Even if conservative elements took over in the Soviet Union, it would not be for long and it would only provoke serious problems.

Q. But is the process of change in Eastern Europe irreversible? Could democratic movements in the rest of the bloc survive a conservative takeover in the Soviet Union?

A. I think the changes are irreversible everywhere, including the Soviet Union. They may stop for a period, and there could even be some reversals. This is, after all, a revolution. All social groups, including the ruling class, are discontented. Let me quote Lenin. He said that those on the top cannot rule with old methods and those at the bottom don't agree to be ruled with those old methods.

Q. So the revolution has come full circle?

A. Yes. It was inevitable.

Q. Is that inevitable even in China?

A. Someday the same thing will happen in China, but when and how I don't know. A system that is pressed to carry out such massacres must be really ill, in a deep crisis.

Q. The Leninist system was able to achieve forced industrialization. What prevents it from achieving a postindustrial state?

A. Modern industry needs more free men, more free initiative in every way. That also requires new forms of property. You cannot change the form of property without changing the form of power.

Q. Are you saying that economic reform is impossible without political reform?

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