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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A. The two are connected, but the essential reform is political because in Communist countries the economy, in the final analysis, is the means of politics. The economy is ruled and controlled by politics. You must change the political system first, because it is a tyrannical regime without respect for laws.

Q. What exactly has failed in the past 70 years -- Marxism, Leninism or Stalinism?

A. All of them, but differently. First Gorbachev really liquidated Stalinism. There may be some remnants for a while, but really it is finished. And with this revolution in Eastern Europe, Leninism is now finished too. Marx, like other important political philosophers -- Rousseau, Hobbes -- will find his place only in universities.

Q. Did Marxism do any good?

A. It probably played a part in decolonization. It had a serious role in fighting fascism. But in human society, it was completely negative.

Q. Some vestiges are sure to survive. Would that include the mentality of people who have been encouraged to believe initiative is bad and that no one should live better than anyone else?

A. That will pass very quickly.

Q. What is the fatal flaw of Marxism?

A. Marxism was originally strong and attractive. The method was scientific, and the vision was utopian. But Marxism in practice was different, and it was not verified by practice.

Q. Why were the East Germans so surprised at the level of corruption and personal aggrandizement of their Communist officials? Surely they knew that the leaders rode in Mercedes while the people drove Trabants.

A. The Communist system is corrupt. I am talking not only about the corruption of money. This is secondary. Power is corrupt. Every function depends on the Politburo. Therefore, it is enough in communism just to follow the line from the top and to be rewarded. If someone is intelligent and corrupt, he can easily climb to the top. This is characteristic of communism today. During the revolution, there were at least some people devoted to some aims, willing to suffer, willing to be killed. Now it is the opposite. The people at the top are stupid cowards. Primitive forms of corruption such as stealing money and sending currency abroad are not typical for Communists. For Communists, the typical corruption involves privileges like cars and apartments. What happened in East Germany is really astonishing. It was not so in Poland and Hungary.

Q. Would you compare this period with the late 19th century, when the great empires crumbled?

A. Yes, except this time the system is also changing. The best comparison for me is the middle of the 19th century.

Q. You mean 1848?

A. Exactly. But this time it is more important because the great powers have nuclear arsenals. In 1848 there were not many bloody revolutions in Europe, but Europe really started to change. Now the character of history is changing. The whole world will be influenced by what is happening in Eastern Europe. The West will not have to change its system, but it will have to adapt to these changes -- maybe one of the greatest events in modern history.

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