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Milovan Djilas, the Yugoslav Dissident, Is Speaking Out Again

July 7, 1989 GMT

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ A non-person for 35 years, Milovan Djilas, Yugoslavia’s best-known dissident, is freely speaking his mind again, claiming the nation’s communist system is a failure and calling for a multiparty democracy.

Such views once landed him in prison for nine years.

Now, interviews with the 78-year-old former vice president are published in widely read magazines and other publications.

The official Communist Party newspaper, Borba, has carried Djilas’ interviews in several installments. Ironically, it was his writing in Borba in the early 1950s that led to his expulsion from the party and banishment from public life.

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Calls are growing for the rehabilitation of other prominent figures, such as former secret police chief Aleksandar Rankovic, who also was purged by President Josip Broz Tito during his unchallenged rule from 1945 until his death in May 1980.

Yugoslavia is now reappraising some of Tito’s policies and trying to shake off the legacy of the man who built one of the strongest personality cults of the communist world.

Since Tito’s death, the feeling has grown among Yugoslavs that most of the country’s deep economic and political problems took root during his rule. Yugoslavia has a $19.1 billion foreign debt, a 650-percent inflation rate and 17-percent unemployment.

There is little doubt that calls for the rehabilitation of Djilas and others are thinly disguised attempts to discredit some of Tito’s policies.

The weekly newsmagazine Danas of Zagreb titled its June 6 cover story ″The Second Death of Josip Broz.″

″As we approach the 10th anniversary of Tito’s passing away, the entire country is going through the drama of his second death,″ the story said. The magazine quoted Slavoj Zizek, a Slovenian philosopher, as saying: ″We have to distinguish between Tito’s physical death and the symbolic death of Tito’s political being. What’s happening today is the end of Tito’s Yugoslavia.″

Tito left Yugoslavia with a highly decentralized system of collective leadership with diluted responsibilities. The presidency, for example, rotates among leaders of its six people’s republics.

Yugoslavia’s ″democratic and economic development largely depends on our ability to free ourselves from the Tito cult,″ Djilas said in an interview with the Belgrade weekly NIN in May.

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″If Tito’s reign had been shorter, there would have been much fewer doubts cast on his merits.″

Before his fall, Djilas had been Tito’s heir apparent. Djilas says Tito certainly had historic merits, such as steering Yugoslavia away from the Soviet bloc. But he maintained that the country’s political and economic system has failed.

″Titoism has failed,″ Djilas said in a recent interview with The Associated Press ″The only problem is how to proclaim it’s finished.″

Speaking about his own rehabilitation, he said it was ″a symptom of the end of Titoism, or it’s even better to say the end of Leninist and Stalinist models of politics and economy.″

Djilas’ disillusionment with communism made him the godfather of Eastern European dissidents. His best-known book, ″The New Class,″ exposed the abuse of power by communist leaders. It was published in the West but never in Yugoslavia.