Milovan Djilas Biography

Milovan Đilas (June 4, 1911 – April 20, 1995) was a Communist politician, theorist and author from Montenegro. He was a key figure in the Partisan movement during World War II, as in the post-war government. A self-identified Democratic Socialist, Đilas became one of the best-known and prominent dissidents in Yugoslavia and the whole Eastern Bloc.

Born in Polje village (Kolašin municipality) in the Kingdom of Montenegro, he joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia as a Belgrade University student in 1932. He was a political prisoner from 1933 to 1936. In 1938 he was elected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party and became a member of its Politburo in 1940.
In April 1941, as Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and their allies defeated the Royal Yugoslav army and dismembered the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Đilas helped Josip Broz Tito found the Partisan resistance, and was a guerilla commander during the war. Following Germany's attack on the Soviet Union on June 22 (Operation Barbarossa), the Communist Party of Yugoslavia's (KPJ) Central Committee decided that conditions had been created for armed struggle and on July 4 passed the resolution to begin the uprising.

Đilas was sent to Montenegro to organise and raise the struggle against the Italian occupying force, which on July 12, 1941 proclaimed the fascist puppet entity Kingdom of Montenegro run by Sekula Drljević, and closely controlled by the Italian authority of Mussolini's confidant Alessandro Birolli. The July 13 uprising which Đilas had an important role in was a national one, spanning ideological lines, and large parts of Montenegro were quickly liberated. Đilas remained in Montenegro until November, when he left for the liberated town of Užice in Serbia, where he took up work on the paper Borba, the Party's main propaganda organ. Following the withdrawal of the Supreme Commander Tito and other Party leaders to Bosnia, Đilas stayed in Nova Varoš in the Sandžak (on the border between Serbia and Montenegro); from there he retreated with the units under his command in the middle of winter and in difficult conditions to join the Supreme Staff. There were no serious divisions or conflicts between communists and non-communists among the insurgents.

It was only in March of next year that he went back again to Montenegro, where in the meantime a civil war between Partisans and Chetniks had broken out. Momčilo Cemović, who has dealt mostly with this period of Đilas' war activities, believed that the CPY Central Committee and the Supreme Staff had sent Đilas to ascertain the actual state of affairs and to dismiss the communist leaders responsible. This, in fact, he did.

In March 1944, he went as part of the military- and party-mission to the Soviet Union. During this time he met among others with Georgi Dimitrov, Vyacheslav Molotov and Joseph Stalin. He fought among the Partisans to liberate Belgrade from the Wehrmacht. With the establishment of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, Đilas became Vice-president in Tito's government.

Đilas was sent to Moscow to meet Stalin again in 1948 to try and bridge the gap between Moscow and Belgrade. He became one of the leading critics of attempts by Stalin to bring Yugoslavia under greater control from Moscow. Later that year, Yugoslavia broke with the Soviet Union and left the Cominform, ushering in the Informbiro period.

Initially the Yugoslav communists, despite the break with Stalin, remained as hard line as before but soon began to pursue a policy of independent socialism that experimented with self-management of workers in state-run enterprises. Đilas was very much part of that, but he began to take things further. Having responsibility for propaganda, he had a platform for new ideas and he launched a new journal, Nova Misao ("New Thought"), in which he published a series of articles that were increasingly freethinking.