A detailed study of the Yugoslav Marxist journal, Praxis, published in 1977.
From 1964 to 1975 a group of dissident Yugoslav Marxist intellectuals collaborated on, and identified themselves with, the philosophical journal Praxis. In the early 1950s, inspired by the official Yugoslav critique of the Soviet Union and a relaxed cultural atmosphere, they began to develop a radical interpretation of Marxian theory. These writers maintained that concepts appearing in Marx’s early philosophical writings, especially praxis and alienation, formed the lifelong basis for his work of social criticism and remain applicable to all social formations.
The author examines the philosophical assumptions of the Praxis writers and the manner in which they applied these theories to an outspoken, yet thoroughly Marxist, critique of contemporary socialist systems. The relatively progressive Yugoslav system of workers’ self-management, which has been viewed by orthodox Marxists of the Soviet bloc as a revisionist departure from Marxist-Leninist norms, is subjected to particularly close analysis by the Praxis Marxists; through their eyes, the achievements and failures of contemporary socialism are presented with clarity and force.
The author also describes how the Praxis heresy within a heresy brought its advocates into often intense conflict with Yugoslav authorities and how the group’s fate was influenced by many of the major events of postwar Yugoslav history. Most dramatically, the recent crackdown on dissident activity resulted in the closing of Praxis itself and the ouster of eight of its contributors from Belgrade University in early 1975. Sher contends that the most important source of friction between Praxis and the League of Communists was the latter’s perception that in its attempt to institutionalize Marxist criticism on the fringes of Party life, Praxis represented a direct challenge to the Party’s ideological dominance and hence political viability.
The study thus contributes to an in-depth understanding of the political dynamics of present-day Yugoslavia and presents a timely prognosis for its future, as Yugoslavia prepares for life after Tito. It is also an important contribution to the literature of dissident movements in Eastern Europe and to our growing awareness of the struggle for human rights in the world today.