18 MAY 1962, Page 7

Spectator's Notebook

TIRE long sentence passed on Milovan Djilas in Belgrade is a sorry business. The 'trumped- tip indictment, the secret trial, the disproportion- ate term of imprisonment: these are things to which the ways of other dictatorships have accustomed us, but they are none the less dis- tasteful for that. Granted that this indomitable Montenegrin must be a peculiarly sore thorn in the flesh of the Yugoslav establishment, and that President Tito will probably intervene in due course to let his old comrade off fairly lightly; but surely the authorities must see how foolish as well as inhumane they seem in the eyes of the world? They must have some inkling; otherwise I suppose they wouldn't have held the trial in camera. All this makes Yugoslavia's road to Socialism, from which starry-eyed Leftist writers assure us we have so much to learn, look pretty potholed. Djilas's phrase sticks in my mind: `I am here because of intellectual dis- obedience.' It sums up in lapidary form the dilemma and the duty of the contemporary in- tellectual. It may come to rank with other and similar phrases: 'Here stand I. 1 can do no other,' for instance. Or that more poignant cry uttered before another Yugoslav court by another prisoner: 'I have been swept away by the wind of the world.' I wonder if Djilas ever recalls these Words of Draga Mikhailovich, sentenced to death while he himself still had an official position in Yugoslavia?