The winds of change sweeping from Poland across Eastern Europe have produced fresh demands for intellectual freedom in Yugoslavia and clear signs that even within the Communist leadership there are pressures for a more open style of government.
The government, using a combination of carrot and stick, has sought to contain growing intellectual ferment by allowing freer discussion in the semiofficial media but not permitting dissident intellectuals to establish independent magazines in which cultural and political issues could be freely debated.
As a result, the intellectuals actively demanding greater freedom of expression and full public debate of the country's serious economic problems are finding themselves under increased official pressure.
On the other hand, the semiofficial Yugoslav press has become noticeably more lively over the last few months. Journalists have been allowed to investigate corruption scandals involving Communist Party officials and a former prime minister has even called in an interview for the circulation in Yugoslavia of works by the country's leading dissident, Milovan Djilas.
Djilas himself, who fell into disgrace in 1954 after advocating greater liberalization, has been left largely alone by the authorities despite his authorship of a critical biography of Tito that appeared in the West last year.
In a magazine interview, Mitja Ribicic, who served as prime minister from 1969 to 1974 and remains one of the senior party figures, criticized the fact that the press had strongly attacked Djilas's book on Tito but ordinary Yugoslavs had not had an opportunity to read it. What should be done, he said, was to publish the book and allow readers to reach their own conclusion.
"In other words, one should not just shout 'thief,'" Ribicic said.
The interview stirred up considerable controversy, and there appears to have been some criticism of Ribicic by other politicians. In a subsequent interview, he made clear that he had only been expressing his private opinion -- but did not withdraw any of his statements.
Because of his international reputation, Djilas is a special case. But other dissidents have been the subject of increasing harassment and officially inspired attacks. A trial is being planned for a prominent Zagreb dissident, Franjo Tudjman.
When Marshall Tito fell ill a year ago, the immediate response of almost all Yugoslavs was one of national unity. Even the dissident intellectuals in the cosmopolitan cities of Belgrade and Zagreb toned down their criticism of the Communist government. But this has changed since Tito's death in May.
Mihajlo Markovic, for example, is one of seven former philosophy professors at Belgrade University associated with the banned left-wing theoretical magazine Praxis. Together with his colleagues, he was banned from teaching n 1975, but continued to receive 60 percent of his salary until this year. Now, under a new law, all seven professors have been dismissed from their posts altogether.
The official position is that the professors refused all offers of alternative employment in research institutes and the time had come to resolve the dispute once and for all. Markovic, who divides his time between Belgrade and Philadelphia, where he is on the faculty of University of Pennsylvania, maintains that the original teaching ban was illegal.
In an interview, Markovic said the problem for the leadership was how to control the pressure that has been building up within Yugoslavia for greater freedoms.
He explained: "The authorities have allowed some freedoms which did not exists until recently -- and this is observable, for example, in the press or on television. They are willing to allow more freedom of expression as long as it is controlled. But they want to totally exclude those people, such as the Praxis group, over whom they have no control."
Earlier this month, Markovic's Belgrade apartment was searched by police who wanted to confiscate his passport. They failed to find it and he claims it has been lost. But the incident appeared to be linked to government efforts aimed at hindering the publication in the west of an international edition of Praxis, of which he is joint editor-in-chief.
Similar action has been taken to prevent the publication within Yugoslavia of independent magazines proposed by intellectuals in the cities of Ljublijana, Belgrade, and Skopje. Permission to publish the magazines was refused on the grounds that they would provide platforms for "opposition activity."
Earlier this month, the initators of the Belgrade journal Javnost appealed against the ban to the courts, describing it as unconstitutional. Meanwhile, several hundred Yugoslav intellectuals have signed petitions calling for the abolition of clauses in the criminal code which, under the guise of prohibiting "hostile propaganda," curb freedom of speech.