Croatia: Taste Of Marx’s Theory Of Socialism In President’s Marginalisation

Banner at Zagreb Protest
against Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic
12 February 2018
Banner says: “Serbia must answer for genocide in Croatia
and pay war damages”
Photo: Davor Kovacevic

Stating her official presidential view about the people who protested against the arrival of Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic in Croatia, many of who were Croatia’s Homeland War veterans and war widows, Croatia’s president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic said:

“…We cannot permit individuals from the margins of the political spectrum or from the margins of any type of thinking dictate our politics.” (HRT TV News 13 February 2017)
Prsident Grabar Kitarovic concluded that the policies and inter-state relations should be determined “by us, statesmen and stateswomen, as well as a vast majority of our citizens who support Mr Vucic’s visit to Croatia…”!

Marginalisation is defined as exclusion from meaningful participation in society. Marginalisation in a broader sense can refer to a lack access to vital information and public discussion and thereby the marginalised’s ability to participate in public affairs and act as citizens is thwarted or devalued.

The idea of powerlessness that marginalisation brings links to Marx’s theory of socialism: some people “have” power while others “have not”. The powerless are dominated by the ruling class and are situated to take orders and rarely have the right to give them.

Some of the fundamental injustices associated with powerlessness are inhibition to develop one’s capacities, lack of decision-making power, and exposure to disrespectful treatment because of the lowered status.

Oppression at its “best”.

Given that people who attended the protest come from all positions on the political spectrum (from left to right/ or vice versa) it is not clear which one of these the president considers marginal. It is also not clear whether she actually meant only to label as marginal citizens the individuals who dared to protest.

It is clear that by labeling protesters against Serbia’s president’s visit Grabar Kitarovic employed a yet another distasteful tactic to suppress the many attempts, including those by a number of Members of Croatian Parliament, that called for Aleksandar Vucic’s both personal and state apology for the horror of aggression they waged against Croatia in the early 1990’s.

It is clear that everyone attending the protest felt directly insulted by the president’s insinuation of marginality. The media went wild. The president won no brownie points within her electorate (the Croatian voters) but lost quite a few. The protesters won quite a swell in support throughout Croatia and resentment about being considered as marginal spread like the Bubonic plague.

Presideent Grabar Kitarovic would have done well for her political agenda had she researched the enormous potential in political power marginalised people can assemble. She would have discovered that, for instance, the people in Britain who felt that they had been pushed to the margins of society were actually the driving force behind Brexit (Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2016 research findings). While the marginal people in this case of Brexit votes are those belonging to society’s margins of income and education etc. the Croatian president has created marginal groups for public discussion input, which of course, could come back and bite her at next presidential elections were she in mind to run.

Vucic’s visit to Croatia accompanied by Grabar Kitarovic’s marginalisation of freedom of opinion of some and the angst, the revolts, the protests all this has caused among a significant part of the community may yet prove to be a “wake up call” for those who insist that reconciliation cannot occur unless the Homeland War history and associated issues are reconciled first. And they are many! Certainly they cannot depend on their president with much certainty. Vucic or Serbia will most likely never give in to demands for war damage reparation not for full disclosure of all missing persons from the War. And Vucic said as much during his visit to Zagreb.

In 1991, the government in Belgrade, Serbia, aided the rebellion of ethnic Serbs in Croatia, who seized control of nearly one-third of the country and expelled hundreds of thousands of Croats. The tables turned in 1995, when about 200,000 ethnic Serbs fled to Serbia, despite being asked by Croatia’s leadership to remain in Croatia, when the Croatian army retook the occupied territory. An estimated 20,000 people were killed and thousands are still missing from the five years of conflict.

As for the past, we agree on almost nothing, but at least we understand that the other side has a different view,” said Vucic, who as a lawmaker during the war urged Croatian ethnic Serbs to attack Croats and hold onto the occupied and ethnically cleansed of Croats territory. “However, Serbia and Croatia will have to forge much better relations in the future, whether politicians like it or not,” he concluded almost defiantly.

Since when did real and brutal aggression become a matter of view!?

With Grabar Kitarovic’s energy focused on the process of being more friendly with Serbia at the expense of blotting out or suppressing or pussyfooting around burning issues from the War and Serbia’s aggression, there’s a danger the concerns of people at home will be ignored further. And there you have a formula for endless more years of despair and disquiet.

So much for her being the president of all Croatians! She has just sent groups of Croatian citizens into marginalised social standing or outer limit or edge of society. She has excluded the protesters from participating with recognition on the discourse about genuine public interests. I do look toward coming across Grabar Kitarovic’s clarification as to which groups from the anti-Vucic protests she considers to be on margins of thinking or political spectrum. The Croatian Homeland War veterans involved have a duty towards the state of Croatia to seek clarification of this. Ina Vukic

Croatia: War Veterans Public Register – a monster in the making

Croatian Veterans' Resister - "Names for Eternity"

Croatian Veterans’ Resister – “Names for Eternity”

Croatian minister for veterans’ affairs Predrag Fred Matic has recently announced that the government’s decision is final: it will publish War Veterans Register (Register of those who defended Croatia in the 1990’s Homeland War) by Christmas. Much controversy and opposition to the publication of the Register have surfaced since the idea for the public register kicked off some two years ago. While some, including the minister, believe that such a register will assist in the veterans’ ease of access to securing their rights and benefits as veterans and “weed out” the false veterans (which are many, it’s claimed), others fear that such a public register will be open to all sorts of abuses and endanger the lives of many veterans – particularly in the region where tempers run hot from past and current efforts by some politicians to equalise the victim with the aggressor.

Indeed, once the names on the Register are let loose into the cyberspace there’s no telling what could happen to whom, by whom. Not a good feel at all, despite the fact that minister Matic is trying to assure everyone that the Register will contain the names of those who defended Croatia with honour and dignity and that there is no danger whatsoever for individuals on the Register.

What an obscenely depraved assurance!

Even with “positive” consultations and assessments received by the ministry from different professional sources no one can say with 100% confidence and surety that absolutely no danger exists. One is, after all, dealing with possible dangers that can occur from criminal minded individuals who carry in them a sense of injustice or some kind of craving for revenge. One cannot guarantee absolute safety in a demographic post-war climate that still carries a lot of unresolved issues and personal grievances regardless of whether those grievances are real or imagined.

Minister Matic’s determination to publish the Register is so strong that all criticisms and arguments against it even in the parliament don’t seem to have made any difference. On the contrary, the minister’s resolve now verges on ridiculous and idiotic. For example, on 30th November 2012, in parliament, while defending the decision to publish the Register, Matic said: “If any veteran gets trapped on any state border only because he is a Croatian veteran I will go to prison instead of him, be sure of that!” (Source Croatian TV/HRT News)

Unlike in most “Western” countries where veterans registers exist and details accessible via Freedom of Information legislation, Croatia seems to be planning publishing the whole Register that will contain information which can relatively easily identify any particular veteran on it: Full name, name of one parent, date and place of birth, number of days active during the war, military unit – other details will not be published, however, could be released with the individual veteran’s written approval.

Threats of lawsuits against the minister or ministry of veterans’ affairs are emerging thick and fast.

Dujomir Marasovic, member of parliament (HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union) who argued fiercely against the publication of the Veterans’ Register finally said 30th November that names of members of the intelligence agency’ UDBA secret police of former Yugoslavia, members of WWII Partisans who are still in receipt of a war pension, 30 thousand members of the Italian Fascist Occupation Army in receipt of pension in Croatia should also be published on a Register. Damir Kajin, IDS/Istrian Democratic Party, supported Marasovic’s motion in parliament (Vecernji List).

Dinko Buric, HDSSB/ Croatian Democratic Alliance of Slavonia and Baranja, repeated in parliament that his party, along with the Register of Croatian veterans wants to see published the names of all participants in the Serbian aggression against Croatia (Vecernji List).

Josip Djakic , president of The Union of Veterans, HVIDRA, expressed similar attitudes in 2010 when he said: “Hypothetically speaking, if this register is public then we have to make others public, as well. Like the one with the names of all the Partisans, people who worked for the secret services in Yugoslavia, JNA officers, soldiers of Serb Krajina…”.

One thing is clear: the public has the right to know about its war veterans, however, information that can easily identify an individual should not be readily available to the public (e.g. place of birth and name of parent). The public at large does not have the right to know personal details that can easily pinpoint the identity of an individual. The fact that Croatian government plans to include this information in the public register is very concerning and to my view (and evidently to the view of many) such information will place individuals in danger. Such information should only be available on application and appropriate scrutiny. Someone should stop the publication of such sensitive information on the Register. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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