Croatia: “Return to Tudjmanism”, “Detudjmanisation” – Catch Phrases That Hide True Democratic Reform Incompetence?

Political incompetence

Profound disillusionment with all major political parties in Croatia has reached the point where people are looking for a third alternative away from HDZ-run or SDP-run government, which would pursue an orderly transformation to full democracy without romanticising or prostituting the history.

The fact that there is not a single major Croatian party that currently enjoys a sufficient degree of respect in Croatia can actually be interpreted in ways that tell us that the people have matured in democratic thinking much more than political parties’ leadership and actions have.

The major political parties have all been in power since 1990 (HDZ more than SDP), and, if we exclude the war years of Serb aggression when democratic reforms were almost impossible to achieve in the fuller sense, they have all failed miserably in privatisation because it became the breeding ground for corruption, they have all failed miserably at tax cuts, at job creation through entrepreneurship, at expanding of foreign trade, at eradicating political elitism, at installing (facilitating) the rights and responsibilities of democracy in every citizen, at reiterating the true reality that Croatia is independent from Communism and totalitarianism because the majority of its citizens wanted it so.

They have all failed miserably at Tudjmanism!

Having said this, there can be no denying that many real changes have occurred over the last twenty-three years with Croatia now judged as ready to join the European Union. But when one scratches the surface of these changes one cannot avoid encountering the feeling that something is alarmingly wrong, which is causing the widespread disillusionment (which has increased in intensity over the past five years) with the major political parties. Perhaps the mere fact that many changes that occurred in order to align Croatia with European Union standards were delivered without a real and democratic input by the population- at least with those who actually put their lives on the line to achieve independence (the war veterans, the victims and the families of victims). The “big tent” tradition of former Communist Yugoslavia has been a big part of this problem – elected politicians failed to learn how to listen to and represent those who elected them to the parliament; changes seem to have come as if “ordered from somewhere above” instead of being made from the ground, up.

Life is not something one can turn the clock back on, and start again. The widely used political platform – of “returning to Tudjmanism” – by several political parties in Croatia, including HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) seems to me to be a catch phrase that evokes false impressions that if Croatia sticks to Tudjman all will be okay (?).

The other side of the Croatian political spectrum – the left oriented parties of the governing coalition (Social Democrats/SDP, Croatian People’s Party/HNS etc.) have enjoyed a decade or more of the so-called “detudjmanisation” era under the leadership of former president Stjepan Mesic. This too evokes false impressions that if we move away from Tudjman all will be okay (?).

While “Tudjmanism” wrongly labeled Croatian politics as nationalistic, the “detudjmanisation” wrongly upheld that same view while at the same time attempting to quash the national identity of Croatians as Croatians. And, by national identity I mean the needed changes in laws and regulations of Croatia that would actually reflect the democracy and self-determination thousands upon thousands lost their lives to.

And, to make matters even worse, none of the political parties subscribing to either label or eponym have truly defined what Tudjmanism means, what detudjmanisation means. Thus leaving the whole world, including Croatia, to scratch its head in confusion and lack of clarity in the direction of where Croatian grassroots are going. What a fertile ground for political maneuvering. No wonder there is disillusionment with the major political parties.

If I were to define “Tudjmanism” as it actually expressed itself on the ground (not in some ideological concoction) then the definition would be something like this: “Tudjmanism is an eponym of ideological changes for the political direction of Croatian people that has, as its core values, the right to self-determination and own state territory, the right to democracy, the need to reconcile the past, the need to move far away from the Communist totalitarian and oppressive trends, the underwriting of transformation from totalitarian to democratic way of life”.

There is no mortal sin in the usage of the words of “Tujmanism” or “Detudjmanisation” just as there is no mortal sin in the usage of the words “Thatcherism” or “dethatcherism”, for example.  If we’re to compare the latter to the Croatian political scene then “Tudjmanism” is by political meaning close to “Thatcherism”, especially when it comes to its aspects of conservatism, private enterprise as opposed to state ownership, and of holding the reins of government in circumstances of widespread government disorder/ and Croatia was in disorder due to transitional period from Communism while Tudjman was at the helm. Tudjman though, was much higher in the statehood sense because he (inspired by the will of the people) actually created a state and Thatcher already had a state.  “Detudjmanisation” could easily be compared to a “dethatchrism” concept (if you will), however “dethatcherism” would never get off the ground in Great Britain because it would mean shaking, criminalising or degrading the very foundations upon which Great Britain (and its historical Empire/colonies) became nations of the free and democratic people.

It is a fact that “detudjmanisation” was “championed” by the very individuals and the left oriented political parties who did not want Croatian independence in the first place.  It was “championed” by some who hold government in Croatia today or who still have not understood nor accepted the fact that Tudjman was there to create the state, secure its territory and give guidelines as to how best to transition Croatian society from communist totalitarianism into a democratic order.
The latest uproar in Croatia is caused by the media reports which say that Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, at the announcement of the governing coalition’s list of candidates for the upcoming EU Parliament elections in Croatia, went on to compare Croatia with Finland and said that “Finland did not have a civil war”. Thus suggesting that Croatian War of Independence (1990’s) was a civil war! It was a war of aggression against those who voted to secede from communist Yugoslavia. Besides making a very stupid, ridicule worthy mistake in saying that Finland did not have a civil war (it did in 1918 and against the Russian provisional government increasingly penetrated by radical Communists from Russia), Milanovic it seems took the time to insult the very basis upon which independent Croatia was created: defending its bare life from brutal aggression. Certainly, Milanovic has complained that the words he said were “cut short” by the media, that he did not say Croatia had a civil war that he said  “Croatia was the only state joining the European Union which had gone through a destructive war and a military aggression”. Well, that’s not true, either, is it!?

All these Milanovic antics indeed seem to smell of “detudjmanisation” and pandering to a nauseous political trend that seems to argue that secession from Communism was not such a good thing. But then again, HDZ leadership, which vows to have turned a new leaf in “returning to Tudman”, did little to chastise Milanovic’s words regarding “civil war” – only a branch or two of its vast establishment came out demanding severe consequences for Milanovic as Prime Minster. Not good enough – it’s the party leader’s job, it was Tomislav Karamarko’s job to come out and “call a spade, a spade” when it comes to Milanovic’s antics.

No matter what’s said or what’s done with regards to Franjo Tudjman the truth will always stand that he was THE one who led Croatia into independence that commenced the path to democracy (exit fro communist totalitarian regime of former Yugoslavia) and as such he has earned a special place in history. There is no doubt about that.

Yet the history has judged him harshly, especially since the times when Stjepan Mesic’s corrupt political gluttony attempted (and partly succeeded) to criminalise Croatian War of Independence and vilify Tudjman as autocratic nationalist. “Detudjmanisation” provided an almost perfect screen to cover-up the alarming incompetence of all governing political parties since 2000.

And now, HDZ (largest party in opposition) keeps announcing how it is returning to “Tudjmanism”!

But Tudjman was not creating a political party in isolation from his goal to create a state; creating a political party meant a platform from which he could realise the will of the people to secede from Yugoslavia and Communism.

So, although a HDZ person, Tudjman had at his heart the interests of all Croatian citizens and their right to an orderly democratic order, modeled upon Western Europe and the rest of the “civilized western world”.

The “detudjmanising” political camp also chose to ignore this.

Was the failure in ushering full changes in Croatia during the past twenty years all because of the political elitism that both “Tudjmanism” and “Detudjmanism” camps nurtured with fierce force (?), instead of actually listening to and following the guidelines and advice Franjo Tudjman gave to the Croatian Parliament and the nation in 1990 (30th May) when, among other things, he said : “…the problems facing the new government are many, complex and tangled, from local communities and municipal councils, to the Parliament, the Government and the Presidency. Within a short period, they will parallelly need to solve many problems of life’s importance which other European and Western countries have solved half a Century ago, or even half a Millennium ago. Let’s mention only the important ones: proprietary relationships and economic life; constitutional order of pluralistic civil society with the appropriate government system modeled on countries of the free world; modernization and revalorisation of public services, especially science and culture, teaching and education, health and social welfare, administrative services and public activities (information, journalism, Radio and TV) etc.”

There is no need to “retudjmanise” or “detudjmanise” Croatia.

It is important to separate Tudjman from HDZ’s future because Tudjman acted for all Croatians, regardless of political parties they may have subscribed to, or not.

Chanting Tudjman’s name (in either positive or negative light) can indeed conceal gross incompetency to lead Croatia in the 21st century. And, this is what most probably has happened – the people are disillusioned with all political parties of note! Tudjman certainly did not want that for Croatia; to experience such widespread pain just because it wanted true democracy. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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