Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Revolution Brews in Croatia

20 years after provoking the civil war and subsequent breakup of Yugoslavia along nationalist lines with fascist tactics, Croatia is now on the verge of a workers revolution. For centuries the country was under the tutelage of the most backward wings of the Catholic Church and was a bastion of reaction. After ethnically cleansing more than 250,000 Serbs in 1995 plus tens of thousands of other non-Croats, the country was under an Ustasha controlled government.

During the 1990s and the Noughties, Croatia received funding from the EU and the United States. Indeed, Croatia was fast-tracked to join the European Union. In 2009, Croatia was admitted into NATO, completing the encirclement of Serbia by hostile imperialist forces. Apart from Slovenia, Croatia was the wealthiest of all the former republics of Yugoslavia. The future seemed bright and promising.

Things never quite work out that way with Fascism. Anytime a country is taken over politically, socially and economically by the petit-bourgeoisie with the Catholic Church serving as a foundation is a recipe for disaster. Croatia is no exception to the rule. Once socialism was discarded, the country became a petit-bourgeois capitalist economy with all the attendant corruption, greed and mismanagement.

Things came to a head starting at the end of 2008 with the start of the global economic Depression. As with every other country, all the wealth was stolen from the masses and given to the banks. The petit-bourgeois ruling class emulated the parasites of finance capital around the world to use the crisis to loot and plunder the country. The entire venal political class had a go in an orgy of financial speculation and money laundering. State assets including the state oil country were privatised. The last remaining state enterprises were sold off with owners stealing hundreds of millions of Euros without paying workers. Eventually the workers had either lost their jobs or had retained them but without receiving wages for years.

Things came to head in 2010 when former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader was investigated and charged for fraud and money laundering. He fled the country only to be arrested on an Autobahn in Austria, where he sits in detention pending extradition to Croatia.

Meanwhile, current Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor (dubbed the Croatian Margaret Thatcher) imposed a brutal austerity regimen which reduced wages and benefits. By 2010, the official unemployment rate reached 20 percent. More than 70,000 workers have not been paid. At the same time, the ruling elite is pushing for the country's entry into the EU. However, the masses are not as stunned as they look. They see what's happening to Greece and Ireland. They rightly conclude that they will be reduced to Serfs for German banking and financial interests.

In 2010, there were a series of peaceful protests by unpaid workers. They organised sit down occupations at street junctions. They were met with heavy handed police response, arrested and imprisoned. Seeing that peaceful civil disobedience wasn't working, the masses have taken to direct action.

Since the end of February, there have been continual mass protests across Croatia. The protest themes are the payment of back wages, pay raises, the resignation of the government, opposition to the EU and most significantly, opposition to the Catholic Church.

On 5 March, the ruling governing party sent far right wing thugs to the periphery of the peaceful protests. They instigated provocations with the police. This became the justification for a heavy police crackdown resulting in scores of injuries and mass arrests. Nonetheless, this has not hindered the determination of the masses for social, economic and political revolution.

After 20 years, the masses have woken up to the fact that they were duped by nationalism and Catholicism leading to the break up of Yugoslavia. This has given the ruling establishment shock and instilled profound fear. All of the political parties are discredited. Combined, the 3 major parties barely garner 20% of support combined. That means that 80% of the population does not support any political party. These are crisis figures and are harbingers of revolutionary upheaval.

The international significance is greater than it appears. Another NATO country is facing political disintegration and on the verge of revolution. The European Union faces the prospect of a country refusing entry for the first time since 1994 when Norway said no. German and Austrian banks are heavily invested in Croatia. Any revolution in Croatia may well topple the Austrian economy. For the past two years, there have been whispers on Karl Renner Ring of state bankruptcy. The Austrian  federal government is already on the hook for billions of Euros in toxic banking assets. A revolution in Croatia could break the financial back of Austria. Finally, a return of a revolutionary working class in Croatia will have profound effects across the Balkans. Serbia has been dealing with a more dire situation than Croatia.

Croatia is another sign that the Western empire is cracking apart. The cracks first appeared in the periphery of the empire in Greece and Egypt. Now the cracks are spreading closer to the centre. The fires have spread to the foot of the Alps and the banks of the Danube river. It's only a matter of time before the centre of the empire catches fire as well.

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