N November 26, the Croatian Social-Democratic Party (SDP), the nation’s leading left formation, got a new leader. In the next round of party elections, Davor BernandiÄ, chief of the Zagreb branch, crushed his opponent, Ranko OstojiÄ, former minister of internal affairs, with well over 60 per cent of their vote.
However, BernandiÄ has little reason to celebrate. Over which he presides, the party is in a horrible state. Considering that the latest election in September –which saw the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) shoot first position — it has lost 150,000 voters. And less than half of their party’s members engaged in the leadership election.
During the effort, most candidates urged a “return to real societal democracy” and the working class. Unfortunately, with the exclusion of Karolina LeakoviÄ– who called for a Jeremy Corbyn–like turn from the party, but won less than 1 percent in the first round of unemployment — these were vacant populist slogans. And members, well aware that their party has turned into a social-democratic formation in title only, appeared to find the rhetoric as only that.
The SDP, although among Croatia’s two major parties since Yugoslavia’s collapse, has largely spent its life in opposition. When the HDZ is currently undergoing great catastrophe has got the SDP been in a position to shoot over.
Historically, the party, a successor to the League of Communists of Croatia (SKH), located support from the industrial centers and ethnically mixed regions. During the war from the 1990s, however, the power of the party collapsed, violence and deindustrialization eroding its former strongholds.
Over the last fifteen decades, the SDP has reacted by catching the political space when held by liberal and average bourgeois parties, like the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) and the Croatian People’s Party (HNS).
At the latest parliamentary elections, by way of example, it established a group so capacious that it included the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), a center-right Catholic formation.
Alliances are underpinned by a dedication to Third Way policies. During a stint in energy, from 2011 to 2015, the party busied itself not with fighting for workers’ rights but with weakening labour law and pushing privatization. This adventure turned into the remnants of the party foundation against it. The party relies on voters in the most economically developed regions and the sections of the population.
The SDP has changed into a party at the fullest sense. Bereft of a working base foundation, the party is made to advocate Euro-Atlantic entry or criticize the HDZ’s vulgar nationalism, in precisely the same time it aligns itself with the “moderate” nationalist, neoliberal HNS or the regional center-left party Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS).
It’s all for the greater. They have managed to construct a strong pro-European Union. In the HDZ to the SDP to this new technocratic Bridge (MOST), austerity is the arrangement of this day. It is just an issue of advertising it. First the politicians then announce the need for belt tightening exonerate themselves with references to negotiations with the European Union, and finally assert that they’ll place the Croatian economy on ground.
In Croatian politics, World War II–age narratives and identities also remain important, particularly related to the fascist UstaÅ¡e government as well as the antifascist Yugoslav partisans. Croatian leaders deploy nationalist myths to attempt to decrease the UstaÅ¡e’s crimes during World War II and their role in the Holocaust, placing them from the partisans.
And allegedly left figures combine in occasionally. At one point, during a nationally televised debate with the HDZ, then–SDP leader and prime minister Zoran MilanoviÄ announced, unprompted, that his family sided with the UstaÅ¡es in World War II — a clear drama for right-wing spouses at the expense of the party’s historical foundation.
Other politicians, including the new prime minister, the HDZ’s Andrej PlenkoviÄ, call for “conciliation” and “national unity”– the key purpose of which is to ensure peace and stability for its neoliberal order, regardless of its significance.
Can there be an institutional alternative that may supplant the consensus that is prevailing? At the moment, no. The majority of the supposedly left parties are not anything of this type. It joined its center-left coalition though the Croatian Laborists — Labor Party has been founded out a position to the left of this SDP. The populist group Human Shield has been frequently portrayed as part of their left, but it offers more conspiracies theories than innovative policies. Taken together, the Labor Party, the SDP, and Human Shield reveal their institutional left in Croatia’s decrepitude.
Could the biggest of these religions come back to life? Judging from BernandiÄ’s campaign announcements regarding “cutting taxes which make things hard for entrepreneurs” and “connecting the university with business,” the SDP will remain precisely the exact neoliberal party of coxcombs. Having said that, none of the other candidates could have reinvigorated the party with a politics. Contemplating its present foundation that is social, it’s difficult to find the party creating a pivot.
Meanwhile, the new HDZ-MOST government is slowly but confidently currently consolidating itself. While it promised to respect and foster social dialogue with the working class, the recent strike by workers in the Zagreb Student Center — who walked out when management refused to sign the collective agreement they negotiated — shows that labour cannot depend on any political party to advance its own interests.
This leads to a much broader question: ‘ are separate politics in post-Communist countries in the area? With few exceptions, the Right holds power, and the resistance promotes a different colour of neoliberal policies. The labour movement is moribund. Politics is reduced into an expression of allegiances, and workers’ rights are eroded with every government, left or right.
None of this is to say things can’t alter, but it’s important to at least face the cold truth in Croatia: the SDP has no interest in safeguarding interests. Blairite social media is neoliberalism from the rose garden.