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(E) Is There a "Conservative Option" in Croatia?
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  02/15/2003 | Politics | Unrated
(E) Is There a "Conservative Option" in Croatia?
Distributed by CroatianWorld


Is There a "Conservative Option" inCroatia?

What is a "conservative"? In my opinion, a person who believes there is no need to reinvent a wheel or hot water. A person who knows that tradition is the safe keeper of values, and values are guarantors of virtue. A person who can take a stand, alone, with responsibility. Who values an individual above the crowd, and an individual's freedom above crowd mentality. From Socrates, Cato, Cicero to Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Disraeli, Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan. To act in a true conservative way means to act with dignity having recognized the value of human dignity. 
Applying those standards one would in vain look for a conservative option on the current Croatian political scene. To start with, the word dignity has been forgotten for a long time, and if by some miracle somebody displays a shade of dignity, he would be immediately branded as a weakling. 
In Croatia, I am tempted to say luckily, the word conservative is rarely used, so its chances of getting soiled are, again luckily, rather slim. The word used to describe the opposite of "liberal" (=good, progressive, cosmopolitan) is "desnica", or "desnicar," often thinly disguising the meaning the regularly unsympathetic speaker has in mind; and the word is "fascist," or, in local version, "ustaša." In the same way, the word used to describe the opposite of "conservative" (=individualistic, dignified, anti-collectivist, all of which is also good) is "ljevica," or "ljevicar"; or in local jargon "komunjara." We are back to the WW2 - to the clash between the "Ustaše" and the "Partizani."
Having said that, let us recall the old saying that devil is not as black as he is painted. This does not mean that civility, efficiency, and reason may suddenly break out into Croatian political life; this would hardly be allowed by the media which thrive on scandal-mongering and which are acting as blatant mercenaries of this or that political party, option, or individual. One wonders why Croatian public buys, reads, watches, or listens to that junk at all. And while they do, there are some signs that "the conservative option" may be slowly breaking through both on "the right" and on "the left."
What would I consider a Croatian version of the conservative option described above?
A dignified stand that promotes national identity without primitivist flag-waving; supports individualism, creativity and a spirit of enterprise within a level field guaranteed by law; seeks close contacts with Croatian diaspora, the Global Croatia, and integration of Croatia into the global community, not as a banana republic, but as a proud individual conscious of its history, tradition, and values. You may say: "Well, this is something that a good, conscious Croatian political leader would do, regardless where he stands within the political spectrum. Yes, this is indeed so. Are there any great differences between a good, conscious, "conservative" and a good, conscious "liberal" politician in any great contemporary democracy - the U.S., Canada, Australia... No. Nor was there a chasm dividing the ideas of a "conservative" Thomas Jefferson, and a "liberal" John Adams, ideas which laid foundation of the greatest democracy in history. Both believe in the right of an individual, but differ on the amount of state intervention they consider useful. A conservative places an individual above the state; a liberal, while respecting the individual, believes that the state should be a guarantor of his freedom and happiness. Neither wants to abolish America, free market, and individualist democracy. In practice, this boils down to taxes: should more or less money be paid to the state so that it may perform (to a higher or lesser degree) it regulatory role. Croatian public is still very far away of that clear vision of what politics in a nutshell is.
And therefore, politicians who have seen the light, and who act as potential promoters of "the conservative option," are not particularly cherished by the public, or by the media. And they come from all ends of Croatia's political life. Let me name just a few: Dr. Zdravko Tomac, a social democrat, who, I believe intellectually very well understands what a "conservative option" is; Dražen Budiša, a Social Liberal, although maybe in a more intuitive way. The new leader of the HDZ, Dr. Ivo Sanader, has been moving in that direction too, and possesses both intellectual ability and, probably, political pragmatism to move the "new" HDZ in that direction. And that direction is, broadly speaking, toward the "Center," which is quite encouraging, as such a centrist coalition may be eventually able to move the country from the economic, political, and moral quagmire it has been dragged down to by the current rulers. 
People of Croatia, and even the Croats abroad, seem to forget, though, that there is a Croatian political party which already stands in this center, and which largely stands for what we have described as the "conservative option." This is the "DC - Demokratski centar - hrvatska stranka centra" (Democratic Center - Croatian Center Party), led by Mate Granic, Vesna Škare-Ožbolt, Slobodan Lang, and some other well-known names among Croatian politician. It has not attracted much attention of the media as it has never produced scandals, and as it stands for the ideas the time of which is yet to come. The DC in its theory and practice promotes the idea that politics should be ruled not by fists and slander, but by words, votes, and tolerance. Its popularity is steadily growing. It has support of about 12% of the Croatian electorate.
One of DC's latest moves has been to start opening up toward the Global Croatia. It is concerned with the electoral law, and strongly supports a fair form of representation for the Croats abroad - most importantly, not just Croatian passport holders. And this I consider most important: Croatian political parties have been so far addressing segments of our diaspora - or writing it off altogether. The DC is seeking informed advice on how to reach the entire body of Croatian people around the world. It also supports the idea of creating a special, responsible and efficient, office for practical, day-to-day, political exchange with the Croats abroad, in order to, again, reach informed conclusions how to best integrate the talents and resources of the entire Global Croatia. It will be worth watching how this process goes ahead. At this moment it seems to hold much promise. I accept it as a nice Santa's present from an area which has been stingy in gift-giving for quite a while. 

Vladimir P. Goss 

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