Out with the old
THE CROATIAN party which the West backed during the break-up of Yugoslavia has been thrown out of office. There are also signs that workers are mobilising to put pressure on the new regime.
Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) had ruled Croatia since 1991. It used virulent nationalism to deflect workers' anger away from the failings of the ruling class. Although the HDZ initially managed to fool people into supporting it, the party soon became unpopular and maintained its grip on power only by repression and cheating in elections. None of this put off Western leaders. They backed Croatia against Serbia during the mid-1990s and encouraged its military offensives, especially the 1995 ethnic cleansing in the Krajina.
Tudjman died in December last year. The elections last week humiliated his party. The victors were a coalition list made up of the Social Democrats (members of the former Communist Party) and the Social Liberal Party. This alliance gained from the disenchantment with Tudjman. But it offers no way forward for Croatia's workers. Ivica Racan, likely to be the new prime minister, said immediately after the election, "We will need a lot of sacrifices." Croatia's workers already face terrible conditions. Unemployment is officially 20 percent.
Racan was a loyal member of the Communist Party (nothing to do with real socialism) until 1990. He then allowed the party to become a loyal opposition to Tudjman. He supports "economic restructuring"-shorthand for privatisation and letting the market rip.
The presidential election campaign has now begun. The main contenders are Mate Granic, of the HDZ, and Drazen Budisa of the coalition which won the parliamentary elections. But workers are also having a say. Hundreds gathered outside the headquarters of the new governing parties last week. "Thieves should be in jail," they chanted, demanding that corrupt bosses should be brought to justice.