by interview by Rade DRAGOJEVIC
NOVI LIST: Is the result of 4.05 percent of Serbs [in the population of Croatia] according to the unofficial data from the latest population census a surprise or not?
BUDEN: Of course, it is not a surprise, because the most important goal of the whole Croatian independence movement was a reduction in the number of ethnic Serb citizens in Croatia. Serbs were viewed as some sort of rebellious factor and the chief obstacle to Croatian independence, either in the form of Serb centralism in both Yugoslavias, or in the form of the Serb rebellion. They were an obstacle to the achievement of the chief Croat goal - the establishment of a Croat state. Speaking with hindsight, I can only pose a question: in the context of that ideology, therefore, not only in the context of the war, could anyone expect a different result?
Serbs were an obstacle to the achievement of that goal even before the beginning of the war and hatred of Serbs was a part of the Croatian independence movement and Croatian nationalism, its carefully nurtured characteristic. Simply, it was an important ingredient of the so-called Croatian ideology. The fact that Serbs behaved exactly as Croats expected them to behave, does not absolve either side from the things they did. If someone has a concept of the state as a community based on blood, in this case a community of Croats, then it makes sense that such a state should not be shared with anyone else and that the rebellious factor must be eliminated. I want to stress that for me the chief paradox in that is that on the one hand the setting up of an independent Croat state was interpreted as a realization of a thousand-years-long dream, while on the other hand it is portrayed as something that was totally improvised and the consequence of the Homeland war and defense from the Serb aggression. On the one hand, therefore, it is portrayed as the very essence of the Croat history, and on the other hand, Serbs are those who in practice provided conditions for the establishment of the independent Croat state. Therefore, precisely Serbs are crucial in that process.
In your opinion, what will the current authorities do regarding the mentioned statistics?
No one in the world, not even God, can put together something that is definitely smashed up. I would even say that I do not see a big problem as far as the development of the Croat state with respect to Europe. Besides, Europe knew what was happening in Croatia, Serbia, and elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia. It did not react timely, nor did it exert sufficient pressure in time to save lives, and avoid exile. I want to say that this region is again functioning as some sort of common space of quasi-sovereign states which, therefore, do not even function as sovereign states. But, the international community treats that space as a unified space with shared problems. The future economic, cultural, and political relations as well as direction of movement of population, capital and everything else, will in any case ignore the illusion of sovereignty. In other words, all of this is a problem for the Croatian state, and for Croats it is only a problem to the extent they exaggerate the importance of that state for our life, for the life of Croats, for our individual lives. The Croatian state is becoming increasingly irrelevant for our individual lives with every new day. Croats have increasingly less say regarding their fate, through their own state institutions. Therefore, Croats, whether they want it or not, will live together with Serbs, if not in Croatia, then in something that will become one of the regions of the unified Europe. For now, that is the only realistic political project. Croats will have to face an even more terrifying problem. Namely, in that context, and in that new political creation, Serbs will be more important that Croats in several important elements: they will be more important as an economic, political and cultural partner of Europe.
None whatsoever, they are both illusions. Belgrade "October 5" is much more important for the West because of the whole trauma known as Milosevic. The overthrow of Milosevic was in a way the cornerstone of the complete Western strategy. With his fall all their desires and political plans related to the Balkans were fulfilled. The fact that all of us like to imagine some revolutionary breaks with our bad past is more a sort of pragmatic optimism than something related to reality.
Besides, in the ideological sense there is no significant difference between Racan and Tudman. Racan follows all the most important principles of the so-called Croatian patriotic policy and is faithfully sticking to those elements. Therefore he is a heir of Tudman, although we should first consider what Tudman's legacy is supposed to be. I think that it is simply only a killing blade of the so-called Croatian patriotism. Anyone who ever participated on the Croatian political scene in order to become a Croatian politician had to first take a stand regarding Croatian independence and declare - that was a precondition for participation in Croatian politics - that independent Croatia is the ultimate goal, that it is the goal of all political activities among Croats. The only permissible discussion was regarding the methods for achieving that goal.
However, don't recent trials in Croatia and in the Hague, of members and officers of the Croatian Army for crimes committed in the war, invalidate your portrayal of Croatia?
No, and it is clear why they don't. Just like in Serbia nothing is happening regarding extraditions and facing of the truth about Serb crimes. Those truths are more or less coming to the surface. However, the fact that war crimes, if they were committed in the name of the national cause, are viewed here as noble deeds, remains unchanged. Political authorities, both here and in Serbia, share realistic assessment of the will of the majority and realize that that majority does not demand trials for war crimes. A majority is not exerting any pressure in that sense. Actually, just the opposite is taking place. If crimes were committed by people of "right" ethnicity, the majority is convinced that they should automatically be excused. In other words, all these nations are not capable of generating justice, the fundamental relationship towards the truth and the rule of law, in their own states, on their own. Because, a state with the rule of law either punishes and sanctions criminals or it is not a state with the rule of law. A nation either demands to be cleansed of crimes or it is not a modern nation, but some sort of a crazed horde. Croats are not a modern nation. Serbs are not a modern nation either. Therefore, no matter how much the Hague court is an illegitimate creation, it is simply a product of the fact that nations in this region are not capable of reaching modernity. The have failed and the creation of that court forced them to give up a part of their sovereignty, since they were not mature enough to take up that sovereignty.
The same process was offered to both South Africa and South America after conflicts, so that the tendency was to offer the same idea in this region. But it was neglected that we've been living a reconciliation process from the very start, that the demand for reconciliation was the basic demand put forward by Franjo Tudman. Everything that happened here is nothing else but a reconciliation process, the process of reconciliation between, as is usually said, Communists and Ustashe, reconciliation of Croats with all of the sins from their own past. Vojin Dimitrijevic spoke well when he refused to participate in Serbia in the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: "The more Serbs reconcile among themselves, the harder it will be to reconcile them with other nations". The biggest problem with that idea is that it assumes that social life should assume some sort of a post-antagonistic spirit, in which the only possible mode of social life and prosperity is precisely on the other side of social antagonisms. That is a fatal mistake of that process. As long as society exists, there will be social antagonisms. The attempt to totally exclude that from social life always, without exception, assumes a totalitarian shape. In the socialism we also had the idea about the end of the class conflict, which resulted in hidden, instead of open, class conflict. Similarly, today in liberal capitalism, we have the idea that the class conflict is unimportant. Therefore, such an idea implies pacification. On the other hand, in that vision all social antagonisms boil down to only one - relation between the perpetrator and a victim. In other words, everything boils down to the right of the victim to speak out and publicly proclaim its suffering. The whole process is imported from outside and cannot function here. Besides, it ignores the fact that people in this region mostly knew about all the crimes that took place during the wars. It is totally absurd to try to form a commission which would today try to establish responsibility for the bombardment of Sarajevo or Vukovar. That was clear the moment it happened and certain population, in this case Serbs, supported both the bombardment of Vukovar and of Sarajevo. A Croat example is the failure to punish the murderers of the Zec family even though the whole public was informed about their confessions. Therefore the lack of the truth about what happened is not a problem. The problem is that that truth has no consequence.
That is an image of hegemony that rules over Europe. Croats have nothing left to decide. The balance of power is such that if NATO needs Croatia, Croatia will become a NATO member, and if NATO does not want it, it will not happen. The same applies to the IMF. Simply, all of that has nothing to do with Croatian interests, but with the IMF. The membership in the IMF is, as politicians like to say, a precondition for joining the global market, as if participation in that global market is something obviously positive. The global market includes both winners and losers, and ideas about the so-called win-win strategies, according to which all of us are winners, are simply nonsense. The idea that Croats decide about all of that based on their interests is absolutely irrelevant.
Isn't that a betrayal of all those hopes from the early nineties about sovereignty and Croatia as a political subject?
It is an utter failure of that idea. Croats can forget about sovereignty. At one point the motto "a Croat rifle on a Croat shoulder and Croat money in a Croat pocket" was very popular. Today Croatia has neither. Ivo Skoric, a journalist from the US, expressed that by saying that "today we have an American rifle on a Croat shoulder and Croat money in the German pocket".
Not at all. That is a symptom of disillusionment with a corrupt political caste and spineless and immoral politicians. But something else is important there. The sole purpose of those political structures is to implement policies that originate elsewhere, with the true sovereigns of Croatia; our politicians only implement those policies. They hardly have a chance to independently make decisions or use their own intellect. The impression that they are superfluous does not imply that they are more corrupt than the political class in other countries. The impression stems from the fact that they do not make any important decisions. The attempt to replace politicians with such initiatives is a symptom of a deep crisis of the parliamentary democracy. That means that political parties, the way they are, are obviously unable to articulate the political will of the citizens. We've hardly made it to democracy and already the fundamental relationship of disappointment is being created, together with some sort of awareness of decadence of democracy and parliamentary politics. In any case, that idea has nothing to do with democratic progress and is far from any practical realization. It is unrealistic to hope that philosophers and wise old men will replace politicians any time soon. That idea is even undemocratic, but is above all a symptom of a series of illusions I've talked about - the illusion of sovereignty, illusion of a democratic state and freedom that is enjoyed within that sovereign state. People are becoming aware of limits of that sovereignty, which imposes the basic question: "Why did so many people die, why did they fight, does all of that make any sense, and if it does, what sense is it?" The fact that all political will in Croatia boils down to some mode of reaction, as for example regarding the decrease in the number of Serbs, and blaming of Serbs for that. That obviously shows that the Croatian political subject has become totally passive. Things only happen to Croats. They have never created their own destiny. They were always a political subject.
Could it be concluded that today the right is getting stronger, especially after Le Pen's electoral success in France?
Yes, it could, because today voters in Europe do not vote for any liberal, or what not projects, but only to protect themselves from the threat coming from the right, as was the case in France. The right in Europe has several functions. Above all it implements a mode of national self-isolation, of protectionism. On the other hand, it dismantles the welfare state in the process of neo-liberal capitalist deregulation. It implements a type of neoliberal ideology, which will strongly affect the population. Those developments, however, cannot mechanically be applied to the local, Croatian political scene, inasmuch as we would seek a counterpart to Heider or Le Pen. I would even dare say that Racan does not advocate significantly different policies from those promoted by Heider. Furthermore Heider would have never made such an open gesture of reconciliation as the one made by Racan in Bleiburg. Heider can hang out with Wehrmacht soldiers, but it's still too early to hang out with SS troopers.
It would not be so bad if that was true, but it isn't. Besides, Blair's project is on the wane. The project of European socialism is showing all of its inherent failures. For example, current polls in Germany indicate that Schroder and Social Democrats would lose an election if it were held today. In other words, today no one can see any difference between Social Democracy and other neo-liberal options. European Social Democracy is nothing but another type of neo-liberal ideology, which implies total deregulation. Only at moments of radical conflict, as for example when forced to choose between Le Pen and Chirac, voters can spot some differences. Even in Croatia, today, we can see a similar mode of thinking, which claims that the reason we should support Racan is not in his program or the ideas of Croatian Social Democrats, but simply because that is supposedly the only way to prevent the HDZ from coming to power.