Class struggle in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Casus belli for major social unrest in Croatia?

We here publish an article written by one of our readers in Croatia. Although we may not agree with everything in the article, it gives a good insight into the present situation throughout the Balkans.

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is on the verge of collapse. In fact, it has been so for the past 2 decades, since the very first days of the Dayton Agreement. As one of the poorest European countries, BiH lacks any political stability and long term strategy: the poor are getting poorer and the rich are maintaining status quo. At the same time the country is barely kept afloat through IMF loans and almost dictatorial supervision by foreign powers. In this situation, time stands still in Bosnia: unemployment levels are extremely high, corruption thrives, and criminal privatization plans have killed almost every socialist factory and domestic production facilities that survived the war.

Furthermore, the BiH consists of two autonomous regions; it has a three-member Presidency, 11 prime ministers and 11 ministers of internal affairs for example. There is no need to explain why such government is brutally ineffective and corrupt. Additionally, the imperialist economic policy of IMF and World Bank is sucking the last bits of the nation's wealth and potential dry. With the imposition of the Washington Consensus – an economic plan imposed on the country by the US – the primary goals of any government of the BiH is “stability”, privatization and deregulation. It is Neoliberalism at its finest. The ruling class is obsessed with ‘stability’ – i.e. fighting inflation. In reality this is a smoke screen for their austerity policies, spending cuts, tax hikes and greater exploitation of the working class. On top of this, the official unemployment rate stands at 27 percent; however this does not take into account those who are no longer looking for jobs, those who are on early retirement etc. In these conditions revolutionary developments do not come as a surprise.

But why is this happening now? In the 90's BiH was devastated by the war. Fear, pessimism and apathy gained an upper hand alongside the burning flame of nationalism, which has plagued Balkans over and over. The Bosnian elites – spineless, conformists that they are – did not particularly care as much for the people, as they did for their own pockets. Good, old divide et impera was the real agenda behind their cyclical promises of better life, new jobs and prosperity for the children of those who had suffered so greatly. The result was a country deeply divided along ethnic lines, in a utopian search for a new Bosnian identity.

Keeping this in mind, the recent class struggle is a deeply existential struggle, a cry for help to anyone who listens. It shows that the class struggle is corroding the artificial national divisions that have been imposed on the people. BiH is a country neglected by all the official powers, but the joint uprising of the different ethnic groups, unimaginable just a week ago, has already shaken neighbouring states. The ruling class in Zagreb and Belgrade, fearing what this might mean for Croatia and Serbia respectively, immediately took political action. The reactionaries will try to undermine the impact of recent events, but the wheels of history cannot be driven backwards. The Bosnian revolt is not a precedent; it is a more of a 'sign from the future', as Žižek would say.

And that future is very, very near, especially here, in Croatia, a country which is in deep economic agony. The year 2014 will mark the sixth straight year without economic growth.

Arguably, the troubles of the Bosnian workers are greater at this critical moment, but let us measure it in a scale relevant to the domestic, comprador elites, previously unaware of this sudden power of the people: how many months, or weeks, or days will it be, until the dissatisfaction of the masses is finally unleashed at those who are incompetent enough or counter-revolutionary enough to ignore it?

Since the war, Croatia has had two political parties that would take turns in power. One is left orientated while the other tilts towards the right. In reality though, their orientation is only nominal, as they are both implementing monetarist policies of austerity, privatization and deregulation in the markets and in the financial sector. They have also spawned a large, corrupt and inefficient state machinery.

The currency is overrated and all growth has been based on foreign loans and the full privatization of the banking system. At the same time, inequality has been rising. In 2013 living standards were still below those of socialist Yugoslavia in the late 1980's – a period with many problems for Yugoslavian society. All of this means that Croatia is headed towards an explosive situation similar to the one in Bosnia. Despite this, there is also a certain amount of – not unfounded – scepticism about the nature of a possible upcoming unrest. At the moment, social democrats are in power, and it is likely that, in the absence of a clear leadership, nationalist elements will try to hijack a movement away from the class struggle.

On top of the present state of country, the upcoming labour law will probably be also a source of protests. This new law, which is masked behind terms such as ‘labour market flexibility’ and ‘higher index of economic freedoms’, is designed – with the blessings of the European Union – to greatly undermine the power of the working class. At the same time foreign debt is rising and as always, the workers and middle class are being asked to pay for this through austerity and higher taxes. In this context, the recent events in Bosnia and Herzegovina could possibly trigger the class struggle as an act of rebellion against the elites who are living like parasites on the backs of the rest of society. Maybe it will not lead to a Socialist revolution immediately, but the emergence of the idea in the consciousness of people; about their collective strength, their potential power and the life they really deserve would be a crucial step towards universal class awareness of the injustices that is brought upon people in this late neo-imperialistic world.

The game that big business has been playing is over. In our local context, the promises of the shiny, neon lights of capitalism have been brutally destroyed as entire nation has been enslaved by credits. It is true that they gave people hope for a minute, but they made them suffer for a lifetime. Economically, an entire decade has been lost, but the wealthy minority didn't lose anything. In fact, the pools in the luxury residential areas like Pantovčak in Zagreb (or Dedinje in Belgrade) are bigger than ever.  With their self-interest and ignorance, they betrayed those who shed blood for the ideals they laugh at. Thus the once great and significant country like Yugoslavia has been reduced to a series of puppet states under the domination of foreign capital – a playground for their neoliberal policies. But the ruling classes are now starting to feel very much uneasy.

Is the revolution coming? Inevitably! When will it begin? We cannot know for sure. But if, as the reactionary claim, these movements are minor and pathetic attempts to revive the relics of the past, they must surely know that the world we live in is highly unjust. The masses around the world are rapidly realizing this fact, and maybe, just maybe, Croatia is next. The zeitgeist is definitely changing, and the change is on its way. So, let's not just hope for it, let's make it happen.