The political scientist Jure Vujić speaks with Vokativ.hr about the conservative revolution, populism, the post-liberal society and the problems of the political right in Croatia.
Jure Vujić is a Croatian political scientist, diplomat and lawyer. He studied law at the University of Paris Paris II (Université Panthéon Assas – Paris II) and is a member of the Paris Bar Association. As the first civilian student, he graduated from the Croatian Armed Forces’ War School “Ban Josip Jelačić” in 2006. He is concerned with geopolitics, geostrategic and metapolitics which he writes about Zagreb Vijenac and various Parisian-time regulations . He has published a number of books in French and Croatian, of which we highlight: Intellectual Terrorism – Heretical Breviary (2007), Croatia and the Mediterranean: Geopolitical Aspects (2008), Un ailleurs européen (2011), World War: Eurasianism vs. Atlanticism (2012) and Conservative Revolution: From Weimar to the Present (2020).
KREŠIMIR DŽOIĆ: Late last year, is your new book on the conservative Revo-lu-tion appeared . You have written and spoken of the ideas of the Conservative Revolution many times, in both the academic and popular media. In one of your articles you have six years ago to a conservative revolution in Kroa-tien call set- . Do you still share the same opinion and what can be done to make the right in Croatia adopt the ideas of the conservative revolution?
JURE VUJIĆ: The text you are referring to is not a manifesto or an appeal, but a contribution to the discussion about the possibility of the emergence and influence of the ideas of the “conservative revolution” in Croatia, which is based on the peculiarities of the current context of an acute one Identity Crisis, which arose as a reaction to these phenomena through a number of left and right populist movements. On the other hand, in Orbán’s Hungary, illiberal democracy is a new political experiment that opposes liberal democracy.
The conservative revolution as a phenomenon is not monolithic but multi-layered, so what applies to Poland or Slovakia, where the model of the Catholic-clerical conservative revolution is applied, does not apply to other European countries with a different political culture and tradition.
There is no organized political current of this kind in Croatia, apart from a few individuals and circles who promote the ideas of the anti-liberal conservative revolution. Although we have had totalitarian communist experiences in the past, Croatia is not like Poland or Hungary, where there are strong right-wing nationalist and conservative political traditions. With the exception of the anti-communist discourse and the patriotic neo-right folklore, I don’t see much difference between today’s Croatian liberal left and the liberal right, which together form liberal democracy, human rights cult,
But you should be aware that ideas are one thing and human resources another. The main obstacles to strengthening the ideas of the conservative revolution within the Croatian national forces, besides political sectarianism and fragmentation, are the intellectual undercapacity and the limited post-communist, provincial categorical apparatus of today’s generation of MPs, politicians and activists who call themselves “rights”. The so-called “patriotic right”, which is also liberal, remains hostage to the binary fan mentality expressed in the phrase “we or them”, as well as the sterile skirmishes for partisans and Ustashas.
I believe that it is a priority to carry out the generational change that is necessary for the emergence of a true right, both conservative and revolutionary, which primarily de-provincializes the Croatian national and state-building discourse and places it in the broader context of European geopolitical and metapolitical narratives.
In Croatia there was a lively right-wing scene between the two world wars with many authors who critically described both capitalism and socialism and considered the need to find a balance between the two systems. Over the past decade, Višeslav Aralica , Stipe Kljaić and Ivan Macut have published several books and scientific papers on the subject. What are the similarities or differences between these ideas and the ideas of the German Conservative Revolution from the interwar period?
At that time, the ideological, philosophical and political matrix of Croatian conservatism was crystallizing in Croatia, and the bearers of these aspirations were Ivo Pilar, Milan pl. Šufflay, Vinko Krišković, Julije Makanec, Kerubin Šegvić, Filip Lukas, Tias Mortigjija, Milivoj Magdić, Vilko Rieger, etc. They were already thinking about the need for a conservative revolution within the framework of great European nationalism. Therefore, Croatia should draw guidelines from its own philosophical and political tradition. It shows the conservative revolution as a claim that goes beyond socialist collectivism and capitalist individualism as two twin brothers the idea of spiritual transformation,Imperium, Auctoritas, Civitas articulated. It stands for the principle of direct and participatory democracy, for the respect for cultural differences and the idea of an organic and solidary society in contrast to the partitocratic democracy, economy and materialistic vision of the world that is prevalent today.
It is a metapolitical approach that seeks to develop new concepts and visions of the world based on its own tradition and through the original revolution of ideas and internal transformations. The import of foreign political models has often been catastrophic for the Croatian people in the course of history, be it Bolshevik internationalism, Austro-Hungarian monarchism or South Slav federalism. These models failed because of the constructivist, artificial nature and the disregard for the historical Croatian state continuity. Therefore, even in the case of the alleged conservative revolution in Croatia, care should be taken to protect the Polish.
As far as tradition is concerned, tradition should of course not only be inherited, but also revived as an active creative force, an ideological claim that is passed on from generation to generation in the sense of the word trader , living tradition.
After a major historical turning point in 1945 and almost half a century of communist rule in Croatia, the right-wing movement in our country must actually be rebuilt. In this context, do you see changes for the better in the Croatian political scene?
I would not be honest if I said that there are no positive developments. From the 1990s, with the realization of an independent state, space was created for the free expression and dissemination of various ideas, so that the ideas of the Conservative Revolution, Nationalism, Traditionalism and Conservatism were partially absorbed and anchored in society, albeit of course not enough at universities and in the cultural sector, where the monopoly of left-liberal cultural hegemony has survived.
As far as the elites are concerned, it should not be forgotten that in 1945 a kind of cultural murder and aristocide took place in Croatia, a deep demographic and intergenerational cut with the liquidation of the intellectual bourgeoisie. We still suffer from the consequences of it today. On the other hand, despite the positive patriotic charge and state-building awareness, the necessary replacement of former elites, members of the Yugoslav nomenclature who retained the leverage in media and culture and skillfully turned into liberal democrats, was lacking in the 1990s.
As far as the elites are concerned, it must not be forgotten that in 1945 a kind of cultural murder and aristocide took place in Croatia, a deep cut in the population and generations with the liquidation of the intellectual bourgeoisie. We still suffer from the consequences of it today. On the other hand, despite the positive patriotic charge and state-building awareness, the necessary replacement of former elites was neglected in the 1990s; Members of the Yugoslav nomenklatura retained the leverage in media and culture and skillfully transformed themselves into liberal democrats.
It is interesting to note that there is a radical left in Croatia, more critical of liberal democracy and neoliberalism than the Croatian right, whose greatest ideological reach is precisely the Anglo-Saxon model of market-liberal democracy, of course with a formally conservative worldview. The Croatian patriotic and conservative right are hostage to the classic traps of the anti-totalitarian discourse that legitimizes the monopoly of the Atlantic, market-oriented form of democracy. History knows other, European models of democracy such as direct, participatory and corporatist democracy. Calling yourself anti-globalists and continuing to support the debt monetarist policies of the IMF, WTO, etc.
The failure of liberalism is increasingly debated in the West, and a book by Patrick Deneen in Croatian recently appeared that talks about it. To what extent do you think the liberal order in the West is stable today? Did phenomena like Brexit, Orban’s rule in Hungary or the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA cause a severe shock or do they pose only a minor threat to the ruling liberals?
Patrick Deneen actually points out the contradictions of liberalism itself and its shortcomings in emergency situations, but does not predict its end. Today’s discourse on post-liberalism shows that liberalism and capitalism have the power to transform in certain crisis situations in order to survive as the dominant ideological system. It is therefore naive to believe that the current introduction of certain sovereign measures in the context of a coronavirus pandemic – such as closure or tightened border controls, state interventions in the economic and health sectors – heralds the end of a liberal state and a radical change in another state or another company.
The reality is different: A liberal state on a global level becomes the tool of global biopolitics, which under the paradigm of the “Great Reset” and the “digital revolution” not only wants to introduce a new form of biopolitical domestication, but also the agenda of the new Political, cultural and social anthropology. Biopolitical rule does not need ideological narratives to motivate the masses or to gain passive approval.
On the other hand, one should be aware that the liberal state has never excluded totalitarian models such as “soft” and “hard” repression of dissidents and opponents, while the emergency in the form of a pandemic has allowed surveillance measures similar to Orwellian dystopia, or at worst totalitarianism. The process of “pathologizing” political dissidents is underway, which should be removed, neutralized, isolated and rehabilitated. It is paradoxical that the fear of the coronavirus was successful where all alterglobalist, anti-systemic and anti-capitalist movements have failed: blockade of the globalized economic system, stop the free movement of people and goods, collapse of the financial markets,
Right-wing populism in the West is perceived as a kind of ghost. Some political scientists like Jan Werner Müller see him as a threat to democracy. But do the parties and individuals crammed into this basket really want to replace liberal democracy?
The emergence of contemporary populism should be seen in the context of the emergence of new anti-systemic political forces and the reshaping of political life in parliamentary democracies. After the Brexit referendum and Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, the process of discrediting and demonizing populism has intensified significantly. Growing social dissatisfaction among broad sections of the population, riots by “yellow vests” in France, electoral victories by populist and sovereign movements across Europe are social and political realities that cannot be viewed as “fascist” or stigmatized as “fascist”, whether they are reductionist or generalized as marginal phenomena.
Right and left populism should be interpreted as a contemporary popular rebellion against the elites. In most cases, in the absence of a consistent alternative model of society, populism is more a method than a solution. Despite harsh criticism of elites, populism has never been an “elitophobic” phenomenon in the sense that it rejects any form of cooperation with elites. As such, populism is a good corrective to the epistemological and functional corruption of perverted elites.
Indeed, populism itself needs an elite, and it could be said that it is precisely this relationship between populists and elites that is the main shortcoming and weakness of populist movements. If it restricts itself exclusively to criticism of the elite and the mobilization of protest layers of the people, it often distances itself from a systematic, networked, broader consolidation and design of an alternative model of society and government. One of the greatest challenges of populism is therefore the ability of the “people’s bloc” to generate a new political, intellectual and economic elite that would be able to replace the old, worn and corrupt elites and the levers of power in the state and its institutions .
Modernity is often compared to the Weimar Republic, which after its end was described as unsuccessful, weak and decadent. American Catholic columnist Ross Douthat declares all of modern Western society to be decadent, claiming that it is culturally, economically, and even technically stagnant. Are there really reasons to describe modern Western society as tired and emaciated?
Absolutely. The Russian writer Eduard Limonov wrote, “The modern West is a great psychiatric clinic,” a great clinic that treats patients with sedatives and antidepressants. It must not be forgotten that when we talk about the West we are actually talking about a perverse form of Europe. At present, the West is actually an image of the world of the extreme West, which is nothing more than a perverted image of the spiritual West that brought about the Enlightenment in the 16th century with the penetration of humanistic and Protestant world interpretations and the struggle against Christian Renaissance and Platonism . It was a time when, with the process of secularization, individualization and spirituality, politics, Dissolve culture and ethics from within. Then Europe takes the path of modernity and the extreme West, the path of the individualistic fragmentation of worldview and market idolatry.
The western world is horrified and fights against the religious fundamentalism of the East and schizophrenically accepts the rules of the game of the extreme West, which promotes a secularized market monotheism on a global level, which itself produces a trace of poverty and ethno-denominational radicalism.
Today the West includes all economically developed, industrialized and modernized countries in the world, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and former communist countries. In this sense, the West today does not form a homogeneous geographical unit, but an imaginary, transnational category that transcends national, ethnic and religious particularities. One could say that everything that constitutes “Westernization” in thought and action in the social, economic and political area belongs to the West: market democracy, the legacy of the Enlightenment, individualism, technical-scientific idolatry, rationalism, consumer society and secularization.
Despite this decadence of the West, however, I think that we are not passive and thoughtful to the rescue Ragna-röks or the end of the millennial dark age ( Kali Yuga should wait) but the nihilistic forces should discourage active and responsible.
Many members of the Croatian right now advocate market reforms and the non-interference of the state in economic processes. You are to a certain extent a “black sheep” because you have repeatedly written very critically about capitalism. Is a liberal economic policy of the Croatian right really necessary today, right?
I don’t know if I am a “black sheep” because I don’t consider myself a member of the Croatian Liberal Right, but I think in that case it is better to be a “black sheep” than a useful idiot in relation to them left-liberal system. I do not deny the value of the market, but I do not accept the market as the ultimate model of social organization, any more than I am an apologist of any form of statism or dirigism. On the political stage it is evident that market ideology and neoliberalism have shaken the entire ideological tradition of both the left and the right and prevented the emergence of an alternative, non-market-based social and economic model.
It should also be said that, paradoxically, the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the real face and all the flaws of the liberal economic model. The health and economic crisis broke down market dynamics and exchanges overnight (due to the closure of borders to the free movement of goods and people), leading to a debacle and collapse of the arrogant liberal ideology and the market fundamentalists who today shamelessly aid and state seek intervention to save the economy.
And finally, a question related to political developments. The last parliamentary and local elections once again showed the great power of the HDZ, which was not shaken by numerous scandals and the poor economic situation in the country. You yourself once by Croatian Souve-Raene in political processes partially taken ge- therefore we are interested in how useful it is in your opinion, to get involved politically under conditions of such political hegemony of the HDZ, how can the rights under such conditions have success?
In this state with an inarticulate and acting systematic law, there is almost no point in participating, but I think we should still try to get a better insight into domestic parliamentary politics and party dynamics. Radical movements and fundamental changes in society, economy and politics can hardly be implemented due to the capillary corruption and the existing clientelistic partitocratic system, but also due to the general submissive thought structure. In addition to this political swamp, the true right must maintain an unwavering will and in long-term, but certainly fruitful work on the ideological battlefield (through culture, student engagement at universities.
This article was first published in Croatian by VOKATIV , our partner in the EUROPEAN MEDIA COOPERATION.