Raivis Zeltīts: Please tell me more about your political party Generation of Renewal. It is a new party in the Croatian political scene? What differs it from other nationalist parties in Croatia and from the leading centre-right party Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)? What are your main goals?
Leo Marić: Generation of Renewal was founded in February 2017 as a reaction to the poor state of contemporary political Right in Croatia. On the last legislative elections in Croatia in September 2016 right-wing parties assembled in two separate coalitions got less than 3% of votes combined. Thus, the new convocation of Sabor, Croatian parliament, was left without any right-wing party, with Andrej Plenković’s HDZ turning to the political center and Božo Petrov’s Most keeping up with their transideological direction for the moment. Besides, we found non-parliamentary right-wing scene to be extremely incompetent and trapped in historical issues, lacking any meaningful and realistic vision of the Croatian future.
Unlike the Old Right, our political movement wants to deal primarily with contemporary socioeconomic problems and Croatia’s position in the postmodern world. The main topics of our ideology are as follows: generational politics (i.e. the advocation of socioeconomic interests of young generations), economic liberalism in Croatian context, Croatian nationalism and conservatism.
R. Z.: What are your influences from abroad? One can sense that identitarianism is part of your ideology and image.
L. M.: Actually, the identitarianism was not so influential when it comes to our ideology, although the name bears certain resemblance. We were inspired by identitarian political tactics and public image and surely we share their passion for preservation of our ethnic heritage, but in the same time we completely reject identitarian movement’s promotion of pan-European identity and ignorance of social and economic issues.
Our movement brings together various strands of political Right: ethno-nationalists, Catholic conservatives, right-libertarians and others, all of them gathered with the common goal of making radical changes in Croatian political system. In that, our struggle against the ruling “deep state” with roots in ex-communist elites, against mass immigration and for affirmation of economic nationalism was to some degree influenced by contemporary American politics and Steve Bannon’s political ideas.
R. Z.: What are the main challenges faced by Croatian nationalists and Croatian people? Question of immigration? Ideological aggression from Soros and other globalists? Serbian revisionism? And in what order you plan to face these threats?
L. M.: The central problem Croatia is facing today is not mass immigration, but mass emigration. Since Croatia joined EU in July 2013 about 200.000 young people have left the country in search for a better-paid jobs in Western Europe, primarily in Germany and Ireland. Not immigration, not Soros, not Serbs, but emigration and corresponding lack of faith in the project of independent Croatian state – those are the main challenges. To solve that situation, Croatian nationalist movement firstly must accept it as it is, while stopping with fantasies of the eternal Serbian threat and wars over Croatian history. After acknowledging that, we should offer comprehensive program of Croatian economic, social and demographic renewal.
Generation of Renewal already tackled those issues on several occasions. During 2017 and 2018 we took part in European citizens’ initiative “Equal wages for equal work” which questioned the systemic injustices concerning European labor market, while in the second half of 2018 we conducted public campaign for total suspension of income tax. Soon, we will present our solution to the crisis of pension system in Croatia too.
R. Z.: I see, emigration is surely an issue for our region. When we had the ministry for regional development and environmental protection, we created network of regional coordinators that informed those who wanted to return to Latvia about job and living opportunities – many families have returned in such a way, although it is not enough of course. We also have paid much attention to the housing issue, because in many small towns there are job opportunities, but there is not enough housing space for the people to return. These are small steps.
L. M.: The Croatian situation is a little bit opposite than yours. In this moment, you can buy relatively good house in small town or village in continental part of Croatia for extremely low price, cca. 20-30 thousand euros. But there are no job opportunities there. So, unless you are a pensioner or you work in some public service or company (which is impossible without political or family connections), there is little chance that you will secure your existence there.
Conversely, in Zagreb and seaside region you can find job easily, but housing prices are extremely high. Ironically, part of the reason for this is state housing policy. State-sponsored building of apartments for young families disturbed housing market and resulted in rocketing of prices in recent years, thus making it impossible for young people to afford buying apartment or house.
R.Z.: So, what is the concrete solution in your view? Your proposal for total suspension of income tax seem a lot more radical. Wouldn’t it create a significantly smaller state budget? How would you compensate the lack of money for all the necessary functions of state without the money from the income tax, i.e. what is your economic program?
L. M.: The income tax in Croatia makes about 7-8% of yearly state budget of Croatia. Currently, most of that money is directly transferred to local units (municipalities and cities) for expenses of local administration. However, Croatia has extremely high number of people employed at local and state administration, while most of those people are (1) unnecessary, without any functional role, (2) without professional competencies and qualifications, (3) part of political-sponsored employment of party members. Abolishing of income tax would force local administration to stop further employments and to get rid of surplus of workers in bureaucracy, thus also destroying clientelist networks managed by the big political parties.
On the other side, while income tax makes about 7-8% of state budget, it makes up to 20% of monthly salaries of young professionals. Therefore, with income tax abolished, young workers with high education and without family, social group most prone to emigration to Western Europe, would have higher wages, which could make them to decide to live and work in their homeland. According to some analysis, such move would also make average wage in Croatia rise for more than 100 euros, ie. to about 1000 euros per month. Therefore, obviously, total abolishment of income tax would help to stop brain drain, at least to some degree, as well as to increase consumption rates which could in turn help Croatian economy grow.
Our political movement is in principle against new taxes, for more fiscal discipline and reduction in state spending. However, in my opinion, if necessary, property tax is more logical and just than income tax. Instead of punishing people for their work by taking 20% of their income, rational economic policy would look for money in another direction, e.g. in the direction of rentier economy.
R. Z.: You mentioned economic liberalism in Croatian context. Can you explain it more?
L. M.: It was maybe a little bit awkward expression, but I’ll explain it. Despite being relatively clear and concrete economic position, economic liberalism doesn’t mean exactly the same thing in all countries. Being economically liberal in contemporary France or Belarus’ isn’t the same as being economically liberal in the USA or Estonia. As for our part, we are not market fundamentalists: we do not believe applying free market system will solve every Croatian social and economic problem, neither we approve of commodification of all aspects of our everyday life.
However, Croatian economy still bears heavy burden of its socialist heritage. Croatian workers are paying up to 50% of their monthly wage to the state budget (including income tax, various pension contributions, health insurance contribution, etc.) without geting anything in return from the state. That especially applies to our generation: we will not enjoy any benefits of paid health and pensions’ system, because until the time we get old enough none of those will still exist. On the other side, there is wast amount of state companies or private companies working with the state, most of them under control of the offsprings of the “red bourgeoisie”. Their control of the economy enables them to maintain control over Croatian politics, culture, media and civil sector. Therefore, without radical changes in economic system we will never be in a position to “drain the swamp” of Croatian politics.
R. Z.: Globalists in Latvia use many formulas for their propaganda. For example – “Latvians were refugees, too”. Or – “anti-LGBT movement are Putinists”. Do you deal with something similar in Croatia?
L. M.: Of course, they especially like to use slogans like “Croats were refugees, too”, playing on the relatively fresh memories of the 1990s and the Homeland War. Obviously, they are taking the slogans from the same manual. If nothing else, such practices are the clear indicator that the pro-immigration propaganda by mainstream media and liberal NGOs is not simply irrational venture to help millions of migrants by importing them to Europe, but a product of international networks capable of imposing the same absurd slogans on global level.
R. Z.: I have always sensed that Croatians are a brother nation to Latvians. We have similar language group (Indo-European), religion (Western-Christianity) and historical experience as a small nation between the empires striving to achieve independence. Now we are also part of the “Three Seas initiative” in the EU context. But what is the geopolitical vision of GO? How do you see the cooperation between the Intermarium countries in the next years?
L. M.: Croatian president Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, who is one of principal founders of Three Seas Initiative, made a great job in promotion of that initiative in Croatia, but unfortunately that is still not the key issue in Croatian public. As of now, Generation of Renewal is the only political party in Croatia fully committed to the process of integration in Central-Eastern Europe, including both Visegrad Group and Three Seas Initiative.
We think the countries of Central-Eastern Europe must work in direction of stronger cooperation in political, security and economic issues. That is the only way to emancipate our nations from colonial status in relation to Western Europe that was established after 1989, but in the same time to secure our independence and integrity from possible threats posed by Kremlin’s politics. The natural and healthy nationalisms, still strong in our countries, must not be replaced by national egoisms which will choose Brussels, Berlin or Moscow because of various momentary interests. Long-term interests of all our countries lie in common union that could be the shield against further centralizing tendencies of EU, the institutional alternative to the possible collapse of EU tomorrow and the political instrument of our countries in the postmodern global order.