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Q> How would you describe the state of welfare justice in Croatia from the perspective of politological research?
A> The concept of social justice depends on social values. Until the year 1990 the concept of welfare justice had totally different, not only ideological but empirical meaning as well, then after the first democratic elections, so one should have in mind transition process. In the countries that call themselves socialistic, the term of welfare justice was fit in one idealistic concept of equality which varied between “each to its needs” and “each to its possibilities” (of society). In between, as for the former Yugoslavian society is concerned, the problem of welfare justice, towards the relation between the lowest and the highest income, tried to be solved. As far as I remember it was normally 1 to 4 ratio or 1 to 7. Everything that was above 1 to 7 ratio, evoked sharp reactions, but I think that 1 to 4 ratio was more present.

Q> The first democratic elections, indicated the abandonment of socialistic system and earlier understandings of welfare justice.

After the 1990 the picture has totally changed, due to the fact that in Croatia ideas of liberal democracy have appeared in its rawest shape: that everybody has a right to the maximum of what can be realised in given conditions...

A> After the 1990 the picture has totally changed, due to the fact that in Croatia ideas of liberal democracy have appeared in its rawest shape: that everybody has a right to the maximum of what can be realised in given conditions, that we all create our own fortune, human success or failure is an individual thing which one is responsible for. The idea of welfare state, as much as it is present in the papers of different political parties and in our constitution, it was never introduced as the process of creating one value system. Until the 1990 people were irritated by the fact that someone has a lot (and a full stomach at the same time), and after the 1990 they were hungry and were passing by such wealth that earlier was unimaginable. New value system has still not been developed, and each investigation of someone’s wealth or source of wealth is usually being rejected by those familiar words: This is no more socialism, this is no more self-governance.

Q> On the cover of today’s issue of one Croatian daily newspaper, in the headline, retold Government message can be read: Citizens must take care of their own social security. Like one wants to say that up to now the Government had set aside to much money for that purpose.
A> I haven’t read that article and I do not know if the Government had really sent out such message, which by itself is rather one-sided and has a far-reaching meaning.
We have to take into account, that Croatia, as well as many other Eastern European countries, hasn’t been through those centuries of work and capital conflicts, battle for eight hour working scheme, hasn’t gone through the exploitation phase of children labour, primary capital accumulation, all of that, to use the expression, that proletariat in western countries has gone through, in the eighteenth, nineteenth and in the first half of the twentieth century. In Croatia, as well as in the other countries of former Yugoslavia, we crossed over from one nearly feudalistic social system to social security system regulated by state . That psihological bounding tissue of one system of responsibilities towards work, and understanding that one should live by its own labour, hasn’t been developed.
In such meaning, this kind of message makes sense, because it warns people not to be spongers just waiting for government solutions.
On the other hand, due to huge number of the unemployed, hugh number of those who are not able to assure their own existence, not by their own fault, the Government should send out at least two more messages: first, that they will create conditions in which one will be able to carry responsibilities for his own existence, and second, that one will not let down those who are not able to assure existence to themselves and their children by their own labour.

Q> Speaking of public and political parties in Croatia, what is the level of their awareness of the need to invest in science?
A> All researches in the world show that, from a long term perspective, fund set aside for science, are the most worthy investments, that will pay off, sooner or later. In Croatia it is difficult to find a party that considers future at least in middle terms, if not longer. Those short-term considerations do not even last till the next mandate, but only up to small objectives on a daily based political fight. Highly educated people and scientists present disregarded part of the voting body, so the parties don’t see its immediate interest in it. Of course that 1% of the funds set aside in Croatia, does not equal the amounts in some wealthier European country. But the fact that Croatia sets aside out off its GDP 5 to 10 times less then European Union countries, tells us just about everything. The only capital that Croatia owns is human resource, which is the most valuable. Having 5 to 6% of educated people in comparison with 12 to 20% in other countries, the same educated people that have no possibilities of transferring their knowledge into some new values, what can we hope for? With our educational system, which equals European at least at the academic level, and I dare to say that in some aspects is even superior, in best case we can export our specialists, mostly in the area of bio-technical science. As for our humanities specialists, including myself, we can use them as a source of unsatisfied quasi-intellectuals.

Q> How do you see future development of the welfare justice in Croatia?
A> We always have to know the minimum level of existential conditions we are considering. At the low level of those conditions, the problem of social justice or injustice can lead to massive social movement and revolutions, as we experienced since the October revolution towards now.
In Western European countries’, USA’s and Japan’s level of social wealth, incentives for such movements just do not exist. The question is, weather the minimum of existential conditions that assure avoidance of wider social conflicts, exist in Croatia ? Afterwards we can discuss social justice as a kind of “upgrade”.

Q> Don’t you expect changes to happen fast?
A> Some processes are universal and can not be skipped, and some rules are realy applicable. I often quote Darendorf who in 1990 said that political system could be changed in 6 months as it takes for laws to be changed, and new constitution to be passed, that economical system could be changed in 6 years, but to create civil society and adequate political culture it takes 60 years. The whole new generation that will socialise in new social conditions should

The question is, weather the minimum of existential conditions that assure avoidance of wider social conflicts, exist in Croatia? Afterwards we can discuss social justice as a kind of “upgrade”.

come. Speaking of those processes, Croatia is impartially, due to the war conditions, stiffed, so therefor we lag behind some countries in transition for 5 to 6 years. Whatever we think about those who were in power until the year 2000, there are some excuses there. There are no excuses for the political theft, which transformed into new structure of ownership, but there are excuses for loosing some markets, lag in technology.

Q> Can one talk about Croatian role models in questions of social justice that should be followed?
A> Examples of Slovenia and even Hungry, are likely to confirm Darendorf’s thesis on 6 years that are needed for economic system change, since the moment of transition up to the moment of hastily development.
From 1990 to 1996 Slovenia had GDP just below the one before 1990, and after 1996, in the last 5 to 6 years Slovenia has grown rapidly. Same applies for Hungry. We can expect that Croatia also, in spite of all RaËan' s Government stupi-dity, will achieve that level of development, due to the mentioned legality and not because of the Government itself.

Q> Would you like to mention any aspect of social moment in Croatia, which we forgot to mention in our conversation?
A> Crucial problem today in Croatia is feeling of apathy, feeling of desperateness and helplessness. There is no worse valuation of social situation. In such situation, various manipulations are possible and people are subject to non-critical acceptance of various ideas. People should be shown that chances exist and that we should confront challenges in all levels of the social life. That should be done by those who run this country, by socially responsible intellectuals (and there are some of them believe it or not), that should be done by medias. Precisely in times of crisis big social development opportunities exist. The only problem is, shall we let those opportunities be handled by responsible or irresponsible people, and beyond all, that responsibility is ours. <

Ivan ©iber is social and political psychology professor at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb.