Croatian Viewpoint
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Democracy in Principle and Practice

Democracy symbolizes the principles which were enshrined in documents such as the Declaration of the Rights of Man. In the 20th century the democratic tradition was advanced with principles of universal suffrage, freedom of expression and movement, and the self-determination of nations as extolled by Woodrow Wilson. Following two world wars the use of violence for the solution of international conflict has been condemned in principle by democratic nations and they have identified nationalism and communism as the major sources of international tension. The rights of the individual have been placed high on a pedestal. When were such lofty ideals of democracy declared, codified and applied however?
On closer examination we discover that laws enshrining human rights were formalised 'after' bloody civil or independence wars, in such powerful nations as America , France , or Great Britain . The principle of self determination of nations also appears to have been applied for some nations and not others, and those which qualified have not been the most democratic. The act of condemning violence is absent in regard to some nations who break every international law ever thought of, whilst some small harmless nations do not warrant autonomy. Clearly today there are fascist, racist governments which are sanctioned, even though their violent tactics and undemocratic governments violate human rights. By the same token, foreign intervention and bombardment is often categorised as 'just' if strategic interests of one nation or another is at stake.
Of the many nations which are accepted by democracies in the world in spite of their blatant contravention of international laws, Yugoslavia is a prime example. Has Yugoslavia ever displayed respect for democracy, human rights, self determination, pluralism or peaceful democratisation? No, in fact Yugoslavia has been involved in the contravention of laws on foreign soil, where they have abused their diplomatic privileges more than once. In addition the genocidal practices of the Yugoslav regime have never been condemned. Nevertheless, Yugoslavia is recognised and protected internationally. There is no national group within Yugoslavia which wants the present Yugoslav government to continue in power, except for the majority of Serbs who form the national group which dominates the entire infrastructure. All other national groups within its borders clamour for democracy. Some have achieved it. Croatia is a case in point.
Croatia, because of the landslide victory at the recent pluralistic elections has set up a new government, changed its name to the Republic of Croatia, freed all political prisoners in Croatia, and in practice respects the individual whatever his creed, race, culture or political affiliation. Amazingly few democratic institutions in the world today have acknowledged or congratulated the Croatian people for their peaceful transition to democracy and their continued struggle for freedom. The democratically elected Croatian government along with its policies are being ignored. Instead of condemning recent discoveries of mass graves in Croatia where the bones of victims of the post war Yugoslav regime have been hidden, along with crutches and other incriminating evidence, the Australian government chooses this time to quietly re-open its Yugoslav Consulate (in Sydney) without ever having arrested the criminals protected therein for shooting at people in Australian streets with a machine gun!
There are important lessons to be learned for Croatian people following such events. It appears that democratic idealism is admirable but application of its principles in the world have been selective and undemocratic. Double standards exist everywhere. Those nations which scorn nationalism and communism actually behave in a very nationalist manner, defending their own interest at the expense of others, and they include the protection of communist regimes in this category! Croats and others striving for freedom should therefore do as others 'do' not as others 'say'. I will conclude with the words of the Croatian Democratic union: "Let us finally take our destiny into our own hands."
Jean Lunt Marinovic
July 6, 1990
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