Had a long chat with a Croatian friend this week. This guy is at the head of a large Croatian company of about 500 employees. Super-intelligent and well read, he’s done extremely well in the post-Yugoslavia environment. Yet he hankers back to Communist days. Why would this successful capitalist do that?
“The pace of life was much gentler, less pressure, everyone had a safe job, nobody was paid that much more than anyone else. Sure, our standards were lower than in the west, and really talented people could become frustrated. But we produced all our own food and most other consumable stuff, including even cars and ships, and we took pride in that, even if they were of comparatively lower quality. We had none of the Chinese-style junk we see today. We didn’t bloody well need it then and we don’t today. Small mom and pop businesses were allowed and they all made comfortable unpressurised livings. Everyone was Croatian, most people stayed around the same place all their lives - some in the same house all their lives.”
“Compared to now it was dull and lacking in challenges. But I think people lived better. Now people worry about their jobs all the time, competitive challenges are always over your shoulder, foreigners are flooding in and buying up properties and we’re increasingly pressurised to take in refugees. Our local produce, and the shops that sold them, are disappearing, replaced by international brands. Now we make nothing ourselves – we’re just bit suppliers in a global supply chain. The sense of place, unity, security and predictability is gone.”
I suggested to him that globalisation, not capitalism, was the real culprit for this malaise. Still, it’s surprising, isn’t it, that a successful capitalist would evince nostalgia for such an environment? I believe his feelings represent also those of many of us in the west who never experienced life under Communism. Before globalisation took hold we too had a sense of unity, place, security, and a belief in who we were. That’s been largely swept away by the tide of diversity.