Strikes and protests occur in the context of huge economic turmoil
Following the anti-European Union austerity protests back in the summer and the struggle of the pensioners at the beginning of autumn, caused by the government’s proposal to reduce retirement pay by 15% and all wages by 25%, the first massive rally of Romanian workers against these attacks took place on 27 October, with more than 40,000 people blocking ’Piaţa Victoriei’ square in Bucharest, standing up for their rights.
Altough the law regarding the pensions which was proposed by the government has been rejected because it violated the constitutional rights of the people (reflecting the fear of the ruling class to take on the workers over this issue), the leading party has managed to raise VAT by 5% to 24%, to decrease wages by 25% and to increase the retirement age to 65 years, which is also our country’s life expectancy level! The financial crisis has sent Romania, an economically weak state at the beginning of the crisis (like most of eastern Europe), into economic collapse, and the measures of the government (more than 50% of which is made up of the ’Democratic Liberal Party’) only promote an even more brutal form of capitalism and huge exploitation of the people.
What is the feeling regarding the political elite?
The Romanian political elite has always lacked support from many people, since the so-called ’democracy’ the country obtained by overthrowing the former Stalinist regime never met with people’s expectations. But the economic crisis has taken the people’s realationship with the government to its worst point in the last decades. Since 1989, Romania followed a path of almost continuous de-industrialisation and increasing poverty. Nowadays, a very big number of workers are looking to the Stalinist era with nostalgia, and this sentiment continues to spread even amongst the youth, such has been the failure of capitalist restoration!
At the moment, the average wage in Romania is approximately 600 US dollars, while the prices of food, for example, are almost the same as in Germany! Objectively speaking, Romania has practically the perfect conditions for a workers’ revolt, since the massive economic inequality, which was always a burning issue after the fall of Ceauşescu’s Stalinist regime in 1989 are exacerbating, and now, living standards are dropping below subsistence levels for many workers, and the whole capitalist political class is hated by the people for its oppressive means of governing. The President, Traian Băsescu, member of the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), had even the courage to declare that the citizens of this nation have to ‘work more and produce more’ if they want to live in human conditions, and his popularity is falling, even in bourgeois circles.
Isn’t there any leftist opposition to the PDL in Romania?
Practically none at all. The only party which supported a “state-controlled” alternative to capitalism in Romania in the last elections was the Stalinist, pro- Ceauşescu PAS (Socialist Alliance Party), which won about 0.5% of the votes at the last presidential election, and most people don’t even know this party exists! If we look at the bigger parties, there are only three major powers which have always gotten more than 80% of the votes combined: The Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), The National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD). While the first two are both on the “center-right”, the last one claims itself to be “center-left”, but it is formed by capitalist counter-revolutionaries from 1989, and is the party which led Romania towards de-industrialisation and poverty in the 1990s. Politically, there is no democratic choice which would favour the working people of this nation’s interests against those of big business and capitalist exploitation.
The big parties and the corrupt millionaires from Romania who are untouched by the crisis today are those who in December 1989 championed great ideals like “democracy” and “freedom”, only to use the population to get control of the country and build a capitalist regime from which they could profit by stealing the nation’s money and becoming important leaders of big business. The Romanian people are already sick of all the demagogues who make up the political class of the country. Not one of them, whether ’center-left’, ‘democrat’ or ‘liberal’, did anything for this country and its people in the last 2 decades. With their politics, they have made Romanians victims of capitalist exploitation, and they continue to export young educated Romanians to Western Europe, escaping the dismal living conditions of this country.
Countless emigrants with qualifications have been flocking over the borders for years, and a big part of the people who remain in the country have begun to see the Stalinist era as a golden age compared to the capitalist age, since it actually provided basic living standards to Romanians, despite, aside from its dictatorial political structure, which had nothing to do with genuine socialism. In the Stalinist era, Romania experienced huge industrialisation, the construction of thousands of blocks of apartments every year. Now, we practically face the opposite, with 1% of the country driving Ferrari cars and owning estates with the money of the people or money obtained from the destruction of our heavy industry.
Why has there not been a fightback along the lines of Greece or Portugal in Romania?
The main reasons we lack a huge, sustained movement of the people against this devastation, and a mass understanding of the need for genuine democratic socialism or “communism” are as follows:
The lack of a fighting leadership from the trade unions, and working class political parties which fight for a real struggle. Most people think about Stalinism when someone talks about Communism or Socialism, (mostly because of cold war era propaganda) and have no desire to go back to a dictatorship where most goods produced are sold to other countries, and the people face shortages and low wages. This is despite the fact that, generally speaking, many believe, as the statistics tell us, that the Stalinist era, that of the planned economy, was a better period for our country. The capitalist counter-revolution of 1989 ended with hundreds of dead and many other victims. Today, many people are not ready for what they imagine will be a massive confrontation with a regime skilled and experienced in armed and brutal repression of the people, with no guarantee of a better life afterwards. This makes the explanation of an alternative of international struggle and socialism an even more crucial task.
Is Romania ready for a real revolution?
The chances of a massive fightback by the workers continue to grow, proportionally with the government’s brutal austerity measures. In Romania, we have faced a period of patience from the working class, caused in part by both a fear of new civil wars and a lingering memory of Stalinist oppression. But in the current conditions, this patience is being tried to the maximum. If there was a mass understanding of what real “communism” should be and how a genuinely democratic workers’ state, based on real democracy and workers’ control, with a democratically planned economy, (completely distinct from the bureaucratically strangled Stalinist systems) a real revolution, to break with the destruction and attacks of the capitalist elite would be within reach, as part of an international struggle for a socialist alternative. The popularisation and building of support for the ideas of genuine socialism and Marxism is a crucial task in Romania today.
The wind of revolution blows stronger and stronger every time the capitalist machine is pushes harder for more profits at the expense of the majority, and that wind will soon become a storm which will tear down the whole system and assign it to the archives of history. Romanians are increasingly aware of the disaster of abolishing the planned economy and the introduction of the free market, and this tyrannic regime which rules us and calls itself a ’democracy’ The present crisis and struggles that will develop will increasingly lead workers to understand that this is not a democracy. We must explain what real democracy is, and that the liberty and the power of the people will be achieved only in a democratic, genuinely “communist” society! In these days of turmoil, all the miseries of capitalism reveal themselves in front of our eyes, and this is a sign that the time of the decisive battle will soon begin.
Workers of the World, Unite!