Romania: A 30 Years Old Road from Communism to Communism
No, what you’ve just seen above is not a typo, I’ve intentionally written that title because, as you’ll probably realize after reading this article, the Romanian Revolution of 1989 didn’t produced the results people were expecting and while we’ve officially left communism behind on that year, another form of communism took over Romania.
Romania’s road from communism to democracy coincided with my road from new born to adult. I was born in July 1988 so I was only a year old during the December revolution that started the following year, too young to comprehend what was happening throughout the country. In reality very few people understood what was going on, as the whole event took only eight days to unfold from start to finish.
In 16 December 1989, Pastor Laszlo Tokes held a public protest in the city of Timisoara against the regime in response to an attempt by the government to evict him. He criticized the regime’s Systematization policy and the total disregard for human right and freedom of the Communist Party. The riots started on that day and by 22nd of December parts of the army changed sides to aid the protesters while the fleeing dictator and his wife were apprehended by the police.
On December 24th, the head for the newly created Council of the National Salvation Front (NSF), Ion Iliescu, signed a decree to establish the Extraordinary Military Tribunal (a drumhead court martial) to trial dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena Ceausescu for genocide and other crimes. The trial was held the following day and, after roughly one hour, the couple was found guilty and sentenced to death. They were executed moments later just outside of the improvised courtroom.
In the rest of the country, heavy fighting was going on between the military and terrorist forces (nobody knows who was ordering them to this day). The fighting abruptly stopped on 27th of December 1989.
The makeshift tribunal, the defense lawyers that joined forces with the prosecutors during the trial and the fact that, after the revolution, many members of the communist party moved to the newly formed democratic parties gave birth to more questions than answers.
The reality isn’t as complicated as people think, as Ceausescu who refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the tribunal and declared, before the execution, “We could have been shot without having this masquerade!” also argued that the revolution was in fact a coup d’etat organized by the Soviets.
That last statement was very close to reality, in my opinion, as the so called revolution was in fact a coup d’etat only it wasn’t organized by the Soviet Union, as Ceausescu said, it was organized by members of the Communist Party. The lack of transparency and fairness in the trial and the sheer incompetence shown throughout the revolution by all politicians were in fact how Romanians have handled all matters during the 80s and the period that followed.
I know it may be hard to comprehend by many people but that was the Romanian coup d’etat of 1989: some planning, some luck and a lot of improvising that gave the direction for Romania to follow into the next decades. Looking back at everything that happened from the 90s onwards it all makes sense, now.
Contrary to public belief, the Romanian Revolution of 1989 wasn’t intended as a revolution against Communism but a revolution against Nicolae Ceausescu.
Roughly a year before the revolution, the National Salvation Front (NSF) took form, which was initially a group consisting of prominent members of the Romanian Communist Party joined in their well-founded belief that Ceausescu wasn’t the right man to lead the country.
Officially, the FSN was first announced on 22nd of December 1989 on radio and the national television after the apprehension of Dictator Ceausescu, and a few days later, they morphed into an interim government. They abolished the one-party system and called for free elections.
On the 6th of February 1990 the FSN transformed itself into a political party to be able to run in the upcoming elections. They controlled the mass-media with a few exceptions which angered rival political parties who mounted protests against them.
The protests were violently repressed with the help of the notorious Mineriads  and, unsurprisingly, the FSN won the elections by a landslide having silenced its rivals and by controlling the state-owned media which represented the majority of Romanian media, at the time.
The intellectuals, most of which supported the rival parties of the FSN, were disgruntled by the defeat, which was both political and physical, and started a mass exodus to the Western world that lasts to this day.
In 1991, Romania signed an agreement with the IMF which marked the start of the privatization of state-owned enterprises that led to most of them being flattened to the ground and sold for scrap. A year later, the Stolojan government began an austerity plan by limiting wages and further liberalizing prices.
Poverty, corruption and illiteracy increased which is the motif of post-communist Romania. Now, I’m not saying Communism is good but it’s clearly the best solution for Romania which has struggled coping with capitalism before and after the Communist rule while other countries have found a better balance between freedom and corruption.
In 2018, Romania’s official adult literacy rate was at 98.84%  which isn’t that bad but still well below countries like Germany, Belgium, Russia or even Belarus. In reality the situation is probably a lot worse as in 2016, 42% of Romanians aged 15 were illiterate, during a period when the European average was at about 20% .
Back in 2016 when I was first reading those statistics I remembered about the situation in the 1930s when 43% of adult Romanians were illiterate. That margin decreased but it was still extremely poor when the communists came to power in 1948. The new regime took swift measures to reduce this problem and the 1956 census showed an increase in the literacy rate to about 90%. Education is always a good indicator of a country’s economical and social health, and this shows again how Romania had a better balance during the communist rule.
This is the whole point here, too much freedom and companies owned by the rich “elite” start breaking the rules of Democracy and economic fairness which leads to corruption and social injustice (take a look at the USA) while to little freedom leads to the Dictatorial Communism we experienced in Romania since 1965. It’s a balancing act Romania has failed miserably at.
To make matters worse, Romania’s failure in understanding and restraining capitalism led into a strange mix of capitalism and communism that takes the social injustice from the first and mixes it with the nationalism and doctrine of the latter that resulted in a contradictory form of governance.
To understand how this actually works (it doesn’t work actually) I’ll have to tell you again about my personal experience of the “Democratic Romania” (I’ve added quotes at both ends of those words because, as I’ve said before, Romania is anything but democratic).
As I’ve said before, I was roughly a year old when the revolution started in December 1989 so I was quite young in the 90s, but still, there were changes even a child couldn’t ignore like people of different social status losing jobs due to the poor privatization of state-owned enterprises and being forced to work abroad for anything the Western world had to offer, another practice that has continued to this day.
Another practice of the 90s was reusing school books from the communist era with pages ripped off or crossed over. Those pages that were removed usually contained the communist or nationalist propaganda and doctrine. I remember coming across some books were those pages were left untarnished and thinking how daft and silly those writings were while also wondering if anyone had actually believed that nonsense.
Decades later, the communist nonsense reappeared, wrapped slightly different but the same at core, in the form of American capitalist doctrine. People really fell for it this time but that’s hardly surprising as most intellectuals leave the country year after year since the early 90s.
At this point I realized that Ceausescu’s dictatorial communism that ruled Romania since 1965 and the unregulated capitalism that has wreaked havoc in the economy, education and social balance of the USA were very similar in how they blindly attack any opposing ideas and appeal to the nationalism and patriotism of the more, shall we say, simple people.
Whenever I point out a problem, I also bring a solution. That’s a healthy attitude that’s often overlooked in today’s society where we all like to criticize other people and their solutions but we never try to find our own solution, probably for the fear of being criticized for it.
In our society the solution is so clear that it’s actually staring us in the face. Regardless of the political regime of the country you live in (mainly democracy or communism) your life and the economy of your country has, most certainly, been affected by capitalism. I’ll make future articles explaining what capitalism actually is and how it affects the world we live in, but for now, you’ll just have to understand that the society we live in has become as unequal and destructive to the environment as it was in the late 1700s when the Industrial Revolution and its baby, the capitalism were in full swing.
A recent study shows that the world’s 26 richest billionaires own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population. Furthermore, in the decade since the financial crisis of 2008, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled  which represents a massive problem for our economy simply because rich people don’t just spring out of the earth, they become rich by taking funds from the poor.
You don’t believe me? Then, take a look at how colonial countries became rich at the expense of their colonies, a practice that still continues to this day. Few people talk about the subject but, as a Romanian, I have witnessed the process by which Western countries get cheap labor and cheap raw materials at the expense of the Eastern countries and Africa or how the USA do the same thing in South America.
The free market bolstered by capitalists leads to inequality and corruption. Followers of this economic system say that capitalism isn’t the problem as it is a system poised to create and encourage performance thus people who fail to gain from it are solely responsible for their failure. By this logic we must blame the starving and illiterate children of Africa for not being able to succeed in life and we must congratulate the wealthy “elite” for inheriting money from their parents and grandparents. Capitalists omit to say that having wealthy parents enables you to get the best education offered by the Western world and start in life without being weighted down by college debt and, if everything else fails, you can just sit down and wait to inherit the large wealth gathered by your rich family. So yeah, let us all gather around and give a standing ovation to the rich “elite” for succeeding in the society that was constructed with the sole purpose of making them succeed. Hip hip…nothing? Ok.
Another popular example given by adepts of the capitalist system is China. China’s rapid growth in terms of economy and infrastructure over the past four decades shows how useful the free market system can be to a country. The downfall is that it also shows the expense of this growth as many people have fallen in extreme poverty over that same period of time .
Capitalists like to state that capitalism is just an ideal and not a real economic or political system therefore if our society has social, political and wealth distribution problems, it is the society’s fault for failing to correctly implement the capitalist ideal. A famous quote from the movie “The Usual Suspects” sounds like this: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist”. Now, this quote can be easily adapted to capitalism as well as capitalists are working hard to try convincing people capitalism doesn’t really exist. While the word capitalism may have not been invented by adepts of the system, the idea of the free market exists and is a very dangerous concept. This free and unregulated market has caused so many social, environmental and even economical problems in the last four decades that only corrupt or naïve people can still support capitalism and the free market notion. After all we’ve witnessed in the recent past it is clear to anyone capable of seeing or hearing that an unregulated and unsanctioned market leads only to corruption.
As I’ve said numerous of times, the solution is simple: the free market needs to be heavily regulated and funds need to be distributed in a more balanced manner. The free market needs to be chained because it has killed people, it has stolen funds and it has destroyed the environment we live in all while getting away with it for decades.
All of us need to take a stand and demand our governments for more protection because if we shout hard enough for long enough our inept leaders will be forced to act. Slavery, racism, misogyny are big parts of our society whether we like it or not and they’re only going away if we receive better education and more money and that is only going to happen once capitalism will be left behind.
The story of Romania’s decay over the last 30 years has become the story of the entire world in this troubled times and we should all learn from it and make a better future for ourselves.