Romania, Socialist Republic Of
- In accordance with the regional pattern, following the close of World War II Romania found itself embracing Marxism–Leninism as espoused by the Soviet Union. At the behest of Moscow, a communist government was installed in Budapest in March of 1945. The Soviets immediately set about pillaging Romania’s natural resources, with the creation of the SOVROM agency in July to manage the expropriation of land and redistribution to the Soviet Union of foodstuffs. Despite the lack of ground support for the communists, such was the influence of the Soviet Union that by February 1948 the Romanian monarchy had been abolished and the Romanian Communist Party (RCP, then the Romanian Workers’ Party) had assumed absolute control of the country’s congress. The RCP embarked on a period of concerted Sovietization, nationalizing industry and financial institutions, beginning a mass collectivization program and creating a rigid, centralized economic system governed by target-led five-year plans. A constitution mirroring that of the Soviet Union was adopted in April 1948, and a Stalinist wave of elimination and terror, signaled by the creation of the Securitate secret police, took hold of society. The education system, the arts, culture and religion became mere mouthpieces of the righteousness of Marxist–Leninist ideals. The army was expanded and reformed into a force identical to the Soviet Red Army, and a commissarial structure of governance implemented, making the state subordinate to the RCP and the RCP to its general secretary. By the start of the 1950s, Romania had developed into a fully fledged satellite state of the Soviet Union, a status confirmed by Budapest’s signing of the Warsaw Pact in 1955.Romanian devotion to the orthodox Stalinist line was emphasized from 1956, the year in which the new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev heavily criticized the regime of his predecessor Josef Stalin. Where other Soviet satellite states used the denunciation to undergo a number of liberalizing and anti-Stalinist reforms, then General Secretary Georghe Gheorghiu-Dej and his RCP perceived no need for change, fearing it would undermine their reign. While they did bend slightly (for example, state terror was decelerated), the economy remained firmly command-based and centralized, and Romanian nationalism was employed to reassert any legitimacy lost through Khrushchev’s potentially damaging words. There was to be no concerted effort to de-Stalinize as elsewhere, with the RCP using the opportunity to reaffirm both its grip on power, and the sway of Marxist–Leninist ideals in Romania. In adhering to the politics of the pre-Khrushchev Soviet Union, Romanian relations with Moscow began to worsen. This was further compounded in 1964 when GheorghiuDej, who died the following year, signed an April Declaration that avowed individual nation’s right to pursue their own domestic routes to communism free from Soviet interference.On inheriting Gheorghiu-Dej’s position as general secretary, Nicolae Ceaus,escu began to further distance Romania from the Soviet Union, and steered the country towards a form of communist nationalism. The detachment developed into a rift towards the end of the 1960s, with Ceaus,escu’s scathing attack on Soviet intervention in the 1968 Prague Spring. The final push for the RCP to pursue an independent, nationalist route to communism came following a demand from the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries for Romania to halt its rapid industrialization program and concentrate on becoming the agricultural backbone of the region. This notion was abhorred by the defiantly Marxist–Leninist RCP, which in line with that ideology saw the creation of a militant urban proletariat as the route to communism. Its loyalty to the Stalinist mantra of breakneck industrialization to create this proletariat meant the chances of it consenting to the diktat were finite. Ceaus,escu ordered instead an increase in industrial production, and began to utilize the ideas of separatist intellectuals to ideologically underpin the move towards independence, and to promote Romanian nationalist communism, or rather Stalinism.Despite the RCP consistently pursuing an orthodox Marxist–Leninist line throughout its existence, in his early years Ceaus,escu was to an extent a liberalizing force, presiding over cultural, economic and diplomatic reforms that led to visits from United States presidents including Richard Nixon. Such recognition from the West gave credence to one of the underpinning notions of Ceaus,escu’s nationalist Stalinism, that it would lead Romania to a more prestigious world position. However, from 1971 the emphasis was replaced on intense Stalinism and all the trappings of intolerance that entailed. Internal control deepened, and any acknowledgement of private enterprise that had occurred in the formative years of Ceaus,escu’s reign was discarded. The general secretary used RCP and state organs to build up a cult of personality around him and his wife Elena, instigating a brief “cultural revolution” in November 1971, and three years later obligating the Romanian Grand National Assembly to elect him the first ever president of Romania. Despite such clear devotion to Stalinism, Ceaus,escu continued to forward his country’s world position, and in 1975 Romania became the first communist country ever to gain most-favored-nation trade status with the United States. The nationalist element of Ceaus,escu’s doctrine had clearly not been sidelined but merely forgotten behind a cloud of Stalinist repression, and this was further underlined when he introduced special birth control measures to facilitate a rapid population surge. As the 1980s began Romania faced a looming economic crisis caused by its ever-increasing foreign debt. Ceaus,escu responded with a series of austerity measures designed to hasten repayment, the chief effect of which was a dramatic fall in living standards and the introduction of a rationing system for all basic goods. The impoverished Romanian people grew restless and impatient with Ceaus,escu and his government. The leader responded in an insular manner, turning to his most ardent cronies and family, and attempting to re-legitimize his rule through the use of crass nationalism. He attempted to refresh the cult of personality he and his wife had previously constructed, undertaking a number of measures towards deification aimed at preserving his rule, including an infamous palace construction program in Bucharest that saw 10,000 residents displaced into slums. Such measures were aimed at strengthening Ceaus,escu’s nationalist Stalinism in the face of the emergence of the reformist Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. A program of “systemization” was announced to stifle any last vestiges of an independent peasantry, further harsh economic demands were made, and popular revolts that occurred in response were heavily crushed by the armed forces and secret police. Yet with pressure rising and the inexorable atmosphere of ferment throughout the rest of the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union, Ceaus,escu’s days were numbered. Having called a demonstration for 21 December 1989 to condemn anti-government forces and reassert the validity of nationalist Stalinism, Ceaus,escu took the podium only to be rendered inaudible by the screams of the baying crowd. The next few days saw further demonstrations, before both Nicolae and Elena Ceaus,escu were arrested, summarily tried and found guilty of genocide and the destruction of the Romanian economy, then on 25 December 1989 dramatically executed. The successor government announced liberalizing reforms, and in May 1990 a free general election was won by the National Salvation Front, a group that contained many ex-members of the now outlawed RCP. Romania, in tandem with the rest of the Eastern Bloc, immediately set out on the road to democratization.The Marxism promulgated by the RCP was consistently Stalinist in nature, and from the late 1960s the Romanian regime coupled Stalinism with nationalism in order to tread for Romania an individual path towards communism. Nationalist Stalinism and its chief proponent Nicolae Ceaus,escu consistently ignored the will of Moscow once Stalin had passed away, but could not ignore the tide of change in the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union in 1989.
Historical dictionary of Marxism. David Walker and Daniel Gray . 2014.
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