By Caleb T. Maupin
February 20, 2012
As imperialism emerged as a system, a few countries began to dominate and exploit the rest of the world. Among the first to be subjugated were the peoples of Eastern Europe. The vast natural resources and human labor to be found there have long been used to enrich capitalists elsewhere, while the people of Eastern Europe have lived in poverty.
The first and second world wars were caused by what V.I. Lenin called “inter-imperialist rivalries.” The ruling classes of Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Japan and the United States battled each other for the ability to exploit the peoples of the colonies and turn their labor and resources into profits.
In World War II, German imperialism invaded Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, but Hitler’s armies were finally beaten back after enormous sacrifice and losses by the Soviet people. As the Red Army fought its way west, it liberated much of Eastern Europe from fascist regimes.
Romania embarks on socialist road
One of those countries, Romania, had been under fascist rule since 1940. Almost all Romanian socialists and communists in that period were either murdered, sent to concentration camps or fled to the USSR. In 1944, with Germany in retreat, the bourgeoisie of Romania defected from the Axis, brought back the monarchy and joined the Allies. But Soviet troops were occupying Romania. For two years it became a “people’s democracy,” in which the surviving communists attempted to share power with the anti-fascist capitalists and social-democrats. The monarchy remained, though stripped of its power.
However, this alliance was short-lived and unstable. By 1947, King Michael, a puppet of Western capitalists, was forced to flee. The banks, natural resources, factories, land and all other commanding heights of the economy were confiscated. The Romanian Workers Party, later renamed the Communist Party, abolished capitalism and began the struggle to construct socialism.
Even U.S. government sources have to admit that the Communist-led government immediately addressed the needs of the people. “Romania: A Country Study,” published by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, confirms the many advances made during this period.
Between 1950 and 1971, the number of hospital beds per 1,000 people more than doubled in Romania. The number of doctors per 1,000 people increased by 25 percent. The infant mortality rate was reduced by more than 75 percent from 1950 to 1984.
In 1945, only 27 percent of the people were able to read and write. However, by 1966, “illiteracy was eradicated,” according to the Country Study.
By 1970, the number of teachers had tripled and the number of university professors in Romania had gone from only 2,000 before World War II to 13,000.
None of this was accomplished while foreign imperialists and capitalism dominated the country. Only when planning for human needs replaced capitalism were the Romanian working people able to advance so rapidly. The working-class government was able to mobilize the people to combat societal ills and create a better life, no longer restricted by the profit system.
However, in 1989 the Romanian working class suffered an extreme attack. After a right-wing coup d’etat and the execution of President Nicolae Ceausescu, a pro-Western capitalist government was created. The mines and factories of Romania were one by one sold off to the foreign imperialists.
There had no doubt been many problems and contradictions within the Romanian workers’ state that contributed to its eventual demise. The Ceausescu government was not consistently anti-imperialist, even entering into agreements with imperialist countries against other workers’ states. The government wound up heavily in debt to Western banks. It then cut the standard of living drastically in order to repay the debt, putting a heavy burden on the people. However, these departures from socialist development were not caused by the system but by the poverty and underdevelopment of Romania in a world dominated by imperialism.
When, after 1989, the capitalist profit system returned to Romania, unemployment, homelessness and attacks on social services returned with it.
The workers fight back
Some 48.7 percent of the youth in Romania today are at risk of poverty — the highest level in the European Union. (EUobserver.com, Feb. 8)
The health care system in Romania has been “on the verge of collapse.” The country’s hospitals are deeply in debt and routinely run out of basic supplies, such as stitches and antibiotics. (BBC News, Aug. 11, 2010)
Many Romanians have fled the country due to economic hardship. The population of Romania has actually decreased by 12 percent since 2002. (Daily Mail, Feb. 4)
As the global economic crisis unfolds, the capitalist government there, a tool of Western corporations, has responded with “austerity.” The wages of public sector workers have been cut by 25 percent. (Wall Street Journal Blog, Jan. 19)
Today, the revolutionary spirit that drove out the fascists and pushed socialist construction is re-emerging.
A law that would further privatize the health care system sparked uprisings throughout the country. Youth fought police in huge numbers and the controversial bill was scrapped.
Prime Minister Emil Boc, who led the push for cuts in social spending, had to resign on Feb. 6. The leadership of the growing revolt is unclear, but the sentiments are not. Austerity is being opposed by mass resistance.
A poll taken by the Center for the Study of Market and Opinion is quite fascinating. (See balkananalysis.com.) Although commissioned by an anti-communist foundation, the poll, taken in 2011, showed that “half the country” agreed that “life was better in Romania before 1989.” In addition, 61 percent said “communism is a good idea.”
An overwhelming 72 percent of respondents felt the state should provide employment — which the workers’ government did during the period of socialist construction, but the current government does not.
At this moment, Romania is once again a neocolony, owned and controlled by Western capitalists. It is saddled with $150 billion in foreign debt and austerity imposed from above. The polls and the massive upsurge and demonstrations show that many Romanian workers are clearly thinking about breaking their chains once again.