13 September 2000, Volume
RADICAL POLITICS IN EAST CENTRAL EUROPE?????PART VIII: Radical Continuity in Romania:
The Greater Romania Party (B)
Continuing the scrutiny of radical continuity formations in Romania (see "East European Perspectives," Vol. 2, no. 16, 16 August 2000), this section concludes the examination of this category's most emblematic exponent in that country--the Greater Romania Party (PRM). It also examines the closely-related case of the Socialist Labor Party (PSM).
That the PRM was gradually transformed into a haven for those embittered military and particularly "Securitate" officers who were either not re-installed in the new Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) or were later eliminated from it, as well as from the armed forces, was an "open secret" to anyone following the repeated leak of information on political adversaries by the PRM, whose sources could not be doubted. The "secret," however, was well-guarded by PRM's political allies for as long as their alliance lasted. Once the conflict between Tudor and then-President Ion Iliescu broke out, Iliescu's cronies suddenly "discovered" that the PRM included--as Dumitru Iliescu (not related to the president) the former chief of the Romanian Protection and Guard Services put it in 1995-- "compromised elements" who, under Tudor's protection, "were repeating their earlier performance of stirring up social tension in Romanian society" ("Evenimentul zilei," 20 July 1995).
Similarly, according to then-SRI chief Virgil Magureanu, "some officers who are today on reserve and who had belonged to our structures of the Romanian Intelligence Service" had "placed themselves in conservative, I would say ultraconservative positions, being incapable of overcoming old mentalities, which led to their dismissal." The fact that these elements had joined Tudor's party, Magureanu added, was "not accidental." These were "old ties" dating back to Tudor's activity as a "Securitate" informer. Making the little credible claim that he had only recently learned about Tudor's past, Magureanu further commented that while dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had ruled over a "party state," Tudor's links with these formerly high-ranking military and intelligence officers justified PRM's description as being "a party that is a state within an existing state," based on a "paramilitary" structure. This, Magureanu said, was a danger to democracy and the PRM leader had taken advantage of the "too lenient attitude" that had been displayed toward him by the authorities ("Adevarul," 16 January 1996).
In January and, again, in February 1999, the miners once more started marching on Bucharest and were stopped only after clashes with the forces of order. Tudor's party was suspected of being directly involved in the clashes, as well as in undermining, through its sympathizers in the Interior Ministry, the initial attempt of the forces of order to stop the miner's march. According to politologist Dan Pavel (2000, p. 3), the PRM was "directly and indirectly implicated in inciting and in organizing" those marches. The suspicions were never proved, but Tudor was suspended for 30 days from the Senate, from whose podium he had read out an open letter addressed to the miners, in which he said, among other things, that Constantinescu will "soon be behind the same bars" as miners' leader Miron Cozma, who had served an 18 month initial sentence for the role he played in bringing down the Petre Roman government in 1991 (after the 1999 clashes, in what can easily be viewed as a decision influenced by those events, the sentence was turned into 18 years in prison). Tudor had recruited Cozma to join the PRM in 1997, in an obvious attempt to increase his own and the party's popularity among those working in this hard-hit sector of the Romanian economy. He has often incited the miners (as well as other workers) to strike and protest using violent means, being in this respect quite similar to Poland's Andrzej Lepper. But in the early 1999 circumstances, Cozma initially announced he was "temporarily suspending" his membership in the PRM to preclude rumors that the miners were being manipulated by Tudor's party. By then, however, Cozma had become more of a ballast than an advantage for Tudor's party, and the PRM leader serenely expelled him from the formation for "bringing the party into disrepute" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 1997, 12, 13, 21 and 29 January 1999, 16 and 17 February 1999).
But the PRM leader continues to pose as the main defender of the miners' plight, which is real in view of the disaffection of unproductive mines in the Jiu Valley and elsewhere by the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR)-led governments. For Tudor, however, the miners' sufferance also provides an opportunity for Holocaust minimization. In February 2000, "Romania mare" announced that "in solidarity with the miners," Tudor will burn his Senate member ID card in the Jiu Valley. He never did that, but in making the announcement, the weekly wrote that the "Constantinescu regime has transformed the Jiu Valley into a Nazi extermination camp. Auschwitz, of course, was terrible, but those poor people died within seconds in gas chambers, in a sort of cursed euthanasia, while in the valley killing is lent, sadistic, prolonged. Compared to Emil Constantinescu, Dr. Mengele was 'a gentleman'" ("Romania mare," 18 February 2000).
Tudor's "liaisons dangereuses" however, extend beyond Romania's borders. In late March 1997, alongside Hungarian Justice and Life Party leader Istvan Csurka and Slovak National Party leader Jan Slota, he attended a Strasbourg congress of the French National Front, where he stated that his party "adheres without hesitation" to the front's programs and ideas and called for a "brotherhood alliance" between the two formations. The birth of a "Nationalist International," he said on that occasion, was now "imminent." Le Pen's then deputy, Dominique Chaboche, visited Bucharest in early 1997 and said the front and the PRM were "ideologically tied" to each other in the struggle against a united Europe and "the idea of globalization dictated by the U.S." In Strasbourg, Tudor invited Jean-Marie Le Pen to visit Romania, and the French leader attended a PRM congress in November of that year, telling the gathering that nationalism was the only doctrine that can successfully oppose the U.S. "hegemonic plans for a New World Order" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 11 April, 20 August and 10 November 1997). "Romania mare" has repeatedly published articles by Gustav Pordea, a former National Front deputy to the European Parliamentary Assembly representing Le Pen's Front. Pordea, who is of Romanian origin, was eventually revealed to have been a "Securitate" agent.
On 10 March 2000, his article attacking "globalization" was published by "Romania mare" side-by-side with a tract authored by Viorel Roman, the title of which ("Haider=Hitler?") told the whole story. A frequent contributor to PRM's weeklies who subcribed to Tudor's anti-Roma "proposals" (Totok, 1998), and who often emphasizes historic divisions according to race and religion carrying a clear anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, but also anti-Hungarian tone (Voicu, 1999a, p. 66, 1999b, p. 69), Viorel Roman in 1992 was identified by the now defunct National Peasant Party Christian Democratic daily "Dreptatea" as being both a vice chairman of the Marshal Antonescu League and a "zealous Securitate officer during [Ceausescu's so-called] 'golden age'" ("Dreptatea," 6 May 1992). The allegation cannot be proved, but Viorel Roman, who has a minor position on the staff of Bremen University, was turned by Tudor's weeklies into an academic giant of sorts. It was thanks to Roman's efforts that Tudor had secured an invitation to address a seminar at Bremen University, an occasion turned by "Romania mare" into a world intellectual event. More recently, Tudor has proudly announced he has been designated by a Cambridge-based bio-bibliographical entrepreneurship as belonging to the 2,000 most important intellectuals of the last century. The diploma awarded him on the occasion was reproduced in "Romania mare" on 17 March 2000. One week earlier, Tudor had announced that the same "institute" (which he chose to affiliate to the prestigious university in the same town) had designated him "Man of Year 2000." The explanation is simple: the Cambridge based entrepreneur, ready to exploit personal vanities, is, indeed, offering both (and more) to anyone willing to pay the price, and Tudor must have applied to more than one of the awards on offer. The author of these lines has also received that offer, which, however, he sagely ignored, thus avoiding Tudor's rather dubious company.
Led by Ilie Verdet, a former premier under Ceausescu, the PSM was set up in November 1990 and was registered with the Bucharest Tribunal in January 1992. At its third congress, held in February 1996, it claimed a membership of 260,000 (Eskenasy, 1997, p. 288), but the figure was probably inflated. After the 1992 elections, the PRM and the PSM founded the National Bloc faction in the Senate. Verdet aside, the most prominent member of the PSM until 1998 was Adrian Paunescu who, like Tudor, was a former "court poet" of the Ceausescu family. Paunescu owned both the weekly "Totusi iubirea" and the daily "Vremea," both of which often carried nationalist articles, sometimes under Paunescu's signature. In February 1996 he was chosen by the PSM to run against Iliescu in the next presidential contest. He performed very poorly, and won the support of only 0.69 percent of the electorate. The parliamentary elections of 1996 turned out to be a debacle for the PSM. In the former parliament, the party had obtained 3.03 percent of the votes for the Chamber of Deputies and 3.18 percent of those for the Senate. In 1996, however, it failed to pass the 3 percent electoral hurdle, winning 2.16 percent in the vote for the Senate and 2.15 percent of those cast for the Chamber of Deputies ("Cronica romana," 8 November 1996). The debacle can be attributed in part to the polarization of the electorate. Supporters of the left had opted for the then-ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), and those of the center-right for the umbrella organization of the democratic opposition, the CDR, which emerged as the strongest faction in parliament, and whose candidate, Emil Constantinescu, won the presidential contest. Paunescu himself resigned his executive deputy chairmanship position in the party in 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 1998), and eventually left the party altogether. With its resources drastically reduced and its most eloquent propagandists gone, the party lost a lot of its former prominence, but none of the notes that justify its taxonomization as a radical continuity formation.
The PSM-PRM collaboration, attesting to their common character, has continued after the PSM's elimination from the ranks of parliamentary formations. In February 1997, the two parties signed an agreement whereby Tudor's formation undertook to represent in the legislature the PSM's positions as well. Verdet said on the occasion that he was glad the two parties have had the "sagacity of overcoming some small ideological differences" and presented the agreement in palingenetic terms as being aimed at "Romania's salvation."
The "ideological differences" were indeed small, if any. Although the PSM did not at the end join the Great Alliance for the Resurrection, it was among its initiators (Mediafax, 17 September 1997). The PSM embraced practically identical positions with those whose main spokesman was Tudor. On 21 September 1997, Paunescu was addressing a rally of Romanian nationalists in Transylvania's Targu Mures protesting the UDMR's influence on the government, whom he accused of acquiescing into Romania's "transformation into a [Hungarian] colony" and claimed that the town's ethnic Hungarians were planning "a repeat" of the March 1990 interethnic clashes. Attending a rally in Cluj the next day organized by Gheorghe Funar, the town's nationalist mayor, Paunescu expressed the hope that "we shall celebrate the outlawing of the UDMR one year from now," and in a letter jointly signed with Funar after the rally, he protested against the ethnic Hungarian party's alleged involvement in the "chasing away of Romanian ethnics" from Harghita and Covasna counties where the Hungarian minority is in the majority (Radio Bucharest, 21 September, "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September, and "Ziua," 23 September 1997).
Like the PRM and the PUNR, the PSM opposed both the Hungarian and the Ukrainian basic treaties, the first because it allegedly offered too many rights to the Hungarian minority, the second because it precluded territorial revisionism. Paunescu called the signing of the treaty with Hungary a "capitulation" to Hungarian and Western pressure and said that then-President Iliescu had become "Hungary's new foreign minister" by agreeing to conclude the pact ("OMRI Daily Digest," 30 August and 16 September 1996). In fact, the PSM's positions on the territories lost by Romania as a result of the 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov pact are indistinguishable from those of Tudor's party (see Shafir, 1996; Radio Bucharest, 12 May and 26 June 1997; A.R. Press, 16 June 1997). As early as May 1992, Janos Fazekas, a prominent PCR official under Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, who was eclipsed under Ceausescu, resigned from the PSM, protesting its position on the Hungarian ethnic minority (Shafir, 1993, p. 19). Nor are the two parties' positions on "globalization" and opposition to what is regarded as the "plundering" of Romanian assets by foreigners aided by local capitalists very different either. Addressing a relatively small audience that marked the party's foundation anniversary in November 1999, Verdet spoke of Romania having been transformed by her present rulers into a "colony under a protectorate (sic!)," with her inhabitants having been turned into "the guinea pigs of IMF experiments" (Mediafax, 20 November 1999). Tudor could have sued Verdet for plagiarism. But the PSM goes one step further than the PRM would be willing to openly embrace as its "economic doctrine," with Verdet not hesitating to call for a revival of "five-year plans" and a "return to centralized planning and forecasting of economic performance," as he told journalists in July 1997 (A.R. Press, 28 July 1997). Both the PSM and the PRM claim to be partisans of a "mixed economy" with the state holding a "preponderate position" in "strategic economic sectors" ("Adevarul," 9 June 1997 for the PSM; the PRM economic program, launched in February 1999, on the PRM website: http://www. romare.ro). The difference is that while the PRM attracts a relatively large audience, the PSM has practically disappeared from the political map after Paunescu left it, and pollsters do not even mention the party in surveys conducted in 1999-2000.
After the departure of Paunescu, the PSM is not known to have taken a position on the rehabilitation drive for Marshal Antonescu, but in 1997, shortly after Prosecutor-General Sorin Moisescu, under U.S. pressure, stopped a bid to rehabilitate, post-mortem, eight members of the Antonescu cabinet (see "Adevarul," 21 November 1997; "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 24 November 1997), Paunescu deemed the decision "a shameful, humiliating, and sad page" in the country's history, attesting to the government's subordination to foreign orders ("National," 25 November 1997).
Sharing so many things in their past and present, one wonders what stops the two former "court poets" from joining forces. One possible explanation rests precisely in their resemblance to one another, both obviously suffering from overinflated egos. When, in April 1997, the PSM rejected a first attempt by Paunescu to resign in face of criticism, he noted with satisfaction: "I could not believe that a group of rational and intelligent people would accept to lose a man like me" (Radio Bucharest, 6 April 1997). Similarly, Tudor would note ("Romania mare," 25 February 2000) that he was "born to be a 'Conducator'" (Leader), and that this was precisely why he had added the name "Vadim" to that his parents had given him at birth. Vadim, he claimed, had Slavic roots, deriving from "rukovoditel" (leader). He hastened, however, to add that he had been inspired from the name of a Russian dissident, rather than from that of the film director who forged Brigitte Bardot.
No Russian dissident, however, is Tudor's model for "Conducator." Rather, his models come from Romania's recent past. They are Marshal Antonescu and President Ceausescu, both of whom carried that title, though figures from the more remote past, such as Vlad the Impaler (himself a Ceausescu favorite) are sometimes also added to the gallery of the PRM leader's model heroes. This adds an additional perspective to "the Righteous'" self-description of Tudor, to his being surrounded by former high-ranking officers, but also to his "solutions" to Romania's economic problems. Shortly before launching his party, addressing a meeting of "Vatra romaneasca" sympathizers on Romania's national day, the would-be "Conducator," commenting on the alleged dangers posed to Romania by Hungary and the Hungarian minority in the country, said that "if the present serious situation continues to be ignored," the "patriotic writers" who had gathered around the weekly "Romania mare" "will propose that a military, serious national governance be established for two years at least, for the purpose of saving Romania." Military councils, he said, would then take over day-to-day management in all administrative counties, which would end "economic sabotage" and "make people work" ("Romania mare," 14 December 1990). When the miners descended on Bucharest in September 1991, causing the dismissal of the Petre Roman cabinet, Tudor again said that "the only solution for overcoming the crisis and safeguarding the nation is to set up a transitional, predominantly military government" ("Romania mare," 13 September 1991).
By 1995, when he decided to run for president, Tudor had also donned the mantle of the "people's tribune." In the column signed by Tudor in "Romania mare" under the pseudonym "Alcibiade," he now referred to himself alternatively as "the Righteous" and "the Tribune," but both postures were obviously intended to pave the way for his becoming the country's "Conducator." And, as his predecessors to that title, he made it clear that unlike Ion Iliescu, his ally-turned-rival in the presidential contest, once elected he would not be surrounded by "reddish-bearded," that is to say Jewish, counselors (interview with Tudor in "Cronica romana," 14 June 1995). An article in the PRM weekly "Politica" (15 July 1995) singing Tudor's praise in terminology that was carbon-copied from the "cult of personality" dictionary used under Ceausescu, compared him with the 1848 hero of the Romanian uprising in Transylvania, Avram Iancu, but also to Marshal Antonescu. Tudor, the author wrote, was "the Righteous, only he can be tomorrow's Marshal Antonescu, who would make order in Romania."
Addressing his party's National Council on 16 September 1995 (Romanian radio, 16 September 1995), Tudor said that in the 1996 elections the PRM would run under two slogans: "Unity in Abundance" and "Two years of Authoritarian Rule." Giving vent to his favorite "anti-globalization" and anti-foreign theme that he shares with many other "radicals,"--both East and West, from Zhirinovsky to Le Pen--he insisted that Romania was "humiliated" and turned into a "colony" by "traitors" and "gangsters" serving foreign interests who were forcing the country to "endlessly mime a so-called democracy, copied in parrot-like manner from the West." The proposed "two years of authoritarian rule" (Zhirinovsky's inspiration was unmistakable, see "East European Perspectives," Vol. 2, no. 9, 10 May 2000) were to create the premise for the "abundance." During those two years, he would mercilessly hunt down "the impostors and the traitors." Once elected president, they would be given one week to "pack off and leave," and failure to comply would turn the new president into "a second Vlad the Impaler," the 15th century Wallach prince better known in the West as "Count Dracula." To those familiar with Tudor's "crusades," this was at least in part an allusion to Petre Roman's Jewish roots, at a time when the former premier was also a rival in the presidential contest.
Asked by a journalist in October 1996 what would happen if in the presidential contest next month there is a runoff that he does not make, Tudor replied that in that case he would ask his supporters to "vote for Marshal Antonescu" ( "OMRI Daily Digest," 23 October 1996). As a matter of fact, the marshal's figure loomed large over the initial, 8 September 1995 announcement of the PRM's electoral slogans. On that occasion Tudor again denied that Antonescu was in any way responsible for ordering the massacre of Jews. On the contrary, he said, "hundreds of thousands of Jews...owe their lives" to the marshal and hastened to add that it was "outrageous" for Jews to "claim from Romania restitution or compensation of billion of dollars" (which has never been the case) "for an invented Holocaust." A "genuine Holocaust," on the other hand, was currently under way in Bosnia-Herzegovina, he said, where NATO strikes had transformed that organization, as well as the UN, into "executioners of the Serbian people and into murderers of children." In view of these developments, he added, a referendum should ask the Romanian people whether they still wished to join NATO, "whose hands are stained with the blood of Iraqi and Serbian infants" ("OMRI Daily Digest," 11 September 1995).
Yet by March 2000, when he again announced his presidential candidacy, Tudor appeared to have changed his mind on EU and NATO integration. He explained the about-face by making reference to international reaction to Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Austria after Joerg Haider's Freedom Party had joined the coalition headed by Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel. One cannot "swim against the stream," he admitted, in what sounded like an "if you cannot beat them, join them" statement (see Ratesh, 2000). The "river" described by Tudor on the occasion was one on which "conspiracies" had diverted its natural course. The world was facing an attempt to impose "globalization" by "brutality." A "World Government" possessing "all access to political, financial, and monetary power has come into being in the last 10 years." The "cabal" was mercilessly dealing with anyone who dared oppose it. Its first victims, according to Tudor, had been Ceausescu and Panamanian President Manuel Noriega, who, "under a flood of lies" had been turned by the U.S. into a "drug trafficker." He himself was also receiving death threats, Tudor added.
It was, however, too early to tell where "globalization" would lead, since there seemed to be different powers at work among its supporters. Some of its proponents "from the U.S. and Israel" believe that globalization would enable them to "monitor Europe." European proponents, on the other hand, believe that the unification of the continent would make it possible for them to "successfully oppose the danger of enforced Americanization and loss of identity." His heart, he went on to say, told him that Romania's interests would have been best served by joining the block of "Non-Aligned States." But that bloc "has disappeared." A small country like Romania had no other choice, then, but to accept European integration. "This is no capitulation, but 'realpolitik,'" the more so as Romania would be unable to emulate Yugoslavia's "sublime, but futile...79-day long resistance." Romania "would not resist even 79 minutes, not because we lack the courage...not even because of its 'traitors' who would have immediately betrayed it," but because of its "ancient political instinct." That instinct, "which some call Byzantinism," the PRM leader said, had always enabled Romanians "not to ruin the Country (sic!) for the sake of illusions." They had survived as an independent nation because they had accepted historic vicissitudes, much unlike Hungary, which had twice been "wiped off the map," or Poland, which had suffered that fate three times.
What was now important was for Romanian politicians to "negotiate conditions for joining the EU to their last drop of blood." And the PRM, he said, remains opposed to any integration that would not respect its specific conditions. The EU has to understand that Romania is "a Latin country that is still bleeding territorially," whose "brethren in Bessarabia and Bukovina" had "reached the limit of endurance." As such, Romania had "the moral right to have a modern, peaceful, luminous national movement"--that is to say his own movement. Furthermore, it was the Europeans' duty to aid Romania to "save" its brethren in Bessarabia (i.e. Moldova) and Bukovina (i.e. Ukraine) ("Romania mare," 10 March 2000). And, as Tudor clarified shortly thereafter, this "moral duty" was not limited to EU monitoring of respect for human rights. Europe's borders, he said, "must move from River Prut [the border with the Republic of Moldova] to River Dniester [Moldova's border with Ukraine]" (Radio Bucharest, 17 March 2000).
What brought about the sudden change was not difficult to see. As a Romanian sociologist accurately diagnosed the metamorphosis, it was the united front the EU had displayed towards the "Haider phenomenon" in Austria. The sociologist, Cristian Ghinea (2000), pointed out that after the Haider precedent no political party would easily dare to offer the PRM a coalition partnership and risk being outcast as Schuessel has been. Indeed, only two days before Tudor decided to "swim with the stream," in an interview with the Antena 1 private television channel, he criticized the international community's "disregard" of the Austrian electorate's vote and will, which he said amounted to an "infringement of Austrian sovereignty." Austria, he said, is the "country of Mozart, [who is] an angel, a god," and cannot be treated as if it were "a schoolgirl who did not do her homework." Haider had spoken up against his country's being turned into a "transit hotel," and he was right, just as Le Pen is right when he complains that in France, a catholic country, there are more mosques than in Libya, Tudor said (the interview is reproduced in "Romania mare," 17 March 2000). And in February, "Romania mare" was writing that with typical "nerve" Jewry had "staged" against Haider a scandal "alleging that his forefathers had acquired a house that had belonged to a rabbi at a dump price and that he now must return it." That the Haider family acquired property under the "Aryanization laws" has long been known, but according to the PRM weekly the "scandal" had been triggered only recently, in response to the fact that Haider had dared--in an interview with "The Sunday Times" of London--to accuse Winston Churchill ("the bulldog who sold out [to Stalin] the peoples of Eastern Europe like a herd") of war crimes for having ordered the destruction of Dresden ("Romania mare," 18 February 2000). Even after Tudor had delivered his "swimming with the stream" speech, "Politica" (11 March 2000) was still writing that Haider had been right in both making the affirmation that the Nazis had transformed Germany into an economically prosperous country and that members of the SS troops had been the best soldiers in World War II.
In his "portrait of the PRM," Ghinea pointed out that the party is often perceived as a formation dominated by its leader. There are good grounds for that perception, I hasten to add. When Radu Theodoru, in 1992, and Dan Ioan Mirescu, in 1996, both members of the party's Steering Committee, quarreled with Tudor, they were "quashed" by vulgar innuendoes, to which they responded in kind. The PRM is indeed a party based on the "Fuehrerprinzip," but one where the "Prinzip" is intertwined with impudence. The curses exchanged on the two occasions attested to what extent the discourse of the formation is a mirror of semi-urbanity. But Ghinea accurately pointed out that it is wrong to reduce the PRM to just the domineering posture of its leader. In what is possibly the best radiography of the PRM as a radical continuity party that has ever been produced, he wrote that the PRM "is more than that--it is a group of the former cadres of the PCR [Romanian Communist Party] and the 'Securitate' at its apex, combined with a state of mind at its base." The party "channels the frustration of part of the population" into "a stream that is destructive for the entire [democratic] system." The PRM does not merely attract the "society's marginalized." All public opinion surveys indicate that no significant occupational or age breaks single out its supporters from those backing other parties. Rather, what singles them out is the perception that Romania is "marching on the wrong path." No less than 80 percent of the PRM supporters share this opinion. The PRM is the party of the losers in post-communist Romania, those who "mistrust their fellow countrymen and their neighbors," and who are persuaded that "the majority of those who have money are profiteers who exploit the rest."
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