The ‘New World Order’ Hits Eastern Europe
Thomas Mellen in Romania
The statistical material that the United Nations regularly publishes on the conditions of the majority of the people in Romania (and in the other countries of the ex-socialist bloc) suggests that the restoration of 'democracy' and 'freedom' in these countries has been a phenomenon similar to the 'humanitarian' bombardment of Yugoslavia or the 'human rights' sanctions on Iraq - an ongoing social
catastrophe for ordinary people, dressed up by our rulers as a righteous act of progress and liberation.
The Price of 'Democracy'
According to a report published recently by the United Nations Development Program, the situation in the ex-socialist bloc is dire. In the last twelve years, economic output has fallen by more than half, poverty rates have risen more than eight-fold, there has been an escalation in suicides and alcoholism, and previously conquered diseases like tuberculosis have had a resurgence. AIDS has spread
rapidly, and life expectancy for both men and women has dropped dramatically - in some regions of Romania by as much as seven years. In the words of the report:
"The 'transition' in most of the countries in the former Soviet bloc in Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS is a euphemistic term for what in reality has been a Great Depression. The extent of the collapse in output and the skyrocketing nature of inflation have been historically unprecedented. The consequences for human security have been calamitous. By conservative estimates, over 100 million
people have been thrown into poverty, and considerably more hover precariously just above subsistence." (United Nations Development Program Report, 1999)
This economic collapse has had a disastrous effect on the living conditions of the vast majority of ordinary people. It has led to a "remarkable increase in inequality in the distribution of income." Before the process of "economic reform" began, the distribution of income was extremely egalitarian by the standards of capitalism. "During the transition period, however, income differentials have widened considerably and in a number of countries the degree of inequality ... now approaches that of the most inegalitarian of the
developing countries". According to the report, the net result of privatisation has been to "create a small and wealthy capitalist class and a highly polarised society", with a shift in the distribution of income "from labour to capital, as well as a sharp widening of the wage and earning differentials."
And how about Romania in particular? In the last four years alone the gross national product per capita has fallen by almost 10 percent. 45 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The average monthly salary is approximately $100, while inflation runs at 43 percent. On top of all this, prices for basic necessities are increasingly 'dollarised'. As a result, heating, electricity and water have become too expensive for many.
Working class resistance
When the post-socialist Romanian regime implemented the first privatisations of state enterprises, along with drastic spending cuts, it encountered violent resistance from the population. There were countless demonstrations and strikes against low wages, inflation and unemployment. In 1993, the government cut the subsidies for goods and services and thereby provoked an even greater strike movement. In 1994, 2m workers took part in a General Strike. Since then, strikes and working class resistance to the establishment of the free market utopia have been a constant feature of Romanian life. Perhaps most famous of all has been the resistance of the miners.
The movement towards capitalism has had a severe effect on mining. The Jiu valley, which provides 12 percent of the country's supply of coal, now has 16,000 unemployed out of 170,000 inhabitants, an unemployment rate of about 25 percent compared with the national average, which according to official statistics is 10 percent. The miners responded to ongoing attacks on their livelihoods and
communities by marching 300km to Bucharest. Despite violent attacks on them by police and crack anti-insurgency troops, they got within 100km of the capital. Under pressure, the government agreed to meet some of their demands - an end to job losses and wage cuts. However, the leader of the march was arrested on charges of threatening state authority. He has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.
The miners have certainly not been the only sections of the working class fighting against the effects of capitalist restoration. Recently there have been strikes by the workers of Romania's biggest tractor factory, which is being driven into bankruptcy as a precursor to being asset stripped and the work force laid off. This comes at a time when the collective farms of the socialist regime have been
totally disbanded, resulting in a widespread return to subsistence farming, and the utilisation of ploughs pulled by hand, a phenomenon not seen in Romania since the 1960s. Many of the ex-collective farmers have simply not been able to eke a living from their tiny strips of land. A significant number have become homeless, some living in the swelling Roma (gypsy) settlements which are growing into shantytowns outside many provincial capitals.
Teachers have also recently held general strikes, calling for more of the budget to be assigned to the education of the young, which has been in rapid decline since 1989. According to a recent UNICEF report, the proportion of children finishing high school in Romania is today around 80 percent lower than in 1989. (Young People in Changing Societies, UNICEF, 2000) The teachers, who by going on strike
have been representing the interests of the vast majority of the people in Romania, have been threatened with the sack if they do not go back to work. Being made redundant is always a disaster. In a region where, in the words of The Economist: "Many of the new jobs that have been created [in Eastern and Central Europe] … are in low-value-added industries, paying low wages for manual tasks", it is a
catastrophe. (Business Eastern Europe, The Economist Intelligence Unit, Dec 2000) But this is not the worst that working class people face.
A prominent trade union leader, who had spearheaded efforts to prevent large-scale job cuts at a privatised factory in the northeastern Romanian city of Iasi, was stabbed to death as he left his home last year. As news of the killing spread, some 2,000 workers held a mass protest at a local government office. In July, the Romanian newspaper Adevarul said workers had threatened to blow up the factory if their demands to keep their jobs were not met. In November 1999, thousands of workers held a mass rally outside the Palace of Culture (community buildings for working class entertainment and education from the socialist era) in Iasi, hanging pictures of the former Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu on the walls and chanting "Ceausescu - PCR" (Romanian Communist Party). "During his time, we used to have bread and jobs too. Now we are the laughing stock of crooks, thieves and sellers of the country," the protesters
said. (Adevarul, January 2000)
Despite threats of unemployment, imprisonment, and murder by the hired thugs of capital, the working class continues to rebel, both in Eastern Europe, and in the world as a whole. No matter what the ideologues of monopoly capitalism propagate through their media; no matter what fantasies the capitalists entertain, history is not over. The struggle against capitalism has only just begun.
Vă rog să citiți acest text selectat de mine, în speranța că vă poate interesa. Cu prietenie, Dan Culcer