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New International, September 1948


Valentin Toma

Stalinist Terror in Rumania

Real Face of the “Popular Democracy”


From The New International, Vol. XIV No. 7, September 1948, pp. 213–215.
Translated by H.D. [Hal Draper].
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


It seems that the “extraordinary victory won in the parliamentary elections” by the Rumanian “popular democracy” has not sufficed to ease the minds of the new state’s leaders with regard to the solidity of their regime.

Thus at least one can interpret the recent “purge” proclaimed in big speeches by the top Stalinist leader Vasile Luca, the secretary of the united “workers’ party” and minister of finance in the government. “The liquidation of everyone who tries to turn us from our road” – this is the slogan and war cry which has been successfully spread throughout the terrorized, land by Luca, the most sectarian member of the Stalinist ruling gang.

For if Vasile Luca is always found at the side of Ana Pauker, minister of foreign affairs, and of Emil Bodnaras, minister of war, it is because this triumvirate enjoys the complete confidence of the Kremlin. A brief excursion into the biography of this figure will provide us with the key to explain his rise to such power.

Profile of Luca

Of Hungarian nationality, his real name is Luka Laszlo. As a militant CP trade unionist he became acquainted with the anti-working-class repression of the Rumanian oligarchic regime and spent long years in prison. He was liberated in 1940 when Russian troops seized Bukovina, which had been ceded to Stalin. From 1940 to 1944 he was deputy mayor of Czernowitz and a deputy in the Soviet of Nationalities of the same district, which is an area populated by Ukrainians, Rumanians and Jews.

It was in this capacity that Vasile Luca directed the purge which every territory newly acquired by the Russians is obliged to undergo. He participated in the deportation of almost 30,000 citizens of various nationalities from Northern Bukovina to far-distant Asiatic regions of the USSR. Hundreds of socialists were hit by this police measure, when a single word from Vasile Luca could have staved off this disastrous fate for them. But the hatred with which he pursued them even excited the indignation of his own CP comrades.

There is no need to rack one’s brain for the meaning of this slogan of general purge, put forward after an election which was crowned by a victory gained under such shameful conditions. In proportion as the regime takes on a more and more totalitarian character, the Rumanian citizen can detect the characteristic features of every Russian satellite under the mask of the “popular democracy.”

Russification Goes On

It is not without uneasiness that the average Rumanian sees the Russian uniform on his own country’s soldiers; and he cannot fail to be shocked when he reads in the newspapers that the new hierarchy of the army is strictly modeled after the military setup of the powerful neighbor to the east.

He is obliged to note also the same process of Russian adaptation in the civil administration. In place of the former undersecretaries of state there are now (following the Russian model) “deputy ministers.” And this change seems to him all the more disturbing and suspicious when he sees former collaborationists among these new dignitaries.

To cite only a single example: the deputy minister for university education is none other than a very well-known extreme Rightist who has now jumped on the Stalinist bandwagon. And there is the old Rumanian proverb to remind one that though wolves may change their skin they do not change their ways.

Anecdotes making the rounds illustrate the fact that the Rumanians are not simply dupes in complete dependence on their government. Being anonymous they cannot be controlled by any censorship. A typical one goes as follows:

One day, right in the principal street of Bucharest, Prime Minister Petre Groza is walking with opened umbrella, under a cloudless sky with the sun shining brightly. A friend meets him and, astonished, asks the reason for this needless precaution. “Why, that’s simple,” replies the prime minister. “I’ve just heard over Radio Moscow that the whole of Moscow is at this very moment covered by a torrential rain.”

The urge to imitate the Russian pattern also motivated the creation of the “Order of Labor.” Among the intellectuals recently decorated are to be found especially the faithful interpreters of the new Stalinist catechism, the troubadors of slavery, the Singers of Praises to the glory of that genial father of the peoples, the victorious Marshal Stalin.

Pen Prostitutes

Who make up this glorious circle of literary lights? Above all, journalists who have long specialized in serving any foreign master whatsoever, plumping for any political creed whatsoever, and accepting payment from any regime whatsoever; it is they who have taken over the prostituted press and the profitable posts at the disposal of the ruling party.

Their compensation consists of the well-known emoluments of all collaborationists. On the other hand, for those who set themselves in opposition to the “popular democratic” line-up there is only repression, designed to convince them of the uselessness of their agitation.

The organs of the Security Police have lately been exceedingly busy. The press was permitted to inform its readers about the arrest of a group of generals, known to be royalists but actually accused of having gotten involved in some dirty deals in their own spheres of work. Among the victims of the repression are also found bourgeois oppositionists – members of the National Peasant Party or the National Liberal Party – who are usually accused of “economic sabotage,” “anti-democratic activity” or simply “espionage.”

CP Heretics Purged

Under the pretense of “strengthening working-class unity,” the new prisons have been filled with leaders of the socialist movement, and even old CP militants have been arrested. The leader of the independent socialist party Titel Petresco and the secretary of the same opposition party Dumitriu figure among the victims now being saved up for future show trials, now in preparation. Mironesco-Mera, a former socialist undersecretary in the government and a leader of the teachers’ union, who was expelled from the party as a “right-wing socialist,” is in the same boat. The real (but unadvertised) crime for which he is being punished is the role he played in uncovering and denouncing the celebrated scandal involving the ORAP (central bureau for the distribution of fur and leather); the Stalinists ran this racket and were its principal beneficiaries.

Taking place without publicity is the liquidation of the old CP cadres who have shown recalcitrance in the face of the new regime. Yet a bit leaks out from time to time about the terrible fate of the best-known figures. For example there is the disappearance of an old militant who used to occupy a leading post in the organization of the Jewish minority; there is the case of the head of the economic police of Bucharest; there is the economist (a university professor) who was expelled from the party and fired from his job a year ago and who recently died in prison.

The same fate was suffered by the former leader of the artisans’ union, who has been known for his political heresies and his opposition to the CP leadership. (On the list of liquidatees is also a boulevard journalist, a vile collaborator of the regime, who is accused of having put through certain dubious deals on. behalf of some members of the Russian control commission.)

A number of militants of the unified party, under suspicion of having continued their activities as a socialist group, have been hit by the purge and disappear in the numerous prisons – camps set up for the opponents of the regime.

Among the new victims is also the former minister of justice, Patrascano, a Communist leader of the old school. An orthodox Leninist, he was excluded from public life and from his post as university professor. Patrascano is the author of the theoretical work Under Three Dictatorships, which he wrote during an enforced sojourn under the surveillance of the Nazi regime of Antonesco: is he now going to get a chance to continue his analysis of the fourth Rumanian dictatorship? Or will his be the fate of Stefan Foris, former general secretary of the illegal Communist Party, who has disappeared tracelessly in the dungeons of Bodnaras’ secret police?

The “Social Conquests”

The self-styled “popular democracy” begins its career by applying the classic formula of totalitarianism – terror.

As far as concerns “social progress” and “the socialist conquests of the working class,” we need only cite a little example. It refers to the Rumanian miners, who have for many years enjoyed solid trade-union organization. Of all Rumanian workers they were truly the most class-conscious and the best fighters; and they were pretty much assured of real gains by the firmness of their political education.

Under the new regime they have begun to lose these gains one after the other. Under the guise of the so-called price-reduction policy, the government has fixed and imposed new production norms – by ministerial ukase – seemingly forgetful of the fact that even in the old capitalist regime these norms used to be established only after many discussions between the workers’ and employers’ representatives.

But that is how they are replacing the existing labor agreements with new ones – by peremptory orders transmitted through bureaucratic channels, orders which the worker has no right even to discuss, under pain of being mercilessly thrown out and liquidated.

Terror and Want

In the majority of the mining enterprises, by heroic struggles of legendary proportions against the bosses, the workers had won the right of portal-to-portal pay. By a single stroke of the pen the “workers’ and peasants’ government” has wiped out this gain, and now the workers again bear the whole cost in energy and time of traveling to and from their place of work.

The “social conquests” signify, in the language of the “popular democracy,” the abolition of the workers’ right to participate in determining their working conditions. In this strange “democracy” it is the state alone which fixes wage rates; and there is no channel through which anyone can complain about the unjust scale of wages – such a scale as not even the most bestial of fascist dictatorships ever had the courage to propose.

In the same showy way the government puts out blustering propaganda in its controlled press about the so-called reduction in prices on some articles. In the first place, this reduction is infinitesimal. In the second place, it merely masks the brutal reality that these prices are three times (or more) as high as pre-war prices, whereas most wages have been officially pegged at 46 per cent of 1939 figures. On the market this fake price reduction only distantly affects the articles of bare necessity for the mass of people, whose purchasing power is extremely reduced. All in all, much ado about nothing!

Terror and want – this is the face of the Rumanian “popular democracy” of the Stalinists.

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