Monday, December 21, 2009

The Chimes of Freedom: Timi-soara ... Timi-soara ...Timi-soara

On that freezing day 20 years ago, a crowd of Bucharesters had been coralled into Piaţa Palatului, since then gloriously renamed Piaţa Revoluţiei, to be harangued by the semi-senile despot, Nicolae Ceausescu.

At some point during Ceasescu's rant, something amazing happened. Someone, identified by Victor Sebestyen as a taxi-driver called Adrian Donea, shouted "Timisoara", the name of the Transylvanian city where, five days earlier, protests had broken out at government attempts to evict the popular pastor, Lazlo Tokes. The crowd took up the chant: Timi-soara ... Timi-soara ... Timi-soara.

Perched on his balcony far from the people, the dictator froze. The moment of indecision would prove fatal. The chanting grew ever louder. Behind him, his minders scurried around in panic. He spread his hands pleadingly. To no avail; the crowd seemed to be screaming. He gestured again for calm. The screaming continued. Moments later he backed out of the balcony into the doorway. Presently, the crowds and television cameras would see a helicopter, carrying Ceausescu and his hated wife, Elena, taking off from the rooftop.

Let's, for now, forget the extra-judicial farce which was the Ceausescus' show trial - it lasted just an hour - and even worse, their apalling execution. It suffices to note that thus was the revolution disgraced. And let's leave the matter of post-revolution Romania to one side.

Instead let us dwell on this moment, when fear melted away.



Blogger David Lindsay said...

"Citizens of the European Union" proclaimed Huw Edwards before a report on the Romanian orphanages, as bad as twenty years ago and with many of the same individuals still stuck in them. Being a "Citizen of the European Union", rather than a human being simply as such, is now what matters. So, a fat lot of good the last great Soviet-backed coup was. And a fat lot of good the European Union is.

Romania was not part of the Soviet Bloc. It had a ghastly regime (not least from the point of view of the valiant Byzantine Rite Catholics), but not a Soviet satellite one. In fact, that regime had particularly close ties to Britain. To our shame, but there we are. English and French, rather than Russian, were taught in schools. No Romanian troops participated in putting down the Prague Spring. More than once, the Soviet Union came to the brink of invading Romania. There was absolutely no question of giving back Moldavia, which is now the Romanian-speaking western part of the cut-and-shunt state of Moldova.

Which bring us to the National Salvation Front, overthrowers of Ceausescu, and originators of the present political class in Romania. Their objection to Ceausescu was not that he was pro-Soviet. It was that he was anti-Soviet. They emerged out of the Moscow-backing, because Moscow-backed, faction within the Communist Party. In 1989, the Soviet Union still had two years left to go, and few were those who thought that it would collapse entirely.

When a kangaroo court convicted and executed the Ceausescus for the "genocide" of 34 people and for daring to throw parties at their house on major holidays, it was not just the beginning of dodgy "genocide" convictions: of García Meza Tejada for fully eight people, of Pinochet for under a hundred, of Mengistu in absentia, of his opponents even including aid workers, and of Kambanda without trial, with Milosovic never actually convicted at all. It was also, as it turned out, the last great triumph of the Soviet Union, taking out a man who was vicious and brutal in himself (like García Meza, or Pinochet, or Mengistu), but who was nevertheless a dedicated opponent of Soviet power. Those who took him out have run Romania ever since.

The last great triumph? Well, perhaps not. New Labour may be full of old Trots, and any number of them may have gravitated towards Cameron. But it is also full of the old stalwarts of the Communist Party itself and of its fellow-travelling faction in, but never of, the Labour Party. Cameron is heavily dependent on Demos, the Communist Party stay-behind organisation. We all know both about Peter Mandelson's past and about his future plans. "The National Salvation Front" was how New Labour saw itself in its early days. Clearly, it still does.

12/27/2009 1:48 PM  

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