Jump to content

13 June 1990


Recommended Posts

Today it's 23 years since the 13 June 1990 crackdown on the pro-democracy protesters in University Square, Bucharest, Romania. It was not by riot police nor army, but by the miners from Jiu valley, called upon by the then-president Ion Iliescu. 

 

Why I have to bring this to your attention is its similarities with what is going on in Taksim Square in Istanbul the past week. Also, 5 yo me was dragged through the aftermath of the crackdown by my grandma who had an appointment on a nearby street for dentist. I remember the whole square full of miners with bats, axes and pickaxes, most just passing time, and a few having hijacked an ambulance were driving around madly and screaming. The thing is I realized where and when I was only later, in collage when I was talking to some friends. 

 

Here are some Wikipedia links for you to read about this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mineriad

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_1990_Mineriad

 

The "funny" thing is that the same people in power then and/or their proteges are still running the country today. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting this, I didn't know about these events before. Sounds fairly typical for the time, except for the role of the miners in the whole affair, which still sounds vaguely familiar - I'm pretty sure it reminds me of something along those lines (bringing in workers from outside the capital to restore order), although I can't say of what exactly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let's make one thing clear: These were not "pro-democracy protests". They were anti-democracy protests.

The reason for the protests was that the National Salvation Front (FSN) won the elections in May 1990, and a lot of right-wing university students in Bucharest were angry about this. But they did not simply demand a re-run of the elections. They demanded that FSN leaders should be banned from being candidates. They wanted new elections in which their opponents would not be allowed to participate.

No one disputes the fact that the majority of people voted for the FSN in the May 1990 elections. The results showed that the FSN won 66% of the votes for Parliament and 85% of the votes for president. Sure, there were reports of some irregularities, so the true number of votes for the FSN may have been lower than that, but no claims it was below 50%. The argument of the protesters was, essentially, that voters were stupid and got manipulated by the lies of the evil FSN leaders. True or false, this is a deeply elitist and ANTI-democratic argument. There is no way in hell that you can protest AGAINST the clear choice of the majority of people and call yourself "pro-democracy". Democracy doesn't mean "a government composed of the people I like".

It's one thing to protest against a democratically elected government several years after it was elected, like people are doing in Taksim Square today. Then you can argue that although it had the support of the people at one point, it doesn't have that support any more and it should resign. But the student protests in 1990 in Bucharest came one month after the elections. I don't like the FSN either, but it was clearly the people's choice at the time. The students were protesting against the liberal democratic process itself, against the very thing they were claiming to uphold! They were outrageous hypocrites.

And I have no sympathy for whiny elitist pricks like that. I hate Ion Iliescu and his cronies (like Petre Roman and Theodor Stolojan) for what they did to Romania in the following years - for the privatizations, the unemployment and the hyperinflation that followed - but what those protesters wanted in June 1990 was even worse. If they had their way, Romania would have had "shock therapy" like Russia under Yeltsin, plus an authoritarian undemocratic regime... also like Russia under Yeltsin.

If I were in charge of the government in 1990, I would have sent riot police against them.

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well the riot police was sent there. They were just as effective as in the ethnic fighting in Tg. Mures.

 

The right wing element was much speculated in these protests. In all protests there are radical elements, even in winter 2012 there were people chanting radical right wing songs, pro-monarchy songs or randomly anti-jewish slogans (as if jews have anything to do with how our guvernment is run). Also there are the people that just hang around like homless, drunks and more simple-minded individuals. Unfortunately this is more striking than the people that have something to say.

 

The problem back then it was that the protesters asked for the second-tier communist leaders to step down and allow others into the political game. The FSN was a hastily rebranded Communist Party which didn't change much in those 6 months it was in power. The FSN wanted Perestroika, the people wanted freedom. Also there were no attempts at communication, and having won a elections with 65% when your whole system was still in place I would call it a gross defeat. The whole manegement of the situation and the abuses that took place showed that basically nothing changed. Many of the accusations against the protesters were framed, even caught on tape (the police commander there reporting back to the guvernment that the police has put fire to their own vehicles and now are retreating "as ordered").

 

What I am trying to say is that the multi-party system set up by the FSN those day was nothing more than a smoke screen, there was no transparency, no dialogue. Therefore the public was suspicious about the elections. I mean, seriously, after 47 years of political represion who would vote in the same people that denied you right of property, right of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of movement? How can you trust a system to miraculously change itself into something new and totally opposite?

 

Anyway, the movement got a strong anti-system image and became a symbol of power abuse from the gvt. It also started an intelligentsia emigration that brain drained the country (as well as "balls" draining it). The next spontaneus protests would only come 22 years later.

 

The '90s were a turbulent era in the area, no doubt about it.

 

As for the economic system: the countries that applied the most radical reforms have recovered faster from the shock: the baltic states, Slovenia, Poland, Czech republic... Russia got the shock doctrine of the Chicago school, a pure theoretical mechanism, not a culturally-localised solution. Other countries went to have slow reforms that had never ended and dragged the economy into the gutter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The right wing element was much speculated in these protests. In all protests there are radical elements, even in winter 2012 there were people chanting radical right wing songs, pro-monarchy songs or randomly anti-jewish slogans (as if jews have anything to do with how our guvernment is run). Also there are the people that just hang around like homless, drunks and more simple-minded individuals. Unfortunately this is more striking than the people that have something to say.

When I said "right-wing", I did not mean right-wing extremists, like the fascists (legionarii) or the monarchists. Like you said, such people were a small minority. But the university students as a whole were "right-wing" in the typical sense of the word - that is to say, they would have supported leaders like Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan, and in the West they would have been called conservatives. Calling them right-wing was not an accusation, it was a statement of fact.

Romanian university students have a long tradition of being right-wing, conservative and nationalist, going back to the early 1900s and WW1. Sometimes that means even far-right. In the 1930s, as you probably know, Bucharest University was a major centre of support for the fascist movement (the Iron Guard). Of course that ended after WW2, but the more moderate national-conservative tradition is still there. This is actually a major reason why I decided not to go to university in Romania.

In some countries (like France), university students have a tradition of being left-wing, and in other countries (like Romania) they have a tradition of being right-wing. I don't really know why. I've heard some of my friends claim that this is starting to change in Romania. I certainly hope so.

The problem back then it was that the protesters asked for the second-tier communist leaders to step down and allow others into the political game.

You can't claim to support liberal democracy and at the same time demand that some people be barred from the political process. I'm sure everyone who ever lost an election wanted the winning side to "step down and allow others into the political game". But that is not how liberal democracy works.

Now bear in mind, I'm not a particularly big fan of liberal democracy myself. I'm not saying the protesters were wrong because liberal democracy is wonderful and perfect. I'm saying the protesters were wrong because they were liars and hypocrites, claiming to support democracy while in reality asking for a right-wing authoritarian regime.

And yes, a right-wing authoritarian regime was the only possible result if the protesters got what they wanted. The majority of the country opposed them. How do you rule a country where the majority opposes you? By force. It is the only way.

The FSN was a hastily rebranded Communist Party which didn't change much in those 6 months it was in power.

The FSN was a band of corrupt opportunists with no principles, to be sure, and in that way it mirrored the situation in the Communist Party during the 1980s. As a side note, I have met many communists from other countries who asked me, "why were your parties in Eastern Europe so corrupt that their leaders switched sides and began supporting capitalism with no remorse?" I don't really know what to tell them. For communists in other parts of the world, this is the most shocking thing that happened in 1989-1991: it was revealed that many Eastern European Communist Party members, including most of the top leadership in most countries, did not actually support communism. I know a person who has spent time in prison for being a communist (it is illegal in his country), and he cannot understand how traitors like Gorbachev (or, for that matter, Deng Xiaoping) can exist.

But anyway, that is off-topic.

The FSN wanted Perestroika, the people wanted freedom.

The people voted for the FSN. The people absolutely did NOT want radical capitalist "shock therapy". They voted against it in every election from 1990 to 1996. Even in 1996 the radical-capitalist side only just barely managed to get over half of votes, by cobbling together a coalition with a breakaway faction from the old FSN (Petre Roman's PD).

Of course, maybe you think the people were wrong, but that doesn't change what they wanted. All the evidence shows that, as a matter of fact, they did want something like Perestroika. They wanted an end to the secret police, an end to Ceaușescu's cult of personality, an end to the insane policy of stripping Romania of consumer goods in order to export them and pay the national debt, and an end to the special privileges of high-ranking Communist Party officials. This last fact, by the way, shows that they wanted more equality, not less.

The whole manegement of the situation and the abuses that took place showed that basically nothing changed. Many of the accusations against the protesters were framed, even caught on tape (the police commander there reporting back to the guvernment that the police has put fire to their own vehicles and now are retreating "as ordered").

Yes, of course. I'm not trying to defend the FSN government, I'm just saying the protesters were wrong, anti-democratic, and hypocritical. The FSN government was corrupt and self-serving.

 

What I am trying to say is that the multi-party system set up by the FSN those day was nothing more than a smoke screen, there was no transparency, no dialogue.

And the solution is to ban people from participating in elections? That is supposed to promote transparency and dialogue?

Therefore the public was suspicious about the elections. I mean, seriously, after 47 years of political represion who would vote in the same people that denied you right of property, right of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of movement?

About 66% of Romanians, that's who. And why? Because they feared that capitalist reforms would make things worse. And they were right.

Also, they had a very different view of those 47 years than you do. Even today, after 20 years of non-stop capitalist propaganda, 44% of Romanians say that communism is a good idea which was badly implemented, 15% of Romanians say that communism is a good idea which was implemented well (!!!), and only 29% of Romanians say that communism is a bad idea. (the remaining 12% were undecided)

Now, bear in mind, these opinions exist in a country where not a single major media source, educational institution, or political party has anything positive to say about communism. All official information is anti-communist, all official history is anti-communist. And still the majority of people think communism is a good idea! 15% even think it was done right before 1990! Isn't that amazing? Of course, all sorts of government cronies are acting shocked and confused and wondering, "why do so many people still believe that communism is a good idea? What are we doing wrong? Why isn't our propaganda working?" Hey, I have an idea: maybe people cling so stubbornly to this opinion because they are right.

How can you trust a system to miraculously change itself into something new and totally opposite?

You can't. But that's precisely the point: the great majority of people did not want radical free market reforms. They just wanted to get rid of Ceaușescu's abuses.

Anyway, the movement got a strong anti-system image and became a symbol of power abuse from the gvt. It also started an intelligentsia emigration that brain drained the country (as well as "balls" draining it). The next spontaneus protests would only come 22 years later.

I think we should be less concerned about the lack of spontaneous protests and more concerned about the lack of organized protest movements. It is very rare for a system to be changed or overthrown by spontaneous protests - and when it does happen, like in Romania in 1989 or in Libya in 2011, the results are usually very bad and very different from what the protesters hoped. Why? Because spontaneous protests don't have a plan for the future; they just destroy the currently-existing system (if they're lucky). Then what? Who decides what comes after? Usually, skilled politicians from the old regime decide what comes after. That's how you get people like Ion Iliescu in power, or the current government of Libya.

If you want real change, you have to plan in advance. If you want a revolution done right, you need a revolutionary party, an organization to carry it out... a vanguard, one might say...

...and that is why I am a Leninist. :)

As for the economic system: the countries that applied the most radical reforms have recovered faster from the shock: the baltic states, Slovenia, Poland, Czech republic...

They began to recover in the late 1990s, yes, but it was an artificial recovery, sustained only by the influx of speculative capital from Western Europe (especially after they joined the EU). They never truly recovered their industry, their agriculture, or any of their economic base. And they never managed to recover internal demand. Then the crisis of 2008 came, and all those "success stories" crashed and burned. Where are the Baltic states now? 11-15% unemployment, 15-20% of the population in poverty, and 2-5% economic growth (after an economic crash of around -15% in 2009).
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pff... that's a lot to answer to :) I'll do it one by one, as I take some time off from work.

 

Let's start with the most recent things, even if it is off topic. Not totally off topic because it shows a comparative plan. The countries I put forward have done pretty good economically. Poland never entered recession having 1-2% growth when everyone else had -10% and the baltic states have recovered well from the crysis shock. 2-5% growth is good and healthy. Most important: sustainable. Slovenia cracked because of adopting euro and so ended its policy of currency exchange rates manipulation that made its economy competitive. They got things 50% right. Drawing the line, these countries have fared better than countries like Romania and Bulgaria for example. We're not talking about Russia, Russia had oil and gas and vast resources Europe only dreams about. And the european south simply collapsed.

 

As far as I know the baltic states followed a scandinavan model of free market economy heavily supervised by the state. It's not the Chicago school model (Thatcher style). That's a social catastrophy.

 

----------

 

As for banning the communist party members from running for elections, a dialogue might have produced a compromise. The idea was that no one wanted to have the opportunists (as you say) "supervising" the elections. There was no trust, no more moral backing for those people. They were viewed, along with Ceausescu, as being guilty of the whole insanity of the '80s. Ceausescu didn't do all that alone. People wanted a trial for the abuses and injustices. Imagine all the high-ranking Nazi officials would've been set free at the end of WWII just because Hitler was gone. There you go Goring, run for presidency.

 

As far as I see it few people believed the results were real. Most people just bent their heads and went on as they were used before '89 while others protested the results. I can't say they were hypocrits because one of the aims of all the movement was to bring the former regime to trial, to find out what happened, who was to blame, who abused their power. Which never happened. Some (maybe most) of the requests were readical, of course, but things could be negociated, discussed, etc.

 

To be continued :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok, I'm looking forward to the next part(s)! :) But for now, I need to make a couple of points:

You keep saying that people wanted or believed X or Y, but how do you know? Rumors? When you claim that popular opinion was against the FSN, that just can't possibly be true. The FSN and its successor parties kept winning elections for the next six years after 1990. Granted, with smaller majorities, but they kept winning. And many of those elections were monitored by international observers. Unless you believe in some kind of grand conspiracy, it is clear that the majority of voters supported the FSN in 1990 and the following years. Perhaps only as a "lesser evil", but they supported it nonetheless.

And it's not hard to see why. The other two main parties in 1990 (PNL and PNȚCD) did not just have unpopular ideas, but also terrible leadership. They were both led by 70 year-old right-wing politicians (Rațiu and Câmpeanu) who had started their careers in the 1940s and then spent the entire Cold War in exile in the West. They were clueless about life in Romania, about the economy, about everything. Their entire platform basically amounted to "we'll privatize everything and do whatever the West says and then things will magically get better." There is absolutely no doubt that they would have been a thousand times worse than the FSN.

Also, let's not violate Godwin's Law so soon, shall we? Ceaușescu was not Hitler and Iliescu was not Göring. Not even close. Not even remotely close. Not even in the same universe.

...alright, now I will stop and give you time to write a full reply. Take all the time you need, I still have two other threads in PRP to respond to. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speaking about people voting against shock therapy economics in 1990, I really think nobody understood exactly what that meant.

 

Anyway, at some point you said that people still think pre-1989 times were better. Well, I hear this too, from retirees and / or very disgruntled people. For retirees it's normal to miss their youth. A lot of people cannot understand how these people would be nostalgic for communism, but the thing is they're nostalgic for their youth. I don't think anyone is nostalgic about the '80s in Romania. "Oh, how I miss having food rationalized, standing in line 2-3 hours for a half-kilo of potatos, having electricity until 23:00h and mostly no runnin water, gas or heating." My grandma still deplores my wretched fate of having to look for a job on my own, or having to buy a house with my own money.

The second cathegory of people are what I call conjunctural socialists/communists meaning that when they're poor they are nostalgic for a system they never got to know because they heard from other how great we were (like young people being nostalgic for the monarchy "because it was s much better then"). And once they have a breakthrough in life: there you go - republicans.

So, there is always a current of opinion that is disgruntled by the present and wants to revert ot the previous political system. Or whatever previous times. Just like people dreaming about the past as in "A night in Paris" where no character wanted to live in their own time and were fascinated by some moment in the past.

Therefore I cannot trust those statistics. At least for the reason that people cannot differentiate between a political model and an economic one. Communism is a social and economic (production) model. Communism is not a political model. Democracy, monarchy, oligarchy, dictatorship are political models. It's not that people are stupid, but "vox populi, vox dei" doesn't work on everything, or every time.

 

This somehow leads to your comment on how all the communists in Central&Eastern Europe and the Balkans reinvented themselves as Capitalists, Radical Right wing etc. Simple: it was an imposed system. Castro fought his way up to power riding the wave of popular discontent. Most of the communist regimes in Europe were set up by the Red Army using questionable characters (at best) and the whole system worked so just the USSR would not invade. Once USSR would have its hands and legs all tied up the whole smoke screen of lies crubmled. Besides Spain in the '30s and several bolshevik-style attempts before that in Hungary and Germany communism never really got much grip in Europe. That is the diferenbce between Latin American communists and the ones in Europe.

 

Regarding the relationship between "the people" and "the protesters" back then there was a huge load of propaganda going on. I remember my parents being scared because "those people" want to shoot anyone that had to do with the Communist Party. Such allegations were stupid because before 1989 EVERYONE had to do with the Party in one way or another. But it was enough confusion to scare people off. Just as Yeltsin scared off the russian voters into voting for him by showing them all these video clips from the Russian Civil War discouraging them for voting for the Communists. That was his campaign. But when you have total control of the media, police, army, etc. why wouldn't you use it?

I still don't think people rejected the protest on economic scientific basis. I think they were tricked into not listening. Scared into rejecting. I might sound patronizing but "freedom" in 1990-1992 meant being able to buy a car, a tv set, jeans and more food. I remember I thought "freedom" was so great because all of a sudden there was mineral water to be bought, Mars chocolate bars and Coca-Cola.

 

As for the students being more right-wing... I can only tell of my generation. And it's like 50-50. A lot of people want social protection, state intervention (up to a point), understanding that there are things no one can accomplish on their own. People who think protesting is good. People who question things, etc. A lot of times these people have jobs throughout collage and have to support themselves. They're more "center" than "left".

And there are those who take for granted all the pro-west, pro-europe, right-is-good speech without thinking it through and who are still scared of the "bolshevik hordes" pouring in from the east and exterminating... them. Usually these people live with their parents, parents have companies, they work for fun not for food, and feel that everyone has to work hard (like them!?). They don't realise that without their parents' support they'd be in the gutter. I call that the "right wing". In 2012 I saw a lot of their agitation on Facebook ridiculising the people who were against his Highness, Our President, with the same ferocity that the FSN was denigrating the protesters in 1990.

 

To conclude my text here (now I have to go off to some moonlighting for the weekend :) ) the 1990 protesters had some economic and political requests. They were not the youth revoltees of France and England, anarchycal, clan-based and sometimes loot-driven. Therefore ANY type of dialogue would have been constructive, and that did not happen. Ecnomics and politics can be negociated. Of course the discourse of a mob is radical, otherwise nobody adheres to it, but the true breaking point is much lower. I agree with you that spontaneus protests are not always good, but they show how much a population is willing to take. I do not talk here of huge revolts like Libya, but about normal strikes and protests.

 

Hopefully I'll have some wifi where I'm going so I can answer you soon. If not, see you on monday ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...