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Chris Harman

Romania’s Ceausescu

(November 1973)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.64, Mid-November 1973, p.32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Nicolae Ceausescu, The Man, His Ideas and his Socialist Achievements
presented by Stan Newens
Spokesman Books, 75p.

Romania’s Ceausescu
Donald Catchlove
Abacus Press, £2.50.

ONCE THERE WAS Stalin. For a certain breed of leftist, socialist activity consisted in bathing in his reflected glory, devouring his words, parading his portrait. The cult received a massive blow after the demise of ‘the greatest leader, sublime strategist of all times and nations’. But it was not destroyed. Instead, it split amoeba-like into, a dozen sub-cults. Mao, Hoxha, Khrushchev, Gomulka, Tito, Togliatti, Ben Bella, Castro, all found their devotees. Now it seems, it is the turn of Ceausescu.

The latest addition to the list of devotees is the publishing house in Nottingham usually associated with the Institute for Workers’ Control. The fact that there is no workers’ control in Romania would hardly bother people whose main aim for a long time has been to hob-nob with the general secretary of the TGWU (elected for life) and to provide a platform for Wedgwood Benn, who doled out so much largesse for big business during the last Labour Government.

The blurb to Newens’ book assures us that ‘readers will learn something of the struggles and achievements of the Romanian people’. Newens himself tells us that ‘Romania under Ceauseseu is the model of a Communist country which is both socialist and fully independent.’

Most of the book is made up of speeches by the hero. The tedium is only occasionally relieved when, inadvertently, some truths about the real nature of Romanian society are let out. So, while on page 87 the former party leader, Gheorgiu Dej, is called ‘the outstanding militant of our party and the international Communist movement’ and a few pages later it is admitted that he ‘initiated and sponsored ... many abuses, grave cases of repression of some party and state officials’, including the leading Communist, Patrascanu. In other words, he was a mass murderer.

After such drivel, it was a relief to turn to the other book. Superficially, it looked even worse than Newens’ hack apologetics. There are over-sized pictures of the hero on almost every other page. But the author does throw some light on the real development of Romania, though the analysis could never be said to be profound.

He mentions, for instance, the way the Communist Party grew from 2,000 members in 1944 when the Russian army entered the country to 300,000 a year later ‘by welcoming anybody and everybody, including former members of the fascist Iron Guard’. (By contrast, Newens reprints without comment Ceausescu’s claim that the underground party had had ‘tens of thousands of members and sympathisers’.)

He also points out that ‘the party today makes great play of the 400 million dollars lost to the Germans, but this is less than a third of what is purported to have been taken by the Russians from September 1944 to June 1948.’ There is some account of the economic origins of the split between Romania and Russia, from the use of ‘Joint companies’ to exploit Romania in the early 1950s to the attempt by the Russians to block the huge Galati investment project in the early 1960s.

However, to say that Catchlove’s book is better than Newens’ is not to say much. The interested reader will have to look elsewhere for a serious account of the Romanian variant of state capitalism.

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Last updated: 13.2.2008