After leaving Romania, the Westem visitor - or the Western reader who
has read reports on the conditions that prevail in Romania - generally
expresses disbelief and shock.Shock that conditions such as these are still
possible in Europe today and disbelief that these conditions can be
tolerated.More precisely, why does a society tolerate such conditions?
Particularly, when even in the eastenn half of Europe, one after the other less
inhuman and brutal systems are collapsing?
Since the present volume and many recently produced studies deal with the
conditions, my concern in this introduction will be to explain why it is
possible that Romania is still what it is today. Thus, I will not devote my
time to the types or the methods of political, psychological, economic and
national oppression, nor on the power structure of the present Romania.
Instead, I will seek the answer to what makes these overcentralized,
surveillance-obsessed totalitarian systems so self-sustaining? Why and until
when do we have to wait for a successful challenge to the accumulated
contradictions that characterize this system? As we will see, the nationality
problem, the fate of the Hungarians in Romania, and the relations between the
two peoples, is only seemingly unrelated to this question.
In each society the relationship between the distribution of goods produced,
the standard of living of the inhabitants and the control mechanisms of the
political order depend on the level of development present at a given time.
Where the largest share of the goods produced is returned to society to
satisfy consumer needs, there you will have higher standards of living. At the
same time, there will be fewer social conflicts which can threaten either the
stability of the order or the economic system. In this kind of society the
power structure - which does not resolve conflicts, but simply stifles them -
is weak and underdeveloped.
As opposed to this, in societies where the largest share of the produced goods
is used to beef-up the power structure, there the standard of living falls and
social conflicts grow. The guardians of order must be provided for, and the
growth of their numbers automatically reduces the size of the productive
workforce. Only rarely are the guardians imported, but invariably the more
guards you have, the less will be the number of the real workers.
At any rate, declining standards of living produce social tensions and
conflicts. In order to cope with these stresses and insure the system's
stability, the apparatus of cooptation and repression is constantly given more
and more responsibilities. This begins a vicious cycle whereby the more you
manipulate, the more you have to discipline and monitor, the more energy and
social goods are consumed by the control system itself.
The linkage between declining living standards and the State control
apparatus' insatiable appetite for society's goods, does not lead to
appreciable differences in the stability of the system. It does not change,
because now a new mechanism controls it, not public satisfaction, but public
insecurity and fear. In the instances where conflict becomes uncontrollable,
however, and the mechanisms of repression react slowly, or they are weak, there
the systen will invariably collapse.
Presently I will not consider that within some societies interest conflicts
are not based solely on economic considerations. For example, there may be
religious, nationality, and other conflicts which have limited or no economic
foundations, or are only linked in a very indirect way. Nor will I consider
military campaigns .and wars, nor the special role of the military - which from
the perspective of the ruling elite - always has a domestic as well as an
external defense function. At the same time, since the military is a tool of
expansionism, an aggressive society can with an imperialist policy increase the
amount of goods that are available for distribution. Finally, there are
societies that are exceptions to the overall rule, since a few have been able
to provide for a strong military and an extensive system of surveillance and
control without reducing the standards of living. However, this does not
contradict the overall validity of the model that I have constructed.
Exceptions to the rule or model, simply require that I examine each case on its
Having a model of this nature available for our analysis of Romania, will
sensitize us to the major factors that determine its mode of operation. The key
factors or components are the (1) gross national product, (2) the amount of
this product returned to society in the foms of consumer goods, and (3) the
share of this product given to the control mechallisms of the state. This will
require an examiliation of (a) the society's standard of living, (b) the extent
and intensity of social conflict and (c) the extent and prospects of social and
political stability In other words, how does the distribution or
re-distribution of goods in society stabilize or destabilize the system.
Romania under Ceausescu can be understood by looking at the linkage and
balance among the above factors. The linkage between gross national product,
the share of the control mechanism, the standard of living in society, and the
tensions generated by these will define the relative stability or instability
of the system. Overall two polar models may be outlined. At one end of the
spectnum we can distinguish a model wherein you have a maximum distribution of
goods among the producers/consumers of society, with a minimum of these being
reserved for the military and police forces of society. In this model the
external policies are characterized by negotiated settlements amd cooperative
arrangements, while peace is assured via security alliances rather than
military preparedness Examples of this model might be Demnark, Costa Rica,
Luxembourg or Liechtelistein. The other polar model is the obverse of the
above. It is based on a distribution system that provides the smallest possible
share of the goods for the consumers and producers.Instead it uses the goods
produced by society to reward the guardiams of society's stability. Thus, it
maintains an immense, top-heavy and ever-present control system, which has a
well developed apparatus for exercising repression. An excellent example of
this model is Romania.
Czestaw Mitosz maintained in his work The Acquisition of Power that "2%
live well, the question is simply, how can we become pan of that 2 percent". A
comparison of the members of the nomenklatura system, the privileged elements, in terms of their numbers
and overall percentages within the populations of the individual communist
societies provides material for interestnig comparisons of similarities and
differences between these systems. Mitosz's two percent estimate is probably a
conservative measurement of the Polish case. Whatever may be the number of the
privileged elite in Poland, there is no doubt that the ruling caste in Romania
- considering both its numerical size and interests - is no longer simply a
ruling elite, it is now a ruling class. Who belong to this ruling class?
As everywhere in Eastern Europe, this class is composed of the party
oligarchy, the governmental administration and the coercive forces of state
power. These are the elements that are the direct beneficiaries of political
and economic privileges. Others who benefit less directly are the profiteers of
the back market. The market of scarcity is dependent on the current leadership
and the black marketeers are dependent on the market of scarcity. Romania
differs from Poland not so much in the make-up of its privileged sector but in
its mass. That is, in Romania we are faced with a much larger coopted share of
In relation to the Ronanian armed forces, we have relatively dependable
evaluations from Westens military analysts. Their estimates do not significantly alter the overall
picture presented in official sources. The size of the armed forces is roughly
analogous - in proportion to Romania's population - with the armed forces of
other East European states.
Of Romania's 23,836,000 inilabitants, a little more than two-fifths is
considered to be part of the active work force, or about 11.5 million people.
On the basis of the available data Romania's armed forces on land, air and sea
are under the leadership of professioal commissioned and uncommissioned
officers numbering 1l0,000. This is about l percent of the active workforce.
The number of those who have been drafled constitutes 70.000 at any given
moment. To this number we also have to add the 20,000 secunty units of the
Ministry of Defense which have to deal with demontstrations, strikes, or other
These units are specifically trained to crush manifestations of opposition.
Still another 20,000 constitute Ronania's border guard. This means tht an
additional 1 percent of Romania's workforce is engaged for "security" purposes.
While it is true that the draftees are sometimes utilized at construction sites
or at harvest time, it is also true that this does not make up for their missed
labor in the regular workforce.
The distortions only begin here. What follows is what makes Romania such an
exception in the overall European context, this being the mobilized
militarization of society at large. Civil defense organizations criss-cross
society in a tightly woven network, penetrating every school, university and
place of employment. In addition to this (and this is exceptional even for the
region) even university co-eds are required to attend theoretical and practical
training sessions in military science. Every institution of higher education
has this requirement one month every year, and one day every week. The coeds
are trained by professional women officers who are encouraged to pursue this
career by attractive financial considerations.
Paramilitary organization - a kind of patriotic guard or citizens' guard -
also exists and includes about one-quarter million members. According to
Western estimates, of the above, the active full-time professionals responsible
for training the rank and file, constitute about 12,000. On the basis of my
personal observations, this estimate is probably too low. This kind of
paramilitary activity is easier to hide or disguise than the regular armed
forces. But even if we accept the 250,000 estimate, it is clear that
militarization of society is extensive and contributes to the econornic
problems of Romania.
At this point we cannot avoid mentioning a related problem. With the
militarization of society there is a confusion of roles concerning the Ronunian
armed forces. The Romanian military is not viewed first and foremost as the
defender of the country's security against external aggression. Instead, as in
all dictatorships, the military's role is viewed as a brake on society to
perpetuate the ruling minority's political monopoly. This is evident in the
frequent mixed patrols (joint military and police patrols) that are evident on
the city streets of Romunian cities, and which are also stationed at the more
important production centers of the country (mines, energy generation plants,
etc.). Furthermore, on occasion some of these enterprises even have military
administrations. In this way, the internal control function of the Romanian
armed forces and paramilitary organizations is much more important than what
one could assume on the basis of just the raw data concerning the numbers of
people affiliated with the military network.
Still it is already evident from the above that Romanian society must provide
for the needs of a relatively larger proportion of its people who are engaged
as part of the professional military, or whose capabilities, energy and time is
devoted to security concerns. Yet in itself, this would still not constitute an
Romania's secret police - the notorious Securitate - its security and
intelligence gathering organization is the most bloated in all of Eastern
Europe. Testimony based on empirical evidence is available on this in the
writings of Romanian security operatives who defected to the West. The insecurity of the present Romanian
political establishment has brought into being an apparatus of control, that
overshadows in both its methods and numerical size its counterparts in
neighboring states. This fearsome control system is organized to monitor any
and all processes or developments within society and to crush any opposition to
the leadership. At the same time, it attempts to neutralize or eliminate
opposition or resistance through preventive measures.
There is no official infomation about the size of the law enforcement agency
called the "Militia." Attla Ara-Kovacs, of the Transylvanian Hungarian
Infomiation Agency in Budapest, estimates that their number is about a
quarter-million. This takes into account the fact that Romania has about 14,000
community settlements, and that even the smallest has its own Militiaman (who
resides in a neighboring village or the county seat), while in the cities their
numbers are very high (purposely high, to have an intimidating effect). If we
also add to their numbers those of the traffic police and the economic
enterprise guards, then the estimates of Attla Ara-Kovacs are acceptable,
although probably conservative. At any rate, this adds up to another 2.2
percent of the workforce.
If we try to estimate all the individuals who are employed in some way by the
Ministry of Interior and its secret police and assume that each settlement must
have at least one operative, then the minimum number is automatically l4,000.
If we then add to this the Ministry of Interior's city organizations located in
the caunty centers, where they usually occupy fortress-like buildings occupying
half a city block, and their operatives who infiltrate all enterprises,
educational institutions, labor unions, churches, clubs and other
organizations, then - even if we only count 2,500 personnel per county,
including everyone from the detective to the commanding general, the passport
office employees and the workplace informers, and the bodyguards of the
Presidential family and all the special security units of the state, then it is
highly unlikely that the size of the security police is less than 100,000. In
other words, we are again talking about an additional 1 percent of the
In summarizing the number of people who are part of the coercive
establishments, we have 2 percent who are in active military service. The
parami1itary services and the intelligence services are estimated to engage 0.5
percent (55-60,000), the police constitute 2.2 percent, and the secret police 1
percent. This means that a total of 6% of the active workforce is employed by
some coercive agency. Subtracting from this the number of draftees, we still
have 5 percent who compose the hard core of the political establishment' armed
protectors. This hard core is willing to defend its own interests and the
interests and privileges of allies, with both tooth and nail.
Who are the allies of this defensive hard core? First of all, the political
elite, the members of the nomenclatura system, and the top levels of the
State's govenmental administration. Proportionate to its population, Romallia
has the most commnunists in the world: 3.64 million party members. (This is a
December, 1986 statistic, by the end of 1989, it was 4 million.) In comparing
Romania with its 23.8 million inhabitants to Hungary with its 10.6 million
inhabitants, we find that at the beginning of 1989, Hungary had 0.8 million
party members just before the drastic decline began. In other words, ul Romania
every ftfth person is a party member, while in Hungary less than one in eleven
is a party metnber.
Membership in the Young Communist organizations parallels the above party
membership profile. According to available data, by 1989, they had also passed
the 4 million mark. In this instance a chronological comparison with the USSR
is very telling. In 1955, in the Soviet Union, 3.6 percent were communist while
only 3.4 percent were comununist in Romania. Seven years later. in 1962, of the
Soviet populatio4 4.5 percent were commmunists while in Romania 4.9 percent
were communists. Then Ceausescu came to power in 1965. Just eleven years later,
6.1 percent in the Soviet Union and 12 percent in Romania were communists.
Today in Romania the percentage has risen over 16 percent.
The fact that Romania has two to three times as many commmunists and members
of the Young Communist organization as other communist political systems,
naturally means that Romanian society must provide for the upkeep of two to
three times as many party secretaries, party activists, regional, city and
county party committee members and organizers. Because the party is
everywlsere, in the regional context and in each and every settlement, here too
we must count at least 100,000 activists. Its presence everywhere also makes
the party unchallengeable and infallible in the direction of economic life,
social organization lawmaking, law enforcement, control of cultural expression
and the role of the media.
Bela K. Kiraly: The Hungarian Minority's Situation in Ceausescu's Romania