[Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [Endnotes] [HMK Home] Bela K. Kiraly: The Hungarian Minority's Situation in Ceausescu's Romania


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 own merits.

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[1] 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 the population.
In relation to the Ronanian armed forces, we have relatively dependable evaluations from Westens military analysts.[2] 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 anti-state activities.
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 impossible burden.

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.[3] 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 workforce.

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. [4]

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.

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