A truly praiseworthy initiative!
The following paragraph is taken from the text of a talk, given at an international conference a few years ago:
The worst legacy of the communist period is not the ruined economy. It is not the poverty. It is the way in which 45 years of totalitarian rule have warped the human psyche.
This is why, hand in hand with a programme for economic renewal, a moral renewal must take place. The change of mentality is as important as - if not more important than - tackling the tasks facing the economy and building democratic institutions. Above all else, the transition to the post-totalitarian society is, and must be seen to be, an act of moral regeneration. And this is a process of catharsis, that cannot be achieved without a total and complete break with the criminal activities and mendacity of the past and with their perpetrators.
This is the most important problem that must be addressed by today's Romania: as Leopold Labedz reminded us not so long ago, there is, apparently, nothing more painful than facing the unbewältigte Vergangenheit, a past that has not been overcome.
But in the looking glass country that Romania has become, the past is still enmeshed with the present, in an evil, venomous and - at least for the time being - in an inextricable way. In the early 1980s, the dissident philosopher Alexander Zinoviev outlined a brief programme of change for the Soviet Union. It was - and it is - uncannily pertinent for Romania:
"Here one can change the form of power only by changing society as a whole; or, to be more precise, by destroying the country and building a society of another type from its ruins."
Zinoviev was implying that the system was so strong and inflexible that it was not reformable; if it was to go at all, it would have to go completely.
This is the main task facing Romania and the message that I have tried to convey: I have never believed in the possibility of existence of "reformed communists" and the recent history of Eastern Europe suggests that the very idea is an aberration, and a dangerous aberration at that. Ion Iliescu and his coterie have been activists and are graduates of former party schools. The few technocrats and outsiders in the leadership have been regarded as untrustworthy and eliminated. The monochromatic character of the ruling clique is not of good augury. The political activist was the most nocuous and - at the same time - the most authentic product of the communist system. The party activist was programmed to judge all manifestations of economic and social life from the point of view of power and of the interests of the group to which he belonged. For him, political pluralism was -and is - anathema.
This is why no real social transformation will take place in Romania, which will not reach the post-communist state of grace for as long as former members of the nomenklatura remain in positions of power and influence.
This is why the total elimination of the nomenklatura from any important position in the country, as demanded by Article 8 of Timisoara Proclamation, is of paramount importance.
Coming to terms with the past, unveiling it and bringing to book those guilty of crimes against humanity, is a task that must be accomplished without delay.
When the Head of State defends publicly a criminal past, requesting his people not to "denigrate" the former regime, as Iliescu has done, when the extremist parties, carrying out their noxious activities with Iliescu's encouragement and teeming, probably, with people having blood on their hands, pontificate and give lectures on "patriotism", when those suspected of atrocities have the impudence to demand that a television documentary about past abuses be not broadcast, then there is no hope for either social transformation or post-communism.
Unless and until a Nuremberg of communism is started and the prominent leaders of Romania are brought to justice, there is no hope at all for any real transition and any real transformation. Without a tribunal of this kind, George Orwell may well be proved correct when he said:
"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever."
Only after such a Nuremberg trial we will be able to contemplate the transition to post-communism and social transformation.
Until such time, for us, in Shelley's words, it remains only
"to hope till Hope creates from its own wreck the thing it contemplates."
George Ross is a lecturer at King's College London (University of London) and Vice-President of the British-Romanian Association.
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