A central daily revives the debate over the crimes committed by the communist regime. A long series of revelations is announced regarding the persons accused of serious acts of abuse that resulted in the premature death of thousands of political prisoners, because of torture and the conditions of detention. This press campaign is based upon an initiative with legal finality, taken by the Institute for the Investigation of the Crimes of Communism and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (the very long name is a result of the merger of two distinct institutions, two years ago). It is a structure subordinate to the prime minister, which was not immune to the political conflicts of these years (PNL vs. PDL, because its first president, Marius Oprea, appointed by Premier Calin Popescu Tariceanu, published meanwhile an irreverent biography of President Traian Basescu).
Anyway, the respective institution was politically promoted with the purpose of discrediting those political forces considered as successors of the communist world. This campaign culminated in the so-called condemnation of the communist past, publicly assumed in a solemn session of the Parliament, held in December 2006, by President Basescu (based on the report of a special commission led by Vladimir Tismaneanu, who will succeed Oprea successor after the change of the government).
The option taken at that moment by the president (who, personally, had a relatively successful professional career during those years, a conjecture that allowed later his political opponents to speculate a possible collaboration with the occult Securitate) was a strategic one. He had reached the presidential position following a campaign that was skillfully centered on fighting corruption. However, once in power, the suspicion of corruption moved to his camp, so he needed something more, in propagandistic terms. This reactivated an older rhetoric theory that associated the post-communist corruption with the occult descendants. It hinted that the flawed morale of politicians in the ‘90s was due to the ascension of the former regime’s potentates, especially the younger ones, who took the power using connections and information they had cultivated previously. Such rhetoric caused a serious split in the Romanian society, even having a complement: those who suffered in the communist era are the real holders of the moral values of politics. Unfortunately, the political evolution contradicted mainly the supporters of the latter ideas, with the corruption rows destroying PNTCD, a party considered by some as promoter of a ‘revenge’ of political prisoners. But, in the other camp too, of those accused of being inclined to abusing power, if not plain crypto-communism (because of the nostalgia of a party-state), suspicions did not dissipate simply through cosmetic strategies. Especially Adrian Nastase made efforts to give PSD an honourable image, worthy of a western leftist party, respecting businesspeople and the rules of democracy. But massive political influencing (though in the soft variant) of the society and the recrudescence of corruption were fatal to him in elections.
In absence of revolutionary principles and failing in the construction of a big presidential party, Traian Basescu survived for some time aided by certain intellectuals, with enough influence and ability to create him an aura of providential leader. Among these roles bestowed upon him was that of (late) demolisher of the reminiscences of communism. Yet, not much has happened. But should have occurred?
In various countries where dictatorial regimes made clear abuses (first of all illegal crimes, like in Argentina), judicial procedures – some of them time-consuming – eventually led to sentences. In communist states the situation inevitably was more complicate. The regimes generally lasted several decades, so the complicities were widespread and subsequent solidarities were stronger. A former chief of communist penitentiary has an individual responsibility, in legal terms, but doesn’t he contribute to consolidating a regime endorsed by millions of people?
Even if, initially, the communism was imposed by the Soviets and essentially supported by their armed presence, in time the local sympathies for the new regime increased. Should an average person of the ‘50s or ‘60s feel guilty because the benefits he was granted by the regime (home, job, free education, accessible consumer goods) also had support in the dirty work of the chief of a political penitentiary? A place that cultivated torture, mistreatments of political detainees, with the purpose of breaking the resistance of the opponents of the regime (sometimes only supposed as such, because of simply belonging to a social class). Wasn’t the new communist regime entitled to combat its opponents, even with tough methods?
Those who wished its end. Let’s not be naive. Machiavelli himself recommended terror immediately after taking the power. Another moral philosophy is needed to judge such a historic situation. If we stay within these categories, anti-communism becomes a value in itself. And not only Traian Basescu wished to obtain a (rather illegitimate) profit from it, in the wake of those who preceded him (the ‘historical’ parties). Even in religious environments it appeared these years a current that promotes a cult dedicated to ‘the prisons’ saints.’ A cult still not endorsed by the Orthodox Church because of the political (far-right) past of those to whom it is dedicated. No matter how communist the respective penitentiary chief might have been, this is not the decisive reason for his criminal cruelty. Yes, communism incredibly numbed moral consciences. But is our conscience, the one of the people leaving today, to bring legitimate accusations to yesterday’s torturers? The guilt is obvious, but doesn’t the ambiguity of arguments show that we did not know how to create a more robust humanism from the traumas of the past?