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March 21, 2023

The legionary cheat

Power is consolidated through conflicts. Through won confrontations. Premier Victor Ponta, however, is in crisis of adversaries. He has nobody to test his ‘weapons’ against. Traian Basescu is just a shadow of what he was, his political future being rather uncertain. Crin Antonescu is still formally an ally who can be dealt only backstage blows, at most. The street protesters who have been challenging him for weeks and, exasperated from being ignored, demand his resignation, are to him a various mass, without leaders, programme and ideology. Stubbornly ignoring them, he transformed the fight over the Rosia Montana mining project from an economic matter into one with a strong political character. He did not only get involved in the ‘strike’ advertising and in an international support campaign, but he also cautions, as all signs indicate, a favourable parliamentary solution for the near future.
He adopted, in consequence, the old strategy of inventing himself an enemy. He sees the protesters as ‘legionaries’ or ‘neofascists’ according to the definition of the politologist-minister, whom heated protesters broke the window of the car. The premier must have learned the interwar history, like many Romanians, from the movies of Sergiu Nicolaescu (whose screenplay writer, Titus Popovici, was one of the subtle propagandists of Ceausescu’s national-communism Ceausescu), where legionaries are terrorist brutes, some scourge of the society organised in a paramilitary way, a mafia that kills ruthlessly. And such a versed politologist as ‘Professor’ Barbu, who before being assaulted by protesters had just narcissistically bragged about his two Ph.D.s, proves to have a strange form of myopia defining his aggressors as neofascists. All these remind too much of June 1990. Freshly legitimised through elections, the new post-communist power contested by street rallies which had been lasting for many weeks, adopted the strategy of ‘proletarian’ reprisals. Armed gangs of miners terrorised Bucharest for several days and police brutalised those who were arrested. The action, conducted with terrible violence, was doubled by a subtle propaganda-type misinformation. The protesters, many of them youths, were labelled as legionaries and, exactly like in a film by Sergiu Nicolaescu, the same building of the Bucharest Police (where the movie was shot) was ‘attacked,’ a good pretext for a ‘firm’ repression. The ‘legionary rebellion’ – a real event from January 1941 – although still controversial in its real dynamic and the intentions of the sides in conflict, thus became a label fit for being stuck on certain opponents. For Ion Iliescu, then president, now the ‘wise’ of Social Democrats, it was a rhetoric which he learned in his youth, because the communist propaganda was using to full extent the image of the legionary evil, a recurrent danger that forced the communist state to a permanent preparedness.
In fact, many prisoners of the Romanian gulag were sentenced for the abasing guilt (often invented) of being ‘legionaries.’ It is true that in the early ‘90s there were some youths willing to restore the legionary tradition, but they did not surpass the level of small groups, without a strong impact and without being able to evolve politically. Some were in connection with the old ‘legionaries’ who had survived by emigrating in the West, while others were interested mostly by the ‘Orthodox’ dimension of the movement. Some associations of Orthodox students temporarily had a legionary scent, but the proper political character was dimmed. More significant is the fact that certain parties wanted to use the political capital which the nationalist orientations of certain youths could bring. For instance, before the elections of year 2000 there was a discussion about the proposal made by PUNR, allied with PNR (led by none else than the former occult strategist in June 1990, former SRI chief Virgil Magureanu) to propose Marian Munteanu (who had barely survived the fury of angry miners, as the leader of the protests organised in the Piata Universitatii Square) as presidential candidate. Munteanu had animated a youth organisation, few years ago – the Movement for Romania, with some legionary tendencies. Another party that assumed a legionary nuance was the New Generation Party, but the political kitsch represented by its leader Gigi Becali, who wanted to combine (of a populist and amateurish manner) Orthodox and nationalism, did not convince many. In its turn, the Greater Romania Party, with its virulent nationalism and vengeful authoritarianism, was not far from the tradition of the far right, although doubled by the nostalgia for the Ceausescu era and the utopia of nationalisations. But differences are necessary. The interwar Legionary Movement had a much more significant moral dimension (hence its popularity). It was a moral stance with aspirations of chivalry, based on honour, fight and sacrifice. In fact, it did not prevent murder and crime, but in the ‘30s (evoked by the premier today) the legionaries were not hordes of vandals and murderers (like the Italian fascists and the German nazis) ready to terrorise their fellow citizens. They wanted to take the power (thus becoming involved in elections) and practised a paramilitary discipline. Their main demand (same as other similar movements in the Europe of those years) was a ‘moral revolution.’ The overtly Orthodox dimension probably served to keeping violence in check, so it remained circumscribe until the assassination of their leader.
The problemme of a correct (and salutary) understanding of the past is to eliminate confusions, as much as possible. The legionaries had on obviously totalitarian ideology, but they were not those human caricatures portrayed by communist propaganda movies. They were anti-Semites, their nationalism was haughty, their social solutions could not work and the Orthodox commitment transformed their taste for authoritarianism into the threat of a repressive utopia. They were the fruit of a larger culture, infested by the subtle poisons of a mentality which rejected the benefits of secularisation and of modernity in general. Had they existed in today’s political conditions, they would have surely opposed the Rosia Montana project, but mostly out of ‘patriotic’ spirit, because it implies giving away the national riches to ‘foreigners.’ But they are minority, because despite the ‘political expertise’ of Daniel Barbu, the obvious tendencies are rather to the left. But the same minister with two Ph.D. diplomas forgets that anarchism (in wide sense) represents a culture that also had a positive mark on the evolution of political modernity. In a certain sense, even the liberalism which the minister represents fed from an anarchist source, because it promoted a wider withdrawal of the state from the society (especially from economy).
It is strange how the premier praises Che Guevara and delightfully listens to quotes from Mao along with the young Social Democrats, but has on blame for ‘legionary’ protesters. This is a cheat in terms of ideology and history. The man who not only dreamed of, but also staged coups d’etat was precisely the beloved Che (the first chief of the Cuban gulag, among others), while Mao’s teenagers did a ‘cultural revolution’ like mass terrorism. And accusing the same protesters that they are financed by George Soros, while also denouncing them as neofascists is simply ridiculous. Why doesn’t the premier want to remove his borrowed environmentalist’s clothes (he is the chief of a party which, in time, also absorbed several green parties) and assume a proletarian-capitalist ideology opposed to the environmentalist left? It would be more honest than making the smokescreen of the ‘legionary’ danger.

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