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December 2, 2022

The discreditation of Anti-Communism

Senator Sorin Iliesiu (photo) finally managed to persuade his legislative forum to finally approve his project of an Anti-Communist law. It is just the first step, but it is enough to make us think about it.
When Iliesiu had announced that he would join PSD because he found support here for his project, all he stirred were ironical smiles, because nobody thought that the party that had done so much to challenge the condemnation of Communism would support him. And yet, his new party colleagues did support him. Even if it was a circumstantial support, as they do not want, in their present situation of crisis, to lose another member, the fact that Social-Democrats backed him up shows one more thing: ideological confusion.
How can a party that provided a Prime Minister who still loves to wear Che Guevara T-shirts, and who still keeps Ion Iliescu in the role of “wise old man”, Iliescu who, after a lifetime of fervently practiced Communism, has consistently discouraged, as long as he held the power, any serious confrontation with the totalitarian past, be trustworthy when supporting such initiative? It seems that all they actually want is to make things even more confused, so that they could discredit them afterwards. What credibility did Vladimir Putin have when he claimed to support introducing the study of Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago” in Russian school books while he was proudly attending Dzerjinski’s commemoration – the father of Soviet political police?
The initiative is all the more unconvincing, as some of its stipulations are a laughingstock. The official condemnation of Communism has already been done, and the respective Senator has even been a member of the Tismaneanu Committee, who elaborated the report assumed, in the name of the Romanian state, by the President of that time, Traian Basescu. Why would anyone grant more credit to a report elaborated by the Romanian Academy, an institution that had not yet recovered adequately after being discredited in the years of Communism? Even repeating this gesture of Condemnation only trivializes such attitude, stripping it of any seriousness.
All the more ridiculous is the proposition to install a huge, permanently lighted cross, in the centre of the Capital. Sorin Iliesiu was among the first who produced documentaries about the contestation of University Square events, the first major contestation of Ion Iliescu’s regime. He was probably impressed of the older idea of building a cross on that place, as Christian symbols were appreciated by some of the people involved in the protest movements at that time. Actually, there were several attempts to place Anti-Communist resistance under the unique sign of the battle for Christian faith.
Thus, an entire mythology of a religious war was developed, a war of the Church with the agents of Satan. Some of the documentaries dedicated to the suffering in Communist prisons overtook such interpretation. The debate transcends Romania’s borders. The Russian Orthodox Church, too, tried to monopolize the suffering of the past, suggesting that homage monuments should be churches. The first question that rises, therefore, is: why does it have to be a cross?
It is not just about accepting or refusing the Christian dimension of a future monument, it is more about its symbolic power. Most Anti-Communist monuments that appeared all over the country are artistic kitsch, a fact that limits and compromises their message. And Iliesiu’s gigantic lighted cross seems to join that category. A monument with a real force of expression and representative for contemporary aesthetics would be welcome. Similarly welcome could be a museum dedicated to the memory of Communist totalitarianism.
Budapest owns such museum, a genuine role model in the field, especially as it manages to combine the memory of the two competing totalitarian regimes: Communism and Fascism. Similarly to the case of the controversial anti-legionary law, the thing we failed at was the condemnation of political extremism as such, by choosing the risky path of perpetuating the confusion of a delusional ideological war. The example of the Budapest museum is meaningful in this direction as well. Even if they have their own features each, totalitarian regimes must be condemned together, otherwise, there will be always the temptation to consider that one was better than the other.

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