Totalitarianism, whether of the right or left side of the political spectrum, is a regime that denies human rights and subordinates the individual to the collective entity of the party/state. It subordinates the will of the individual to the directions imposed by the governing structures of the state, which have total control over all elements of social organisation. Very often, totalitarian regimes are built around the cult of personality of an absolute leader who in fact holds both the full power to decide the political directions to follow and the right of life and death over any individual, whether he is part of the great mass of citizens or of the accidental ruling elite. The essence of the totalitarian regime is best succinctly stated, in my opinion, in George Orwell’s formula, namely, in the totalitarian universe everything that is not forbidden is mandatory. Of note here is the phrase totalitarian universe which accurately evokes the sense of the spectrum of the individual’s life in this type of regime, for which anything outside it, simply does not seem to exist. The consequence of this reality is devastating for what we can call humanism because it reduces man to being a simple cog in a gear whose machinations are built exclusively to serve the interest defined by those in charge, most of the time against the interest of the citizen and each time subject to a utopian ideology.
Communism, which claimed to be a new civilisation, superior to the capitalist one that it passionately denied, forced hundreds of millions of people to live in a closed, repressive and humiliating universe. At the theoretical level, of the proclaimed goals, communism claimed to be the embodiment of “absolute humanism”, a society from which class distinctions disappeared and in which people could live in complete freedom. Freedom itself, in the Marxist conception, the only one allowed under the communist regime, was defined as an understood necessity. The communist party was proclaimed as the holder of the universal truth, thus having the right to define the ways of understanding the necessity. The communist utopia, in its attempt to create an egalitarian society, invoking the supreme good of the individual, generated a society in which freedom of conscience was suppressed on mass and the equality it claimed to promote turned into a hateful repression, of whose effects on the souls of the peoples it touched are felt many generations after its fall.
Romania was one of those countries whose destiny was shaken by the horrors of the communist totalitarian regime starting, officially, with the elections of November 19, 1946, fraudulently won by the communists, and ending with its fall in December 1989.
Romania’s misfortune was that of having a common border with the USSR. Following the action of King Mihai I of Romania, of turning weapons against Nazi Germany, the Soviet troops entered the territory of Romania unhindered, and the armistice signed as late as September 12, 1944, generated a heavy burden for the Romanian society. The Romanian delegation in Moscow, called for discussions only on the evening of September 10, was forced to accept the Soviet conditions which provided for the return to the borders of 1940 and the payment of war reparations to the Soviet Union in the amount of 300 million dollars. Of particular importance was the establishment of the Allied (Soviet) Control Commission which was to act in Romania and had the task of following the fulfilment of the clauses of the Armistice Convention. In fact, its powers were much more extensive, controlling, among other things, the press, and the means of communication. These powers have been used to politically favour the extreme left. The true political reality in Romania was precisely observed by the American ambassador in Moscow, who concluded: “The terms of the armistice give the Russian command absolute, unlimited control over the economic life of Romania. The reduction of the standard of living of the Romanian people to the Soviet level will follow gradually but surely. No Romanian police officer or civil servant will be tolerated unless it is at the absolute discretion of the Russian police.”
Organised to fulfil, formally, one of the requirements agreed upon during the Yalta Conference, the elections of November 19, 1946, consecrated – by falsifying the results (at the ballot boxes, at the polling stations and in the county electoral offices) – the communist political power, which had been installed by force on March 6, 1945.
The activity of the historical parties was constantly harassed by the early communist regime and their members were constantly intimidated so that their activity became more and more timid. However, as long as the iconic leaders of the parties remained alive and active there was the danger that at the right moment, the opposition will reorganise. It was only a matter of time before the partisans of the totalitarian regime would turn their attention to them.
“An essential condition for the institutionalisation of the communist political regime in Romania was the transformation of the form and substance of the electoral processes. Elections, as a specific mechanism and process for the selection of political leaders, did not disappear in the period 1945-1989, but were metamorphosed in the sense they had in all authoritarian or dictatorial political regimes, with specific functions of reconsecrating political legitimacy, socialisation and permanent political education, in the sense of proving the connection between the party and the people, to mobilise the masses for the plebiscite of political-ideological projects, and, last but not least, to identify the undesirable elements in society.”
The end of the Second World War found Romania in a very difficult situation. The ill-fated alliance with the Axis powers during Ion Antonescu’s regime was a very difficult burden to carry under the conditions of the Soviet occupation. The military situation meant that, to reposition Romania on the side of the Allies, it was necessary for all parties to work together, which brought the Romanian Communist Party to the forefront of national politics. The latter did not shy away from using whatever means were at its disposal to make the most of the course of history, which was favourable to them, and acted without hesitation in the direction of the total seizure of power. The act of August 23, 1944, was necessary but not sufficient to resettle Romania on a path aligned with that of the Western powers, so the road to the 1946 elections was practically synonymous with the rise of the communists. Held under the conditions of the presence of Soviet troops on Romanian territory and, more than that, under the conditions of a Romania that was sliding more and more into the sphere of Soviet influence, the elections had a predictable result that did not reflect the true choice of the people.
Through a huge fraud, the communists thus managed to acquire an external political legitimacy of their government – by signing the Peace Treaty, in February 1947 – but also to be able to start the construction of a new political system, by arresting, in the following two months, several tens of thousands of Romanians, who had committed anti-communist/anti-government political acts during the electoral campaign.
Once the reins of power were secured, the communist regime showed its true face, the leaders of that time not having the slightest hesitation in starting a process of political cleansing, after which, the only option of the Romanians remained, in fact, the Single Party of the Working Class a.k.a. The Communist Party.
The opposition’s attempts to influence the course of Romania were, unfortunately, futile. We can consider several aspects in order to identify the elements that led to their failure, such as the advanced age of the leaders or the splits within the historical parties through the appearance of the dissidences. Although these elements certainly worked against them, they were most likely not decisive during the events. Romania’s early alliance with Nazi Germany, followed by the Soviet occupation in the context of the non-involvement of the great Western powers, was most likely the central element that we can define as the main cause of Romania’s entry into the abyss of communist-type totalitarianism.
The Communist Party managed, after seizing power, through the skilful use of the advantage conferred by the affiliation to the communist ideology, to remain the only party in Romania until the afternoon of December 22, 1989, when following a secret meeting, the decision was made to reactivate the National Liberal Party.
Even after the fall of communism following the Revolution of December 1989 and the restoration of democracy in Romania, the horrors of the totalitarian communist regime continue to haunt the soul of the Romanian people to this day.
The text above refers to a part of history, one that my country has suffered through. What is the relevance of all I have written? you may ask, and rightly so. Well, it’s just that Vladimir Putin, the current president of Russia and a nostalgic for the USSR, will do the same thing in Ukraine and any other territory he succeeds in occupying. The totalitarian’s playbook remains largely unchanged in the last century. The people may have changed but the methods are the same. Democracy may not be perfect, but it is undoubtedly a whole lot better than the darkness of communism and totalitarian oppression.