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A short report from a recent event

My friend Youri Smouter kept telling me that we have to accept the idea of socialism with Chinese, Romanian… or (I might add) Paraguayan characteristics.

Today, March 25, 2023, I went to a socialist event in Romania. The presentation of the Socialist Alliance, a political alliance between the Romanian Socialist Party and the Social Democratic Workers Party.

It started beautifully. Patriotic songs, then folk songs in which God was prayed to for peace and justice.

Then the Three Colours was sung with the hall on its feet.

I gave little recordings to someone. He told me: the time machine exists!

Yes, that’s socialism for us. With extensions of Ceausescu nationalism and traditionalism, with folk music, with praise of the homeland. Just like before ’89. If someone had been in hiding and separated from the world for 34 years and came out of hiding for the first time today, they would have no reason to believe that any change had taken place in our country. At least not since the first few minutes of the event.

Then the speeches were made. Here, there were many points that were as right-wing as can be. Painfully exact. The fraudulent privatizations, the dispossession of the country of so many assets that have been built by our work, by all of us, the dispossession of buildings, land, abusive retrocession. Yes. The great post-communist robbery, as Emanuel Copilaș, author of a book with exactly that name, would say. The precariousness of workers, poverty, fabulous fortunes acquired in miraculous ways. Very sad and true.

But then, on the economic front, strange solutions were put forward: “socialist market economy in which state-owned enterprises compete on equal terms with private enterprises.” It is not at all clear to me how capitalism can be overcome if, as Albena Azmanova says, we don’t cut the evil at the root and solve the central problem: competitive profit production. Up-to-date readings from critics of capitalism wouldn’t hurt. Not to be applauded, of course, but debates on the capitalism of precarity (Albena Azmanova) or the capitalism of austerity (Clara Mattei) provide necessary theoretical openings if we are to advance viable economic solutions. Equally provocative is the provocative text “People’s Republic of Walmart” (Leigh Philips and Michal Rozworski) in which we see that the centralized economy works just fine. It just works in corporations for the benefit of shareholders. But if it works so well for the few it means it can work for the many, so the problem is not centralisation.

That is, to find viable solutions to the painful problems very correctly indicated by the leaders of the PSR and PSDM. Otherwise, yes, we can engage in political parades and even make some collage. But today’s capitalism is a new animal that cannot be killed with yesterday’s political means.

Interesting is also the courage of these parties to oppose Romania’s war and obedience to external power structures. Some speakers were counting on courage and reform of the EU, others were claiming that for Romania the only solution is to regain sovereignty. Again, the boldness of the challenge is to be appreciated, but in such an economically interconnected world it is difficult to achieve full sovereignty as a small country. Let us not forget that in the golden age we were part of a pretty serious alliance; we were not exactly alone on the plain led by the able helmsman. Romania’s place and role in its new alliances appeared in the challenging but reformist speech on socialist bases delivered by the inimitable Gheorghe Zbăganu.

It was worth noting the presence of young enthusiasts who broke the rhythm and brought the discussion closer to our era. David A. Marin, a young man of only 23, gave a very articulate speech, contrasting the sci-fi utopias of a Polish socialist in the 1950s with the apocalyptic capitalist utopias of the moment.

Socialism with Romanian characteristics is a very interesting phenomenon. Let’s welcome the newly-formed alliance and wish it all the best in adapting to the challenges of the moment.

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