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Romania: Protest movement topples the government
Victor Cosmin, Romania
In the middle of January, several countrywide protests stopped Romanian president Basescu's draconian healthcare 'reform' from being enacted.
After 28 days of protests, in temperatures of -20°C, the Romanian working class and youth stopped the inhuman healthcare reform of the ruling party (PDL) and brought down the government of prime minister Emil Boc and his ministers. Now it's time to go on to remove the president, and the rotten system he represents!
Up to a month ago, none of the members of the Romanian political elite would have predicted the social anger which their healthcare reform was about to unleash.
President Basescu was confident of success, having introduced privatisation programmes in all sectors of the Romanian economy, like his predecessors since the restoration of capitalism.
He decided to take a further "step forward" and follow suit in education and healthcare. Unfortunately for him, this time, events took a different path.
Neither last year's labour 'reforms', that created worse working conditions for people, nor the austerity measures that forced many working class people into dire poverty, triggered an explosion of nationwide protests. It was a single, albeit brutal and provocative reform, in healthcare. How can this be explained?
The Romanian working class had already been disgusted by the political circus of the last 20 years, when parties with so-called 'opposing ideologies' allied with each other only to obtain power, in a sea of corruption. Complemented by the impact of the austerity measures of 2011 and the new draconian laws of 2012, the anger finally exploded in the recent movement.
On 10 January 2012, the state sub-secretary of the healthcare ministry, Dr Raed Arafat, resigned from office because he was against the privatisation reform in the emergency healthcare system.
Specifically, the reform aimed 'only' to allow for private emergency systems to compete with the state-financed one. However, in Romania there is already a shortage of medical personnel, especially field doctors, who require years of training.
If the private sector entered emergency services, it could only have employed doctors from the state sector, and step by step, the whole emergency system would be privatised. Workers and the poor of the country would have been left to die unless they could afford to pay for a trip in a private ambulance!
Since he was elected in 2004, the "Balkanic Berlusconi", as Basescu was called a few times by the western media, has cut the wages of working people, established anti-worker labour laws, called the working people "lazy" and even "idiots" or "worms"!
The protests continued, relatively peacefully, as thousands filled squares, even in smaller towns and provinces. As the 'opposition' Social Liberal Union (USL), a coalition of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and National Liberal Party (PNL) tried to claim the protests for themselves, the people went even further, to criticise the whole political establishment, and in some cases, even demand 'a government of the people, by the people and for the people'.
Even the opposition was scared of the Romanian workers and youth now, and backed down from supporting the protests, as people began to turn their anger against them too.
In a country which had never known serious movements since the great miners' strike of 1999, the protests shook the thrones of the whole political elite. The people in the squares realised that their enemy is not just the PDL and Basescu, but also the rest of the political elite, who sold our economy for personal profit since the 1990s.
At one stage, the USL even organised its own protests composed of party members, in order to divert the workers from the genuine struggle. The opposition parties infiltrated the protests with their youth wings, attempting to change the slogans of the movement and repeatedly stated on the TV that they would support the protests, as long as the people would stop demanding early elections and the resigning of president Basescu!
Countrywide the major slogans on protests were anti-PDL and anti-USL, along with banners expressing solidarity with workers in Greece or the 'Indignados' in Spain.
The continuing protests led the prime minister to resign on 6 February. This is the clearest example yet in Europe of a protest movement bringing down a ruling government. This struggle shows that Romania is ready to enter the international struggle against austerity, the capitalist machine and the dictatorship of finance capital.
Protests have even grown in intensity, however, since the news has arrived that the new prime minister is Razvan Ungureanu, who worked as a secret service spy. Appointing such a man might be considered a move reminiscent of a military dictatorship, and could even further inflame the protest movement, especially after the cold season. The prime minister is gone, but the political apparatus is the same.
This is why the CWI proposes a real revolutionary direction which would benefit the Romanian people. The capitalists have three big parties in this country. The people need an alternative of their own!
The protests stopped a repressive capitalist law and have overthrown a government, but it is not enough! The protests must go on and be further organised around working class demands including general strike action. This requires democratic, fighting trade unions to be built, and the current leaders, who were dragged late into only partial support for the movement, removed and replaced with leaders accountable to the workers, on an average industrial wage.
The movement must continue to be directed against the entire political establishment. A mass working people's party, democratically controlled by a mass membership, could play a crucial role in providing the struggle with a viable alternative programme.
This government must be replaced with a genuine workers' government, which would, in the genuine traditions of democratic socialism and Marxism, immediately nationalise the banks under democratic control, kick out the IMF, invest in job creation, increase wages, and put all the big business and state enterprises under the control of working people through democratic committees and assemblies of workers and youth.
The real enemy is not just Basescu, and not even just the political elite, but also the capitalist economic system itself, which drives the whole world into a deep recession and then attempts to get the working class to pay for it. All workers must unite in worldwide solidarity to crush their common enemy.
A longer version of this article written by a school student participant in the movement can be read on socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 22 February 2012:
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Reviews and readers' comments