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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 April 2009

Moldova: Thousands storm parliament buildings as economic crisis worsens

Youth and workers need alternative to pro-market, ethnic-based parties

ON 7 April, thousands of youth stormed and set fire to the parliament building in Kishinau, the capital of Moldova, Europe's poorest country. They did so to protest at what they saw as the falsification of Sunday's parliamentary election, in which the 'Communist Party' (CP) won over 50% of the vote and 60% of the seats. The poll results are hotly contested within Moldova.

Rob Jones, CWI, Moscow

Moldovian President, 'communist' leader Voronin, is very far from being a Marxist. When he first came to power at the beginning of this decade, he set about the rapid privatisation of what industry was left in the small republic.

Voronin announced he wanted Moldova to quickly join the EU and since then he has presided over the continuing impoverishment of the country. Young Moldavians, in their hundreds of thousands, have been forced to emigrate, to work in Russia and Western Europe and become victims of super-exploitation. Young women are often victims of the international sex slave trade.

Now, with an economic crisis galloping across Europe, the remittances the immigrant workers send home are falling. Worse, they are becoming unemployed and returning to the poverty of Moldova.

'Flashmob' protests

The protests started on Monday morning, when two NGOs - 'Think Moldova' and 'Hyde Park' - organised a 'flashmob' protest over the results of the election. 5,000 students and school students turned up, chanting "Better dead than red!" and "Long live a greater Romania!" The protesters waved Moldovan and Romanian flags, but went home peacefully, after being told to gather again at 10am the following morning.

At least 10,000 turned up. This time, representatives of the main opposition parties also attended and spoke to the crowds. The three parties, a mixture of pro-Western neo-liberal parties and pro-Romanian nationalists, claimed that they had been "robbed" of victory in the elections.

The protest, however, escalated out of control when groups of youth broke away to storm the parliament and presidential buildings. They raced through the buildings throwing furniture, files and computers out of windows before setting the building on fire. At least one died during the protests and it is claimed others died too.

In response, President Voronin and his henchmen claimed that a coup d'etat was being attempted and that the Romanian government was behind it. Braced by messages of support from Russian president Medvedev, Voronin announced the protests would be put down, closed the borders with Romania and recalled Moldova's ambassador from Bucharest. On 8 April police surrounded the colleges and universities.

There is much ground for discontent in Moldova. It was one of the richer parts of the Soviet Union, with a southern climate and well developed agriculture and vinoculture. During the process of capitalist restoration Moldova suffered de-industrialisation, a dramatic collapse in living standards and ethnic conflict.

Transdniester

Voronin has been unable to progress his plan of taking Moldova into the EU because of the existence of the de-facto independent 'unrecognised republic' of Transdniester, which stretches along the eastern border with the Ukraine.

Transdniester is populated by a mixed Russian speaking population of Russians, Ukrainians and Moldovans. It was the scene of war in the early 1990s, when the Kishenev government was dominated by nationalists that aimed to unify with Romania, while Transdniester wanted to maintain its relationship with Russia.

Since then, the republic, which contains much of Moldova's industry, has been led by a corrupt clique around president Smirnov. The area still uses the Russian rouble as currency.

The EU says it will not accept Moldova into membership as long as the issue of Transdniester is unresolved. Russia uses the issue to put pressure on Voronin. After last August's war between Russia and Georgia over another 'unrecognised republic' in the Caucasus, South Ossetia, Voronin rushed to Moscow for assurances from president Medvedev that the next 'hot spot' would not be Transdniester.

Moldova's opposition, believing that only European money will help take the country out of its economic quagmire, is even prepared to concede the loss of Transdniester - in the form of a '30 year concession'. Russia, however, wants to keep the status quo, to prevent Moldova gaining too much independence and becoming another 'enemy state' like Georgia.

It does not appear that a significant number of workers took part in the recent events in Kishinau. While the NGOs and opposition parties used the results of the elections to mobilise opposition, they sparked off an angry attack on the authorities without offering any constructive alternative.

The situation is complex because Moldova is at the interface of East-West relations, with complications caused by the ethnic make-up of the country. The demand "to unify the Romanian and Moldovan state", which was presented by a layer of the youth on the recent protests, demonstrates the complexity.

Until 1940, the non-Transdniestrian part of Moldova (Bessaravia) was part of Romania. Transdniestra was 'Soviet Moldova', then part of the Ukraine. The two parts were 'united' as part of the Hitler-Stalin pact in 1940 and became the new 'Soviet Moldova' after the war. The Moldovan language is a variation of Romanian.

The proposal to create a "Greater Romania" is a demand of the ultra-nationalists and Romanian fascists and in ordinary circumstances would not get a great echo. But circumstances today are not ordinary.

Illusions

Even Romania has a higher standard of living than Moldova. Not only that, it is part of the EU. A layer of the population in countries such as Moldova, given the devastation of their already poverty stricken economy by the current crisis, look to the EU as an economic lifeline. Some in Moldova, particularly students, see 'unification' with Romania as a short-cut to the European Union.

These illusions in some type of 'cleaner' capitalism, over time will be dispelled by the prolonged world economic crisis and by big class struggles both domestically and internationally. And it is not clear what affect the return of migrant workers from Russia and the EU will have on the mood in Moldova.

Another factor that will determine the future mood is the reaction of the government to recent events. Outside of Transdniester most people consider themselves Moldovan and not Romanian.

This is particularly the case with older people, many of whom associate Romania with a pre-World War Two pro-fascist regime. This has been bolstered by official propaganda, which since the mid-1990s has been directed at strengthening the consciousness of Moldova as an 'independent state'.

If, however, faced with further unrest, Voronin runs to Moscow for assistance, this could provoke a backlash and drive more people into the hands of the pro-Romanian opposition.

Way out

The only force that can offer a way out is the workers' movement, which is currently poorly organised and therefore weak. But it is still the only force that can offer a real solution. It is necessary for workers to resist attempts to divide them along national lines and instead to unite to oppose the pro-market and corrupt policies, not only of Voronin and Smirnov but of the opposition parties too.

When calling for the resignation of the government this week, protesters raised the demand for "the establishment of a provisional national council to run the country". The opposition parties, no doubt, think that they should head such a body. That would only hand leadership of the country from one gang of crooks to another.

Instead, workers should demand their own "provisional national council" to convene a national assembly of representatives of all working people in the country to establish a workers' government capable of ending the nightmare of Moldovan capitalism.

But with industry practically non-existent and the mainstays of the economy being agriculture, wine and the income from migrant workers in other countries, Moldova demonstrates the need for workers to be organised internationally. This could lead to a genuine international and democratic plan of production and distribution to ensure that the resources of all countries in the region can be used in the interests of all working people.

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In The Socialist 15 April 2009:

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Stop the war in Sri Lanka: Protest at India House


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European elections: Why No2EU?


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National Union of Teachers conference: Battle on workload begins

London Underground: Set a new strike date

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Youth fight for jobs

Youth Fight for Jobs: What next to build the campaign?


Marxist analysis: history

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Deceptive denigration of Lindsey strike


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G20 Summit death: Bring the cops to account

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Fast news


International socialist news and analysis

Thailand: Battles erupt on the streets of Bangkok

Moldova: Thousands storm parliament buildings as economic crisis worsens


Sport

Rugby league: In League with big business?


 

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