This article represents opinions of GAS, the ISp affiliate in Romania, and BTM (Marxist Youth Bloc)
The far right in Romania is increasingly becoming a danger to workers and to the oppressed. It has no shame in trampling underfoot the very bourgeois democracy which produced it in order to implement its political programme. Beyond cultivating an ever-widening voter base, AUR has begun to call upon its parasocial networks to mobilize people from the repressive apparatus of the state (army, police, internal and external secret services) in support of its political goals.
This is reflected in the manifesto launched in October under the initiative of AUR/PNR MP Mircia Chelaru, former chief of the Romanian Army’s General Staff, and signed by “501 retired and reserve military officers”, according to the document which can be accessed here. Invoking the sovereignty of the people, the petitioners “imperatively” call for a mixture of interventionist policies in favour of domestic capital, militarist policies of censorship and control, ethno-nationalism and open attacks against workers’ movements and minorities of all kinds. The document was published on AUR’s website and has been sent for inspection to “all military associations through their presidents”.
It is particularly important to look critically at this manifesto and understand whose interests it actually represents, and how they are in direct conflict with our interests.
Overt Ethno-Nationalism: Save the “Biological Heritage”!
The programme calls for the elimination of a range of civil, political and even property rights for anyone other than “true Romanians”, along with bio-political measures of a pronounced racial character.
It is thus demanded that “the representation of Romanians in elected and appointed offices, particularly those concerning national security, should be made only by Romanian citizens with a single citizenship”, so that Romanian citizens with dual citizenship (considered “allogenic” by the authors) are deprived of the right to stand for election. The authors also call for a halt to the “creation of allogeneic communities that are unsuited to the culture, tradition and spirituality of Romanians” as a reaction to the import of cheap labour from the global South to semi-peripheral countries such as Romania. In recent years, when the far right talks about “culture”, it often does so because it cannot talk openly about “race” without facing legal consequences. Supposed European cultural superiority is, in the eyes of contemporary fascists, proof of racial supremacy. We have good reason to believe this is also the case in this manifesto.
The traditional nuclear family does, of course, need defending in the eyes of former employees of the Ministry of Defense – presumably in the face of women’s empowerment and LGBTQ people who can allow themselves to exist without replicating its model. The follow-up betrays the authors’ true intentions when they call for “strengthening the healthy biological heritage of the Romanian Nation”. One can easily imagine who could be accused of “polluting” this biological pool, and why the claim has a visible eugenicist and white-supremacist character. The fact that this is found in the manifesto so overtly shows how normalised fascism has become in the public and political space over the last few years, amid crises to which the Left has failed to come up with an effective response.
It is only necessary to recall how the ‘healthy biological heritage’ of the Romanian nation is already being strengthened by certain physicians, through the sterilisation of Roma women without their consent and information, to get an idea of how the authors of the manifesto would implement their programme.
Censorship, but With Hate
The same political forces that consider themselves censored by the limits of bourgeois democracy, which is accused of having been subordinated by the ‘left’ and ‘neo-Marxists’, explicitly call for censorship and suppression of opposition with the help of the secret services in the document. The fourth political principle assumed by AUR, Freedom, is defended by demands such as “eliminate from the media and the online space any manipulation of society […] by aggressive propaganda and falsehoods produced by means of artificial intelligence”, or “combat the manipulation campaigns produced by agents of influence in the service of hostile offices, which denigrate […], the army and the institutions of force in general, but also the school and the ancestral church”.
Fascism is based on the suppression of popular and workers’ movements by institutions of force and shock troops, by physical and institutional violence, policies favoured by the authors of the manifesto. In times of crisis, such measures are necessary for the capitalists in order to preserve their power and their wealth. Is a demonstration against the disproportionate funding of the army, to the detriment of social services, a denigration of the ‘institutions of force’ that must be combated? Is the demand for access to abortion services a denigration of the church? Can a striking teacher who criticises the pathetic state of Romanian education due to underfunding be accused of denigrating the school? All these are questions that the fascists will easily find the answer to when the time comes for them to do their duty as lackeys of capital and fight the organised masses.
We must not delude ourselves. The only censorship the far right has ever cared about is that which prevents their propaganda; the only freedom the fascists have ever cared about is the freedom to strike at the most vulnerable layers of society.
The Wild Card of the Romanian Bourgeoisie
If we look closely, all these measures are not accidental, but serve a well-determined interest of a class: the small and middle bourgeoisie. On the one hand, it is trying to defend itself against the transnational capitalists (who threaten to push it into proletarianization through monopolies and expropriation), and on the other hand – above all! – against any possible labour and mass movements that might challenge it.
As the petty bourgeois knows that, in fact, only the state against which they rebel helps them to maintain themselves on the market (through interventions, bonuses, facilities, privileges, etc.), the manifesto proposes economic interventionism in favour of the Romanian capitalists. It calls for combating land grabbing by foreign landowners, rebuilding the Romanian banking system, protecting the forestry fund and introducing import quotas on goods for which there is competition on the domestic market. These protectionist measures are intended to act as a barrier to the monopoly of transnational capital and to preserve certain market segments for the local exploiters – who are thereby delaying their expropriation and proletarianisation for a little longer. The agrarian economy which the far right is proposing we return to reflects a lack of understanding of the historical process of capitalist development. The solution of the fascist petty bourgeoisie to the problems of capitalism is to turn the course of history in the opposite direction.
Moreover, the manifesto has no problem with private property and does not even propose the insufficient redistribution of surplus. The only context in which proposals for “just and necessary redemption and confiscation” appear is that of recovering assets lost through “proven fraud, corruption and collaborationism”; the only assets worth confiscating are illicit ones. Assets accumulated through the cruel exploitation of Romania’s working class, through the extraction of surplus value from the labour of those who have been forced to sell their labour for as much as the boss wants, are considered very legitimate by the authors of the document, who are riding the anti-corruption discourse that liberals offered to the masses a few years ago.
It is not clear to us whether “restoring the Nation’s control” over energy, gold and rare metal resources would happen by way of nationalization or by way of their capture by domestic capitalists. But even in the first case, it should be noted that they would be the property of a repressive military-police state subservient to the reactionary bourgeoisie, not a democratic workers’ state.
The authors of the manifesto, on the other hand, have no problem with Western imperialism either, but eventually with Romania’s disadvantaged position at the table of this imperialist bloc. They call for Romania to become „an active participant in strategic decision-making, both in the North Atlantic Alliance and in the structures of the European Union! The current role of mere partner-executor must cease and we must assert our intelligent value as a continental co-Western partner”. Their anger is not at the existence of military and political structures with an overtly imperialist and neo-colonial purpose, but at the fact that Romania does not have sufficient decision-making power within them – and the solution they propose for Romania’s exit from its current status as a semi-colony of the West is, to top it all off, greater convergence of interests with the imperialist powers.
AUR is not about anti-colonial patriotism, as some supporters of the former regime of Ceaușescu erroneously claim, but about an aggressive and even expansionist European nationalism. The document calls, among other things, for the restoration of the “Unity of the Romanian Nation’s Area of Existence”, probably for which purpose it also calls for the introduction of compulsory military service.
Although the far right likes to present itself as the “voice of the people”, such documents demonstrate its subservience to capital. The AUR is fighting international capital to secure the lion’s share for Romanian capitalists. The AUR Manifesto has NOTHING to offer to the many and oppressed; it has NOTHING to offer to those who work, build and maintain society. To the underpaid worker, who toils overtime in dangerous conditions to make a profit for the employer, AUR offers the alternative of doing the same for a Romanian employer – and eventually asks him to be proud of it.
Fascism and Militarism: Recent and Historical Lessons
The dangers of mobilising the military through such propaganda by the forces of the reactionary right are obvious in the current international context.
In Bolivia, the military junta that ousted legitimate President Evo Morales from power was strengthened in this way by the efforts of far-right military and police cadres. The Morales administration ignored this danger until it was too late.
In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro relied on the military to disrupt society and cause a possible coup when he lost the election. They provided a necessary base for the former president to try to replicate in Brazil the invasion of the Capitol carried out by Trump supporters.
In the US, the Heritage Foundation, one of the most dangerous think tanks of the far right, is planning to “reshape the executive branch of the US federal government in the event of a Republican victory in the 2024 US presidential election” and is producing propaganda aimed at the military and others to that end.
A well-known historical example is the Chilean coup (1973), where the far right, backed by US imperialists, staged a coup and liquidated democratically elected President Salvador Allende, leading to a military dictatorship under General Pinochet.
A firm reaction from the left is needed to prevent such situations in Romania and elsewhere. First of all, we must campaign against the interference of the army, the secret services and any other power structures in the political arena and in the democratic process. We should have no illusions about bourgeois democracy; we should, however, be aware that a far-right takeover would be a major blow to the class struggle. We must support laws which restrict the activity of the secret services, which protect the privacy and private lives of citizens and which establish conflicts of interest. We must fight to defund the military-police apparatus and fund education, health and social services adequately.
We already know that soldiers, policemen and secret service agents are not our allies, because they have a material interest in maintaining the existing order. However, tensions occasionally arise between their interests and those of the ruling class. This is the case with the discontent of military retirees with the pensions they receive, which has led to street protests in recent years. In the context of the war in Ukraine, more and more Romanian soldiers are supporting a ceasefire, fearing they could be sent to die on the front. We must have the ability to listen to these dissatisfactions, because otherwise the far right will do so and propose its solutions. It is advisable to support their fight for adequate pay and pensions, the right of police officers to unionize and the struggles of subordinate staff in front of their bosses, superiors and the government. All this puts pressure on the capitalist state. When it will no longer have the money to pay its power structures adequately, at least some of their employees will stop fighting on the side of capital.
In Romania there are currently more than 170,000 military pensioners, former employees of the MAI and MApN. To these we must add 53,000 reserve soldiers. Compared to the total number, the figure of 501 signatures on the AUR Manifesto is ridiculous. It is clear that they do NOT represent a majority of the retired and reservists, but an ultra-minority within the political orbit of AUR. However, their intention is obvious: recruiting this layer of the labour aristocracy towards the extreme right on the basis of material grievances. This strategy could bear fruit in the coming period, if material conditions favour it.
This is why we need anti-fascist organizing and solidarity, both locally, nationally and internationally. The answer is never to ally with Romanian capitalists against transnational exploiters, but an international workers’ movement to end the exploitative capitalist system.