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The 1989 December Revolution in Romania was not only the outcome of hatred against the excesses of Nicolae Ceausescu, the head of the state and Communist party , but also the life of misery and hunger the majority of the population had to live. The Revolution was the end of a process that started with the introduction of Romanian socialism after World War II. The policies and practices of the communist state, heavily influenced by Russia, amplified the already existent social conflicts and also started new ones.

The communist state's goal was to completely transform the society: politically, economically and socially. At the political level, the aim was to centralize and control, with the communist party at the center of political life. The economic policies were directed towards rapid industrialization, collectivization and nationalization of all natural resources. The social reforms encouraged less attention on families and more on the formation of the new working class, the proletariat, faithful to communist programs and ideals.

The Romanian communist party's philosophy was based on the teachings of Vladimir Ilici Lenin. The intention of the party's leaders was to fuel the class conflict and fragment the rural communities. Its policies were clear: "The poor peasant is the principal support of the working class []. We will support the poor peasants, we will start an alliance with the middle class and we will fight restlessly against the rich" (Ministerul Justitiei, 1956, p. 8-12). The party concentrated on weakening the relationships between groups of farmers, in the process destroying the old types of connection that existed in rural Romania for centuries, based on families and neighborhood ties.

Another way of controlling the life of rural communities was to limit and neutralize as much as possible alternative sources of power such as respected local members of the communities and restrict the influence of churches. The village's management was taken over by "consilii populare," composed of local members of the communist party, and religious activities were strictly supervised. In 1947 and 1948 the communist state assumed complete control over churches. Their properties, administration and finances were managed by the government through clergy that agreed to become members of the party. The state was more successful in reducing the influence of the church in towns and cities than in the rural communities. Although the religious services were not forbidden by law, the communist party made the attendance difficult by organizing mass mandatory meetings on Sundays.

The wealthy farmers were called "chiaburi," a pejorative term synonymous with the Russian "kulak." Those farmers were forced into paying quotas at artificially low prices according to the amount of land they owned. Gradually their holdings in excess of 50 ha were expropriated and the state took ownership over their agricultural machinery. This so called Agrarian Reform of 1945 was aimed at gaining support of the poor farmers by giving them small private plots from the land previously owned by their wealthier neighbors. This was a real contradiction with the communist goal of centralization and collectivization and only 10% of the total arable land was redistributed. After 1948, when the communist party consolidated its power, the reforms were stopped and collectivization was carried out gradually partly because of the great resistance it encountered.

The highest form of collectivization was the state farm which was organized after the sovkholz in the USSR. Upon joining the collective farm, the peasant and his family turned over their land, farm implements and livestock to the enterprise. The house and a few animals could be retained together with a small plot of land used as a vegetable garden for the family's personal use. In this kind of enterprise the farmers did not share the profits but were paid wages according to how many days they worked on the farm. The management, consisting of a small group of party members, made all the business decisions. After the payments of farm expenses, delivery quotas to the state, setting aside funds for investment, the earnings, in form of money, were distributed to the collective farm members. The sum was, more often than not, insufficient to support a family.

The Romanian state announced complete collectivization in 1962, even though not all the farm land and rural families agreed to join collective farms. In places where the state encountered high resistance the party tried, usually successfully, to turn the members of the communities and family members against each other. Teachers, workers in factories or state administration were forced to convince relatives from the villages to join the collective farms in return for job security.

Collectivization had an immediate impact on rural communities. Collective farms were not only a financial disaster but also a social tragedy. They did not generate enough revenue, were poorly managed and many administrators kept agricultural produce and money for themselves. A lot of families were forced into collecting wild fruits and berries or picking up the crop left on the farms after harvest. The social relationships were completely changed; the rural communities were torn apart by intimidation, distrust and sometimes violence. In the end, collectivization was the principal tool the state used to force the farmers off the land and direct them toward factories, industrialization being the principal goal of the Romanian Communist Party.

Sandy Andrews


References


Ceausescu, Nicolae, Expunere cu privire la Imbunatatirea Organizarii, Planificarii si Conducerii Agriculturii, in Romania pe Drunul Construirii Societatii Multilateral Dezvoltate. Editural Politica, Bucuresti, 1971.

Drachkovich, Milorad,
East Central Europe: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, Stanford, California, 1982.

Farrrell, Barry,
Political Leadership in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Chicago, Aldine, 1970.

Karcz, Jerzy,
The Economics of Communist Agriculture. Bloomington, Ind. International Development Institute, 1979.

Kideckel, David,
Colectivism si Singuratate in Satele Romaniesti. Polirom, Iasi, 2006.

Staar, Richard,
Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe. Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, Stanford, California, 1982.