Speech of Prof. Dr. Emil Constantinescu, President of Romania 1996-2000
at the Conference „Europe and the World: 30 Years after the Victorious Polish Solidarity”
Gdansk, September 2010
I stand here to do, 30 years after the foundation of Solidarność and two decades since the fall of the communist dictatorships in Central and South Eastern Europe, homage to Poland, to the Independent Self-governing Trade Union Solidarity and to Lech Walesa. I bring it of behalf of Romania, of the Romanian civic society and of mine.
Before approaching the topic of our conference, I would like to make a confession. After crashing through a popular riot the Ceausescu criminal regime in only 7 days, paid with the price of 1104 killed people, of 3432 seriously injured people and of 3402 arrested and tortured, I was elected president of the Bucharest University and leader of the anticommunist and democratic civic and political movement. Having this capacity, I promoted a political project of construction the Romanian civic society (impossible to make under the Ceausescu dictatorship) inspired by the Solidarność model. This project would be based upon the cooperation between free trade unions and the intellectual elite in the spirit of the Christian democratic ideals.
In 1996, when I was elected president of Romania, I have promoted a radical reforms project in the political, economic and social fields following Polish model. I have chosen this model for Romania because, in my opinion, after the Polish people fight and sacrifices it wouldn’t have been possible either the peaceful fall of the soviet empire and the communist dictatorships, or the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of the former communists states from the Central Europe, Baltic and South eastern Europe areas.
During my term, this project became state policy. I made my first state visit to Poland. Within this visit occurred in January 1997 I have presented my homage to former president Lech Walesa, I kept a recollection moment at father Popiełuszko’s tomb and I met the intellectuals of the Solidarność movement. The first result of that visit was the constitution of the Poland-Romania-Ukraine trilateral. Romania signed, after the Polish model, the State Treaty with Ukraine, thus being founded a stability base in Central Europe as a possible model for the former Yugoslavia, Balkans and Central Asia countries. Romania implemented the hard economic reforms following the Polish model of the 1990-1994 and I accepted to pay personally the political price for these changes. With the support of the Polish Catholic Church, I have organized the historical visit of the Venerable Pope John Paul II to Romania, the first visit made by the catholic Church Supreme Pontiff, opening the way for widely improving the relationships with other orthodox churches from South Eastern Europe.
Since 1997, I have signed, also taking the Polish model, a strategic partnership with the United States of America, taking Romania pout of the possible Russia-Belarus-Yugoslavia axis, which was to be proclaimed in 1999 by these countries’ Parliaments.
Following the Polish steps, Romania was to obtain, one after the other, the NATO summit presidency, the Peace Partnership in Washington, in July 1999, the OSCE presidency in 2000, the integration within NATO alliance in 2004 and within the European Union in 2007. Just like Poland, Romania is to be loyal to the NATO organization and send military troops to the Iraqi and Afghanistan theaters of operation, participate in the Anti-Missile Shield and host American military bases on its territory. I continue to believe that within the present economic and financial crisis, the only valid model for Romania is still Poland, and I continue to believe that developing the cooperation between our two countries is not only for our mutual benefit, but also serves the cause of peace and development in Europe and in our contemporary world.
SOLIDARITY AFTER 30 YEARS
BETWEEN HISTORY AND MYTH
Twenty years after the ‘89 revolutions, they leave the actuality to get into history and myth. What made the ‘89 revolutions to look like a miracle was the fall of the communist empire from the inside on peaceful conditions and in a very short timeframe. The analysis of the political, economic and social context does not cast a shadow over this miracle, but on the contrary, empowers it with an even greater value. At the beginning, the crows that made the revolutions resulting in the fall of the former soviet empire, were attracted by Gorbachev’s reformatory project and were nourishing a normal and sincere hope that this project would end up with their life improvement. The reforms initiated in the mid-80s in the USSR through perestroika and glasnost have played an important role in starting the change. The intellectuals, less interested in the perestroika, were however interested in the glasnost; they were won over by the possibility to express themselves freely after decades of interdictions. The groups of intellectuals enjoying then the possibility to openly found in Russia, in the USSR republics, as well as in the satellite communist countries from Central and South Eastern Europe have elaborated they own project of changing the communist regimes.
This project took place on three levels. The first one consisted in a project of rediscovering the national identities through language, culture and historical memory. The second was a religious one; the regeneration of the religious spirit had played an overwhelming role within the entire former soviet empire area. The third level represented a political and economic project and proposed radical reforms that were to lead in a fast manner to a capitalist economy and a western type democracy. As the perestroika type economic reforms were failing, the crowds’ interest moved from Gorbachev’s project to the radical intellectuals’ one, who succeeded to make it public using the glasnost. Under these circumstances, the communist secret services’ conspiration, which expected a gradual transition and the maintenance of the Communist party as well as a liberalized soviet empire, failed. The crowds have chosen the radical perspective. The force they had when they had adhered to it is to belong more to the ethos than to a rational approach. This ethos, which put on the move large masses on a huge area, can be understood only through an anthropological approach.
The peaceful change of the most repressive and criminal system in the history seems to be a miraculous supernatural event. It is true, a foreign military pressure upon the soviet communist empire was present and the West and especially by the US dragged it into an arming course to which it could no longer resist economically and technologically. It is true that the West put a political and civic pressure in order for the human rights to be respected and through the communication channel represented by the US financed broadcasting station. However, all these were only conditions and not causes.
No foreign or domestic conspiracy had the capacity organize this change if there had not been determined crowds of people who had believed in ideals and willing to fight and die for these ideals. Such moments are rare within the entire world history.
The Revolutions in the 1989 Eastern Europe was one of the moments considered as defying for history. Robert Cooper considered that in such crucial moments people act not only following their interests, but also according to their way of living, meaning the behaviour that defines their identity. There are people which in crucial moments act according to their national myth. Alternatively, they may create a new one.
\Which is the defining national myth of Eastern European peoples in the post-communist time? In his attempt to figure out Europe’s modern history, Raoul Girardet bets on the filiations between the contemporary political imaginary and the great myths of mankind. The French political analyst identifies four myths, which he thinks essential for the entire contemporary European society: the myth of conspiracy, the myth of the saviour, the myth of the global age and the myth of unity. All four refer to the social and political events that have radically altered the face of Europe over the two decades. If we should talk about the revolutions of 1989 which have led to the fall of the iron curtain and to the fall of communism, or about the evolution of European nations in the period immediately consequent to the said revolutions; if we should approach the idea of European unity or the danger of a could-be return to communism, we will discover throughout the lines manifestations of the four above-mentioned political myths. The fact that the politics of the former soviet empire states was associated to these myths in an almost identical manner, had drawn the attention upon a common psychology. We talk about a common sensitivity, coming from the century-old cohabitation marked by tragic conflicts and surprising affinities. It reveals us through the myths telling us things that we do not know yet about ourselves.
Analyzing the political myths and the collective imaginary of the south-eastern Europe people which have experienced the tragic communist years, I have noticed that even though Girardet is not wrong in identifying those four political myths with the springs that have led to shaping the present European civilization, none of these four myths can be considered significant for the Southeast European world. The unique myth that I consider as defining from all points of view for this cultural environment is the myth of the builder’s sacrifice, which is present for centuries in the European collective imaginary.
Assuming the myth of faith trough sacrifice as a defining political myth brings about a physiological gain by des-locating from the collective mental the myth of passivity and introducing the construction rigor within the behavior. From this point of view, we are free to access now the necessary rigor and seriousness for an action policy instead of a culture of sufferance and patience, overrun in 1989.
During the two decades since the Revolutions in 1989, the former communist states have fulfilled two major political interests: integration within the NATO and the European Union. The first one guarantees our state independence, unity and security and frees us from secular fears. The second one, through its statute of consolidated democracy and functional market economy, offers them economic protection in a moment of globalized financial crises. No matter great these achievements might be at the scale of the whole history, we talk about political, military, economic, social and cultural interests, and not about ideals. Politics, economy, justice as well as the moral state of the former communist states people were and will still be for a while under the sign of the original sin: the collectivist communist mentality compelled by force and ideological manipulation.
The martyrs of the Revolution in 1989, along with the martyrs of the resistance against communism during 1945-1989 and who have died for freedom, truth, justice and democracy, putting these ideals above their own lives represent the founding sacrifice of the Eastern European peoples’ rebirth.
If we want to free ourselves from the sin of living under the communist dictatorship and to give a meaning to the founding sacrifice, we need to change the behavioral pattern based on a surviving strategy with a behavior based on self-respect.
Is the Solidarność model still a need in our modern world? Do we still need a solidarity based on ideals and faith? Has the capitalist society created new sections, which during crisis time might become dangerous? Is democracy as solid as it seems to be?
Can it face a new danger: populism, without strengthening the civic society? Populism, as degrading form, can flourish in democracy and lead towards new totalitarian tendencies. Even though it was not another real sideslip of the democratic structures and institutions, it does not mean that we must not be vigilant and not come out with a new common project to strengthening democracy.
We need to restore the dignity of the intellectual project of those who 20 years ago have initiated their own political project and thus contributed to the enlargement of the democratic Europe. Intellectuals and people from the former communist countries have brought a new ethos, have succeeded to mark the European Union of that moment, a little bit stiff and kind of driven only by economic issues, a new enthusiasm, to wake up new forces, new energies. The same thing may happen also today. Again the European Union may fall into a bureaucracy oriented activity and if in the Central and South Eastern Europe will appear a visionary political project, adapted to the present day challenges, it will restore not only our intellectual dignity, but it will also contribute to a new Central and Eastern Europe identity within the European and world group.