The Unique Experience of Romania
The Timişoara Proclamation, March 1990
Written on March 11, 1990, the Timisoara Proclamation, was a 13-point document that called for continuing to build on the victory over the communist dictatorship achieved in December 16-20, 1989. The Timsoreni expressed frustration that their efforts had been marginalized by the new regime in Bucharest although they alone had confronted the Ceausescu government courageously before others joined the insurgency five days later. The proclamation thus demanded the symbolic recognition of the city’s key role in the revolution.
But the authors also made practical demands for economic reform and for establishing authentic democratic practices. They called for temporarily banning former Communists and Securitate officers from running for election in the upcoming May 1990 ballot. Such a ban would have disqualified Ion Iliescu, and other former communists from leadership in political life. The Proclamation invoked Timisoara’s principal role in originating the 1989 revolution, and argued that the Timisoreni had not been given their due in the post-December order. They had not made the revolution, and the sacrifices in lost lives that it had demanded, in order to have one faction of the Communist Party take over from another. The tone of the Proclamation suggests that the inhabitants of Timisoara had a strong regional identity and felt more European and more Western than their countrymen in Bucharest.
Primary Source— Full Text
1. From its earliest hours the Revolution of Timisoara was directed not only against Ceausescu, but, definitely, also against communism. "Down with communism!" was chanted several hundred times during all the days of the Revolution. In full agreement with the wish of the hundreds of millions of East European people we, too, called for the immediate abolishment of this totalitarian and failing social system. The ideal of our Revolution has been and is the return to the genuine values of European democracy and civilization.
2. All the social classes did participate in the Revolution of Timisoara. Workers, intellectuals, office workers, students, school-children, even villagers, who came to support the Revolution, were cut down by bullets side by side in the streets of Timisoara. We positively oppose the typically communist method of domination by spreading feuds among social classes and strata. It was on behalf of the ideology of "class struggle" that the Bolsheviks rose to power in 1917 and, similarly, in the years following 1944, the Romanian communists pitted one social class against the other, dividing the society in order to subject it to terror more easily. We warn against the danger that this sorrowful history might repeat itself and we call on the workers, intellectuals, students, farmers, and all the social classes to join in a civilized and constructive dialogue in order to restore without delay the unity achieved during the Revolution. Our point of departure must be the sheer fact that all these social classes were oppressed during the communist regime and that none mean the others harm.
3. People of all age-groups participated in the Revolution of Timisoara. Even if young people were preponderant, it is right to admit that people of all ages fought for the cause of the Revolution with the same daring. The list of victims, though incomplete, is a standing proof in this respect.
4. Side by side with the Romanians, there were Hungarians, Germans, Serbians, members of other ethnic groups who sacrificed their lives for the cause of the Revolution. They have all been coinhabiting our city in peace and goodwill for centuries. Timigoara is a European city where all the nationalities have rejected and reject nationalism. All the chauvinists of the country, no matter whether they are Romanians, Hungarians or Germans, are invited to come to Timisoara to a re-education course in the spirit of tolerance and mutual respect, the sole principles reigning in the future European House.
5. Already on the 16th of December, in the first hours of the Revolution, one of the most chanted slogans was "We want free elections!" The idea of political pluralism has been and is among the most cherished values of the people of Timisoara. It is our belief that without strong political parties genuine democracy, of a European kind, can not exist. In the city of Timisoara all political parties have the right to exist, except for the extremist ones, be they leftist or rightist. In Timisoara, the headquarters of the political parties were not attacked and laid waste, nor were any of their members threatened, insulted or slandered. The members of the political parties are our fellow townsmen, our work mates, our friends who have political opinions. European democracy means the free expression of political opinions, the civilized dialogue between their spokesmen and fair competition to capture public support and, implicitly, to gain power in the state. In the system of Romanian democracy we should have liked to accept the Romanian Communist Party too, had it not completely and irrevocably discredited itself by degenerating into red fascism. In all the East-European countries where the communist parties have maintained a minimum of propriety, society questions them in principal but tolerates them in fact. With us, however, the communist party went so far as genocide, thereby shutting itself out of society altogether. We will not tolerate it, neither in principle, nor in fact regardless of the name under which it would try to be revived.
6. After four decades of exclusively communist education and propaganda, prejudices engendered by this ideology still haunt al Romanians' consciences. The existence of such prejudices is not the bearer's guilt. Nevertheless, their manipulation by groups interested in resuscitating communism and bringing it back to power is a counter-revolutionary act. Among the slogans xeroxed and distributed to the demonstrators in Banu Mania Square in Bucharest on January 28, 1990, there were some that were 45 years old. One such slogan identified the "historical" parties with parties that sell out the country and represents a case of slander. On the contrary, 45 years ago the communists, some of whom still hold important positions in the country's leadership, were guilty of betraying Romania and enslaving her to the USSR. At that time they were the ones to chant "Stalin and the Russian people have brought us freedom", not the members of the "historical" parties. The latter resisted turning Romania into Moscow's satellite, and some of them paid with their lives for this daring. It is of utmost necessity to draw up immediately a short, but correct history of the 1944 - '50 period, and give it mass circulation.
7. By no means did Timisoara start the Revolution against the entire communist regime and its whole nomenclature as an opportunity for a group of anti Ceausescu dissidents within the RCP to rise to political power. Their presence in the leadership of the country renders the deaths of Timisoara's heroes useless. We may have accept them 10 years ago, if at the XII. party congress they would have joined Constantin Parvulescu and overthrown the dictatorial clan. But they had not done it, although they had had both the opportunity and the important positions that gave them prerogatives. On the contrary, some even obeyed the dictator's order to denigrate the dissident. Their cowardice cost us ten more years of dictatorship, the hardest of all the period, and a painful genocide.
8. As a consequence of the previous issue, we suggest that the electoral law should deny the former party workers and Security officers the right to be nominated as candidates on any list for the first three running legislatures. Their presence in the country's political life is the chief source of the tensions and suspicions that worry the Romanian society nowadays. Their absence from public life is absolutely necessary until the situation has been settled and national reconciliation has been effected. We also demand that in a special clause the electoral law should ban the former party activists from running for the position of President of the country. Romania's President ought lo be one of the symbols of our divorce from communism. To have been a party member is not an offense. We all know how much the individual's life, from professional achievement lo obtaining an apartment, depended on the red membership booklet and what the consequences were if it was turned in. The party activists had been those people who gave up their professions in order lo serve the communist party and to benefit from the uncommon material privileges it offered. A man who had made such a choice is no longer morally worthy of being President. We suggest that the prerogatives entailed by this office be diminished, as it is the case in many civilized countries of the world. In this way remarkable personalities of cultural and scientific life, who tack any special political experience, could also run for the office of President of Romania. In this context, too, we suggest that the first legislature should last only for two years, a period needed to strengthen the democratic institutions and to clarify the ideological position of each of the many parties that have appeared. Only then will we be able to choose openly and knowledgeably.
9. The people of Timisoara did not make the revolution to get higher wages or other material advantages. A strike would have sufficient achieved these goals. We are all dissatisfied with the system of wages; in Timisoara, too, many a worker toils under very hard circumstances for nothing more than a pittance (it is the car for instance, of those who work in foundries or in the detergent industry). Nevertheless, no working group went on strike for higher wages and sent delegates to negotiate strictly material claims with the government. Most of the inhabitants of Timisoara are acquaint with what all the economists strive to make known throughout the country nowadays: in this moment, a rise in wages would immediately cause inflation, just as it happen in other East European countries. Once inflation is let loose, several years of efforts to curb it will be necessary. Only an increase in production, i.e. the quantity of goods in market, will make a general wage increase possible. Besides, the priority of the impoverished budget would be to rest a minimum standard of civilization. Immediate investments are necessary, for instance, in the public services of health and sanitation.
10. Although we strive to re-Europeanize Romania, we do not want to copy the western capitalist systems with their drawbacks and inequities. Still we positively uphold the idea of private initiative. The economic foundation of totalitarianism is the all-powerful state property. We shall never have political pluralism without economic pluralism. But one can hear voices that, in true communist spirit, define private initiative as "exploitation" and warn against the danger of the appearance of rich people. This is a way to stir up the envy of a lazy and dread of work of the former privileged people in the communist enterprises. That the people ofTimisoara are not afraid of privatization is proved by the fact that several enterprises are considering becoming joint-stock companies. In order to sell these stocks for clean money in every city a special committee should be set up to draw an inventory of the fortunes belonging to the former proteges of power, corruption and scarcity. At the same time the stocks of an enterprise, ought to be offered for purchase. First of all to its employees. We also think as rewarding the more radical idea of privatization by distributing the stocks equally among the workers, the state keeping only those funds that may ensure the control of the activity. This would open equal chances for prosperity to all the workman. If the lazy missed their chance, they would not be able to complain about discrimination.
11. Timisoara is determined to take economic and administrative decentralization seriously. A model of market-economy has already been put forward for testing, utilizing the powerful capacities and the competence of experts to be found in Timis county. In order to attract foreign capital more quickly and more easily, chiefly as technology and special raw materials, and to create joint ventures, we urge that a branch of Foreign Trade Bank should be set up in Timisoara. A part of the hard currency incomes of the Romanian side in these joint ventures will be included in the workers' wages according to a percentage previously negotiated with the trade-union leaders. The payment in hard currency of a certain part of the wages will be a good material incentive for the workers. Moreover, passports will no longer be booklets worth keeping only in the drawer. Another positive consequence would be the fall of the free-market rate of hard currency, which will result in an immediate increase in the people's standard of living.
12. After the fall of the dictatorship all the Romanians living in exile were invited to return home to help reconstructing the country. Some have already returned, others announced their intention. Unfortunately, there are still people who, instigated by obscure forces, abused the returned exiles, calling them "traitors" and provocatively asking them what they have eaten in the last ten years. This attitude does not do us credit at all. In the despair that gripped us for forty years, there may not have been one single Romanian to whom the idea of escaping from squalor and taking the road ofexilehad not occurred at least once. Many of the Romanians who nowadays live abroad left the country following political persecution and even long terms of imprisonment. It would be shameful if we, too, abused them using the words of communist activists of yore. The Romanian exile means hundreds of outstanding professors teaching at the greatest universities of the world, thousands of experts esteemed by the most powerful western companies, tens of thousands of workers qualified in the most advanced technologies. We ought to take pride in them and change the evil into good by turning the sorrowful and painful Romanian Diaspora into a renovating force in Romania. Timisoara is affectionately waiting for all the Romanian exiles. They are our fellow countrymen and, more then ever, we need their competence, their European thought, and even their material support. Besides, the Romanian culture will be complete only after the culture of the exile has been re-integrated in it.
13. We do not agree with establishing December 22 as Romania's National Day. This is a way of immortalizing the dictator's person by celebrating a certain number of years since his fall. In most of the countries that associated their national day with a revolution, the chosen day marks the outburst of the revolutionary movement, thus the boldness of the people who rose to fight is being extolled. For example, the National Day of France is July 14, the day when the French Revolution started with the fall of the Bastille. Consequently, we demand that the 16th of December be established as the national day of Romania. Thus our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will celebrate our people's courage in opposing oppression, and not the fall of an infamous tyrant. The press, the radio and the television of Bucharest, the Romania Liberi newspaper being an exception, have almost forgotten about the Revolution of Timisoara, the events referred to as revolutionary being only those of December 21 - 22. We bow with piety before the heroes of Bucharest, as well as the heroes of Sibiu, Brasov, Targu-Mures, Cluj, Arad, Resita, and of all the other towns that needed martyrs in order to attain freedom. But we are grieved and revolted by the central policy of minimizing our revolution, which is also obvious from the effort to diminish the number of the dead victims. In the days of the Revolution we were out in the streets and we know that their number is much than the one announced officially. However, we assure those who are concealing the truth today that we shall not give up fighting until they are brought to trial as accessories to genocide.
This Proclamation engendered by the necessity of making the Romanian nation acquainted with the ideals of the Revolution of Timisoara. It was a revolution made by the people, and only by it, with the interference of party activists and security agents. It was a genuine revolution, not a Coup d'Etat. It was definitely anticommunist, not only anti-Ceausescu. In Timisoara people did not die so that the second and third rank communists should go to the front line, or that one of the participants in the mass murders should be promoted by the latter as Minister of the Interior. People did die so that the social and national feuding, the personality cult, the censorship of the mass media, misinformation, written and telephone threats, and all the other communist methods of coercion should be practiced openly, while we are requested to stay passive on behalf of social stability.
This proclamation is First of all addressed to those who received the revolution as a present and who keep wondering why we are still discontented, as long as the dictatorship was overthrown, a number of bad laws were annulled and a few goods filled the shelves of the shops. Now they ought to know why we are dissatisfied: the ideal of the Revolution of Timisoara was altogether different. We, the authors of this Proclamation, participants in the events of 16th-22nd December 1989, do not consider the Revolution to be over. We shall continue it peacefully, but firmly. Having confronted and having gained victory over one of the world's most powerful repressive systems, nobody and nothing can frighten us anymore.
How to Cite this Source
"The Timişoara Proclamation, March 1990," Making the History of 1989, Item #691, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/691 (accessed May 23 2015, 10:55 am).