Vol. 1, No. 9,11 April 1997
ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES ALBANIAN MISSION.
The parliament yesterday approved President Constantinescu's
request that Romania send a 400-strong contingent to join the
multinational mission in Albania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
reported. The leftist and nationalist opposition opposed the
motion or abstained. The legislature also approved
Constantinescu's proposal that the Timisoara airfield be used
as a logistics and supply base for the Albanian operation. In
other news, Foreign Minister Adrian Severin and Austrian Vice
Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel agreed in Bucharest on 9 April
to set up what they call a "trilateral mechanism" to promote
Romanian and Hungarian admission to the EU, Romanian TV
reported. Hungary has not yet responded to the initiative.
Neither Left Nor Right, But Simply Wrong
by Michael Shafir
A decade ago, the Israeli political scientist Zeev Sternhell
wrote Neither Left, Nor Right, an analysis of the emergence of
fascist ideology in France since the end of the last century.
"Neither left, nor right, but [simply] Romanian" is how Corneliu
Vadim Tudor, leader of the extreme nationalist, anti-Semitic,
and xenophobic Greater Romania Party (PRM), chose to
describe his group's alliance with the extraparliamentary
Socialist Labor Party (PSM), which was sealed two days ago, on
As Sternhell shows in his book, fascist ideology has often
been misinterpreted as belonging to the "right" of the political
spectrum. He demonstrates that those who embraced the
ideology had little in common with the "traditional right" or
what in the U.S. would be termed "conservatives." Rather, the
"radical right," as it should be called to distinguish it from
other right-wing formations, was bent on destroying the
existing parliamentary and democratic order. Like the "radical
left," it displayed a boundless hatred of individualism and used
as its model a society based on communitarian values. This
explains why so many original adherents of the "radical left"
eventually ended in the opposite, "radical right" camp.
History seems to be repeating itself in post-communist
Eastern Europe. "Red-brown" alliances, as they are often
called, are no longer rare. Communists march arm-in-arm
with those nostalgic for the "Black Hundred" in Moscow at
demonstrations against "imported" political and social models.
The same phenomenon can be found in most of the other
former communist states.
Thus, the alliance forged by the PRM and the PSM comes
as no surprise. The two formations were allied in the previous
legislature as members of the so-called "red quadrangle"
coalition, led by the Party of Social Democracy in Romania
(PDSR). Last autumn's elections ousted not only the PDSR
from power but also the PSM from the parliament. Now the
PRM will represent the interests of the PSM in the legislature.
The two formations will also run joint candidates in upcoming
The two groups have much in common. Both are
"national-communist nostalgics," and both are what may be
described as parties of "radical continuity". Such parties blend
extreme-nationalist ideology (of which Ceausescu's national
communism was a variant) with populist jargon aimed at
undermining the emerging democracies.
They are also both led by former Ceausescu "court poets."
Tudor progressed from the late dictator's humble bard to
outspoken leader of the PRM, which was in coalition with the
PDSR until Tudor turned against his post-communist
mentors. Although in theory the PRM is headed by Ilie Verdet,
a former prime minister under Ceausescu, in practice Adrian
Paunescu, another "court poet," is largely responsible for
determining the party's political line. Last week, Paunescu was
reinstated as first deputy chairman--a post he resigned from
after the PSM's dismal performance in last fall's elections--
prompting him to remark that the party "could not possibly
afford to lose a man like me."
Little else is poetic about the PRM and the PSM, however.
Most worrying is that throughout the former communist bloc,
parties such as the PRM--with or without allies--are now
attempting to unify their forces. Indeed, the PRM leader
announced earlier this week the imminent birth of the
"Nationalist International," apparently an international
offshoot of Jean Marie Le Pen's French National Front.
The recent National Front congress in Strasbourg was
attended not only by Tudor but also by East European leaders
such as Istvan Csurka, head of the xenophobic Hungarian
Justice and Life Party, and Jan Slota, chairman of the extreme
nationalist Slovak National Party. Although those leaders may
hate one another or, more precisely, one another's nations,
they are united by a still stronger hatred: that of democracy
and its values.
Last January, Le Pen visited Belgrade, where he met with
Vojslav Seselj, accused war criminal and leader of the Serbian
Radical Party. In May, he will visit Bucharest, at Tudor's
invitation. Slota has also invited the French leader to visit
Slovakia and extended another invitation to Jorg Heider,
leader of the populist Austrian Freedom Party, whom many
suspect of pro-Nazi sympathies.
And then, of course, there is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who
calls himself a "liberal" as well as a "democrat." The Russian
leader's religious wedding ceremony last year was attended by
Le Pen, whom Zhirinovsky later visited in France.
It is Le Pen whom Tudor is now emulating when he says
the new alliance is "neither left nor right, but [simply]
Romanian." Many view the new Romanian alliance with
apprehension. They also fear that a more accurate description
than Tudor's would be "neither left nor right, but simply
wrong" for Romania's still fragile democracy.
Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
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