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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 August 2018

Huge anti-government demos in Romania

An earlier anti-corruption demo in Bucharest, photo Mihai Petre

An earlier anti-corruption demo in Bucharest, photo Mihai Petre   (Click to enlarge)

A series of mass rallies in Bucharest and in other cities by Romanians - those living in the country and those returning from abroad - have taken place against widespread government corruption. These protests have been met by brutal police actions, which even the country's president has described as "totally unacceptable." Mana de Lucru (CWI supporters in Romania) reports on the background to the demonstrations and what demands are necessary for the movement to succeed.

We condemn, unreservedly, the scandalous abuses of the Romanian Gendarmerie (riot police) at the protests, which resulted in hundreds of wounded people. Such random violence is typical of this repressive institution, whose key role is to protect the interests of the political establishment against the civilian population. We demand a public inquiry into these abuses and the immediate resignation of the responsible officials.

As regards to the protest itself, we believe the outrage that pushed people out on the streets is genuine and justified. The PSD (Social Democratic Party - descended from the former Stalinist ruling party) government is, without a doubt, a government at the service of corrupt oligarchs, with no real concern for the interests of ordinary people.

We believe, however, that this outrage needs to be channelled against the entire Romanian political elite and the neoliberal policies that forced millions of Romanians to leave the country - with those remaining here having to cope with low wages, insecure jobs and crumbling public services.

Instead, we can see how the opposition parties are trying to take over the protest movement and use it in their own political battle with PSD. However, when they found themselves in government they proved to be no real alternative to the PSD. The truth is that none of the current parties represents us - neither those who left the country, nor those who remained here. None of these parties offer a programme that addresses the urgent social and economic problems which the majority of Romanians are confronted with.

Unfortunately, such a programme, even a minimal one, is missing from these protests as well. The only clear demands from the leadership - resignation of the government and early elections - seem to serve nobody else but the leaders of the opposition.

Lack of alternative

The lack of a list of clearer and relevant demands reveals not only the opposition's lack of solutions but also the absence of a political left and labour movement. One strong and militant enough to influence the course of of these protests and to link the issue of corruption with the other issues in our society, from harsh working conditions to the crisis of the healthcare system.

A genuine alternative to PSD and the rest of the political establishment can only come from this direction, by attacking corruption not as a purely political phenomenon, but as a key element of the process of capitalist restoration after 1989, which saw a handful of people becoming filthy rich on the back of the rest of us.

We need a socialist and anti-capitalist alternative that represents the interests of ordinary people and not of one faction or another of the dominant class - an alternative that fights for decent jobs and wages, social rights, well-funded public services, an economy in the service of people, and genuine democratic control over our society.

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In The Socialist 22 August 2018:

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