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Romania – Is the problem corruption, or capitalism?

These fights between rival cliques within the ruling elite are just a smokescreen to hide the fact that neither the government nor the opposition have any solution to offer to the legitimate discontent shared by a larger part of the population, though they have remained passive to date.

The dominant idea at the moment is ‘if we were to have less corruption, better people in government and more justice, then everything will be better’. It is this approach which leads to the initiative ‘no criminals in public functions’, a demand to bar all those with a criminal record from working in government or parliament.

There is no doubt that Dragnea and the whole PSD establishment are corrupt. But the real problem is embodied in the policies carried out by this and all the previous governments in Romania, designed to protect the interests of an oligarchy of capitalists and their international patrons. This class of local profiteers, in close collaboration with their European capitalist partners, have looted the country and made themselves rich from the wholesale privatisation of Romania’s assets after the collapse of the Ceausescu regime. The persistent compression of wage levels and living standards of the Romanian working class to levels much below the European average is also revealing that joining the EU was beneficial mostly for the richest layer.

Corruption, to one degree or another, is a constituent part of capitalism. Scandals are also plaguing the governments and the ruling elites of all the countries which are presented as a model to be followed. Furthermore, what is the alternative that is presented? The opposition, including Iohannis and the PNL, quite clearly does not offer a genuine alternative for improving the conditions of the vast majority of Romanian people. In fact, they are just as responsible for this situation as the PSD, if not more. Their government record is not dissimilar. What they have been doing all along is favouring their own clique of capitalist friends and foreign capitalists by enforcing a sharp programme of privatisations and austerity measures.

Following the crisis of 2008, which badly affected the Romanian economy, the terms of the 2009 bailout by the EU, IMF and World Bank dictated a series of austerity measures. This was primarily aimed at deregulating the labour market, which the governments of the time willingly rolled through. The drive to create the ‘best environment’ for foreign investment meant, in practice, that all of the country’s best assets were sold off to foreign capital and the Romanian workers have become a reserve of cheap labour, mainly to the benefit of the Romanian and EU capitalists.

Which ‘possible alternative’ is being offered by the opposition to the permanent crisis of the current system? More of the same!

The current struggle reveals the division opening between different layers of the capitalist class. The opposition’s rhetoric against corruption is merely a smokescreen to avoid dealing with the real problems of poverty, low wages and lack of rights for Romanian workers. They are trying to use the growing discontent to their advantage but, once back in power, they would continue with their agenda of austerity and counter reforms.

Both sides are trying to mobilise mass support but, so far, the working class is still mostly passive. The PSD and PNL are pushing the Romanian masses to take sides for one camp or the other in order to prevent the Romanian workers from developing demands based on their class interests and mobilising independently – a perspective that scares both the government and the opposition.

None of these parties represent the working class, nor do they have any interest in supporting the rights of the working class as a whole, quite the opposite. It is undeniable that corruption must be fought against and should be eradicated. However, corruption is an inherent part of capitalism. It is impossible to remove it without overthrowing the capitalist system altogether. A bourgeois regime, regardless of the level of corruption, will always act in favour of the ruling class over the working class, as long as the rule of the capitalists is guaranteed.

The only way out is to build a genuine working-class movement, with a leadership committed to defending the interests of the working class, countering austerity and privatisation and not afraid of threatening the rule of the capitalists. This should be a movement committed to the re-nationalisation of all that has been privatised.

Real capitalism has failed for the Romanian people and only produced systemic corruption and the selling off of the most valuable assets in the economy to the advantage of the rich. The only serious measure against corruption is establishing a workers’ democracy free from the rule of the markets, capitalists and oligarchs.