On January, 10, 2007 a political prisoner, miner Ionel Ciontu has died of liver and heart disease in one of Romanian prisons. His relatives and comrades learned about his death from the TV news. The miners trade union leaders Miron Kozma, Constantine Kretan, Dorin Lois, Vasile Lupu and Romeo Deja remain in Romanian prisons sentenced to 5 to 90 years imprisonment. Of course our mass media didn’t notice this news, only 3-4 reports flashed through the Internet. Who are they, almost forgotten nowadays political prisoners of the nearby Romania?
Up to now their names fill the Romanian government, of course “democratic” but a freebie under the EU and NATO interests in fact, with consternation. During the miners’ marches to Bucharest (“mineriadas”) the authorities made concessions to workers five times. The sixth “mineriada” ended with the defeat of miners movement and its mentioned leaders were imprisoned seriously and for the long haul.
The socialist way of development of Romania was cancelled in 1990, the Communist party leader Ceausescu was shot down, the so-called social-democrats raised to power, the National Salvation Front leader Iliesku became the president of the country. What was the reason of such an easy defeat of Ceausescu’s regime? First of all, it was disbelief and, to tell the truth, total hatred of Romanian population to this person.
Surely, Ceausescu was a strong leader who devoted all his efforts and even his life to “pull his country out” from European backwoods. Before the war the country’s territory almost didn’t exist, its economy consisted of local agricultural farms. The was has brought additional features of misery and wasteland. It fact Ceausescu has restored the country, he has developed agriculture and created interrelated industry, including oil extraction and refining, high-developed metallurgy. At the same time the Romanian socialist way was not connected to previous revolutionary events. This way was chosen under the neighbour USSR influence. That’s why the policy of Romanian communist leadership was inconsistent in solving neither social problems of working people nor national question. Thus, miners of the region of Jiu organized strikes even in Ceausescu’s time and once Hungarian workers (considered a “lowest race” by the authorities) raised a rebellion counted to 7,000 participants. It was the secret service “Sekuritate” that filled Romanians with especial consternation. In general it wasn’t notable for any exclusive repression. The basic sentence for “discordant” of that time was… home arrest. But the “Sekuritate” agents spread rumours of its might and impunity thoroughly. Almost all the habitations were wiretapped. But the wiretapping results were unnecessary and were stored unsolved in archives as it came to light after Ceausescu’s execution by democrats.
Thus, democrats raised to fool power under the slogan “Down with Ceausescu’s regime and communism!” But the “Sekuritate” continued its wealthy existence under the name of “Romanian Intelligence Service” (SIR).
Some more groups backed by European money aspired for power in 1990 and annoyed the top dog Iliesku. Mistrusting the army and police in that unstable period Iliesku appealed to Romanian workers for a march to Bucharest under the slogan of saving the country and democracy. The army of workers counting to 10,000, mostly miners of the region of Jiu famous for its social unrest rose to this fly having gathered their own bus fleet and armed with axes, chains, pries and cudgels.
During the “mineriadas” of January, February and June 1990 Bucharest was subjected to bashing, the opposition to the president groups were beaten up and dispersed, six persons died at the city streets.
Later the “mineriadas” of 1990 would also boomerang to “democracy” as well as Iliesku himself, first of all because the spontaneous rebellions have felt the might and influence of a ruthless rebel, the only right way to send the great where appropriate, even under appeals provoked “from the top”. In 2005 Iliesku would be brought to criminal responsibility for the first “mineriadas” events - his Senate membership would save him from planking.
Everything followed “like in this country”. The Prime Minister P.Roman hastened to inform the IMF about the warm aspiration of Romania for becoming marketed and “free”. The privatization, price liberalization and other “amenities” of bourgeois system were declared. The hardest economic and spiritual crisis griped the country. The inflation rate has reached 200-300% to January 1991, the manufacture level shortened two-fold within a year. Electricity blackouts became wide-spread - the energy crisis was gathering pace. Millions of unemployed were thrown in the streets of the cities. Bucharest was becoming empty at nights - bypassers were killed for a piece of bread without a mercy for women or elderly. Parents were sending their minor daughters as whores to foreign hotels.
So the following “mineriadas” had quite another character having preserved the single initial slogan “Death to Intelligentsia!”
On September, 25, 1991 4,000 Jiu miners having seized two passenger trains arrived to Bucharest to grapple properly with the ill-reformer Roman. Kozma and other leaders clarified: “We are determined and won’t leave the capital until our political and economic demands are satisfied”. “Petre Roman, come downstairs to our shaft floor, you’ll be more useful there than in the Prime Minister’s arm-chair!” Their clarifications were backed with actions. First, miners and Bucharest inhabitants who had joined them blocked the government building and TV centre peacefully demanding the public figures of government to come for settlement. But public figures didn’t appear. Then the people began to storm the buildings. These attacks of rebels were fought off by police which resorted to tear-gas and sound grenades but the first shock of the crowd passed away soon. Grenades caused no more reactions and faces were tied with wet kerchiefs. Further, workers used a new proletarian weapon - sesqui-meter metal sticks chopped from thick steel cable. This flexible “club” used like a police cudgel is able to break a policeman’s spine even wearing an armoured jacket. Road-building machines like bulldozers, shovel crawlers and lorries were used by miners as another weapon. Having sped up multi-ton sockdolagers they directed them at the building like rams setting fire along the way. They stormed under the screen of these original tank fortresses. In the course of the rebellion the Deputies Chamber building was occupied and the miners’ demands grew into the demand of the bourgeois government’s and the president Iliesku’s retirement. The Prime Minister Roman’s retirement was the result of the 1991 “mineriada” but the spontaneous rebellion hasn’t reached anything more - the rebel leader Miron Kozma has trusted the authorities’ promises and led his forces out from the city.
By the way, the Romanian government having filled the crisis holes through obtaining Western credits placed four NATO military bases at the country’s territory, approved the bombardment of nearby Serbia (which caused indignation of the vast majority of the country’s population), destroyed the coal branch to nothing according to the IMF instruction and introduced European prices for oil (being extracted at home) according to the EU instruction. Among other things, there is no even minimal pension coverage for elderly in Romania and the 1997 default has annulled the payments of miners and other workers.
The last successful fifth “mineriada” of 1999 was the reaction on the enhancement of “democratic reforms”. Of course it started from the miners’ region of Jiu and its leaders were Kozma and all the actual Romanian political prisoners who enjoyed their fame and unlimited people’s confidence by that time. Kozma’s strategic talent based on previous battles has revealed during this last “mineriada”. The police warned by informants has built special artificial bars on the workers’ way to Bucharest, filled the tactical approach with special forces and special equipment according to all the warcraft principles. Nevertheless, miners didn’t only remove artificial barricades made by authorities on their way to Bucharest but also dissected the government forces into pieces dexterously attacking them from front and rear and even capturing them. On the “mineriada’s” way Kozma rose peasants’ farms to revolt, peasants fraternized to miners - so, the local rural population helped the workers to pass through the government’s traps with all its might. As a result one of the high rank officials - the prefect of the Rimnicu Vilcea county Nicolae Curcaneanu was captured by miners. Taking high and middle rank officials as hostages made the new Prime Minister Vasile of Romania start negotiations with the miners’ leader Miron Kozma in the nearby monastery Cozia and make concessions. Unfortunately in spite of miners leader’s valour and determination the empty words of bourgeois of 1991 haven’t taught them a lesson. On Kozma’s instruction the workers retreated and the hostages were released. It was the beginning of the end.
A month later, in February 1999 the authorities took a firm decision to wipe “Robin Hoods” up. The Supreme Court of Romania has sentenced Kozma in absentia to 18 years imprisonment (the police failed to catch him). Finally, the truth broke upon workers. Having armed like before and boarded on buses off-the-shelf since 1990 the miners moved to crash Bucharest. An open encounter of 2,000 miners with equal forces of police and special troops occurred at the town of Stoeneşti (140 km to the capital). This time policemen used rubber bullets and also managed to capture the workers’ motor transport and completely destroy it. The battle was bloody indeed and no one party retreated. Within three hours 543 workers were seriously injured, 1 man died, nearly 200 were arrested. The official mass media reported of 40 wounded policemen but probably these data were underestimated a lot. Romeo Beja led the battle and Kozma so much wanted by authorities managed to escape. He was arrested several days later.
The further destiny of prisoners - miners’ leaders was full of authorities’ cynicism and humiliation. Thus, in December 2004 Kozma was granted pardon, later by demands of foreign bourgeois and bureaucrats the pardon was withdrawn and the political prisoner was put into custody again. Miron Kozma put this decision in issue and was released in June 2005. Certainly he posed a great danger for all the Romanian bourgeois system by his name only. In September 2005 he was arrested again and sentenced to imprisonment for the 1999 events. The authorities decided to secure all guarantees with the same sentence by sending to prison five more workers, among them the late Ciontu. It was Ionel Ciontu who had the doctors’ utter opinion on impossibility of his further detention - he had been seriously ill up to serving his sentence.
Though the labour movement of Romania proved to be demoralized for years due to the last “mineriada” defeat and the leaders’ arrest the European liberals’ and democrats’ joy was for a short while. A leader of the peasants’ movement “Self-Defense” Andrzej Lepper called “new Kozma” by mass media has appeared in Poland with a direct reference to the Romanian experience.
What did fearless Romanian miners and their leaders, actual political prisoners, lack for organizing a revolution and its victory? Hey, it’s a shopworn fact that they lacked a party which would be not an outside chatterbox but their own party, which would organize delivery of arms to workers and planned subversions in the country and kick the new-sprung bourgeois away firmly, without any agreements or concessions.
There is an aid fund for Ciontu’s family (his widow and three children) and families of other imprisoned Romanian miners: Henning Frey, Konto Nummer 25 27 64 65; IBAN DE19 4401 0046 0025 2764 65, Postbank Dortmund