Volume 5 - 1989
Late in 1987, communist dictator, Ceausescu revived an 18-year-old blueprint to radically restructure Rumania. The new systematization law is reminiscent of Mao Zedong’s disastrous attempt to crowd China’s peasants into communal farms.
The Communist Party has begun the huge project to destroy 8 000 villages and replace them with 500 concrete-block “Agro-industrial centres” by the year 2000.
The official aim is to “increase agricultural efficiency and open more land to farming.” The local people declare that the real aim is to eliminate social and cultural differences between urban and rural communities.
“Houses are bourgeois-capitalist! We must all be equal, they say. Do they bring us all up? No! No, they must drag us all down to the lowest level. So they destroy perfectly good houses, our family’s home for generations, and squeeze us into badly-built, overcrowded concrete apartments. This is Scientific Socialism!”
“In our houses life was hard, there were no luxuries, but it was our home. We could grow vegetables in the garden, keep a dog for a pet and have Christian friends around for fellowship. Now in these apartments, we are no longer free to do this. The communists can spy on us much easier now. We have no space, no garden and no privacy. This forced relocation policy — this "systematization” — is to increase the control of the communist party over our lives.”
The people in Rumania point out that this bizarre scheme is destroying the folk culture which was rooted in village life. It is also destroying hundreds of village churches — none of which are ever likely to be rebuilt. Many of the “Agro-Industrial centres” have only the most rudimentary amenities, with communal kitchens and shared sanitary installations. Traditional country life is being ruined and privacy has become a novelty of history.
Hardship is aggravated by a “redevelopment” scheme that is levelling large tracts of land. For the past five years, wrecker’s balls and bulldozers have been tearing down central Bucharest, displacing more than 40 000 residents and demolishing historic monuments and churches. In their place, crews are building a modern civic centre and government palace, marble-clad apartment blocks for senior communist party cadres and broad boulevards. Similar projects have ripped out the centres of provincial towns.
Disastrous central-planning directives compound the misery. The electricity allocation for a one-room apartment is barely sufficient to boil two kettles of water a day. Most of the power supply is soaked up by dilapidated industrial plants, except when assembly lines are shut down for weeks at a time for lack of raw materials and Western spare parts. The regime has instituted a seven-day work week in factories and imposed pay cuts of up to 30% on workers who fail to meet production quotas.
Late at night, as we left church services or home meetings, we could see the food lines starting up in the unlit streets. Only in the communist world do people regularly stand in lines through the night in the hope of purchasing food. The average housewife in Eastern Europe must spend 35 hours a week in lines, patiently lining up, first for the ration coupon, then for a slip of paper representing the item, then with this slip they line up to pay for the item at the cashier, who provides the cash receipt. With this receipt the housewife can then begin the final line for the actual item.
“Send me one of your liberals from the West to come and do my shopping for a week. This will cure him of his infatuation with socialism,” we were told.