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The political left, the political right, and the Romanians

17 Iun 2004 - 00:00
There is one deeply entrenched view that Romania had solid traditions regarding the right-wing political thought and was poorly represented to the left of the political spectrum. One tends to name, to that end, great personalities who lived before WWII and to find explanations in the mentality of a rural society or of the orthodox creed. But not all great personalities serving as examples, like Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran or Constantin Noica, were that great at the time, and obviously not all the political right went to the extreme of the political right.

On the other hand, one tends to forget the great number of bright left-wing personalities we had. Obviously, one cannot put on a pair Alexandru Sahia with Nae Ionescu. But the string of people like Gherea-Stere-Ibraileanu-Zeletin-Ralea cannot be overlooked. Then there were Eugen Ionescu, Eugen Lovinescu, Mihail Sebastian, and many others who balance the view on what Romania was like.

It goes without saying that it is pointless to identify a political right if there is no political left to be weighed against. In other words, one cannot be to the right unless someone else stays to the left. Also worth noting is the demise of the conservative right after WWI and the leaning to the left of the Peasant Party (Christian-Democrats).

I, for one, believe that Romanians, and most of all Romanian intellectuals, do not fall into this strict two-boxes partitioning. Left and right are not innate choices for the local psyche, which is more likely to go either for comfortable neutrality or for propitious adjustment. Nae Ionescu himself, when asked what his position was on the political spectrum, preferred to say that he was "neither of the right, nor of the left, but more of the intelligent type!" Sandu Topor signed next to Sahia in the same publications ... Radulescu-Motru was a traditionalist at 1904, and a modernist by 1922.
Nichifor Crainic, a man of the orthodoxy, was lecturing on the protestant mysticism. Familiar figures of Romanian culture, classics already, like Lovinescu, Petrovici, Vianu, Calinescu, Blaga, P. P. Negulescu, and even Mircea Vulcanescu, are hard to pin down in one political box only, in spite of some stupid claims to the contrary.

Romanian intellectuals are more interested in preserving the autonomy of their own thinking than joining a homogenous camp, and avoid being labeled as belonging to one.
One can safely talk, I believe, of a genuine Romanian apolitical nature, which is founded on very specific traits like a sense of relativity, an irony and a superficiality... To Mitica (TR. NOTE: the character epitomizing the Romanian city dweller) political left or political right are trifles. One cannot ask of him to finally make a life-time decision in favor of one or the other.
It is tantamount to asking him chose that to the end of his days he will drink either beer or wine.
Mitica knows too well that both are very tasty. Sometimes one craves for the beer, sometimes one craves for the wine, according to the occasion, while the accompanying appetizers change in their turn too ...

I recently heard the PM making a very strange forecast of this electoral fall: Romanians - Adrian Nastase said - will have to choose between a left-wing government and a right-wing government.
The subtext was there to be seen: we will have to choose between a caring, popular, "from-within-our-own-ranks" kind of government, and one which will prove insensitive to the plight of the many, elitist, arrogant, and self-serving. Mr. Prime-Minster is not using, to my mind, proper wording.

To the domestic voter, left and right are concepts that do not work. Not these are the marks the voters are making their judgment by. Ask Traian Basescu (TR.
NOTE: Democrat Party leader who won a second mandate as mayor of Bucharest in the local elections of June 6) if the people giving him their vote think he belongs to the left or to the right of Romanian politics. You will see that this dilemma is pointless to them.

Basescu belongs neither to the left nor the right; he simply is a hell of a guy, credible, in tune with the likings Bucharest dwellers have for people.
Mr. Prime-Minister wants to scare us off with presenting a dramatic alternative. Mitica (the city boy) and Gheorghe (the farmer) are summoned to choose between the folksy beer and the aristocratic wine.

No way!
Mitica and Gheorghe never drink what they are told to, unless they are already drunk.
They will check from a distance the bar presenting the appetizers, and will decide on the wink of a moment to go for the beer, ... or maybe to go for the wine. Or better still, to go for the plum-brandy ...

Translation: ANCA PADURARU

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