‘Same brothel, different whores’: the words chosen by Valentin Gabrielescu of the re-created National Peasants’ Party to express his opinion of Romania’s provisional government, the National Salvation Front. And he’s by no means alone in distrusting Romania’s new rulers. From the lunch tables of the elegantly-appointed restaurant in the Writers’ Union to the raucous student meetings all over Bucharest, the Front, as it calls itself, attracts puzzled enquiry, suspicion and, as often as not, angry derision. The Front’s detractors believe that the revolution has been stolen by Ceausescu’s apparatchiks from its rightful owners: the students who fought for it and the country’s handful of uncompromised dissidents. The Front’s problem is that it has attracted too much support. Police chiefs and factory managers all over the country simply declared themselves to be in favour of the new government and have stayed in place demanding that the same old forms be filled and the same hours worked. So the Front is increasingly perceived as a body that will reform the Communist system rather than overthrow it. In fact, it’s too early to say what ideology it has.
Vol. 12 No. 6 · 22 March 1990
In the five or so years that I’ve followed the LRB (as one ‘follows’ Arsenal) you’ve put out a large quantity of first-rate stuff: Said, Roth, Foot, R.W. Johnson, for example; or, magnificently, the Rorty essays. And, while of more leftward leanings than the latter author, I was nowise offended by his point of view, nor even by that of Ian Gilmour, feeling as I did that the journal was doing me favours by bringing me the views of such persons. But good will began to be strained with the odiously and patently sycophantic paper on George VI and his family (ascendance and descendance equally) featured in your issue of 11 January. And then the following issue, ‘When Communism dissolves’, with Jon Elster and Owen Bennett Jones lending implicit uncritical support to the ‘Death of Communism’ thesis, as though the contemporary revolutionary ideal were worth – as though it boiled down to – nothing more than systems (though to a large extent no longer – and thankfully so) in power. I have prided myself (so to speak) on the intellectual-political broadmindedness of your journal. I have been unfailingly dazzled by the talents of its contributors; and am no less so by those of Messrs Elster and Bennett Jones. And this is what disappoints me so gruesomely: that a policy of exclusive reliance on moral and intellectual clearsightedness, to the exclusion of all ideological aprioris, should have arrived at such an abrupt, precipitate, total dereliction.