Rich And Poor, 1945

excerpts I For a century, the psychology of the Romanian people has found itself in continual transformation. This has corresponded (since 1829, that is, since the treaty of Adrianopolis whereby the Romanian Principalities joined the Western capitalist complex) to a gradual, but profound, change in the structure of the Romanian economy and way of life. Das Wirtschaft ist Schicksal (the economy is the destiny of nations): never before and nowhere else has the prophetic dictum of Walter Rathenau been more precisely proven than here in Romania. Within a single century (1829-1929), Romanian agriculture has twice been proletarianized through the special dialectic of the world capitalist system we have joined. The first period was characterized by the pauperization and removal of the usurping titular owners of rural properties – the boyars – and the passing of the land into the hands of the representatives of financial capital or into the treasuries of those who had known how to work with it, politically and economically, in time. Through a political act, that is, through the first agrarian expropriation, the old organic rural world has been rebuilt: the direct connection with the land and the corresponding juridical relations. In less than a decade, the direct possessors of the new system have been proletarianized, like the boyars beforehand, with the land entering into the real or virtual ownership of bankers and of their exponents, the usurers. Political factors had to intervene, through the various laws of conversion, in order to halt a natural process. The politically applied "national specific" has suffered the same fate. Since the entry of Romania into the capitalist system, relations between people have been posited in exactly the same way as everywhere else: rich and poor, capitalists and proletarians, contractual forms, the gradual and effective dissolution of the organic, the struggle between physiocracy and "manufacturers", between agriculture and industry etc. The emergence of the "social question" in Romania is related to the inevitable and necessary denunciation of the tacit pact between rich and poor, who are temporarily gathered together by historic destinies on the same platform of the nation. The community of language and often blood does not allow the profound differences and exploitation to be seen. Or else it has not placed a decisive emphasis upon these differences. With these two common factors there has been constructed the illusion of brotherhood and the hope of achieving justice between them. As long as gazes were turned towards the borders for the emancipation of the "brothers" beneath the yoke and the contempt of Hungarian magnates or Austrian counts, the illusion drew a thick curtain across their own boyars and merchants, who wrung every last drop of blood out of the laboring Wallachian peasant. After the emancipation of the national serfs under foreign rule, the grave issue of emancipation in the new country arises. The social question, the exploitation of the poor by a group of the rich, overlooked or copiously draped in silence, regarded as insidious or inopportune, will have to be taken up once more by a new series of researchers in order to capture the public's attention, in order to be disseminated into every corner and in order to contribute to its resolution in the sense of the maximal protection of labor, as the present times demand as well as the prescription of the prevention of exploitation in any form. After the consummation of the solemnities of Union and of "unifications", it is astonishing to ascertain that, although exploitation has abandoned the hideous forms of direct prejudice of individual dignity through mere belonging to a distinct community of people, it nonetheless luxuriantly continues under other somewhat more refined modalities, with less visible but more venomous teeth. Instead of the magnate, the capitalist merchant has arrived; instead of the expropriated boyar, the plutocrat has been installed. We have the eternal story of the old ciocoi [parvenu exploiter] being replaced by the new. The language of Nicolae Filimon will once more have to be studied in the pages of his naïve novel, reinvigorated by contemporary blood and pain. Two Nations, Constantin Sandu-Aldea's artless and narrow novel of olden times justly defined the feelings and the realities of exploitation. Of whatever nation its representative might be, as the coincidence or non-coincidence of blood cannot erase the relation, it arouses at all times and everywhere the same horror, when the social conscience is awake; it provokes the same sufferings in its activity and existence. Romanian social parasitism, legitimized and defended by its numerous adherents, whether consciously or without realizing, has lately been preaching the solution of "neutralizing the classes" and recruiting the leadership according to the criterion of "personality", "neutrality", "thrift" etc., etc. Reaction in its conservative or plutocratic-liberal-bourgeois form has always had a particular weakness for this mode of political organization, beneath whose mask it could carry on its coups and economic "activity" (limitless exploitation). Political neutralization is the worm on the plutocratic or conservative fishing line. What does the political neutrality of a competent minister mean? In the current capitalist system, he is the exponent of a social allotment from a grouping of forces, who has – within certain precise spheres of influence – come to govern. Who is it that has an interest in demanding the neutralization of the political apparatus, in the image and likeness of the administrative apparatus? Cui prodest? Of course, to the group that desires a status quo. Who are this group? Who is interested in maintaining the existing order? Obviously, the banking-industrial plutocracy and its adherents, or, to use a broader and more nicely popular term, the rich. The world with conservative influence usually prefers administrative primacy. Examples: tsarist Russia, Bismarck's Prussia, the player with unlimited powers that is colonial and exploitative Britain, the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg monarchy. The avoidance of political struggle and of any eventual union of the real forces of the nation is – as Karl Mannheim has observed – achieved according to a convenient procedure. Namely, an army of specially educated politicians, functionaries, gendarmes and officers is created. They are granted a favorable situation and separated from the body of the nation through a series of privileges, honors and the intentional formation of a caste spirit. The latent appetite for power in the human beast is assisted through a series of privileges. Firstly, the spirit of a corps (caste), the titles, the opportunity to torture fellow men to a greater or lesser extent through chicanes or through the simple act of dependence. Then, through the system of pensions and of fixed income, which creates a special category compared to the employees of private institutions or compared to manual laborers; the fear of the struggle for existence is raised, giving them a spiritual and economic superiority in comparison with other citizens. Complete autonomy, which might have developed not only relative to citizens but also relative to superiors and the system in which they were engaged, was destroyed by means of the organization of advancements. The conservative world – or more broadly the world of the status quo – created the type suited to it, the administrative type for keeping the man on the street in check through the prestige of the mysterious "paperasse", through the complicated system of divided responsibilities whose beginning or end is hard to find, through the language of the "specialist" and the "initiate", through the contemplation of visible and existent pride, thanks to real privileges. The impertinence and subservience are undoubtedly born precisely of the double service he is obliged to perform to varied classes. Here is yet more proof of the truth won with so much effort in the last century, that moral reform cannot set out from man, but rather from the system. The defense of the decent-man, the dutiful-man, of the "humane man", one of the hobby horses, perhaps even the cardinal point of moralizing of the N. Iorga type, is of an exasperating naivety. In Romania, this prejudice circulates without being analyzed and revealed in its ultimate components. The sermons for the reform and improvement of man are voices crying in the wilderness, as long as the system subsists under various masks, but with the same content. The point of departure for reform cannot be man, who is an animal adaptable to any system, but a radical change of the socio-economic system. On 29 May 1862, in the Legislative Assembly gathered in Bucharest to discuss the project to appoint land to the peasants, Barbu Catargiu – president of the Council of Ministers and representative of the major landowners – gave the following response to Mihail Kogalniceanu, who had pronounced a famous speech in favor of the plebe on 25 May 1862: "If you want to free the peasants, make them virtuous first of all, and in order to be virtuous, you must moralize them…" "First of all, gentlemen, I shall show you that, in our capacity as landowners, we must defend the rights of property and nationality, because by supporting property, we support the nation." The "nation and property" relation is the favorite social mask of the privileged and is always repeated when property of any nature – agrarian, urban, shares, banks – is threatened by the demands of the peasant, before giving him rights. They do not want to set out from the system, but from man, like the contemporary moralists of the Iorga type. A profound error; man is framed within a system and his most intrinsic substance reflects to the point of slavery the fundamental data of the economic-political system. The generalized "humane man" cannot arise within a system of exploitation and material differentiation. Humanity is not only between equals, that is, between rich man and rich man, and between poor man and poor man. For the rich man, the relation between rich man and poor man is one of contempt, the conviction of superiority, abuse. And for the poor man it is one of humiliation, serf mentality, envy, the gradual conviction of irremediable inferiority, or else, in cases of vitality: cunning, resentment and insurrection. There is no real or sincere friendship except between individuals with equal purses. The pre-war Romanian conservative boyar class attempted, the same as everywhere else in the world, to create an administrative apparatus whereby to impose and maintain the existing order. For the rural milieu, the elements of suppression employed were the gendarme, the notary, the tax collector, the mayor, etc. The psychology of this rural caste is typical of the conservative bureaucracy. The two characteristics of subservience and impertinence are repeated as the clear leitmotifs of any social group destined to subjugate and to serve. Under the current historical circumstances, to posit the issue of the state at an exclusively national level – given that the sociological structure is determined by capitalism – is naivety, or self-deception, or the conscious deception of others. In the current circumstances, when the crystallizing forces of the social hierarchy have vanished from the soul of man, there exists only the banal and atrocious fact of differences: rich and poor, exploited and exploiter, wronged and possessor of rights through usurpation or tradition. The contemporary perspective of semi-colonial South East Europe here too abducts, following the last world war, the legitimacy of the national idea elevated to the rank of criterion for the existence of the state. The national idea is confounded with social suffering. Here were the secret founts of its extraordinary and propulsive force. It was – particularly for the nationalities of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy – the bearer of popular aspirations for justice. Through the reflection and the general atmosphere of the epoch, it was possible to shift the national problem to the forefront of the public stage Interestingly regarded by the public opinion of the upper middle class and the petty bourgeoisie as the alpha and omega of state life, it can nevertheless not prevent from defining the social reality in its most hideous manifestations, from establishing the stigmata of exploitation and usurpation. What is it that the primacy of the national idea has always pursued? First of all we ascertain that we are dealing with the remnants of the warring epochs in which the real criteria of public life – groups of interest – were replaced by a collective psychosis of national primacy. The appeal to fervor and self-sacrifice found a popular echo because there existed the intention to emancipate oppressed fraternal minorities. Romania's entry into capitalism fatally brings with it analogous problems. The artificial maintenance of a world and of inadequate ideas can only procure new elements of crisis. Has Romania entered into and begun to dwell in the capitalist phase? This elementary truth is placed in doubt by all those who have an interest in delaying or burying the social question. As was established not long ago by Romanian sociology, the birth certificate of our bourgeoisie can be found in the Treaty of Adrianopolis of 1829. Thus, it has long since celebrated its centenary. Since it moved from the natural economy to the exchange economy, that is, to the production of goods, which exceed the coverage of autarchic needs, the posing of the problems in relations between people has definitively changed. The atomization of the individual and the breaking of organic ties have taken place step by step and today we find ourselves faced with consummated facts. A definition of the old and current structure of the RomanianState cannot be made except with great difficulty, because of tendentious researches. An approximately exact tripartite division would be as follows: the organic world, the liberal-individualist state, and the developing collectivist social state (with current indications provided by expropriation, universal suffrage, nationalization of the subsoil, etc., etc.). To deny the existence or justification for the existence of the state – an instrument of political organization – is always a polemical necessity (discontentment with a contemporary reality) or political utopia. State sovereignty as a phenomenon in a society is the characteristic of the community phenomenon and eloquent proof of the collective primacy. The state cannot be the private question of a ruling class, restricted in number, but strong through the power of money and of its influence, exercised underground or in the open, consciously or not. Such is the dialectic of force: it implies public influence, even where it does not claim it, it demoralizes and enslaves souls, even if it has no interest in any such thing, it rules in absentia or through simple lackeys: the press and politicians. The Achilles' heel of the modern national state, the same as before the war, is the problem of minorities. In Transylvania, the problem acquires, through the achievement of agrarian reform, unprecedented aspects. The national myth plays a political role of major proportions only on the condition that it comprises the social question in its net, that is, a case of economic exploitation and the birth of the connected feelings of inferiority, injustice and suffering. Through the banishment of a few thousand boyars and magnates, the Transylvanian peasant (without distinction of nationality) and the Wallachian peasant of the Old Kingdom were placed in social equality and were endowed with equal economic opportunities. A number of official statistics from 1930 eloquently demonstrate these propositions. Peasant beneficiaries of land reform in the new lands across the mountains: Romanians 216,010 Hungarians 46,331 (626,985 acres were expropriated) Germans 16,276 Various nationalities 5,763 Total minorities 68,370 Attempts to restore the old landed properties or for them to be taken over by the banks were met with the political opposition of the Transylvanian united with the Romanian peasant, against the plutocrat or the great landowner, whether boyar or magnate, in various native political organizations. Their community of interests is indestructible. The same thing cannot be said of the community of interests of the bourgeois minority with that of the pure Romanian bourgeoisie. Their competition is destined to create permanent disturbances, until the national myth anywhere identified with the interests of the bourgeoisie wanes. Why do the bourgeoisie identify themselves with and propagate the national myth? The psychological process is extremely complicated, but visible to whoever wishes and has learned to decipher the masks and sublimations. We must first recognize that it is the national idea that is at the foundation of the current political system and legitimizes the essence of the majority of its institutions and its means of organization. The Academy, the University, the Church, the Army, the Police, the Administration, the Press, and the Schools are saturated with this spirit. The criteria and the angle whereby political actions are judged are named the nation as a whole. The posing of class struggle and differences is tolerated and regarded as an act of lèse-majesté. However, the question is as follows: who profits by maintaining this spirit? Beneath the imperial robe of this idea hides the louse of social exploitation. It has become the pretext under which it is forbidden to cry out the truth and social suffering. The possession of the majority of material and cultural goods in the hands of a small percentage of the total population is legitimized by means of the constant and intense emphasis on identity of language, blood and tradition. In reality, the spiritual structure of the capitalist group has nothing whatsoever to do with the aspirations of the poor and majority group of the same nation. The bourgeoisie of any race speaks in an analogous language. The psychological structure of the individual is determined by profession. The law of the military man is honor; submission and neutrality are the law of the functionary; labor and suffering are the law of the worker; maintenance of the divine in the world is the law of the priest, etc. The typification of figures from the same profession is a fact long known. The "internationalism" of the ruling class in Romania (yesterday Phanariotism, today Germanophilia, Francophilia or Anglophilia) is due to the circumstance that both the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie are international in their structure, perfectly revealing themselves in an analogous circle that they may abandon or preserve according to the favorable conjuncture. Nationalism is, for the rich, the mask whereby they can peacefully and safely exploit the poor and the stupid. We emphasize the fact that the means whereby the national myth develops is not easily unmasked for the one given over to it. At the feet of this modern Moloch, the man-on-the-street, in his moving simplicity, lays his reserves of love, sacrifice and the pursuit of emotional experience, fatal to the human soul. Even more complex souls and more lucid minds can be caught in its web. What else have the nationalist ideologies been except a musical accompaniment for the new Romanian bourgeoisie in their definitive process of formation and desirous to enthrone themselves as rulers? A distinction might be made between patriotism and nationalism. Patriotism is connected to the love of the hearth, of the family, of first memories and has nuances of idyllic, natural, and justified affection. The secondary manifestations in nationalism, albeit decisive elements of an emotional nature for strengthening and maintaining it, are as follows: the flag, the memory of the hearth, the national anthem, national rejoicing, hatred or at least mistrust of foreigners etc. If there is no foreigner in the midst of a people, then the national bourgeoisie has to invent one. He is the eternal scapegoat at whose head the broken national pots are cast. Let us observe a marriage where one of the spouses is a foreigner or from another social class. The guilt for misfortunes and hardships arising from causes also to be found in other Orthodox marriages is necessarily thrown onto the shoulders of the foreigner or the one with lesser social origins. It is one of the ugly traits of the human character to blame the weak in time of need. If the marriage is Orthodox, the weaker spouse gets a beating or is remonstrated. The foreigner in a marriage, by the very fact that he is an outsider, stands on weaker ground. Firstly because he cannot defend himself with equal arms. He does not sufficiently know the language, the customs, or the curses, or he applies them in an exaggerated or scabrous manner. When the foreigner corrupts others, he does so indecently and ineptly. His defense is uncertain, his shamelessness crosses the limits. In him, more often than not, there is something of the slave or the libertine. The natives who know noble sentiments and security around foreigners, even when they are lackeys and bow, are ready to cast the blame on the weaker in cases of argument or crisis. Nationalism is not an idea that has occurred at all times and in all cultures and all over the world. It has nothing of the fatality of the law of universal gravity, as the fanatics would believe, but is a manifestation connected to time and space; it is historically circumscribed. There is nothing theological about it. The history of the national idea is as secular as can be. Exploitation feels the need to legitimize itself. In antiquity, it was based on caste prejudices – slaves and patricians. In the Middle Ages, it wore theological clothing. In the modern age, it has invented nationalism. The unity of the nation is an illusion. The possibility of melting down the rich and the poor into the same paste is a superstition from which the fattest profit is drawn by the rich, while all the drawbacks are borne by the poor. In history, the great communities have been created on the basis of ideological principles and material interests, with the national criterion being an isolated manifestation, outside the 19th and 20th centuries where it provoked so many disasters. But even in the last two centuries, the national criterion has not been generalized. It has managed to be Archimedes' lever – by means of a systematic and able propaganda, abundantly financed in the press and employing other factors – only for the national bourgeoisies who, in 1914, unleashed the catastrophes from which Europe has still not recovered. Alliances were formed according to affinities of capital. Had France and Britain not had investments in tsarist Russia, the Great Entente would not have come into being. The statistical data throw a cruel light upon the underside of events. In 1914, banking capital in Petersburg amounted to 8235 million rubles. The share of foreign capital was as follows: French capital – 55%, British capital – 10%, German capital – 35%. The branches of that Parisian banking trio – Banque de France et des Pays-Bas, Banque de l'Union Parisienne, Société Générale – had, at the time, made fantastic investments of money from the "stocking of the French rentier", transformed through a system of exploitative dividends into the "usurer of the world" (Lysis, Contre l'oligarchie financière en France, 5th edition, 1908). The pre-war armament loan granted to the tsarist regime, against which the Russian intelligentsia protested stormily, against which Maxim Gorky wrote his famous pamphlet (Fair France, I spit in your face!), the industrial investments, and the banking shares had turned Russia into a French colony. The solidarity of French and Russian capital – with the Russian peasant and worker being exploited to the last drop of blood and obliged to send their cereals, grown using rudimentary agriculture, abroad during times of almost permanent famine in order to pay the interest, while the national banks, like the Russian Bank and the International Bank, for example, increased their capital from 44 million rubles to 98 million rubles between 1906 and 1908, and their reserves from 15 million to 39 million rubles – also dictated solidarity in arms. Solidarity is dictated by capitalist interests, while nationalism is merely a pretext to attract the poor. The interests of the rich do not coincide with those of the poor, who are just as exploited all over the capitalist world, receiving only larger or smaller crumbs, possessing in exchange the specter of unemployment with its spiritual disintegration or permanent poverty and low living standards. Solidarity on a national basis is something unprecedented, a pretext to motivate the masses. They are the specific of the modern world. In history, communities have had the following criteria up to now: a way of life and administration (the Roman empire), culture (Hellenism), religion and persecution (Judaism), hunger and war (the barbarian migrations), economic prosperity (Americanism), peace (Switzerland), monarchy and administration (Austria-Hungary), prosperity and freedom (the British Empire), monarchy and religion (tsarism), etc. The generalized national criterion is belated. The most famous definition of the nation as "an everyday plebiscite" (Renan) provides the right to dynamite it through the well-known fact of the variability of plebiscites. The ever more accentuated and victoriously marching consciousness of class differences indicates the disappearance of a myth. "Wirtschaft ist Schicksal". The economic problem thus formulated for the destinies of the modern epoch by Walter Rathenau and the systematic unmasking of exploitation are the two pillars upon which the style of the world to come will be built. The new society whose birth is taking place beneath eyes that do not wish to see, whose birth cries do not find ears to hear, has the characteristics of internationalism, with capitalism as its father and labor as its mother. Its specific law is collective labor, and its consciousness, the need to protect its rights. The nation of the rich is capitalism, the nation of the poor labor and the socialist ideal. Capitalism is imperialist and aggressive, because the rivalries between the groups of the rich are maximal. Attempts to control production through trusts, cartels, trade unions, monopolies and international conferences are pilot balloons and alcohol to intoxicate the social movements. With these methods, an attempt is made to shatter the unity of suffering by means of promises that cannot be kept. The redeployment of the capitalist centers and their division between the rich of all nations, in order for them to be reconciled pacifically in front of their prey, is as clumsy farce. The peace organizations (Geneva, the Hague, Locarno etc.) have been annexes of anonymous companies, which entrusted their employees with taking care to liquidate current and future obstacles in their struggle for existence. And the existence and meaning of capital is exploitation. Even admitting that they might be reconciled in front of their prey (and we have no hope in any such thing), the past teaches us the contrary: the perpetuation of exploitation. The awakening of the social conscience is everywhere on the march.

by Petre Pandrea (1904-1968)