Grosescu and Ursachi “The Romanian Revolution in Court” (annotated) V (“Interests” in December 1989 FAIL)
(purely personal views, as always, based on over two decades of prior research and publications)
Raluca Grosescu and Raluca Ursachi, “The Romanian Revolution in Court: What Narratives about 1989?” in Vladimir Tismaneanu and Bogdan C. Iacob, Remembrance, History, and Justice. Coming to terms with traumatic pasts in democratic societies. (New York: Central European University Press, 2015), pp. 257-293.
In this series, we will look at parts of the Grosescu and Ursachi chapter that necessitate exposition–exposition that is easily derived from my prior research and publications. In episode one, we looked at Grosescu and Ursachi’s understanding of “plan ZZ,” which Grosescu and Ursachi suggest was a “fantasy scenario” of somehow abstruse allegations invented for the purposes of the initial post-December 1989 trials: https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/grosescu-and-ursachi-the-romanian-revolution-in-court-i-annotated/. In episode two, we looked at what is a favorite, seemingly universal assumption that has gone unresearched by Romanianists: the rumor that the “water was poisoned.” While it is true that this was primarily a piece of disinformation to create panic and confusion–they totally misunderstand who fed it and to what end it was used. Moreover, they clearly have no knowledge of Belgian toxicologist Aubin Heyndrickx‘s toxicology report on what happened in Sibiu 20-22 December 1989, and why this rumor was not completely a “fantasy scenario” as the authors smugly suggest: https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/grosescu-and-ursachi-the-romanian-revolution-in-court-annotated-ii-the-water-is-poisoned/. In episode three, we examined the unevenness of Grosescu and Ursachi’s approach, essentially accepting at face value the credibility and motivations of those who accuse Iliescu and those around them for allegedly “inventing the terrorists” without investigating the accusers and their claims–specifically in this case, the claims of Teodor Maries: https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/grosescu-and-ursachi-the-romanian-revolution-in-court-annotated-iii-the-claims-of-teodor-doru-maries/ . In episode four, we saw how Grosescu and Ursachi accept at face value criticisms of justice as having been politicized under Iliescu and co. but then fail to question if the person making such allegations is not himself politicizing justice. Most noteworthy here is Military Prosecutor General Dan Voinea. Grosescu and Ursachi present Voinea as the great truthteller and revealer. Voinea talks about Iliescu and the PDSR protecting “interests.” What Grosescu and Ursachi seem to fail to see is that former Securitate people have had little to fear from General Voinea and have been conspicuously absent from prosecution as long as he was in charge of the investigations: https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/grosescu-and-ursachi-the-romanian-revolution-in-court-annotated-iv-dan-voineas-interests/
In this episode we look at the post-modernist deconstructionist approach to December 1989 which is so popular among liberal, strongly anti-communist, and emigre components of the Romanian intellectual class at home and abroad. They essentially ask the question cui bono (“who benefits”) and by identifying the interests and the interested party at play, they make an instrumentalist argument as to the use of such an argument. What they don’t recognize is that their instrumentalist, deconstructivist approach has become a replacement for exacting historical research. It is characteristic of Ruxandra Cesereanu, to a lesser extent Peter Siani-Davies, and, for example, Ioan Stanomir, in the following video http://adevarul.ro/cultura/istorie/1989-anulmiracolelor-despre-prabusirea-unui-sistem-politiologul-ioan-stanomir-laadevarul-live-1100-1_5447ec7a0d133766a826d0a2/index.html. A major flaw in this approach is that it defines cui bono in strictly partisan terms, and ignores other players and types of interests who also might stand to benefit. (Thus, in the excerpt below, Grosescu and Ursachi speak of the “symbolic figure of the enemy” that “legitimized the new political leaders as victors against the ‘foes of the Revolution'”…to which the answer is yes…but that doesn’t answer or not anything about whether that enemy existed…which by innuendo instead Grosescu and Ursachi seek to suggest did not…this is simply bad research methodology!)
The “terrorists,” a veritable leitmotif of the 1989 moment, have never been identified and are still one of the great mysteries of events in December…The invocation of this symbolic figure of the enemy legitimized the new political leaders as victors against the “foes of the Revolution” and as artisans of social pacification, which was endangered by the specter of “genocide.”
Of course, Grosescu and Ursachi are no different here than their patron Vladimir Tismaneanu, the de facto Dean of contemporary Romanian politics and history in North America, but a superficial ideologue when it comes to researching and understanding December 1989. The following from one of his many efforts to appear knowledgeable on December 1989 is classic. In response to a poster, a certain DanielS, Tismaneanu chides DanielS for the apparently mortal sin of supporting the claims of Iliescu and his supporters. Tismaneanu–like Grosescu and Ursachi–can’t imagine arguing the historical accuracy of what happened outside of who it benefited/benefits. Later, to underscore how absolutely clueless he is, he ends up agreeing with a notorious Ceausescu nostalgic, “Ovidiu” whose site ceausescunicolae.com (see what Ovidiu resolves to) is well-known by actual researchers of December 1989 as a treasure trove of former Securitate and Ceausescu nostalgic claims and arguments (Tismaneanu has no idea). Tismaneanu still has not learned more than two decades later that there are not just the interests and arguments of Iliescu and company, and the liberal anti-communist, friends of the open society democrats that opposed them, but that former Securitate personnel and Ceausescu nostalgics have their own set of interests and arguments…and his (and Grosescu and Ursachi and many others’) total ignorance of this issue leads them to make fundamentally flawed conclusions and to heavily misunderstand and misrepresent December 1989.
I have written about the importance of identifying and disentangling analytically the various interests–political, bureaucratic, personal and otherwise–in December 1989 beginning in graduate school in the mid-1990s. It is no surprise that those who emphasize ideology above all else and thus treat the nomenklatura as undifferentiated in their interests except in the realm of ideas and values, ignored and continue to ignore–to their and our detriment–the salience and influence of bureaucratic identities and interests in understanding December 1989. Furthermore, it is not enough to merely identify interests and “cui bono” or “cui prodest”: the facts of what happened then have to be painstakingly assembled and analyzed to see how they line up against the various interests involved.
I was still trying to make sense of the relationship between the Romanian media and the former Securitate on the question of December 1989 when I wrote this article back in 1996 while working on my Ph.D. dissertation. (A more developed and refined understanding is my fall 1999 EEPS article, written spring 1998, and found here, https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/the-uses-of-absurdity-romania-1989-1999/). My ideas may have still been in formation then, and imperfect, but my instincts were ultimately in the right direction , as a few examples from the December 2014 Romanian online media (below) shockingly continue to demonstrate.