Ceaușescu having a fun time. Photo via The online picture show of Romanian communism
From what my parents have told me, Romania in the time of Ceaușescu was a pretty shitty place to live. The planned economy didn’t work, because that planning had been a little off when it came to supply and demand. There was no food in the stores, talking against the system often got you in jail and basic utilities like electricity were every so often randomly cut.
Yet for some reason – even now, 25 years after the fall of communism – a certain part of the Romanian population is experiencing communism nostalgia. In fact, according to a recent poll, 44.4 percent of Romanians believe that living conditions were better under communism, while 15.6 percent claimed things have stayed the same. I went out on the streets of Bucharest to conduct my own poll, asking people what's so special about a system that wants everyone to be the same.
VICE: Would you go back to living in Ceaușescu's Romania if you could?
Vicenţiu, 60: Yes. I had a secure job, some benefits, a gas cylinder and a house – which is the most important thing a person could have.
But people weren't exactly free.
Yes, they were. People were so free that you could walk in the street without worrying that anyone would beat you up, or take your girl away – there was a law. Nowadays I don’t see cops anywhere, they stay in their cars. I don’t see anyone walking up to you on the street to ask what you are doing.
What about all the stories about the electricity being cut?
You are too young, you only know stories. When a family wants to buy a new fridge or a stove, they tighten the belt a little. And so Ceaușescu tightened things a little in order make a road. Famine and electricity cuts aside, we had order and discipline. These days, everything is a mess.
VICE: If you could, would you vote for Ceaușescu?
Andrei, 17: No, I hate communists. All they want is to control us.
Is Romania okay as it is?
No, because we are indebted to the Americans. Ceaușescu didn't leave any debt, but we weren't free either. It sucked. Things are better now – there's drugs and women; freedom.
VICE: If he were to run in the next elections, would you vote for Ceausescu?
Flavius, 56: Ceaușescu would be a far lesser evil than everything else happening today. Yes, I would vote for him. Things weren't as bad as people say. There was some freedom. We were restricted, but the state had become more relaxed in its last years. On the other hand, the corruption that exists today is only a product of that time.
And if a dictator came and gave you food and health benefits but took away all your liberties, would you agree to that?
Maybe communism as a political system is more suited to Romanians. We don’t have a culture, a history of democracy. We are also pretty stupid. We were inoculated with the idea that we are smart, but that's not true.
VICE: Would you go back to communism?
Nina, 46: On the one hand, I would. According to my parents, it was better. They didn’t have to worry about what was going to happen tomorrow.
What about your civil liberties?
At least everyone behaved in the same way, dressed the same. Everybody was going to sleep at the same time and waking up at the same time.
And you think that was a better model than today's?
For me, definitely. I don't feel safe anymore. If you go on the streets and a six-year-old kid swears at you, you cannot say anything because his mother and father might jump you. Back then, being on the streets after 12PM wasn't permitted.
So security is more important than freedom?
Yes, and I am saying this as a woman.
VICE: Would you vote for Ceaușescu?
Răzvan 33, Cătălina 25, Ava two months old: No because, unfortunately for him, I experienced those times and I know what my parents have been through. He couldn’t do anything to convince me.
What was different back then?
My parents got a house very easily and with very little money. I won't be able to do that and neither will our children. From that point of view, communism isn't all bullshit. There was also class segregation – not everyone went to university, for example. Nowadays everyone does, but we have no jobs.
VICE: Would you choose Ceaușescu as your president?
Tinca: Yes. In his time, we all had jobs, we were all wearing one uniform. There was no discrimination, no class distinctions.
Is it better for you now?
It was better during Ceaușescu’s time.
Is Romania going in the right direction?
I don't think so. I have a boy who’s 25 years old and another one who’s 28. They get their pay cheques every two months. What do they have to eat in the time between those two months? I go to the store and they give me things but keep a tab. Back then we had a salary, we knew that our kids went to school and then they were sent off to work – no one ended up on the street.
VICE: Would you vote for Ceaușescu?
Rareş, 15: Yes, because what he imposed would push the countryto be better. He gave everyone a house.
And is that worth losing your freedom?
No, but it’s a sacrifice we should all make given our present situation.
Would you want Romania to exit the EU?
Yes, the way I see it, all we do is kiss the asses of the Europeans. We are seen as a pariah state, and it doesn’t help at all to kiss ass for money, unless it goes in your pocket.
VICE: Would you vote for the dead guy?
Loan, 51: Honestly, yes. Everyone had a job back then.
What do you miss most?
Job security. What are our kids going to do if they are not smart enough to get a university education?
How was life back then?
We lacked information and we were brainwashed. But we had more free time, an 8-hour work schedule. Now if you have a job, you have to go to work even on weekends.
Would you choose Ceausescu as your president?
Anca, 27: I believe so. From what I’ve heard, people felt more secure about their future. Even though it's said that he kept the population in famine and all that crap, he did it for the welfare of the country – so that we could pay all the foreign debt and be independent.
Would you give up the Internet?
If I were to choose between a safe life with a job and a house and the Internet, I would surely choose the house. There are still books, after all. And it's not like we aren't being censored, these days – it's just coded censorship. We are completely monitored, especially through Facebook.
What about all those people that died so that we could be free?
Those people should have minded their own business They acted headfirst and slammed too hard on the door.
VICE: Would you vote for Ceaușescu?
Andreea, 22: No, because I want to be free. It doesn’t matter that there used to be money and now there isn't any – there were other constraints, limitations of human rights.
Was there something good in communism?
Things were more organised.
A lot of people were grateful for housing.
Freedom is more important.
What would life in Romania be like today, if the Revolution hadn't happened?
We would have been 300 years behind America and the West. I think that it’s because of Ceaușescu that we are still so far behind, compared to the other EU countries. We have a bad rep because of him.
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