Ceausescu’s Fall (as seen in March 1990)

The Fall of Ceausescu

by Gwydion M. Williams

Ceausescu fell at just about the time our December issue came back from the printers. At this late date, there is little new to say. But there are some things that have not been given the prominence they deserve.

Ceausescu had been useful to the West for two reasons. He disrupted the Warsaw Pact, and he was paying back Romania’s foreign debts at the expense of his own people. But Gorbachev and the changes in Eastern Europe made Ceausescu no longer necessary. And he had paid back his debts by the time he was overthrown. East and West were agreed that he should go, and Romania was in no position to stand alone. Therefore the army took advantage of a spontaneous popular revolt and got rid of him.

Western democracies tend to get rid of their leaders every few years, and are the stronger for it. Thatcher is breaking records by having lasted since 1979, and she’s probably harming the Tory cause by hanging on. But Leninist parties can’t get rid of their leaders except by extraordinary means.

If Ceausescu could have been replaced after ten years, in the mid-1970s say, we might be looking back at him as quite a good and successful leader. He got Romania out of Moscow’s orbit, backed the Prague Spring but avoided getting his own country invaded. But then he hung on and on and on, getting ever more eccentric and out of touch, till in the end he had to be deposed and shot. All of the old East European leaders hung on for long enough to mess up any chance of an alternative socialist development in their countries. It’s all going to be drawn into the European Community. Which means that we in Britain must link up with other European socialists to make the new Europe as left as possible.

This was an item in Notes on the News for March 1990.  It appeared in Issue 16 of Labour and Trade Union Review, now Labour Affairs.