The Communist Party

Romania Table of Contents

Founded in 1921, the Communist Party was declared illegal in 1924 and forced underground until 1944. Because of the party's association with Moscow, it was unable to attract broad support. The communists came to power as a result of the Soviet occupation of Romania during the final year of the war. With Soviet backing, the party gradually consolidated power and sought to extend its base of popular support. In early 1948, it merged with a wing of the Social Democratic Party to form the Romanian Workers' Party. By the end of 1952, however, almost all of the Social Democrats had been replaced by Communists.


At the close of World War II the Communist Party had fewer than 1,000 members. Three years later, at the official congress that sanctioned the merger with the Social Democratic Party, it reported more than 1 million members. This rapid growth was the outcome of an intensive propaganda campaign and membership drive that employed political and economic pressures. Subsequently, a purge of socalled hostile and nominal members during the early 1950s resulted in the expulsion of approximately 465,000 persons.

During the early years of full Communist control, the party considered itself the vanguard of the working class and made a sustained effort to recruit workers. By the end of 1950, the party reported that 64 percent of leading party positions and 40 percent of higher government posts were filled by members of the working class. Efforts to recruit workers into the party, however, consistently fell short of goals.

By 1965, when the name Romanian Communist Party was officially adopted, membership had reached 1,450,000--about 8 percent of the country's population. Membership composition at that time was 44 percent workers, 34 percent peasants, 10 per cent intelligentsia, and 12 percent other categories.

After his accession to power in 1965, Ceausescu sought to increase the party's influence, broaden the base of popular support, and bring in new members. His efforts to increase PCR membership were extremely effective. By February 1971, the party claimed 2.1 million members. The Twelfth Party Congress in 1979 estimated membership at 3 million, and by March 1988, the PCR had grown to some 3.7 million members--more than twice as many as in 1965, when Ceausescu came to power. Thus, in the late 1980s, some 23 percent of Romania's adult population and 33 percent of its working population belonged to the PCR.

At the Thirteenth Party Congress in November 1984, it was announced that the nationality composition of the PCR was 90 percent Romanian, 7 percent Hungarian (a drop of more than 2 percent since the Twelfth Party Congress), less than 1 percent German, and the remainder other nationalities.

As of 1988, workers made up about 55 percent of the party membership, peasants 15 percent, and intellectuals and other groups 30 percent. Because of the PCR's special effort to recruit members from industry, construction, and transportation, by late 1981 some 45.7 percent of workers in these sectors belonged to the party. In 1980 roughly 524,000 PCR members worked in agriculture. Figures on the educational level of the membership in 1980 indicated that 11 percent held college diplomas, 15 percent had diplomas from other institutions of higher learning, and 26 percent had received technical or professional training.

In the 1980s, statistics on the age composition of the party were no longer published. The official comment on the subject was that the party had a "proper" age composition. Outside observers, however, believed that the average age of the membership had risen dramatically. The share of pensioners and housewives increased from 6.6 percent in 1965 to 9 percent in 1988.

Women traditionally were underrepresented in the PCR. In late 1980, they accounted for only 28.7 percent of the party's members, prompting Ceausescu to call for increasing their representation to about 35 percent.

A document on the selection and training of party cadres adopted by a Central Committee plenum in April 1988 provided information on the backgrounds of individuals staffing the political apparatus. According to that document, workers, foremen, and technicians supplied 79.8 percent of the cadres of the PCR apparatus, 80.1 percent of the apparatus of the Union of Communist Youth (Uniunea Tineretului Comunist, UTC), and 88.7 percent of the trade union apparatus. By late 1987, the proportion of women in the party apparatus had risen to 27.8 percent from only 16.8 percent in 1983. More than 67 percent of activists in the state apparatus and 59.4 percent in the trade unions were under forty-five years of age. The document also asserted that 95.7 percent of PCR Central Committee activists and 90.7 percent of activists in judet, municipal, and town party committees were graduates of, or were attending, state institutions of higher education.

Organizational Structure

As the fundamental document of the PCR, the party statutes set basic policy on party organization, operation, and membership. Originally adopted in May 1948, the statutes underwent several modifications, with significant revisions in 1955, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1974, and 1984. Many of these changes strengthened Ceausescu's hold on the party and reduced the role of rank-and- file members.

All organs of the party were closely interrelated and operated on the principle of democratic centralism. (Derived from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, this concept required a firm hierarchical subordination of each party organ to the next higher unit. In practice, party programs and policies were directed from the center and decisions of higher organs were unconditionally binding on all lower organs and on individual members.) The statutes called for the free and open discussion of policy questions at congresses, conferences, and local membership meetings. But discipline required that once a decision was made, the minority fully submitted to the will of the majority.

According to the party statutes, the supreme organ of the PCR was the party congress, consisting of delegates elected by the judet conferences at a ratio of 1 delegate per 1,000 members. The party congress, which convened at least once every five years, elected the PCR general secretary, the Central Committee, and the Central Auditing Commission and discussed and adopted programs and policies proposed by central party organs.

Between congresses the leading party organ was the Central Committee. At the Thirteenth Party Congress in 1984, the Central Committee consisted of 265 full and 181 candidate members--twice as many members as in 1969. The Central Committee was responsible for the overall direction of party activities and the implementation of policies established by the party congress. In addition, it screened nominations for the more important party and state positions. Party statutes required a plenary session of the Central Committee at least four times a year.

Several important changes in the structure of the party leadership were enacted by the Central Committee in March 1974, a few months before the Eleventh Party Congress. The Standing Presidium of the Central Committee, whose members were the most influential individuals in the party, was abolished and replaced by the Political Executive Committee ( Polexco) Permanent Bureau. Although formally the Central Committee elected the leading party organs, in practice the Polexco Permanent Bureau was a selfperpetuating body, and any change in its membership or in that of the Secretariat was generated from within rather than through a democratic decision by the Central Committee. The Secretariat, most of whose members were full or candidate members of the Polexco, had responsibility for overseeing the implementation of party decisions. As general secretary of the party, Ceausescu headed both the Polexco Permanent Bureau and the Secretariat and chaired the Polexco.

The Central Committee was backed by an extensive bureaucratic structure that in many instances paralleled the organization of the government ministries. A chancellery office, headed by a chief and three deputies, coordinated the committee's overall administrative activities. Party work was organized under several permanent sections, which were typically headed by a supervisory secretary, and a number of administrative sections and functional commissions. The designations of the sections were agriculture, armed forces and security forces, cadre, culture and education, economic affairs, foreign relations, letters and audiences, local economic administration, organization, party affairs, propaganda and media, social problems, and administration.

In 1989 the following commissions were directly tied to the Central Committee: the Party and State Cadres Commission; the Ideology, Political and Cultural Activities, and Social Education Commission; the Party Organization and Mass and Public Organization Commission; and the Economic Cooperation and International Relations Commission. Most of these commissions appeared redundant, addressing problems within the purview of the Central Committee sections, various joint party-state organizations, and the ministries.

As the center for decision-making and policy control, the Polexco Permanent Bureau was the most powerful body in the country. Established in 1974, the Permanent Bureau went through several stages. Initially it consisted of five members, but after the Twelfth Party Congress in 1979, it expanded to fifteen members. In 1984, however, it was reduced to eight members, including Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, and in June 1988 it had only seven members. Most observers agreed that in fact the decision-making process was limited to the Ceausescus and their most trusted allies, not all of whom held positions in the Permanent Bureau, the Polexco, or the Secretariat.

Little information was available on the responsibilities of the Polexco, although some observers regarded it as an administrative link between the Permanent Bureau and the Central Committee. In practice, it functioned as a rump Central Committee when the latter was not in session. The Secretariat served as the continuing administrative unit of the party. It supervised the execution of policies decreed by the Permanent Bureau.

Two other important party organs functioned under the supervision of the Permanent Bureau and the Secretariat: the Central Auditing Commission and the Central Collegium, formerly known as the Party Control Commission. Consisting of seventy-three members (none of whom could belong to the Central Committee), the Central Auditing Commission was empowered to exercise general control over party financial affairs and examine the management of finances by the various party organs. During the 1980s, the commission literally became a place of exile for officials who had fallen out of favor. The twenty-two-member Central Collegium dealt with matters of party discipline and served as a type of appeals court for penalties imposed on members by judet or local party committees.

An interlocking of authority and functions at the highest level of the party and state was evidenced in the frequency with which the senior party officials also held important government posts. In the late 1980s, all the members of the Polexco Permanent Bureau, the Polexco, and the Secretariat were GNA deputies, and most of them held prominent positions in the State Council, the Defense Council, or the Council of Ministers.

The party statutes described the basic party organization as the foundation of the party. Basic party organizations existed in factories, offices, cooperatives, military and police units, social and cultural organizations, and residential areas. Some of the party units consisted of a few members, whereas those in the larger enterprises could have as many as 300 members. In 1980 there were an estimated 64,200 basic party organizations.

The local and occupational basic party organizations implemented party directives and programs, recruited and indoctrinated new members, and disseminated propaganda directed at those outside the party. Members had the duty to participate in social, economic, and cultural activities, particularly those associated with economic enterprises, and to examine critically production and community life in the light of party ideology and goals. In all their activities, the local party units were required to uphold the discipline of the party and to adhere to the policies established by the ruling bodies of the PCR.

Between the basic party organizations and the higher organs of the PCR stood a hierarchy of party committees organized on the judet, town, and communal levels. Each of these units was directly subordinate to the next higher level of the party organization. Each party committee set up its own bureau and elected a secretariat. In most cases the secretariat consisted of a first secretary, a first vice-chairman, and three or more vicechairmen or secretaries.

The activity of the bureau was conducted through several functional departments, which generally consisted of sections on personnel, administration, agitation and propaganda, economic enterprises, youth, and women's affairs. The judet and city committee also had their own control commission and training programs. The first secretary of the judet committee served as chairman of the judet people's council, linking the party and government offices.

At each of these levels--judet, city, town, and commune--the highest authoritative organ was the party conference, which played a role similar to that of the party congress on the national level. The party statutes called for the convening of conferences every five years in the judete, in the city of Bucharest, and in the larger towns. In communes and smaller towns the conference was held every two years. Although the conferences were held ostensibly to discuss problems and formulate policies, they served in practice as transmission belts for the official party line set down by the central PCR authorities. Judet conferences and the Bucharest city conference elected candidates to the national party Congress.

Ideology and Party Program

In the early 1970s, the PCR carried on a campaign to strengthen the Marxist character of its ideological, cultural, and educational activities. Within limits Ceausescu encouraged "socialist democracy" and open communication between the masses and the party leadership. He defined "socialist democracy" as a spirit of social responsibility among the citizens to perform their duties in accordance with the needs and imperatives of society as a whole. Socialist democracy sought to stimulate the masses to support the cause of socialism by involving them in PCR programs so that the individual citizen's goals and values coincided with those of the party.

In the mid-1970s, Ceausescu announced a new ideological program and the tightening of party control over government, science, and cultural life. Some observers regarded this campaign as a response to Soviet criticism of Ceausescu's foreign policy. It may have been a reminder to Moscow that socialism was not endangered in Romania and that the Soviets could not use this pretext to justify intervention as they had done in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Others considered it an assertion of authority by Ceausescu to combat domestic ideological laxity and what he perceived as corrupting Western influences. Partially directed at the youth of the nation, the campaign included curbs on alcohol in the youth clubs and on the screening of foreign television programs and music.

Another objective was increased party control over literature and cultural life. New ideological guidelines were issued for writers, publishers, and theaters. Ceausescu declared that the arts must serve the single purpose of socialist-communist education. At the same time, he called for increasing guidance of the arts by all levels of the PCR and requested that works of art and literature be judged for their conformity to party standards and their service to the working class. Although Ceausescu ruled out repressive measures, he asserted that the party would rely on persuasion to implement the new ideological program.

In the late 1980s, the PCR ideological program consisted of two major components--the political and ideological education of the citizenry and the scientific study of Romanian history. The former entailed the thorough study of PCR experience, Ceausescu's theses and recommendations, and the classics of Marxism-Leninism. The scientific study of Romania's history was considered profoundly important in developing the population's awareness of their DacianRoman origin and the continuity of Romanian habitation of their homeland, particularly in the face of historical claims made by neighboring countries.

During the 1980s, the party's perception of its role in society changed. It no longer saw itself as the detached vanguard of the working class, but rather as the vital center of the nation and society. The party's identification with national interests was interpreted as rejection of the concept of "dictatorship of the proletariat," a phrase that was supplanted in party parlance by "state of the revolutionary workers' democracy." The policies pursued by the PCR were designed to maintain firm control of economic planning and administration. Party control was enhanced by the territorial and administrative reorganization of 1968, which set up commissions in all of the new judete to function under the direct supervision of the judet PCR committees. These commissions gave the party direct control over local economic programs.

Party Training

In early 1970, the PCR carried out a major reorganization of its primary institution for the training of leading party workers, the Stefan Gheorghiu Party Academy, which was renamed the Stefan Gheorghiu Academy for Social-Political Education and the Training of Leading Cadres. The academy's mission was to train party activists and develop party leaders who could resolve problems by "applying the science of political leadership to the party and society." In September 1986, the academy was renamed the Party Academy for Social and Political Training, but its structure was not changed.

In 1989 the academy still consisted of two departments, one for the training of cadres in the party and mass organizations and a second for the training of personnel working in economic and state administration. Each department was subdivided into a number of institutes, sections, and training centers.

Admission to academy programs was carefully controlled by the party. Courses in the first department lasted four years, and candidates were selected from among activists in the judet and city party committees, central PCR bodies, and mass organizations. Political activists in the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Interior, and the Department of State Security were also eligible for training in the first department.

The PCR also maintained the Institute of Historical and SocialPolitical Studies in Bucharest, which functioned under the direct supervision of the Central Committee, and lower-level training programs that operated under the judet party committees.

In 1988 the PCR Central Committee adopted a document setting forth policy on cadre political and ideological training. The document demanded that party and state bodies work with greater determination to accomplish the political, ideological, and revolutionary education of cadres. The Central Committee also adopted a draft program for improving cadre training in the party apparatus, the ministries, and industrial enterprises. It called for special programs to send party workers without access to political schools to university courses for political and managerial training.

The study programs, which included practical work, discussion of specific problems, and field trips, covered such subjects as automated data processing, socioeconomic analysis, forecasting, and many specialized topics. To facilitate training of large numbers, branches of the Party Academy's Center for the Education and Training of Party and Mass Organization Cadres were set up in Bucharest and in three judete.

More about the Government of Romania.

Custom Search

Source: U.S. Library of Congress