Calling Planet Marx: Nicolae Ceaușescu’s Cultural Revolution

Autumn 2015

In Andrei Ujica’s remarkable documentary, The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu (2010), there is footage of the Romanian ‘red bour- geoisie’ getting down to the Bobby Fuller Four’s ‘I Fought the Law’. The montage cuts to choreographed hysteria in China and North Korea, where adoring crowds of factory and shipyard workers greet Ceaușescu. This brings home the shock felt by many Romanians, espe- cially intellectuals, after the ‘July Theses’ of 1971 announced by the leader on his return from the Far East. If, in the capitalist west, the ‘cultural turn’ in marxism meant both a search for new forms of resistance and a ‘retreat from class’ into postmodernist pessimism, in Romania it meant a re-assertion of the iron law of one-party rule, propelling Romanian communism further along a trajectory which cut it off increasingly from the outside world and from marxism itself. At first, Ceausescu’s Cultural Revolution was paradoxically compatible with openness to foreign capital and created an internal coalition in favour of an increasingly ‘dynastic’ communism, but its overarching concern with autarky fatally weakened the regime, preparing the way for the implosion of December, 1989. 

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