Mr. Iliescu, there is an old saying according to which the dead never return. I don’t think this is true. The first and most important duty of a statesman, writes philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, is to defend and protect the lives of the citizens of his or her country. Yet, in June 1990, you threatened these lives when you invited the so-called miners to Bucharest and instigated them to beat students, intellectuals, and all those suspected of freethinking. This was not an error. You did it cynically and in full awareness. You used the monopoly of legitimate violence arbitrarily and abusively.
In May-June 1990, you were exasperated by the spontaneity of the University Square marathon demonstration. You resented the joyful songs and the free speech. You resorted to venomous propaganda to stigmatize those who merely requested a retrieval of the revolution you and your acolytes had confiscated. Instead, you gave the order to have the civic activists beaten, tortured, and terrorized. For all these criminal actions, you will be judged and will receive, I wholeheartedly hope, the punishment you fully deserve!
As the indictment published on Monday this week by the general prosecutor’s office states, you have perpetrated crimes against humanity. It is high time you and your accomplices — former prime minister Petre Roman, former deputy prime minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu, former secret police boss Virgil Magureanu, former minister of internal affairs General Mihai Chitac, and the exalted Leninist ideologue Nicolae S. Dumitru — were held accountable.
Mr. Iliescu, we have met several times. In 1994, I wrote that you enjoy the voluptuousness of historical chiaroscuro. Countless articles during the past half-century further testify that I have not spared my power to expose what needed to be diagnosed and decried: cynicism, corruption, clientelism, the refusal to confront the past, the perpetuation of blatant lies.
We composed a book of dialogues in 2004. In the “Argument” to that volume, I stated clearly that I had been and remained a critic of the regime that you established on the ruins of Nicolae Ceausescu’s dictatorship. In this book, you also admitted, “the balance sheet of communism in the twentieth century was globally negative.” I don’t think you have ever said this on another occasion. As a political scientist and historian of world communism, allow me to tell you as directly as possible: you are part and parcel of that negative balance sheet!
When our book of dialogues was published, you were at the end of your last presidential mandate. Romania had entered NATO. I sincerely believed that, your ideological apparatchik past notwithstanding, you had learned the rules of democratic behavior. Then, in December 2004, you decorated Miron Cozma, the leader of the barbaric miners’ assault, as well as Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the rabid anti-Semite, the ultra-nationalist, and Ceausescu nostalgic, awarding them both the highest Romanian medal. I publicly declared at that moment that I could not cope with such aberrations and that I regretted our book of dialogues.
In 2006, you acted as the main saboteur of the action to condemn the communist dictatorship and the workings of the Presidential Commission appointed by Traian Basescu (a Commission that I chaired). You called me a “scribbler” and “Basescu’s puppy.”
Mr. Iliescu, you have harmed this country a great deal! Generations of Romanian citizens have missed a huge number of opportunities as a result of your policies. You have trampled the rules of democratic normalcy. You are the symbol of all that prevents Romania from being a robust, credible, and functional democracy. You execrate civil society. You fear freethinking. You indulge in the company of lackeys, gangsters, scoundrels, and sycophants. At this moment, the dead return from their graves and call for justice!
„Public Seminar” is the online platform of the New School for Social Research in New York. It is thus named to honor a great tradition of the university-in-exile. This is the place where such luminaries as Hannah Arendt, Harold Lasky, Franz Boas, John Maynard Keynes, Erich Fromm, Hans Jonas, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Leo Strauss, Ferenc Feher, Agnes Heller, Hans Morgenthau, Martha Graham, Frank Lloyd Wright, Aaron Copland, W.H. Auden, Margaret Mead, Karen Horney, to name just a few, taught. I am honored to publish there and I thank professor Jeff Goldfarb (author, among other books, of the outstanding „Beyond Glasnost: The Anti-Totalitarian Mind”) and his colleagues for this chance. Years ago, New School professor Andrew Arato invited me to contribute to the journal „Telos.” I wrote an article, published in 1984, entitled „The Ambiguity of Romanian National Communism.”
It was in 1983 that I fist met Richard J. Bernstein at Haverford College, on Philadelphia’s main line, where he was teaching philosophy. Thanks to him I published my first article in English, „Critical Marxism and Eastern Europe,” the same year, in „Praxis International.” He is now professor at the New School. I remember vividly that he mentioned, during our encounter, that Hannah Arendt used to come to lecture at Haverford. The „Open Letter to Former President Ion Iliescu” is an echo of those essays. Ion Iliescu’s mendacious cynicism and readiness to engage in criminal actions against his critics suggest that Romania’s national Stalinism, what I called Stalinism for all seasons, is more persistent, more obstinate, and more obnoxious, than many of us thought or feared…