Alegerile parlamentare din 2021 în Republica Moldova -

Moldovan civil society

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May 19, 2004
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State of Moldovan civil society

There are no fields in the social, economic, or political life where Party of Communists wouldn’t have claimed a breakthrough throughout its three years stay in power. Recently, in an interview to “Misli” (Thought) newspaper President identified yet another field where his party attained considerable achievements. In his interview President outlined Communists’ achievements and went on wondering rhetorically “what other party has initiated a raft of measures that led to the conception of civil society in our country?”, thus insinuating that it was yet another merit of the party he was heading.

If we are to take his words literally, then there was no civil society at all before Communists’ came to power. If we are to embellish them, then civil society in Moldova is so weak and indiscernible that it is unable to get over its embryo stage. And this despite the fact that 3 years ago, when Communists came to power, there were 2,000 NGOs, dozens of political parties, trade unions and religious organisations registered in Moldova. Now there are more than 3,000 of them.

In fact, there are studies and statistics proving that not only there was a civil society in Moldova before Communists came to power, but it even attained some achievements. Nevertheless, there is evidence to the effect that civil society in Moldova is still weak and undeveloped, especially if compared with Central and Western Europe as described in “Global Civil Society: Dimension of the Nonprofit Sector” published by Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies in 1999. Its weakness stems from: a) economic migration phenomena that has driven about ? of active population abroad in search for a job; b) low living standards not allowing citizens who stayed to direct their efforts and time towards solving problems and defending their rights by means of civic organizations; c) civic culture is not present; d) numerous discouraging factors for the pursuit of citizen initiatives largely due to incoherent behaviour displayed by political elites, which are unable to identify benchmarks or a mobilising development vector (Moldovan elites are constantly in search of a unifying idea for the Republic of Moldova), etc.

Another largely cited cause of civil society’s weakness is NGOs’ reliance on foreign grants. NGO’s civic activism targeted towards pursuing public benefit was said by some to be corrupted by the accessibility of foreign grants. And this because NGOs leaders are said to gradually morph into NGO bourgeois, whose only concert would be “grand consumption”. Interestingly enough, those opinions are equally shared by party media outlets (Communistul newspaper), state-run media (Moldova Suverana) and outlets not affiliated to the ruling party (Democratia) etc. Certainly there is a grain of truth in those opinions, but there is a lot of speculation as well. The thing is that those who are eager to criticize NGOs, have descended from the “grant consumers” themselves.

It would be quite easy to combat those speculations by resorting to previously tested tools, such as transparency and accountability of the non-governmental organizations, assessing the impact of their activities, etc. This equally refers to the governors who also consume grants. Before engaging in criticising NGOs governors may want to comply with some elementary rules themselves. For instance, they may want to inform citizens on the sources of funding for the projects they like celebrating so-much. To cite just, the purchase of tractors for Machinery and Tractors Stations, opening of gas pipelines, etc. Indeed, such measures may not end all the misunderstandings, but at least they may give something to talk about (poate de exclus cu totul).

Lack of consensus among NGO leaders and other organizations as to how they should manifest themselves is an outcome of the civil society’s weakness. There were long debates on whether NGOs should take a stance on issues of major importance for the society, or should work solely towards pursuing bylaws goals. The latter stems from a vision of the civil society as a mosaic made up of various elements having different positions and orientations, not striving to react in one voice to the governors’ challenges; rather this is being left to competent organisations, specialized in the relevant fields of activity.

As for the manifestation of the NGOs, it doesn’t seem to be at issue. Media outlets affiliated to the ruling party, as well as the independent ones, wrote a lot about the emergence of government inspired non-governmental organisations. Recently, a raft of trade unions, journalists and writers organizations emerged, claiming to support governmental policies “consolidating the country’s statehood” or fighting “destructive forces”. The reunions of the so-called GONG (governmental NGOs) are denigrating other organisations working in the field, whose leaders share other positions than those of the ruling party. As a result, non-governmental organisations are classified into constructive and destructive, citizens classified into patriots and non-patriots, or pro-statehood and anti-statehood, thereby polarizing NGO community.

From this perspective, the President is right when claiming that the party he is heading “has conceived the civil society”, only that, to be truly honest, he might want to add “affiliated to the governing”. And this despite the Social Pact he had launched back in 2002 and his statements, like “Social Pact is a process of ongoing negotiations with civil society. It will include the main thesis on the relationship between society and power, regardless of the political sympathy…”

Curiously enough, in the summer of 2002 President came up with a draft law on public control over state activity. Parliament passed the draft, whereas the President did not promulgate it. It is not clear whether the draft would have facilitated access to information, which among others opposition is striving to get, especially when it comes to public money, trips made in the sole interest of the Party of Communist on public expense, etc.

Social practice — criterion of truth?

To avoid making any ungrounded conclusions one should identify some benchmarks in assessing civil society. For instance one of the well-known researchers in the field, Ralf Dahrendorf, claims that “Civil society is not a mere association of individuals, but rather of citizens. It is therefore, a product of the civilization, not of nature”. Some researchers went even further “normative consensus of its members with regard to social and moral order is a precondition for the existence of civil society”. That is, to assess the viability of the recently “conceived” Moldovan civil society, one should look whether there are preconditions for its existence.

If we are to consider “social order” provided for in the Republic of Moldova’s Constitution, it is in line with European standards on pluralistic democracy. On the other hand, what we have now in Moldova is a ruling party whose program and bylaws stipulate that its goal is to build socialism and communism based on Marxist-Leninist doctrine.

A reasonable question arises then: Is it really possible for a political party striving to “build communism” to abide the constitutional provisions on political pluralism? Is it really possible for a party to “build Communism” during a single four year mandate, and later on allow social-democratic, social-liberal, Christian-Democrat, etc oriented parties to accede to power in free and fair elections letting them to deviate from Communism in the hope that they would come again to power and would resume building communism anew? If it were indeed possible, then a raft of other questions would arise: what would happen to the society teetering from building Communism to building something opposite? Aren’t poverty and frustration in our society the outcomes of such a teetering? Is it worth destabilising the situation once again?

Normally, one should look at the Marxist-Leninist theory in order to find a proper answer to those questions, which largely refer to the Communist Party. Under the Marxist-Leninist doctrine, officially embraced by the ruling party of the Republic of Moldova, “social practice is the criterion of truth”.

The truth revealed by the “social practice” is that in the countries were Communists had seized the power they never ceded it on their own, rather they installed totalitarian regimes. Undoubtedly, soviet Gulags, Chinese Cultural Revolution, Cambodia’s Red Khmer, North Korean ciucihe are elements of the same Communist machinery. The same “social practice” has revealed that poverty stemming from economy’s inefficiency was common in all Communist countries until those regimes collapse under the pressure of abuses and crimes against humanity. Indeed, there are some exceptions, however they are yet another testimony to the rule. Communist regimes in China, Vietnam, Cuba, and North Korea after long and onerous experiments being pushed by the realities of the day have been gradually giving up on communist doctrine. Indeed, Communism supporters may well claim those regimes have been reforming in line with “dialectic logic”, but this is a different story.

Republic of Moldova is yet another exception that has enriched “social practice” three years ago. In February 2001 for the first time ever in the international “social practice” a Communist Party has been brought to power by free and fair elections. This time though, the exception is another testimony to the rule. The thing is that Communist leaders announced they were revising party program and bylaws as the two documents stemming from Communist doctrine were no longer meeting the realities of the day, because they had been adopted at the time Communist Party was in opposition. If so, was then the communist rhetoric good only for bringing the party to power?

In fact, watchers of the social-political developments in Moldova know that Party of Communists passed its program on April 21, 2001, at its winner’s congress, two months after their landslide victory in parliamentary elections; and not while the party was in opposition as it likes to insinuate. During that Congress Communist leader announced that their victory was the first step towards reviving Communist movement in CIS. The new Communist party program reconfirmed the thesis on the need of rebuilding “federation of sovereign republic”, i.e. USSR. It also condemned globalisation as a sign of neo-imperialism and instrument of “American imperialism” — WTO, etc.

Curiously, two months later Communist Party voted in favour of joining WTO. In another two months it declared liberalizing economy its top priority. Later, integration in the EU was declared to be one of Moldova’s strategic goals; albeit it ran counter to the party’s political program, not to mention its electoral program militating for joining Russia-Belarus Union. Then what consensus over social order (either in relations with right or left opposition, or citizens for that matter) are we talking about?

Social practice indicates that such behaviour is usually displayed by those who follow the principle: the goal justifies the means, whereas the ultimate goal in this case seems to be staying in power no matter what. Such a goal would never contribute to the consolidation of the society, not to mention civil society.

Moral order

The aforesaid brings to light the discrepancy between the party documents and electoral program and the behaviour of the ruling party, both of which undermine the “moral order” as a foundation of the civil society. And this because electoral program is nothing but a “social contract” concluded between a certain political party and its electorate.

What a better occasion to talk “moral order” than Easter, which usually precedes or follows Communist’s celebration of V.I. Lenin on April 22.

This year, as was the case last year, public opinion was outraged by the way Communist Party equally celebrated both occasions. Last year, Communist leaders attended the Easter ceremony, the President even received the Holly Fire brought from Jerusalem to pass it on to the people. The same happened this year. This time however President called on his fellow citizens: “Let us unite in the name of this Holly Fire to be together forever”. Thus, believers may only wonder about the “moral order” and abiding Lord’s preaching: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Mathew 22:21, Luca 20:25). And this the more so as last year (including on the election day held several weeks after Easter), National TV broadcasted several times a movie featuring President Voronin endorsing Communist candidates in elections with the reporter, Carmelia Albu, disclosing the fact that the President was not a believer.

That’s the plain truth… In his capacity as an atheist and leader of the Party of Communists, the President together with his fellow comrades bowed to the Lenin’s monument on April 22 reiterating that Lenin’s ideals were still guiding ideas albeit they preached atheism and despite the fact that Lenin was the one to order hundreds and thousands of clergy to be killed. Still, President called ordinary citizens and believers to “unite in the name of Holly Fire” brought from the grave of the Lord, who used to say “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Mathew 6:24).

Therefore, the evolution of the Moldovan civil society is undermined by the lack on the social and moral order.

It’s clear than nothing is clear Pre-election configuration