So, the fifth congress was no exception. Draft documents (political program and amended bylaws) as well as the location of the Congress were kept secret up until the Congress. Mass media access to the event was limited with only state-owned and media affiliated to the ruling party being allowed access. The secrecy went to the most ludicrous length as the Communists’ own newspaper “Communistul” which was to be published on the eve of the congress provided scarce details on the agenda and location of the event, and on top of that, was not distributed as usual but only two days after the event.
Nor were decisions taken by the plenary of the Central Committee on December 7 confirming the congress agenda were made public. According to the bylaws of the Party of Communists the agenda of the congress is made public at least three months prior to the event, that is why those who were really interested had to look for the decisions taken by the plenary of the Central Committee held on May 15, when the date of the Congress was decided and agenda was made public. It included: a) political report by Central Committee; b) report by Central Revision Commission; c) report on party program; d) report on modifications and completions to party bylaws; e) election of the party chair; f) election of the Central Committee; g) election of the Central Revision Commission. May plenary also set the representation mechanism to the congress with one delegate representing 30 party members.
Then what were the reasons for such manners that are more in the style of a clandestine rather than a ruling party? The answer is — avoiding any scandal around evolutions within the party. Indeed, Party of Communists started its ideological teetering right after acceding to power in February 2001. One year later President Vladimir Voronin also Chair of the ruling party was cited by governmental “Moldova Suverana” (February 21, 2002) as saying “I don’t want to build Communism in Moldova, nor socialism. Nowadays it would be an utopia”. And this despite the provisions in the party political program providing for edifying socialism and communism in line with Marxist-Leninist doctrine. Later on, the need to modernize the party was discussed by the plenary of the Central Committee of May 2002. And finally, during the celebration of 10th anniversary of re-establishing Communist Party in October last year, party chair tried to answer the question “Who are the Moldovan Communists today? Where are they going?” Back then, President Voronin said “the real strength of the Party of Communists lies in the force of ideas, in the ability to argue them and stand up for them”. He criticized “left radicals” blaming them for “political short-sightedness and naiveness”. According to the President, the latter did not comprehend that “going back to socialism” by means of nationalising private property was impossible as “in the Republic of Moldova practically every citizen holds private property”. In response to accusations that the party political programme lacked the thesis on dictatorship of the proletariat President replied “what proletariat! what working class are we talking about when the country industry has been ruined? Only a blind would not realize that in a relatively short period the notion of working class has finally devalued”. Those answers convinced the “dogmatic” party members that Communist leaders are following the path of “opportunism and revisionism”.
It is known for a fact that Communism ideological rhetoric and principles were replaced by new ones. Currently, PC has in its arsenal great many ideas targeted at “consolidation of RM statehood” and integration into European Union, albeit its bylaws and political program clearly provide “establishing a brotherly Union of CIS nations based on new principles”. “Moldovenism” has become the true ideological pylon of the PC, while efforts are made to show the continuity in edifying Moldovan state: from its forefathers like Stefan cel Mare to President Vladimir Voronin. Orthodox Christianity has been chosen as the link between various historic stages. Thus, Stefan cel Mare was building churches, while incumbent ruling is restoring them under the watchful eye of the national TV cameras. Undoubtedly, Moldovan citizens have seen the many phases of the PC morphing, the most tearing illustration was the National TV report featuring Communist MPs at the subbotnik at Capriana Monastery when ladies were cleaning the windows while men were digging ditch for the communication cables. The message was far too clear — that is how historic continuity is secured and “strategic communications are built” by uniting atheists and believers around the ruling party.
The fifth congress was only supposed to reflect in the party documents the party’s “Transfiguration”, which in itself bears some risks. And this because any delegate that is a follower of “purity of ideas” might cite the party bylaws providing that party members may be sanctioned or even ousted from the party for actions running counter to party program and bylaws. Analysts say that in order to avoid any kind of surprises inspired by the principledness of some party members certain caution measures were taken. Firstly, meetings of the party members were held in the territorial branches several months prior to the congress with many of the leaders of party territorial structures being replaced by those who were more flexible to ideological teetering. Secondly, preparations for the congress were kept secret. Thirdly, Communist leaders talk modernizing the party but do not renounce to Communist party name, old symbols and idols. It was probably decided to take a stance that would conceal any inconsistencies between the party documents and its actions, between future aspirations and obsolete symbols not consistent with the future visions but still bringing electoral dividends in a country ravaged by poverty. Curiously, representatives of the political bloc Citizens’ Union “Patria-Rodina” (UCPR) founded by two socialist parties and several communist-oriented groups had to ask the permission of local government to hold demonstrations in several places where the congress might have been held. Those demonstrations appealed to the consciousness of the 641 delegates to the congress to oppose the policies promoted by the party leadership.
One may well understand PC’s manoeuvres. What is striking is that the ruling party which took control over the main media outlets in the country, kept the citizens of the country in darkness for several days by remaining tight-lipped about the Congress, which even led to disinformation. For instance, Novosti-Moldova Agency reported that Central Committee convened right after the congress and re-elected Vladimir Voronin as the party Chair. This runs counter to bylaws providing that only the congress is entitled to elect the Chair, it may only mean that the bylaws were amended. Four days later, governmental press reporting on the event left one question answered whether party program and bylaws were amended. For instance “Moldova Suverana” reported that “congress passed several amendments to bylaws so as to modernize party organism and re-elected Vladimir Voronin as the party Chair”, however no mention was made on the modification of the political program. Conversely, other governmental newspaper “Nezavisimaia Moldova” reported that “Victor Stepaniuc briefed the delegates to the congress on the activity of the special commission working on the new wording of the Communist programme. Albeit the new wording has not been completed, Central Committee decided to make public at the congress the party stance as regards basic principles of state structure, social-economic and spiritual revival of the country. Without giving up on the previous ideals, today the party takes new approaches. Thus it acknowledges farmers’ right on land. The party pleads for fostering national Moldovan culture, study of the Moldovan language and history. Those principles as well as many others would be the cornerstone of the new Party of Communists’ programme”. Media suggested that the revised party documents would be made public later on after parliamentary elections. This may only be fulfilled at another congress.
Having said that, one may well understand why ruling party hesitated or feared to revise its political program on the eve of elections, that is, political program would run counter to the electoral program. Why then convening a congress if the main party documents were not revised? There is only one answer — to complete the reshuffles in the party governing bodies. Firstly, the renewed membership of the governing bodies would be able to push through the revision of the party documents. In this respect, the statement made by Voronin during the congress is of great relevance: “it was a mistake of the majority faction to elect the Executive Secretary of the Central Committee as the leader of the faction in parliament. The two positions may not be hold by the same person, no matter how efficient he might be”. These words were addressed to Victor Stepaniuc whose task was “to revise the ideological arsenal of the Party of Communists and bring it in line with the realities of the day”. Secondly, the renewed membership of the governing bodies would be the one to approve the list of PC candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections. After the victory in upcoming elections there would be no obstacles to amend the party documents. Conversely, if they were to fail in elections “dogmatic” members would be the ones to blame for opposing any adjustments to the realities of the day. No doubt that ousted comrades will eventually speak up.
As it was to be expected, the press invited to the congress, mainly reported on President Voronin’s speech who as usual talked of the hard legacy left by the previous rulings. He outlined the pylons of the future revised political program, likely to be found in the electoral program, namely: consolidating RM’s sovereignty and independence, multiethnic nation of Moldova, raising quality of life, fighting corruption, EU integration, etc — all of them were reiterated many times. No reference whatsoever was made to the reshuffles in the party’s governing bodies.
It is all-too-clear that the much awaited party modernization is far from really happening. Undoubtedly, the effort to modernize the party is a positive sign in itself. However, the secrecy surrounding the congress is in line with the non-transparent governing when important documents such as Conception of European Integration or other documents of major interest envisaging settlement of the Transdnistrian conflict — Declaration of Stability and Security for RM are kept secret. Obviously, these runs counter to the alleged modernization and European integration aspirations.
Much has been said about Party of Communists stealing oppositions’ best tunes after coming to power: right on property, settling Transdnistrian conflict, European integration, Christian values, etc. Still deeds tell more than words. And in this respect PC is far from having a modern image. For instance, Christian-Democratic People’s Party one of the main Communists’ political foes held its congress on May 16 in the Great National Assembly square with anyone interested free to attend. In contrast, ruling party has kept even the location of the congress secret. So, we can only wonder: how long would it take for the PC to modernize and become a truly left European party and convene its congresses in the open for anyone to attend? When would the day come for the members of Party of Communists to listen with a beer in their hands to the party leaders reporting with a huge smile rather than a grin on their faces?