FW: Moldova analysis

Barry Stoller bstoller at SPAMutopia2000.org
Thu Apr 5 19:20:54 MDT 2001

[Although written in a sensationalist and bourgeois manner, the
following article is of interest in examining the effects of capitalist
restoration in the former Soviet Bloc and the corresponding public vote
of confidence in communists as the political means to repair the ravages
of neoliberalism.]

The Guardian. Thursday, 5 April 2001.Cannibalism [---or is it
capitalism?] is symptom of Moldova's decline.

It is a struggle to get information about Moldova. Planning a trip to
the capital Chisinau this week, I had to explain several times over to
friends just where exactly it lies.

The telephone operator went so far as to suggest that it didn't even
exist: "Would that come under the Maldive islands, then?" "No, it's
snugly placed between Romania to the west and Ukraine to the east." "Are
you sure it's really a country, as I have nothing on it here." Attempts
to find weather reports on the internet were fruitless. "See Romania", I
was told.

Precisely because most fail to recognise Moldova, many Moldovans are now
applying for Russian citizenship, in the hope of securing jobs elsewhere
in Europe.

Possess a Moldovan passport and you are likely to end up at the bottom
of the bureaucrat's pile.

Moldovan officials were deeply upset by an Economist article last year
that called Europe's poorest country a "nowhere land". They might find,
however, that this week Moldova has finally been put on the map - though
not in the way they desired.

Earlier this week it was revealed that two men were arrested after
police caught them selling meat without a licence at a makeshift stall
outside a butcher's shop in Chisinau.

A customer who had bought some of the meat, on sale at $2 (£1.40) a
kilo, had become suspicious as it tasted like nothing he had ever eaten

Tests soon proved that it was actually human flesh. An investigation has
now been launched into a cancer clinic in the city, after the
meat-sellers revealed to police that they had acquired the body parts,
which included breasts, legs and arms, from the state-run institution.
Poorly paid hospital workers are alleged to have sold the parts on.

While the men face fines for selling meat without a licence, the clinic
is in line for being penalised for not disposing of the parts in the
correct manner - astonishingly feeble punishments.

Those who devised the legal system could not have imagined needing to
establish guidelines against cannibalism.

The human flesh scandal is just the latest indication of how desperate
this country of 4.5m has become. Monthly wages are between $20 and $30
(£14-20), and many state workers have not been paid for months.

Fire brigades have been forced to close down due to lack of money,
leaving the government to issue orders for schools to install fire
extinguishers instead. The country has been bled of 600,000, mainly
young, people since independence from the Soviet Union a decade ago.

The haemorrhaging is still going on. It is hard not to find somebody who
has been abroad in search of work, or who has a family member who has
done so: fathers go to work in olive farms in Greece, mothers go and
work as nannies in central and western Europe, and young girls who
answer adverts for cleaning jobs abroad often end up in prostitution or
even sex-slavery rings, in Romania, Kosovo and other Balkan countries.

The latest ways of trying to escape from poverty include selling kidneys
and other body parts, or offering oneself as a human incubator.
Childless Italian couples in particular are commissioning Moldovan women
to bear offspring for them.

The Guardian's Italian correspondent reported last year how Lelia, who
earned just $10 (£7) a month as a nurse, snapped up the offer to get
$6,000 (£4,000) from one couple. It was a far better option than
prostitution, she thought, as she saw how the country's economy had
collapsed, life expectancy had drastically reduced and hospitals had run
out of anaesthetic. In short, giving birth earned her more than she
would have got in two lifetimes of nursing.

During 10 years of independence, while living standards in other EU
would-be lands such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary have
soared [---dubious], in Moldova they have sunk drastically. The Russian
financial crisis of 1998 caused the traditional markets for the
agricultural country to collapse, and a series of droughts hit farmers
badly. A severe cold snatch at the end of last year not only left
hundreds of thousands of homes without heat and electricity for months,
it also ruined crops.

The situation became so bad that Moldova's last prime minister, Dumitru
Braghis, commented that he felt more like a fire chief than a prime
minister. "It's as if there are fires everywhere - put one out and
another starts up," he said.

The culmination of disastrous events coupled with widespread corruption
was Mr Braghis' downfall in February, when the communists returned to
power, for the first time in an ex-Soviet state.

The 70% of seats now occupied by the communist party have paved the way
for its leader, Vladimir Voronin, to become president. Presidential
elections are this weekend, and no one is in any doubt that Mr Voronin,
a former baker, will succeed.

The outgoing president, Petru Lucinschi, a former communist turned
centrist, has described as farcical his five years at the top. How many
presidents would resort to  such negative comments on leaving office?

"The time when I was working was a complete farce," he said, explaining
that political bickering made it impossible to achieve much. He added
that he hoped the little progress that had been made would prevent a
"return to the past."

As his country under the communists turns towards Russia and further
away from the EU, his optimism seems a little out of place.

The Moldovan response to all this is to roll out an old joke: "what
happens when things hit rock bottom?" Answer: "Start digging".

The question is, where to?


Barry Stoller

More information about the Marxism mailing list