The Black Sheep of Corruption

A position from the Romanian DiEM25

This article been circulated, amended and agreed by the Romanian members of DiEM25, for a radical approach against the corruption plaguing Romania and the entire Eastern Europe.

We heard a lot these days of the protests against corruption in Romania. And is not just the case of Romania alone, as it seems corruption is a very present subject in all of Eastern Europe – could it be that East Europeans are more sensitive to this subject and more concerned with correctness, or just that all these Eastern European countries are more plagued by corruption?

Well, corruption is a very easy to understand subject. At least easier than to explain to people why you have to spend lots of money on armament, on the internal coercion institutions and secret services spying its own citizens. Easier than to explain the ecological disaster of illegal massive deforestation, the growing social and economic inequalities, extreme poverty and migration of own population at levels worse even than states at war. And I believe this is the case not only for Romania, but for most of Eastern Europe.

In one of the poorest countries in EU and with the biggest gap between the poor and the rich (see the Report on Romania, of Philip Alston, United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights), the Romanian Parliament voted (in both Chambers) with unanimity (except for 2 votes against, one a DiEM25 member) for spending billions of Euros on buying weapons, mirroring a similar past agreement entered into by Greece, just before entering in bankruptcy. Short of debate, and with no concern for more stringent social and economic problems.

Close to a comedy of Eugene Ionesco, is what happened before the vote, with the visit of Rex Tillerson, the US State Secretary, concerned with the delay in Parliament of the vote for the contract, in his meeting with the Romanian Foreign Minister. Translated from the declaration of the Romanian FM

“He (‘Rex-T’) didn’t ask about the acquisition of the rockets (…) but asked me instead what happened with the vote in Parliament, last week (…) He was definitely not asking about the subject in itself, as the present coalition in power has the majority in Parliament, so I assured him that next week the law will pass”

Is this corruption? Guess!

Corruption is also easier to use as a political weapon, to stigmatize your political opponents, and wage your private war against other groups. How can you argue against somebody who supports fighting against corruption? There is no question about it, and its call goes forward, no matter what one aims for in reality.

It is no novelty and the esteemed DiEM25 member, Noam Chomsky, coined this too – is called “Mohawk Valley” technique (in Noam Chomsky & Robert W. McChesney – Propagande, medias et democratie, Les Editions Ecosociete). Essentially, to distract people from real questions and debates, you use arguments and slogans nobody can contest. So who can contest the fight against corruption?!
While all eyes were on the governmental party alliance (Social-Democrats majority), protesting and accusing them of corruption, another ‘tiny’ bill rushed through the Parliament with all parties agreeing on, fast-forward – Law 29/2018. In fact nothing short of a law given with dedication, for the ‘Real Estates Sharks’, erasing their tax obligations and debts to the public budget:

“the law annuls taxes and social contribution for the real-estates developers that built resident estates blocks and office buildings in most luxurious areas of the country, and for avoiding the according taxes to the public budget, they claim to sell them as ‘natural’ persons, like people who process occasional transactions”
– Gelu Ştefan Diaconu, ex-director of the Romanian Fiscal Agency (ANAF)

Before the passing of the new law, the Fiscal Agency (ANAF) already won such cases in the court of law against the ‘Real Estates Sharks’, probably the very reason for the need of the new law.
So when everybody is corrupt, who in fact is fighting against corruption?!

Nobody!

The fight indeed is not against corruption, but on the ownership of the instruments of justice, from one group of interests to another. In the last years, especially since the institutionalization of anti-corruption fighting (DNA – something like the “Minister of Truth”), justice became a political instrument of the highest importance in the battle between various groups of interests, in the competition for the spoliation of the public money, bringing together bankers, strategic investors, secret services – all the score of the “Goodfellas”.

In the proper tradition of ‘European Integration’, corruption been integrated as well. Starting like a national competition, more in the spirit of a folklore festival, with local barons and regional vanities, it changed soon in a true European competition, proving one more time the true Romanian vocation among the ‘stars’ of Europe.

As the visible corruption has turned into a television show and public display of good intentions, the big corruption flew out the big bucks from the tax system, social contribution and finally from the country itself, back to the one who ‘printed’ them.

“According to the World Bank, corruption in the form of bribery and theft by government officials, the main target of the UN Convention, costs developing countries between $20 billion and $40 billion each year. That’s a lot of money. But it’s an extremely small proportion – only about 3 percent – of the total illicit flows that leak out of public coffers. Tax evasion, on the other hand, accounts for more than $900 billion each year, money that multinational corporations steal from developing countries through a variety of illicit practices.”

Corruption serves two major functions – a symbolic one, and an instrumental one – both same as vicious for the society they plague. The instrumental one is the mechanism for making the public goods, owned by state, accessible and volatile on the market. The intentionality of this process is debatable, but the outcome is the same in all the Eastern Europe and with Greece last to come on this list. As somebody put it:

“It’s clear that what happened in 1989 was not the people taking control, but simply one side of a war winning, and one side losing. And, in time-honoured fashion, the victors entered the territory of the vanquished and regarded all they saw before them as the spoils of war. The Western carpetbaggers destroyed what had taken 50 years to build, and sent Eastern Europe back into the Third World. The people were to be regarded as cheap labour for the West, and the land and resources likewise were to be reserved for the use and profit of the West. In essence, in 1989, the dream of Adolf Hitler came through. All of the Eastern European countries absorbed into the European Union and NATO are now in such profound debt slavery that it is difficult to imagine them ever disobeying the diktats of their Western masters again. Their populations have suffered such catastrophic collapse that we can well think of the East as being open Lebensraum for Western settlers.”

Yet the symbolic function of Corruption is even more devious – it produces a “déclassé reality”, a profound feeling of unaccomplished, guilt and inferiority that sets the track for the epistemic colonization of the given society. It is the old ‘Pax Romana’ for the conquered populace that has to assimilate and live by the rules of the empire from which they are part now, and which became the only acceptable way to think and imagine your future. It is ‘Totalitarianism’ in shiny wrap-ups.

“The decredibilization of Romania was not meant only for the eyes of the international community, but also for the self imaginary of the Romanian people”
Harry G. Barnes (U.S. Ambassador to Romania)

It is a mechanism applied along the history for all colonized populations, a racism embedded in the very structure of the society that has been built through it and very part of its politics and existence. We can think about Nazism and the horrors of the World War as accidents, but human nature is indeed too poor for History to be inventive about it, and we can see in our present days, all the gruesome of racism, xenophobia and extremism coming again, renewed in all Europe, like old companions we never really set apart from.

If Europe is to survive to itself, we have to reexamine its fundaments, with humbleness and responsibility, to confront our fears, our past and the wounds Europe scarred all over the World. We’ll have a Europe integrated and equal to the rest of the World, or no Europe at all.

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