Interview with a Romanian activist

Today are 11 days since Romanians took the streets asking for our president, our center-right PM and his government to resign. In Bucharest, in Cluj where I’m from and in other towns as well about 100-300 protesters meet every evening and walk peacefully across town to make their voices heard. In addition to opposing current political leadership and its decisions, they also speak against the opposition and dismiss the entire political class labeling them “thiefs”, “corrupt capitalists” and many more. Other claims are: for the government not to sign with Gabriel Corporations to begin cyanide-based exploitations in our very own Transylvanian-gold-rich Rosia Montana, Romania going back to being a monarchy, empowering youth instead of pushing them to look abroad and so on.

One of the prominent local activists, musician and journalist says “the protests will not end. We are a different kind of generation”. What generation could that be, I wonder? I asked one of my friends, a Moldovan and soon-to-be Romanian citizen who is an active protester, why he is protesting and what does it mean standing in the streets. Here is what he told me in this rather informal chat:

So Andrei, do you usually participate in protests or rallies? 

Andrei: In Cluj I’ve joined protests against the new education law. Unfortunately there have been sort of few people attending, out of thousands of students about 200 people. I regularly joined protests in the Moldovan Republic in 2009 and now these.

Do you know why these people are here today?

A: I guess. In fact they are protesting for a number of reasons, starting with getting rid of Basescu [Romania’s president], the government, Rosia Montana, education law, legalizing marijuana… now they’ve picked on the university environment and want to dismiss Marga [Andrei Marga is rector of the largest university in Romania] and many others.

And for which of these causes are you here?

A: For none really. I’m here because I need to talk about personal frustrations such as living in a hostile citizen –institutional environment and find like-minded people, to get ourselves organized in the future. To create a space for socialization, discussions and debates.

I also participate because I understand, from what I’ve read, that Romania is going through a hard time and I come here to help social capital grow and make for a non-violent transition towards a new system of government or state organization, to help reform social democracy and what concerns the people, the general population.

Do you think voting could solve some of the issues?

A: No, I don’t think so. But I do sign petitions on the internet and offline as well. Today for example I signed a petition against PIPA and SOPA, but they wouldn’t accept it because I’m not in America… One would need an American zip code for it to be valid…

Andrei, are you a professional activist?

A: It depends, I think it’s good to be generally active and get involved, but without losing a personal viewpoint and vision. But no, I’m no professional activist because it wouldn’t bring me any satisfaction. Maybe there are persons who need to be in the spotlight and make their voices heard irrespective of issue.

How long do you think these meetings will last? What result could they have?

A: You know, It really depends on the outcome of the protests on Jan 24th, because the date has a strong historical value for a lot of Romanians. I think that there is a feeling in the crowds that if the situation won’t change after this, their cause might be lost. I certainly hope that will not be the case and the desire for social change should not reduce itself just to a single date in the calendar, and instead be perpetual.

The results one could hope for should not entail just a moderate type reshuffling of the government and leadership positions. Instead, my hopes are that the outcomes of the current protests will not settle for elusive public discourse of the political elite and for empty promises of change. A type of change if it is commonly desired should, in my opinion, be the complete redefinition of the current system of social and political organization. Unfortunately, the numbers, scope and vision of the Romanian protesters are too small, vague, unorganized and divided in order to constitute a viable prospect for positive change.

Given that you are not yet a Romanian citizen, to what extent are you affected by Romanian politics? why are you protesting?

A: Because whatever will happen will affect me as well, indirectly, as a resident in this country.

Considering the future, do you intend to stay and live in Romania?

A: No. Because I don’t think I found here the right space for my professional development and a good environment for my lifestyle. I want to leave because I will have to get a job. My specialization in international development makes it impossible to find a job here, Romania doesn’t offer many opportunities for getting hired.

In the photo there are Andrei and his friend Elena. The message on the paper says: “UNITED FOR A REAL DEMOCRACY!”

If you would like to get in contact with Andrei and ask him some questions, please write to and he will gladly answer. He would have joined Edgeryders himself but nowadays the streets keep him busy :slight_smile:

Are you ok?

It was somehow chilling to read this. Eerie like watching a film. Are you ok?

What do you think the journalist meant by what they said about being from a different generation? What could they be referring to, do you know? When in Brussels at the hub I saw the drawings of an artist, cartoonist and illustrator, that’s also from Cluj. Can’t remember his name. Quite a dark humor,  a little bit resigned. I get the feeling the journalist is tougher somehow. I often ask myself where that grit comes from, if it is something that can be inspired or raised before bad things happen and force you to act. Or whether you have to be in a bad situation to be activated…I wonder what T_indignadx would think about this. Or others. If the demograophics of early participants in civic action/ protests/ resistence movements are different from of those who join in at a later phase. And where public institutions come in here…what role they play (when they function well).

I’m ok, a bit anxious to see where all this is going

What he said about being a different kind of generation I think meant we are not like our parents, who over the years have made wrong political decisions and didn’t step up.

After the revolution in 1989 when communist Ceausescu and the regime were ovethrown, there was a void of power, which was filled by former communists so called “reformed” in a new party - The Front of National Salvation (FSN). in a general, mass disorientation and lack of alternatives (intellectuals or technocrats weren’t quick enough to constitute themselves into a programmatic movement), about 80% of the population voted with FSN. and even though they were replaced in 1996 and later in 2004, many of those political leaders are still in power, facing on-roll corruption charges. and people forget.

although our parents did take the streets in 1989, and in 1990 some did protest against this newly reformed communist class, they were intimidated when thousands of miners were called to Bucharest by the president at the time to restore order. Violence and brutality occured leaving several people dead and many wounded in what is known as Mineriads:

The same president was elected in 1990, 1992, and again in 2000. so you can only imagine the frustration.

On why this journalist is so active: His is not a question of being activated by something particularly bad, of course he’s been dissident-like for years so it’s hard to tell. He’s been writing and performing in a band for some time now, becoming a sort of local model for our youth. We have a long tradition with corrupt politicians, lack of trust in government and Parliament… so you can imagine it’s not hard to feel dissatisfaction and dissapointment, but of course it’s harder to speak up and mobilize, and be consistent in your actions. I respect him for that.

Strong stuff!

Phew! Noemi, thanks. It seems like I have some rethinking to do.

So I have been questioning T-indignadx and Kevin Carson: so why would people do this? There’s nothing in it for them, unless they are prepared to go to the bitter end, like in Egypt and Tunisia, and Westerners just have too much to lose. Other paths are perhaps more constructive blah blah.

Andrei knows the answer to that. It is this:

I’m here because I need to talk about personal frustrations such as living in a hostile citizen –institutional environment and find like-minded people, to get ourselves organized in the future. To create a space for socialization, discussions and debates. I also participate because I understand, from what I’ve read, that Romania is going through a hard time and I come here to help social capital grow and make for a non-violent transition towards a new system of government or state organization, to help reform social democracy and what concerns the people, the general population.

“Personal” frustrations? There is a complete short circuit there: he needs to be there to find the others like him, and that will start a path towards something new. Personal is political. But what will that path look like? Is he talking about starting a party and entering the electoral arena? Or what? What is a nonviolent transition to a new system of government?

I have written to Andrei.

Response for Alberto

Hi there Alberto and the Edgeryders!
Thanks for your questions!
The form of social (dis)organization I simpathize with the most is Anarchism. The thinkers that have shaped my opinion and ideological stance are Proudhon, Thoreau, Kropotkin and Chomsky among others. The form of activism towards this ideal of mine is Anarcho-Pacifism, in a nutshell - social change by peaceful means.
As one would imagine, I had a pretty hard time finding like-minded people in the crowds of protesters in Cluj, but I managed to find a few :) Nonetheless, despite the great ideological variation among the protesters and especially among the anarchists, I believe that a possible common denominator that could develop in theaftermath of these public gatherings is the grwing concvition that people are not just voting machines. I very much hope that my fellow citizens of Romania will use this small and fragile power of vote to boycott the upcoming elections and will stand up and hold on to their rights much stringer in the future.
Hope this answered your questions.
Pleasure talking to you!
In peace,

Definitely not running for office then!

Hey Andrei, thanks for taking the time to reply here. My takehome point from your comment is the following:

I believe that a possible common denominator that could develop in the aftermath of these public gatherings is the growing conviction that people are not just voting machines.

Voting we have; and that’s good. You, it seems to me, miss more solid participation channels, that will make you matter over and above voting. and so you are making your own. Correct?

Stay safe, my friend.

Yup, you’re right. Making my own is a little bit too far-fetched, but any informal alternative space, opportunity, platform, forum for  dialogue is a small positive breakthrough. Few could have summarized it better than Howard Zinn “Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it’s a poor substitute for democracy which requires direct action by concerned citizens”.

Sorry for taking so long. The internet conncetion is awful in my dorm.

Cheers mate!

Soundbite-friendly Andrej

Another great quote. Journalists must love you in those street demonstrations!

Speaking of which, how confortable are you with sharing your experiences in a broader context? You might be interested in participating to one of our physical events. Look here:

WoW that would be awesome! I’d love to find out what other young people do/make/say/think. I the Edgeryders team considers that I deserve a place at the meeting in Strasbourgh I’d be more than happy to join.

It’s just that I would need to know in advance, so I could get the visa in time. Hope to see you soon.

P.S. ACTA protests tomorrow!!! :smiley:

Meet me at the protests?

I have an idea: why don’t we co-write a report tomorrow after the meeting ?

We just launched our new campaign on Caring for commons - and there’s a mission specifically designed to have Edgeryders speak their mind on how we use the internet, what our rights are what we would do to keep it. Check it out here:

Let’s meet tomorrow and talk about it, maybe also take pictures !

Anyone else protesting?

Good idea, wrong place

Noemi, it is a brilliant idea… but I doubt many people have seen it! Probabluy a comment to a report is not the best place for a collective call to action, it risks being almost invisible. Or did you intend it just for Andrej?

Not sure what meeting you are talking about. Is is the anti-ACTA protest?


Hey, yes I was referring to the anti-ACTA protests and the question was for Andrei… but come to think of it we could make it into a collective Edgeryders statement. How would that work?

We start with our own statements and then open the page for others to edit it by adding their own points?

I like that!

Make it a “taking to the streets”. Ideally the initial poster would be somebody NOT from the Edgeryders team: Andrej, are you up for it?

But then I am sure a couple of us have participated, from different countries. Each comment could add a flash from a different city.  Since each comment has a permalink, we could even put the links to the comments on the Moore/El-Imam map of citizen engagement. This would help push it out!