Labor Party (Romania)
Nicolae L. Lupu
|Founded||April 27/May 1, 1917|
|Split from||National Liberal Party|
|Merged into||People's League
|Headquarters||Iași, Kingdom of Romania|
The Labor Party (Romanian: Partidul Muncei, modernized Partidul Muncii, PM) was a minor left-wing political group in Romania. Based in the city of Iași, and founded by George Diamandy, in its inception it was a split from the National Liberal Party (PNL). The PM responded to the major social and political crisis sparked by World War I, with the southern regions of Romania having been invaded and occupied by Germany. It notably pushed for urgent land reform, universal suffrage, and labor rights, also wishing to replace the 1866 Constitution with a more democratic one, and advocating class collaboration. Through Diamandy, its roots were planted in the "generous youth" current of 19th-century reformism.
Co-chaired by Nicolae L. Lupu, the PM grouped together disgruntled members of the PNL, old affiliates of homegrown Poporanism, and left-agarianists with republican leanings, inspired by the success of Russian Revolutionary Socialists (or "Esers"). It was perceived as a nuisance by the institutions of the Romanian Kingdom, but largely dismissed as shambolic, and reportedly criticized as "bourgeois" by Russian radicals. Pushed into obscurity by the events of the war, which drove its leaders into exile, the PM divided itself into factions, one of which continued to survive as a separate wing of the anti-PNL People's League. Lupu and his supporters were among those who established the Peasants' Party.
A rebellious aristocrat and landowner, Diamandy was introduced to socialism ca. 1887, when he wrote his first articles in the Marxist review Contemporanul. In the 1890s, he had set up in Paris his own L'Ère Nouvelle, which represented a heterodox form of Marxism, and helped launch the writing career of Georges Sorel. As the latter noted, Diamandy was an "unreliable" character, who "simply disappeared" from his life at some point.
Diamandy's pragmatic Marxism was developed during his years in the Romanian Social Democratic Workers' Party (PSDMR), where he sought to introduce a policy of alliances with the establishment parties: first a cartel with the Conservative Party, and later a form of close cooperation with the PNL, to the point of merger. By 1899, he supported making the PSDMR into a reformist "National Democratic" or "Progressive Democratic" party, and sealed deals with the PNL's own "Poporanist" (agrarian) wing. This effectively split the PSDMR into two or more factions: the "generous youth" faction, led by Diamandy and Vasile Morțun, registered with the PNL. During the following 10 years, Diamandy, still calling himself a dialectical materialist, became an internal critic of National Liberalism. His Revista Democrației Române accused PNL establishment of having turned reactionary and sketched out a plan for the introduction of universal male suffrage.
Pushed out of the PNL mainstream before the March 1911 elections, Diamandy focused on his activity as a comedic writer. He returned into the mainstream during the early stages of World War I, when Romania preserved a policy of neutrality under PNL Prime Minister Ion I. C. Brătianu. The latter selected Diamandy as his semi-official envoy to Entente countries, where he negotiated deals and treaties of mutual assistance. He was again elected to Chamber in 1914, where he showed himself to be a cautious supporter of an alliance between Romania and the Entente. In summer 1916, Brătianu agreed to a political and territorial deal, and Romania entered the war as an Entente country. Diamandy fought in the subsequent campaign, but was soon hospitalized for a heart condition.
In short while, Romania was overwhelmed by the Central Powers, losing the Battle of Bucharest; the government and the Chamber were moved to Iași, the provisional capital, and Romania continued to fight alongside the Russian Empire. Retaking his seat, Diamandy reemerged as one of Brătianu's extreme critics, accusing him of having mismanaged the whole campaign. The February Revolution of 1917 installed a left-leaning and republican Government of Russia, which rekindled Diamandy's radicalism. Reportedly, he argued that the new Russian democracy was incompatible with Brătianu's "tyrannical" government.
On April 27, or May 1, 1917, Diamandy formed the PM as a parliamentary party, centered on the issue of land reform. Described in literature either a "broad bourgeois democratic" tendency or the parliament's "socialist faction", it supposedly comprised "mainly [politicians] formed at the school of socialism." Diamandy openly criticized the PNL for wanting to enact a redistribution of land, since, he claimed, Brătianu no longer had a "moral right" to do so. According to the PNL's Ion G. Duca, Diamandy was bluffing, as he himself did not support a complete land reform. The Minister of Agriculture, Gheorghe Gh. Mârzescu, was also a critic of Diamandy's politics, describing them as an elaborate "operetta" production "for the benefit of the peasants". According to writer and civil servant Arthur Gorovei, his friend Diamandy was known locally for persecuting the peasants living on his own estate.
Diamandy soon became noted for his displays of Russian socialist symbolism, in particular calico redshirts, "Russian worker's blouse[s]", or tolstovka garments. He was the PM theoretician, authoring its program and publishing it as a brochure. Calling for the union of "clean souls" and "healthy energies", it proposed a universal land reform giving each peasant 5 hectares of land, and a vote for all citizens over the age of 20, women included. Also included as demands were the right to strike, child labor laws, a nationalization of the National Bank, and a new constitution enshrining class collaboration. The party also drew plans for decentralization with economic interventionism, cooperative farming, progressive taxation, and the expropriation of the subsoil. The brochure was immediately confiscated by military censorship, allegedly not because of its demands, but because of its combative nature in a time of crisis. According to Duca's hostile account, the PM was largely shaped by Diamandy's "pathological state", his heart disease having led him to lose his sense of control and moderation. Gorovei also dismissed the PM as a "prank".
The radical agrarianist Nicolae L. Lupu was the PM co-chairman. A physician and civil servant, he had published in the Poporanist press indictments of the social misery and political repression prevalent in the countryside. Lupu's advocacy of land reform took the form of a personal conflict with Mârzescu, carried out in Chamber. Later, the party was joined by Grigore Iunian, Grigore Trancu-Iași, Mihail Macavei, and four other PNL with various grievances against their former party: Mihai Carp, Tilică Ioanid, Ioan P. Rădulescu-Putna, and Numa "Nunucă" Protopopescu. Reportedly, the party also claimed to have registered a verbal pledge of support from the "peasant deputy" Andrei Marinescu, who died in the typhus epidemic. Marinescu's funeral, Duca reports, was a "macabre scene", in which the PNL and PM speakers "fought over the corpse". Outside parliament, several figures from civil society also signed their names to the party manifesto: journalist Eugen Goga (brother of the more famous poet), lawyer Deodat Țăranu, teachers Mihai Pastia and Spiridon Popescu, and chemist Petre Bogdan. Other affiliates included socialist-and-Poporanist physicians Ioan Cantacuzino, Constantin Ion Parhon, and Alexandru Slătineanu.
In addition to promoting land and electoral reforms, the PM was widely suspected of being republican and conspiratorial. King Ferdinand I feared "the growth of a socialist movement in our country", and more particularly Diamandy's contacts with the Esers. On its left, the PM included republicans such as Lupu, who allegedly carried out secret negotiations with other politicians, and with the Russians, in order to bring down both the king and Brătianu through a putsch. According to Duca, these negotiations stalled when the envoy of the Iași military soviet discovered that the "oligarchic" and "bourgeois" PM had no backing in the countryside.
The PM was founded just days after a street demonstration organized by the Russian soviet, described by Duca as an attempted coup spurred on by the socialist Christian Rakovski, supposedly thwarted by a Romanian demonstration of strength. According to Duca, the PM intended to partake in the putsch, but "in the end got scared [...] because they sensed that if the Russian revolutionaries are to stage a coup, it would not go in their favor". Diamandy, who was structurally a monarchist, printed a call to order, addressed to the Romanian proletariat. Afterward, the Laborites portrayed themselves as patriotic resisters, and Lupu even threatened to duel those who questioned his loyalty. The PM continued to have links with the revolutionary activist Ilie Cătărău, who was Lupu's emissary among the Romanian-speakers of the Russian Bessarabia Governorate. He contacted the National Moldavian Party, whose leader Pan Halippa dismissed the PM as irrelevant.
In June 1917, during a renewed offensive of the Central Powers, the ailing Diamandy became one of the various Romanian public figures taking refuge in Russia. He was caught there by the October Revolution, and again took flight, died on board a refugee ship sailing the North Sea. The same month, Lupu also left Romania as a delegate of the University Professors' Association, campaigning for the Romanian cause in the United States—according to Duca, his escaping was the equivalent of a desertion, leaving typhus-stricken Romania without a highly trained physician. With Simeon G. Murafa, Cătărău founded his own "Romanian Revolutionary Party", a blend of anarchism and Romanian nationalism, before the Russian government arrested him for his propaganda in Bessarabia.
Lupu was still PM president in early 1918, when a Conservative cabinet, presided upon by Alexandru Marghiloman, was called in to sign peace with the Central Powers. The PM, which coalesced around a Iași newspaper called Tribuna, fought against that measure, and against Marghiloman's other policies, presenting its own candidates for the 1918 election. These were held with universal male suffrage, the Laborites having been instrumental in blocking legislation for demeny voting and other such forms of disenfranchisement. Although the PM's Carp announced a worldwide "rapid evolution to the left" and the transfer of social control toward "the grand army of labor", the party itself was soon joined by the civil servant Grigore Filipescu, formerly a dissident Conservative. He was close to the politically ambitious General Alexandru Averescu, supporting a broad front against the PNL, to be established under Averescu's presidency. In April 1919, represented by Trancu-Iași, it signed up to the People's League (PL), created in Iași by Averescu. Various other former PM members opted to return into the PNL.
The PM was generally considered defunct by late 1918 or early 1919. However, the LP was purposefully created as a federation, allowing for the existence of individual parties–Filipescu personally moderated between the LP's far-right, represented by A. C. Cuza, and his PM colleagues. Throughout the interval, the Laborites had talks with the consolidated Socialist Party (PS), a nominal successor of the PSDR. Lupu and his followers negotiated directly with the PS, but found it impossible to agree on a common platform for the 1919 elections.
Defining himself as a "socialist in my own way", a "national socialist" and a monarchist, Lupu ran as an ally of Ion Mihalache's Peasants' Party (PȚ), strongly opposed to Averescu's policies. To his old proposals for reform, he added mandatory leasing and rent regulation, in an effort to ensure affordable housing. In 1920, he registered the PM as a component of the "Parliamentary Bloc" governing alliance, which comprised the PȚ, the Romanian National Party, the Democratic Nationalist Party, the Bessarabian Peasants' Party, and the Democratic Union Party. Lupu continued to claim leadership of the PM, when, in 1921, it formalized its fusion with the PȚ; Parhon, affiliated with the short-lived Laborer Party, had taken the same step in 1919. Macavei remains the only documented case of a PM member joining the PS; affiliating with the socialists' far-left, he later became a member of the outlawed Communist Party.
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