Orient Express to Hell by James Bovard

The world needs constant reminding that communism is a hell hole.

The workers were likely no fans of communist dictator Nicole Ceausescu, who seemed determined to starve the people into submission. Though Romania had been a breadbasket of Europe before World War One, food had become as rare as honest economist statistics.

Children could not get milk without a doctor’s prescription. It was forbidden for foreigners to send food to Romanians. The government responded to food shortages with a publicity campaign on the danger of overeating. The government also revved up advertising in western nations touting Romania’s “world famous” weight-loss clinics.

The communists destroyed hundreds of square miles of prime farmland to erect factories and open pit mines. Hundreds of villages were razed and the residents corralled into cities and conscripted to work in factories. The government put almost all investments into heavy industry – the ultimate source of bragging rights for communist leaders. But roughly half of Romania’s output was so shoddy that it was ready for the junk heap moments after it rolled off the assembly line. Romanian industry was also extremely inefficient, consuming up to five times as much energy per unit of output as western factories. The government compensated by cutting off electricity to people’s homes for up to six hours during the winter, and permitting only one 25-watt light bulb per room.

The health system was collapsing, and the infant mortality rate was so high the government refused to register children as being born until they survived their first month. The government also routinely cut off power to hospitals, causing a thousand deaths the previous winter.

Yet, some western experts hailed Ceausescu as a path-breaking visionary. A 1979 World Bank report, the “Importance of Centralized Economic Control,” praised the Romanian regime for pursuing “policies to make better use of the population as a factor of production” [italics added] by “stimulating an increase in birth rates.”

And how did the benevolent ruler do this? By prohibiting distribution of contraceptives and banning abortions. Because the Plan called for higher birth rates, every female forfeited the right to control her body or life. Ceausescu proclaimed in 1985: “The fetus is the socialist property of the whole society… Those who refuse to have children are deserters.” The government forced all women between the age of 18 and 40 to have a monthly gynecological exam to assure that no one robbed the State by having a secret abortion. These policies turned Romania into the World Capital of abandoned babies.

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The World Bank also praised the Romanian regime for its ability to “mobilize the resources” required to boost economic growth. In reality, the government was brutalizing its subjects to squeeze out “surpluses” to lavish funds on World Bank-approved industrial enterprises – the same tactic Stalin used to finance his Five-Year Plans.

The Romanian regime also “mobilized resources” by pawning its ethnic German and Jewish inhabitants. West Germany paid roughly $20,000 for each German exported, and Israel paid a similar amount for each Romanian Jew released. There were international agreements banning slave trading in the nineteenth century, but selling human beings in the twentieth century was acceptable if the receipts went for progressive purposes.

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Roughly 1 in 15 Romanians was working as a government informant.

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