Henri H. Stahl and agricultural communes during World War Two
Henri H. Stahl și obștile agricole în timpul celui de-al Doilea Război Mondial
Universitatea din Bucureşti, Facultatea de Sociologie şi Asistenţă Socială
Abstract: The following paper is an attempt to reconstruct, place and understand Henri H. Stahl’s vision on Romania’s rural development, as it may be found in a series of articles written for the Romanian newspaper Ecoul in January-March 1944. Our analysis sheds new light onto little known parts of the history of Romanian rural development policies – the cooperative movement, Dimitrie Gusti’s School’s conception on social intervention, implemented by the Royal Student Teams and Social Service and the war time agricultural communes, linking Stahl to a multidimensional context. We thus find that H. H. Stahl’s expression of his sociological vision of rural development may be understood only as the result of a complex interaction between personal life course and strategy, social networks, political ideologies and action and international relations, all within a certain historical course of events.
Keywords: Henri H. Stahl; Bucharest School of Sociology; cooperative movement; agricultural communes; rural development.
The solution of agricultural communes
On the 27th of January 1944, Romanian sociologist Henri H. Stahl publishes in the daily newspaper Ecoul an article entitled „Sabotări involuntare”. This is the third article that Stahl writes for this newspaper, as he had already published two others earlier that year – „La răscrucea împărăţiilor moarte” (on the 15th of January) and „Centre locale administrative” (on the 21st of January). Earlier, in his debuting article, Stahl had paid posthumous tribute to Lucien Romier – a French historian, economist, journalist and politician, the author of a book dedicated to greater Romania, entitled Au carrefour des empires mortes (Rostás, 2013, 56). Beyond his homage to Romier, Stahl underlines a few ideas, which he presents as truths that the French author had captured in his work – the difficulty of Romania’s position in rapport with neighboring empires, be they past or present; Romanians’ efforts and capacity to withstand them; European states’ solidarity of fate, one that exists beyond all appearences – with Romania being one of them; the danger that lies in the possibility of some „revărsări răsăritene peste zăgazurile Europei” (Stahl, 1944, apud Rostás, 2013, 60). Romier, Stahl then notes that Romier is concerned mainly with the future fate of France, which, he mentions, is „şi nouă dragă şi către care am ţinut şi noi ochii mari deschişi ca să vedem ce face”. He then expresses his hope that a united and solidary Europe will be constituted in the future, one that will be protected from the danger of the „eastern overflow” – an expression in which we can easily identify a certain meaning, that of the threat of a Bolshevik invasion.
The following article is entitled „Centre locale şi administrative” – the first of an entire series dedicated to the development problems of the country. The article begins with a presentation of the problem in focus, namely the scattering of administrative authority in too many locations in the various regions of Romania and its disadvantages – the important losses in time and money for its citizens, administrative inefficiency, the creation and existence of an entire category of property owners that profit from the periodical shift of buildings rented by the State and the impossibility of developing urban administrative centers that could eventually become kernels of regional development. He then underlines the necessity to concentrate administrative authority in regional centers that are destined to become larger cities. Stahl estimates that, given the tendency of peasants to imitate the lifestyle of regional urban centers, these cities will function as a model for the transformation of their social lives. What remains to be done, Stahl adds, is that these cities rise up to the level of models that are worthy of imitation.
The third article that he writes for the journal is the actual starting point of our research. It is the first of a series of seven articles that Stahl will publish in 1944 in Ecoul, sketching and developing his vision on the path towards development that is most appropriate for the Romanian rural space. A new lecture of the works of Ion Ionescu de la Brad is presented as the root of considerations on the way in which reformist attempts may fail. He concludes that those who wish to sabotage the realization of a reform have nothing more to do than to implement it in unfavorable conditions. Apart from this voluntary type of sabotage there is another one, one that is involuntary – those that implement reforms with the best of intentions, yet having insufficient foresight, skills and steadfastness to ensure the conditions neccesary to its realization (Stahl apud Rostás, 2013, 82). When it comes to the allotment reform of 1864, Ion Ionescu de la Brad, one of its creators, ends up being one of its involuntary saboteurs. He hoped to solve „chestiunea țărănească„, the central, all-pervasive problem on the era, by establishing private property rights, turning boyars into full owners of their lands and peasants into full owners of their labor. By doing this, he thought, that the two categories will slide into their „natural” roles – the first will become employers and the latter employees. But the results were far from this. One of the first reasons for the failure of this reform is that the reformer did not take into account the peasants’ fundamental need to access all of the types of terrain that their particular type economical activity depended on. As the alloted pieces of land that did not fully meet this need, they were forced to sign labor agreements with the boyars that preserved the old terms of labors, namely those of serfdom. The mistakes that reformers made did not stop here. They failed to facilitate the procurement of seeds and obtaining credit for sowing. As a severe consequence, the functioning of peasants’ leasing communes became difficult if not impossible – and these, in Stahl’s opinion, would have been the only economical organizations that could have superseded the great leasing trusts that had caused so much harm to Romania’s peasant population. If the development of peasants’ leasing communes development would have been supported, Stahl argues, Romania would have already implemented „formula obştiilor agricole săteşti, formulă care azi este dorită şi preconizată de către organele noastre de răspundere” (Stahl, apud Rostás, 2013, 85). But this formula obștilor agricole sătești that Stahl mentions as being desired and planned for by the administrative authorities of 1944 intrigues the reader of this article – is he talking of the same type of economic association that he mentioned earlier – namely leasing cooperatives? Is there any connection between these and „obștile devălmașe”, the village communes that Stahl had researched and to whom he will dedicate the largest part of his works? What were the characteristics of these communes? Were they only a plan or a promise or did they already exist? Why were they desired and planned for at that particular moment? And why does Stahl choose to speak of them at that particular moment in time? Why does he build a complex argument along this lengthy article so that in the end he may underline the need that authorities take into account all the necessary conditions for the best implementation of agricultural communes? And why does he refer to the subject of the reform of the rural economy, to be realized through these agricultural peasant communes, in all his following articles except the last?
These are the questions that we will try to give answer to in the pages that follow. We shall thus manage, on the one hand, to shed light onto aspects of the history of agrarian and rural development policies in Romania that are little know and that belong to a period that is full of tensions and controversy – that of the beginning and of the course of the Second World War. On the other hand, we will try to elucidate an attempt of H. H. Stahl to bring in the creation and implementation of the policies of his age the sociological knowledge that he had accumulated during the numerous years of research and social intervention that he conducted as a member of the Bucharest School of Sociology. As we shall see, his articles gain new meaning when placed in the context of the final years of war, during which Romania’s future is debated and new political groups arise, planning ample changes in Romanian policies, both domestic – especially the one for rural development – and foreign.
The ascent of the cooperative movement
From the first allotment to the begining of the Second World War
In Romania, awareness of a „peasant problem” rose on the public agenda at the beginning of the 19th century. And once such a problem was defined, it became a more and more debated subject – and as the problem did not find a satisfying solution, the debate extended for a very long time. The problem in question had multiple areas of dispute but one of them was more prominent. The most ample disputes are grouped around property rights for agricultural lands – the right to agricultural property of different social categories (boyars, landlords or peasants) or entities (the state) is periodically doubted, contested or affirmed in public debates. Legislated, it is then won, limited, lost or conceded – under constrains – by one category or another. Up until the year that Stahl begins writing for Ecoul, the peasantry had won or was given property rights to agricultural lands, at the expense of the other categories, which were expropriated. To the reformers, as Stahl show in his article, a simple allotment of lands and property rights should have been a sufficient and efficient measure in order to eliminate the economical and social difficulties of a predominantly agrarian state.
The first allotment took place in the Old Kingdom in 1864 and lead to the disastrous situation that triggered the peasant revolt of 1907. The second one, implemented after the First World Wat, does not lead either to the desired results. The second reform was also accused, by its contemporaries and others that later analyzed it, of being defectively implemented (to peasants’ disadvantage, leading to an excessive fragmentation of agricultural land, leaving both peasants and landlords without the motivation or possibility of improving their production techniques or increasing their production, etc.). The debates continue – during the entire interval that stretched from the first reform and the Second World War there are active voices in the public sphere, supporting one category or another (small vs. large owners and their large or small holdings) and their presumed or argued capacity to significantly contribute to economical growth and Romania’s development (Șandru, 2000). At the same time though, another solution to the dispute, one that benefits from a growing number of supporters in all political groups, takes shape – that of the cooperative organization of agriculture. This solution is seen as a viable one for the problems of Romanian rural space, be it that cooperation is desired at the level of financing production, provisioning for production or consumption needs, production itself, marketing products or all of the above, simultaneously.
The ideas of the cooperative movement are accessed by the Romanian public starting with the beginning of the 19th century and are promoted by intellectuals such as Teodor Mehtupciu-Diamant, Ion Heliade Rădulescu, Ion Ghica, Ion Ionescu de la Brad, P. S. Aurelian (Mladenatz, 1938) and Spiru Haret (Rostás, 2000; Larionescu, 2013). At the same time, starting with the same century, members of peasant communities create cooperative organizations in order to lease boyars’ estates. The form that thse organizations take is that of leasing communes, a type of organization that allows them to work the lands in an advantageous manner and with good results. The number of such communes remains small up until the beginning of the 20th century (only 8 of these existed in 1903, leasing approximately 5000 hectares, according to Șandru, 1989). At the same time, the number of credit cooperatives rises significantly, as more and more village popular bank are created. Cooperative organizations gain political support amongst socialists and populists but also liberals and even conservatives at the turn of the century. And in the inter-war period, the members of the National Peasant Party join the heterogeneous group of political supporters of the cooperative movement.
As a consequence of the spread of these organizations and of the political support that they benefit from, their functioning receives legislative recognition and support starting from 1903-1904, being facilitated by legislative acts in 1905, 1908, 1909, 1910 (Șandru, 1989). The creation of leasing communes takes off especially after 1908, their number rising up to 496 in 1918 ( Şandru, 1989, 326). In 1918, during the conservative government of Al. Marghiloman and C. Garoflid ministry in agriculture, a special law is issued, stating that all agricultural holdings greater than 100 hectares should be mandatorily leased to agricultural communes (Șandru, 1989, 2000). But this law only remained in force for a little while, up till the replacement of the conservative government. The new liberal government repeals the law and promulgates another, which stipulates that the great estates are to be expropriated and that the resulting available lands will be sold to peasant associations or cooperatives, of the type that had been created so far for the purpose of leasing. But the new allotment communes do not reach the point of implementation either – peasants are unsatisfied by it as it is highly critiqued by the opposition.
Even though a new allotment reform is implemented starting with 1921, authorities further support the creation of leasing communes (Şandru, 1989) and other types of cooperative organizations. And after the second allotment, through legislative measures, the Government develops institutions that function as promoters and supporters of cooperative activities and encourage and facilitate the creation of new cooperatives. In 1920 and 1923 laws that stipulate an institutional unification of cooperation enter into force and in 1928 so does a new Cooperation Code, which is transformed into a Law of Cooperation in 1929 and modified in 1930, 1933 and 1935 (Larionescu, 2013; Mladenatz, 1935). The consolidation of cooperation’s legal and institutional base is another proof of its status of priority for Romanian policy makers. Moreover, starting with 1929, given the extended negative consequences that the Great Depression had for Romania’s agriculture, authorities intensify their propaganda in favor of cooperation in agriculture and economists and politicians promote it more intensely as a solution for the „peasant problem” (Șandru, 1989).
After 1936, awareness of the real problems of Romanian rural space raises considerably – this is due to multiple causes, amongst which the publishing of the 1930 census, of the results of monographic research done by the Bucharest School of Sociology and those of an inquiry organized by the Romanian Agricultural Chambers Union (Șandru, 2000). One speaks more and more of the need for a new allotment reform in favor of peasants. This idea is launched into Romanian public space first by the National Peasant Party and is then adopted and promoted by the legionary movement (Șandru, 2000). Meanwhile, though, the cooperative movement, strongly supported by government institutions, political parties and others as a viable solution for peasant agriculture’s problems penetrates the population and extends its size and its effects. The number of leasing communes decreases significantly, only 40 of them still existing in 1939 (Mladentaz, 1943, 636, apud Larionescu, 2013, 102). On the other hand, though, the creation of cooperatives of all types, especially in villages, intensifies up till the begining of the Second World War. The peak of the Romanian cooperative movement could be situated in 1928, when 8.165 cooperatives existed in the country (Mladentaz, 1943, 636, apud Larionescu, 2013, 101). A small decline in their number can be observed during the Great Depression, followed by a new rise in their numbers up until 1938. In 1939 – a year of numerical decline – Romania had 5.365 cooperatives, the largest number of which were credit cooperatives, with 4.616 of them situated in villages and having 813.902 members (Mladentaz, 1943, 636, apud Larionescu, 2013, 102). If we compare the number of peasant members of cooperatives to the data of the 1930 census (Manuilă şi Georgescu, 1937, 16) we may conclude that approximately 5% of the peasantry was engaged in some sort of cooperative organization. Another estimation, though, could give us a different perspective though. We could count as beneficiaries of and participants to cooperative organizations not only the peasants that are nominally listed as members but their household members as well, given the particular economical character of peasant households – that of holistic economic units of production and consumption. With an average of 4,4 family members per household (Manuilă şi Georgescu, 1937, 14), one could calculate that in the year 1939 approximately 3.5 million peasants were linked to some form of a cooperative organization – in other words, 24% of the country’s rural population.
The state and the cooperative movement during the war
The beginning of the World War in 1939 will trigger in Romania, in the first phase, a large mobilization and concentration of troops inside its borders. For the country’s agriculture, the impact of mobilizing a large number of peasant soldier will be a great one. And this impact can only be understood in the context of Romania’s foreign trade policy in the second half of the 1930’s.
In 1934, Germany decides to reorient its trade policy and to consolidate the commercial ties it had with the countries of South-East Europe, including Romania (Hillgruber, 2007, 175-176). Germany’s desire is met by that of king Carol the 2nd to ensure a market for Romania’s agricultural products and to facilitate the import of capitals that were needed for the development of both industry and agriculture (Hillgruber, 2007, 178). Following the diplomatic efforts of Romania’s government, the first trade agreement between the two countries is signed on the 23rd of March 1935, creating grounds for numerous other agreements in the near future, regulating commodity and payment exchange between the two states (Hillgruber, 2007, 177). After the annexation of Austria by Germany, significant German political voices support as an objective of the Reich the creation of an economic and customs union of the states that were the successors of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire (Hillgruber, 2007, 111). In consequence, in November 1938, in Leipzig, they propose to king Carol the 2nd an intensification of Romanian-German trade and economical relations. The king, with the support of the Government, agrees (Hillgruber, 2007). The new Romanian-German treaty is signed on the 23rd of March 1939 and is a framework establishing only the general lines of actions, to be later detailed in domain specific agreements. Until the start of the Second World War, two such agreements will be signed – one on the 15th of May for forestry and one on the 20th of July concerning the development of agriculture in all its branches (Hillgruber, 2007, 118). Although most of the advantages of the signed deal are on Germany’s side, Romania hopes to ensure, based upon its provisions, the development of its industry in some of its key branches (oil extraction and weaponry) through an increase in German capital investments. Moreover, it aims to increase German investments in the field of forestry, in the hope of improving forest’s exploitation and of eliminating Jewish domination in this economic branch, and to ensure German participation in the construction and development of roads and waterways. A very important point of the treaty for Romania – a vital one to be more precise – concerns a facilitation of import for German weaponry. As to agriculture, the two signatory parties commit themselves „să stabilească între ele legături sistematice în vederea adaptării producţiei româneşti la necesităţile germane” (Hillgruber, 2007, 113) – and this in order to support an increase in the export of Romanian agricultural products. For a predominantly agrarian state such as Romania, whose exports are in great part made up of agricultural products, an improvement and adaptation of agricultural production to the growing consumption needs of industrial German is a thing of vital importance as well.
Once the war begins, Germany becomes interested especially in Romania’s oil resources. On the terms of earlier agreements, Romania had exported petrol to Germany – but more to Germany’s disadvantage. Given rising needs, Germany initiates negotiations for a new treaty, facilitating Romanian oil deliveries on the count of deliveries of German weaponry. The new agreement is signed on the 29th of May 1940. On the 4th of December 1940, after the abdication of king Carol the 2nd and marshal Antonescu’s overtake of power as head oh the Council of Ministries, an additional protocol to this treaty is signed by the two parties. Based on this protocol, Germany would produce agricultural tools and machinery to be purchased by Romania on the count of large amounts of agricultural products and petrol exported to Germany (Ciucă, 1998; Hillgruber, 2007; Şandru, 2000). Until 1944, Romania will buy on the base of this treaty thousands of agricultural machinery and tools – although we do not have precise data to account for this, we know, for example, that in three years, from 1940 to 1944 the number of tractors available in Romania grew from 3.896 to 9.722, a growth of 150% (Şandru, 2000, 52). Comparatively, in the preceding 13 years before the agreement, in the interval 1927-1940, their numbers had grown by only 16% (Şandru, 2000, 52). Alongside the endowment of the Romanian army with German weaponry, the import of agricultural machinery and tool was an essential part of Romania’s strategy during World War Two, as we shall see further.
At the time when marshal Antonescu took over power, Romania was confronted by great difficulty in the field of agriculture, caused mainly by the mobilization of the country’s armed forces. Mobilization determined a very significant lack of workforce in agriculture and massive requisitions of tools, agricultural machinery and animals used in farm work for the necessities of the army (Șandru, 2000). This fact was the cause of a crisis in Romanian agriculture. And this crisis was a very serious one – given that, on the one hand, Romania’s exports relied mainly on agricultural products and oil and that on these exports depended the endowment of the Romanian army with very much needed weaponry, and that, on the other hand, on the same agricultural production depended the survival of both the civil population and the Romanian army.
The crisis in agriculture is linked mainly to a crisis of the large agricultural estates, on which Romania’s commercial agriculture depended. Very poorly endowed with agricultural tools and machinery, these estates still depended on extensive peasant labor, on peasant’s tools, machinery and animals. With the peasants mobilized for the army, these estates were at a high risk of remaining unproductive, thus threatening the fate of the army, the civil population and the whole of Romania during the War. But not only the agricultural activity of these estates is threatened – peasant holdings, comprising a significant share of the country’s agricultural land, are under the same threat due to the same cause. This is why, for the new Government, the only viable solution (besides mandatory work mobilization of the rural population and facilitating work agreements between peasants and estate owners) for the ample problems of all categories of agricultural holdings was to introduce, on a large scale, the use of modern tools and machinery in agriculture. The technology imported from Germany would make possible the realization of agricultural production with a significantly reduced workforce (Șandru, 2000).
At the same time though, even after the start of the war in 1939, the debate on the efficiency and necessity of large versus small and medium agricultural holdings continues. The problem of the need for a new expropriation and allotment arises again in the public space (Șandru, 2000). Marshal Antonescu’s Government rejects this solution for the moment, opting in exchange for that of further supporting and promoting the creation of cooperative organizations. Only two days after coming to power, Ion Antonescu outlines in his government program, as a solution to agriculture’s problems, the creation of production cooperatives or communes (Şandru, 2000, 24).
Important for resolving the crisis in peasant agriculture at least, this point of his program remains unimplemented for a while. The main cause of this fact is the priority acquisition of agricultural machinery imported from Germany by the large estate owners (Șandru, 2000, 27) Their interest for modern technology rises abruptly with the labor force crisis. Depending on its large producers, the state benefits from these acquisitions. But, once Romania entered war in 1941, the crisis becomes more acute and very large surfaces of agricultural land are at risk of remaining uncultivated. The need to improve the situation of peasants’ holdings becomes urgent as well. Given that, individually, these holdings had no capacity to access modern agricultural technology, the creation of cooperatives – that would allow them to work their lands together or to lease large estates – could facilitate access to imported technology and the use of less labor force to increase and improve production. It is in such a context that, on the 18th of June 1941, marshal Antonescu calls for all village inhabitants to unite and create agricultural communes. With the words of the marshal:
„Trebue să vă adunaţi în obşti. Pentru că nu pot să dau fiecăruia dintre voi unelte şi nici nu se poate risipi – pentru fiecare din micile voastre loturi – tractoare, batoze si altele. Fiecare dintre obşti se va obliga faţă de Stat să îngrijească uneltele primite, iar fiecare dintre voi se va îndatora să cultive pământurile după îndemnurile de muncă date de Stat.” (Antonescu, apud Chiriacescu, 1944)
From this moment on, the state initiates propaganda campaigns to promote peasants’ association into commune. Articles ar written in he press, promoting cooperative organization (Chiriacescu, 1944, Cornăţeanu, 1942; Cardaş, 1942; Filipescu, 1942; Manolescu, 1942; Pană, 1942; Ţiculescu, 1942). As I. P. Manolescu informs, „de atunci s-a dat sătenilor, prin presă, diferite îndemnuri de a se constitui în obşti şi s-a scris scoţându-se în evidenţă importanţa obştilor” (Manolescu, 1942, 65)
Initially, all peasant cooperatives that were created functioned on the existing legal base. But on the 24th of June 1942, the Antonescu Government adopted „Decretul-lege numărul 488 pentru organizarea obştiilor agricole„, designed by the vice-president of the Council of Ministers, Mihai Antonescu, and the current minister of agriculture, Aurelian Pană. This decree institutionalized Ion Antonescu’s concept f agricultural communes, as he had outlined it in 1941. The agricultural communes that were created on the base of the decree were production cooperatives – but not solely production – which were also allowed to lease or buy land, benefiting from incentives to buy tools and machinery from the state if they agreed to receive guidance and interventions from the state in their activities and to work their lands mandatorily (Şandru, 2000, 25; Chiriacescu, 1944). More specifically, the members of these agricultural communes committed themselves to cultivate their lands according to a plan, with seeds offered by the state and the agricultural work done according to a schedule established by the directive authorities; if they wanted to, they could implement a cultivation plan that involved land consolidation and crop rotation; the resulting products belonged to the land owners, individually, and they had the right to use it as they wished; but they also had the option of sell their products together, through the Commune; of the resulting earning, the members were obliged to pay 500 lei to the Commune for every hectare they owned (Chiriacescu, 1944). The state tries to ensure in this manner the products that were necessary for consumption, requisitions, the supply of the army and exports. 44 model communes are created initially, at the initiative of the State, in each of the country’s counties – and these are given tools and machinery for free (Chiriacescu, 1944). Later, the newly created communes receive only facilities for their acquisition – they have the right to buy the needed technology by means of a 5 year credit, paying 20% of their value in advance and an annual interest of 3,5% (Şandru, 2000; Carabella, 1942).
Once the legislation for the creation of agricultural communes came into force, the Romanian cooperative movement received a strong impulse from the force of the economic interventionism of the state. Propaganda for cooperatives is intense during the Antonescu period. Moreover, starting with 1941, the state decides to lease its agricultural lands only to cooperatives (Șandru, 1989); then, as agricultural products are massively exported to Germany, the sale of processed foods to villagers is rationalized and may take place only in cooperatives or communes (Șandru, 2000); and the distribution of machinery and tools that the state imports and sells to cooperatives is done exclusively by the National Institute of Cooperatives. Starting with 1941, numerous „Associations for the acquisition and use of tractors and agricultural machinery” are created and they buy from the Institute. In 1944, according to a press release made by marshal Antonescu, 122 communes, 09 cooperatives and 195 agricultural associations with various profiles existed in Romania, all of them created for the purpose of buying and using the technology imported from Germany Antonescu, 1944 apud Şandru, 2000, 26). But the situation of agricultural communes is uncertain – in an article published on January 28th 1944 in the journal „Curentul„, Em. Chiriacescu, the head of the Agricultural Communes Department in the Ministry of Agriculture and Domains at the time, claims that 272 such communes existed at the time of the article’s publication (Chiariacescu, 1944). We have no available data on the percentage of arable land that these organizations cultivated in Romania, on the number of landowners and households that were part of these communes. What we may say though is that, indeed, agricultural cooperatives, especially production cooperatives, are the solution „dorită şi preconizată de către organele noastre de răspundere” (Stahl, apud Rostás, 2013, 84) during the Second World War.
Henri H. Stahl and the cooperative movement
Stahl becomes acquainted with and joins the cooperative movement from early on in his life. In 1919, aged only 18, he meets Virgil Madgearu (Stahl, 1984), the main theoretician of the political doctrine of the Peasant Party, initially, of the National Peasant Party later on. Madgearu was at the beginning of his career at that time and held evening lectures on subjects of political economy at the „Mihai Viteazul” highschool in București, designed to train future cooperative leaders (Stahl, 1984, 30-31). As he was in the same highschool teaching a stenography class, Stahl is invited by Madgearu to write down his own class – he accepts and thus becomes first acquainted with the ideas of the cooperative movement and those of Madgearu, a very important promoter of the movement. In Stahl’s view, Madgearu turns out to be a great professor (Stahl, 1984, 31), one of exceptional clarity (Rostás, 2000, 48).
But not only Peasant’s Party members influence Stahl to the point of becoming and active supporter of the cooperative movement. His sympathy for the Romanian social-democratic movement will have a very important role in his formative experiences. It is also from early on that he becomes attracted to socialist ideas and ideals, initially accessed in his talks with his brother Șerban Voinea, an important member of the Social Democratic Party, and from the writings of Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea. Voinea introduces him to the movement’s bookstore – it is from here that Stahl procures the bulk of his formative reading material and it is also here that he meets a number of important leaders of the movement, that end up shaping a great deal of his political beliefs. Besides Bucharest-based members of the movement, Stahl is also influenced by member of its austro-marxist faction, both from the region of Bucovina and from abroad. But he becomes a rather atypical socialist – having a passion for the interests and problems not of the industrial proletariat but for those of the peasantry. The socialist theories that interest him most are those that concern the social history and the future of the peasantry. He reads the works of all the influent socialist theoreticians of the age and then formulates his own opinions and beliefs, which can be reconstructed, at leas in part, by lecturing and analyzing the interviews with him that Zoltan Rostas recorded in the ’80s (Rostás, 2000). As far as cooperative ideas go, alongside the vast majority of the social-democrats, Stahl views cooperative activity as the main way in which the life standard of the peasantry may rise and economic growth in agriculture may be attained. The most efficient forms of cooperatives, from his point of view, are production cooperatives, created through leasing (the old leasing communes) or by the common use of production means – but he does not reject other forms of cooperatives either.
So far, there is a significant overlay of the political views of socialists and of the members of the Peasant Party. But there are significant differences too, ones that Stahl adheres to, on the side of the socialists. As other socialists, Stahl considers that organizing these cooperatives is not an efficient and sufficient measure for bypassing capitalism. As other socialists, he thinks that capitalism is a stage of development that is unavoidable and necessary and does not believe it may be avoided on the path towards socialism. Cooperatives remain to him only a type of defense from the negative effects of capitalism and a way in which peasant livelihoods may be improved. A common ground for the two political groups is a preference for a specific type of property – working property. It may be explained as follows – only that which is used for one’s own work, be it land or other means of production, is rightful property, so that peasants may only own what they use or can use during their work. But unlike the members of the Peasant Party, socialists have as a distant goal a transition from production cooperatives where, beyond the associative form, private property remains in force to cooperatives in which the means of production are collective, belonging to the commune. Finally, Stahl thinks that members of cooperative units should be free to decide on the crops they produce and on the manner in which the results of their work should be divided between members.
Further on, starting from 1926, once he joins the Bucharest School of Sociology, Stahl finds himself in another group of promoters of the cooperative movement. This new environment is made up of such cooperative propaganda tools as the Section for Cooperative Studies of the Romanian Social Institute – founded and leaded by Dimitrie Gusti with the participation of Vorgil Madgearu – which periodically publishes its own Bulletin (IŞSR, 1944). Articles on the cooperative movement in Romania are also published in other reviews of the Romanian Social Institute, namely „Arhiva pentru Știința și Reforma Socială” and „Sociologie Românească” – and Stahl is actively involved in the activity of both of these journals. Dimitrie Gusti himself holds, among other public positions, that of president of the National Office of Cooperation (Vulcănescu, 1936). The School goes on even further and includes the cooperative organization of agriculture in its programmatic vision on rural development, as a solution to the economic problems of villages (Apolzan, 1945; Golopenţia, 2002; Stahl, 1935), a vision that is implemented through the actions of the Royal Student Teams and of the Social Service. And H. H. Stahl has an important role in the functioning of both of these two waves of social intervention
Moreover, by participating in the research conducted by the School, Stahl gets to now not only the problems of Romanian villages and villagers – of which the two major ones were diseases and poverty – but also the intrinsic development potential that they still carried. It is during this period of research that Stahl familiarizes himself and thoroughly analyzes the realities of Romanian village communes. In their typical social organization he finds community solidarity and the potential and capacity to manage on their own, through their communal organization, community problems and development – this potential, he finds, is one that deserves to be regenerated and consolidated through cooperative organization.
To conclude, thanks to the contact he had with social-democratic and peasant party cooperative ideas, with the cooperative ideas, propaganda and actions of the School of Dimitrie Gusti and with what remained of the age old village communes, Stahl becomes convinced of the benefits that cooperative organization of agriculture would have for the peasantry and becomes another promoter of its virtues. His status as a promoter remains valid even during World War Two, a period when, as we have seen, for reasons identified above, the Romanian Government intervenes even more intensely or actively for the promotion of the cooperative movement and various political grouping, as we shall see further, align in support of its intentions and actions.
Times of decline – Stahl and the Bucharest School of Sociology during the war
To understand the School’s and Stahl’s situation during the war we must first go back a few years. By 1938, the Bucharest School of Sociology had reached a peak in its evolution. After the research campaigns of the second half of the twenties and the first half of the ’30s, given their rich results, their popularization and Dimitrie Gusti’s relentless organizational developments, his achievement of dignitary positions and his growing public recognition, the School’s prestige grows considerably. In 1934, the king appoints Gusti as leader of the Prince Carol Royal Cultural Foundations, an institution designed to promote social development through the spread of culture. Gusti reforms this institution alongside some of his collaborators, such as Henri H. Stahl, Octavian Neamțu and Anton Golopenția, thus making the leap from social studies to social intervention. His system promotes a multi-dimensional development of Romanian villages, equating „culture” with „development” and dealing with health, education, economy, infrastructure, culture and morals. Voluntary teams of university students visit villages in lengthy summer campaign, guiding, teaching and assisting communities, trying to activate in them an interest for their own development. They also build what they call „Cămine Culturale” – or „Cultural Houses” – institutions designed to serve after their departure as forums that reunite peasants, activate them and facilitate community development. As far as economical development goes, promotion of cooperative organization is a central tool for the intervening teams, alongside others such as the promotion of modern techniques, selected seeds and breeds, etc.
The first years of intervention campaigns in Romanian villages are successful or satisfactory to considerable extent and the School’s prestige, recognition and influence grow further. King Carol the 2nd finds it opportune to generalize Gusti’s model of social intervention, making participation to it compulsory for all university graduates starting with 1938 by promulgating the Social Service Law. This act serves not only Gusti’s interests and intentions but, to a large extent, those of the king as well – he uses Gusti’s mainly teams to counter the growing influence and success of the legionary movement.
After the years of social intervention, organizing a village museum in Bucharest and organizing and presiding the Romanian pavilions in two international exhibitions, in 1939, Dimitrie Gusti should have also hosted and organized in Bucharest the International Sociology Congress – but with the start of the war this important and highly prestigious event and task is canceled. 1939 is also the year when the Social Service Law is abrogated, due to the war and pressures in the king’s court. This is the beginning of years of stagnation, followed by decline for Gusti’s School. During the war, after Carol’s abdication and the installment of the legionary regime, Gusti is even forced to hide for a while (Rostas, 2011, 609). After this period, for the rest of the war, the School’s activity is restricted to teaching activities at the University and preparing a few numbers of „Sociologie Românească” – and as many of Gusti’s collaborators had been appointed at the Central Statistics Office, the little and yet valuable research done during the war was done mainly through it, with the exception of a small body of research done in one of Bucharest’s poorest neighborhoods by the members of the Superior School of Social Work (Rostas, 2011, 609).
In this lengthy interval, Stahl is also strongly involved in the School’s development program, contributing significantly to its implementation and to its improvement over the years, holding an important position in the Foundation. With Carol’s abdication, Gusti resigns and so does his staff – Stahl including. He too is forced to hide from legionary terror during their takeover of the Government. Afterwards, he keeps his teaching position and a position at the Central Institute of Statistics. But the School is not what it used to be during the war years and neither are its members, Stahl included. And this, we argue later, is another influential factor in Stahl’s decision to write for Ecoul and in the messages that he conveys in it, in an attempt to restore some of the School’s influence and prestige and to make good use of the body of knowledge it had gathered.
On the 15th of January 1944, in a note of the Romanian Special Information Service, the daily newspaper Ecoul is mentioned (the note belongs to the Archive of C.N.S.A.S., vol. 34, f. 138 and is published in Buzatu and Bichineţ, 2005, 259-260). The note contains a few suppositions on the political grounds of the newspaper. An analysis of the context in which this note is written and of the political actors mentioned in it may lead us to a first clue on the motives for which Stahl writes in this particular publication about agricultural communes and the development of Romanian rural space at the beginning of 1944.
According to this note, in January 1944, negotiations had been taking place between the National Peasant Party and the Social Democratic Party for more than six month, with the purpose of fusion and consolidation of their political powers. The negotiations were stagnating though, „din cauza unei abile manevre a D-lui Gheorghe Tătărescu, care intenţionează să atragă pe social-democraţi” (Buzatu şi Bichineţ, 2005, 259-260). Amongst the members of the National Peasant Part rumour has it that Tătărescu is trying to establish, alongside Mihai Antonescu, the vice-president of the Government, the base of a social-liberal party (Buzatu şi Bichineţ, 2005, 260). Further along, the note informs that:
„Se spune că unul din agenţii care fac legătura între social-democraţi ar fi şi Dl. Mircea Grigorescu, căruia Dl. Gafencu, pe care M. Grigorescu l-a vizitat de mai multe ori la Geneva în cursul trecutului an, i-ar fi dat sfatul fortificării unuia din marile partide existente prin fuziunea cu social-democraţii. Ecoul, după câte se spune în cercurile maniste, n-ar fi decât organul de presă al acestui viitor partid Tătărescu – Mihai Antonescu – Gafencu şi social-democraţii.” (Buzatu şi Bichineţ, 2005, 260).
Ecoul, we find, was supposedly intended to be a propaganda tool for a new political alliance, a social-liberal one. Based on the available historical documents it is not yet possible to prove, beyond all doubt, that this is the truth. Nevertheless, if we analyze the available data, its creation for such a purpose seems probable. The reason behind the creation of this newspaper may be found, firstly, if we proceed to an analysis of the historical context of the moment. Moreover, the connections existing between the persons that are mentioned in this note and the consensus of their political ideas in many areas of domestic and foreign policy make plausible their political collaboration and the founding of their own publication – Ecoul.
In December 1943 Romania is marked by disputes around two issues – the first is that of the country’s withdrawal from the war and the second is that of transfer of power that was expected to occur after this moment. The political scene was dominated by two main groupings, which seemed clearly separated in their views by a dividing line, separating the current holders of Power, namely Antonescu’s Government, from the Opposition, made up of the Brătianu wing of the National Liberal Party and the National Peasant Party, dominated by the figure of Iuliu Maniu. In reality though, beyond the lively voice of the Opposition against Power, its dictatorship and its apparently implacable decision to continue the war against the U.S.S.R beyond the river Nistru, there existed a general consensus over the need to end the war as soon as possible (Hillgruber, 2007; Ciucă, 1998; Buzatu, 2005). Moreover, the marshal himself had invited the Opposition to take over Power and end the war against the U.S.S.R – but it refused to do so (Ciucă, 1998; Hillgruber, 2007).
Meanwhile though, Gh. Tătărescu, a liberal which had been excluded from the N.L.P, was striving to create a new political movement, namely a block in whose name he would then negotiate Romania’s exit from the war. Tătărescu’s group tries to conciliate its plans with those of the Government and of the N.L.P.-N.P.P. Opposition. He is convinced, first and foremost, that the fight against the U.S.S.R is a fatal mistake and that, after the war, the U.S.S.R will be a decisive power in an area of Europe that includes Romania – and this is the reason why Romania needs a new foreign policy, one of understanding and collaboration (Ion, 2003, 30-31). He then believes that the truce should be directly negotiated with the soviets. As far as Romania’s domestic policy goes, he believes that after the war radical reforms will be needed – only this way could social peace be reached, a necessary condition for national reconstruction. In this manner, he states, Romania will become a country of freedom, social justice and prosperity (Ion, 2003, 30).
His political intentions and opinions go back a couple of years. Beginning with May 1942, Tătărescu is urged to initiated a new political movement (Ion, 2003, 31). During the winter of 1942, he approaches the Government with a proposing to take over power and establish a new Government, which included the two Antonescus (Ion, 2003, 32). Mihai Antonescu would have been appointed minister of internal affairs in this Government while Ion Antonescu would have much reduced powers. His initiative was supported by some members of the current Government and some liberals – especially one, Ionel Vântu, a close friend of Mihai Antonescu’s, which was an ex-liberal arty member himself (Ion, 2003, 32). But Tătărescu’s plan did not materialize and we know not how Government’s leaders considered it.
From the spring of 1943, Tătărescu concentrates on creating a coalition that would try to end Romania’s participation in the war. With this purpose in mind he first addresses the Opposition – but he is categorically refused by the two parties, given the antipathy that their leaders have for him. He then reorients towards the leftist parties of the countries, with which he negotiates the creation of a block in whose name he wishes to negotiate the truce with the U.S.S.R and that would later take over power. In December 1943 he contacts Mihai Antonescu (Ion, 2003, 47) – he will later have repeated meetings with him, especially in the house of professor Ion Fințescu (Ion, 2003; Ciucă, 1998). After the meetings and the discussions between the two, N.L.P and N.P.P members become worried, suspecting a possible political alliance between M. Antonescu and Gh. Tătărescu (Buzatu şi Bichineţ, 2005; Ion, 2003). In their circles rumors spread of the negotiations taking place between Tătărescu and leftist parties and their intentions to create a social-liberal alliance (Ion, 2003, 47). And, in December 1943, the first edition of Ecoul is published.
A few month later, Tătărescu’s attempts to for a block of parties whose negotiator he would become are finally successful. On the 26th of May 1944, the National Democratic Coalition is created, joining the Romanian Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Socialist Peasant’s Party, the Nationalist Democratic Party and Tătărescu’s wing of the National Liberal Party.
Talks with the leader of the S.D.P., Constantin Titel Petrescu, had been initiated during the summer of 1943 (Ion, 2003, 54) while those with the leaders of the other parties in the block are initiated at a later date – with Mihai Ralea, the leader of the socialist-peasant party that was once a member of the left wing of the N.P.P., in January 1944; with Lucrețiu Pătrășcanu, the communist leader, at about the same time; with dr. Topa of the N.D.P. in May 1944 (Ion, 2003, 51-52). And Mihai Antonescu remains in contact with Tătărescu throughout 1944, and through Tătărescu with the rest of the block’s leaders. As proof of this we may invoke the fact that, in July 1944, Ioan Hudiță, member of the N.P.P., reproaches to Antonescu these very connections (Ion, 2003, 48). Even in July 1944 Iuliu Maniu, who had in the meantime formed his own alliance with leftist parties, dissolving Tătărescu’s block, reproaches to his new ally Lucrețiu Pătrășcanu maintaining contact with Antonescu and Tătărescu.
At this point, we may identify 3 sure facts. The first is that collaboration, at least at the level of discussions and exchanges of information, existed between Mihai Antonescu, Gheorghe Tătărescu and leftist leaders. The second one is that Gheorghe Tătărescu was indeed open to a future collaboration with the Government’s members or at least with Mihai Antonescu. The third certainty is that Tătărescu had intended to start a new political movement ever since 1942 and that, starting with 1943, he envisioned it as a strongly reformist, social-liberal one. But is there other evidence that might confirm the suspicions of the Opposition and the Special Information Service when it comes to Ecoul and its political substratum?
Firstly, as we lack direct evidence, we may find useful some indirect clues, namely information on the shaed political principles of the persons indicated in the S.I.S. note. In fact, at least as far as the political ideas concerning the peasantry go, Mihai Antonescu, Gheorghe Tătărescu and the Romanian left, especially the Social-Democratic Party have similar if not identical opinions.
Questioned in his 1946 trial, Mihai Antonescu declares that the Government intended to implement a radical allotment reform since 1941 – but that it was forced to renounce it because of the unfavorable circumstances of the war (Ciucă, 1998, 99). He considers that the problem of land ownership is in fact highly related to that of the need to reorganize production – and it is for such reason that he proposes the organization of agricultural communes (Ciucă, 1998, 100). By the end of 1943 though, when the marshal considers, for a while, that he will be able to sign a truce and remain the Government’s leader, M. Antonescu discusses with him the political measures that would be useful in such a context. A new agrarian reform, providing for a new expropriation of large estates, the creation of a sate owned land fund and a new allotment to the benefit of peasants, is considered necessary. M. Antonescu also thinks, further on, that „reforme sociale înaintate sunt necesare pentru păstrarea ordinei după război” (Ciucă, 1998, 103). Gheorghe Tătărescu shares the same political views and seems to be a supporter of the continuation of the agricultural policies promoted by the Antonescu Government. He also is a supporter of ample reforms after the war, as he states starting with 1943. As to his conceptions concerning the peasantry, they are expressed and promoted by Tătărescu himself and the ideologists of his wing of the N.L.P. in 1945 – they wish to implement a new allotment to the benefit of the peasantry by a new expropriation process, to involve the state in supporting and guiding peasant agriculture, to develop agricultural education and to facilitate peasants’ access to modern agricultural technologies (Ion, 2003, 114). Most importantly, „instrumentul de realizare a acestui program trebuia să fie, în fiecare sat, obştea liber consimţită şi organizată pe baze cooperatiste” (Ion, 2003, 114). Social-democrats’ program in the same field is also perfectly compatible – o new allotment, respect for the principle of working property, the mechanization of agriculture, an improvement in agricultural practices through education and giudance from the state (Rădăceanu, 1945). A final point on which M. Antonesc, Gh. Tătărescu and the Romanian left all agree on is the necessity to negotiate directly with the soviets and to carry these negotiations on U.S.S.R. territory. M. Antonescu, on Tătărescu’s request, is open to sending negotiators from the latter’s grouping into soviet land – but all projects of this type are eventually, for one reason or another, abandoned or rejected. Given the similarities of political program, at least as far as rural development and agrarian policies go, an attempt to create a social-liberal alliance by the initiative of Gh. Tătărescu, together with Mihai Antonescu and with membership from Romanian leftist parties, seems even more plausible.
But why would Ecoul in particular be the propaganda tool of this political grouping? The same S.I.S. note mentions Mircea Grigorescu, the dmanager of the newspaper. Mircea Grogirescu, as we shall see, has similar political opinions with M. Antonescu and Gh. Tătărescu. Moreover, he serves as a link between Mihai Antonescu and Grigore Gafencu.
Even though he had studied at the Faculty of Law, Grigorescu turns to a career in journalism (Neagu, 2008). Clues to his political orientation, apparently a center-leftist one, may be found in an analysis of the newspapers for which he works during his career, most of them being voices for such political views. An important one of these is Timpul– a newspaper run by Grigore Gafencu, a left wing member of the N.P.P. Grigorescu is also part of the „Criterion” movement, participating at one of its symposiums on the 18th of October 1932, with a presentation on „Lenin în lumina propagandei” (Vulcănescu, 2005, XCII) and holding the job of editorial secretary for the „Criterion” magazine. Mircea Vulcănescu, knowing Grigorescu, recalls him as purely Marxist (Vulcănescu, 2005, 20). Such a political orientation makes plausible his participation in an initiative that aims to promote the ideas of a group that includes the Romanian left and his role as a mediator between the social-democrats and Tătărescu and Antonescu. Moreover, given his participation in the Criterion movement, we may suspect that it is here that Stahl met him – and his political orientation, his preference for social-democracy made him even more convincing for Stahl, the social-democrat.
One may then establish connections between M. Grigorescu, M. Antonescu and Gr. Gafencu. The existence of a connection between M. Grigoresc, chief editor for Timpul and Grigore Gafencu, the newspaper’s owner is obvious. It is also known that M. Grigorescu visits Gafencu in Switzerland multiple times during the war, discussing Timpul‘s situation and the country’s general situation as well (Gafencu, 2008). But the hypothesis that Gafencu suggested to Grigorescu that he contribute to the consolidation of one of the major parties by fusing with the social-democrats remains, for the moment, impossible to prove in the absence of any documented evidence. .
Even more interesting is the fact that, during the war, a Marxist Mircea Grigorescu is ministry councilor and director for Internal Press in the Ministry of Propaganda that Mihai Antonescu leads (Ciucă, 1998; Neagu, 2008). Antonescu had met Grigorescu at the time when he was working for Adevărul, a leftist journal in which Antonescu published articles from time to time and in whose editorial staff he had many friends, according to his own statements (Ciucă, 1998, 106). The tight collaboration between the two and Antonescu’s publishing history are probably important signs of his real political orientation – a leftist one. We then find that Mircea Grigorescu served, according to Antonescu’s statements in 1946, as middleman between Antonescu and Gafencu in various affairs – finalizing a commercial operation between Gafencu and the Ministry of National Economy (Ciucă, 1998, 134); an exception from mobilization that is granted to Gafencu in january 1943 (Gafencu, 2008, 198); a proposal to sell some stocks (or all of them) to the Timpul newspaper to Mihai Antonescu after January 1943 (Ciucă, 1998, 134). Beyond these three matters, the collaboration between the two is limited, according to the available written accounts, to an exchange of information and opinions on the foreign policy of Romania. But the two have similar beliefs in this matter – they share an enthusiasm for the idea of a united Europe (Hillgruber, 2007; Chinezu, 2004; Gafencu, 2007); a belief in the necessity to find a way to communicate with the U.S.S.R. and and to directly negotiate, in Moscow, the truce, in the name of a political block (Ciucă, 1998; Gafencu, 2008); a belief in the important role that the U.S.S.R. will have in South-East Europe after the war (Gafencu, 2000, 2008); finding Romania and the states between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea to be a barrier that protects Europe from soviet expansion (Ciucă, 1998; Gafencu, 2000). We thus find that, beyond common political beliefs in the field of domestic politics, namely leftist ones, M. Antonescu and Gr. Gafencu also share very important principles concerning Romania’s foreign policy – and we can underline here the need to directly negotiate with the soviets, in Moscow, in the name of a political block. It is here that their beliefs meet perfectly those of Gh. Tătărescu.
But if the creation of Ecoul may find its motives in the connections between M. Antonescu, Gh. Tătărescu, Mircea Grigorescu and Grigore Gafencu in the context of the moment, H. H Stahl’s decision to write for this newspaper probably has a number of other, connected motives, as we shall see. First of all, there is a significant compatibility of political ideas shared by Stahl with Grigorescu and the others when it comes to the policies that are necessary for the development of the Romanian rural space and even a compatibility of vision when it comes to foreign policy. The need to support the creation and spread of cooperatives, to technologically modernize agriculture, to consolidate lands and to transform the state so that it assumes a stronger role in agricultural education and guidance are political principals that are common to all of them. Stahl then appears to agree with Gr. Gafencu and M. Antonescu when it comes to foreign policy as well, or so it is suggested in his article entitled La răscrucea împărăţiilor moarte – in which underlines Romania’s difficult position, its place amongst European states and its role as a barrier of a united and solidary Europe that is faced with a soviet invasion. But we may not go so far as to state that Stahl wrote for Ecoul fully aware of the plans for the future of Romania that were shared by all of its alleged creators, thus voluntarily becoming a propaganda voice for an emergent political movement. But we may propose a supposition that seems highly plausible yet still uncertain, as we lack more compelling evidence. As he is highly interested, as we have seen, to the theme of rural development and agrees at least in part with the development policies that the Antonescu Government had initiated, called for – with unknown arguments – by Mircea Grigorescu, who he had known since his activity with Criterion, or by the other two monographers, Ion Conea and Octavian Neamțu, who Grigorescu was also acquainted with, Stahl decides to write for Ecoul. But what he writes in the newspaper is not simple propaganda for Government policy – he subjects agricultural communes to a critical analysis, underlining not only their strong points but their potential weak points as well, all the while inviting public opinion and authorities to take into consideration all the factors hat were necessary for their success. Moreover, most likely in an attempt to regain a more well respected position for his own and the School’s experience and expertize in defining rural development policies, Stahl presents once more his own findings, ideas and contributions and those of Gusti’s School as well, suggesting that they would be valuable for improving the current policy. We cannot know if Stahl had any certainty as to the impact of his writings in current or future Government circles. But he finds it convenient – and of his duty, as well – to write about these things. It is a curious fact though that, at a time when the fate of the war was far from being visibly decided and Romania was still at war, both H. H. Stahl and Octavian Neamțu write for Ecoul of the development of Romania after the war. Perhaps the advance of soviet troops is a sign for them, signaling the future defeat of Germany or an approaching truce. It still remains possible though that they were aware of Romanian politicians’ current attempts to establish alliances, to change the country’s foreign policy, to take Romania out of the war and change its domestic policy in a direction that was compatible that of the School’s sociologists.
Henri H. Stahl on Romanian rural development
Without a prior investigation of these little known pages in the history of Romanian foreign and domestic (especially rural development) policies until 1944, H. H. Stahl’s writings in the newspaper Ecoul would seem, to the uninformed eye, just a simple and interesting episode of Stahl’s sociological thought process. Isolated, extracted from the context in which they were written, these texts may even offer to their reader a illusory impression that they represent a personal and profoundly original vision of H. H. Stahl on Romanian rural development. Replaced in their context, they convey the image of an acting sociologist, situated in a particular historical context, commenting the development policies of the moment, adding his own and the School’s contributions, perhaps in an attempt to regain a better position on Romania’s public scene. Thus analyzed, his vision may be understood as the result of a complex interaction between his own particular life course, his and his group’s strategies for the future, the interactions of social networks, ideologies, political actions and international relations – all places in a particular context, a particular historic succession. His actions and his conception on rural development and their place in the more ample ensamble of history along with their impact may only be understood and known in this manner – reintegrated in the context in which they existed.
Finally, we may now proceed to a short exposure of H. H. Stahl’s thinking on rural development, as it is stated in the pages of Ecoul in the January-March 1944 interval.
In Răfuiala cu scopurile noastre (Stahl, 1944, apud Rostás, 2013, 95-99), he brings into question, once again, the agricultural communes, whose purposes, he notes, are yet unclear to the public and to himself. He underlines that the creators of Romanian development policy should really take upon themselves the mission of clarifying them. In his opinion, the development that they wish to generate should be at the benefit of broad sectors of the population. It is not something simple to obtain – you cannot obtain it simply through a new allotment, nor through a rise in production. In fact, rural development in Stahl’s sociological vision implies much more than economical development – it also implies an improvement in the health of the peasantry and an increase and facilitation of its access to cultural and moral goods.
In Tractorul (Stahl, 1944, apud Rostás, 2013, 113-117), he salutes Government efforts to facilitate peasants’ access to modern agricultural machinery, especially tractors. As they cannot be acquired nor used because of a strong fragmentation of lands and resources, Stahl presents the solution of land consolidation, that would ideally take place only during the months of agricultural activity. This would be a continuation of the ancient model of communal lots and with the tradition of plowing associations and a revitalization of the ancient communal social organization of the peasantry. Moreover, if they organized themselves in such a manner, peasants could benefit from the support and guidance of the state and its specialists. The solution that Stahl proposes – land consolidation, mechanization and state intervention in directing agricultural activities – is precisely that described in the Decree of 1942 on the organization of agricultural communes. And perhaps it is also significant that this article was published just a few days after the Romanian press – including Ecoul – had published a speech given by Mihai Antonescu on February the 6th 1944 during a meeting of the Romanian Union of Agricultural Syndicates, a speech that presented the massive imports of agricultural tools and machinery that the Romanian state had so far done. Was it that Stahl had just found out with this occasion of the process taking place, affecting Romanian agriculture? Or was he joining a propaganda campaign? These questions must be left unanswered.
In Prejudecăţi şi tradiţii (Stahl, 1944, apud Rostás, 2013, 126-128), he underlines the need for a real knowledge of the needs of the peasantry and for building its future to the measure of its possibilities. He rejects the arguments that peasants are individualists and argues once more for their association, the temporary consolidation of their lands so that they be cultivated with modern technology, especially since an excessive fragmentation of their lands is a real hindrance to improving their life quality. In his opinion, it is our duty to promote and use modern science, which generates welfare, along with the many benefits of social solidarity, especially since solidarity has survived in villages in spite of all difficulties. He adds that one must shed light onto peasants’ objections to consolidation and association in a modern style, so that the truth behind them be identified and solutions be found. He finally adds to more arguments to his pleading – he first is that the peasantry is very able to keep in pace with changing times and that its old tradition can very well be a new spring of life for many centuries to come.
Duşmanii dinlăuntru (Stahl, 1944, apud Rostás, 2013, 135-138) is a new pleading for solidarity and promoting development. Peasants’ greatest enemies, he finds, are disease and poverty. Each of us must become involved and work in order to make a small contribution to a better guidance of the peasantry. The „Cultural Houses” of the King Mihai Cultural Foundation had organized visits for advice, guidance, help. But each one of our interventions in the direction of informing and sanitary education of the peasantry could literally save the lives of thousands of children. It is not just the state’s business to intervene – it is our common responsibility. And of all, Stahl emphasizes, village intellectuals are most responsible for becoming models and support for peasants.
Then, perhaps responding to a polemic dialogue, Stahl returns to argue in Este ţărănimea retrogradă? (Stahl, 1944, apud Rostás, 2013, 148-151) for the peasantry’s capacity and availability to participate to the progress of agriculture and of the country. The peasantry, he adds, is willing and capable to adapt to modern technology. Moreover, boyars were never model or promoters of progress, as they always relied on peasants’ work and inventory. Small holdings, he concludes, will find in themselves and in the state’s support the strength that they need, so that they become the base of national prosperity (Stahl, 1944, apud Rostás, 2013, 151).
In Preotul Ion Zamă din Cornova (Stahl, 1944, apud Rostás, 2013, 157-160), he pays tribute to a priest he met during the reseach campaign in Cornova, a true example of service for the benefit of the peasantry. As he pays homage, he underlines once again the role of local leaders and intellectuals in the activities that promote development and in activating the peasantry for its own development.
The last article he dedicates to development problems is La porunci în satele ardelene (Stahl, 1944, apud Rostás, 2013, 165-169). He starts from the example of villages from the region of Ardeal, which hold community council meetings each Sunday in front of the village church. These are true community forums and are an occasion to discuss, exchange advice and information and, most importantly, involve and commit community members to communal activities. At the same time, a growing number of Romanian villages are threatened by or lack cohesion and community participation, leaving their problems to be solved, hopefully, by the state or by individuals. But the development problems of the peasantry are multiple and their overcoming a complex matter – they must ensure good health (by accessing the benefits of modern science and technology), economical welfare (by practicing rational agriculture), a greater purchase power and the ability to sell their products. And they will achieve this only if they achieve what in Gusti’s development methodology is termed „cultura sufletului și a minții„. Stahl’s proposed solution is once again inspired by the traditional life of villages, materialized in the above mentioned community meetings – peasants should develop a joint interest for their development and participate in the process. This is because the development objectives of the community may only be reached through joint efforts, with the state and the local authorities only having a limited role in its realization – namely to guide and administrate community lfe. To activate the whole social group, he adds, one only need to change habits. Moreover, institutions that can support this change already exist – they were created to support the social cohesion of the village and its active organization and to contribute with its full initiative power to promote a common program and a development that touches all aspects of community life – health, work, mind and soul (Stahl, 1944, apud Rostás, 2013, 168). These institutions are the „Cultural Homes” that already exist and that should be used to their full potential, avoiding the risk of becoming only a good intention.
And so we find that, in his articles, beyond promoting, questioning and critically analyzing agricultural communes as they were conceived by Romanian politicians – maybe precisely those that were behind Ecoul‘s existence – Henri H. Stahl draws the lines of a valuable but little known sociological vision. To the agricultural communes that politicians envisioned he wishes to add the virtues of the old peasant communes – communal solidarity and community participation in the resolution of its own development problems – in order to build the base of a better social organization of the peasantry in parallel to its economical reorganization. In his view, rural development is a multi-dimensional one and is not limited to the spread of economical welfare. The whole of the peasant population must benefit from it without discrimination. Intellectuals, village leaders, townspeople, the state and its institutions (especially Cultural Homes) have as their main responsibilities activating, guiding and supporting the peasantry in its development efforts. In fact, the ideas that Stahl outlines as he writes on the matter of agricultural communes make up a community development model whose validity one may argued for the present day as well.
 Transl.: „Involuntary sabotage”
 Transl.: „At the crossroads of fallen empires”
 Transl.: „Local and administrative centers”
 Transl.: „At the crossroads of fallen empires”
 Transl.: „Eastern overflows over Europe’s border’s”
 Transl.: „Is dear to us as well and whose actions we observe with eyes wide open”
 Transl.: „Local and administrative centers”
 Transl.: „The peasant problem”
 Transl.: „The formula of agricultural peasant communes, a solution that is nowadays desired and planned for”
 Transl.: „To establish systematic connections in order to adapt Romanian production to the German demand”
 Transl.: „You must unite in communes. Because I cannot give each of you tools and neither can one disperse – to each and every of your small plots – tractors, threshers and other tools. Each commune will commit itself to take care of the tools given to it and each of you will have as duty to cultivate the lands according to the directives of the State.”
 Transl.: „After that villagers were prompted in the press to associate and form communes and articles were written highlighting the importance of these communes.”
 Transl.: „Decree no. 488 for the organization of agricultural communes”
 Transl.: „The daily”
 Transl.: „Desired and planned for by our authorities”
 Transl.: „The Archive for Social Science and Reform”
 Transl.: „Romanian Sociology”
 ransl.: „Romanian Sociology”
 Transl.: „The echo”
 Consiliul Național pentru Studierea Arhivelor Securității, transl. as „The National Council for the Study of Security Archives”
 Transl.: „Due to skillfl interventions from Mr. Gheorghe Tătărescu, which intents to attract the social-democrats”
 Transl.: „It is said that one of the connection agents of the social-democrats is Mr. Mircea Grigorescu, which was advised by Mr. Gafencu, whom he has repeatedly visited in Geneva during the last year, to consolidate one of the major parties of the countries by fusion with the social-democrats. The Echo, as the followers of Mr. Iuliu Maniu say, is nothing more than a voice in the press for this future Tătărescu – Mihai Antonescu – Gafencu and social-democrats party”
 Transl.: „Ample social reforms are necessary so that order may be maintained after the war”
 Transl.: „The instrument by which this program should be realized in each village is the organization of an agricultural commune, based on free consent and organized on cooperative principles”
 Transl.: „The Time”
 Transl.: „Lenin in the light of propaganda”
 Transl.: „The truth”
 Transl.: „At the crossroads of dead empires”
 Transl.: „A confrontation with our own purposes”
 Transl.: „Prejudice and traditions”
 Transl.: „The enemies within”
 Original: Căminele Culturale
 Transl.: „Is the peasantry a backward one?”
 Transl.: „Ion Zeama, the priest from Cornova”
 Transl.: „Community councils in the villages of the Ardeal”
 Transl.: „A culture of the soul and of the mind”
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