Peace has always been a favourite theme in communist propaganda.
Peace has always been a favourite theme in communist propaganda, which often described it in stark contrast to the "war-mongering" capitalism. The champions of Marxism and Leninism often postulated that the oppressed proletariat was peaceful, while the oppressing bourgeoisie favoured conflict in all its forms. The underpinning tenets of Marxism were simple and yet confusing. Even when it fostered the global revolution of the working class that would change the world, the proletariat used violent means to take out the bourgeoisie with the purpose of instating ever-lasting peace once they seized power. The Bolshevik victory of 1917 did not bring peace, quite the contrary. The Soviet Union did everything in its power to stir violent uprisings and chaos both in its vicinity and worldwide. In fact, communism thrived from conflict as much as any other regime and used peace as a means to deceive the people more easily. Therefore Soviet propaganda coined the so-called "fight for peace" slogan, which was not just a blatant nonsense, but also a gross disregard for reality.
In Romania, the concept of the fight for peace entered the collective consciousness starting with the Soviet occupation of 1944 and became irrelevant with the demise of communism in 1989. In the 1950s, the widespread joke was "we will fight for peace until we tear the whole world down, brick by brick". The joke was indicative of the slogan's inconsistence and was a sign that everyone using the slogan was doing it to obtain personal benefits and climb the party ladder. Peace was one of the main pillars of communist propaganda, even bordering on the grotesque during the regime of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was portrayed as a "hero of peace".
Engineer Stefan Barlea was an important communist activist for the youth rights over 1950-1960. In an interview for the Oral History Centre of the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Corporation he gave in 2002, he recalled the year 1955 and what it meant for the people:
"Practically, 1955 was significant in several ways. First of all, Patriarch Justinian published a pastoral letter which we knew of and received very positively. It was the first and only manifesto, at least as far as I know within the Orthodox Church, calling for nuclear disarmament. It was an act of political participation from the Orthodox Church, probably ordered by the state, I don't know for sure. The Lord's ways are higher and more mysterious. Everything resulted in a powerful pacifist movement, encouraged and led by the Soviet Union. It started in 1949 and the movement gradually evolved until the World Assembly for Peace was staged in 1955".
After the Second World War, it was logical for mankind to want peace. But the Soviet Union had other interests and was promoting ideological peace. Stefan Barlea said his task was to hold public events to this effect:
"I used to organise youth rallies, two or three every month. In 1950 the second peace congress was held in Warsaw, a world council was established, and, among the official participants, apart from the delegations of the different countries, there were also two youth organisations, the World Federation of Democratic Youth and the International Union of Students. Both had their own councils, one in Prague and the other somewhere in Poland. These organisations, which represented the pacifist movement as rightful members of the World Peace Council, asked national youth and student organisations to organise youth events in the spirit of peace. That's how we ended up organising a series of very large rallies here in Herastrau, in Pavilion H, in the Floreasca Hall. A rally was also held at some point outdoors."
Mobilising speeches were held at these rallies. Stefan Barlea remembers how these public events used to be organised:
"The agenda was set by the Central Committee of the Youth Workers' Union and later the Council of Student Associations in keeping with the recommendations of the international councils of these organisations. The speeches were held either by a representative of international youth organisations, in which case this would be a big event and attended by our leadership as well, or by someone local. We held these events in all university centres and all cities, and the only speakers were the activists of the organisation. Maurer, for example, once gave a speech about peace when he was the juridical director of the Academy. The propaganda machine, which was the main instrument by which the new ideology spread across the country, saw to it that there were always materials available to help you write your own speech, and such materials were in high demand among the people. Like all performances, because these were all in effect political performances, these events were staged, and their staging had to respect a few elements. If, for example, the party leadership attended the events, we had someone who choreographed the whole event. There were a few with whom we worked most frequently, such as Hero Lupescu, who used to stage performances for the opera, and also others."
The fight for peace disappeared with communism. In order to be achieved, an ideal like peace must not only be invoked, but embraced and applied by everyone and all political regimes.