by Marius Bogdan Tudor and Mihai Lukács
The post-World War 2 modernizing drive of the Romanian state manifested itself in two essential policies: industrialization and the democratization of culture. The two approaches were complementary: first of all, industrialization offered the possibility of involving a mostly rural workforce in the production sector in order to rebuild a war-torn economy on the basis of scientific Socialism and, in the long run, the possibility of a state-fueled proletarian class. Second of all, building an infrastructure of cinemas, theaters, performance halls (the future “union houses”) and libraries at the national level, doubled up by an infrastructure of workers’ clubs, artistic brigades, village cultural homes and factory newspapers at the enterprise and agricultural co-op level, facilitated the regulation and institutionalization of an inherently volatile space – the realm of the arts – and enabled the shaping of working-class identity by involving workers in an increasing number of cultural activities.
In the effort to fit the entire population into one ideological framework, children played a vital role as “the future of Socialism.” The widespread belief that “kids work no matter what” was countered by the tendency to stage wannabe professional performances with children. This tendency reached its peak in the sumptuous choreographies at festivals such as Cântarea României (Ode to Romania) in the late 70s and 80s. This extreme “spectacleization”, so to speak, was already considered a result of the dynamics of socio-economic change, of mutations in the Socialist conscience of the masses, of the effects of mass-media, all of which allegedly led to a steady rise in the demands of performers and viewers alike. The desire to transmit and receive is dominated by the imperative of “more, stronger, deeper.” Dancing in and of itself was not enough, it had to be part of a “wider collective effort” and subordinated to “the realization and transmission of complex artistic messages, deep in their actuality, dramatic in the depth of human emotion they embody […].”
During the Golden Age in Romania (the hyperbolic name given to the Ceaușescu period), the image of the child-performance functioned as a dominant narrative: the pioneer – the Communist of tomorrow – embodied the official ideology in its maximal form. The child-performance functioned as the absolute truth of the regime, to whom the politically imperfect adults owed the functioning of the “multilaterally developed Socialist society.” The child-performance disciplines subjectivity and always lurks in the shadows (but also in the lime light or on the silver screen), able to correct the errors of ideological zombiefication and perform the mandatory cultivation of Socialist reproduction.