Michael Walsh — when one miner’s shout began the downfall of a dictator

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The Miner Who Overthrew a Dictator


The winter air was frozen during a huge miner’s demonstration taking place in a Timisoara square. It was December 17, 1989. Thousands of unpaid Romanian miners listened to yet another Marxist diatribe urging patience. Platitudes from the Communist leadership, grouped on a government building balcony, droned over the stone-faced coal miners.

General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party, Nicolae Ceausescu, was haughty as he urged patience. Ceausescu and his wife, Elena and sons, were surrounded by the medalled uniforms of state sycophants. He had reason to be complacent. Dissent in Stalinist Romania was met by lengthy terms of imprisonment in forced labour camps.

21_12_Miting Ceausescu_ultimul discursThe self-satisfied smirks on the faces of these iron-fisted rulers suggested a presumption that they were the untouchables. After all, the police and armed forces were enmeshed in their crooked system and the Red Army was just hours away. The group’s self-assuredness was misplaced. One miner, just one miner driven to despair, punched the air.

Then, disregarding the consequences of his actions he screamed, “OUT!”

A shocked silence fell on the assembled miners. Moments later a miracle occurred. A dozen miners joined him, and then one hundred, one thousand and shortly afterwards, ten thousand miners were chanting for the government to step down.

The dictator’s smirk quickly evaporated; there was now a deathly pallor on his face. The miners in their thousands now began to edge forward towards the government building.

Television cameras focused on the country’s doomed leadership. The group gathered on the balcony were confused. President Ceausescu did the only thing he could do; he tried to calm the miners. It was futile; his speech was drowned out. The security forces were then ordered to fire into the protesting crowds; few obeyed the order.


Interestingly, and you may draw your own conclusions, mainstream media quickly pulled footage of this seismic event. It is also interesting to note that Ceausescu, a lifelong Communist, several times gaoled for street thuggery, was welcomed and courted by England’s royal family, French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, and a number of Western leaders. U.S. President Richard Nixon added credibility to Ceausescu’s brand of Stalinism by making a state visit.

The miner’s revolt quickly spread to Romania’s capital, Bucharest. President Ceausescu, his family and henchmen, attempted to flee the country. They could have found safe haven in any Western country. However, the family that had brought the most terrible miseries on the peoples of Romania were prevented from escaping by the country’s armed forces. When the fugitives were arrested it was just eight days from the moment that this brave solitary miner punched the air and screamed at the top of his lungs, ‘Out!’

President Ceausescu and his family were tried and found guilty. Placed against a government building wall they were sprayed with automatic rifle fire. Here was an example that all could be inspired by. We, the people, are free; our rulers are not free. We, the people possess true power, our rulers do not. We, the people, are slaves only if we accept the illusion that a handful of misfits can rule over us.

Mike Walsh

History Without the Spin | Author, Publishing and Broadcasting, European Global Affairs Correspondent, Free Thinking Journalism, Spin-Free History


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