The Romanian Assembly at Gyulafehérvár

While negotiations were under way in Arad, Maniu had sent a memorandum to Paris requesting that the demarcation line laid down in the Belgrade armistice be modified, and that the Romanian army be permitted to advance beyond the Maros River. Envoys from Transylvania made the adventurous journey to Iaşi to urge military intervention in the interest of 'maintaining order.' They persuaded Romania's king that his troops would find sufficient food, footwear, and clothes, and encounter no resistance in Transylvania; in short, that nothing would hold up their advance. In the end, a decision was made in favour of military intervention.

On November 20, the Arad newspaper Românul carried a proclamation 'to the peoples of the world' invoking self-determination and castigating 'the [Budapest] government for responding with the brutal force of an oppressive state to the justified endeavours of the Romanian nation.' The next day, Românul relayed the proclamation of Romania's military chief of staff regarding his army's move into Transylvania, and it called for the convening of a national assembly. On 24 November, the national committee secretly instructed local councils 'to proclaim their unconditional adherence to the Romanian Kingdom, under the rule of the present dynasty. This is definitely urgent and absolutely indispensable.'[30]30. Duplicated circular issued in the name of the old national committee, OL, Nemzetiségi Ügyek Minisztériuma, 1918, X. t. 242. It advised that as many municipalities as possible should issue a declaration before the assembly convened in Gyulafehérvár, as soon and with as many signatures as possible. A specimen of the declaration {3-774.} was enclosed, with the instruction that several copies be produced for eventual use by Romania's diplomats. The circular summed up the purpose of the initiative by noting that 'in all likelihood, it will make the holding of a plebiscite superfluous.'[31]31. L. Nagy, A kisebbségek alkotmányjogi helyzete Romániában (Kolozsvár, 1944), pp. 18-9. When Maniu visited Budapest at the end of November, Jászi assured him that the Hungarian government would not prevent the holding of a national assembly; indeed, the MÁV was instructed to provide special trains for Romanians who wanted to attend the meeting, which was scheduled for 1 December.

The assembly proposal caused great alarm among social democrats. The party's Romanian faction considered that the democratic rights they were seeking, or had already won, might be jeopardized by unconditional union (a goal that was actively promoted by Romania). They wanted the new state to be a republic, within which Transylvania would enjoy autonomy, and the latter goal was shared by several middle-class leaders. On November 23, Ion Flueraş was dispatched from Budapest to Arad to discuss the terms of union. The final draft of the resolution made reference to democratic reforms, and the Romanian National Council gave assurances that these would be implemented. The Czech socialists urged the Social Democratic Party to cooperate. The verbal guarantees did not suffice to assuage the suspicions of Romanian left-wing socialists. At a meeting of the party executive in Budapest, the delegates to Gyulafehérvár, Avramescu and Dobrescu, said that they would not sit down at the same table with priests — an ironic reference to the fact that of the 1228 official delegates, only 76 represented manual workers and craftsmen, scarcely more than the representatives of choral groups and burial societies. The standpoint of the left wing was clear: 'We shall unite with Romania, but we must impose conditions. Let Romania move with the times and expel its oppressors; and when the Romanian people are as free as we are, let us join hands and establish a great, free, and democratic country. There is no more need for boyars, nor for the symbol of their {3-775.} power (the king).'[32]32. Adevĕrul, 24 November 1918; T. Albani, Douăzeci de ani de la Unire (Oradea, 1938), p. 206. Even the party's right-wing leaders felt that 'the Gyulafehérvár assembly should solemnly declare that it will preserve the autonomy of a free Transylvania as long as the present, regrettable situation prevails in Romania.'[33]33. Adevĕrul, 1 December 1918. In the end, a compromise was reached: the right-wing socialists would suspend their agitation in favour of a republic, while the National Party agreed to a slower pace for unification and did not object to socialist talk of nationalizing large enterprises — an easy concession, since none of the latter were owned by Romanians.

Although the Romanian middle classes considered that union was the natural culmination of their national movement, they were divided on the merits of unconditional unification with Romania. One of their more progressive spokesmen, Goldiş, declared for the benefit of the Hungarian public: 'We shall decide that the Romanian nation of Hungary, or more precisely, the Romanian-inhabited territories, will be joined to Romania, [which] will grant us full autonomy until such time as a democratic transformation takes place on the territory of the old Romanian Kingdom. Defence, foreign relations, and financial affairs will come under common administration.' The experience of dualism was clearly reflected in the differences between the Transylvania's Romanians and their brethren in Romania. At Bucharest, a so-called imperial diet will operate in a manner similar to that of the former Austrian Reichsrat. The Romanian nation that was formerly in Hungary will enjoy full autonomy and will send delegates to this body. ... Romania will remain a kingdom ... within 2–3 weeks, the Romanian army will occupy these 26 counties, and then we will assume power and take over the entire administration.[34]34. Aradi Hírlap, 25, 28 November 1918. In the meantime, to avoid giving the impression that he and his associates had produced the resolution in the shadow of military occupation, Maniu sent off messengers bearing a request that the Romanian army temporarily halt its advance.

{3-776.} On 30 November, the Romanian leaders and the social democrats' delegates settled down to hammer out the principles of union. The original resolution, which also reflected the wishes of the Bucharest government, had met with criticism from various sources, and, after prolonged debate, a select committee produced an amended version. The new draft no longer mentioned the monarchy; it reflected the prevailing mood by evoking — in non-binding fashion — fundamental democratic principles, including universal and secret suffrage as well as full freedom of the press, assembly, and thought. The resolution also called for agrarian reform and for extending the political rights of the working class. The third clause of the resolution dealt with national minorities. It specified 'full freedom for all the co-inhabiting nationalities': 'All nationalities are entitled to be governed and educated in their mother tongue, and to be administered by people drawn from their ranks.'[35]35. The full text of the resolution is published in Clopoţel, Revoluţia, pp. 121-3; L. Mikó, Huszonkét év (Budapest, 1941), pp. 265-7. The Romanian leaders evidently had drawn a lesson from their experience as a minority, for, in this historic reversal of roles, they promised the Transylvanian Hungarians and Saxons broader rights than those enjoyed by Romanians in the Dualist state.

On 1 December 1918, the 1228 delegates assembled at Gyulafehérvár approved the plan for unification: 'Our distinctive institutions make necessary the provisional preservation of autonomy, but this does not alter the reality of unconditional union.'[36]36. Albani, Duăzeci, p. 236. They elected a Grand National Council of 200 members, including thirty social democrats as well as prominent intellectuals, wealthy burghers, and, ex officio, the bishops.

The resolution was made public at a mass meeting on the castle grounds, which were patrolled by national guards and Romanian troops. The crowd included peasants, who had come by special trains, by carts, and on foot, as well as a smaller number of industrial workers. Romanian legend has it that 100,000 people had assembled to listen with awed enthusiasm as the proclamation was read out.

{3-777.} On 2 December, the Grand National Council named a 15-member Governing Council (Consiliul Dirigent), including two social democrats, and sent a telegram as well as a delegation to Bucharest to solemnly transmit the resolution on union. The delegates — who included Francis Ferdinand's onetime confidential advisers, Miron Cristea and Vaida-Voevod — handed the resolution to King Ferdinand on December 24. Soon thereafter, the Romanian government passed the resolution into law: 'The territories covered in the resolution adopted by the meeting on 1 December 1918 at Gyulafehérvár are hereby irrevocably united with the Romanian kingdom.'[37]37. Decree 3631/1918, Monitorul Oficial, 13 December 1918. Predictably, the other terms of the resolution were ignored by Bucharest, which contented itself with leaving the Governing Council in charge of local administration; Vaida-Voevod, Goldiş, and Ştefan C. Pop received posts in the Romanian government.

By this act, the political union of Romanians was consummated. However, the form taken by unification provoked a deep division in the ranks of progressive Romanians. For a few years, middle class leftists were totally absorbed by the unexpected realization of their dreams of a Greater Romania. Right-wing social democrats expected that national unification would strengthen their party and serve to integrate the working class into Romanian political life. However, the party's left wing — which was marked by a growing estrangement between centrists and leftists — had always deplored the close cooperation between right-wing social democrats and nationalists. In December 1918, it founded an 'internationalist faction of Romanian socialists' and began to engage in political agitation among Romanian workers, in peripheral areas of the Great Plain, and also at Csepel, Tatabánya, and Pilisvörösvár. The left wingers convened a meeting of the 'internationalist Romanian socialists of Austria, Hungary, and Transylvania' on 31 December, at Budapest. The fifty-four delegates, who represented diverse factions, condemned the right-wing socialists for participating in the {3-778.} Governing Council. According to a newspaper report, the congress 'protested against the Gyulafehérvár resolution on union with the Romanian kingdom, for it was passed not by the authentic representatives of the people, but by a group of burghers from Arad. Hewing to the principle of national self-determination, the Romanian social democrats in Hungary and Transylvania request and demand that the Romanians of Hungary, Transylvania, and the Banat be granted independence and the right to establish an separate state. The congress resolved that this state should be established on the basis of a plebiscite among all the nationalities in these territories.'[38]38. Glasul Poporului, 2 February 1919.

The majority of the delegates later formed a communist group that would style itself 'the alliance of Romanian communists in Austria, Hungary, Transylvania, and the Banat.' Most of them refused to have anything to do with the national movement. For all their weaknesses, they would perpetuate the internationalist spirit that had emerged among Romanian and Hungarian prisoners of war in spring 1918, during the first few months of Soviet rule in Russia.

In order to combat the growing influence of the left wing among organized workers, the right wing of the Romanian social democrats held a counter-congress in January 1919 at Nagyszeben. Party members who had attended the left-wing congress at Budapest were barred from participating, an exclusion that affected most of the potential delegates from Budapest, Brassó, Arad, Temesvár, and Lugos. Even the delegates from Petrozsény were banned; although they had not participated in the Budapest meeting, their earlier behaviour had displeased the party leadership. The Nagyszeben congress ratified the foundation of the Social Democratic Party of Transylvania and the Banat. Although many local party organizations refused to recognize the new party's leadership, the political polarization of the Romanian working class in what had been Hungary was temporarily attenuated.

Hungarians and Germans constituted the majority of organized workers in Transylvania (broadly defined). For many or most of {3-779.} them, the historical goal was not union with Romania but the creation of a democratic and socialist society.