One man’s pity is another man’s pride. Still, it is hard to accept that Vladimir Voronin, the new president of Moldova, was bragging when he said: “Moldova has become a second Cuba, the Cuba of Europe.”

Voronin, a pale shadow of revolutionaries past, stole this slogan from the first secretary of the communist party of Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani was one of about 400 foreign delegates from some twenty countries at a congress of Moldova’s Party of Communists, convened to celebrate the party’s triumph in February’s elections. That vote gave the Communists seventy of 101 seats in the legislature, which then chose Voronin to be chief executive.

The visitors must have come to squalid Chisinau (the former Kishinev) by time machine. Moldova, they said, is “resisting American imperialism” and “resisting capitalist encirclement… with the help of world progressive forces.” The progressive forces come from the world’s most progressive countries: Azerbaijan, of course, and also North Korea, Vietnam, Serbia, China and Cuba itself.

But the star of the show was Gennady Zyuganov, head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. His keynote address expressed the fervent hope that “victory in Moldova marks a starting point toward bringing the Soviet republics together again.”

Vladimir Lenin, who on April 22 turned a pink-cheeked 131 in his Red Square mausoleum, must have delighted at this creepy celebration of his birthday. His heroic portrait hung above the podium, and many a speaker, though long of tooth and plump of paunch, raised the clenched fist to slogans like “Lenin is alive, the leader of the world’s proletariat” and “We will carry out the orders of Ilich.”

Easy to laugh. But these are real people whose policies cause real despair. Moldova today is the poorest country in Europe, a leading source of supply for buyers of human kidneys and corneas. A second Cuba indeed.