Russian Communism: Leninism and Stalinizm is what?
The specter is haunting Europe the specter of communism So what is this specter called communism and how haunting is it really? The Webster s Dictionary says that communism is a system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party. Karl Marx says that communism is abolition of private property. Others say it is equal division of unequal earnings or it is an opiate of the intellectuals. Even some go so far as to proclaim that communism is a state form of Christianity. The bottom line is communism is one-third practice and two-thirds explanation of a failed experiment, as the authors of Twelve Chairs, E. Ilf and I. Petrov, define it. The underlying theme of Twelve Chairs is to define the Russian communism. The authors, though their two protagonists, Ostap Bender and Ippolit Vorobyaninov, use satire and slight exaggeration to ridicule the idiocy and flaws of Soviet social structure in a funny yet touching, melancholy way.
The search for bejeweled chairs takes Bender and Vorobyaninov from the provinces of Moscow to the wilds of Soviet Georgia and the Trans-Caucasus Mountanins. Ostap Bender is an unemployed con artist living by his wits in post revolutionary Soviet Russia. He joins forces with Ippolit Vorobyaninov, a former nobleman who has returned to his hometown to find a cache of missing jewels, which were hidden by his mother in one of the twelve chairs. The Soviet authorities had confiscated these chairs, as well as all of Vorobyaninov s possessions including his mansion. Not only does the search for bejeweled chairs serves as a plot device for the novel, it also contributes to ridiculing the Soviet system.
On their long and thrilling expedition, Bender and Vorobyaninov satirically inspect progress and success of the Soviet Communism; they come to conclusion, not surprisingly, that there is no success (success of the Soviet Communism) because there was not progress to begin with. Communism, as the novel points out, is inequality, but not as property is. Property is exploitation of the weak by the strong, communism is exploitation of the strong by the weak. How can the weak abuse the strong? Sounds absurd doesn t it? Yet it is the actuality of the Soviet Communism.
One of the main points of Soviet propaganda was to get rid of all the wealthy, that is educated upper-middle class, and let the illiterate lower-middle class rule in a classless society. How could such thing be possible? How could people who do not know how to rule be in charge? How could the last be first and the first be last? That is the absurdity of Soviet apparatus, for it goes against the human nature. Because the light at the end of the tunnel was to achieve classless society, everyone must be of one class, that is class of the proletariat. Consequently, everyone must be equal. Everyone must live in the same communal apartments, everyone must wear the same type of clothing, everyone must have the same political idea (idea of communism), and everyone must receive the same amount of money for his/her services to the country. And that is, as Bender points out in a dialogue with a Moscow worker, the absurdity of the communist program. They [communists] went from bad to worse, Bender concludes (78). The implication of that sentence is that Lenin got rid off all the wealthy (those who were in charge in Czarist Russia) and filled the vacuum with the proletariat. Thus all workers became, theoretically and practically, in charge of their factories or mills. And what happens when everyone is in charge thus forming a classless society? The answer is simple. Communism or its synonym nonsense. Furthermore, how can everyone receive the same amount of money for different types of services; how can everyone get paid the same? It s the senselessness of Soviet Communism, as the book points out. In turn, the equality of wages created pandemic laziness and slackness in Soviet Union. For instance, imagine yourself an engineer in a factory and imagine your friend, Joe Smith, a simple worker in that same factory. Although you worked considerably harder and longer to get you Ph.D. in engineering and Joe Smith didn t, for he is a simple worker, both of your salaries are about the same. Soon, you will start asking yourself one plain question: how come I work three times harder, both mentally and physically, then Joe Smith yet our paychecks are alike? And little by little you will conclude that the most fair and equal way to solve this inextricable question, is for you to slow down and not work as hard as you used to. That s how, as the book alludes, inactivity and laziness begin to burgeon in Soviet social Communism.
The authors do an exceptionally good job in mocking the social Communism of major industrial cities of Russia. Because any of Russia s big cities are identical to one another, the book doesn t even bother giving real names to the cities. Instead, the book names them all by one name urban city N. The authors uneasy task of mockery starts with railroad depots, for the depots are the gates of the city. In urban city N, the depots are alike in size and architecture. However, there is one major difference its clock towers. Western Depot clock s shows 10:05 a.m.; Eastern Depot s, 10:00 a.m.; and Southern Depot s, 9:45 a.m. Such modernization is only good if you re late for a date, as Vorobyaninov remarks, you always have ten minutes in reserve. As Bender and Vorobyaninov perambulate through the urban city N, they notice that there are a lot of barber shops, public baths and funeral homes, as if the inhabitants of this city are born only to wash their body, cut their hair, and die. The absurdity of it all is that after the Revolution all private business were outlawed with the exception of barber shops, public baths, and funeral homes.
Towards the end of the book, Vorobyaninov, being a former nobleman and amateur mathematician, proposes to solve the greatest puzzle of the century (144). He asks Bender about the difference between mathematics and communism? In mathematics, as Vorobyaninov explains, something is given and something needs to be proved; in communism everything is proven and nothing is given. The Soviet communist party, through its effective use of propaganda, proved or guaranteed everything yet gave nothing. The Party proved that soon, Soviet Union will step into the last and final stage of communism the classless society of proletariat; the Party proved that soon everyone in Russia will be equal and happy; the Party proved that soon it will eliminate poverty, crime, and unemployment; the Party proved that soon there would be no need for law enforcement because everyone will soon be equal and happy there would be no need and desire to steel or disobey.
In truth, this is the existence of Soviet Communism and it s aftermath. In Communism, everybody is employed. Although everybody is employed, nobody does anything. Although nobody does anything, the Plan (meaning Stalin s five-year production plans) is always fulfilled to 100%, sometimes even to 120%. Although the Plan is always fulfilled to 100%, nothing is ever available in the stores. Although nothing is ever available for purchase, everyone eventually finds everything he/she needs. Although everyone eventually finds what he/she needs, everybody ends up stealing. Although everybody ends up being a thief, nothing is ever found missing. That s the reality of the Soviet communism. The main theme of the book is the defining of communism in a way that anyone could understand. Communism, as the book defines it, is laughter through tears. It is gloom and heartbreaking, yet it is so irrational and absurd that it makes you laugh.
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