Soviet Russia: More Goods, More Problems

Soviet Russia: More Goods, More Problems

0ne evening last year I waited on a downtown Moscow streetcorner to meet a friend. It was after 9:00 P.M. and a bitter November wind made me take refuge behind a huge canvas portrait of Lenin, erected for the annual celebration of the revolution. The only other person in sight was a Soviet policeman on his beat, assigned to guard the Lenin portrait. In a plush grey and red uniform, this Soviet big-city cop might have stepped out of a propaganda poster featuring youthful builders of Communism.

I struck up a conversation. He asked where life was better—in the United States or the Soviet Union. I replied that the standard of living of most Americans was vastly higher than it is in the Soviet Union. He knew all about America, he said, because he listened to the Voice of America, but he doubted that life there could be much more
prosperous than in the U.S.S.R. His own life had seen unimaginable material improvements. Born in 1955 in a village, he had gone directly from secondary school into the army (a common fate for those who do not go on to higher education), and from the army he had been recruited into the Moscow militia, a job native Moscovites generally disdain. Now he earned an adequate living, and even dreamed of owning an automobile. He insisted that our countries must be very much alike: everywhere one could find both rich and poor.

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