The first chapter of The Case of Comrade Tulayev had me less focused on the plot… the random murder of a high ranking party official in an unavoidably failing fear-based society not too long after a revolution of hope and change…and more on certain details of the backdrop Mr. Serge used to set the story. Yea, I suspect that was the point all along…
(For your convenience, I will periodically update the language while quoting the book to clarify the modern American meaning of the reference.)
Redistribution: The Practice of Hurting Those You Claim to Want to Help.
We meet the first set of characters by jumping into that socialist machine with a bureaucratic dream and a program Comrade Pelosi would be proud of:
“[He] immersed himself in his calculations. And after a time it appeared that a 5 per cent increase in the basic wage published by the Central Committee, combined with the reclassifications whereby certain workers in Category 11 were transferred to Category 10, and certain workers in Category 10 to Category 9, thus improving the condition of the lowest wage groups (as not only justice but also the directive of the Council of Syndicates demanded), resulted in a 0.5 percent reduction in the total wage budget if the regulations were applied with the utmost strictness.” (pg. 5)
Unrealistic assumptions, convoluted math, feeling like you need a bath after reading such garbage…yes, that has the CBO written all over it. Here we also see the beauty of centralized control and the heartless manipulations of the workers, or cattle, or oven mitts, or whatever department our highly skilled political appointee finds himself bungling that day. I can hear it now: “Sir, this year’s budgetary restrictions on outlays for white, republican males has resulted in your reclassification from Category 10 to Category 2. Our next opening for a Category 2 broken leg is the 26th of August, next year. See you then…”
Our bureaucrat then turns to the day’s news:
“…the leading article in the paper, which always announced, in the same tone of authority, that the country was progressing, was making rapid strides, that there had never been anything to compare with it, that despite all opposition history was being made for the glory of the Republic, the happiness of the working masses, witness the 210 [green] factories opened during the year, the brilliant success in creating a [surge in domestic oil production], and . . .” (pg. 6)
Of course, even the most brain dead, government-compensation-package addicted bureaucrat knows the truth:
“’But I…am squeezing the poor.’ … the papers lied.” (pg. 6)
The Timeless Economics of Hope and Change
Once again, socialism had failed. And, as usual, the machine refused to recognize the failure and went to great lengths to lie to itself and the entire society to keep the failure “under wraps”…no matter how obvious it was to all. As with current times, appearances and headlines, even when wholly fictional, ruled Tulayev’s society:
“The shelves in the shops were full of boxes, but, to avoid any misunderstanding, the clerks had put labels on them: Empty Boxes. Nevertheless, graphs showed the rising curve of weekly sales.” (pg. 10)
If only they had the always smiling optimism of a cable financial network pumped into their heads 24/7. Yes, there was always an apparent nugget somewhere in the economic swamp. Thankfully, the state media always assisted the Chief Pumper:
“…he read the paper carefully. The face of the [President] filled a third of the front page, as it did two or three times a week, surrounded by a seven-column speech: Our Economic Success … wages, as a result of [benevolent government stimulus], show a rise of 12 percent over the past year…” (pg. 12)
Of course, the positive economic trend was always a result of the leading hand of government, never in spite of it. (How much would such indicators have changed if not artificially “stimulated” my government intervention?) Somehow, the daily spin was always positive but things never really got any better. In fact, they got worse. Over time, more and more of those without fading “Occupy”-something bumper stickers and T-shirts began to see the game. Those opposed to the game became targets:
“…[he] could not believe his senses, he turned a sharp eye on the 12 percent increase in wages. This increase in nominal wages was accompanied by a reduction at least three times as great in real wages, as a result of the depreciation of paper money, and the rise in prices. . . . But in this connection the [President]…made a mocking allusion to the dishonest [opposition “waving tea bags around”], who would receive exemplary punishment.” (pg. 13)
No doubt the IRS equivalent was on the way. Although published not long after WW II, Serge clearly knew Obama’s America…and what it must, if left unchecked, lead to.
And just this week we learned the depreciation will continue. Yesterday I heard a financial network talking-head laugh off the current situation because “this isn’t 2008/9, when the economy was REALLY in trouble.” As if a future hard landing…likely much harder than anything could have been in 2008…isn’t already baked into our future. Rest assured, this isn’t going to end well.
As for us, we will die or not, as God pleases
From this morning’s review of the news:
“Every socialist country comes to the same end: it can no longer produce its own toilet paper” (1)
Embarrassingly funny stuff when it’s someone else…yet, look at the path we chose to take. Because this is ultimately deadly serious, I’ll set aside all snarkiness for a final, extended, very excellent passage:
“What will people do now? First they took the best horses for the collective, then the township cooperative refused to furnish fodder for the ones the peasants had been left or refused to give up. Anyway, there wasn’t any more fodder because the army requisitioned the last of it. The old people, who remembered the last famine, fed them roof thatch – imagine what fodder that makes for the poor beasts after it’s been out under rain and sun for years! Cholera! It made you weep to see them, with their sad eyes and their tongues hanging out and their ribs sticking through their sides – I swear they really came through the hide! – and their swollen joints and little boils all over their bellies and their back full if pus and blood and worms eating right into the raw flesh – the poor creatures were rotting alive – we had to put bands under their bellies to hold them up at night or they’d never have been able to get back up on their legs in the morning. We let them wander around the yards and they licked the fence palings and chewed the ground to find a scrap of grass. Where I come from, horses are more precious than children. There are always too many children to feed, they come when nobody wants them…But there are never enough horses to do the farm work with. With a horse, your children can grow up; without a horse a man is not a man any more, is he? No more home – nothing but hunger, nothing but death. . . .Well, the horses were done for – there was no way out. … Finally my father…said ‘There’s nothing to be done. We’ll have to kill them. Then they won’t suffer any more. There’s always the leather. As for us, we will die or not, as God pleases.’ … My old man got up slowly. ‘I’ll do it,’ says he. He took the ax from under the bench. My mother threw herself on him: ‘Nikon Nikonich, pity . . .’ He looked as if he needed pity himself. . . . ‘Silence, woman,’ says he. ‘You, girl, come and hold a light for us.’ I brought the lamp. The stable was against the house; when the mare moved at night we heard her. It was comforting. She saw us come in with the light, and she looked at us sadly, like a sick man, there were tears in her eyes. She hardly turned her head because her strength was nearly gone. Father kept the ax hidden, because the mare would surely have known. Father went up to her and patted her cheeks. ‘You’re a good mare, Brownie. It’s not my fault if you have suffered. May God forgive me - -‘ Before the words were out of his mouth Brownie’s skull was split open. ‘Clean the ax,’ Father said to me. ‘Now we have nothing.’” (pgs. 9-10) [Emphasis Added]
The long and painful demises of a civilized people begins long before they take a merciful ax to their own lifeline. Not all see it at the time but, once they are separated from their liberty, the demise is sure to come. As they pondered the fate of their sick horses…and their children…do you suppose these families realized that this organized famine had probably been a barely noticed detail during back room deal making by calculating politicos playing mid-term electoral seat-counting games? What’s a little suffering among the Country Class as long as the Ruling Class maintained their prime seat at the insider trading bonanza? (2) Besides, a marginal victory at the polls allowed them to add a slightly reddish hue to the implementation of a new socialist health care system. At least no one had to do anything bold and no one got blamed for disrupting the party by trying to fix the broken system before it came time for the ax:
My kingdom for a dozen clones of Senator Ted Cruz!
Anyway, so far a very good book.
Proud Redstate Member since April 2006…?
Previously in this series:
Volume 2 – Truth Has No Place in the Kind of Tyranny the Republic Has Become