Tuesday, 16 June 2009

57 varieties of hell

I still meet Marxists – there are plenty of them about, alas.

And useful idiots who buy some of the prejudices. There’s a draught beer called something like ‘Revolution’ or ‘Revolutionary,’ and I refused the offer of a taster from the very nice lad who’s probably the world’s best barman, saying I couldn’t drink from a pump with the picture of a mass murderer (Che Guevara) on it. He asked me with characteristic charm didn’t I like Cubans.

I know, I know. I explained that I liked Cubans just fine, and that Guevara was an Argentine and Castro’s executioner which nonplussed the lad. Oh, well. However, there was that familiar surly killer’s face on an English beer pump.


And then it reminded me of a thought I’d had when the Iron Curtain came down thanks to President Reagan, Mrs. Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, Helmut Kohl, Lech Walesa and many, many millions of free people and many more of freedom’s martyrs.

You have to keep kicking the Marxists – they only sometimes learn, and the kicking keeps us fit.

They own the academy and broadcasting, and much of social services and child law and protection, and they are utterly unrepentant about the harm they’ve done and continue to do.

And sometimes they come back.

In all its brutal, bloody years of existence what did the Soviet Union ever produce to make people happy?

What piece of purely original Soviet design or consumer product exists now or has ever existed as a household name as something that improved peoples’ lives – a little, or a lot?

I don’t mean recycled ideas and art from all the rest of the world – revived Greek sports in the Olympic Games or lavishly-staged classical music, ballet and drama; financed by underpaying and over-taxing the masses to keep the nomenklatura in luxury and Communist prestige high. I don’t mean prestige science project like the useless Sputnik or its deadly descendants or the suffocating tomb of Laika.

What was that elusive, but globally-known and much-loved Soviet thing?

It wasn’t two internationally-known brands of cola, or very many cheap and sometimes acceptable knock-offs; nor a cartoon mouse; nor a cartoon duck; nor another cartoon duck and a rabbit and a pig and another mouse and a coyote and a flightless bird and a cat and a mouse and a cat and a canary; it wasn’t the original teddy-bear or charming children’s stories about a silly old bear, or about a Peruvian bear, or a distinctively middle-class English bear, or a smarter-than-the average-bear. It wasn’t any kind of cheap, mass-produced car that made millions free and mobile and their lives more convenient and that made spare time freer and happier; nor its German or French, Italian or Japanese, South Korean or British, Spanish or even Swedish counterparts; nor was it medicine for children’s sore throats or teething or disposable nappies or automatic washing-machines for the plentiful reusable ones or vacuum cleaners; nor was it many brands of cosmetics or toiletries or domestic cleaners.

The Soviet good life wasn’t made world- famous by cheap computers or cameras or video-players or DVDs or personal stereos or hi-fis; nor were we made one jot happier by cheerful paperback love stories by the bucket load, or westerns or crime thrillers or brick-sized horror novels or supernatural romance; no-one’s Saturday morning lie-ins were saved by Soviet cartoon series or animal adventures or swop-shops or cowardly dogs chased by smugglers dressed as zombies.

Nobody chuckled the 1970s Recession nights away watching frustrated Soviet bachelors failing to seduce with their inaccessibly cute flat mates or Russian chancer-businessmen barely avoiding bankruptcy, invisible harridan wives and plodding police investigators, or back-to-the-land suburbanites or Ukrainian taxi drivers or Uzbek publicans hopelessly wooing their impossibly pretty and much smarter barmaids.

One dreary, enigmatic Soviet science-fiction film played against scores – hundreds – of space operas of varying quality and intelligence and a few truly original and interesting tales of time travel and inter-dimensional Illumination on large screen and small…and more than a few so-bad-they’re-funny utter howlers. No generation of kids ever dreamed of being secret KGB agents in their spare time and school holidays or imagined themselves setting out to rescue the trapped crews of sunken submarines or plummeting airliners from their secret bases in the Aral Sea or under mountains in the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, and they were never encouraged into fantasies of evolving into peace-loving supermen whilst outsmarting alien invaders under Moscow’s polluted street.

Did you ever dance happily all night long to Soviet soul classics that segued into a Dialectical Materialist disco medley and then on into a last-orders set of Siberian party-time-sing-along classics? Me neither. And the good vodka was from Warrington.

Peace and freedom? Don’t make me laugh.

No. For all those high hopes upheld by massive lies in West and East alike – then and now - and for all its drifts and trenches and fields of slaughtered bodies; in all its miserable and harmful sixty-nine corpse-haunted years of existence, the Soviet produced on - just one – piece of original design that was manufactured in the millions.

We all recognize it immediately, and it’s still fulfilling the sole task that its creators intended it for even today.

It’s still in the wrong hands and killing innocent people all over the world.

Viva Che.


Goodnight Vienna said...


Richard Dale said...

There is also Tetris.

Perhaps not a great legacy for 70-odd years: the weapon that has killed more people than any other and a really fun, simple computer game.

James Higham said...

I've used one of them.

North Northwester said...

Thank you Goodnight Vienna.
I live to serve.

Richard, James: geeks are always welcome here, nobody would ever say otherwise about my toleration for tech-heads. Why some of my best friends are geeks, but...Tetris? I mean, really?

Internationally known by people who occasionally go out on Saturday nights, is what I meant.

But let's try the Soviet happiness test if we must.

Solitary old Tetris plays...

Space Invaders, Asteroids, Missile Command, Supermario Brothers, PacMan,Donkey Kong, and I hear they've got even better since I got my driving licence...

And, well, these....

North Northwester said...

Or James, did you mean you've used an AK47?
If so, I am not worthy.


WomanHonorThyself said...

what a hideous regime they ran indeed..great piece again!!:)

North Northwester said...

WomanHonorThyself :
Why, thank you ma'am.
I will be taking liberties about the current President, tomorrow, alas.

Don't want to, but I'm a tad disappointed.
But after the likes of G Washington, John Q Adams, A Lincoln, T Roosevelt and R Reagan disappointment, it seems, comes as standard.

You might wish to avert your eyes...

Oh, Sarah...

Stan said...

It's certainly a household name, but it's not a truly original piece of Soviet design being, more or less, a rip off of the Nazi Stg44 assault rifle adapted for ease of maintenance (the Germans always did have a tendency to overengineer everything) and cheapness of mass production.

Like James Higham, I've fired one of those (back in the good old days) and was singularly unimpressed. It kicks and bucks like a mule and wasn't terribly accurate - but it does pack a hell of a punch when it hits anything. Given the option, though, I'd still pick the L1A1 over any other assault rifle.

North Northwester said...

Stan - well, it doesn't surprise me if it's a rip-ff. Concordski, the Soviet shuttle et al.

So it's back down to Tetris, then.
Not much for 25 - 35 million lives.

Anonymous said...

I ventured into the Soviet Union and found in Stolychnya a very fine vodka, especially the brown.
The muck they promote here under that name these days is a disgrace not worthy of being the Co Op own brand.

North Northwester said...

Welcome Anonymous, and thanks or your comment.

I have of late become a quaffer, if not a connoisseur, of vodkas.
But correct me if I'm wrong in that Stolly's a hold-over from Tsarist days?


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