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Laughing at the Contradictions of Socialism in America

Old Soviet-era jokes have become disturbingly applicable to the U.S.

by
Oleg Atbashian

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March 5, 2009 - 12:35 am
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There was a time in recent American history when certain Soviet jokes didn’t work in translation — not so much because of the language differences, but because of the lack of common sociopolitical context. But that is changing. As President Obama is preparing us for a great leap towards collectivism, I find myself recollecting forgotten political jokes I shared with comrades while living in the old country under Brezhnev, Andropov, and Gorbachev. (I was too young to remember the Khrushchev times, but I still remember the Khrushchev jokes.) I also noticed that the further America “advances” back to the Soviet model, the more translatable the old Soviet jokes become. Not all Soviet advancements have metastasized here yet, but we have four more glorious years to make it happen.

One of my favorite political jokes is this:

The six dialectical contradictions of socialism in the USSR:

  • There is full employment — yet no one is working.
  • No one is working — yet the factory quotas are fulfilled.
  • The factory quotas are fulfilled — yet the stores have nothing to sell.
  • The stores have nothing to sell — yet people got all the stuff at home.
  • People got all the stuff at home — yet everyone is complaining.
  • Everyone is complaining — yet the voting is always unanimous.

It reads like a poem — only instead of the rhythm of syllables and rhyming sounds, it’s the rhythm of logic and rhyming meanings. If I could replicate it, I might start a whole new genre of “contradictory six-liners.” It would be extremely difficult to keep it real and funny at the same time, but I’ll try anyway.

Dialectical contradictions are one of the pillars in Marxist philosophy, which states that contradictions eventually lead to a unity of opposites as the result of a struggle. This gave a convenient “scientific” excuse for the existence of contradictions in a socialist society, where opposites were nice and agreeable — unlike the wild and crazy opposites of capitalism that could never be reconciled. Hence the joke.

Then I moved to America, where wild and crazy opposites of capitalism were supposedly at their worst. Until recently, however, the only contradictions that struck me as irreconcilable were these:

Economic justice:

  • America is capitalist and greedy — yet half of the population is subsidized.
  • Half of the population is subsidized — yet they think they are victims.
  • They think they are victims — yet their representatives run the government.
  • Their representatives run the government — yet the poor keep getting poorer.
  • The poor keep getting poorer — yet they have things that people in other countries only dream about.
  • They have things that people in other countries only dream about — yet they want America to be more like those other countries.

Hollywood cliches:

  • Without capitalism there’d be no Hollywood — yet filmmakers hate capitalism.
  • Filmmakers hate capitalism — yet they sue for unauthorized copying of their movies.
  • They sue for unauthorized copying — yet on screen they teach us to share.
  • On screen they teach us to share — yet they keep their millions to themselves.
  • They keep their millions to themselves — yet they revel in stories of American misery and depravity.
  • They revel in stories of American misery and depravity — yet they blame the resulting anti-American sentiment on conservatism.
  • They blame the anti-American sentiment on conservatism — yet conservatism ensures the continuation of a system that makes Hollywood possible.

I never thought I would see socialist contradictions in America, let alone write about them. But somehow all attempts to organize life according to “progressive” principles always result in such contradictions. And in the areas where “progressives” have assumed positions of leadership — education, news media, or the entertainment industry — contradictions become “historically inevitable.”

If one were accidentally to open his eyes and compare the “progressive” narrative with facts on the ground, one might start asking questions. Why, for instance, if the war on terror breeds more terrorists, haven’t there been attacks on the U.S. soil since 2001? Why, if George W. Bush had removed our freedom of speech, was nobody ever arrested for saying anything? And if Obama has returned us our freedoms, why was a man harassed by police in Oklahoma for having an anti-Obama sign in his car? Why would anyone who supports free speech want to silence talk radio? And why is silencing the opposition called the “Fairness Doctrine”?

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