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Queuing for food

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Post 05 Mar 2012, 21:13
As a favourite point that anti-communists like to pick on, many people still belive that everyday of there lives a Russian, Chinese and a Cuban would queue hours for a piece of bread. I'm specifically on about the USSR here so my question is:
Did people queue hours on end for food like the west wants us to belive or is that some stupid propaganda tool?
Post 06 Mar 2012, 15:22
It is bullshit, at least except for Gorbachev era USSR and 1980s Romania and Poland. I live in Slovakia and I know from older relatives/other folks there were queues in Czechoslovakia, but not for bread. There were queues for some kinds of fruit, better quality meat, Vegeta (a spicy salty Yugoslav mixture used for flavoring food) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegeta_%28food%29 etc. but not bread lines, not after the 1950s. All basic foodstuffs were readily available in the shops and things that were queues for were (with some exceptions) not rationed, meaning that even if there was a queue, you were able to buy any amount you want (leading to people buying a lot of those things that there were queues for, this habit has remained in older people, my grandpa for example buys tons of juice). Rationing was abolished in 1952 so no, you would definitely not wait in a line for "a piece of bread". Even in those remote villages where people ocassionaly had to queue even for bread (and this is more a question of remoteness rather than socialism as I have a classmate from one of these villages that remembers staying a half a hour in front of the bakery - in 1999, 10 years after the fall of communism).

So, there were nearly no queues for basic goods in Czechoslovakia, plus people frequently had their lunch at school or work, and those were typically very caloric dishes, with a lot of butter, dumplings etc... Czechoslovakia had the 8th biggest amount of calories per capita in the world in 1988 http://elections.thinkaboutit.eu/wp-con ... efacts.gif (3564 Kilocalories per day) and had a significant obesity problem so no, we were definitely not starving. And if you look here http://earthtrends.wri.org/searchable_d ... _countries and select Czechoslovakia you can see that the daily intake was already above 3000 Kilocalories per day in 1960.

What was really a problem to get in Czechoslovakia under socialism was tropical fruit, like bananas, mandarines and oranges, which were usually available only on Christmas and the May Day (1st May). That was due to trade problems with the capitalist world.

Also, there are no queues in China, but there is a lot of poverty, because it is not actually a socialist country, but a capitalist country with a market economy. I was there last year for 18 days. There are shopping malls full of everything possible (like in the USA or present day capitalist Slovakia) - but also areas of utter poverty, misery, and destitution, and diseased beggars (also just like in America or present day capitalist Slovakia).
Post 06 Mar 2012, 17:52
Thank you for clearing this up, many people have no clue what happens and i evan have memories of my history teach saying how people queued for 5 hours for bread and other such nonsence. But the greastest shame is that the CCP has decended into greed and betreyed the very people that put them into power....
Post 06 Mar 2012, 18:21
The Mighty O wrote:
Thank you for clearing this up, many people have no clue what happens and i evan have memories of my history teach saying how people queued for 5 hours for bread and other such nonsence. But the greastest shame is that the CCP has decended into greed and betreyed the very people that put them into power....


CCP?
You mean the Chinese Communist Party or?
People queued 5 hours for bread, but in Gorbachevite USSR and in 1980s Romania and Poland, both of which had an unusually high debt and levels of economical mismanagement unthinkable anywhere else in the Eastern Bloc except perhaps Gorbachev era USSR. Plus, Caucescau was such an asshole that he exported Romanian food to pay for the debts he made by borrowing tons of money from the West and using it to build huge palaces and bullshit like that (by the way he didn't like the USSR and the USSR did not like him) It was not a thing typical of socialist countries.

Also, there were queues in Czechoslovakia for bicycles, trendy clothing etc... and it was very hard to get a color TV until the mid-1980s. But yes, the claim that people stood in a line for a piece of bread is absolute bullshit.
Post 06 Mar 2012, 19:05
oh my mistake Chinese Comunist Party.
Also i didn't know about the dire economic situation Poland was in, i thought it was pretty stable. Also thank you for bringing up Romania, Caucescau seems to be an utter arsehole for building a palace wile starving his population....
Also this may be a stupid question or just shows my naivety, but why didn't the USSR do something if they didn't like him and he was building palaces all over the place, surely thats not in the spirit of Socialism.
Loz
Post 06 Mar 2012, 19:30
It's also interesting to note that the USSR did away with rationing food years before the UK did after WW2 where it was ended only in 1953.

Quote:
Also this may be a stupid question or just shows my naivety, but why didn't the USSR do something if they didn't like him and he was building palaces all over the place, surely thats not in the spirit of Socialism.

The Soviet Union probably didn't want to,or couldn't, have another '56 or '68. Ceausesku knew his limits anyway, so Romania stayed in Warpac while leading some sort of more "independent" policies. In his later years he became singificantly influenced by Juche/Kimilsungism too.
Post 06 Mar 2012, 20:42
Neuron is correct. In the USSR queuing for basic goods like bread began in the Gorbachev period as a direct result of the destruction of the planning system. Another important point to remember is that most major cities had markets where one could purchase most 'exotic' or seasonal goods year round, though at a hugely inflated price of course. This was possible because marketeers and private gardeners from Central Asia would often take their in season fruits and vegetables and bring them to the frozen northern USSR in the wintertime.

Neuron wrote:
All basic foodstuffs were readily available in the shops and things that were queues for were (with some exceptions) not rationed, meaning that even if there was a queue, you were able to buy any amount you want (leading to people buying a lot of those things that there were queues for, this habit has remained in older people, my grandpa for example buys tons of juice).


This is a very important point. In the USSR it was exactly the same (although the USSR was always poorer). Real supply problems did exist, and poor infrastructure, insufficient and inefficient storage, and foreign trade limitations did all play their role in producing shortages, but so too did hoarding. People would buy things in quantities they absolutely did not need sometimes, just not to pass up a good deal or good quality item. So you'd have a shipment of fine silk scarves appear in the store and disappear really fast because everyone purchases five or six of them, one for themselves and the rest to be given away, sold or exchanged to family and friends later.

...

Mighty O, Romania's foreign policy was to be relatively independent of the Soviet Union from the 1960s when Ceausescu came to power, and was based in part on nationalism, in part on Ceausescu's desire to develop independently of the 'brotherly USSR' and in part on geopolitical calculations (i.e. that the USSR wouldn't respond so long as Ceausescu didn't do something drastic, like opt to leave the Warsaw Pact). In the 1970s, when OPEC countries made billions of petrodollars during the oil crisis and put them in Western banks, many third world countries, as well as the second world countries of Romania, Poland, Hungary, East Germany and Yugoslavia, borrowed vast amounts of money to try to finance the development of new economic development projects. In the early 1980s, when the money dried up and floating interest rates on the loans skyrocketed, many countries around the world faced bankruptcy. In Eastern Europe, Romania, Hungary and Poland were particularly hard hit. All three were pressured to join the IMF to sort out their debts. Hungary agreed to a long, drawn out payback strategy which saw them repaying the principle several times over and still heavily in debt to this day. Poland had its crisis with Solidarity, which was directly connected to the debt crisis, and had to resort to domestic economic austerity. Romania under Ceausescu chose the most radical option, exporting everything possible to pay back the money owed as quickly as possible, resulting in severe economic hardships at home. Interestingly enough, Romania was just about finished paying off the last of its foreign debts in 1989, when the regime was overthrown.
Post 06 Mar 2012, 20:46
Considering how bad Romania got, it's quite telling of their capitalist "restoration" that a majority in Romania feel they were still better off. Yikes
Post 06 Mar 2012, 20:56
soviet78 wrote:
Interestingly enough, Romania was just about finished paying off the last of its foreign debts in 1989, when the regime was overthrown.


Actually, the overthrow of the regime in Romania started after Romania already repaid its debt, and Ceausescu publicly said that austerity will continue because he wants to help "our black brothers in Africa". This, of course, resulted in a perfectly justified outburst of anger, as Romanians were starving yet their leader wanted to help Africans even if he was not feeding his own people. It also shows how batshit insane Ceausescu was, especially in his later years.
Post 06 Mar 2012, 21:18
runequester wrote:
Considering how bad Romania got, it's quite telling of their capitalist "restoration" that a majority in Romania feel they were still better off. Yikes


Well, the "6 hours lines" period began in 1980. Before that Romania was still the poorest country in the Eastern Bloc, but it wasn't exporting food and it wasn't starving. Also, I was there last year, and their countryside looks like Slovak countryside 100 years ago.
Post 06 Mar 2012, 22:24
Thanks for all the replies

Out of curiosity which Eastern Bloc country had the highest standard of living, and what kind of foods would be queued for??
Also was Romania the most autharitarien Eastern Bloc counrty, and would Russia care if Romaniain government killed alot of its people or would it turn a blind eye?
Post 06 Mar 2012, 22:36
The Mighty O wrote:
Thanks for all the replies

Out of curiosity which Eastern Bloc country had the highest standard of living, and what kind of foods would be queued for??
Also was Romania the most autharitarien Eastern Bloc counrty, and would Russia care if Romaniain government killed alot of its people or would it turn a blind eye?


Yugoslavia if you consider it Eastern Bloc. Otherwise, East Germany (German Democratic Republic). I think in the GDR the only queues were for some kinds of fruit, not sure through.
You have to keep in mind that most items in the Eastern Bloc were heavily subsidized, meaning even those items that there were queues for were very cheap.

And employment was both a right and a duty in most of the Eastern Bloc and the USSR, meaning nearly everybody got properly paid, unlike in capitalist countries.
Post 09 Mar 2012, 16:11
Any information about how bad things were in Albania with regards to food and other things necessary for living? Was it much worse than Romania was in the late 80's?
Post 09 Mar 2012, 17:49
Not really, from what I've read Albania in the 1980s was pretty much the same as Romania in the 1980s, probably even a tiny bit better, at least it did not export its food and had much less pollution.
Post 13 Mar 2012, 04:50
At my old job there was a regular customer that would always come in who was Romanian, I worked up enough courage to finally ask him about Ceausescu and he wouldn't shut up after that (in a good way). He said the first 6 or 7 years under Ceausescu in Socialist Romania things were looking very positive, and slowly prospering, and overall it was very functional. Then in the 70's and 80's everything completely turned for the worse. Ceaucescu was the absolute worst eastern bloc leader, and I wouldn't even call him a socialist. He was a nationalist reactionary nutjob imo. Queues and empty shelves became very, very prevalent during Gorby's times. The times of capitalism in the USSR. And before that, during the times of BUILDING the USSR during the revolutionary years and Stalin's years, however after the country was caught up (more or less) with the rest of the world the queues did not define soviety society, no.

Was very cringeworthy to hear this middle aged Russian man tell me "Gorbachev was a good man," Ugh...
Post 13 Mar 2012, 20:13
My history teacher once said that Gorbachev was a hero, who had bad luck... DERP!
Also thanks for the post, as a ponit of interest does he want soviet style socialism back or does he prefer capitalism?
Post 14 Mar 2012, 08:56
It is said, and I use to believe it at one point, that Gorbachev just wanted to "reform" communism as well as maintain it as the ruling power. However, this is absolutely not true. Gorbachev was no communist. He immediately instituted his reforms and has imperialist intent, he wanted the USSR to become a comprador state for the US. In some lecture at a pro-American institute in Turkey he outright admitted his "Abition was to liquidate Communism" and went on to say that his wife had supported him all the way (no wonder she was so popular among foreign dignitaries, and LOATHED by her own people) and that the fall of communism has been nothing but good things and that he predicts things to be better in 2000 LOL.

He ultimately blaims yeltsin for the disastrous results after the fall of communism. He believes Yelstin did not "know much about democracy" and stole the leadership out from under him, while that may be true, capitalism and the problems that came with it, were already prevalent in the still intact USSR under Perestroika and Glasnost.

http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/r ... orbach.htm
Post 14 Mar 2012, 09:40
The Mighty O wrote:
My history teacher once said that Gorbachev was a hero, who had bad luck... DERP!
Also thanks for the post, as a ponit of interest does he want soviet style socialism back or does he prefer capitalism?



Oh boy I just re-read your post and realized I read through it too fast, allow me to borrow a word from you, DERP!

Are you referring to the man that said Gorbachev was a good man, or the man who liked the first few years of Ceausescu's Romania? This man was rather complex, as he had a German eagle tatooed on his neck, and had a lot to say about Gypsies, Jews, and Black people. I of course ignored this for I was only interested in him as a citizen of a socialist country. To me, he was a primary source to a section of history that I can't learn enough about. However despite his rather "eccentric" views in regards to fascism/nationalism, he talked about how all the eastern bloc countries nowadays are in "absolute shit" which indicated he saw more good in these countries as socialist than he does now, as they are degenerative capitalist countries.

This just further added to his complexity. He seemed to speak very positively of the overall socialist bloc, even at times about Ceausescu himself, even after he was quick to say things were hard in the later years, yet now things in Romania are in shambles. However, don't get me wrong, he did not praise these countries, but he did recognize the sense of selflessness that they promoted, under collective society, and the feeling of community. The fact you could travel by train from Uzbek SSR to the Ukrainian SSR and although you're an uzbek, and the people you visited were ukrainians, you were all SOVIETS.

Yet then he would preach nationalism to me, and even asked me "are you jewish?" and when I told him no, he replied, "Good."

Let's just say, as interesting as he is, he made me a bit uncomfortable.
Post 14 Mar 2012, 16:37
Unfortunately, a lot of people think "Socialism has fallen, capitalism is crap... maybe national socialism will save us!".
Plus, Romania is not Slavic so they didn't have such a horrid experience under Nazis/fascists during WW2.
Post 14 Mar 2012, 19:31
Neuron wrote:
Unfortunately, a lot of people think "Socialism has fallen, capitalism is crap... maybe national socialism will save us!".
Plus, Romania is not Slavic so they didn't have such a horrid experience under Nazis/fascists during WW2.



in fact they were sided with the Nazi's until the basically the last minute, correct? What they don't teach at all in history was that many of the socialist bloc states, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania, were strong fascist allies. They needed liberation, imo. They were enemy states, how could they not be fought against??? But in school it is taught as a communist takeover. Never mind the fact they were fascist allies assisting the Nazis in their doings.

And yes it is pretty sad. Nationalist sentiment always rises much faster and is easier for people to succumb to after some sort of catastrophe..
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