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Privileged treatment

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Soviet cogitations: 53
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 22 Sep 2008, 16:08
Post 26 Sep 2008, 12:52
I'd like to pick up the ball played here and open a new topic. As I am no expert on The People's Republic of China I can hardly comment on the question whether the PRC is overwhelmingly socialist or capitalist, as the country itself runs the program "one country, two systems" and seemingly faces difficulties itself, regarding how to define itself.

But I think I can contribute to answering the question at hand, which is "privileged treatment" of the nomenklatura (which often should rather be addressed being the "red aristocracy"), be it in the PRC, the USSR or any other country, being (or claiming to be)socialist.

Again, not being an expert on the PRC I do know that shops - called "friendship stores" - existed (probably still exist) in the PRC. They (used to) sell western goods and products to foreigners, used to be (to some extend) barred for locals and accepted valuta only. But I think it's safe to say that the nomenklatura did shop there.

I am a little more informed regarding the equivalent in the USSR. So let's talk about this.

Besides the sources freely accessible to citizens of the USSR a variety of "limited sources" existed parallely which weren't freely accessible - at least weren't supposed to be.

Basically we can differ three different "sources" which existed for privileged customers.

a) The "военторг", the abbreviation of "военная торговля", which (roughly) translates to "military trading organisation". This oranisation ran (and still runs today) shops for military personnel. These shops were (supposed to be) limited to members of the armed forces and actually sold everything you wanted to buy and could pay for. Particulary in former East Germany the "магазин" (shop) sold everything the soldiers were used to buy back home. The East Germans particulary liked these shops, althought they weren't actually permitted to shop there but were tolerated, because the people running the shop didn't really care what they sold to whom. So they didn't mind selling alcohol and cigarettes to local youngsters who wouldn't have been able to purchase these items in East German stores. The shops accepted Soviet and East German currency, as well es vouchers, and had the reputation to sell "under the counter" stuff you couldn't buy elsewhere.

So, if you were able to pay in valuta you could buy anything, which made the shops interesting for higher ranked officers and officials.

b) "Берёзка", which translates to "little birch tree", a shop designed for foreigners in the USSR - and for people who received part of their paycheck in valuta (which is an interesting topic of it's own). The shop sold western products and goods to people able to pay with "hard currency" but there were ... errmmm ... gentlemen supervising these stores, leading to the fact that Soviet citizens often faced the problem of having to explain how they managed to obtain this "hard currency". Of course not every "citizen" was questioned, so the nomenklatura shopped there as well.

"Берёзка" had a predecessor dating back to the 1930s, again a topic of it's own.

c) "распределитель" (translates to "the distributor") is probably the nearest to the topic in the PRC section.

This shop was strictly limited to top brass military, the top nomenklatura and the politbureau - as well as their entourage. I don't think that there's much imagination needed to guess what was sold - rater "distributed" - there.

Another interesting topic would be how the products "distributed" made their way to the USSR and who took care of they "ways and means" to obtain them. But I think this post is quite long already
The life of a revolutionary would be quite impossible without a certain amount of "fatalism."
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Soviet cogitations: 4458
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 26 Sep 2008, 15:30
Interesting topic. You could also add to the list the special stores available to workers of certain factories and industrial plants, like those of the 'model' Leninsky Auto plant in Moscow, and the fact that in the late 1970s and 1980s there were experiments among factory directors in hiring people to serve as 'professional shoppers' for goods that workers might be seeking (ie those hard to get).

The issue of privileged treatment in countries that call themselves socialist is serious, and one of the most often cited critiques of socialism which our opponents use. On the one hand it must be acknowledged that certain officials, including the General Secretary and his ministers, must be provided with the necessities and amenities of life, so as to be able to focus on their work. On the other it is true that something must have been fundamentally wrong when a culture of hierarchy and corruption could exist and provide for such unequal treatment of citizens in a socialist country. It should be noted too that this culture was in existence from the very first days of the Soviet order (so as not to blame it on any period or individual, whether it be Stalin, Khrushchev or Brezhnev). As for dealing with it, there were long-term solutions available, among them a thorough and truly rigorous review, in public view through media (newspapers and television) of perceived in justices and the subsequent taking away of certain permissions. Along with that would be necessary a reduction in the amount of currency available within the system, because among the fundamental economic problems of the Soviet regime was the overabundance of money and the lack of actual goods to buy, which resulted in people buying up all the stock very quickly when it became available, and in larger quantities than they needed, so as to barter them for other goods later on. Of course these two initiatives would be extremely unpopular, the first among the nomenklatura and the latter among the general population, but if done over the long term and in the spirit of the socialist ideal they would have the effect of nearly eliminating this disgusting and embaressing practice of privaleged treatment.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
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Soviet cogitations: 271
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Feb 2008, 04:00
Ideology: Other Leftist
Post 26 Sep 2008, 20:37
I think stuff like Berezka is exactly what caused the downfall of the USSR. The fact that Soviet people weren't allowed to shop there and it was a total tease. Whether they were "supposed" to desire those things is a moot point, the did and they saw that as the good life, a life denied to them.
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