1960s >> 1962 >> no-696-august-1962

Inequalities in Russia

A member who has recently visited Russia sends us his interesting observations. Ed. Com.

The July Socialist Standard quoted John Mossman of the Daily Mail as saying that whereas Russian women street cleaners get about 12 a month, space and atomic scientists bring home more than 20,000 a year. These are only “dry statistics,” our local Communists will try and explain them away . . . All animals are equal, only some are more equal than others!

But to an observer—particularly a Socialist one—even with just one open, it shows that class divisions are rapidly developing in the Soviet Union.

A few weeks ago I returned from Russia; and it was the wide difference of dress between the poorest and the more affluent that struck me. For example, in Leningrad one sees many elderly women street cleaners, poorly dressed and shuffling along the gutters with their brooms. It is not a particularly happy sight; and is in complete contrast to the well-dressed officials, diplomats and “important” people that one meets in the Astoria hotel or on board the M.S. Michael Kalinin, a Soviet luxury liner. Most of these “important” people travel first class, dress well, carry expensive ciné cameras and do not have to worry if there is a shortage of butter or meat (which there is at the moment in the Soviet Union), or if prices rise.

It is obvious to the observer in Russia that there is a growing gulf between the average worker and the emergent bourgeoisie; the one looks shabby and drab, and travels by bus, trolleybus or tram; the other has a Moscovich car, or uses Aeroflot or a luxury liner. The privileged few have a large modern apartment or a Dacha (or both), whilst the majority in a city like Leningrad live in slums every bit as bad or worse than those of Liverpool or Glasgow.

Some people are lucky enough to get a flat in the suburbs. According to a recent issue of Moscow News, “families that are still housed in overcrowded and substandard dwellings will get new flats before the end of the first decade.” And the experts say that approximately 86 million flats will have to be built within the next twenty years! We seem to have heard all this before—in Britain.

Soviet apologists tell us that life is getting better. And it is. A little better for the majority; and a lot better for the few.

A British visitor to the Soviet Union said to me: “If this is Socialism, I don’t want it.” But, of course, it is not Socialism.

Peter E. Newell

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