guns and butter

Every day Svetlana Vladimirovna works a long shift at the machining factory beside the smelter at the edge of her city in central Russia. The factory makes the best beds in the Soviet Union, all of them of exceptional fine steel. But no one in Svetlana’s city, including Svetlana, has a bed. This is an unfortunate but perfectly understandable matter of policy. The comrades who run the factory, and who have designed such magnificent beds, better than any beds in America, have decided in the spirit of the revolution and correct socialist principles that they must give beds first to all of the hospitals, and to the army, and to the universities, and to the collective farms, and to many other important institutions necessary for the people and the government in the world’s most rapidly and inevitably advancing socialist society. To do this, the factory must work round the clock. Three shifts a day, and only rarely stopping on holidays. It is understood that the workers need beds. But it is not yet the workers’ turn. Only recently did cosmonauts receive beds!

And so everyone who works at the bed factory returns home after each shift and sleeps on the floor.

One summer, Svetlana’s sister Natasha, who long ago married a man in Leningrad and moved away, returned for a visit. She was appalled that after ten years Svetlana still had no bed. After all, Svetlana was strong of hand and skilled with tools and one of the best machinists at the factory. “My dear sister,” Natasha said “You have not been thinking correctly. It is very easy to have a bed. Each day you must steal one piece of bed from the parts bins at the factory and smuggle it home. And after a week or two you must assemble the parts. Then you will have a bed. And you will never again sleep on the floor.”

Svetlana listened closely. “My dear sister,” she sighed, “it is you who are not thinking correctly. We have tried this many times. We have stolen the parts and carried them home. We assembled them in the room. And every time, after we finish, we discover that instead of a bed, we have an automatic Kalashnikov.”


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