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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Moscow Shithouse and the "Workers Friend"

Over the years I've interviewed, or corresponded with several former members of the Communist Party, Socialist Unity Party and the Socialist Action League. (Always keen to do more by the way, just email me. Workers Communist League, Radical Society etc also welcome).

I've picked up some interesting anecdotes. Here's one from the mid '80s.

A member of the Socialist Unity Party (I'll call him Frank), was in Moscow on a three month course, studying at Lenin's Institute for Higher Learning. One day his group were taken on a guided tour of the Moskvich (might have the name slightly wrong)car factory in Moscow.

It was a huge modern plant, built I think, by the Italians and it employed 16,000 workers. It was highly mechanised and very impressive.

Frank needed to "go" pretty badly and against instructions, he snuck away from the group to find a toilet. He found a sign and walked into a large room. There were no cubicles, only a series of pipes protruding from a concrete floor and a hose. The pipes were to squat over, the hose was to clean the mess. Clearly the hose wasn't effective because there were several lumps of shit on the floor.

Frank was horrified and quickly made his way back to the group. Later he pulled the guide aside and asked him about what he had seen."What about the dignity of the workers?"

The guide was unrepentant "Frank" he said "you know you can't trust workers... if you had cubicles in there, workers might sneak off for a cigarette. They might go and read a newspaper when they are supposed to be working." Even worse he whispered "they might go in there and commit a homosexual act!"

When Frank arrived back in NZ, he discussed this incident with a prominent trade unionist and senior SUP member. This man is known as a great friend of the workers. I'll call him Eric.

Frank asked Eric how the Soviets could treat workers in such an appalling way. Eric, the workers friend, looked at him and said "come on Frank, you know the story". Frank replied "what do you mean?" Eric said "you know Frank. If we ever gain power in this country we'll treat the bastards just like that."


Blogger Aaron Bhatnagar said...

That's a whole lot worse than my experience when I was studying at the Diplomatic Academy in Moscow. The toilets that they had were pretty basic and a little grotty, but no toilet paper to be found anywhere. You had to bring your own - and this was 1998!

5:44 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

How'd you score that trip Aaron?

7:46 PM  
Blogger Aaron Bhatnagar said...

It was a part of my Masters degree. My lecturer at the Uni of Ak was Rouben Azizian, the former number 2 at the old Soviet Embassy, turned lecturer. I ended up doing an MA thesis on Russian Foreign Policy in Northeast Asia, based in part on my trip.

7:13 AM  

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