Smoking Communism

Communism and tobacco 01

The other day we were discussing alternative ways of funding research and I suggested – in all seriousness – that Big Tobacco may be interested in funding a project on ‘Smoking Communism’. Immediately Castro and his cigars, Stalin and his pipe, and Engels’s love of fine tobacco come to mind. But so also does the smoke-filled inner sanctum of the Communist Party of China, or indeed Marx’s own chain-smoking. A little further research reveals a veritable treasure trove of material. It includes the glorious packet designs for cigarettes:

Communism and tobacco 07

Studies of the crucial role tobacco played in developing the economies of places like Bulgaria:

Communism and tobacco 16

Ludicrous Cold War advertising by Big Tobacco in the United States:


You don’t believe it? Well, wait a second. Let’s use the  same kind of statistical analysis the Public Health Service is using to “prove” that cigarettes cause cancer. We’ll use only statistical facts taken from bona fide population surveys.

1. Americans smoke a lot and some of them die of lung cancer. The Dutch smoke  less than Americans, but more of them die of lung cancer.

2. The Australians smoke a lot and some of them die of lung cancer. The British smoke as much as the Australians, but twice as many British have lung cancer.

3. The Norwegians don’t smoke a lot, but some die of lung cancer. The Finns smoke the same as the Norwegians and twice as many Finns die of lung and bronchial cancer.

One statistical inference is very clear. In each pair of countries, the higher cancer rate is in the country closer to the Iron Curtain.

By the same means that some public servants are using to indict cigarettes, we’ve just proved that Communism causes cancer. But you know and we know, Communism is not guilty. And nobody yet knows about cigarettes.

A good old communist joke:

Ivanov applied to the Communist Party. The party committee conducts an interview.

“Comrade Ivanov, do you smoke?”

“Yes, I do a little.”

“Do you know that comrade Lenin did not smoke and advised other communists not to smoke?”

“If comrade Lenin said so, I shall cease smoking.”

“Do you drink?”

“Yes, a little.”

“Comrade Lenin strongly condemned drunkenness.”

“Then I shall cease drinking.”

“Comrade Ivanov, what about women?”

“A little….”

“Do you know that comrade Lenin strongly condemned amoral behavior?”

“If comrade Lenin condemned, I shall not love them any longer.”

“Comrade Ivanov, will you be ready to sacrifice your life for the Party?”

“Of course. Who needs such life?”


And finally, a manifesto of sorts, by Mladen Dolar (from whom I borrowed the title of the project):

Smokers, like proletarians, have no country, but they instantly create liberated territories wherever they appear. Smoking always represented liberty, a fickle freedom against the chains of survival, it is an anti-survivalist stance. It states: I am free in chains, while being chained to this habit that I can’t give up, but these chains allow taking a bit of distance to the overwhelming other ones and I am willing to pay the price. Smoking makes a statement, which can be read in all kinds of ways, cynical, spontaneous, relaxed, neurotic, psychotic, perverse, obsessive, compulsive, guilty pleasure, sinful, dandy, bon-vivant, desperate, anti-stress, aggressive, arrogant, seductive, available, mark of class, mark of lack of class, sociability, anti-social behavior … But against all odds and in a wild fancy I would like this statement to read: communism has a chance.

Stalin's Tobacco 03

 Actually, forget Big Tobacco for this one …





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