Socialism and vodka

It seems as though many people do not realise Stalin wrote anything. They express surprise when I tell them I am reading through all of his written work – not that I should be reading it, but that he wrote at all. Ah well, the Cold War has much to answer for.

In the midst of his theoretically important (and long) address to the fourteenth conference in 1925, he has this great vignette on vodka and building socialism with white gloves. The context is the need to avoid being indebted and thereby dependent on Western Europe and North America:

A word or two, by the way, about one of the sources of reserves—vodka. There are people who think that it is possible to build socialism in white gloves. That is a very gross mistake, comrades. Since we are not receiving loans, since we are poor in capital, and since, furthermore, we cannot go into bondage to the West-European capitalists, not being able to accept the enslaving terms that they offer us and which we have rejected, only one alternative remains—to seek sources in other spheres. After all, that is better than bondage. Here we have to choose between bondage and vodka, and those people who think that it is possible to build socialism in white gloves are grievously mistaken. (Works volume 7, p. 349).

Even in Georgia today, you can buy a bottle of Stalin vodka:


Stalin vodka 01


Upcoming lectures: Queer Readings and the Garage Blackboard

I’m heading south of the border shortly for a couple of talks.

1. Queer Readings of the Bible, at the Jewish Museum. All part of the Midsumma Festival.

I’m joining Rebecca Forgasz, director of the museum, for presentations and then a freewheeling discussion. Rebecca will situate such readings in the Jewish tradition, while I’ll say a few things about ambivalent texts (Song of Songs) and camp readings (Chronicles).

Apparently you need to pay for this one (book on the site), which feels a little weird. But it seems to have a reverse psychology, since the tickets are selling rather quickly.

2. Garage Blackboard Lecture. This one is on Marxism and religion (translatability etc.), at a regular event that would have to be one of the more interesting and fascinating things going on these days. As they put it:

Garage in Brunswick.
Some seats.
Hand-pumped Beer from a Keg.
Homemade soup and possibility of baked goods.
Two Speakers.
Getting the Picture?

Apparently I get a chance to talk for about 45 minutes (along with Lachlan Ross). By the time the beer has flowed freely, we’ll be pumped with all manner of questions (and soup). No cost here!

Can’t wait.

The Persian baby bonus

These days politicians are fond of giving baby bonuses to bolster numbers of a ‘desired’ ethnic group, especially in response to ‘foreigners’ arriving. The Persians had a far better approach to the baby bonus. Any woman who worked for the state were given an extra ration of beer or wine at the birth of a child:

10 litres for a boy

5 litres for a girl

At times the documents speak of 15 litres. And this was on top of the substantial regular allocations.

Apart from the awareness that a woman needed a good drink or three after giving birth, the Persians had scientifically verified that beer or wine is helpful in milk production.

Saxon walking

For some reason, it’s almost impossible to avoid the temptation to set off walking in Oberlausitz. In the end it matters little whether the sun is shining,

Or snow is falling.

At first it was perhaps 10 km per day, passing through dark and ancient forests:

Over moss-covered pathways:

Or by tribal gathering places:

And then the hikes lengthened, to 12, 15 and 20 kms a day. We glimpsed cottages as we passed:

Or across ploughed fields:

We pondered what vivid dreams might be conjured by the fungi:

And admired the strength of German bridges:

We were puzzled by shrines to the local gods found by the wayside:

Or the patterns of shadow on a forest floor:

But over the last few kilometres the path always seems endless:

Until at last one may rest tired feet and taste that heavenly German drink: