Op-Classic, 1982: A Soviet Fable

Comrades: As is well known, I, Leonid Brezhnev, unlike President Reagan, have no obligation to report annually on the state of the union of the Soviet Socialist Republic. This shows the wisdom of Marxist-Leninist thought, for the state of our union is not quite as good as we would like it to be.

We have trouble on our eastern border with China. We have trouble on our western border with Poland. We are not doing as well as expected in Afghanistan. In the Mediterranean, the so-called Communist Party in Italy has not been excessively loyal and the Pope of Rome, meddling in Poland, has not been helpful. But we have a cover for every pot.

Our relations with the United States and other imperialist warmongers are at a sensitive point, for they do not appreciate in Washington our peaceful intentions and have lately been taking the ridiculous view that their military power should match our military power. This is obviously intolerable.

Our efforts to support national liberation movements in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America have made some progress but they are expensive. Fidel Castro has been useful in Angola, the Horn of Africa, El Salvador and the rest of Central America, but comrades I must tell you his speeches seem to go on longer than his influence or his results.

At home, our industrial production has matched our agricultural production. The results are not satisfactory, but if we have a few troubles, it should not be forgotten that we have more experience in handling troubles than any other nation on earth, and if we are faithful to our old Russian proverbs, I assure you all will be well.

* To the people of the Soviet Union, I say: Counting other people’s money will never make you rich…. With a good wife and enough cabbage soup, don’t look for more…. Where there’s honey, there will be flies…. The future is his who knows how to wait….

* To the Polish people, I say: Since when does the fiddle pick the tune? Do not slander us. Slander, like coal, will either dirty your hands or burn it…. Once in the pack, you may not have to bark, but you must at least wag your tail….

* To Lech Walesa: Do not defy us or you’ll be sent to count the birches in Siberia.

* To those who grieve for Poland, I say: If you’re tired of a friend, lend him money…. Debt and misery live on the same road…. When you live close to the graveyard, you can’t weep for everyone….

Comrades: We must count our blessings. Our enemies were strong when they were our allies and we were working to-gether in adversity. Prosperity is now their problem, and they don’t quite know it. They concentrate on their mistakes, battering themselves with their failures, whereas we concentrate on our opportunities, minimizing our troubles that make us invincible.

There are many hopeful signs. As Lenin predicted, our adversaries – I should not call them ”enemies” – are divided. They think they ca nprotect their separate national capitalistic interests, rather than defending the ir common civilization. If they do the first, they are not likely to achieve the second. This is our opportunity.

Also, Washington has chosen to challenge us on military grounds, where we are strong, in geographical areas close to our borders where they are weak. This has divided the Western alliance which, of course, is the main objective of our policy.

We see in the rebellion of the rising young generation in Western Europe a great opportunity. It has no memory of the two world wars. It is naturally alarmed by the power of nuclear weapons, as our own young people are, and is protesting more against Washington’s missiles than our missiles. This is encouraging isolation and even passivism both in America and in Western Europe, and if it succeeds, it will either bring about arms control or do our work for us.

So we are not without hope. President Reagan is a puzzle. He threatens us, but he lifts the grain embargo and sends us the bread we need. The bread of strangers can be very hard, but while the bells of Moscow often ring, sometimes they don’t ring for dinner.

As is well known, the imperialists are determined to destroy the glorious Soviet revolution, which is the hope of the world, but they recognize that co-existence is better than no existence, and they keep talking at Geneva and elsewhere, which is mildly hopeful.

We are in the Soviet Union a rich and powerful nation. We have the resources Western Europe needs. We have gas. We have gold, and as was said in Russia long ago: ”A gold hammer will break down an iron door.” So I do not despair.

Yet we will not be bullied. Not everyone who snores is sleeping. But I have said to Mr. Reagan: ”Wag your tongue as much as you please, but don’t wag your gun…. A bad compromise is better than a good battle. Better for all of us to turn back than lose our way…. Life is unbearable, but death is not so pleasant either….”

Comrades: I remind you that all that trembles does not fall…. If you can tickle yourself, you can laugh when you please.

James Reston, New York Times


Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/ref/opinion/08opclassic.html