Thoughts, Cares and Deeds of Workers

Ivan Zhiga, The Thoughts, Cares and Deeds of Workers. 1928

 

Translated by James von Geldern

The worker correspondent (rabkor) movement originated in the 1920s to give workers a direct public voice. Rabkors provided accounts of worker life and official corruption, and made political leaders aware of public opinion. The movement, however, was eventually co-opted by the party, and it served as an enthusiastic denouncer during the purges. The celebrated murders of several rabkors and popular contempt finally undermined the movement completely. But while it thrived, skilled correspondents like Zhiga could give a vivid picture of worker life in transition.

Original Source: I. Zhiga, Dumy rabochikh, zaboty, dela (zapiski rabkora) (Moscow: Zemlia i fabrika, 1928), pp. 7-10, 13-28.

One day at a worker correspondent meeting we were arguing about how to describe workers’ lives. The question is tremendously important to us rabkors, because we’ve never read a description of our life nowadays as workers that was broad or complete.

True, you run across individual bits and scraps of worker life in the newspapers. Sometimes our life is described so that workers live like the bourgeoisie used to, or sometimes that our life is flat out filth.

These descriptions upset us very much. We’re furious at the writers and, of course, even more so at ourselves. Who the hell knows what’s going on! Some people don’t how we live, but they write. We do know, but writing is beyond us. We could just cry! That’s why we decided to get together and figure out how to describe our lives ourselves.

We read the notices published in newspapers, selected passages from books and compared the bad remarks with the good, the true with the false. It was very interesting work, and we had no disagreements. But toward the end of our talk, the secretary of our circle, Comrade Krasnyi, raised a new question. He said, “Now, guys, instead of discussing ‘how to write,’ let’s discuss ‘what to write about’.”

“That’s a strange question,” the rabkors said, ‘what to write about’: about workers’ lives, of course.”

“For instance?”

“Well, for instance, what do workers do in their factories.”

“Who doesn’t know that? Everyone knows that at a certain hour the whistle blows, at a certain hour workers get up and go to the factory, work for as long as they’re supposed to, go home: they eat, drink tea, do some work around the house. What’s there to write about?”

“So then let’s describe how the worker lives,” the rabkors answered.

“How does he live?” asked Krasnyi. “He sleeps, eats, smokes, works, goes to meetings, drinks beer and vodka, swears, fights, beats his wife, reads books, goes to the club, studies. What’s interesting here?”

“Well, there’s your problem! According to you we have nothing to write about,” said the excited rabkors.

“There is something to write about,” answered Krasnyi, “but there are some bad, evil things left over from the past in our life, and there are many good things the Revolution gave us. We have to decide what to write about most: the good or the bad?”

And here the circle split into four.

Some said: “We should write about the good mainly. For instance, forty year old working women are starting to learn to read. Old time workers are joining the Party, workers volunteer to work three machines and four benches. Or else: new housing and public cafeterias are being built, workers are raising their level of education. We should write about all that, because we have a lot of good things, but we don’t notice them and they’re wasted.”

Others objected: “On the contrary, we should write more about the bad things in our life, because the good is good, it will stay with us, nobody can take it away now, while the bad things in our life … we shouldn’t just write about them, we should scream about them from every street corner so they disappear, so that they don’t stop the good from developing.”

A third group objected to the first and second: “If we only write about the good, then we’ll embellish our life just like other writers do, and nobody will believe us. And if nobody believes us then we don’t have any reason to write; let the other writers do that. And if we only exhibit the bad sides, then it will come out again like the writers, and again it won’t be right, because there are good things in our life.

“So if we want to be truthful, then we have to write about the good and the bad in equal measure.”

“Allow us,” objected the fourth group, “how can you write about the good and the bad in equal measure? Suppose it turns out there’s more bad? And what if there’s absolutely nothing good about some part of our life, or else there’s so little that it would be embarrassing to compare it with the bad? What then? Shouldn’t we write at all? We think,” they said, “that before you write about workers’ lives you should expel any thoughts about good and bad sides from your head. There are no good and bad sides, there’s only a single, many-sided workers’ life, and if we describe it, then let’s describe it just like it is. Let’s take our plant, for example. Twelve thousand people work there. We see the established life of an enormous collective before us. Well, let’s not describe this life from one side or the other, but say, let’s jump straight into the thick of it, look at it from top to bottom, let’s tell about what we see there. Let the people we tell it to decide whether there’s more good or bad.”

“That’s right,” said several rabkors. “If we were writing about someone else’s life, then, of course, we could lie out of ignorance, just like those writers lie about us, but here we’ll be telling about ourselves!”

“But telling what about ourselves!” exclaimed Krasnyi.

Then the renowned rabkor Aspid got up and said: “Here’s what, comrades. We might be rabkors, but it’s evident we don’t know our own life. Let’s take a good look and feel around ourselves, then maybe we can stop arguing?… Here’s my idea: let’s get together on our first day off and start investigating our life. Let’s tour the barracks for starters: we’ll see who lives how. Then we can write it down and everything will become visible, like in a mirror. Okay?”

We were overjoyed at Aspid’s idea. We accepted it gladly and resolved: “Begin investigation on the first day off.”…

I

The Barracks

Besides the three-story stone quarters, the factory owns old wooden barracks. They were built by the previous owner and served as a filter for new workers. Every worker joining the factory settled there if he couldn’t find an apartment, and lived there a year or two–until he proved his loyalty to the owner.

The filter has been eliminated, but the barracks remain, a clear reminder of the past. Squat, coated with mud, they stand half-buried in rows twenty meters apart. Piles of peat and murky slop puddles are all around. The latrines are between the buildings, and whether it’s daytime or nighttime, winter or autumn, workers living in the barracks have to go outside. But the latrines are wrecked. One half–the men’s–is broken, only the women’s are left, and they have to be used in turns. There’s stinking bilge on the latrine floor; it leaks outside and poisons the air.

The barracks are filled with dirt and stench. There’s a huge Russian stove by the entrance. Narrow corridors stretch off from the stove, which lead to tiny rooms like prison cells. The floor is wooden, with holes in it. A draft comes through the floor, and the barracks are cold. Little kids crawl around the hallways, screaming, fighting, crying. A four-year old tyke, dark-eyed, as pot-bellied as a pitcher, plucks a piece of dry clay from the stove and gnaws it with relish, like a nut. Of course, none of the children use the latrine. They do it wherever they are, and that makes such a smell in the barrack that a newcomer loses his breath.

We enter one of the tiny rooms. It’s five steps long and an arm’s breadth wide. A family of four lives there. It’s furnished with a bed, a small table and two stools. The family was eating dinner when we entered; the worker and his wife were sitting, and the children ate standing. In a corner across from the table gaped a hole so big that a dog could have crawled in. The windows weep. The sills have rotted. The room is filled with dirt, damp and stench.

“So this is how you live?” the Komsomol Kriuchok asked sadly.

“This is how we live,” the worker grinned.

“Take a look: that beam is warped, it’s going to fall down soon,” said the rabkor Chuma.

“We know,” the worker said indifferently.

“You’ll be crushed!”

“Well, and what can you do?”

“You have to ask them to give you a new room.”

“And who are you?”

“We’re rabkors!”

“You’re not the one giving out rooms,” the worker muttered gloomily.

The next-door neighbor heard our conversation. He came over and asked us to look into his room. We went to his room and tried to open the door, but it wouldn’t give.

The floor was swollen up. We slipped into the room with difficulty, and the worker, thin, dark, constantly coughing, told us: “Here, comrades, you can see how we live. There are six people in my family, and the room is six by five arshins. That’s nothing in itself, we can stand it in the summer, but the winter is a calamity. You come home from work, sit in your outer clothes, sleep without undressing, don’t take off your boots, and the children just plain freeze. How can we keep going like this?”

The barrack residents mistook us for a commission. They yanked us into their rooms for a look, complained about their living conditions, said they were completely lost and had nowhere to turn. One woman was particularly insistent that we see how she lives. We opened the door. The room was completely dark. The woman walked forward quickly, pulled a blanket from the window, and we saw a half-rotted frame without glass, and a tiny infant sucking hard at its hands on the bed.

“So how can anyone live here,” this worker asked us. “How can my baby and me stay healthy?”

“Have you notified the authorities?”

The woman waved her hand hopelessly.

“They promise everything,” and covered the window with the blanket again.

When we walked out of the barracks, the rabkor Yazva said: “Brothers, that’s living death!”

“But what can you do? There aren’t any apartments!”

“So what! Does that mean we shouldn’t do anything?”

“Well what?… Do you have a suggestion?…”

Yazva fell silent and sunk into thought.

There was a crowd of womenfolk by the entrance to another barrack. They whispering animatedly and staring into the hallway. Children had gathered around, and they looked into the barracks’ dark maw curiously.

Suddenly a women’s wild wail rang out from inside, feet tramped, and four men struggled outside with a corpse on a canvas stretcher.

The womenfolk made way for them and watched the dead man silently, like cows looking at blood and ready to break out howling. Wrapped in a filthy gray sheet on the stretcher, the man rolled from side to side, showing his dirty gray toe nails, and behind him, with her hands covering her face, walked an emaciated, stooped woman who was either crying or laughing.

“Somebody’s gone ‘home’,” Aspid muttered gloomily.

“We’ll all be there someday,” said Chuma. But Kriuchok, a young rabkor and Komsomol, flared up and said: “This, brothers, is where everyday life begins! Let’s write about how this worker lived, lived and worked, worked and when his time came he’s gone in a flash. ”

“Well, that’s nothing to write about,” Zanoza objected. “That’s how we’ll all live and die: that’s not life, it’s death.”

Aspid walked away, went over to the women and asked who had died. The women answered indifferently: “The Lord has taken Uncle Nikita.”

“What was his room?” Aspid asked.

“Number twenty five.”

Aspid took out his notebook and wrote it down.

“Why’d you do that?” asked the rabkors.

“Just in case it’s useful,” Aspid answered evasively. “A rabkor should note down everything.”

The Women’s Barracks

We went to the Roza Luxemburg Dormitory. The wenches’ quarters, as they used to be called, were a long, two-story building that looked like an old-time merchant’s trunk.

The staircase was neat and clean. There wasn’t even any dust in the hallway, and sitting a while in the huge dorm rooms was pleasant. The clean beds were piled high with thick pillows and quilts. Pillow cases competed with each other for whiteness, and lace bedspreads were stretched over them. Embroidered towels, mirrors, and photographs hung on the wall next to each bed. Icons hung in several places, with portraits of Lenin, Clara Zetkin, Krupskaia nearby. On the wall were occasional glimpses of soldiers from the tsarist war, with their sabers, cutlasses and tilted caps.

The place of honor right next to the soldiers was occupied by young men, slicked down, their hair combed, or simple village lads in peasant blouses.

You could tell by the photographs who their owner was. Widows of husbands killed in the war live here, along with village girls who came to work at the factory and old women who either lost or were never able to start their own family. And all this is reflected on the walls, on the towels, on the lace bedspreads and the photographs.

When we toured the rooms, some women were sitting next to a window sewing, others were knitting, and yet others were in the kitchen cooking dinner. The barracks were quiet, peaceful, pleasant.

We were received like guests. We were surrounded and showered with questions: why and for what should we study worker life. When we told them, they praised us, willingly answered our questions. Each one happily told us about herself, about her life, her joys and sorrows.

“Everything here is different,” said the amazed rabkors.

“Don’t you think women know how to live?” a worker women answered back sharply. “Go around other barracks, see if they’re as clean as we are.”

Others shouted “Show them the red corner!”

They dragged us over to the red corner.

Two semi-basement rooms had been made into one. Living in those rooms was impossible: they were damp and cold, so they were outfitted as a red corner. The smaller room was a stage, and the bigger was for the audience. Benches were set against the walls of the five square sazhen hall, and a table was put in the middle for newspapers and magazines. The walls of the room were decorated with posters and portraits of our national leaders. The Lenin Corner was placed on a windowsill for lack of space. The Atheists’ Corner was actually put in the corner, and was abloom with colored pictures. An enormous wall newspaper spread along the wall, and a small shelf with books hung across from it. Garlands cut from colored paper were stretched across the whole room from threads hung below the ceiling, and there were paper lanterns. The women had done it all themselves, they had decorated their corner and made it bright and colorful, just like they were.

They told us proudly how they had begun building the corner, how volunteers were found, how they had spurred on backward women, pooled resources, bought material for the curtain, hired a carpenter and forced everyone to work on the red corner. “Take a look!” said the red-cheeked young worker woman who ran the corner as she drew back the curtain.

The stage opened before us. If you climbed onstage your head hit the ceiling–it holds no more than five people.

“But the things we can do here–ay-yay-yah!” the woman said gaily. “We have our own drama circle, and we give shows not only here, but in other barracks. Today, for instance, we’re playing Ostrovskii’s At the Jolly Spot in the New Barrack. Do you want to go?”

“Do you perform here often?” asked Chuma.

“Every Sunday, and the other evenings we have antireligious lectures, lectures on maternity and infants, on hygiene–and all that with magic lantern slides.”

“There’s something going on here every night,” another woman informed us.

“We have a circle for liquidating illiteracy, with sixty people registered,” a third says.

“There Auntie Dunya, she’s fifty five, she’s learning to read and is the hardest-working student!” yells a fourth.

“Auntie Dunya, Auntie Dunya!” they shouted around the barracks. A strong and sprightly old woman came and was surrounded by young women, who led her like a blind woman to the wall, stood her in front of a poster and began vying with each other to shout “Auntie Dunya, read it, Auntie Dunya…”

The old woman laughed good-naturedly, wiped the sweat off with an apron, latched onto the largest letters, moved her lips, and then, turning to her friends, said joyfully: “It says: Sov-i-et power.”

“That’s right, Auntie Dunya, that’s right,” the women shouted together, young and old. They were all sincerely glad for their friend, and all of them, like children caught up in a good game, gaily told us of their own progress.

“But how it used to be, how it used to be!” the red corner director told us. “It used to be that young fellows would come over in the evenings, the men would bring vodka with them, accordions, they’d start dancing, then fighting, and knives would come out. It used to be you couldn’t sleep or relax, and there was nowhere to get away from it. Every day there were jealous arguments, constant yelling, uproar, swearing and all sorts of trouble. But now we’ve come together like friends, redirected our work, built a red corner, gotten everyone reasonable jobs. And you see, our life changed. Everyone likes it now. Now we have a choral circle for whoever wants to learn to sing; somebody else does the wall newspaper, another is in the drama circle, yet another is liquidating illiteracy. And when you want to go for a stroll with your sweetheart, please, you can do whatever you like outside the barracks, but inside the barracks–beg your pardon…”

“And we did it all ourselves,” said a woman, “we created the red corner, and it began a whole revolution here. Even the male workers treat us differently. Before, whenever they found out a girl lived in this dormitory, they considered her lost, but now you see, they treat her with respect, they invite her to their barracks to act, and they point at us and say “Now that’s the way it should be done!”

Together with the worker women, we were shining with happiness.

The Red-Army Barrack

A huge three-story building. Each floor is dissected by a wide corridor lined with closely packed room doors. The corridor has been poured with cement–it is smooth and glittery, like a roadway.

The barracks hum like a factory. When you climb the stairs to the second floor, a shaggy Karl Marx greets you, on the third floor an apathetic Engels, and on the fourth the slyly squinted eye of Il’ich.

We go straight to the kitchen. A huge Russian stove with stoke holes on both sides is at the end of each corridor, and on the walls around it are dish shelves, cupboards and cooking counters. It’s stuffy near the stove. Blue-gray smoke can be seen in the windows. Women bustle back and forth. Almost all of them have their sleeves rolled up to their elbows. Several wear aprons that are so greasy they seem to be made of rawhide leather. Every woman is carrying something in her hands: one a pot of cabbage soup, another hot potatoes, yet another fresh baked pies or steaming wheat cakes.

“Hey, ladies, did I get some flour!” boasts an elderly woman. Yesterday I put it down wet, and today I look–it’s pushed the lid open and spilled over the lip, so hard it got the towel all cruddy.”

“Where’d ya get the flour?” asks the woman standing next to her and stirring potatoes in a frying pan.

“At that retailer’s called ‘4-0,’ and you can also get American wheat, so it’s better not to take this: it’s thin as water.”

The women roll the dough, cut it up, and show off their cooking to each other… Pretzels, pastry, “cuklets,” stewed potatoes, soup with pork.

Maria doesn’t back off from Darya, and Darya doesn’t want to let Agafya see her flop. How could they–it would be a disgrace!

The steam oven doors slam continuously, the women throng around the fire-breathing stove. The truce comes to an end.

“Hey you, dearie, why’d you take my soup off the heat?”

“I’ll put it back again as soon as I move my potatoes, don’t you worry.”

“Don’t touch it and I won’t worry.”

“My, my, your ladyship: can’t even touch it.”

“Here’s where you and that ladyship can go,” says the worker woman, pointing at her rear end.

“I can see it, you pock-marked devil.”

“Hey, bitch, still barking?”

“What are you yapping about, you mangy carcass!”

“I’ll knock your teeth out with my frying pan for talking like that.”

“Just touch me and I’ll bend your ugly snout out of shape.”

“Your old man might but he’s not here now, the long-assed snake.”

“Oh, you god-damned devil, you and your kids are bogeymen.”

“And yours have the plague…”

The women start to wrestle, aim frying pans at each other, shove, lose their tempers. Someone spills something, someone gets cracked with a kettle, someone shoves someone–and as a result, the frying pan falls to the floor.

Cursing …

“You so-and-so, you thief, you drunk.”

Oh, you god-damned, mangy devil!…”

They call each other bad words, contrive to find fault not only with their foes, but with their husbands and children. The kitchen roars like a factory.

On the other side of the stove an elderly worker woman, Akulina Utka by name, is frying pancakes in butter on the hot coals. She says dreamily: “Hey ladies, it’ll soon be time to get the slop money from the cow maids–we can hang a good one on! In the old days, remember, we’d carry the tables out into the hall, wine, snacks, accordions, and then crank it up!”

“Look out, your pancakes are burning,” her neighbor said.

Akulina slowly took the pan from the stove, flipped the singed pancakes with her fingers, put the pan back in the stove, this time off to the side, and started talking again: “Well, how’s it gonna be, ladies, do we drink through the slop money or not?”

“The men will start fighting,” muttered a young woman who hadn’t said anything.

Akulina was transformed. Forgetting her pancakes again, holding a rag in one hand, she leaned against the stove and loudly, so everyone could heard, yelled: “You’d think they were lords!… Keep quiet and they’ll do even worse. Just look at my Prokhor there, he doesn’t dare let out a squeak; when he gets up his gumption I just take my rolling-pin and show him–he shuts up right away.”

“Well, your Prokhor is ready for a monastery… Just you try talking that way to my man and he’d take that rolling-pin to your head…”

“Oh shut up, the men will be riding you like a horse,” Akulina answered, now with more heart in it.

“They already do, Auntie Utka,” shouted a Komsomol boy walking by from the cellar with a dish of pickles.

“Get wherever you’re going,” Utka snapped back, “all sorts of trash stick their noses in other people’s business.”

Akulina, muttering, took the pancakes from the stove and turned to the women, saying keenly: “So, does that mean we won’t be having any fun? We could buy some wine, invite an accordion, and have some drinks!… Come on, Vanka, I’m going…” And Akulina, a rag made from her husband’s trousers in one hand, frying pan in the other, jauntily turned on her heel.

“What sort of relaxation is drinking!” the young woman objected.

“What, are we supposed to live without whooping it up once in a while?”

Some other women came to the kitchen, and a hot argument started.

It was noisy. Little children scurried around the adults and whined, tugging at their mothers’ hems: “Mommy, gimme cake…”

“Bug off, brat,” wailed the flustered mothers, caught up in the argument, “you little buggers have really latched on! There’s no peace from you anywhere. Why don’t you go drop dead…”

As they waited for the hot and fragrant cakes and pies, the working men sat in groups in the hallway, smoking, passing on the news, reading fresh newspapers, laughing. The women ran by them with the pies and, calling their husbands, entered their rooms.

In one group, a worker who was still young said with sadness in his voice: “I was a quiet, hard-working boy. I was my parents’ only child, and look what happened!–I’m a good-for-nothing. I see myself that I’m a drunk. True, I didn’t love my mother, I couldn’t take her because of her swearing. What didn’t she do! When you wanted to study she’d chase you out of the room so you wouldn’t bother her or block the light. And it would be just awful when she started to swear–I never heard men curse like that. I grew up and went off to work. I earned twice as much as my mom and pop together, and it still was no life: my mother was screwing around.”

“I would have left, but I felt sorry for my father. He was drinking hard… Guzzling it by the fifth. Oh, was he drinking. He’d drink, lie down in bed, stack the pillows high, and say to me: ‘Vasya, pour me another!'”

“There weren’t any shot glasses. I’d pour out a big glass and go over to him, and he’d be lying all pale with his eyes shut. ‘Pour it,’ he’d whisper, ‘Pour it, Vasya, straight in my mouth, I want to drink.'”

“And he drank it like water.”

“Those evil days stretched on locked up in that box, and I didn’t know what to do… Sorrow took me too, and like my father, I began to drown my sorrow in wine.”

“At first it disgusted me, but still I drank. I had nobody to open my heart to. Back then there was none of that Komsomol, no meetings, no classes to go to. And I got used to it, brothers, how I got used to it. I drowned myself in that habit.”

“I became a drunk, brothers, and destroyed myself. Here I’m sitting with you and my guts are on fire–I want a drink. I’m lost!”

The workers listening to the drunk’s confession were quiet and gloomy, and who knows, maybe they were remembering their own lives, maybe theirs had been no better than Vasya’s, and only desperate resistance had saved them from destruction. The workers listened silently to their comrades’ tale, and a spark of pity glowed in their eyes for someone close to them they could understand.

Others were laughing at a worker clowning around at the other end of the hall.

“Markelych!” they called a balding old man over.

“What’s the matter?”

“Sit down a while.”

Markelych smiles guiltily.

“No, guys, I can’t.”

“Take a seat, what do you need over there–we have to talk about something very important.”

Markelych smiles, sits, and begins a story that everyone has heard a hundred times.

“Life’s tough, brothers, tough,” the old man drawls.

The workers wink at each other and put on a serious air.

“Aren’t you lying, Markelych? You’re probably salting something away in your piggy bank. Oh, you’re a sly one, you rogue!”

Markelych gets angry: “What piggy bank! Where’d you get that? I get my thirty rubles and–flash, they’re gone! And don’t wait for the wife’s salary, it all goes for grub.”

“Hold on, Markelych, you said yourself that your wife earns fifty rubles.”

“So what, fifty… It’s chicken-feed.”

The workers chuckle and egg him on.

“Well then, but you say…”

Markelych runs for his union booklet and, showing it, shouts irritably: “You don’t believe me? There, take a look!”

The workers look over the book for a long time, and suddenly one asks unexpectedly: “Does your wife bring all her money home?”

You could have knocked Markelych down with a feather.

“I don’t know. Maybe not all of it,” he mutters fearfully.

“Well there, I don’t know… How can you tell us for sure that you’re not putting anything in the piggy bank? Not you maybe, but your woman… Look out, brother, you’d better lock the door tight at night.”

Markelych gets upset, turns red and walks away with a baffled smile.

The women had settled things in the kitchen. They wore themselves out, strained their nerves, cursed and talked their fill, and tea-time started. They drink and eat. Then everyone who likes to sleep goes to bed, others go “visiting,” or else take a seat on a bench in the sun.

The women take the men’s place in the hall. They sit on benches or straight on the floor–they let their hair down, search each others’ heads for lice, catch them, squash them and pass sentence: “Now there’s a fat one, like Lyubka Egorova.”

“This one’s like Zinka Gariukhina–a real nit…”

“Did you hear, ladies?” says one. “Manka, the slut, had a baby.”

“Well, and what?”

“I swear to god, girls. Only I don’t know who knocked her up; the stinker won’t tell.”

“It’ll be Zhenka’s turn soon,” another proclaims prophetically. “She was humming away all last night with some guy under the staircase.”

“It’ll come down on her,” the others agreed with conviction.

A finely dressed lady walked by the women.

“My, all dressed up!” the women comment. “And where do they get it? The furniture in their room glitters, they eat all sorts of delicacies and throw parties. They must be pilfering.”

Somewhere below an accordion strikes a plaintive chord, and outside under the windows a deep girl’s voice rings:

From this feast of the lazily idle,
Who dip their red hands in the blood,
Take me away to the camp of those fated
To die for the wondrous cause of love.

The barracks hum like a factory. Little kids crawl up and down the stairs. Barely dressed, shoeless, wearing only their shirts, most of them pantless, they sit their bare bodies straight on the asphalt floor, yell, shriek and wail.

The young people–guys and girls–have gathered at the end of the hall; a balalaika plays, and they sing ditties. Sometimes the guys and girls open the hall windows on all three floors, go out to the balconies and roar to the music!… Who’s better? Who’s louder? Who’s the most interesting? The noise of the accordion roars through the barracks and echoes in a wave to the woods beyond the factory.

Zanoza said: “It’s a typical story here. You even get sick of it.”

“Everything’s like it used to be,” Aspid confirmed. “I used to be just like that little boy crawling on all fours along the hallway, and then when I grew up some, I also made noise. Nothing has changed here …”

Source: James von Geldern and Richard Stites, eds., Mass Culture in Soviet Russia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), pp. 128-138.

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