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How A Russian’s Grocery Store Trip In 1989 Exposed The Lie Of Socialism

The fall of the Berlin Wall was indeed a watershed in the collapse of the Soviet Empire, yet one could argue the true death knell came two months before at a small grocery store in Clear Lake, Texas.

By Jon MiltimoreThe Federalist

The fall of the Soviet Union is sometimes remembered as Nov. 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall symbolically collapsed. While the physical barrier endured for some two more years, on that day, East German Communist Party officials announced they would no longer stop citizens of the German Democratic Republic from crossing the border.

The fall of the barrier that scarred Germany was indeed a watershed in the collapse of the Soviet Empire, yet one could argue the true death knell came two months before at a small grocery store in Clear Lake, Texas.

An Unexpected Trip

On Sept. 16, 1989, Boris Yeltsin was a newly elected member of the Soviet Parliament visiting the United States. Following a scheduled visit to Johnson Space Center, Yeltsin and a small entourage made an unscheduled stop at a Randalls grocery store in Clear Lake, a suburb of Houston. He was amazed by the aisles of food and stocked shelves, a sharp contrast to the breadlines and empty columns he was accustomed to in Russia.

Yeltsin, who had a reputation as a reformer and populist, “roamed the aisles of Randall’s nodding his head in amazement,” wrote Stefanie Asin, a Houston Chronicle reporter. He marveled at free cheese samples, fresh fish and produce, and freezers packed full of pudding pops. Along the way, Yeltsin chatted up customers and store workers: “How much does this cost? Do you need special education to manage a supermarket? Are all American stores like this?”

Yeltsin was a member of the Politburo and Russia’s upper political crust, yet he’d never seen anything like the offerings of this little American grocery store. “Even the Politburo doesn’t have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev,” Yeltsin said.

A Sickening Revelation

It’s difficult for Americans to grasp Yeltsin’s astonishment. Our market economy has evolved from grocery stores to companies such as Walmart and Amazon that compete to deliver food right to our homes.

Yeltsin’s reaction can be understood, however, by looking back on the conditions in the Soviet Union’s economy. Russia grocery stores at the time looked like this and this:

Now compare that footage to the images of Yeltsin shopping at a U.S. supermarket. The contrast is undeniable. Yeltsin’s experience that day ran contrary to everything he knew. A longtime member of the Communist Party who had lived his entire life in a one-party system that punisheddissent harshly, Yeltsin had been taught over and over that socialism wasn’t just more equitable, but more efficient.

His eyes were opened that day, and the revelation left the future Russian president feeling sick.

“When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people,” Yeltsin later wrote in his autobiography, “Against the Grain.” “That such a potentially super-rich country as ours has been brought to a state of such poverty! It is terrible to think of it.”

Yeltsin was not the only person fooled, of course. There is copious documentation of Western intellectuals beguiled by the Soviet system. These individuals, who unlike Yeltsin did not live in a state-controlled media environment, saw the Soviet system as both economically and morally superior to American capitalism despite the brutal methods employed in the workers’ paradise.

“I have seen the future, and it works,” the Progressive Era journalist Lincoln Steffens famously said.

Paul Samuelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in economics and one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, was a longtime enthusiast of Soviet central planning and predicted it would lead to a higher standard of living. “Who could know that [the data] was all fake?” Samuelson is said to have asked a fellow economist following the empire’s collapse.

The Truth About Socialism Revealed

Despite decades of propaganda and obfuscation, the great fiction of socialism was eventually fully exposed with the fall of the Soviet Union and the publication of its archives in the 1990s. No longer could academics deny the truth that the people of the Soviet Union endured a painfully low standard of living despite the vast wealth of its empire.

“Their standard of living was low, not only by comparison with that in the United States, but also compared to the standard of living in countries with far fewer natural resources, such as Japan and Switzerland,” the economist Thomas Sowell observed in “Basic Economics.”

Yeltsin deserves credit for laying bare the lie of socialism that so many others had refused to see. “[T]here would be a revolution,” Yeltsin told his entourage that fateful September day in 1989, if the people in the Soviet Union ever saw the prosperity in American grocery stores. Yeltsin was more right than he knew.


Russia’s Leader Is Neither A Realist Nor A Nationalist

To understand Vladimir Putin’s wars, the key is to understand the final two decades of the Soviet Union, not the first two decades of the new Russia.

by Tom Nichols     •     The Federalist

Vladimir-Putin-006Americans have been grasping to find explanations for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s serial aggressions in Europe. We keep searching for bumper stickers we can understand, so we gravitate to simple explanations like “geopolitics” or “nationalism,” not least because such notions promise solutions. (If it’s about geopolitics, cutting a deal with Putin will stop this; if it’s about nationalism, it’ll burn itself out when Putin has recaptured enough ethnic Russians around his borders.)

And, of course, there’s always “realism.” In this month’s Foreign Affairs, John Mearsheimer argues the Russo-Ukraine war is basically the West’s fault. (We expanded NATO, we supported the Maidan protesters, we were generally just mean to Russia, etc.) Continue reading


Russia’s Moral Nihilism

kremlin_st._basils russiaby Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi  

In the book entitled “The Documentary History of the Roots of the German Hanseatic Cities” it is stated that already in the 14th century the Hanseatic confederation laws absolutely prohibited the citizens of its member cities to provide Russians goods on credit; lending them money under any circumstances, including humanitarian assistance; or even borrowing money of them, under the threat of speedy and drastic punishment. This draconian criminal provision was inserted in the law as a consequence of frequent complaints by German merchants about serial Russian dishonesty in the form of sham furs; false trademarks; lying about the existence or non-existence of contracts; tinkering with quantity and quality of exported goods; forced bribes that were pocketed by ruthless bureaucrats; and other unimaginable deceits perpetrated with impunity by Russians of all walks of life. Continue reading


Soviet Union Redux

malaysia airlines plane crash ukraine RussiaAll the currently known evidence points to the culprits being the very forces that Russian President Putin has armed, trained, and encouraged. 

by Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi 

Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 departed from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur at 11:14 am GMT with 298 people on board, including 15 crew members. At 2:15 GMT the flight lost contact and disappeared from the radar as it flew over Ukrainian airspace. Shortly thereafter, it crashed north of Torez, next to the village of Chomukhine, Luhansk Oblast, some fifty miles northwest of Donetsk, and about twenty-five miles of the Russian border. Continue reading


The Flickering Shadows of Russia and Ukraine

putin russiaby Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi 

In his Allegory of the Cave Plato asserts that the universe revealed by our senses is not the actual world but the shadow of reality. Thus, this virtual reality is merely an illusion designed to obscure the true differences between the causes and the consequences of events and phenomena. Today too, politicians and peoples alike stare at the walls of their own caves where shadows fight shadows with deadly intensity, while realities are ignored, or even ridiculed. Indeed, in our hyper-ideologized and hyper-mediatized domestic and international politics the fallacious appearances of the shadows are perceived to be more authentic than the blunt facts. In this manner, the silhouettes present enticingly idolatrous images that partially or completely conceal the truth. Continue reading


Whitewashing the Horrors of Communism

Russia Olympics Soviet Union CommunismNBC should be ashamed of the way it’s covering up Soviet horrors.

by Peter Roff

Is there some kind of unwritten law that says the IQ of a sportscaster can be no higher than the average combined score of the ten previous Super Bowls? After listening to NBC’s Bob Costas speak fawningly about the history of the former Soviet Union during the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, you really have to wonder.

As part of his color commentary, Costas called the 1917 Russian Revolution that eventually brought Lenin to power a “pivotal moment” in history. He did so, however, in a manner that glossed over just why that was the case. It should never be forgotten that more than 100 million people around the world – and that’s a conservative estimate – died as a result of what that one event put into play.

Reporters have been telling lies about what the Soviets and their allies did for years. From the New York Times’ Walter Duranty and Herbert Matthews – who wrote admiringly about Stalin and Fidel Castro – to television’s contemporary “superstar” journalists, far too many of those in whom rests the responsibility for telling the truth about world events have slanted their coverage in ways that benefited communist aims. Even today, the New York Times refuses to return the Pulitzer Prize Duranty won in 1932 for his dishonest account of the mass starvation in Ukraine. Continue reading


Reagan’s State of the Union — beginning his second term

“Every dollar the federal government does not take from us, every decision it does not make for us will make our economy stronger, our lives more abundant, our future more free.”

by Scott L. Vanatter

Granted the privilege of being elected to a second term, it was his first term accomplishments which enabled Reagan to describe the continued path to an even greater future. These concrete accomplishments – in the face of a terrible economy and a palpable lack of hope — gave the country confidence that we could become the shining city on a hill he so often pointed to. His February 6, 1985 State of the Union address cemented these hopes in the minds and hearts of Americans of all walks of life. Reagan’s generous, positive vision of the future was contagious. This contagion was assisted by the results of the politics and policies he pursued. Continue reading


Ronald Reagan’s Election Night Speech

“I am not frightened by what lies ahead and I don’t believe the American people are frightened by what lies ahead. Together, we’re going to do what has to be done.”

by Scott L. Vanatter

On election night November 4, 1980 Ronald Reagan revealed that he had expected “a cliffhanger.” Perhaps the fact that he had previously worked as an actor colored the language he used that night.

CLIFFHANGER

He said he was humbled not just because of the large margin of victory, but also the mere fact of being elected. “Even if it had been the cliffhanger that all of us, I think, were expecting, it would have been the same way.”

Reagan said he would keep “the trust you have placed in me sacred and I give you my sacred oath that I will do my utmost to justify your faith.” Continue reading


Reagan’s 1976 campaign address, “To Restore America”

We’re Americans and we have a rendezvous with destiny. 

by Scott L. Vanatter

Ronald Reagan sought to dethrone a sitting president, though unelected, Gerald Ford. He laid out his case in a major televised campaign address on March 31, 1976 entitled, “To Restore America.” While he failed to secure the nomination, he set the scene for success just four years later.

One of Reagan’s initial critiques of the politics of 1976 was the top line issue of what things the Federal government should tackle. Or not. His point is that there are some things which the Federal government does not do well, and some things it should not do at all. “The truth is, Washington has taken over functions that don’t truly belong to it. In almost every case it has been a failure. Now, understand, I’m speaking of those programs which logically should be administered at state and local levels.” Continue reading


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