was rare and irregular. The articles that you had the right to buy were not
always on hand in your store. When this system of distribution came to an
end, it hardly existed in reality. The consumer accepted any ticket, any
purchasing stub, without regard for his own needs. He stationed himself in
any line he met, without knowing what he was waiting for. Supposing pants
happened to be the weakest part of his wardrobe, but shoes had just arrived. He then did his best to get a purchasing ticket for shoes. After hours
of the inevitable wait in line, he might have learned that only small sizes
of shoes were left. Now he might have happened to have big feet. But that
was nothing. It was pants he was in need of. He therefore let the world
about him know that he was ready to trade a fine pair of box-calf shoes
no. 35 for a respectable pair of pants. Sunday morning he visited the various "flea markets". And with the aid of patience and favored by chance, he
finally got what he wanted. Others exchanged part of their ration of bread
for milk, and so on.
You can imagine the alarms, worries and fatigue that was the lot of
the mother of the poor worker family. To the clerk employed in the distributors the customer of the low social category became an undesirable
who never seemed to be satisfied.
In spite of this, the crazy "organized" distribution remained the principal method of provisioning the city population of Russia for six years.
Besides what he bought at the "cooperative", the worker could buy
his noonday meal in his factory lunchroom. But he could do that only on
the day when he worked, and only for himself, not for his family. For this
meal, too, complete social differentiation was the rule. There were different
mess halls, different tables, different hours, different menus, for the different social categories. The quality of the lunchrooms and their menus
fell in the following order: "big responsibles", engineers and technicians,
oudarniks and simple workers.
This is the place to deal with one of the legends about Soviet Russia
that are so widespread in the gullible West. It is the story of the differential prices that were supposed to have existed in the distributors and the
factory "restaurants". Let us explain. In mess room no. 1 (for "responsibles"), the meal, consisting of soup, leg of mutton, vegetables, dessert
and tea, cost from 1.20 to 1.50 roubles. In lunchroom no. 4 (for the common people)—with no choice allowed, at tables for 8 to 12 persons, with
self-service—a meal, consisting of soup and "kasha" sold for 0.60 to 0.80
Evidently the poor paid less. But do not also in the traditional bourgeois society good meals cost more than poor meals?
Let us consider now the so-called free distribution of goods. It is
effected through the State stores. (Of course, the "cooperatives" and the
peasant markets were no less "State".) In these stores, any person can buy
freely, choosing the goods he wants, no matter what is his social station.
At the time of rationed distribution, prices in the "State" stores were from
five to ten times as high as in the "distributors". Therefore, the "State"
stores were only accessible to the recipients of the high salaries. On the
"peasant" market the worker came to resell at a higher price the monthly
kilogram of meat he bought at the cooperative. The "profit" he realized
enabled him to get more bread for his family.