When Today’s Headlines Were Yesterday’s Jokes

There was an old joke about how a socialist [or centrally planned] economy worked:

What would have happened had the first socialist country been established in the Sahara desert instead of the Soviet Union? It would have run out of sand.

The joke reflects a basic economic truth about why socialist economies fail. There is a real item in Reuters news recently which reminds us of the truth in that joke.

Venezuela to Import Coffee 1st Time Ever

Caracas, July 22 – Venezuela, a traditional coffee exporter that boasts one of the best cups of java in South America, may have to import coffee for the first time ever this year or face shortages, industry experts said.

Producers say rising costs and prices fixed by the government have caused production to fall and illegal exports to rise. The government says poor climate and speculation by growers and roasters is to blame.

I googled whether any government had ever responded to poor economic news by confessing, ‘Man we are so over our heads here … we’re actually OK with those disastrous figures.’ Nyet. And so it goes with Latin America’s Petro-dictatorship.

Hey, did you hear the one about the supposed savings in government-run health care?

Soviet jokes compiled by David Frum are copied in full at end of post.

Commie Jokes, Another Round – David Frum – 06/27/08

Ben Zycher of the Manhattan Institute sends this:

Stalin decided to honor the great Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin by erecting a monument to Pushkin in his home town. What was the monument? It was a huge bronze statue of Stalin reading from a book of Pushkin’s poetry.

Peter Bogucki, associate dean at Princeton, sends these from Poland’s Solidarity period:

The express train is running from Warsaw to Legnica (site of a big Soviet Airforce Base in the communist years) when it suddenly jumps the tracks and runs off into the woods. After a while going through the woods, it returns to the tracks and somehow gets back on. The conductor goes up to the engineer and says, “What are you, nuts? Running off into the woods like that.” The engineer replies, “There was a Russian general standing on the tracks.” The conductor berates him, “Then why didn’t you just run the #%$$^%$ over?” to which the engineer replies, “That’s just it, he ran into the woods.”


Edward Gierek, first secretary of the Party from 1970 to 1980, goes down to Silesia to visit the miners and see how they live. He goes up to one block of flats, and goes to the door of one on the ground floor.It’s open, so he enters and finds that it’s furnished very luxuriously: color TV, refrigerator, plush sofas, and a little boy is sitting on the couch. Gierek says to him, “Son, do you know who I am?” The little boy shakes his head no, looking scared. Gierek spreads his arms and says, “Son, thanks to me, you have all this!” The little boy’s face brightens and calls out to his parents in the next room, “Mommy, daddy, Uncle Hans from West Germany is here!”

Finally – and I think this is final – Prof. Jay Bergman who teaches Soviet history at the Central Connecticut State University sends this collection:

1) What do you call a Soviet quartet that goes abroad? A trio.

2) One day in the 1970’s the Politburo was discussing a plan to send Soviet cosmonauts to the sun. When someone expressed the concern that if they did so, they’d be burned alive, Brezhnev casually responded: “Don’t worry. They’ll land at night.”

3) Three men in a Soviet labor camp are sitting around the barrel stove one night and the subject of what they are incarcerated for comes up. The first one says: “I am here because I voted for Comrade Petrov in 1934.” The second one says: “I am here because I voted against Comrade Petrov in 1934.” The third one says: “I am Comrade Petrov.”

4) A Frenchman, a Brit, and a Russian are admiring a painting of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. The Frenchman says, “they must be French, they’re naked and they’re eating fruit.” The Englishman says, “clearly they’re English. Observe how politely the man is offering the woman the fruit.” The Russian notes, “they are Russian of course. They have nothing to wear, nothing to eat, and they think they are in paradise.”

5) Two Muscovites, Ivan and Piotr, are waiting in line on a Moscow street in the Gorbachev era, waiting to buy bread. The line is long and it hardly moves. Finally, Piotr says to Ivan in exasperation, “I’ve had it. I’m going to shoot Gorbachev.” Off he goes to shoot Gorbachev. Several hours pass. Ivan is still in line. At last Piotr appears and Ivan asks him if he’s shot Gorbachev. Piotr replies: “I couldn’t. The line was too long.”

6) In Moscow there are two workmen with shovels walking along the edge of a city street, stopping every five yards so that one of them can dig a hole in the dirt. As soon as it is dug, his comrade fills the hole back in. Then they move along another five yards and repeat the exercise. A Soviet citizen observing this scene loses his temper and stomps up to the two workers. “Comrades,” he shouts, “what kind of craziness is this? You dig a hole, then the other fellow fills it right up. You’re accomplishing nothing at all. We’re wasting good money paying you.” “No, no”, one of the workers replies, “you don’t understand. Usually we work with a third lad, Volodya, but he’s home drunk today. Volodya plants trees. I dig the hole, he sticks in the tree, and Ivan here fills the hole back in. Just because Voldoya’s off drunk, does that mean Ivan and I have to stop working?”

7) Brezhnev and Kosygin are discussing what would happen if the Soviet Union truly adhered to the Helsinki Accords and adopted an open emigration policy. Brezhnev says to Kosygin that “you and I will be the only two citizens left in the Soviet Union.” To which Kosygin replies, “Speak for yourself.”

8) There was the Russian who bought a car and was told it would be delivered ten years from the purchase date. “Morning or afternoon?” he inquired. “What does it matter?” asked the salesman. “The plumber is coming in the morning.”

9) A train stalled on the Trans-Siberian Railway. On board were Tsar Nicholas II, Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Chernenko, Andropov, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin.

Tsar Nicholas stands up and says, “I shall make this train move.” He gets off the train, mounts his horse, and rides off to Paris.

Lenin then stands up and says, “I shall make this train move.” He leaves the car and returns a few minutes later. “I’ve instituted a new 8-day work week.” The train doesn’t move.

Stalin stands up and says, I shall make this train move.” He leaves the car and returns a few minutes later.” “I’ve shot the engineer.” The train doesn’t move.

Khrushchev then stands up and says, “I shall make this train move.” He leaves the car and returns a few minutes later. “I’ve reinstated the engineer posthumously,” he says as he sits down. The train still doesn’t move.

Brezhnev then stands up and says, “I shall make this train move.” He then instructs everyone on the train to act as if it is moving. The train doesn’t move.

Chernenko and Andropov then stand up and say, “We shall make this train move.” They then get off the train. The train still does not move.

Gorbachev, with a sigh, then stands up and says. “I will make this train move.” He stands up, and pulling the window open, yells outside, “This train doesn’t move.” The train still doesn’t move.

Yeltsin, quite put out, stands up and says, I Shall change this train for one that works.” He leaves and returns shortly with a new train. As the passengers board it, they notice that it is an old American steam train which is owned by the Germans and has no wheels. Is this train going to move.”

10) A group of rabbits appear at the Soviet-Polish frontier in the 1930’s, applying for admission to Poland. When asked why they want to leave the Soviet Union they say that the NKVD has given orders to arrest all camels in the Soviet Union. “But you are not camels,” the border guards say to them. They reply: “Just try telling that to the NKVD.”

11) Asked in 2004 whether Russian democracy under Putin was dead or dying, Gregorii Yavlinskii, the head of the liberal party, Iabloko, repeated an old joke about an ambulance driver taking a man to the morgue. “Why,” the man asked. “I’m not dead yet.” “well,” the driver replied, “we’re not there yet.”

12) What’s the difference between perestroika and chess? In chess you think before you move.

13) There are two ways for resolving the crisis in the Soviet economy. One of them is realistic, the other is fantastic. The realistic way is to call on people from outer space. The fantastic way is to let the Soviet government do it.

14) Stalin was having a meeting in his office with the Central Committee one afternoon. After they all left, he realized that his pipe was missing. He called Beria and told him to question every member of the Committee about his pipe. The next day, Stalin found his pipe and called Beria to tell him to stop the questioning. Upon hearing this, Beria answered, “I am sorry Comrade Stalin but half of the Committee already admitted to taking the pipe, and the other half died during questioning.”

15) A conversation in the GULAG. How many years did they give you? Twenty. How about you? Also twenty. What are you in for? Nothing. Liar. For nothing they give you ten.

16) Define a secure Soviet border. One with Soviet soldiers on both sides of it.

17) What would have happened had the first socialist country been established in the Sahara desert instead of the Soviet Union? It would have run out of sand.

18) Why is communism superior to capitalism? Because it heroically overcomes problems that do not exist in any other system.

19) What are the main obstacles obstructing Soviet agriculture? Spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

20) Brezhnev instructs his clever assistant to write him a ten minute speech. “Remember, just ten minutes,” he admonishes. After returning, Brezhnev is furious and berates the assistant mercilessly. “You fool, I told you to write me a ten minute speech but it took twenty minutes to deliver. The assistant replies: “But comrade general secretary I gave you two copies.

About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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