The General Secretary of the Party set a task: there must be a sharp rise in
agricultural output. So the whole country reflected on how best to
achieve this magnificent aim. The Secretary of our Regional Party
Committee thought about it, as did all his advisers, consultants and
researchers.
To tell the truth, it was a ridiculously easy task: the climate of our
Region is similar to that of France - there is plenty of sun and warmth and
water. And our soil is splendid. The black earth is nearly a metre thick
and rich enough to spread on a slice of bread. There are also plenty of
technicians and specialists. The only misfortune is that the people
themselves have no interest in work because, however much a peasant
works, the reward for him, personally, will be just the same, since to pay
for a peasant's labour according to results is, of course, quite impossible.
Just imagine what would happen! Your hard-working peasant would soon
be rich while layabouts would remain beggars. A rift would appear and
then inequality would creep in. And all this would be contrary to the
ideals of socialism.
So the First Secretary of the Regional Party Committee and all his
advisers gave much thought as to how to increase agricultural output
without infringing the principle of common material equality. And at last
it dawned on them what to do. They could achieve the desired increase
by using fertilizers.
A vast meeting, thousands strong, complete with brass bands, speeches,
placards and banners, was urgently called at the local Chemical Combine.
To a man, they shouted slogans, applauded, chanted patriotic songs. After
that meeting, a competitive economy drive was launched at the Chemical
Combine to harvest raw materials and energy resources. It lasted
throughout the winter and, in the spring, on Lenin's birthday, all the
workers reported at the Combine and laboured all day, without wages,
using up the raw materials which had been saved. During the course of
this day, they produced several thousand tons of liquid nitrogen fertilizer
and, in accordance with the meeting's resolution, they decided to hand
over all this fertilizer, free of charge, to the Region's collective farms.
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It was a real red letter day for labour, and not only the newspaper
correspondents of the local and republican press but also those of the
central newspapers came in person to the Combine. In the evening, both
the All-Union radio and the Central Television programmes reported this
remarkable feat. The Central Committee of the Party officially
commended the initiative of our chemical workers and appealed to all
Chemical Combines, throughout the country, to launch competitions
aimed at economising on raw materials which would later be used to
produce additional amounts of fertilizer, to be handed over, in turn, free
of charge, to neighbouring collective farms. Let our country bloom! Let
it blossom forth like a vernal garden!
When the labour fete-day ended, the labour daily grind began.
The next morning, the Director of the Chemical Combine telephoned
to the Regional Committee and said that, if the collective farms did not,
during the next twenty-four hours, collect the free fertilizer presented to
them, the Chemical Combine would come to a standstill: all its tanks
were full to overflowing with excess fertilizer production and there was
nowhere to put current production.
There followed a series of insistent calls from the Regional Committee
to all the small District Committees, and from them to all collective
farms. Each of the fifty regional collectives had immediately to take
away the 150 tons of the fertilizer presented by the Combine. The news
that our own collective had been given such an amount of fertilizer free
of charge did not please our Chairman. Our collective farm owned
seventeen lorries, but only three of these had tanks. One was used for
milk, another for water, the third for petrol. Those used for milk and
water could not possibly be used for liquid fertilizer. There remained
only the one used for petrol. The lorry was old and battered beyond
recall. The capacity of its tank was one and a half tons of liquid. The
distance from our collective farm to town was seventy-three kilometres;
taking into consideration the state of our road, that meant five hours there
and five hours back. I was the driver of this lorry.
'Now look here,' said the Chairman, 'if you do not sleep for twenty-four
hours, if your battery does not pack up, if your radiator does not melt
with the heat, if your gear-box does not jam, if your lorry does not get
stuck in the mud, you can do two trips in twenty-four hours, and bring
back three tons of this bloody fertilizer. But you have to do, not two, but
a hundred trips!'
'Right,' I said.
'That is not all,' he said. 'We are short of petrol. Of course I will give
you petrol for three trips but, for the remaining ninety-seven, do the best
you can. Push your lorry with your arse if you have to!'
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'Right,' I said.
'You are our only hope. If you cannot do a hundred trips, you know
only too well I will be dismissed from the chairmanship.'
I knew it. I knew also that, although our chairman was not to everyone's
liking, nevertheless his replacement was a bloody sight worse.
'Any questions?'
'Yes. Even if I do a hundred trips - without petrol - where shall I put all
this fertilizer?'
The Chairman glanced anxiously round the broad farmyard and
scratched the back of his head. Where indeed? 150 tons of liquid,
poisonous, stinking matter? Lenin's birthday is in April, worse luck, but
the fertilizer only goes on the soil in June. So where to keep the fertilizer
until June?
'Look here,' he said. 'Don't start nattering on about it. Get yourself to
town as soon as possible. All the region's farms are busy with the same
problem. Somebody may have some bright idea. You just watch what the
others do and then you do the same. Get a move on! And don't return
unless you've succeeded.'
I sighed, spat on my palms like a boxer before a fight, then got into my
wretched lorry and set off to town over the bumps, pot-holes and huge
puddles, which the spring sun had not yet dried up.
There was a long queue of trucks of different makes, dimensions and
colours standing outside the Chemical Combine. But the queue was
moving fast. I soon discovered that lorries, which had only a moment
before been loaded, were already returning and taking up new places in
the queue. Every one of these lorries ostensibly needed many hours to
deliver its valuable load to its destination and then to return. But they
rejoined the queue in a matter of minutes. Then came my turn. My tanks
were rapidly filled with the foul-smelling liquid and the man in charge
marked down on his list that my native kolkhoz had just received the first
one and a half tons of fertilizer. I drove my lorry out through the
Combine's gates and followed the group of lorries which had loaded up
before mine. All of them, as if at a word of command, turned off the road
and descended a steep slope towards the bank of the river Dnieper. I did
the same. In no time at all, they had emptied their tanks. I did the same.
Over the smooth surface of the great river, the cradle of the Russian
civilisation, slowly spread a huge poisonous, yellow, stinking stain.
Having emptied my tank, I headed again for the Combine and another
one and a half tons of fertilizer were marked off for our kolkhoz. And so
it went on. The work proceeded vigorously and noisily. Tens of lorries,
hundreds of trips, thousands of tons! Never in my life have I seen so
many fish. And I would never have believed that
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there were so many fish in the Dnieper. The whole surface of the river,
from one side to the other, was crammed with the dead bodies of pike,
bream and other fish. And still the lorries came, in a never-ending
stream. And every driver knew that, if we did not succeed in emptying
the gigantic reservoirs of that huge Combine, it would grind to a halt -and
this would be a crime for which our unfortunate Chairman would have to
bear responsibility.
The militia appeared suddenly at noon. The whole region was cordoned
off: we were all detained. The representatives from the Combine also
appeared, and then a young adviser from the Regional Committee turned
up in a black Volga car. With an expression of disgust, he examined the
place of work. He put a small white handkerchief to his little nose: the
stench was unbearable. After a short chat with the Combine's
representatives and with one of the detailed drivers, he got back into his
car and drove off. After him disappeared both the militia and the
Combine's representatives. We were ordered to proceed. Clearly, having
acquainted himself with the situation on the ground and understanding all
the implications, the adviser found our solution the best one.
And what other kind of solution could possibly be found? Donate all
this excess production to the State? But where would the State find the
reservoirs to store such a huge amount of liquid? The kolkhozes had
nowhere to store it and nothing to transport it in. Should it be recorded as
the work quota? But, in that case, what to do with the still unprocessed
raw material arriving at the Combine in an endless stream? If this
production was taken as part of the work quota, the inspectors would of
course sense that something was wrong and ask where so much excess
production had come from. There would be investigations etcetera. So it
was better to let things go on as they were.
Towards evening, we finished the job. Everyone took delivery of his
final load of liquid, but this time no one carried it off to the river, but
instead to his own kolkhoz. It was then relayed to Moscow that
everything was going well and that this year's harvest would be a record,
thanks to the Regional Committee's First Secretary. Moscow promptly
replied with a congratulatory telegram to the First Secretary and to all
workers of the Region. And that was that.
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