Those of you reading this who have met me know that I’m way too young to have grown up in the Soviet Union.  However, that doesn’t mean I have no notion of what it was like.  My friends (well, to be more precise, my father’s collegues, who happen to like me) tell me that I would have done well under the Soviet system (so does my mother, but I take everything she says with a pinch of salt).  Why?  Because I have no bloody clue what I want to do with my life.  I freelance.  I have a very useful skillset, but no idea what I want to do with it.  The only full-time job I’ve ever held in my industry was as an inspector, not as an engineer or even a draftsman.  That’s not to say I was a bad inspector, quite the opposite, given my CDO (it’s like OCD, but with the letters arranged alphabetically).  If you’ve met me, you probably feel sorry for the poor machinists who’ve had to bring parts to me.  My superiors hated me as well, because I have the following attitude: I don’t care how much it costs or how long it takes, it has to be right.  The worst part?  You can’t tell me that “we just have to ship parts” because that’s not what you hired me for.  We’re not making ballpoint pens here, we’re making jet engine components.  Long story short: I’m done working in the aerospace industry.

So what in seven hells has this to do with being a communist?  Simple: the capitalist greed that the likes of Marx and Lenin spoke of resulted in policies within industry that make companies eat themselves.  The “bottom line” does not care what goes out the door, as long as money comes in.  However, when people’s lives are at stake, the government inevitably steps in and makes regulations that companies hate trying to follow.  “It costs too much,” they whine, “it eats into our profit margin,” they whine, “shareholders won’t want to invest in us,” they whine, and whine, and whine like little children saying “this is my sandbox, how dare you remove a single grain of sand!”  Granted, most people, even CEOs, are not such monsters that they would let aeroplanes fall out of the sky just so they can build more and make money.  Companies usually don’t have a problem complying with government regulations, but here’s the catch: the bigger the company, the less it matters.  Small manufacturing companies, such as the one I worked for, cannot afford to be compliant and pay their workers a decent wage.  I told them that I was the best they were going to get for the price, because I have other sources of income.  “If you want people as good as me,” I told them, “you will have to pay them at least twice as much.”  Upper management did NOT want to hear that.  Middle management was left in a state of perpetual frustration at being short-staffed because the most qualified people to apply for jobs at our company were repeatedly turned away because the salaries they commanded were too high.  Now, if you’re at all mathematically inclined, you probably see a clear solution: if operating costs go up due to government regulations and rising labour costs, you must raise the price of your products in order to remain profitable.  Simple enough, that’s they way everyone does business.  However, when your customer tells you “we want it cheap, fast, and right,” you’re stuck finding another customer.

I’m going to digress for a moment, and tell you how I do business on Shapeways.  I started my shop with the intent to sell things that I wanted.  The majority of my early products were things that I came up with on my own, or just wanted and couldn’t find (like my model KV-2).  As time went on, however, I got requests from customers to make things for them.  One of these requests was a 1/300 scale model of a land battleship (a really big tank, in case you didn’t already know).  Given the specs my customer gave me, I knew right away that this thing would be expensive.  In order to test the model, I printed a 1/1000 scale version, which was much more affordable at $35.  What was the production cost of the 1/300 scale model?  $750.  Think that’s outrageous for a toy?  I do, and so did my customer.  He never bought one, but I’ve had others buy the 1/1000 scale model, still in my shop.  The point is that if you have many customers, and one is being unreasonable, you can tell him to bugger off.

Enough digression, but it was necessary.  See, if all of your eggs are in one basket, you can’t do what I did.  The company I worked for would go bankrupt overnight if we lost the work from our largest customer, whose products (in number) made up 70% of what we did.  Our second largest customer accounted for 20% of our work, and all the other customers we ever had accounted for the remaining 10%.  See the problem?  Our largest customer effectively owned us, but with none of the drawbacks.  Were they to actually buy our shop and make us their employees, I doubt they would have tried to pull that kind of nonsense.  See, if a subcontractor cannot deliver, the customer goes elsewhere.  If your own employees cannot deliver, that’s not so straightforward.  Sure, you can fire them, but are they the problem?  Maybe it’s your equipment.  Maybe it’s not the workers, maybe it’s management.

That’s why I once called myself a communist when I looked at the big picture.  When I self-analyse, however, I see something much more valuable in communism – at least in theory.  Remember, theoretical communism is not the same as practised communism.  After all, the latter has killed nearly 100 million people worldwide (in the past 100 years, no less – the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution is coming up this year, people!).  Now then, in the Soviet Union, there weren’t supposed to be idlers (бездельники – bezdelniki).  “Бездельники корм для волков – bezdelniki korm dlya volkov” they said, which means “slackers are food for the wolves.”  Everyone was supposed to have a job, a place in society, and purpose, however mundane that purpose might seem.  There’s a catch: you can’t do just whatever you want.  Not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up, and someone has to clean the toilets.  I like this whole idea, but someone evidently doesn’t.  For decades, the Soviet government tracked the progress of children, figuring out where best to place them.  In most other countries, this is the duty of responsible parents, but those are becoming scarcer every year.  Mention that kind of nurture in the U.S. however, be it from the parents or the government, and you’d be met with outrage.  “That’s tracking them,” they say, “every child should have equal opportunity to go to college!”  Those last four words piss me off the most.  To go to college?  I went to college, and I’m not trying to be elitist here, but college is not for everyone.  One of my coworkers never finished high school, and he was one of the sharpest tradesmen I’ve ever met.  He was proficient with IT, HVAC, and all things electric.  My mother’s own brother never finished high school either, and he’s a very successful businessman who owns a heavy equipment company, and collects women and houses (basically pre-politician Donald Trump, but with dumptrucks and bulldozers).  I once told one of my professors that “90% of college students’ only purpose is to pay tuition so that the other 10% can get a decent education.”  He told me the ratio is probably much higher than 9:1.  Given how much that whiny, entitled social justice majors are making themselves heard on campuses all over the western world, I’m starting to see his point.  And this, THIS is why I can no longer, in good conscience, call myself a communist.  These people are the new communists, the American communists, Antifa and the like.  Forget arguing for equal opportunity, these people want equality of outcome.  Meritocracy means nothing to them.  I could go into more detail, but there are dozens, if not hundreds, of blogs and YouTube channels devoted to the subject – taking multiple stances on the issue, I might add.

I used to question why doctors made more money than blacksmiths, until I learned two things: most doctors today are extremely lucky to get a job that actually pays off their horrendous medical school costs, and blacksmiths can do quite well, given how few of them there are.  Bladesmiths, in particular, can live off only a few projects a year, if they are highly skilled.  Custom-made swords for collectors have no upper limit in price.  But of course I had to choose an obscure example.  It’s a well-known fact that people with college degrees make more money than those without, statistically speaking, but there are so many other factors.  The poor sod who lives in his echo-chamber and majors in gender studies can do nothing with his life, save become a noisome activist or a professor who teaches gender studies, and those are a dime a dozen.  Meanwhile, I can read articles about “strange jobs that pay well,” and laugh at the salary for every single one.  The point is, absolute equality is a cute idea, but it’s fiction.  We are not cybermen (except in Sweden, where that frightening transition has already begun).  I’d rather not end an essay, however informal it may be, on a negative note, but life is not fair.  Get used to it.

One thought on “And to Think, I Used to Call Myself a Communist

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