imaginary family values presents

yesh omrim

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C is for Chance

17 March 2005

(Previously in this series: A is for Anonymous, B is for Beauty)

How can a hard-line communist state sustain itself in a world where capitalism seems triumphant almost everywhere? Cuba can blame all its problems on the US embargo. North Korea has its nuclear weapons. Engelstan, meanwhile, has the lottery.

As part of the celebrations inaugurating each new Five-Year Plan, the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Engelstan draws one worker’s name from a giant drum. The man or woman selected spends the next five years living like a monarch (indeed, living in the palaces of the old monarchy), enjoying luxuries that no other citizen, not even the Secretary himself, is entitled to.

There is, of course, one catch. In order to participate in the lottery, one must have a certificate of good citizenship from the local Workers’ Party office. “Good citizenship” has never been precisely defined, but everybody agrees that good citizens speak no ill of the Party, and are quick to denounce anyone who does.

Officially, the lottery is supposed to give the people a taste of the life that every comrade will enjoy under communism. Unofficially, it redirects the human temptation to gamble to the service of the state. Party officials are quick to remind their flock that if, Marx forbid, capitalism were to take root in Engelstan, the state could not afford to support a lottery winner in the current lavish style.

Back when the Soviet Union was still a going concern, their ideologues turned up their noses at the Engelstan lottery. “An anti-socialist, regressive policy that romanticizes the feudal oppressors,” wrote one professor of Marxism-Leninism at Patrice Lumuba University. Since the Berlin Wall fell, that professor has had to support himself by driving a taxi in Moscow.