“Hammer and Tickle” – book review, part 2

Hammer and Tickle by Ben Lewis

“Jokes, or anekdoty, are the home-made glue that binds together all Soviet citizens in their dislike for the empty falsehoods of the government’s long playing propaganda machine.” – Alex Beam, McGraw Hill correspondent

I SUPPOSE there were jokes told by serfs long ago in the dry humor of the English. There have probably been jokes about all the world rulers who have been “flawed,” to put it mildly. One early compiler of Soviet jokes was by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, translated Jewish style no doubt. Ben Lewis, author of “Hammer and Tickle; a Cultural History of Communism,” based the book on 40 previous books on the subject, plus interviews throughout Europe and Russia. The jokes apply to present and future tyrants as well as the past.

George Orwell, 1945: “Every joke is a tiny revolution.”

Did you ever get the impression that George Orwell’s Big Brother was more about a Hitler than a left-wing Stalin? Tyranny is tyranny (ALL left, all opposed to individualism and liberty), but fact is, Orwell said the inspiration for “1984” was a 1920s Soviet satirical novel “We.”

Jokes in the early days of Communism were rare, but here’s one: “An old woman visiting the Moscow zoo sees a camel for her first time ever. She says: ‘Oh my! Look what the Bolsheviks have done to that horse’.” It was an allusion to their promises of “transformation.”

“There were always tiny islands of free-thinking, dignity and perspective. Sometimes this was expressed in absurd ways in political jokes, which proliferated in the worst of times and which it were dangerous to repeat.” – a compiler of Communist jokes, Alan Dundes, who titled his book “First Prize: Fifteen Years.”

Want to hear a “Polack joke”? After World War Il, a German, a Russian, and a Pole are sipping tea. A genie appears and offers each one a wish. The German says, “l would like Russia wiped off the map.” The Russian says, “l would like Germany wiped off the map.”

The Pole says, “l would like a nice cup of coffee.”

Not all the Soviet Russian jokes were originals. Some had been recycled going back to the French Revolution or Napoleon, later the Tsars. Robespierre said “The secret of freedom is educating people. The secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.” He had a funny definition of freedom. As the leading member of the Committee of Public Safety from 1793, Robespierre encouraged the execution of more than 17,000 “enemies of the Revolution.” Same old story, different day.

A Russian was overheard saying “Lenin is a moron.” He was reported to the ministry of disinformation and arrested. He told the police he didn’t mean THAT Lenin but another one. They said:

“If you say ‘moron,’ you obviously referred to our dear leader.”

How did the Russian people endure life under the Tsar before the great October Revolution?

They just thought about what life would be like afterwards, and they knew they could bear it a little longer.

And finally, an old Jew on his deathbed told his rabbi that his last wish was to become a member of the Communist party, because:

“It’s better that one of them dies than one of us.”

P.S. To get serious for a moment, many people think that Soviet or Nazi-type tyranny “can’t happen here,” but many of the jokes above can be used right here and now (thinking of the Administration’s “Disinformation Central Committee). They are experts on misinformation!

Has the Lord lifted His protecting hand over America and the Western world? The cancel culture holds me guilty for stuff that happened long before my grandparents came to the New World, but deviants and the wicked have spiritual immunity??

PPS: “A few days after 9-11, a service was held in DC. Prayers were offered by every major denomination . . I listened carefully . . I listened to hear a call to repentance . . But it did not come . . It did not happen.” – Darris McNeely, “America, on the hinge of history”; Beyond Today magazine, Sep/Oct 2011

Picture credit: jana cisar filmproduktion

Curtis Dahlgren

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About the Author

Curtis Dahlgren
Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in the frozen tundra of Michigan's U.P., and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton. In the intro to The Fenton Bible, Fenton said: ​"I was in '53 a young student in a course of education for an entirely literary career, but with a wider basis of study than is usual. . . . In commerce my life has been passed. . . . Indeed, I hold my commercial experience to have been my most important field of education, divinely prepared to fit me to be a competent translator of the Bible, for it taught me what men are and upon what motives they act, and by what influences they are controlled. Had I, on the other hand, lived the life of a Collegiate Professor, shut up in the narrow walls of a library, I consider that I should have had my knowledge of mankind so confined to glancing through a 'peep-hole' as to make me totally unfit for [my life's work]." ​In 1971-72 Curtis did some writing for the Badger Herald and he is listed as a University of Wisconsin-Madison "alumnus" (loosely speaking, along with a few other drop-outs including John Muir, Charles Lindbergh, Frank Lloyd Wright and Dick Cheney). [He writes humor, too.]