ELECTIONS IN the Soviet Union? I didn't believe it either, at first. It didn't make sense. Think of all the extra ink they'll have to use putting two names on the ballot instead of one. But it's true. Soviet Russia's three favorite things--food and shoes--are about to be joined by another fab fave: democracy.
The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense. The old party members are getting old and starting to think about retiring, and maybe opening up a little mom-and-pop gulag to keep themselves busy. And who can blame them? Wielding absolute authority over the world's second largest communist country can get pretty tiring.
Partly, though, I think, the elections are the Party's way of saying to dissidents, "You don't like the way the government operates? Well, then you run for office." Of course, no dissidents will actually take office, let alone run for office, but a rhetorical point will have been made.
Once I realized the elections were for real, I started thinking: Fury, you're not getting any younger. One day you'll be old and feeble, and when that day comes, won't it be nice to be able to say to yourself, "Rutger, you ruled over a nation of slaves with an iron list.
Thus I decided that I, Rutger Fury, would stand for office in the Soviet Union. After all, it was pretty unlikely I'd ever get elected President here. So I packed up my bags, a copy of The Prince and my toothbrush, and hightailed it to my local airport.
THE FIRST step I made was to put my best foot forward, ideologically-speaking. I hitched a ride with a quasi-legal import-export merchant to Nicaragua and then took an arms freighter to Cuba where I was able to register with the Comintern and buy some identification papers. I was now Rutger Gorbachev, long lost grand-nephew, twice removed, from the Soviet premier. I figured the pull might be useful later on.
The next phase was to ingratiate myself with the Russian public. I thought back to successful American politicians and what they had done to make a splash. There was Washington--he founded the country. But it seemed a little late for that in Russia.
Then there was Lincoln. He got a lot of good press after being shot, but I'm too squeamish for that type of thing and theater in Russia is nothing to speak of. Teddy Roosevelt? He lifted weights. Too tiring. Franky Roosevelt? He was big with economic reform. No zing in that.
Then it struck me. Eisenhower. Ike. The man won a war and then made it big in Washington. Maybe if I could add a little turf to Mother Russia a grateful Russian people would reward me with a top post, in addition to a hearty round of applause.
The logistical problems, however, were enormous. I wasn't even a soldier in the Red Army, let alone an important general who could take credit for a major victory. Getting a commission would take a long time, maybe even years.
The only other route was to inspire the people of some small, unhappy nation to throw off their chains and declare themselves vassals of the Soviets--with me as governor, of course. I got on the wire and started making some phone calls.
THE DICTATORS of Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Iraq all told me they had too many problems as it was. Rajiv Gandhi told me no deal. I think he was still miffed about the money I owed him. The governor of Tibet told me he thought he was already aligned with the Soviets; he said he'd call back when he found out for sure.
Bangladesh said it didn't have government and couldn't afford one. Ferdinand Marcos offered to help but said he wanted money in advance; I didn't think he could deliver the goods. Canada said it wouldn't do anything the U.S. didn't do first.
The Philippines said they had a government but it wouldn't be arriving for a couple of months. The president of Zambia told me he would only help if I could set the U.N. to do roll call in "reverse alphabetical" order. Samoa had gone fishing and nobody knew when it would be back.
Finally I decided to forget the spontaneous revolution thing and just try to make do. I supposed I would just have to lie about my public service record like everyone else.
As I boarded the Aeroflot jumbo for Moscow I was feeling good vibes. With spring just around the corner the mood of the Russian people was bound to lift, and I couldn't wait to see Raisa Gorbachev in her new Easter outfit. I settled into my seat with a warm cup of borscht and a copy of Pravda--making a mental note to myself to find out what those damned little squiggles meant. By the time the jet roared off into the deep blue sky I was fast asleep.
Next Week: Rutger Buys a Hat Nicer than Gorbachev's
Rutger Fury is a close personal friend and sometime confidante of Jeffery J. Wise.