"This new policy of yours." Josip's voice was diffident.
"You mean overtaking the steel production of the West, by utilizing all methods of production?" The commissar's voice dropped. "I warn you Comrade, the germ of this idea originated with Zoran Jankez himself. We are old comrades and friends from back before the revolution."
"I'm sure you are," Josip said pessimistically, and suppressing an urge to bite at the skin of his thumb. "However ... well, I'm not so sure Number One will admit your program originated with him. At least, it hasn't worked out that way in the recent past when something soured."
The other bug-eyed. He whispered, "That approaches cynical treason, Comrade."
Josip half nodded, said discouragedly, "You forget. By Comrade Jankez's own orders I ... I can do no wrong. But so much for that. Now, well, this steel program. I'm afraid it's going to have to be scrapped."
"Scrapped!" the Commissar of the Transbalkanian Steel Complex stared at his visitor as though the other was rabid. "You fool! Our steel progress is the astonishment of the world! Why, not only are our ultramodern plants, built largely with foreign assistance, working on a twenty-four hour a day basis, but thousands of secondary smelters, some so small as to be operated by a handful of comrade citizens, in backyard establishments, by schoolchildren, working smelters of but a few tons monthly capacity in the schoolyard, by--"
The newly created State Expediter held up a hand dispiritedly. "I know. I know. Thousands of these backyard smelters exist ... uh ... especially in parts of the country where there is neither ore nor fuel available."
The commissar looked at him.
The younger man said, his voice seemingly deprecating his words, "The schoolchildren, taking time off from their studies, of course, bring scrap iron to be smelted. And they bring whatever fuel they can find, often pilfered from railway yards. And the more scrap and fuel they bring, the more praise they get. Unfortunately, the so-called scrap often turns out to be kitchen utensils, farm tools, even, on at least on occasion, some railroad tracks, from a narrow gauge line running up to a lumbering project, not in use that time of the year. Sooner or later, Comrade Broz, the nation is going to have to replace those kitchen utensils and farm tools and all the rest of the scrap that isn't really quite scrap."
The commissar began to protest heatedly, but Josip Pekic shook his head and tried to firm his less than dominating voice. "But even that's not the worst of it. Taking citizens away from their real occupations, or studies, and putting them to smelting steel where no ore exists. The worst of it is, so my young engineer friends tell me, that while the steel thus produced might have been a marvel back in the days of the Hittites, it hardly reaches specifications today. Perhaps it might be used ultimately to make simple farm tools such as hoes and rakes; if so, it would make quite an endless circle, because that is largely the source of the so-called steel to begin with--tools, utensils and such. But it hardly seems usable in modern industry."
The commissar had gone pale with anger by now. He put his two fists on his desk and leaned upon them, staring down at his seated visitor. "Comrade," he bit out, "I warn you. Comrade Jankez is enthusiastic about my successes. Beyond that, not only is he an old comrade, but my brother-in-law as well."
Josip Pekic nodded, unenthusiastically, and his voice continued to quiver. "So the trained engineers under you, have already warned me. However, Comrade Broz, you are ... well, no longer Commissar of the Steel Complex. My report has already gone in to Comrades Jankez and Kardelj."
The knock came at the door in the middle of the night as Aleksander Kardelj had always thought it would.
From those early days of his Party career, when his ambitions had sent him climbing, pushing, tripping up others, on his way to the top, he had expected it eventually.
Oh, his had been a different approach, on the surface, an easygoing, laughing, gentler approach than one usually connected with members of the Secretariat of the Executive Committee of the Party, but it made very little difference in the very long view. When one fell from the heights, he fell just as hard, whether or not he was noted for his sympathetic easy humor.
The fact was, Aleksander Kardelj was not asleep when the fist pounded at his door shortly after midnight. He had but recently turned off, with a shaking hand, the Telly-Phone, after a less than pleasant conversation with President of the United Balkan Soviet Republics, Zoran Jankez.
For the past ten years, Kardelj had been able to placate Zoran Jankez, even though Number One be at the peak of one of his surly rages, rages which seemed to be coming with increasing frequency of late. As the socio-economic system of the People's Democratic Dictatorship became increasingly complicated, as industrialization with its modern automation mushroomed in a geometric progression, the comparative simplicity of governing which applied in the past, was strictly of yesteryear. It had been one thing, rifle and grenades in hand, to seize the government, after a devastating war in which the nation had been leveled, and even to maintain it for a time, over illiterate peasants and unskilled proletarians. But industrialization calls for a highly educated element of scientists and technicians, nor does it stop there. One of sub-mentality can operate a shovel in a field, or even do a simple operation on an endless assembly line in a factory. But practically all workers must be highly skilled workers in the age of automation, and there is little room for the illiterate. The populace of the People's Dictatorship was no longer a dumb, driven herd, and their problems were no longer simple ones.
Yes, Number One was increasingly subject to his rages these days. It was Aleksander Kardelj's deepest belief that Jankez was finding himself out of his depth. He no longer was capable of understanding the problems which his planning bodies brought to his attention. And he who is confused, be he ditchdigger or dictator, is a man emotionally upset.
Zoran Jankez's face had come onto the Telly-Phone screen already enraged. He had snapped to his right-hand man, "Kardelj! Do you realize what that ... that idiot of yours has been up to now?"
Inwardly, Kardelj had winced. His superior had been mountingly difficult of late, and particularly these past few days. He said now, cajolingly, "Zoran, I--"
"Don't call me Zoran, Kardelj! And please preserve me from your sickening attempts to fawn, in view of your treacherous recommendations of recent months." He was so infuriated that his heavy jowls shook.
Kardelj had never seen him this furious. He said placatingly, "Comrade Jankez, I had already come to the conclusion that I should consult you on the desirability of revoking this young troublemaker's credentials and removing him from the--"
"I am not interested in what you were going to do, Kardelj. I am already in the process of ending this traitor's activities. I should have known, when you revealed he was the son of Ljubo Pekic, that he was an enemy of the State, deep within. I know the Pekic blood. It was I who put Ljubo to the question. Stubborn, wrong headed, a vicious foe of the revolution. And his son takes after him."
Kardelj had enough courage left to say, "Comrade, it would seem to me that young Pekic is a tanglefoot, but not a conscious traitor. I--"
"Don't call me comrade, Kardelj!" Number One roared. "I know your inner motivation. The reason you brought this agent provocateur, this Trotskyite wrecker, to this position of ridiculous power. The two of you are in conspiracy to undermine my authority. This will be brought before the Secretariat of the Executive Committee, Kardelj. You've gone too far, this time!"
Aleksander Kardelj had his shortcomings but he was no coward. He said, wryly, "Very well, sir. But would you tell me what Josip Pekic has done now? My office has had no report on him for some time."
"What he has done! You fool, you traitorous fool, have you kept no record at all? He has been in the Macedonian area where my virgin lands program has been in full swing."
Kardelj cleared his throat at this point.
Jankez continued roaring. "The past three years, admittedly, the weather has been such, the confounded rains failing to arrive on schedule, that we have had our troubles. But this fool! This blundering traitorous idiot!"
"What has he done?" Kardelj asked, intrigued in spite of his position of danger.
"For all practical purposes he's ordered the whole program reversed. Something about a sandbowl developing, whatever that is supposed to mean. Something about introducing contour plowing, whatever nonsense that is. And even reforesting some areas. Some nonsense about watersheds. He evidently has blinded and misled the very men I had in charge. They are supporting him, openly."
Jankez, Kardelj knew, had been a miner as a youth, with no experience whatsoever on the soil. However, the virgin lands project had been his pet. He envisioned hundreds upon thousands of square miles of maize, corn as the Americans called it. This in turn would feed vast herds of cattle and swine so that ultimately the United Balkan Soviet Republics would have the highest meat consumption in the world.
Number One was raging on. Something about a conspiracy on the part of those who surrounded him. A conspiracy to overthrow him, Zoran Jankez, and betray the revolution to the Western powers, but he, Zoran Jankez, had been through this sort of plot before. He, Zoran Jankez, knew the answers to such situations.
Aleksander Kardelj grinned humorously, wryly, and reached to flick off the screen. He twisted a cigarette into the small pipelike holder, lit it and waited for the inevitable.
It was shortly after that the knock came on his door.
Zoran Jankez sat at his desk in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a heavy military revolver close to his right hand, a half empty liter of sljivovica and a water tumbler, to his left. Red of eye, he pored over endless reports from his agents, occasionally taking time out to growl a command into his desk mike. Tired he was, from the long sleepless hours he was putting in, but Number One was in his element. As he had told that incompetent, Kardelj, he had been through this thing before. It was no mistake that he was Number One.
After a time he put a beefy hand down on the reports. He could feel the rage coming upon him. Of late, he realized, there most certainly had developed a plot to undermine his health by constant frustrations. Was there no one, no one at all, to take some of these trivialities off his shoulders? Must he do everything in the People's Democratic Dictatorship? Make every decision and see it through?
He snapped into the mike, "Give me Lazar Jovanovic." And then, when the police head's shaven poll appeared in the screen of the Telly-Phone, "Comrade, I am giving you one last chance. Produce this traitor, Josip Pekic, within the next twenty-four hours, or answer to me." He glared at the other, whose face had tightened in fear. "I begin to doubt the sincerity of your efforts, in this, Comrade Jovanovic."
"But ... but, Comrade, I--"
"That's all!" Number One snapped. He flicked off the instrument, then glowered at it for a full minute. If Jovanovic couldn't locate Pekic, he'd find someone who could. It was maddening that the pipsqueak had seemingly disappeared. To this point, seeking him had progressed in secret. There had been too much favorable publicity churned out in the early days of the expediter scheme to reverse matters to the point of having a public hue and cry. It was being done on the q.t.
But! Number One raged inwardly, if his police couldn't find the criminal soon enough, a full-scale hunt and purge could well enough be launched. There was more to all this than met the eye. Oh, he, Zoran Jankez had been through it before, though long years had lapsed since it had been necessary. The traitors, the secret conspiracies, and then the required purges to clean the Party ranks still once again.
The gentle summons of his Telly-Phone tinkled, and he flicked it on with a rough brush of his hand.
And there was the youthful face of Josip Pekic, currently being sought high and low by the full strength of the Internal Affairs Secretariat. Youthful, yes, but even as he stared his astonishment, Zoran Jankez could see that the past months had wrought their changes on the other's face. It was more mature, bore more of strain and weariness.
Before Jankez found his voice. Josip Pekic said diffidently, "I ... I understand you've been, well ... looking for me, sir."
"Looking for you!" the Party head bleated, his rage ebbing in all but uncontrollably. For a moment he couldn't find words.
Pekic said, his voice jittering, "I had some research to do. You see, sir, this ... this project you and Kardelj started me off on--"
"I had nothing to do with it! It was Kardelj's scheme, confound his idiocy!" Number One all but screamed.
"Oh? Well ... well, I had gathered the opinion that both of you concurred. Anyway, like I say, the project from the first didn't come off quite the way it started. I ... well ... we, were thinking in terms of finding out why waiters were surly, why workers and professionals and even officials tried to, uh, beat the rap, pass the buck, look out for themselves and the devil take the hindmost, and all those Americanisms that Kardelj is always using."
Jankez simmered, but let the other go on. Undoubtedly, his police chief, Lazar Jovanovic was even now tracing the call, and this young traitor would soon be under wraps where he could do no more damage to the economy of the People's Democratic Dictatorship.
"But, well, I found it wasn't just a matter of waiters, and truckdrivers and such. It ... well ... ran all the way from top to bottom. So, I finally felt as though I was sort of butting my head against the wall. I thought I better start at ... kind of ... fundamentals, so I began researching the manner in which the governments of the West handled some of these matters."
"Ah," Jankez said as smoothly as he was able to get out. "Ah. And?" This fool was hanging himself.
The younger man frowned in unhappy puzzlement. "Frankly, I was surprised. I have, of course, read Western propaganda to the extent I could get hold of it in Zagurest, and listened to the Voice of the West on the wireless. I was also, obviously, familiar with our own propaganda. Frankly ... well ... I had reserved my opinion in both cases."
This in itself was treason, but Number One managed to get out, almost encouragingly, "What are you driving at, Josip Pekic?"
"I found in one Western country that the government was actually paying its peasants, that is, farmers, not to plant crops. The same government subsidized other crops, keeping the prices up to the point where they were hard put to compete on the international markets."
Young Pekic made a moue, as though in puzzlement. "In other countries, in South America for instance, where the standard of living is possibly the lowest in the West and they need funds desperately to develop themselves, the governments build up large armies, although few of them have had any sort of warfare at all for over a century and have no threat of war."
"What is all this about?" Number One growled. Surely, Lazar Jovanovic was on the idiot traitor's trail by now.
Josip took a deep breath and hurried on nervously. "They've got other contradictions that seem unbelievable. For instance, their steel industry will be running at half capacity, in spite of the fact that millions of their citizens have unfulfilled needs, involving steel. Things like cars, refrigerators, stoves. In fact, in their so-called recessions, they'll actually close down perfectly good, modern factories, and throw their people out of employment, at the very time that there are millions of people who need that factory's product."
Josip said reasonably, "Why, sir, I've come to the conclusion that the West has some of the same problems we have. And the main one is politicians."
"What? What do you mean?"
"Just that," Josip said with dogged glumness. "I ... well, I don't know about the old days. A hundred, even fifty years ago, but as society becomes more complicated, more intricate, I simply don't think politicians are capable of directing it. The main problems are those of production and distribution of all the things our science and industry have learned to turn out. And politicians, all over the world, seem to foul it up."
Zoran Jankez growled ominously, "Are you suggesting that I am incompetent to direct the United Balkan Soviet Republics?"
"Yes, sir," Josip said brightly, as though the other had encouraged him. "That's what I mean. You or any other politician. Industry should be run by trained, competent technicians, scientists, industrialists--and to some extent, maybe, by the consumers, but not by politicians. By definition, politicians know about politics, not industry. But somehow, in the modern world, governments seem to be taking over the running of industry and even agriculture. They aren't doing such a good job, sir."
Jankez finally exploded. "Where are you calling from, Pekic?" he demanded. "You're under arrest!"
Josip Pekic cleared his throat, apologetically. "No, sir," he said. "Remember? I'm the average Transbalkanian citizen. And it is to be assumed I'd, well ... react the way any other would. The difference is, I had the opportunity. I'm in Switzerland."
"Switzerland!" Number One roared. "You've defected. I knew you were a traitor, Pekic. Like father, like son! A true Transbalkanian would remain in his country and help it along the road to the future."
The younger man looked worried. "Well, yes, sir," he said. "I thought about that. But I think I've done about as much as I could accomplish. You see, these last few months, protected by those 'can do no wrong' credentials, I've been spreading this message around among all the engineers, technicians, professionals, all the more trained, competent people in Transbalkania. You'd be surprised how they took to it. I think it's kind of ... well, snowballing. I mean the idea that politicians aren't capable of running industry. That if the United Balkan Soviet Republics are to ever get anywhere, some changes are going to have to be made."
Number One could no more than glare.
Josip Pekic, rubbed his nose nervously, and said, in the way of uneasy farewell, "I just thought it was only fair for me to call you and give a final report. After all, I didn't start all this. Didn't originate the situation. It was you and Kardelj who gave me my chance. I just ... well ... expedited things." His face faded from the screen, still apologetic of expression.
Zoran Jankez sat there for a long time, staring at the now dark instrument.
It was the middle of the night when the knock came at the door. But then, Zoran Jankez had always thought it would ... finally.
by JAMES H. SCHMITZ
It gets difficult to handle the problem of a man who has a real talent that you need badly--and he cannot use it if he knows it's honest!
There was no one standing or sitting around the tastefully furnished entry hall of the Institute of Insight when Wallace Cavender walked into it. He was almost half an hour late for the regular Sunday night meeting of advanced students; and even Mavis Greenfield, Dr. Ormond's secretary, who always stayed for a while at her desk in the hall to sign in the stragglers, had disappeared. However, she had left the attendance book lying open on the desk with a pen placed invitingly beside it.
Wallace Cavender dutifully entered his name in the book. The distant deep voice of Dr. Aloys Ormond was dimly audible, coming from the direction of the lecture room, and Cavender followed its faint reverberations down a narrow corridor until he reached a closed door. He eased the door open and slipped unobtrusively into the back of the lecture room.
As usual, most of the thirty-odd advanced students present had seated themselves on the right side of the room where they were somewhat closer to the speaker. Cavender started towards the almost vacant rows of chairs on the left, smiling apologetically at Dr. Ormond who, as the door opened, had glanced up without interrupting his talk. Three other faces turned towards Cavender from across the room. Reuben Jeffries, a heavyset man with a thin fringe of black hair circling an otherwise bald scalp, nodded soberly and looked away again. Mavis Greenfield, a few rows further up, produced a smile and a reproachful little headshake; during the coffee break she would carefully explain to Cavender once more that students too tardy to take in Dr. Al's introductory lecture missed the most valuable part of these meetings.
From old Mrs. Folsom, in the front row on the right, Cavender's belated arrival drew a more definite rebuke. She stared at him for half a dozen seconds with a coldly severe frown, mouth puckered in disapproval, before returning her attention to Dr. Ormond.
Cavender sat down in the first chair he came to and let himself go comfortably limp. He was dead-tired, had even hesitated over coming to the Institute of Insight tonight. But it wouldn't do to skip the meeting. A number of his fellow students, notably Mrs. Folsom, already regarded him as a black sheep; and if enough of them complained to Dr. Ormond that Cavender's laxness threatened to retard the overall advance of the group towards the goal of Total Insight, Ormond might decide to exclude him from further study. At a guess, Cavender thought cynically, it would have happened by now if the confidential report the Institute had obtained on his financial status had been less impressive. A healthy bank balance wasn't an absolute requirement for membership, but it helped ... it helped! All but a handful of the advanced students were in the upper income brackets.
Cavender let his gaze shift unobtrusively about the group while some almost automatic part of his mind began to pick up the thread of Dr. Al's discourse. After a dozen or so sentences, he realized that the evening's theme was the relationship between subjective and objective reality, as understood in the light of Total Insight. It was a well-worn subject; Dr. Al repeated himself a great deal. Most of the audience nevertheless was following his words with intent interest, many taking notes and frowning in concentration. As Mavis Greenfield liked to express it, quoting the doctor himself, the idea you didn't pick up when it was first presented might come clear to you the fifth or sixth time around. Cavender suspected, however, that as far as he was concerned much of the theory of Total Insight was doomed to remain forever obscure.
He settled his attention on the only two students on this side of the room with him. Dexter Jones and Perrie Rochelle were sitting side by side in front-row chairs--the same chairs they usually occupied during these meetings. They were exceptions to the general run of the group in a number of ways. Younger, for one thing; Dexter was twenty-nine and Perrie twenty-three while the group averaged out at around forty-five which happened to be Cavender's age. Neither was blessed with worldly riches; in fact, it was questionable whether the Rochelle girl, who described herself as a commercial artist, even had a bank account. Dexter Jones, a grade-school teacher, did have one but was able to keep it barely high enough to cover his rent and car payment checks. Their value to the Institute was of a different kind. Both possessed esoteric mental talents, rather modest ones, to be sure, but still very interesting, so that on occasion they could state accurately what was contained in a sealed envelope, or give a recognizable description of the photograph of a loved one hidden in another student's wallet. This provided the group with encouraging evidence that such abilities were, indeed, no fable and somewhere along the difficult road to Total Insight might be attained by all.
In addition, Perrie and Dexter were volunteers for what Dr. Aloys Ormond referred to cryptically as "very advanced experimentation." The group at large had not been told the exact nature of these experiments, but the implication was that they were mental exercises of such power that Dr. Al did not wish other advanced students to try them, until the brave pioneer work being done by Perrie and Dexter was concluded and he had evaluated the results....
"Headaches, Dr. Al," said Perrie Rochelle. "Sometimes quite bad headaches--" She hesitated. She was a thin, pale girl with untidy arranged brown hair who vacillated between periods of vivacious alertness and activity and somewhat shorter periods of blank-faced withdrawal. "And then," she went on, "there are times during the day when I get to feeling sort of confused and not quite sure whether I'm asleep or awake ... you know?"
Dr. Ormond nodded, gazing at her reflectively from the little lectern on which he leaned. His composed smile indicated that he was not in the least surprised or disturbed by her report on the results of the week's experiments--that they were, in fact, precisely the results he had expected. "I'll speak to you about it later, Perrie," he told her gently. "Dexter ... what experiences have you had?"
Dexter Jones cleared his throat. He was a serious young man who appeared at meetings conservatively and neatly dressed and shaved to the quick, and rarely spoke unless spoken to.
"Well, nothing very dramatic, Dr. Al," he said diffidently. "I did have a few nightmares during the week. But I'm not sure there's any connection between them and, uh, what you were having us do."
Dr. Ormond stroked his chin and regarded Dexter with benevolence. "A connection seems quite possible, Dexter. Let's assume it exists. What can you tell us about those nightmares?"
Dexter said he was afraid he couldn't actually tell them anything. By the time he was fully awake he'd had only a very vague impression of what the nightmares were about, and the only part he could remember clearly now was that they had been quite alarming.
Old Mrs. Folsom, who was more than a little jealous of the special attention enjoyed by Dexter and Perrie, broke in eagerly at that point to tell about a nightmare she'd had during the week and which she could remember fully; and Cavender's attention drifted away from the talk. Mrs. Folsom was an old bore at best, but a very wealthy old bore, which was why Dr. Ormond usually let her ramble on a while before steering the conversation back to the business of the meeting. But Cavender didn't have to pretend to listen.