cold war: the soviet bloc
The following is a transcript of then vice president Richard Nixon guiding soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev on an impromptu tour of a model home in the US Trade and Cultural Fair in Sokolniki Park, Moscow, July 24th, 1959. Arriving at the model kitchen display:
Nixon: You had a very nice house in your exhibition in New York. My wife and I saw and enjoyed it very much. I want to show you this kitchen. It is like those of our houses in California. [Nixon points to dishwasher.]
Khrushchev: We have such things.
Nixon: This is our newest model. This is the kind which is built in thousands of units for direct installations in the houses. In America, we like to make life easier for women…
Khrushchev: Your capitalistic attitude toward women does not occur under Communism.
Nixon: I think that this attitude towards women is universal. What we want to do, is make life more easy for our housewives…This house can be bought for $14,000, and most American [veterans from World War II] can buy a home in the bracket of $10,000 to $15,000. Let me give you an example that you can appreciate. Our steel workers as you know, are now on strike. But any steel worker could buy this house. They earn $3 an hour. This house costs about $100 a month to buy on a contract running 25 to 30 years.
Khrushchev: We have steel workers and peasants who can afford to spend $14,000 for a house. Your American houses are built to last only 20 years so builders could sell new houses at the end. We build firmly. We build for our children and grandchildren.
Nixon: American houses last for more than 20 years, but, even so, after twenty years, many Americans want a new house or a new kitchen. Their kitchen is obsolete by that time…The American system is designed to take advantage of new inventions and new techniques.
Khrushchev: This theory does not hold water. Some things never get out of date—houses, for instance. Furniture, furnishings—perhaps—but not houses. I have read much about America and American houses, and I do not think that this exhibit and what you say is strictly accurate.
Nixon: Well, um…
Khrushchev: I hope I have not insulted you.
Nixon: I have been insulted by experts. Everything we say [on the other hand] is in good humor. Always speak frankly.
Khrushchev: The Americans have created their own image of the Soviet man. But he is not as you think. You think the Russian people will be dumbfounded to see these things, but the fact is that newly built Russian houses have all this equipment right now.
Nixon: Yes, but…
Khrushchev: In Russia, all you have to do to get a house is to be born in the Soviet Union. You are entitled to housing…In America, if you don’t have a dollar you have a right to choose between sleeping in a house or on the pavement. Yet you say we are the slave to Communism.
Nixon: I appreciate that you are very articulate and energetic…
Khrushchev: Energetic is not the same thing as wise.