Any Volunteers?

April 19 1998 3:30 AM

Any Volunteers?

Beware a government calling for acts of beneficence.

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In fact, the Soviets had a name for this sort of voluntarism: subbotnik, the voluntary day of labor. Invented by Lenin, subbotniks were convened on weekends for cleaning, maintenance, and construction projects that the commissars decided needed attention. Since communism closed shop in Russia, all the volunteers have disappeared.

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at