The Soviet Union had a so-called "command economy". This economy was centrally directed from Moscow, which administered a huge territory stretching over 11 time zones (nearly half the globe).
As you might imagine, it was not always easy to get the stuff that a factory produced in say, Vladivostok on time to a factory on the Black sea and to another one in Novgorod. Sometimes the stuff did not arrive on time, sometimes too much arrived, sometimes the wrong parts were delivered, sometimes the trains got stuck in the Siberian snow desert and plundered by nearby peasants, etc.
This had the effect that some factories did not have the necessary materials to work with, so the workers had nothing to do. The workers used that "empty" time to go stand in line in front of the bread shops, which were also suffering from the same problem. So the workers sometimes had pretty little to do. In any case, there was no unemployment and no unemployment benefits, ie, the people who would have been unemployed under a capitalist system were still on the pay roll of various factories, hospitals, schools, etc. So they had little to do. The pay, however was very low.
Therefore the "we pretended to work, they pretended to pay us".
Somehow, that system worked and the people managed to live. Problem is, there was no, but absolutely no provision for "luxury" items. Soviet women made their owns clothes, they knitted their own jumpers, they all had a plot where they grew vegetables, etc...
My opinion on this is: planning is a good thing, but not on such a large scale. Giving every body a job is also a good thing. Going to work every day, even if there is only very little to do is better than staying at home "on the dole".
Sharing without freedom is not sharing, it is slavery.
I read this article and cannot agree. I certainly did not notice any "stench". The border guards hardly looked at us and I never, ever, had my suitcase inspected on all my trips to Russia (I sometimes went by car).
I saw many American tourists in Moscow in the summer and fall of 1983 (around the time the article was updated). They did not mention the stench either. They seemed to enjoy themselves.
I do not agree with the Stalinist system, but I find it really horrible that people need to tell lies about life in the ex-Soviet Union when the truth is bad enough.
I lived in Russia in the Cold War (of my own accord, I am not Russian)
I went back to Russia after the "fall of Communism" and I was shocked by the large number of beggars in the street. During Soviet times, there were no beggars.