By Carol Rushton
Bernie Sanders captured the imagination of many young Americans who were disillusioned with the “politics as usual” candidacy of so many politicians as presented in the last presidential campaign. His rage against the rich touched a nerve with idealistic college students and 20-somethings who believed that there is something unjust about people having more money than others.
Bernie Sanders has considered himself a socialist since his University of Chicago days in the early 1960s.The big joke is that Sanders went to the Soviet Union for his honeymoon and never left. But his beliefs are no laughing matter.
One of Sanders’ statements during the 2015-2016 presidential election campaign did not receive much analysis or discussion. In an interview with CNBC journalist John Harwood in a small restaurant in Washington, D.C. in May 2015, Sanders complained about how many different deodorants were on the market. While blasting wealthy Americans as greedy – conveniently giving Bill and Hillary Clinton a pass for the millions they made giving speeches – Sanders said the following:
“You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country. I don’t think the media appreciates the kind of stress that ordinary Americans are working on.”
Sanders equated having so many different product choices with causing poverty and hunger in our country. But Sanders never explained how having so many products caused poverty or how eliminating these different products would solve poverty. Harwood never asked Sanders these hard questions, either.
So what would a United States of America look like with only a few deodorant or sneaker choices? How would this be achieved?
While Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s adversely affected China (including causing the deaths of millions of Chinese), the economy eventually rebounded to a certain extent. Although not on the same scale as the United States, China’s local markets became successful enough to offer a variety of products for Chinese consumers to choose from. The Chinese had freedom to buy these products if they had the money to pay for them. Women could buy high heels or fashionable dresses and wear them in public. Men could go to the barber of their choice to have their cut the way they wanted. If you wanted to buy flowers for someone, you could. A wide range of services and products were offered by tailors, restaurants, florists, and other shops.
This changed when Mao started the Cultural Revolution in China during the1960s as documented by Frank Dikotter in his book, The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976. Mao urged the public, in particular students, to destroy the old traditions, the old ways, the old culture; these were remnants of capitalism. This included anyone who could be associated with pre-revolution China. These people were “capitalist roaders” and fair game for students to attack. Luxury goods were particularly scorned and demonized as being associated with capitalism.
Roving bands of Red Guards took to the streets, smashing shop windows and destroying anything that could be even remotely associated with capitalism. Women daring to wear beautiful clothes and makeup had their faces smeared with lipstick or worse. Their clothes were destroyed; sometimes their hair would be forcibly shaved off. If you wore high heels, a Red Guard would chop off the heels of the shoes, ruining them. Men wearing fashionable pants had their clothes and suits slashed by Red Guards with knives or scissors. Drab clothing in black, blue or gray with plain black shoes, eventually known as the Mao suit, became the only safe way to dress in public.
Frank Dikotter explains how this affected the average Chinese:
Barbers still opened, but offered nothing but proletarian haircuts . . . Restaurants served only cheap, plan meals. Hawkers and peddlers, selling everything from fruit, vegetables, candy, nuts, cloth, crockery and coal to rattan baskets, were banned . . . Bookstores offered very little beyond the Little Red Book and other writings of the Chairman. Whole categories of people became unemployed. In Nanjing, the number of jobseekers increased tenfold. There were florists, greengrocers, fruit sellers, cobblers, tanners, coppersmiths, papermakers, printers, photographers, painters, dressmakers, embroiders, bookbinders, undertakers, and others. Many were ruined because their shops were forced to close down, while others could no longer make ends meet. The vast majority were poor people (emphasis mine).
Dikotter states that whole “branches or arts, craft and industry were wiped out . . . Only a third of the workforce was redeployed in different branches of industry, although even they fell into destitution, as they were often put on half-pay . . . In a small town outside Shantou, south China’s second biggest port before liberation and once a major exporter of embroidery, one in five had to survive on less than 3 yuan a month.”
The destruction did not stop there. Red Guards would burst into houses, destroying or stealing furniture, clothes, artwork, and money. Homeowners were told it was not fair for them to live in their nice homes that they had bought and paid for with their own hard work and money while others were not so fortunate. Nien Cheng, who documented her experience with the Cultural Revolution in her book, Life and Death in Shanghai, and also presented in Dikotter’s book, had her home ransacked and ruined by a group of Red Guards. She was relegated to living in one small room in her house, forced to share the rest of it with a host of strangers before being was arrested in 1966 and spending years in a Chinese prison. Cheng was eventually released and made her way to the United States.
China abandoned the Cultural Revolution after Mao’s death simply because it was obvious to everyone that it had been a colossal failure. But this vision of “fairness” is the same dream that Sanders has for America. It can never be imposed on a country except by force as it was in Mao’s China. Sanders’ desire to eliminate the vast variety of product choices Americans have will become a nightmare, adversely affecting the poor the worst, as it did in China.
The only reason Sanders did not became the Democrat Party’s presidential candidate in 2016 was because many of the superdelegates were pledged to Hillary. If Sanders runs for president in 2020, it is conceivable that this time he would win the nomination and have a good chance of being elected president. Every American should pray that Sanders and his catastrophic communist vision for this country never becomes a reality.