The Democratic Party has shifted significantly further left on the political spectrum in recent years. For example, 52 percent of Democrats now support a government-run healthcare system, which is an increase from 2014 and even from the beginning of this year. This ideological transition is also seen in the huge popularity of Bernie Sanders among young voters, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist, in the 2016 Democratic Primary. In fact, in the 2016 campaign, Sanders won more votes from those under age 30 than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined.
The problem with these tendencies is that socialism is the stepping stone to communism, and communism is among the most violent and oppressive forms of government our world has ever known.
Communism has become relevant in recent news because last month marked the year of the ideology’s practical existence. In the October Revolution, revolutionaries overthrew the imperial government, placing the Bolsheviks in power. The new communist society, founded on the ideals of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, created a state that demanded atheism and the abolition of private property.
This ideology proved to be deadly. Lenin launched what has been called the Red Terror, a cruel campaign used to silence any opposition within the civilian population, which killed anywhere between 100,000 to 1.5 million people.
The Soviet Union’s next communist leader, Joseph Stalin, was no less evil. Stalin initiated the Great Purge in 1937 by ordering regional bosses to submit lists of “enemies of the people.” By the end of the Great Purge in 1938, 687,000 had been shot.
In China, communism has also caused utter destruction. Communist leader Mao Zedong launched the Great Leap Forward in 1958, an economic and social campaign rooted in the ideals of communism. The campaign is thought to be responsible for at least 45 million deaths. In addition to causing one of the worst famines in history, the Great Leap Forward saw between 2 and 3 million people executed, often for committing even the slightest infraction. China still has a communist regime, and many people in China today are unaware of this massacre because their government allows little public information about it. There are no museums or monuments in China to remember the tens of millions of victims.
The American model of government is by no means a perfect system, but I would argue that it is the most successful in human history. Instead of revolting to make the government the ruler of our lives, the American colonists fought the Revolutionary War to be free from an oppressive government. The preamble of the Declaration of Independence explains it best: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights… deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
These inalienable rights we enjoy in the United States are one reason why our nation prospers. For instance, we often take for granted luxuries such as the ability to open Facebook or Snapchat. However, one cannot legally access these things under China’s current communist government.
China’s restrictions of personal freedoms do not end with social media. For example, the modern Chinese government identifies and tickets jaywalkers using facial-recognition technology. By 2020, the government hopes to implement a national “social credit” system, which would monitor people’s behavior at work and in public venues, as well as their financial dealings.
Religious freedom, which is one of America’s core ideals and the reason why the Puritans fled to America in the 1500s, is also limited in China. The Wall Street Journal reports that, last year, China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs ordered major churches, mosques and temples to be “fully covered” by surveillance cameras.
The viability of socialism itself as a form of government is a separate matter and is open to debate. However, considering its history, there is no moral rationale for embracing a communist America.
I urge people who “Feel the Bern” for Sanders to reflect on just how far left our nation should drift politically before the United States ends up floating down the treacherous waterfall of communism.
Paul Rutecki is a fourth-year student majoring in accounting who loves to play cello.