By Stuart Clayton Lee
Communism Awareness Month is coming to a close, as is my series on analyzing communist China. There have been a lot of critiques and arguments to be made against such a state, however, is there something we can learn from while still remaining critical? How can libertarians and conservatives grow in order to further defeat the plague of socialism? Why do left wing ideologies resonate so well with young people? The Cultural Revolution offers some insight as well as the topic of political culture in today’s society.
I remember being surprised, when I was visiting China, of seeing a bus driver wearing a red guard armband. As a matter of fact, I walked into a small handful of people still donning the red guard armband. At a local museum I was able to even purchase a red guard armband and a Chinese copy of Mao’s little red book. These items were remnants of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, a campaign started in 1966 to “purge the “impure” elements of Chinese society and revive the revolutionary spirit that had led to victory in the civil war 20 decades earlier and the formation of the People’s Republic of China (History.com 2009). This stimulation of revolutionary culture continued until Mao’s death in 1976.
Discussion about the Cultural Revolution without discussion of the red guard is like a 1000 piece puzzle missing 666 pieces. Mao decided to shut down the nation’s schools and encouraged the youth to carry his message and criticize their elders and party members for their bourgeoisie values. The revolutionary youth, with Mao’s book in their hand, were known as the Red Guard.
To those who think anarcho-capitalism would result in chaos, they need to revisit the actions of these red guard. The elderly, intellectuals, teachers, all were verbally and physically attacked by these red guard. There were even deaths caused by an infatuation with Mao Zedong and the ideology he represented. This not only had social consequences, but economic consequences as well. From 1966 to 1968, production dropped 12 percent. Top party members lost their power, including even Mao’s future successor, Deng Xiaoping. The campaign, like the last two campaigns we discussed, was a failure. Maoists might disagree, even in spite of Mao himself sending in army troops to restore order against the red guards that he created himself. How many more people have died due to this ideology as a result?
“The exact number of dead is not known, but a figure of one million or more is most commonly cited. Estimates range from 500,000 to eight million dead, according to a 2011 paper by Song Yongyi, a scholar of the Cultural Revolution. The number of people persecuted is usually estimated in the tens of millions.” (New York Times, 2016)
With numbers near 1 million, the Chinese Cultural Revolution proved to be another state failure. However, was there something Mao understood that libertarians can learn from in order to help fight socialism and other opposing ideologies? Why was Mao after culture? Culture matters in the battleground of political ideas, even if it’s irrelevant to the legitimacy of the ideas that they promote. Unfortunately I will concede that libertarians are losing in terms of culture, and this, I believe, is one of the reasons left wing ideologies are appealing more to younger people.
The hammer and sickle appears on flags, shirts, hats, posters, water bottles, mugs, bags, and yet it’s rare to find a symbol of libertarianism on a college campus. Musicians can go far left like Rage Against the Machine and movies often portray capitalism in a negative light. There is a possibility we are losing the youth to a culture of communism due to a lack of culture of liberty.
This is not to say that libertarianism lacks culture. It’s exciting to see musicians like Eric July spread the message of liberty as well as see various items that display the anarcho-capitalist flag as well as other libertarian symbols. We just need more of a cultural stimulation in order to fight socialism over the young people.
Books upon books covering libertarian philosophy and economics already exist, but the real challenge is going to be trying to persuade the youth of the world to pick up these books in the first place. The process is almost like that of Ayn Rand’s fiction books motivating people to read into her objectivist philosophy. In order to get more of today’s young to read intellectual libertarian content, we need to first spread the message of liberty through culture.
Support artists like Eric July, support those who create graphic designs for apparel, buy Liberty Hangout’s Taxation is Theft Hat or Communism Isn’t Cool t-shirt, try to spread libertarianism through culture as much as you can. We must never give up on expanding libertarian thought intellectually, however, we must also spread libertarianism through culture. Only then might we be able to win over the minds of many of the youth around the globe.
History.com Staff. “Cultural Revolution.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 30 May 2017.
Ramzy, Austin. “China’s Cultural Revolution, Explained.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 May 2016. Web. 30 May 2017.
Lieberthal, Kenneth G. “Cultural Revolution.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., n.d. Web. 30 May 2017.