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July 8 2019

"Speaking Bitterness": From Mao to Now

by Charlotte Hays

There is a lot of “speaking bitterness” going on today.

I just learned this term from Helen Raleigh’s sobering account of what happened to her great-grandfather, a Chinese farmer, after the Communist Party came to power in 1949.

The party deemed those who owned land, people like Raleigh’s great-grandfather, class enemies. Here is what they did:   

Though many villagers shared similar economic conditions, a government worker came to my great-grandfather’s village and divided everyone into five classes: landlords, rich peasants, middle peasants, poor peasants and laborers. Then a work team organized “speak bitterness” struggle sessions so the poor could vent their frustration against the “rich.”

Read this and experience the shock of recognition.

In the U.S. today, there is a curious twist: many of the people “speaking bitterness” are filthy rich (Colin Kaepernick, who is offended by Betsy Ross’ American flag), or wildly applauded (Megan Rapinoe, who announced that, if invited, she would not go to the “f—king White House”). I imagine for some people speaking bitterness, it’s sort of a stylish game: everybody is doing it. Cool.

Just for the record, it ended badly for Raleigh’s once-relatively prosperous grandfather and most of the peasants whom the authorities encouraged to speak bitterness:

The poor farmers didn’t come out ahead for long. In 1953 the Chinese government started a movement to collectivize agriculture. The land that had been handed to poor farmers was gradually returned to the state. By 1958 there was no private land ownership. Private farming was prohibited. Farmers were required to sell their produce to the government at fixed prices; no private sales were allowed. Farmers couldn’t choose which crops to grow. They had to follow the orders of local Communist leaders, many of whom didn’t know much about farming. Crops perished and millions of people starved.  

Raleigh also compares speaking bitterness after the communist regime took charge to what we see today: 

A few years later, I immigrated to the U.S. My great-grandfather’s plight and China’s history have cemented my belief that socialism is evil and I was lucky to escape it. Yet nowadays, I sometimes feel as if I’m back where I came from. I want to scream every time I hear the American left’s eerily familiar slogans: “Make the rich pay their fair share,” “Level the playing field,” “You didn’t build that.” This is the same sort of rhetoric the Chinese Communist Party used against landowners like my great-grandfather. The policies advanced by that rhetoric ruined China’s economy along with millions of lives.

The American left offers nothing new. Socialism always begins with a great promise and ends in disaster. It has failed every time and everywhere it was tried. Let’s not throw away American prosperity so that a few leftists can give it another go.

 If you read only one opinion piece today, let it be this one.

 





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