America’s Not-So-Great Cultural Revolution

Revolutionary youths of the world, unite closely,
With all the oppressed people!
Support and learn from each other,
Millions as one,
Let us march forward shoulder to shoulder.
Hold high the revolutionary banner and fight bravely.
Victory will surely belong to people.
“March of the Revolutionary Youth” (Translated by George Z. Chen)

Much has been made of the battles over free speech and the direction of our country in the months since Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. A typhoon of hysterical media coverage and “Resistance” protests has swept the nation over fears of a new fascism in America or Trump-Russia collusion non-stories. Our political climate has become quite toxic, no doubt. While there are those on Right and Left who are guilty of perpetuating this toxicity, the urge to commit violent acts seems to be more pervasive among those of the Leftist ilk. It’s easy to understand considering all of the factors at play: Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, and approval ratings of the overwhelmingly leftwing mainstream media being lower than the deepest fossil ever discovered. These three conditions alone are enough to send any Liberal’s head into a tizzy.

By now we have all seen the footage from the UC Berkeley riots to the horrific Congressional Baseball shooting. In trying to comprehend how we got here and where we might be going, it’s practicable to look through the illuminating lens of history. In this case, I do not mean our own, but rather the history of another nation currently at its zenith of global influence…the People’s Republic of China.

Many have heard of China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (无产阶级文化大革命), which occurred from 1966 to 1976, but few truly understand what happened during that decade of chaos. At the outset of this so-called “Revolution,” the People’s Republic of China under Communist dictator Mao Zedong was sixteen years old. A political and economic disaster known as the “Great Leap Forward” (大跃进) precipitated the Cultural Revolution and Mao’s power seemed to be slipping from his grasp. In response, the “Great Helmsman” himself called upon the agrarian masses to launch a revolution that would rid China of its old culture and usher in a new era of Socialist harmony. The result was calamitous. In an effort to “Smash the Four Olds” (破四旧), millions of teenage students, peasants, and farmers violently rebelled against old customs, old habits, old cultures, and old ideas. The notorious “Red Guards,” a massive gang of brainwashed youth tortured teachers and intellectuals. They replaced doctors with only those who possessed the revolutionary spirit but had little to no medical training. They persecuted and often killed anyone with a single hair on their back that might represent the old ruling class, or “Counterrevolutionary Reactionaries.”  On one of many propaganda posters used to broadcast Mao’s ideological commands, it reads, “Revolution is no crime, to rebel is justified” (革命无罪,造反有理).  Lacking official statistics, China scholar Roderick MacFarquhar of Harvard University estimates that between 750,000 and 1.5 million people were killed in Rural China.  This, in the minds of the Red Guards, was justified. Violent means to rationalize ideologically pure ends.

Chinese CR
A Cultural Revolution propaganda poster calls on Red Guards to follow Chairman Mao’s vision for the country, and in one section claims: “Revolution is no crime, to rebel is justified.”
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Four men accused of being “Counterrevolutionary Reactionaries” (反革命修正主义分子) during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Photo: Li Zhensheng)

What does this have to do with modern America’s political climate? We are thankfully nowhere close to reaching a violent uprising of the masses in the United States and it is nearly impossible to imagine such a thing happening in what I like to call the beautiful “American Experiment.” We have the Founding Fathers and other brilliant American thinkers to thank for that. However, there are accurate parallels to be drawn between the motives and actions of the Red Guards and today’s Leftist serial protesters. In particular, it is their intolerance for intellectual diversity and rationalization of violent escalation (I’m looking at you, Antifa).

The so-called “Resistance,” those who would do anything to remove President Trump from office and replace him with Marxist demigod Bernie Sanders, mirrors the ideological battle waged by the Chinese Red Guards. A key distinction is that the American Cultural Revolution is not a fight for the proletariat over the bourgeoisie—though economic inequality is a major piece of its platform—but rather a mixture of targeted demographics that have endured perceived “social injustice.” As now-famed conservative media figure Ben Shapiro argues, the word “justice” does not need a modifier.

Intersectionality—the idea that there exists a hierarchy of oppressed peoples who, when arranged into their proper groups, are deserving of a mixture of praise and reparations—is the vanguard of the Resistance. Whereas the poor, uneducated, and easily manipulated youth comprised the vast majority of the Red Guards in China, the “social justice warriors” of the Resistance are also made up of mostly young people belonging to an alliance of groups, such as Black Lives Matter, the LGBT community, “Queers for Palestine” …

*Massive eye roll*

…illegal immigration advocates, and former Occupy Wall Street-ers. And yet, as it was among the Red Guards, the Resistance has an overwhelming “with us or against us” attitude when it comes to their rigid ideological platform. As recently reported by The Daily Wire, a group of hopeful participants at a Chicago Gay Pride event were forced to leave because they carried the flag of Israel emblazoned with a rainbow flag. One would think allowing a symbol of the most-friendly-to-homosexuals nation in the Middle East would be invited to celebrate Pride Month, but the Resistance has a strict pro-Palestine, “anti-Zionist” platform. This intolerance for intellectual diversity is commonplace across all issues the Resistance takes on. See more examples of this here, here, and here.

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An anti-Trump rally, seemingly sponsored by an organization called “Socialist Alternative”

But perhaps the most concerning example of Resistance members taking the shape of 21st-century Red Guards is what’s happening on college campuses. These stories have made the full rounds online and on television. For a closer look inside the madness, I encourage you to watch this brief VICE News segment on what’s happening at Evergreen State College in Washington.

This is the closest the American Cultural Revolution has come to mimicking its Chinese counterpart of the 1960s and 1970s. In May 2016, the New York Times compiled testimonies from Chinese people who endured the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. I challenge you to read the following quote from Chen Qigang, a composer who now lives in France, and not see the resemblance.

This was the worst kind of bitterness. You are constantly told: “You are against the revolution, so therefore you have no right to speak. You don’t have freedom. You will have no future in this place. You will not have a good job. Everyone looks down on you.”

When entitled, aggravated, and politically inculcated college students are berating their professors and calling for their firing, after which the same professor feels compelled to FLEE THE STATE, there is clearly a problem.  Keep in mind, this professor only slightly deviated from the Resistance’s accepted doctrine—he did not want to participate in an event that called for white people to leave campus for one day, but labels himself politically progressive.  To reiterate, the Resistance has obviously not reached the level of violence seen during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, nor is that likely, but the similarities of a mob mentality are remarkable. Take another instance of Leftist violence, the UC Berkeley riots, which were spurred by the hilariously ironic Anti-Fascists, or Antifa, who deployed violence to shut down alt-right “fellow traveler” and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Unless you weren’t already aware, violently shutting down a political speech and destroying the property where that speech was scheduled to take place is Chapter One in The Fascist’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The Resistance is uniquely American, just at the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was uniquely Chinese. The anti-Trump, anti-capitalist, anti-bigot (my current choice for the “Most Poorly Used Word in the Dictionary” superlative) movement operates within our free and open democracy, sheltered by the self-evident right of liberty and constitutionally protected free speech. Mao’s proletarian uprising occurred over the PRC’s most turbulent decade of its existence and under mob rule rather than the rule of law. However, when reduced to their lowest common denominators, the Resistance and the Revolution were held up by eerily similar causes—to turn society and cultural norms on their head, to dismantle perceived oppression by the ruling class, and to move towards a Socialist utopia.

If you had to pick one example to illustrate the worst of political violence, the Chinese Cultural Revolution would be a front-runner for that title. In 21st-century America, it’s arguable that we have a stable culture with violent tendencies, a social trend that is now seeping into the political realm. No example is quite so obvious as the Congressional Baseball shooting. We are generally a tranquil country—this was one of the Founders’ primary objectives when constructing the Constitution (see the Preamble), but are we gradually approaching a point where political violence is tolerated as a fact of life? Americans are in the midst of debating several monumental issues that will dictate what our nation and government will look like ten, fifty, and one hundred years from now—absent a giant meteor, of course (Disclaimer: this is not an endorsement for Giant Meteor, 2020).

Take Obamacare—will we allow the federal government’s overreach to constrain the free market from doing what it is well equipped to accomplish? How about immigration—will we find a middle ground where securing our borders from illegal immigrants and reforming the legal system are both priorities? And the economy, the deciding factor in most voters’ minds—will America remain as the most prosperous nation to ever exist or will excessive federal regulations continue to hound the middle class? These issues affect every person in America, and it is easy to think the worst of those on the opposite side of the political spectrum who would prescribe fundamentally different solutions from your own.  Unfortunately for the Left, since Donald Trump’s election, the more frequent instances of violent behavior to promote an ideological agenda have originated from their side.

Why was political violence and brutality tolerated during the Chinese Cultural Revolution? The most likely answer is that Mao himself did not reject it. In fact, the Communist government sanctioned violence committed by the Red Guards against “Reactionaries,” “Counterrevolutionaries,” and the Four Olds in order to protect its own legitimacy. Mao was the arbiter of truth and righteousness during the chaotic decade of the Cultural Revolution and beyond. It is not surprising that violence in defense of that truth and righteousness reached inhumane depths. The United States government is certainly not tolerating such violence and never will, but our political climate is providing room for its formation among politically active individuals and groups.  For now, at least we only have to put up with laughably stupid chants like:

Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Donald Trump has got to go!”

No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA!”

And of course…

“NOT MY PRESIDENT!”

(Yes, he is.)

That being said, there are folks in Washington—Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Keith Ellison, Nancy Pelosi, I could go on and on—who would actually like to see the federal government be the sole arbiter of truth and righteousness in America. If you accept the hypothesis that normalcy of political violence is predicated by a government’s increasing role in our daily lives, which has continued unabated in America for over a century, then it is not hard to imagine a day when an American Cultural Revolution from the Left will become far more violent.  In the words of the Red Guard, “Revolution is no crime, to rebel is justified.”

To this I say: Make government less important and fewer people will resort to vitriol and violence to advance political goals.

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