Communism is responsible for the murder of tens of millions of people. That should be enough to seal its awful reputation. But as Joseph Stalin once remarked, that’s just a statistic. Real life stories tend to better illustrate the horror that resulted when the philosophies of Marx and Lenin were applied to human beings and societies.
Zhuang Zedong has died, the Chinese table tennis star who initiated the contact with American Glenn Cowan, who mistakenly boarded the Chinese team’s bus at the world championships in Japan in 1971. That led to “ping-pong diplomacy” and the opening in Beijing.
Zhuang was a fine player, but that didn’t help when it came to the brutal zaniness of Cultural Revolution. Observed the Economist:
In 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, when he was 26 and a star—when the struggling, marching Chinese people stopped work and gathered round the radio to listen to his matches—table tennis was suddenly banned as bourgeois. He and the rest of the national team were denounced for wanting to win too much and for accumulating capitalist trinkets, like his Swiss watch. For a while he had become a counter-revolutionary, joining Liu Shaoqi’s anti-Mao “black gang”, but then he had made a public apology and had been allowed, gradually, to start training again. His coach and two team-mates, who refused to apologise, had been declared traitors and had hanged themselves.
He was back in favor for a time, acting as Mao’s sports ambassador. Then the murderous Chairman went to his Great Reward (pretty hot there, I suspect!). And Zhuang suffered another bit of bad career luck out of which he could not apologize this time:
The turning of the Earth, though, also brought disgrace after Mao’s death in 1976 to those, like Mr Zhuang, who had cosied up to him. Stripped of his official posts, he was made to sweep streets and spent nine years in confinement. This “self-examination” did not include table tennis, from which he was banned again. Instead, he took up calligraphy and reading until, in 1985, he was allowed back to Beijing to teach his sport to children.
Zhuang was no hero, but he seems not to have been a brute either. Just an average person trying to make his way through a bizarre political system where the State claimed the entire person. Choose wrong, and you lost everything–including, often, your life, though Zhuang at least avoided that penalty. It was a tragedy repeated again and again in China, the Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere.
Communism never was and never will be good for human beings and other living things.