Bernie Sanders is out of the running for the presidency of the United States. Millions are disappointed. He stimulated a taste for socialism. The Democratic Party is more socialist now than it was before it watched him entrancing his millions of followers.
He conveyed to crowds of Americans apparently innocent of any knowledge of modern history, that socialism is a benign system for an ideal society in which all are equal, and everyone gets free education from kindergarten to college, and free health care for life.
He has managed not to notice that where the system was tried – as in Russia – it did not established unending human happiness.
Although he went to Soviet Russia himself. He took his honeymoon there.
He got back home again safely, and has continued to the present day to consider socialism a fine thing.
Other Americans who went there – to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – were just as foolish but not as lucky.
We quote from an article by Tim Tzouliadis, published by the BBC in August 2008:
At the height of the Depression, several thousand American emigrants left New York on the decks of passenger liners waving goodbye to the Statue of Liberty, bound for Leningrad.
Over 100,000 Americans had applied for jobs working in brand new factories in Soviet Russia, ironically built for Stalin by famous American industrialists such as Henry Ford.
Those American emigrants who entered the “workers’ paradise” were certain that they were leaving the misery of unemployment and poverty behind them. They considered themselves fortunate.
Their optimism would prove to be short-lived. Most were stripped of their American passports soon after their arrival.
Considered suspect by Stalin’s paranoid totalitarian state, the foreigners were swept away in the Terror.
The American jazz clubs, the baseball teams, and the English-language schools set up in cities across the USSR, would quickly vanish with them. …
The Metropol Hotel became the weekly venue for the party of rich American journalists, businessmen and engineers who would dance around the circular fountain kept stocked with fish in the middle of the dance-floor.
Diners were encouraged to select their supper, at which point a net would be deftly flourished by the waiter, the fish caught and cooked and brought to their table.
Seventy years later the Metropol is still Moscow’s finest hotel, and the marble fountain is still present in the centre of the dining room. The city has changed radically but the key locations of the American emigration are still there.
In Gorky Park, the American baseball teams would compete against each other in the summer evenings of the early 1930s.
The American Ambassador’s residence, Spaso House, where William C. Bullitt once hosted the “party of the century” in April 1935, still has the Stars and Stripes flying in front and the diplomats still drink cocktails on the terrace.
The original American embassy on Mokhovaya Street is now the headquarters of a Russian investment bank. … At the height of the Terror, the American emigrants had besieged their embassy, begging for passports so they could leave Russia.
They were turned away only to be arrested on the pavement outside by lurking NKVD agents.
Inside, the American diplomats had known about these disappearances almost from the very beginning. But they did little to save their fellow countrymen …
The emigrants began their long journey either into the prison cells and the Gulag camps, or the shorter route to the execution grounds.
In the killing fields at Butovo, a suburb 27 kilometres south-east of Moscow, several of the American baseball players were executed during the Terror, and lie in mass graves stretching for hundreds of metres.
Thousands were killed in this quiet country backwater, surrounded by trees to muffle their screams. …
Wearing leather aprons and protective gloves, the masked NKVD guards had set about their nightly work methodically, killing young and old alike, understanding that they too would be killed if they refused.
But many also acted willingly, as the conscious and deliberate agents of the class struggle.
Stalin’s executioners had been convinced of the need to “kill and kill and kill” for the benefit of all mankind. And then they returned each morning to steady their nerves with their specifically-allotted quota of vodka, and to douse their clothes in eau-de-cologne to remove the stench of death, ready for the next night’s work.
Vladimir Putin was recently quoted as saying that Russians have nothing to be ashamed of concerning the Terror.
The iconography of totalitarianism remains firmly in place in modern Russian society. The entrance to the Lubyanka is still decorated with hammer and sickles.
(Hat-tip Robert Kantor)