Obama and I took a class about socialism's dark side. Bernie would have learned a lot.Roundup
tags: Barack Obama, socialism, Bernie Sanders, 2020 Election
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania. His latest book, "The Amateur Hour: A History of College Teaching in America,” will be published this fall by Johns Hopkins University Press.
In the spring of 1983, when I was a senior at Columbia University, I took a course entitled “The Sociology of Socialist Societies.” Like a lot of young American leftists, I was a bit starry-eyed about socialism. But the class quickly disabused me of that.
We read a memoir by Hungarian dissident Miklós Haraszti, whose bosses in a tractor factory fleeced and brutalized him. We also read American journalist Hedrick Smith’s unsparing account of the Soviet Union, an ostensibly class-free society that was hugely hierarchical and unequal. Yes, we learned, socialist economies provided health care, education and other state services to their citizens. But if you dared to criticize the state itself, it could remove your services — and, of course, your freedom — at any time.
A few students in the course gamely tried to defend these systems, arguing that the sacrifice of civil liberties was a small price to pay for guaranteed social welfare. The rest of us kept quiet. And that included a tall African American, also a senior, who sat next to me in class: Barack Obama.
comments powered by Disqus
- With Students Back on Campus, Faculty Push Back Against COVID Policies They Consider Inadequate
- How Hong Kong's Elite Have Embraced a Shifting Narrative on Tiananmen Square
- Discovery of Human Footprints Pushes Back Date of Earliest Humans in Americas
- Ghana, WEB DuBois Museum Foundation to Partner on Museum, Research Center
- George Holliday Dies at 61, Taped LAPD Beating of Rodney King
- The Curious Task of Preserving Darwin's Beans and Butterflies
- Local Professor Building History of San Diego's Japanese Americans
- Art History Prof. Recognizes Lost Masterpiece in Local Church
- Rebel is Right: Reassessing the Cultural Revolution
- US COVID Death Count Surpasses Estimates of 1918 Influenza