The Ceaușescu Palace (also known as the Spring Palace), which was the main residency of the Ceaușescu family and a symbol of their oppressive as well as exploitative rule, was equipped with a swimming pool, a solarium, a sauna, a cinema, and a garden with peacocks on a built area of 3,000 sqm. The walls of the palace are covered with golden and silk wallpaper and mirrors made of Murano glass. In 1989, The New York Times reported that Ceaușescu is likely to have $470 million on various Swiss bank accounts – at the same time the Romanian Government’s deposits in Swiss accounts totalled only $70 million. The family had a habit of filling up important government positions with their relatives, while the power-hungry Elena Ceaușescu, was also known for her love of furs and jewels.
While the Ceaușescu family suffered from a general lack of education, the Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong, dismissed personal hygiene. Decades after the dictator’s death, his former personal physician described Mao’s personal conditions. According to the doctor’s testimony, Mao never brushed his teeth – once when he was asked why he responded with the question, ‘Does a tiger brush his teeth?’. When he was interviewed by a female reporter, he reached into his pants to pick a louse off his body. He despised taking a bath, his personal philosophy was, as he said, ‘I wash myself in the bodies of my women’ (he is believed to have deflowered around 1,000 women). He was a man of not only disgusting habits, but also murderous intent. Nevertheless, even during the Great Famine (1958–61), when approximately 30 million people starved to death in China, Mao continued to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. His favourite fish was flown to him from Wuhan to the capital; these fishes were kept alive in water tanks with oxygen being administered to them on a journey of 600 miles to ensure that his dish is fresh.While his “subjects” were often crowded into small apartments, generations living together, he himself had exclusive access to 50 different luxury mansions – never without lady servants serving for his personal entertainment. Such a personal wealth and access to all sources of pleasures – for a person who declared that ‘the more books you read, the more stupid you become’.
The idea of elevating the oppressed (that is, in traditional Marxist thought, members of the working class like Mao and Ceaușescu who both came from economically deprived families working in the agriculture) may sound compassionate; however, when choosing leaders, it is more important to have them selected based on merit, skill and competence rather than based on their position in the oppression hierarchy.
Lili Zemplényi is a graduate of University College London (UCL). Currently, she is completing her MA at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Previously, she worked as an intern at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Political Science.
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