Imagine a credible candidate for a significant elected office – never mind the Presidency of the United States of America, the elected office in the world – who has spent his career cheering on Mussolini, Franco and assorted Latin America authoritarian strongmen, who admires Nazi Germany’s record in job creation and public infrastructure, and who, while eschewing excesses of the past, proclaims himself a proud national socialist, but to reassure all he says he is a democratic national socialist.
Now think of Bernie Sanders and you can once again understand the pervasive double standard in our politics. The hypothetical candidate from the previous paragraph – and he or she are very much hypothetical – would be considered a political and social pariah. Bernie, on the other hand, is lionised by millions and until very recently, prior to the miraculous, Dr Frankenstein-like reanimation of Joe Biden, has been considered a probable presidential candidate by a major political party (coincidentally, of which he has never been a member in his entire career).
To the best of my knowledge, Sanders has never expressed any regret, misgivings or second thoughts about a lifetime of cheerleading for virtually every socialist/communist government around the world, from the Soviet Union to Vietnam and from Cuba to, most recently, Venezuela. It is not like the true nature of these regimes has been a secret until now. Anyone with any modicum of knowledge and common sense could see all long these were all totalitarian dictatorships and mass abusers of human rights, which nationalised poverty and whatever their meager economic or social progress it has been achieved at an unacceptable cost.
Sanders now acknowledges – when pressed – the unsavoury aspects of his pet regimes: lack of democracy, oppression, millions of victims. Yet he keeps on bringing up Cuba’s universal literacy as an example of a clear socialist achievement. As if the ability of all Cubans to read the government propaganda and nothing else was somehow the essence of the communist project and its most important metric. And sure, the Soviet Union had universal free health care too. But of what standard and how does that fact stack up against every other aspect of the Soviet Union? It reminds me of that old dark joke, “Apart from that, how did you enjoy Dallas, Mrs Kennedy?” The historical fact remains that the communist societies of the 20th century were not just failures, but extremely costly failures. Other countries have achieved industrialisation, modernity and development much more successfully and at a fraction of the blood spilled under the red flag.
Now Bernie is using another standard diversionary tactic: you see, when he’s talking about socialism what he really means is the Scandinavian social democratic model, the northern European welfare state and all that. But if that’s really Bernie’s socialism, then why did he spent his entire political career, nearly 50 years of it, waxing lyrically about the Soviet Union, Cuba and Venezuela and not Denmark, Sweden and Finland? Why was he so keen that Burlington, the Vermont city he was a mayor of, has a sister city in the communist Russia – and in the mid-80s, for God’s sake, in the dying days of the Soviet experiment – and not in Norway or the Netherlands? Whether or not you believe that Scandinavian countries today are socialist as opposed to high taxing capitalist ones, you just can’t trust Bernie to be honest with you about what he really believes.
And then finally there is the oldest trick in the socialist playbook, as David Harsanyi reports:
At a Fox News Town Hall on Monday, Bernie was asked by a Russian immigrant and student from the University of Michigan: Could Sanders assure her that his brand of “democratic socialism” wouldn’t cause the same kind of harm that socialism always causes?
“And Communism,” Bernie goes on, “whether in Cuba, whether in the Soviet Union or whether in other countries was marked by totalitarianism, was marked by throwing millions of people into the Gulag.”
Yep, it wasn’t the real socialism. So, countries that called themselves socialist, like the Soviet Union et al, but which proved to be colossal failures, were not really socialist. On the other hand, countries that did not call themselves socialist, like the Scandinavian states, but which proved to be quite successful, are really socialist.
That an old Chomskyite like Sanders came so close to being the Democrat presidential candidate tells of a sickness at the heart of a major political party. Democrats still staunchly believe that Donald Trump is a Russian asset but almost ended up with an actual communist sympathser in charge. History didn’t end in 1989; it repeats itself like vomit rising in your throat.