Twentieth Century Rejects: Bernie Sanders and Socialism

BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT

I have long been fascinated by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT). He is clearly a believer in his ideology (even though he dare not name it honestly). Most Americans, even those who disagree with him like myself, acknowledge that Bernie is “consistent.” Sanders is someone who cannot seem to get past 1960, when as he has acknowledged, he had his political awakening. As I wrote recently on this site, Sanders’ political awakening occurred when he grew disgusted by the John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon presidential debate of that year.

Please see below:

Bernie supported Castro.

To Sanders, Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution was a beautiful thing; it represented the “will of the people” and was an example for all to behold. In the 1960 presidential election, however, both JFK and Nixon basically competed over who could be the most anti-Castro candidate. JFK won that round, surprisingly.

Here is Bernie Sanders in his own words (on a closed-circuit television interview with some college kid–meaning this is likely closer to Bernie’s real opinion than whatever sugarcoated half-truth he’s been spreading these days) praising Castro’s revolution in 1985 as a “socialist” movement:

Bernie clearly admires Castro for having “transformed” Cuban society with his socialist revolution and Bernie argues that those opposed to Castro “forgot that [he] educated [Cuban] kids, gave them healthcare” which is precisely what Bernie’s current presidential campaign is about: government “giving” things to people.

The Cuban Model: Bernie’s Socialist Nightmare

Socialism or death!

– Fidel Castro, speaking at the Main Ceremony for the 45th anniversary of the Attacks on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons.

For the record, the Castro socialist revolution was one of the most destructive events in Cuba’s history. More importantly for our purposes, it was–and continues to be–one of the most serious national security challenges to the United States in the Western Hemisphere. Of course, since the Castro regime assumed power in 1959, the Cuban socialists and fellow traveling Marxists who led that blood-soaked tropical revolution have become dorm room heroes for at least two generations of American youth. Bernie was one of the first American students to become enamored with the Cuban revolution.

How can a man who has risen to the United States Senate and become a very serious presidential contender for one of the United States’ two political parties, not just in 2020 but previously in 2016, identify with the Castro revolution?

Think about it: when the revolution started in the outlying jungles and farmlands of Cuba in 1958, Castro and his band of revolutionaries targeted sugar farms–the lifeblood of the Cuban economy–for destruction. Castro’s revolutionary army attacked peasants and farmers first before they ever made it into destroying their “real” class enemies in the pro-American Cuban elite. The Castros rounded up innocent people; they pressed peasants into taking up arms with their cadre by threatening the lives of those farmers, their families, and their neighbors–then used those people as cannon fodder against the larger, better equipped Cuban government forces (Al Qaeda in Iraq behaved similarly during the height of the insurgency of the Iraq War, by the way).

When Comrade Fidel declared victory from the Santiago de Cuba city hall in 1959, his Argentine-born former medical student-turned-revolutionary, Che Guevara (who CNN host Chris Cuomo has previously praised on-air in 2015), marched a column of troops into Havana and immediately began arresting at least 600 people “associated” with the previous regime in Cuba.

Months after their declaration of victory, under the command of Castro, Guevara gleefully constructed a system of military prisons where he presided over Jacobin-type show trials, delighted in personally torturing and maiming his prisoners, and executing suspected “counter-revolutionaries” (read, ordinary Cubans just trying to survive the chaos) en masse. Actually, one of Che’s favorite pastimes was rounding up suspected homosexuals in Cuba, torturing, them, and then brutally murdering them.

Guevara also spent much of his time commingling with elements from the Soviet Union and “learning” at the feet of the brutal communist regimes in China, North Korea, and Africa.

So absolutely stunning. And brave, Chris.

Castro rode into power claiming to fight for the people, but the behavior of his revolutionaries from the start indicated that the “democratic revolution of the people” would be a dictatorship for the few. Castro had called for democratic elections as soon as he took power. Yet, within months of taking power, those dreams faded away. Castro assumed greater levels of power and influence and rewarded his closest associates and family members with more power, wealth, and prestige–at the country’s expense.

Meanwhile, Castro went to the United States looking for financial aid.

On an 11-day tour of the United States in 1959, the 33 year-old communist was greeted as a celebrity by out-of-touch American elites and ignorant Hollywood celebrities. University professors hailed Castro as a student-turned-democratic peace warrior. Few of these wealthy well-wishers knew or comprehended the abject terror Castro and his associates were inflicting on Cuba (and few Western elites would dare acknowledge the tyranny Castro and his regime would go on to inflict upon Cuba over the decades because, like Bernie, they believed one had “break a few eggs” to make a great socialist omelette in the jungle).

Despite [Castro’s] disappointment at what he saw as [Soviet Union leader Nikita] Khruschev’s weakness and betrayal [of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis], Castro moved [Cuba] even more toward Soviet-style socialism and intensified his crackdown on dissent.

Taken from The Seattle Times, 2016

When the United States government refused to hand over money to Castro (because he was promising to export Marxist revolution to the Americas, thereby giving the Soviet Union a conduit to exert its pernicious influence in the US sphere of influence), he grew enraged and indignant. Socialism, typically, rode on airy notions of equality and free stuff for everyone. But, in practice, socialism could not provide any of those things substantively. Without generous Western support and aid, Castro would be unable to feed his people, enhance Cuba’s standard of living, or even export his communist revolution to the Americas (which, Fidel had promised to do in a speech he gave in Caracas, Venezuela shortly before he sojourned to the United States begging for U.S. foreign aid dollars).

To pay for the bills, then, Castro turned to his preferred mode of politics: the rifle. This is where the island’s socialism began converting to Soviet-style totalitarianism…and it is where all socialist systems eventually deteriorate to: rationing, persecution, and tyranny.

Fidel Castro, showing off his preferred weapon, 1959.

Castro’s regime expropriated the landholdings of all private persons who possessed more than 1,000 acres of land. The government ordered forced lending; blew up new taxes; and instituted exchange control. All of this had the effect of destroying whatever was left of Cuba’s economy after Castro’s “victory for the people” in 1959. Unemployment became unmanageable and mass defections of Cuban elites to the United States became ubiquitous (further embarrassing the flailing communist regime). Not long thereafter, private investment evaporated. The gears of the Cuban economy ground to a halt and never really got moving again.

Cuba then descended into a militarized society in which one tyrant, Castro, ruled over a society flattened by perennial revolution and kept contained by a brutal police state. But, hey, Cuba has “free” universal healthcare!

Whatever your opinion on America’s current healthcare system is, the socialist model is just as bad–if not worse.

The next issue to comprehend is the lack of distinction between socialism and communism in this system. You see, like Bernie, Fidel rarely publicly identified himself openly as a “communist.” He spoke using Marxist dialectic. Castro was also fond of the Soviet Union and Mao’s China. More often, however, Castro described himself (and his revolutionary movement) as being “socialist.” Audiences in the United States and Canada were obviously confounded enough by these false distinctions, because so many people–even today, such as Bernie Sanders–clearly identify and sympathize with the Castro regime.

Here is an interview that Fidel did with the CBC in 1959 in which he not only claims some distinction between his socialist movement and the communists, but insists that the communists could never win an actual election in Cuba because Fidel’s “socialists” have the national consensus:

Courtesy of the Canadian Broadcasting Service. Interview conducted in 1959, shortly before Castro squelched any chances of democratic elections and just before the Cuban economy totally collapsed.

Here is another video of one of Castro’s fellow revolutionaries describing Comrade Fidel as a “socialist” on the now-deceased dictator’s 90th birthday:

Interview conducted in 2016 by Chinese state-owned Xinhua news organization.

Fidel stuck by the socialist revolution and vowed the United States would not succeed. [Castro] led the only party for the Cuban socialist revolution. Since then, the course of the revolution has remained socialist […] without any sign of going back or backtracking. It has continued progressing.

– Venezuelan-based historian, Luis Britto Garcia, in 2016

While many of the people who support Bernie Sanders do not know what communism–or socialism, for that matter–is, as I’ve written previously, the cadre propelling the Sanders movement forward (and Bernie himself) is well aware of what they mean by “socialism.” It is not the system that either Europe or Canada has (because neither of those systems are, in fact, socialist). For the cadre behind Bernie, they mean Cuba. Bernie has certainly never strayed away from his affections for Cuba. Instead, he has striven to more fully embrace the “socialist” moniker and turn it into a badge of courage.

Courtesy of CBS News, 2015.

In 1987, University of Hawaii historian, R.J. Rummel (who coined the term “democide”, which means when a government kills its own people) assessed that Castro’s regime had killed anywhere between 35,000-to-141,000 people (with a median number of 73,000. Though, there is some argument. Given the closed nature of the totalitarian Cuban system and the fact that Castro’s regime never took meticulous records of their atrocities, it is likely exact figures will never be known. Some organizations believe Rummel’s numbers are inflated, but I don’t. What is known is that in the immediate aftermath of Castro’s takeover, 5,000 people were ultimately executed in 1959.

Courtesy of R.J. Rummel, 1987.

In the 1960s, the Castro regime would extract the blood of their victims before shooting them and then sell that blood to fellow communist countries for $50 a pint. The reason? Castro’s regime needed money. The West wouldn’t trade with them (because Castro refused to denounce or abandon his quest to export the Cuban revolution elsewhere) or render financial aid. And, the Soviet assistance they received was limited. So, the regime rationed and terrorized to keep its cadre well-fed and to prevent an uprising against Fidel.

Meanwhile, since taking power, suicide rates in Cuba have more than tripled.

The largest group of innocent Cubans who have died because of Castro have been those who’ve fled the country by sea. The United States Coast Guard initially estimated that there were around “77,000 rafter deaths” by 2003. Although, the US Coast Guard stopped using this figure by 2008, believing it to be unreliable. Castro’s reign gutted Cuba economically and socially; it turned a beautiful tropical island into a virtual prison. It prompted 2 million Cubans to flee the country by any means necessary. Castro’s regime also nearly brought about a nuclear world war between the United Stated and the Soviet Union when he allowed the Soviets to place nuclear intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) there.

Socialism kills. It may not seek out to harm and destroy and its supporters may not wish to kill anyone. But, it is a theory of governance that is utterly unworkable in reality. Each time it is tried, it leads to Soviet-style oppression and it flattens once-vibrant societies with hopeful futures. The socialist siren song in America is the loudest it has been in generations. But, should it be enacted, it will lead to the exact same place that socialism has led other formerly great societies. Bernie and his followers should be taken at their word and it should not be allowed to happen here.

Nothing will be solved with the embrace of socialism. It never is. Cuba, Bernie’s great love affair, proves this. Even after Castro’s death in 2016, Cuba languishes under the yoke of the regime that Castro established for himself.

Why Socialism?

Socialism is one of those words that everyone has heard and few understand. There are various degrees of socialism and there are many meanings of the term. The idea of government-ownership of the means of production, which is the essence of socialism and all of its variations, is rooted deeply in the Industrial Revolution. Back then, industry took off and the country moved away from the agrarian-style economy it had become dependent on. Millions of country folk threw off their ties to the land and moved to the cities to work in the newfangled–and dangerous–factories.

While many advances had been made under the industrialization process, it was like opening Pandora’s box in terms of social inequality and disruption. The forces of disruption sowed chaos and helped to sweep away the old American republic, replacing it with a new, mechanized system that was increasingly divided by class and in which political power and wealth was increasingly centralized in the hands of few.

In response, many believed that the government needed to step in and prevent abuses and inequalities in our society from becoming permanent. The technology and processes that the industrial revolution unleashed created a series of unintended consequences–disruptions–that most people and the society writ large were simply unprepared to handle. Workers’ rights, unionization, the introduction of certain social services; the concepts of healthier living for all, universal public education, and the like were all intended to bring necessary equality to a system that was truly gilded and, therefore, unequal. Certainly, the initial movements to create public education and a social safety net did have positive impacts on millions of people. There was a grotesque imbalance in our system and the “socialist” solution (which, in fact, was not a socialist solution as we understand it today) helped to rebalance things.

As with every socialist movement, though, the revolution did not stop. Progressives in the United States (and throughout the West) were not content to secure workers’ rights and universal education. They wanted more. And they kept pushing for more. Lenin once instructed his revolutionaries in Russia to “Probe with bayonets–if you encounter mush, proceed; if you encounter steel, withdraw.” This encapsulates the socialist movement over the last century. It was a late nineteenth-and-twentieth century response to nineteenth-and-twentieth century woes.

Today, however, the problems are just the opposite. We have too much centralization; too much bureaucracy and distant control from disconnected elites. People not just in the United States but throughout the world are chafing under what is clearly an attempt for distant, conglomerated interests in governments, business, academia, and an international media to homogenize and flatten all forms of local control and national and regional distinctions. Socialism began as an understandable critique of what was undoubtedly excessive–exuberant–laissez-faire capitalism.

Yet, despite what many believe about the Gilded Age, many of the industrialists who are maligned by the Left to this day did not behave as they did out of antipathy toward the “lower” classes. They acted as they did because never before in the history of the United States (let alone the world) had so much rapid change, innovation, and social dynamism been unleashed before. It was less malignancy toward their lesser-fortunate fellow citizens than it was extreme naiveté about the forces that had been loosed upon the world by the industrial revolution coupled with a deep desire to enrich themselves.

Today, however, the centralizing ethos of the early socialist movement in the West has been taken to the extreme. If equality was the goal (if one recognized that “perfect equality” was impossible, that is) then one should have reasonably assumed that the United States has reached a fairly equitable society by at least 2008, when the country decisively elected its first African-American president. Of course, the path to equality was blazed fairly early on in this country. Ultimately, the country contorted itself into a bloody Civil War, in part, to ensure that equality was given its shot. The country again convulsed as people rightly supported women’s suffrage.

Unsatisfied with the political resolution of the Civil War, the country waged the Civil Rights Campaign of the 1960s; Americans embraced a steady stream of measures aimed at not only ensuring racial and gender equality–but they also throughout the twentieth century allowed for tax dollars to be used to create a social safety net. But, things went a bit askew. The goal stopped being to balance and make the political and social contract of the United States between the powerful and the less powerful more equitable; it essentially began a total redistribution of power and wealth–with only the ever-fattening federal government benefiting from the distribution, as the government had the monopoly force needed to redistribute.

All of this is to say that we’ve gone too far in the opposite direction of where the society was at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-nineteenth century. Today, ordinary people are all too keenly aware of just how feckless, corrupt, and mendacious our purported elite are. That “#JeffreyEpsteinDidntKillHimself” is a blatantly accepted truth, despite the best efforts of managerial elites everywhere to pooh-pooh that notion is a telling example. Americans everywhere rejected elite candidates in 2016, in favor of the unlikely Donald Trump. They are again signaling that they prefer both the populist candidates, Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Most Americans today do not realize how different of a country Bernie Sanders came up in. Bernie is really old. At 78, he has witnessed the birth–and death–of the postwar world; he has lived through the Cold War (and sided with America’s enemies throughout the conflict); and Bernie has apparently never once changed his opinion on the need for socialism in this country. This is likely because he was born in September of 1941 to a working-class Jewish family in Brooklyn. He was born into a world still reeling from the failures of the Great Depression; riven with anti-Semitism; still hoping for the much-ballyhooed “New Deal” reforms that then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt had campaigned on. Bernie likely lived with parents who were most affected by the financial swings of the decade previous to his birth. What’s more, Sanders likely viewed FDR’s New Deal as having been incomplete.

Remember, the idea for universal healthcare was packaged to the masses by FDR during his big (failed, thankfully) push for a Second Bill of Rights. Back then, the inputs were fundamentally different than they are today. Bernie was born into the tail end of the seismic shifts that turned the United States from a tiny agrarian republic in the New World into an industrial behemoth. He was born four months before the Japanese Empire attacked the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor and plunged the United States into the Second World War. Bernie was born into a period of American socio-economic and political life that was battling between the forces of laissez-faire capitalism and socialism. And, “socialism” appeared to be winning.

Of course, even FDR would have a hard time getting elected in today’s Democratic Party presidential primary. Ultimately, he would have likely been viewed by today’s activists as a failure both for having taken the country into war and also for having allowed corporate interests “water down” the New Deal. And, there is much debate to be had on whether one can say FDR was a “socialist” or not. Also, FDR would never been okay with being labeled a “socialist,” as Bernie has repeatedly delighted in being called over the years.

As Peter Camellos pointed out in Politico last year:

In Roosevelt’s experience, ideology was something to be feared, not embraced. Communism, fascism, Nazism [“National Socialism”] and even the unbending capitalist principles of his conservative critics were all looming dangers to the nation’s survival.

This, of course, is not what Bernie would have you believe. He would argue that everything from your local fire brigade to the public library to the United States Postal Service are all indicators that socialism reigns supreme.

Courtesy of AP, June 2019.

And, certainly Americans have come to use and enjoy these services. Today, at least three generations have been reared on the idea that the public sector has a role to play; that rather than being mutually exclusive, at times, the public and private sector are inextricably linked. This is the thesis of Marianna Mazzucato’s The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, by the way. There are some things that the state should have a greater say in and others that it should not. Americans have generally been willing to grant the government a degree of control in certain sectors.

Yet, the socialists like Bernie have never been content with that. FDR never sought to totally take control over the American private sector. He certainly did engage in sweeping annexations of it–far more than would be tolerated after his presidency. Although, that is not the same as the explicit definition of socialism: which is the government owning the means of production…in everything.

Bernie supports government controlling all means of production all of the time.

As Camellos argues in his piece about the dangers of labeling FDR a “socialist”:

[FDR’s] message was clear: His efforts to protect the ordinary American businessman and worker were solidly grounded in the core principles of “the American system of initiative and profit.”

FDR was not an ideologue. He was a salesman who simply believed he had a solution to some of America’s most vexing problems during his time. Bernie is not like FDR. Bernie is having an argument with the past and has not recognized that the future is fundamentally different. He is too dogmatic in his socialism. Bernie, like his hero Fidel Castro, actually does have a unifying theory of everything–one that transcends the kind of naive can-do problem-solving that FDR believed he was engaged in. Bernie has a plan. He has stuck to his plan and it will lead to horrors.

The solution to our present woes; to overcoming the excesses of an increasingly centralized and potent elite in distant metropoles along the coasts of the United States is not socialism. We mustn’t give the government more power to impose unacceptable and ineffective one-size-fits-all non-solutions. What is needed is something more akin to that which my friend, F.H. Buckley, discusses in his newest book, American Secession: The Looming Breakup of the United States. In this awesome new book, Buckley assesses the division in the United States today and believes that nullification–the official process of decentralizing the United States–is the remedy to our problem.

Rather than risking a civil war or allowing for an oppressive and corrupt transnational elite in distant cities to dictate the course of everyday Americans, Buckley says to devolve power away from the centralizers (therefore, to move the country away from socialism) and into the hands of the many more local and state governments who would be more (at least, theoretically) responsive to the needs of individuals and minority groups within their communities. While that may not be something that Donald Trump totally embraces, his mission to totally deconstruct the administrative state is much closer to what is needed rather than Bernie’s sentimental take on blood-soaked socialism.

Should Bernie Sanders manage to win the Democratic Primary (he now enjoys double-digit leads over his other opponents), and if the Democratic National Committee does not steal the nomination away from Bernie at the Democratic National Convention later this year, then Bernie will represent the greatest political challenge to President Trump in the last four years.

Do not be fooled by Bernie, though. His is a siren song that will lead to misery, death, and national destruction–just as socialism has everywhere it has been applied. He speaks of addressing inequality but he will merely redistribute the inequality and replace greed with envy. That’s less of an advancement and more of a bait-and-switch. And, as things fall apart; when the dreams of socialism meet hard-nosed reality, that is when the hammer will fall on the United States.

Just as it ultimately did in Cuba. Let Bernie sentimentalize socialism all to himself. Keep him away from power, otherwise we’ll all live to regret it.

©2020, The Weichert Report. All Rights Reserved.

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