Bernie Sanders is proud to be a socialist. In July 2015, he told The Nation: “Do they think I’m afraid of the word? I’m not afraid of the word.” As far back as 1989, Sanders said: “I think there has been too much of a reluctance on the part of progressives and radicals to use the word socialism.” Sanders chooses to emphasize selective aspects he considers “positive,” while ignoring socialism’s brutal history.
In the 1960s, Sanders joined the Young People’s Socialist League, the youth wing of the Socialist Party USA. To Sanders, socialism means using government power to forcibly redistribute income and wealth from one group of people to another, which he thinks can be a good thing:
I think it means the government has got to play a very important role in making sure that as a right of citizenship, all of our people have healthcare; that as a right, all of our kids, regardless of income, have quality childcare, are able to go to college without going deeply into debt . . .
But as the old adage warns: a government powerful enough to give you everything you want is powerful enough to take away everything you have. That includes life itself. Sanders does not give his millennial followers, likely unaware of socialism’s record, a full picture of where concentrated government power inevitably leads.
In 2003, University of Pennsylvania history professor Alan Charles Kors wrote “Can There Be an ‘After Socialism’?” which tells the story that Bernie Sanders won’t. Here is an extended excerpt:
The goal of socialism was to reap the cultural, scientific, creative, and communal rewards of abolishing private property and free markets, and to end human tyranny. Using the command of the state, Communism sought to create this socialist society. What in fact occurred was the achievement of power by a group of inhumane despots: Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Castro, Mengistu, Ceausescu, Hoxha, and so on, and so on . . .
No cause, ever, in the history of all mankind, has produced more cold-blooded tyrants, more slaughtered innocents, and more orphans than socialism with power. It surpassed, exponentially, all other systems of production in turning out the dead. The bodies are all around us. And here is the problem: No one talks about them. No one honors them. No one does penance for them. No one has committed suicide for having been an apologist for those who did this to them. No one pays for them. No one is hunted down to account for them. It is exactly what Solzhenitsyn foresaw in The Gulag Archipelago: “No, no one would have to answer. No one would be looked into.” Until that happens, there is no “after socialism.”
The West accepts an epochal, monstrous, unforgivable double standard. We rehearse the crimes of Nazism almost daily, we teach them to our children as ultimate historical and moral lessons, and we bear witness to every victim. We are, with so few exceptions, almost silent on the crimes of Communism. So the bodies lie among us, unnoticed, everywhere. We insisted upon “de-Nazification,” and we excoriate those who tempered it in the name of new or emerging political realities. There never has been and never will be a similar “de-Communization,” although the slaughter of innocents was exponentially greater, and although those who signed the orders and ran the camps remain. In the case of Nazism, we hunt down ninety-year-old men because “the bones cry out” for justice. In the case of Communism, we insisted on “no witch hunts”—let the dead bury the living. But the dead can bury no one.
Therefore the dead lie among us, ignored, and anyone with moral eyes sees them, by their absence from our moral consciousness, spilling naked out of the television and movie screens, frozen in pain in our classrooms, and sprawled, unburied, across our politics and our culture. They sit next to us at our conferences. There could not have been an “after Nazism” without the recognition, the accounting, the justice, and the remembrance. Until we deal with the Communist dead, there is no “after socialism.”
To be moral beings, we must acknowledge these awful things appropriately and bear witness to the responsibilities of these most murderous times. Until socialism—like Nazism or fascism confronted by the death camps and the slaughter of innocents—is confronted with its lived reality, the greatest atrocities of all recorded human life, we will not live “after socialism.”
It will not happen. The pathology of Western intellectuals has committed them to an adversarial relationship with the culture—free markets and individual rights—that has produced the greatest alleviation of suffering; the greatest liberation from want, ignorance, and superstition; and the greatest increase of bounty and opportunity in the history of all human life.
This pathology allows Western intellectuals to step around the Everest of bodies of the victims of Communism without a tear, a scruple, a regret, an act of contrition, or a reevaluation of self, soul, and mind....
The bodies demand an accounting, an apology, and repentance. Without such things, there is no “after socialism.”
Bernie Sanders honeymooned in the USSR and praised the Soviet healthcare system. He traveled to communist Nicaragua in 1985 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Marxist Sandinista regime and established a sister-city partnership between Managua and Burlington, Vermont. He took a trip to Cuba in 1989, 30 years after the end of the Cuban Revolution, and praised the Castro regime’s education system two decades earlier. By giving socialism intellectual cover and acceptability, Bernie Sanders helped hide the bodies.
In a 1989 interview, Sanders said: “Socialism has a lot of different messages to different people. I think the issue of socialist ideology and what that meant or means is not terribly important.” Perhaps it’s not important to Sanders, but it was to the tens of millions of people who died at the hands of socialists or who currently toil under such regimes.
Sanders chooses to “step around the Everest of bodies . . . without a tear, a scruple, a regret, an act of contrition, or a reevaluation of self, soul, and mind.” He hides the truth from his young supporters, and that renders him morally unfit to be president.