Bernie Sanders Socialism Speech Warns of Authoritarianism, but Ignores the Brutal Legacy of Communism

By Klein, Philip | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, June 12, 2019 | Go to article overview

Bernie Sanders Socialism Speech Warns of Authoritarianism, but Ignores the Brutal Legacy of Communism


Klein, Philip, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Wednesday gave what was billed as a major speech outlining his sweeping vision for "democratic socialism" that he said would require nothing short of "political revolution."

In the speech, he warned of the need to rise up against the "forces of oligarchy and authoritarianism." The concentration of wealth among billionaires, he said, was depriving the masses of the ability to share the benefits of economic growth, and this economic frustration was being exploited by nationalists throughout the world, including President Trump.

"This authoritarian playbook is not new," Sanders said. "The challenge we confront today as a nation, and as a world, is in many ways not different from the one we faced a little less than a century ago, during and after the Great Depression in the 1930s. Then, as now, deeply-rooted and seemingly intractable economic and social disparities led to the rise of right-wing nationalist forces all over the world."

Sanders goes on to mention the massive 1939 Nazi rally in Madison Square Garden as evidence that "dark forces" also tried to organize in the United States, but in his telling, they were thwarted because of FDR's bold economic policies.

What's interesting, and quite telling, in the Sanders analysis of totalitarian movements in the 20th century is that he ignores the totalitarian threat of communism. He mentions Mussolini and Hitler, but does not mention Stalin.

Under communism, angry rhetoric about the concentration of wealth and promises of a more economically equal society evolved into a bloody system of global oppression that was responsible for an estimated 100 million deaths, making it, as author David Satter put it, the "greatest catastrophe in human history."

It also got much closer to becoming a reality in the U.S. than Nazism, with high-ranking government officials serving as communist agents.

In the case of Sanders, his failure to bring up any of this when talking about authoritarian threats is a major omission, especially given his long history of active support for communist regimes. In the 1980s, Sanders visited and warmly praised the authoritarian Cuba and the Soviet Union. As the New York Times reported, he also visited Nicaragua and praised the communist government, attending a Sandinista rally where the crowd chanted, "Here, there, everywhere, the Yankee will die. …

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