Bernie Sanders: Just a naïve Hanoi Jane? (personal history week)

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Bernie Sanders and the ‘Revolutionary’ Whitewashing of Communist Tyranny
https://quillette.com/2020/03/21/bernie-...t-tyranny/

EXCERPT (Tony Frangie Mawad): As Bernie Sanders’ American presidential hopes fade [...] so, too, does his dream of a people’s “revolution” in the United States. The R-word has popped up frequently at Sanders rallies. Indeed, "Our Revolution" is both the title of the book Sanders wrote in 2016, as well as the name of the political-action organization his campaign inspired. The revolution that Sanders speaks of is a democratic, populist process ... But Sanders’ own personal history shows that he was, and remains, naively sympathetic to some of the most ruthless revolutionary movements of the 20th century.

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that in the late 1980s [...] Sanders made friendly overtures to his counterpart in the Russian city of Yaroslavl. ... this outreach was leveraged by Soviet officials to further a propaganda campaign ... After returning from a trip to Yaroslavl, Sanders praised the Soviet healthcare system and subway infrastructure. This was 1988, just three years before the USSR collapsed, by which time even most Russians had stopped believing their own government’s propaganda.

It’s part of a larger pattern. “We are very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba,” said Sanders in a 60 Minutes interview last month. “But, you know, it’s unfair to simply say ‘everything is bad.’ When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing, even though Fidel Castro did it?”

Uproar predictably followed in the Cuban-American community...

[...] As Michael Moynihan noted in a 2016 piece for the Daily Beast, Sanders also repeatedly praised the Soviet- and Cuban-backed Sandinistas of Nicaragua. About 2,000 citizens were executed in the Sandinistas’ first six months in power, and 3,000 people simply disappeared. By 1999, the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (often referred to as the CPDH) had documented about 14,000 cases of rape, torture, mutilations, executions, and kidnappings. The Sandinistas also mistreated the country’s Miskito indigenous population, forcibly relocating 8,500 of them, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

[...] Sanders’ appraisal of Latin America’s left-wing dictatorships didn’t change much over the next 30 years, and seems to have survived the fall of the Berlin Wall entirely unscathed. In 2016, during a primary Democrat debate in Miami hosted by Univision, Sanders was shown a 1985 video in which he had talked enthusiastically about Castro’s policies. [...]

[...] Both Sanders and Nikole Hannah-Jones are beset by what Venezuelan journalist Cristal Palacios Yumar calls “peace privilege”—by which people living in peaceful, prosperous countries simply have “no real clue about what it means to survive” in a dictatorship. Hannah-Jones, in particular, seems ignorant of the institutional racism that has suffused communist Cuba—a country ruled by a mainly white gerontocracy...

[...] Unlike many other Democrats, Sanders has been ambivalent in regard to both the dictatorship that rules Venezuela and the humanitarian crisis that its policies have unleashed. Sanders’ particular infatuation with Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” dates to 2011, when he used his official Senate webpage to promote an editorial board’s claim that “These days, the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina, where incomes are actually more equal today than they are in the land of Horatio Alger.” Sanders has since distanced himself from “that specific claim.” Yet, by 2011, Venezuela’s government already had resorted to imprisoning dissidents, undermining the Supreme Court and closing down opposition media.

Hugo Chávez has been dead since 2013. But Nicolás Maduro, his successor, has presided over a continuing national meltdown, with malaria, diphtheria, and yellow fever reappearing after being eradicated from the country. Almost half of Venezuelans reported not eating [...] almost 20 percent of the population—have simply left the country. Military courts have prosecuted civilians for crimes against the regime, while security forces have committed summary beatings, electrocutions, asphyxiations, and rapes of detainees. According to Human Rights Watch, Maduro’s forces have executed 18,000 people since 2016. Yet Sanders refuses to even call Maduro a dictator. Sanders has even hired, as a speechwriter, David Sirota, a known Chávez apologist who once described Chávez’s legacy as an “economic miracle.”

[...] Sanders is hardly the only American politician to ingratiate himself to autocrats. President Donald Trump does this regularly. But Sanders’ position is exceptional in that it flies in the face of both mainstream Democrats and Republicans, including even fellow progressive leftist Elizabeth Warren. ... Sanders is not completely alone, admittedly. ... far-left Democrat Ilhan Omar ... Green Party perennial candidate Jill Stein ... celebrities such as Roger Waters, Boots Riley, and Pamela Anderson, as well as by the Anglo-American lobbyist movement Hands Off Venezuela; and the far-left activist group Code Pink, whose co-founder, Jodie Evans, endorsed Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016.

[...] The American far Left’s narrative on Venezuela is essentially a Latin-inflected version of the noble-savage archetype, presenting Latin Americans as people incapable of committing evil without being prompted to do so by evil foreigners. And the paternalistic white saviors who populate Code Pink and Hands Off Venezuela see themselves as noble allies, or even noble revolutionaries. Sanders has used his political stature to encourage this propagandistic and ignorant way of thinking in certain leftist circles for years. While his presidential run seems to be over, the pernicious effect of his words will linger long after November’s ballots are counted. (MORE - details)

RELATED: The Rise and Fall of Bernie Sanders: A Theory - Maybe his demise was less about ideology or policy — and more about the candidate himself
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