I think it was in the summer 1962 that our family stayed with my father’s brother and his family in Brooklyn. I had a cousin who was a year or two older than me and, being a New Yorker, probably five years older in sophistication years.
During the visit, my cousin, age 14 or 15 going on 20, extolled the virtues of Fidel Castro. I was skeptical, but he had the numbers to back up his arguments — literacy statistics, statistics about health care, and so forth.
When I returned to the provinces — our home in the D.C. suburbs — I did a little bit of research to confirm my cousin’s stats, and became an apostle of Castro’s revolution. I don’t think I persuaded anyone at my junior high school of the virtues of communist Cuba, but I never lost an argument — at least as I perceived it.
Two years later, our family again stayed with my father’s brother and his family in Brooklyn. I was full or facts and figures with which to show my cousin how sophisticated I had become about Cuba, if nothing else. But before I could really get going, my cousin cut me off: “Fidel? I gave up on him last year.”
Bernie Sanders seems never to have given up on Fidel completely. He remained a fan through the 1980s and still defends Castro based on those literacy programs.
My father (and his brother, I think) were Brooklyn socialists in the 1930s. My father was never a communist and hated the Soviet Union, but many of his friends in the 30s believed in Stalin and his “workers’ paradise.”
Many of them gave up on Stalin when he signed that pact with Hitler’s Germany in 1939. Others drifted away during the 1940s.
By the time Stalin died and his successor publicized the tyrant’s crimes, no one my father liked still had any use for the Soviet Union. Nor, when I became a radical leftist in the late 1960s, did any leftist I knew.
But Bernie Sanders never gave up on the Soviet Union. He honeymooned there in the late 1980s. By then, even his tour guide, assigned by the Communist Party, was telling him the system was collapsing.
It didn’t matter. Sanders stuck to his guns and heaped praise on the Soviet Union. He even made Burlington, Vermont, of which he was mayor, the sister city of one the USSR’s failing outposts.
It should be clear from the foregoing that socialist ideology didn’t require Sanders to remain a fan of Cuba and the Soviet Union. Nearly all true believing socialists gave up on these two regimes half a century before Sanders was still defending them and touting their accomplishmentss.
And true democratic socialists never had any use for these murderous regimes. By definition, they couldn’t.
Is Sanders that much more oblivious than other socialists? Or does he just hate America much more than they did, to the point that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and therefore must be defended? I think it’s the latter.