What Burns Me About the Bern: The Fellow Traveling of Bernie Sanders

By Nevin Gussack

A number of leftist senators and congressmen developed positions and attitudes that were favorable towards communist dictatorships. In some cases, such elected officials displayed apologia for communist regimes, which were perceived as budding utopias or victims of alleged American imperialist aggression. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) arguably fits into this category. However, the mainstay of Senator Sanders’ ideology is that of socialism, where key sectors of the American economy such as health care would become government monopolies. Sanders also supports the imposition of high taxation on the wealthy classes as a means of not merely to effectively pay the national bills. Instead, it would appear that Sanders supported heavy taxation on the wealthy as tool in his box of leftwing social engineering policies. Such hard left policies would effectively cripple investment confidence and increase the national debt. Even worse is Senator Sanders’ fellow traveling activity on behalf of the Soviet Union, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela. He also cooperated with Communist Party USA fronts in crippling American national security. Senator Sanders’ increasingly popular presidential campaign requires analysts to focus careful scrutiny on his past aid and comfort for many of the adversaries of the United States.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Sanders was a committed leftist who was a militant supporter of the Sandinistas and the Soviet Union under rule of Gorbachev. In 1971, Bernie Sanders was the US Senate candidate for the left-extremist Liberty Union Party. During this campaign, Sanders revealed his radical socialist views. The Liberty Union Party supported the nationalization of all American banks, state ownership of all utilities, the termination of compulsory education, and the establishment of a workers-controlled government.

By the 1980s, Sanders was elected Mayor of Burlington Vermont. He quickly fell in love with the Sandinista communist dictatorship in Latin America. Sandinista Nicaragua was a militarized police state which murdered thousands of civilians and political opponents. Pervasive socialist inequality grew where a pronounced privileged class of commandantes quickly
developed after the July 1979 revolution. Nicaragua also served the interests of Soviet-Cuban imperialism in supporting terrorism and guerrilla wars in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. Soviet agent and ‘”journalist” I.F. Stone reported that Mayor Sanders established a Sister City relationship between Burlington and Puerto Cabezas in Sandinist-ruled Nicaragua. In 1985, Mayor Sanders visited Sandinista-ruled Nicaragua and conferred with the dictator Daniel Ortega. In fact, Mayor Sanders’ supporters in Burlington VT became known as “Sandernistas.”

Sanders also cooperated with the international Soviet and CPUSA apparatus. He was also supportive of the Gorbachev dictatorship in the USSR. In November 1989, Sanders spoke at a conference which was organized by the CPUSA front group, the US Peace Council. The conference titled was “End The Cold War, Fund Human Needs: U.S. Peace Council’s Tenth Anniversary National Conference–Boston, Mass., Nov. 10-12, 1989.” Speakers at the conference included Leslie Cagan of the US Peace Council, Congressman Conyers, CPUSA national committeeman and Rainbow Coalition leader Jack O’Dell, Angela Sanbrano of CISPES, Zehdi Terzi of the PLO, Gunther Dreifahl of the East German Peace Council, and the former communist NJM Grenadian Ambassador Dessima Williams of the Grenada Foundation.

Sanders explicitly supported the legitimacy of the Soviet Union. In 1990, Sanders even hung a Soviet flag in the mayor’s office. In May 1988, Sanders also honeymooned with his wife in the Soviet Union.4 Sanders also wrote in his book Outsider in the House that his visit to the Soviet Union was also an effort to forge the Sister Cities propaganda program. Out of all potential travel destinations, why would the self-avowed socialist “honeymoon” in the USSR? Such is a question that needs to be posed, in light of Sanders’ support for other communist dictatorships.

The Sister Cities program was a longtime internationalist program which was exploited by the USSR and its allies worldwide. The former Senior Policy Adviser to the Office of Educational Research and Improvement of the Department of Education Charlotte Iserbyt expressed her concerns on the Soviet-American educational exchanges: “The dangers involved
in the present headlong rush by the State Department, politicians, educators, and various ‘social activists’ to embrace ‘educational exchanges’ with the Soviets are so numerous, sinister, and profound that it is really almost impossible to exaggerate. To my mind, there are few things more shocking and frightening than the incredible proliferation of these programs in the past couple of years, and few things more pregnant with potential for propaganda and subversion of our
children…” Teresa Conboy was a guide and interpreter who was employed with the private Organization for American Soviet Exchanges. She reported that such sister city exchange programs were designed to fool American visitors with the view that the USSR represented a peaceful workers’ paradise: “in most exchanges, Americans are put in the best hotels in
Leningrad. They see a distorted view because they meet a select group, the people who live above the masses, the party officials, the cosmonaut, the hotel prostitutes who work only for dollars… people on these exchange programs are taken to the best restaurants, where they have meat and vodka and chocolate. And the tour buses only go on certain routes, so the tourists have a distorted view of things. I wish that Americans could meet ordinary Soviets in ordinary circumstances. When I go to receptions and events with sister city programs and peace groups on the American side I see a genuine interest. But from the Soviet side that interest doesn’t exist because they send the officials, not the ordinary people. John Finnerty of the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe reported that he witnessed Americans who returned from the Soviet Union and “unconsciously repeat the same lines they heard over there. They thought they were using their own words.” Specialist Yale Richmond noted that the motivation for Soviet eagerness for exchanges went beyond propagandizing gullible Americans. Such motivations also included a desire to gain access (legal or illegal) to American technology and know-how; to boost Soviet legitimacy as a superpower; to provide an outlet for the intelligentsia’s desire to travel; and to earn hard currency for the CPSU.

Sanders also lent support for the “reset” in relations with Russia spearheaded by the George W. Bush Administration and various Republican Congressmen such as (surprisingly) Curt Weldon (R-PA). Weldon even admitted that Sanders accompanied him on numerous trips to the Russian Federation. A document was issued called A New Time, A New Beginning. Among the recommendations, which Sanders supported, included the following gifts for the Putin dictatorship:

  • Help facilitate Russia ’s accession to the WTO and its acceptance of all WTO agreements.
  • Increase funding for OPIC and EX-IM Bank projects in Russia.
  • Eliminate bureaucratic obstacles to joint cooperation on energy.
  • Increase cooperation in the area of nuclear fuel cycles.
  • Expand cooperative fusion research on nonpolluting energy solutions.
  • Involve Russian industry in embryonic U.S. nanotechnology efforts.
  • Utilize commercial joint ventures to enable Russia to meet its Space Station obligations.
  • Increase joint projects on space solar power, propulsion technology, and weather satellites.

It appeared that Sanders prescribes economic sanctions against Putin. Sanders also voted against PNTR for Putin in 2012. However, Sanders stressed that if he was president, the US would bring the international community into the fold in imposing sanctions. However, as the lessons of the Cold War proved, multilateral trade restrictions proved to be very leaky. Japanese and West German trade with East Germany, North Korea, the USSR, China, and other communist countries proved that securing western, international cooperation in imposing sanctions on enemies of the US questionable. The same case applied to Iraq during the 1990s and early 2000s, where Saddam’s officials openly mocked the sanctions regime led by the US/UN. One can also count on probable British and German noncooperation in any sanctions regime in light of Russia’s deep financial and business investments in those respective countries. While Sanders supported economic sanctions to Putin, he did not recommend the necessary, phased, complete cut-off of trade with the Russian Federation. Sanders also ducked Fox News TV host Bill O’Reilly when he posed a question which outlined the possibility of a hypothetical invasion
of Poland by Russia. He did not co-sponsor most Senate resolutions, which displayed solidarity with Ukraine. For example, Sanders did not co-sponsor the significant resolution which condemned “illegal Russian aggression in Ukraine.” It is important to point out that conservatives and left-progressives in the Senate co-sponsored this bill. It was significant that the CPUSA praised Sanders as the only major presidential candidate who seeks to avoid any tough action against red China and Russia. The CPUSA newspaper People’s Daily World noted that “Americans are currently looking at a host of presidential candidates–excluding the quite sensible Bernie Sanders–who wants to confront either Russia or China. Both are hideously dangerous policies and ones that are certainly not in the interests of the vast majority of Americans–let alone the rest of the planet.”

Despite his prolific fellow traveling and cooperation with various communist powers, Senator Sanders expressed outspoken opposition to trade policies benefited Beijing, Pyongyang, and even Moscow. It appears that such positions were the result of the heavy financial backing for Sanders by Marxist-dominated unions, who were generally opposed to free trade agreements. They included the Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union, the SEIU, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and the NEA. However, there were some bright spots in Sanders’ albeit inconsistent positions of trade with America’s adversaries. He expressed grave concerns about the rise of red China’s military power and corporate America feeding the appetites of Beijing. Sanders, unlike all of his Republican colleagues, voted against Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for Putin’s Russia. He also criticized the economic benefits accrued to North Korea from the Korea Tree Trade Agreement (KORUS). In October 2011, Senator Sanders remarked on the Senate floor that “Let me touch on one aspect of the Korea Free Trade Agreement that deserves a lot of focus, and I fear very much it is not getting it; that is, the Korea Free Trade Agreement will force American workers not just to compete against low-wage workers in South Korea, but also to compete against the virtual slave labor conditions that exist in North Korea, a country which is certainly one of the most undemocratic countries in the world. To add insult to injury, not only are our workers going to be competing against slave labor in North Korea, some of the proceeds from this free-trade agreement are going to the dictatorship of Kim Jong II, certainly one of the more vicious dictators in the entire world. What that is about is that a number of companies in South Korea, including Hyundai and many others, own companies that are doing business in a large industrial area in North Korea. This agreement will allow products made in North Korea to go to South Korea and then come back into the United States… Today, we have almost 47,000 North Korean workers currently employed by more than 120 South Korean firms, including Hyundai, at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea. What an agreement. What an agreement. Slave labor in North Korea manufacturing products that go to South Korea and then come into the United States of America. Meanwhile, the dictatorship of North Korea gets a significant piece of the action on top of the pennies an hour the North Korean workers get.”

While a congressman, Sanders penned an article in December 2004 that stated “The fall of the authoritarian Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War was supposed to usher in an era of democracy, peace and prosperity. So why are American corporate chief executive officers–aided and abetted by the Bush administration–trying to turn China into the global and military powerhouse of the 21st century? And why is the American middle class asked to sacrifice their jobs, their financial security and their children’s future in the process?… Let’s be clear. China is not some benign trade competitor. This is a totalitarian country that throws dissenters into prison and that jails religious and labor leaders. It also is rapidly upgrading its military–a military it has been willing to use in places like Tibet. Mountainous Tibet may seem far away, but expanding nuclear missile technology puts China ’s military might at our doorstep. The time for playing nice with corporate turncoats and their enablers in government is over. It’s time to name names and demand that American companies act like they actually give a damn about the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Despite Sanders’ strong stands against the predatory trade practices and human rights violations of red China, he did occasionally support technology transfers to the dictatorship in Beijing. In an July 2015 interview, Sanders noted that “I happen to believe that when you talk about foreign policy, at the very top of the list is the need for the United States to lead the world, to work with China, work with Russia, work with India in transforming our energy system away
from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. This is not just an “environmental issue,” this is also a global national security issue as well.” In other words, Sanders supported the transfer of energy technology to Russia and red China, which in turn would buttress the industrial economies of those nations. While Sanders laudably voted against PNTR for China in 2000, he also apparently did not believe that Beijing constituted an enemy of the United States. He stated in the same interview that do “we have to make China into an enemy? Absolutely not.” Sanders apparently is unable to comprehend that red China constituted an enemy, which sought to attack and occupy the United States.

Sanders even aligned himself with the multinational corporations he rightly criticized when he called for the lifting of the already porous embargo on Cuba. In February 2014, Senator Sanders remarked that “American businesses are losing billions of dollars because of the economic embargo. Meanwhile, Canadians and Europeans are creating jobs through their investments in Cuba.” In other words. Senator Sanders champions “”Profits Uber Alles” for
American multinationals trading with Cuba. Much of this trade could also potentially be partially funded by the government-owned Import-Export Bank. Senator Sanders also reiterated his support for increased trade with Cuba when he issued fulsome praise for President Obama’s announcement for normalized relations with that communist slave pen. Senator Sanders noted that “I applaud the president for beginning discussions to establish full diplomatic relations with
Cuba, just like most of the rest of the world. This is a major step forward in ending the 55-year Cold War with Cuba. Normal diplomatic relations would mean not only that Americans have the opportunity to visit Cuba, but businesses in Vermont and elsewhere can sell products there.

The serial outsourcers and importers always used arguments such as the ones posed by Sanders to promote trade and offshoring of production to various low wage and/or authoritarian nations. The blog Capitol Hill Cubans expressed concern at Senator Sanders’ seeming hypocrisy on the free trade issue. Consequently, it penned an article which posed the following rhetorical question: “Sanders, a champion of worker’s rights and an outspoken leader against trade and
outsourcing by U.S. corporations, will surely denounce the unscrupulous desire of business interests to partner with Castro ’s monopolies and exploit the island’s captive labor.” It appears that the major outsourcers and predatory capitalists are sniffing for opportunities in communist Cuba. Peter Ryan, a call center industry expert and analyst with Ovum remarked in July 2010 that “One of the most compelling reasons why an outsourcing player may take an interest in
Cuba relates to the proportion of the population that works in services, which according to the CIA World Factbook amounts to 61%, roughly the same as Mexico & Chile, and only somewhat smaller than Argentina. The most intriguing thing about the Cuban services workforce is the growing proportion that works in international tourism. This has led many individuals to take on significant training by foreign hotel operators and tour companies in order to bring their service
skills to western standards.” More recently, in December 2014, the pro-outsourcing publication Near Shore Americas remarked that communist Cuba offered a plethora of benefits for American-based IT firms to transfer their operations and force our citizens onto the welfare rolls and unemployment lines. They included proximity, trained IT professionals, educated citizens, potential government supports, and “aura and intrigue” of Cuba.

Since the 1990s, a number of western European and Canadian businesses also set-up “maquila”-type operations in Cuba. The Cuban Communists subsidized these operations through the provisioning of infrastructure and cheap, controlled labor. The Brazilian firm Odebrecht assisted Cuba in setting up a “maquila” monopoly for the communists. It was called the Mariel
Special Development Zone, whereby foreign companies could establish factories in joint ventures with the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces to take advantage of the cheap and controlled Cuban labor force. This “maquila” zone was to cost $900 million and included the development of a super-port. Odebrecht is building the infrastructure for the project and provided $640 in funding for this project. It was no small wonder that former high level Cuban intelligence officer Delfm Fernandez observed that “Cuba’s people have been enslaved as cheap labor for foreign businessmen. In fact, reports indicated that Cuban prisoners produced imitation American goods for sale in the dollar stores. Rosalina Gonzalez Lafita worked in the Manto Negro Prison in Havana from 1988 to 1998. She believed that the government sold the blue jeans she sewed, which reportedly bore Jordache and Lois labels among others, in dollar stores, along with some lingerie and other clothing sewn in the prison.

It appeared that elements of the extreme Left were quite upset by Sanders’ moves to sometimes oppose the interests of the international communist and Islamist network of rogue regimes. In November 2006, the Socialist Worker (a publication of the International Socialist Organization or ISO) attacked Sanders for voting for the Iran Freedom Support Act, opposing
China as a geopolitical and economic threat, and containing the expansion of the neo-communist Milosevic regimes’ power in Kosovo. Sanders’ old comrades in the Liberty Union Party also unloaded strong criticism for his support for intervention on behalf of Kosovo against the neo-communist dictatorship of Milosevic and the ruling Serbian Socialists and support for the American military-buildup in the Persian Gulf in response to Saddam’s aggression in 1990.

Sanders also received criticism for his condemnation of the Islamist terrorists of Hamas. On the other hand, Sanders continued to provide support and legitimacy for some of the world’s most corrupt, totalitarian regimes. Even after the “collapse” of the USSR in 1991, Senator Sanders continued to support the interests of communist countries. In July 2010,
Senators A1 Franken (D -Minnesota), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders, and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) traveled to communist Vietnam to “look into environmental remediation of dioxin and the joint funding of medical services for people with disabilities, and meet with Vietnamese government officials to discuss education initiatives, labor issues, and trade relations.” No doubt, the Vietnamese would use the damages and human costs associated with the Vietnam War to extract further favorable financial and economic concessions from the Obama Administration. In February 2000, Sandra Caron from the office of then-Congressman Sanders spent six days in Havana, Cuba, for the purpose of “fact-finding, study effects of U.S. embargo.” The trip cost $1,778.47, which was paid for by the Christopher Reynolds Foundation. More than likely, this
trip served as a propaganda/influence operation, which provided Cuba with yet another opportunity to portray itself as the victim of alleged American imperialism. Senator Sanders also joined with the left-progressive Congressman Joseph Kennedy (D-MA), the communist Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez, and Citgo corporate officials in announcing the
importation of cheap Venezuela oil for his Vermont constituents. Sanders’ cooperation with the Venezuelans provides an added legitimacy to an authoritarian enemy of the United States, which supported revolution in Latin America, Islamic terrorism, and the strategic interests of Moscow and Beijing.

Clearly, some of Sanders’ positions, such as his opposition to most free trade agreements and the corrupt campaign finance system, should have the support of nationalist-populists and traditional conservatives. It also appears that Sanders will occasionally break with leftwing orthodoxies in order to provide limited support to American allies, such as Israel. However, these legitimate and popular positions should not blind potential supporters from Sanders’ unrepentant
record of fellow traveling in support of enemy nations. Some of the countries in question actively fought against American troops (Vietnam) and illegally confiscated properties of US businesses (Cuba). While Sanders’ rhetoric about balancing the capitalist system is laudable, his socialist economics would trade private monopoly for the equally inefficient state-owned monopoly. Patriotic workers and middle class citizens should avoid support for Sanders, since his
associations and positions potentially place American national security at risk.


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