Bernie’s Bolshie Adventures
Paul Kengor
by

A consistency going back more than half a century is now paying off.

Once upon a time in America, leading progressives like John Dewey, godfather of public education, and Margaret Sanger, godmother of Planned Parenthood, made excited pilgrimages to Bolshevik Russia, where they returned singing the praises of Stalin’s totalitarian experiment.

Reporting in The New Republic after his return in the summer of 1928, Dewey hailed Bolshevism’s “flexible, vital, creative” work in public education.

Margaret Sanger was likewise impressed. “We [in America] could well take example from Russia,” wrote Sanger in her June 1935 Birth Control Review, “where there are no legal restrictions, no religious condemnation, and where birth control instruction is part of the regular welfare service of the government.”

Such wide-eyed excitement with the communist world is not a thing of the past with American “progressives.” New York’s current mayor, Bill de Blasio, honeymooned in Havana—a few years after sojourning to the Soviet Union.

That brings me to the honeymoon and sojourn of the no. 2 for the Democratic Party nomination to the presidency, a lifetime socialist named Bernie Sanders. The man is on fire. He continues a stunning run through the Democratic primary. He has won a mere handful fewer states than Hillary Clinton. By the time he’s finished, Bernie will have secured the votes of over 10 million Democrats.

Bernie’s performance is prompting liberals from the Huffington Post to CNN to consider the possibility that the socialist actually has a shot at the nomination. I wouldn’t bet on that, but there’s no question that the socialist has given Hillary Clinton a run for her money. Bernie and Hillary are the faces of the new Democratic Party, especially to the vast sea of wide-eyed Millennials magnificently brainwashed in our modern academic insane asylums. (If you’re a parent paying for that, shame on you.)

A major study by the Pew Research Center found that 49% of Americans aged 18-29 have a positive view of socialism, exceeding those who have a positive view of capitalism. Thus, it’s no surprise that a 74-year-old socialist does so well in a country growing in socialism. It’s also no surprise that today’s merry Millennials could care less if Bernie traveled to the Soviet Motherland back in the day.

“Is it really true that Bernie honeymooned in the Soviet Union?” I was recently asked after giving a lecture on the horrors of Soviet communism.

Yes, it is.

In October, a reporter asked Sanders about the trip. The question came from MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, who reassured Sanders that he was seeking to “separate fact from gossip.” He asked the Brooklyn-born socialist point-blank: “Did you go on your honeymoon to the Soviet Union?”

Sanders replied: “The fact is that I went to establish a sister city program with Yaroslavl, then in the Soviet Union, now an important city in Russia which is still in existence today. The purpose of that trip was a sister city. Did it take place after my marriage? It did.”

The fact is that Sanders traveled to Yaroslavl, about 160 miles north of Moscow. The visit occurred sometime in 1988, when Sanders married Jane O’Meara, his current wife.

In June 2015, the British left-wing newspaper, The Guardian, had reported that “the trip doubled as a honeymoon with his new wife, Jane.” Other than that, The Guardian shed no light on the trip. Sanders has long said little about it, and addressed it only for a few seconds with MSNBC’s Roberts.

“I went with I believe 10 other people from the city of Burlington,” noted Sanders. “So the purpose was to establish a sister city. I believe that cities should establish relationships with cities in other countries around the world, often countries that we have disagreements with, and that program is existing until today, where kids from Yaroslavl are coming to Burlington, Vermont, our people are going there.” Sanders argued: “It is a fine relationship. And I’m proud that as mayor I helped establish that.”

Sanders dismissed as “silly” and “absurd” the notion that the trip revealed him as “some type of communist sympathizer.”

Yes, of course. Why would anyone think that?

Bernie’s supporters on the left will likewise scoff. They have been carefully trained in their liberal universities to see anti-communists as the bad guys. They will be far more offended at me for writing this article than at any communist sympathies from Bernie’s past.

Look, none of us think that Bernie buries in his wallet a secret membership card to Communist Party USA. Whether he made pilgrimage to the Motherland to pay homage at the tomb of Lenin is not the issue. The point is that Bernie’s honeymoon voyage should not be separated from his longtime ardor for socialism, whether a Soviet variant or some form of “democratic socialism.” We know it isn’t an irrelevant gesture. Anyone who lived through the Cold War knows about the merry leftists who pathetically searched (only) the Marxist world for “sister cities” to express their comradely solidarity. Bernie was very much of that mindset.

And further, don’t ponder Bernie’s Soviet romance in a vacuum. Indeed, if today’s liberals “feeling the Bern” think I’m overdoing things by raising this red flag, perhaps we could consider not merely where Bernie honeymooned for a time abroad but where he lived for a time abroad. To that end, we might shoot a glance at Bernie’s time in what Ron Radosh describes as a “Stalinist Kibbutz,” which was the first place where Bernie landed upon spreading his wings out of Brooklyn College, where he enrolled in the academic year 1959-60. This is an even more disturbing red flag from Bernie’s past, and surely more indicative of his life of extreme-left sympathies.

Those familiar with the Kibbutz movement know that these were collectivist settlements, common to Israel (then called “Palestine”) at the turn of the last century. They included the pooling of people and resources within community cooperatives where there was shared ownership of the “means of production.” These kibbutz enclaves were all about collectivization. It’s what they did. They centrally managed everything from agriculture to education to healthcare. Do you think none of that matters to where Bernie stands today?

These socialist experiments varied in their degree of sharing the wealth, but Bernie’s kibbutz happened to be one of the more Marxist-oriented ones.

Radosh reported that Sanders in 1963 worked on the Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz, made up of members who considered themselves “Marxist-Zionists.” They adhered to a “pro-Soviet orientation” that included support of then-Soviet foreign policy.

Radosh is not the only one to write about this. Daniel Greenfield of FrontPageMagazine.com has written about it, as has Thomas Lifson, the excellent editor of American Thinker. Greenfield reports that Sanders spent “months” on this “Marxist-Stalinist” kibbutz. Lifson notes that Sanders’ kibbutz work is consistent with his honeymoon in the USSR, not to mention his passion for Fidel Castro’s Cuba and Daniel Ortega’s Nicaraguan Sandinistas. Lifson adds, “So far as I know, Bernie Sanders has never repudiated his Stalinist inclinations.”

Hey, why bother? Bernie’s supporters on the university front have his back. Guys like me are the loathsome “red-baiters,” as one defender of Bernie’s kibbutzing sees it. For the left, it’s always the anti-communists who are the bad guys, not the pro-communists. As the late James Burnham put it, “for the left, the preferred enemy is always to the right.”

The left always wants to tell us that these things never matter for their guys. When we went through the disturbing communist backgrounds of Obama and his associates, liberals screamed foul. And yet, they never fail to pull the trigger on any dubious characters on the right. Look at how they have happily tagged Donald Trump with the affiliation of a father who was arrested at a KKK rally in New York in May 1927, the focus of a Washington Post article. The implication is that the Donald’s dad was a closet Klansman and that some of that reality surely rubbed off on Der Donald, a nativist and closet fascist. (For the record, people reading this article know that I’m hardly a fan of Donald Trump.)

Liberals only cover their eyes and ears when the subject is the commie backgrounds of their pals in the Democratic Party.

And so, whether Bernie once opted for a Bolshie adventure or two doesn’t bother them at all. They blithely join their lovable old socialist in carrying a flag for fundamental transformation.


Photo: Marcela McGreal/Flickr-Creative Commons

Paul Kengor
Paul Kengor
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Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College in Grove City, Pa., and senior academic fellow at the Center for Vision & Values. Dr. Kengor is author of over a dozen books, including A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism, and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
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