Bernie’s boot 3

“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” – George Orwell, 1984.

This fascinating video about life in the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia after the death of Stalin, was published in December, 2014. It takes three-quarters of an hour to watch, but is worth every minute spent on it.

It does not discuss the worst suffering of the Russian and East European peoples under Communism. With the accession of Nikita Kruschev in 1953, the Russians and some of the other oppressed nations of the Warsaw Pact believed they felt a certain lightening of the yoke of totalitarianism.

In 1968, the Czechoslovakian leader Alexander Dubček tried to launch a new kind of Marxist-Leninist regime which was – so sadly and so hopefully – called “Socialism with a human face“. For about seven months the Czechs and Slovaks had a taste – just a little taste – of comparative freedom, and then the Soviet boot came down on that face, hard.

The supremacy of the Communist Party could not be challenged. Marxism, like all religions, believes its doctrine is the only “truth”. Therefore, a Marxist regime can never be anything but totalitarian.  

To repeat: A Marxist regime can never be anything but totalitarian. Recent history has made that plain enough.

Yet now, as if President Obama hasn’t taken the United States far enough down the road to socialist serfdom, tens of thousands of Americans want him to be followed in the Oval Office by Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders calls himself a “Democratic Socialist” – as Alexander Dubček did.  

Many of his followers, it would seem, understand “democratic socialism” to be a mild sort of socialism as embodied in West European welfare states. They like to point to the Scandinavian countries as the model they envision – egalitarian utopias with a Bernie Sanders face.

But in Bernie Sanders’s own vision of egalitarian utopia, isn’t it he who is wearing the boot?

This review of Bernie Sanders’s political record comes from an article by Matthew Vadum at Front Page:

Bernie has been around communists a long time.

He used to work at the communist-led United Packinghouse Workers Union.

In the 1970s he belonged to the anti-war Liberty Union Party (LUP). Under the LUP banner, he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate and governor of Vermont. His platform called for all U.S. banks to be nationalized, public ownership of all utilities, and the establishment of a worker-controlled federal government.

Sanders quit the LUP in 1979 and was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont. During his decade in office he displayed a Soviet flag in his mayoral office and claimed he did so to honor Yaroslavl, Burlington’s sister city in the U.S.S.R. In addition, he made Puerto Cabezas in Communist Nicaragua another sister city of Burlington.

In 1989 Sanders addressed the national conference of the U.S. Peace Council, a Communist Party USA (CPUSA) front group. The event focused on how to “end the Cold War” and “fund human needs”.

Interacting with the CPUSA was a dangerous thing. During the Cold War, CPUSA members swore an oath “to the Soviet Union, to a ‘Soviet America,’ and to the ‘triumph of Soviet power in the United States’”. …

Sanders hopped on the global warming/climate change bandwagon years ago, claiming that it both threatens “the fate of the entire planet” and is caused primarily by human industrial activity. He wants carbon emissions strictly limited, which would inflict tremendous damage on the US economy without having much of an impact on global temperatures. In 2010 Sanders smeared climate-change skeptics by comparing them to people who had ignored the Nazi threat before World War II. He accused “big business” of being “willing to destroy the planet for short-term profit”, and in 2013 pontificated that “global warming is a far more serious problem than al-Qaeda”.

Not surprisingly, Sanders is a strong supporter of the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of environmentalists and big labor that wants the government to take over America’s energy industry. The group is a hotbed of subversives and other radicals. Former green jobs czar Van Jones who described himself as a “communist” and “rowdy black nationalist” was a member of its board.

Weatherman co-founder and former Weather Underground leader Jeff Jones … who was a fugitive for 11 years, is director of the Apollo Alliance’s New York state affiliate. Jones is proud of his small-c communist, terrorist past. In 2004 he boasted, “To this day, we still, lots of us, including me, still think it was the right thing to try to do.”

For an American politician during the Cold War, Sanders was unusually friendly to the Soviet Union.

As Accuracy in the Media has reported, in the 1980s he “collaborated with Soviet and East German ‘peace committees'” whose objective was “to stop President Reagan’s deployment of nuclear missiles in Europe”. Indeed, he “openly joined the Soviets’ ‘nuclear freeze’ campaign to undercut Reagan’s military build-up”.

[He] also reached out to Soviet allies. He travelled to Communist Cuba in the 1980s where he enjoyed a friendly meeting with Havana’s mayor.

In 1985 he visited Nicaragua to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the ascent to power of Daniel Ortega and his Marxist-Leninist Sandinista government. Sanders wrote an open letter to the people of Nicaragua attacking the Reagan administration, which he claimed was a puppet of corporate interests, for its anti-Communist activities. “In the long run, I am certain that you will win, and that your heroic revolution against the Somoza dictatorship will be maintained and strengthened,” he said.

When he was stateside again, Sanders sent a letter to the White House saying Ortega was interested in meeting with President Reagan to try to negotiate an end to that nation’s civil war. Sanders invited Ortega to visit Burlington but the dictator declined.

In the event Vermont’s favorite communist moves into the White House on January 20, 2017, it seems likely Ortega will at long last accept his comrade’s invitation to the US.

At that time Bernie Sanders and Daniel Ortega will dance on America’s grave.

… in their boots.

A kinder gentler Communism? 5

It is commonly said of Communism (as also, incidentally, of Christianity): “You can’t say it hasn’t worked because it has never really been tried.” The idea is that only rogues and sadists have led Communist revolutions and ruled Communist countries, but if that really nice Communist that everyone knows in private life were to implement his ideas, then – voila! – Utopia.

Sometimes one of the Communist faithful will speak of Alexander Dubcek as an example of a man who could have headed a Communist government that would have made Czechoslovakia happy if he had not been stopped by the wrongly-led USSR.

Question: Can any collective, any serfdom, ever make for human happiness?

Our answer: No.

Vladimir Tismaneanu, professor of politics at the University of Maryland gives his answer to the question in an article at Front Page. Here it is, almost in full:

In August 1968, the Warsaw Pact tanks and half a million-strong military killed the Prague Spring. It was not simply the end of a daring political experiment, but also a gigantic defeat for the dreams of reconciling communism and democracy. Marxist revisionism, the utopian endeavor to rediscover the presumably forgotten thesaurus of left-wing radicalism, suffered a terrible blow. In the words of a Polish dissident, “We then realized that there was no socialism with a human face, but only totalitarianism with broken teeth.”

Even Jean-Paul Sartre, the philosopher who in the 1950s had been silent (to put it mildly) about the Gulag, lambasted the invasion as “the socialism which came in from the cold.” It was the Leninist communism of barbed wire, fear, suspicion and lies. Stalin, as famous East European dissidents showed, was Lenin’s most faithful heir. He was also the most successful disciple. Post-Stalin Soviet leaders refused to allow for genuine democratization, remained faithful to the original one-party autocracy.

A joke of those times captured this continuity: “What are Brezhnev eyebrows? Stalin’s mustache at a higher level.”

The leader of the Prague Spring was Alexander Dubcek, a Moscow-trained communist apparatchik with reformist propensities. Elected Communist Party leader in January 1968, he launched an ambitious renewal program. In a few months, many Stalinist institutions lost their power. Censorship was disbanded, intellectuals were excited, civil society returned. Warsaw Pact leaders, headed by the sclerotic Leonid Brezhnev, panicked. Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu supported Dubcek not because of solidarity with the attempt to humanize socialism, but rather as a way to challenge Soviet imperialist claims.

Adopted in April 1968, the “Action Program” of the Czechoslovak communists pledged to put an end to repressive policies and engage the party in a genuine dialogue with the citizens. One its main authors, Zdenek Mlynar, had studied law in Moscow in the early 1950s. He shared a dormitory room with a young Soviet student, an arduous Komsomol militant named Mikhail Gorbachev. They became close friends. Years later, Gorbachev would resume the Prague Spring agenda hoping against hope that democratic communism could somehow be accomplished.

In June, writer Ludvik Vaculik issued a document that entered history as “The Two Thousand Words” manifesto. The Soviets and their allies went ballistic. The Manifesto was an unmitigated, outspoken, unambiguous call for political pluralism. Millions supported it expecting a multi-party system to emerge soon. As events unfolded in breathtaking speed, the neo-Stalinists East European despots acted pre-emptively and crushed the Prague Spring. Dubcek and his comrades were arrested, transported to Moscow and forced to sign a humiliating capitulation. A few months later, Dubcek was expelled from the communist party.

A new freeze followed under the name “normalization.” It was the normalcy of jails, denunciations, terror. …  Opposition activists were harassed, besmirched, jailed. They acted heroically in spite of the most unpropitious circumstances. Among them, critical intellectuals like Vaclav Havel who argued in favor of the power of the powerless.

Then in March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Moscow. In his belief that communism included such a humanistic dimension and his insistence that Stalin had been a vicious traitor to the original Marxist and Leninist messages, Gorbachev was part of a long tradition within the communist chapels. Students of Marxism refer to the attempt to turn such beliefs into policy as revisionism.

Of course, Gorbachev was not the first celebrated revisionist. Before him, attempts had been made by others to reconcile socialism with democracy and to jettison the repressive features of the system as distortions of an intrinsically healthy order. Consider Imre Nagy*, Hungary’s premier during the 1956 revolution, executed in 1958, and then Alexander Dubcek. Both Nagy and Dubcek failed because Soviet intervention crushed their experiments and dashed hopes of renovating socialism from within. But when Gorbachev came to power in March 1985 and announced his program of renewal, there was no foreign force to threaten the great shaker in the Kremlin. The seeds of the negation of the old order were planted in the empire’s innermost sanctum.

What have been the main illusions of Nagy, Dubcek, Gorbachev and other revisionists?

First, that the Communist Party, as the initiator of reforms, should preserve a central role during their implementation.

Second, that there was a middle way between the conservation of Stalinist structures and their complete disbandment.

Third, that a compromise of sorts could be reached with the exponents of the old regime.

And fourth, that the population at large was ready to enthusiastically espouse the revisionist program and endorse the new leaders in the frantic search for modernization. The revisionists naively believed in their popular mandate.

But this logic was basically flawed. The system could not tolerate structural changes and secreted antibodies. In the case of the Soviet Union, instead of foreign intervention, Gorbachev was faced with the morose inertia of the bureaucratic colossus. His exhortations increasingly fell on deaf ears, as economic performance failed to improve. The work ethos was plagued by apathy and indifference.

Were Dubcek and Gorbachev true believers? In a sense yes, because only a true believer would have engaged in such destructive action while hoping that there was enough loyalty to the system among its subjects to keep the regime alive.

The crushing of the Prague Spring was justified as defense of socialist internationalism. In fact, Marxist internationalism was nothing but hollow, ludicrous rhetoric, a facade for Soviet imperialism, ethical dereliction, civic paralysis, and bureaucratic domination. …

It demonstrated a truth that East Europeans had been long familiar with: There is no communism with a human face.

*We have doubts that Imre Nagy would have tried very hard to “reconcile socialism with democracy and to jettison the repressive features of the system as distortions of an intrinsically healthy order”, but every other point in the Professor’s expert demolition of the starry-eyed argument for a kinder gentler Communism supports our own convictions.