Bernie Sanders campaigned for the Socialist Workers Party in the 1980 and 1984 presidential campaigns and was investigated by the FBI for his ties to the Marxist group.
Sanders has always played down the extent of his involvement with the party, which included radicals who praised the Soviet Union and Cuban communists, and has denied ever being a member. Asked in 1988 about his role as an SWP elector in 1980, he said: “I was asked to put my name on the ballot and I did, that’s true.” In fact, his ties to the party are deep and enduring.
The 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidate and United States senator from Vermont, now 77, often scoffs at comparisons between his brand of self-described “democratic socialism” and communism. In recent years, he has said he is merely interested in having the United States look more like Sweden, a social democracy with a broad welfare state but a well-functioning private sector.
But his personal files from his time as mayor of Burlington, from 1981 to 1989, archived at the University of Vermont, show that he supported and campaigned for the communist SWP and maintained a close relationship with its senior members. While Democrats campaigned for President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Walter Mondale in 1984, Sanders spent the Reagan era supporting fringe Marxists with no chance of reaching the White House.
In 1980, Sanders “proudly endorsed and supported” Andrew Pulley, the party’s presidential candidate, who once said that American soldiers should “take up their guns and shoot their officers.” Sanders was one of three electors for Pulley on the Vermont ballot, stating in a press release: “I fully support the SWP’s continued defense of the Cuban revolution.”
Four years later, he backed and campaigned for the SWP presidential nominee Mel Mason, a former Black Panther, saying it was important for there to be “fundamental alternatives to capitalist ideology.” During the campaign, Mason praised the Russian and Chinese revolutions and said: “The greatest example of a socialist government is Cuba, and Nicaragua is right behind, but it’s still developing.”
“I think Bernie was pretty in-the-camp with us and other socialist organizations,” Mason told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “We talked regularly and he also said that if I ever made it to Burlington, he was going to give me a key to the city.”
But Mason, 75, now a psychotherapist and former NAACP official living in California, indicated that after the 1980s, he and Sanders had drifted apart, and Sanders began touting insufficiently radical policies.
“We had a long-distance relationship, but that kind of changed after he ran for Congress. I didn’t have as much contact anymore. I have a lot of respect for him, but I just don’t think the programs he put forward are what workers need in this country,” Mason said. “We were calling for the formation of an independent revolutionary labor party. We felt that it was necessary for workers in this country to enact a revolution.”
During Pulley’s White House run in 1980, he called for the abolition of the U.S. military and the nationalization of “virtually all private industry,” as well as the abolition of the military budget and the establishment of “official … ‘solidarity’ with the revolutionary regimes in Iran, Nicaragua, Grenada and Cuba,” according to a New York Times report at the time.
Who didn’t know Bernie was a fan of breadlines and total government rationing?
His ties to the SWP are stronger than his ties to the Democrat Party, which is merely a vehicle he uses to try to gain the power to spread more socialism. Though, the Democrats are becoming more and more socialist anyway.
Yeah, as long as HE isn’t in line.
I wouldn’t want to be a member of a party in America that full endorsement of socialism and replacing our Constitution with socialism would not disqualify a candidate from running. That says an awful lot about the Democrat party.