Bernie’s ‘Woke’ Fans Need Awakening

Mayor Bernie Sanders in Yaroslavl, USSR, in 1988

Now that Super Tuesday is behind us, voters in the upcoming Democratic Party primaries will have to choose between the two remaining viable candidates, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

In this post I’d like to make a small contribution to the effort to keep the nomination out of Sanders’ hands. Not because I think Biden is likely to be one of our great presidents (though we can always hope!) but because I think it’s essential that voters in November have a better choice than “the devil you know” (Trump) and “the devil you may not know enough about” (Sanders). I like neither, and neither will earn my vote. If worse comes to worst, I’ll vote for a third-party candidate.

My hope that Sanders will not make it onto the November ballot comes not only from my disagreement with his pie-in-the-sky, far-left, “woke” agenda, but also from his odor as a longtime apologist for the Soviet Union and Communist or Communist-leaning dictatorships, including Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

In the footnote below1 is some of what has been reported about things Sanders has said and done that make me see him as one in a century-old list of influential people on the left in the West that Lenin is said to have described as “useful idiots,” meaning people who, by speaking favorably of the Soviet Union, help create a more positive (or less negative) perception of it in the West.

Why should Sanders’ views on Communist regimes matter? Because they make clear either poor judgment or ignorance — or both. Trump shows poor judgment and ignorance every day. Why would we want to replace him with someone with a different brand of poor judgment and ignorance? Why not Biden, who, despite all his gaffes, is far outside the bad-judgment-and-ignorance league of both Trump and Sanders?

Just what kind of ignorance do I have in mind when speaking of Sanders? Ignorance or dismissal of totalitarian Communism’s horrors. As a former student of Russian history, I have a clear-eyed view of the Soviet regime as no less vile than Nazi Germany’s.

As I have written before on this blog, the history of the Soviet Union is the story of over seven decades of cruelty and despotism — including the off-the-charts mass murder, by deliberate government policy, of more innocent civilians than even Hitler’s genocidal toll.2 The estimates of the total number of those the Soviet state caused to perish – by execution; deliberate, man-made famine; and purposely overworking and severely undernourishing prisoners in the gulag — vary widely. But the lowest credible estimate I’ve seen is 20 million; the highest, 115 million. And I’m talking here about civilians in peacetime, not the horrific casualties (military and civilian) of World War II. Nor am I talking about the even more horrifying toll of death at the hands of Communist governments in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and other nations that modeled their rule on what they learned from their Soviet mentors.

So when I hear Sanders talking about the “achievements” of the USSR, Cuba, Nicaragua, etc. in areas such as literacy, free medical care and culture, I can’t help being reminded of people who have said about Hitler: “Well, he wasn’t all bad. He built the autobahn.”

Seriously, people. Would Sanders be a credible candidate if he had a lifelong record of trying to divert attention from the unspeakable nature of Nazi Germany? The only thing that keeps his candidacy credible is widespread ignorance of the essence of the Soviet regime and its imitators. And that ignorance — on the part of both Sanders himself (to give him the benefit of the doubt) and the public — will have to await a future post on this blog.


  1. Here is a sampling of what has been reported about things Sanders has said and done that have made me view him as one of Lenin’s “useful idiots”:
  1. Hitler was an “also-ran,” following Mao and Stalin. Hitler was responsible for the murders of a “mere” 18 million innocents, including six million Jews. (And I say this as a Jew who has loathed Hitler and Nazism since I learned about the Holocaust when I was about eight years old.) For more information on the ghastly matter of what the late University of Hawaii political scientist R.J. Rummel termed democide, see To learn more about the horrors of “repression” in the USSR, I recommend The Great Terror: A Reassessment and Harvest of Sorrow, both by Robert Conquest, and Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov. For a good summary of the impact of Communism not only on Russia, but also on Eastern Europe, China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, Afghanistan and Latin America (including Nicaragua), see The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression by Stephane Courtois et al.
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