Fifty years ago in leftist circles, communist sympathizers like me could take one of two lines on Joseph Stalin. We could condemn Stalin and say he betrayed the communist revolution or we could spout the following: “Stalin did some good things and some bad things. He should be criticized for the bad things and praised for the good ones.”
I tried out the second line — the party line — once. Saying the words made me sick. I never uttered them again.
Bernie Sanders is still spouting the old party line. He’s just substituted Fidel Castro for Stalin.
What’s wrong, he asked last night, with praising Castro’s Cuba for its literacy rate and its health care system? Why was it wrong similarly to praise aspects of the Soviet Union when he honeymooned there in the late 1980s?
It’s wrong for the same reason it was wrong to praise Mussolini’s Italy because the trains ran on time. Trains can run on time without the need for oppression. So too with improving literacy rates and health care delivery.
Did German literacy improve under Hitler? How was Germany’s health care system during the Nazi era?
No one knows because no one cares. The questions are irrelevant to a verdict on Hitler’s Germany.
They are also irrelevant to a verdict on Castro’s Cuba and the Soviet Union — unless, of course, you’re an apologist for these regimes.
Sanders is an apologist for communism. Why? Because he’s sympathetic to communism.
Indeed, thinking back to the old party line on Stalin, I’ve heard more praise from Sanders for what Castro and the Soviet’s did “right” than criticism for what they did wrong — even though the negative side of the ledger includes eliminating basic freedoms, brutally imprisoning dissidents, and murdering citizens.
The praise of Cuba is clearly heartfelt. So was the praise of the Soviet Union. The condemnation of the “authoritarianism” (a weasel word — totalitarianism is the correct one), when Sanders remembers to deliver it, comes across as perfunctory.