During the 1980s, Bernie Sanders campaigned for the Socialist Workers Party, which led to an FBI investigation for his connections to the Marxist group.
The Washington Examiner reported on Sanders’ past involvement with Marxist organizations.
Sanders always downplayed the level of his involvement with the SWP, and even denied ever being a member of the party. This party was filled with members who praised the Soviet Union and Cuba.
When asked about his role as an SWP elector in 1980, Sanders claimed, “I was asked to put my name on the ballot and I did, that’s true.”
However, Joseph Simonson argues that his connections to the SWP are “deep and enduring.”
Despite Sanders’ rebranding as a “democratic socialist”, his ties to radical Marxist groups were extensive.
According to personal files during his time in office as the mayor of Burlington, from 1981 to 1989, Sanders backed and even campaigned for the Communist SWP and kept close relations with its senior members.
Sanders “proudly endorsed and supported” Andrew Pulley, SWP’s presidential candidate who called on American soldiers to “take up their guns and shoot their officers.”
Sanders later campaigned for SWP presidential candidate Mel Mason, who was a former member of the Black Panthers. While on the campaign trail, Mason lauded the Russian and Chinese revolutions and then claimed that “The greatest example of a socialist government is Cuba, and Nicaragua is right behind, but it’s still developing.”
Paul Kengor, a professor at Grove City College, said that the SWP “were certainly a revolutionary group.”
The professor also noted that “One of the SWP’s fans was Lee Harvey Oswald, who not only wanted to overthrow our government but actually assassinated our president, John F. Kennedy.”
Sanders’ participation with the SWP prompted an FBI investigation, which angered Sanders.
At the time when a civil case was filed in response to this incident, Sanders said “I would agree with the judge, who is quite correct in pointing out that when FBI agents come into a secretary of state’s office attempting to ‘investigate’ the political background of a mayor of the largest city in the state, there’s no question but that this opens up the potential for exploitation by the media and could be a source of embarrassment.”
The SWP follows the teachings of Leon Trotsky, the famous revolutionary and Communist thinker, who pushed for perpetual international revolutions. The SWP embraced this strategy, but tempered it to cater to American audiences at the time.
The SWP had to enter a federal registry thanks to the McCaran Internal Security Act, a bill that was directed at insurrectionist groups who wanted to overthrow the U.S. government. The FBI led investigations against the radical leftist group and repeatedly tried to hamstring its activities. However, the SWP never faced any indictments.
There is still no evidence that Sander was a card-carrying member of the SWP, but archived records do suggest he was partial to their message.
Although he has rebranded, Sanders still shows off his radical leftism every now and then. This was particularly true when he hired David Sirota, a known apologist of Venezuelan socialism, as his speechwriter.
Sanders will likely not win the Democratic Party nomination, but his economic radicalism will make the party go further Left on economic issues.
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