by Thomas Lifson
The truth about the formerly hidden history of Bernie Sanders and his Stalinist kibbutz hurts at left wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz
The truth hurts at left wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which is very unhappy that Daniel Greenfield of Front Page Magazine and I (on AT) noticed that as a young man Bernie Sanders spent time on a Stalinist kibbutz in Israel. For years, Sanders has refused to identify the kibbutz at which he stayed in the early 1960s, but the Times of Israel solved the mystery.
It took just a few hours from the moment news broke that Bernie Sanders had volunteered decades ago on a hard-left kibbutz in Israel for right-wing critics to start lobbing ever-scarier adjectives at him.The paper stoutly maintains that the kibbutz and the movement behind it played a “central place within the Zionist movement from its earliest days.” And besides:
The surging Democratic presidential candidate’s stint at Kibbutz Sha’ar Ha’amakim in northern Israel proves to conservatives that he isn’t just a “socialist” but a hard-core Marxist or even a “Stalinist,” far outside the American mainstream.
“Bernie Sanders’s 1963 stay at a Stalinist kibbutz,” was the title of Thomas Lifson’s piece on the site American Thinker, posted soon after the kibbutz was identified after months of mystery. Over at Frontpage Magazine, Daniel Greenfield’s article ran under the headline: “Bernie Sanders Spent Months at Marxist-Stalinist Kibbutz.”
The descriptions seem damning, especially from the perspective of more than 50 years since Stalin’s death and the world’s absorption of the reality of his murderous, dictatorial and anti-Semitic regime. Yet at the time, as the two right-wing websites point out, Hashomer Hatzair, the kibbutz movement that Sha’ar Ha’amakim belonged to, had quite a different perspective.
On the day of Stalin’s death, March 5, 1953, the front page of Al Hamishmar, the movement’s newspaper, carried a photo of the late Soviet leader under a full-width headline: “The Progressive World Mourns the Death of Stalin.” Greenfield at Frontpage concludes: “Bernie Sanders wasn’t there because he liked Israel. Hashomer Hatzair did not like Israel. It ultimately wanted to destroy it.”
By 1963, when Sanders did his volunteer work, Hashomer Hatzair’s admiration for Stalin had greatly fadedHistorian Ron Radosh makes mincemeat of this argument, writing at PJ Media:
…in 1963 when Sanders worked on Hashomer’s kibbutz, its members considered themselves Marxist-Zionists, and they held a pro-Soviet orientation which included supporting Soviet foreign policy. Their ideological orientation on Zionism and socialism came not from the social democrats of the Socialist International, who were strongly anti-Communist and anti-fascist during the years of World War II (like Germany’s Willy Brandt), but from a rather unknown figure, a Zionist named Ber Borochov.Radosh gets to the nub of the issue: If Sanders later rejected the Communist ideology animating the kibbutz, when did he do so, and why? And if he hasn’t rejected it (as he has not done publicly), isn’t that something that voters should know about?
I knew members of Hashomer Hatzair in the same period that Bernie worked on their kibbutz. They would always urge me to read Borochov’s books. Although he passed away in 1917, too early to see the horrendous results of the Bolshevik Revolution, Borochov’s followers argued that he had proved that “socialist Zionism” had to be Marxist-Leninist. Their only criticism of the official Israeli Communist Party was its refusal to see that Stalin was wrong to argue that Jews did not need their own nation and that they instead should work within their own countries to foment a communist revolution. (If you want to know more about Borochov, Wikipedia accurately summarizes his views.) (snip)
These two articles have led writer Nathan Guttman in The Forward to accuse the two conservatives of “Red-Baiting from [the] Right.” He argues that while from today’s perspective Sanders' history on the kibbutz may seem damning, it did not at the time, because all Zionists know that Hashomer Hatzair made worthwhile contributions to the building of Israel, especially in the “pre-state Zionist military force, the Haganah,” as well as its shock troops, the Palmach.
Guttman’s main argument, however, is that Israel’s guiding ideology at the time and its culture “was socialist." He thereby makes no distinction between the moderate version of socialism held by Israeli Labor Party members like David Ben-Gurion and that of openly Stalinist Israelis who belonged to Hashomer Hatzair. He does acknowledge that in 1973 the kibbutz Sanders attended was “still a socialist heaven,” with communal sharing and regular singing of the Internationale. Even Guttman can see that “Sanders might have a hard time explaining all this to Americans -- conservatives and liberals alike.”
Of course I do not know at all what Bernie Sanders’ specific views were at the time, but the evidence does indicate that back in the early '60s he was part of the pro-Communist wing of the left. Now, as a democratic socialist, he eschews revolution and wants the U.S. to emulate the sclerotic European social democracies via a “political revolution,” whatever that is.But of course to ask for this is itself "red baiting" in the eyes of the left.
Sanders should tell us when and why he moved away from his former beliefs. What made him change from the views he held in the 1960s? If he has, there is no need for him to hide the nature of the kibbutz he worked on.
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