By Val Reynoso
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won the hearts of millions when running in the 2016 US presidential election on the Democrat party ticket. Sanders described himself as a “democratic socialist,” and would usher in a “political revolution,” with more left leaning politics than what the mainstream establishment candidates had to offer. Despite Sanders being characterized as a socialist or communist, his defense of imperialism and Zionism is disqualifying for radical principles and politics.
On April 28th of this year, CNN reported that Sanders supported Trump’s stance on the DPRK. Sanders asserted, “‘North Korea is a real danger to this world, and we have got to do everything we can to … prevent a nuclear war and to get them to stop their nuclear program.” Further, that “China has got to apply the screws and tell North Korea that if their economy is going to survive, they cannot continue expanding their nuclear arms program and their missile program,” he added. The irony in Sanders’ statements is that DPRK’s nuclear arsenal is integral to their survival, as lack of defenses could increase their vulnerability to further Western aggression. He panders and supports imperialist policies with the tired argument of defending “human rights” and preserving the nation from supposedly “dangerous” anti-imperialist states such as the DPRK.
Historically, the DPRK has demonstrated adamant support for internationalism and anti-imperialism. Internationalism is what differentiates Marxist ideology from liberalism and advocates for global victims of imperialism and capitalism to forge solidarity. It was the DPRK under Kim il-Sung that housed the Black Panther Party–who were attracted to “Juche,” otherwise known as DPRK national self-determination–in the mid- to late- 20th century. The DPRK has also supported anti-colonial resistance throughout Asia, Latin America and Africa.
It is hypocritical of the US and of Sanders to accuse DPRK of human rights violations given the history of tensions between the two nations. Along with the dozens of other countries the US has bombed and invaded, it was the US that critically bombed DPRK in the 1950s with a total of 635,000 tons of bombs targeting DPRK towns, farms, cities, etc. The statistics of the total bombs dropped on DPRK by the US include 32,557 tons of the chemical weapon napalm. In contrast, DPRK has never bombed any country, not even the US which has decimated so much of its population and land.
Moreover, war is a central component to American politics because US imperialism is the number one global terrorist which has destroyed millions of lives in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Through regime change, violent coups, femicide, invasions, and occupations, foreign commodities get imported into the US, such as oil, which profits mega corporations, politicians, and the military industrial complex. The US is the worlds largest military spender, seeing that military expenditures have grown by 1.7% to $611 billion between 2015 to 2016. The US is an undeniably hegemonic, imperialist superpower. Defense of imperialist policies is defense of war, which serves the capitalist elite.
In Marxism, socialism serves as a necessary transition from capitalism to communism, and is explicitly anti-imperialist. Imperialism is as Lenin states, “the highest stage of capitalism” and involves the exportation of capital, expansion of markets, and erosion of global south solidarity and internationalism.
Sanders supports regime change and renders the US as being above international law. Additionally, Sanders uses imperialist rhetoric which works to preserve white supremacy, capitalism, and US hegemony. Politicians like Sanders will accuse leaders who have been on the US hit-list like Assad, Putin, Gaddafi of “human rights abuses” and dictatorial rule, but will not mention how the US, for instance, funds Saudi Arabia and settler-colonial state Israel with decades-long military aids deals of billions of dollars and is allied with these two nations who promote the key extremist ideology of DAESH—and fund CIA-backed mercenaries along with the US in Syria in order to destabilize the regime. He also supported US/NATO intervention in the Kosovo wars of the Clinton administration and the US/NATO intervention in Libya under the Obama administration.
Another anti-socialist stance Sanders holds is his defense of Zionism. The Zionist movement developed in the late 19th century in Europe and influenced Ashkenazi Jews to escape European anti-semitism by migrating to Palestine with the aspiration of creating a Jewish state in what they believed was the “Holy Land” by colonizing and pillaging Palestinian land. The state of Israel was created on May 14th, 1948 through the adoption of the Partition Plan by the UN which advocated for a two-state solution in Palestine in which 56% of the nation would be established as Israel and the remainder Palestine. The Holy City of Jerusalem, also known as al-Quds, was the exception to the partition and was then labelled international territory managed by the UN.
Majority of Palestinians and neighboring Arab countries did not favor the two-state solution as they saw it as a violation of Palestinian national self-determination and the principles of the UN charter under which Palestinians were supposed to have the right to decide their fate. According to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, Israel initiated a process of ethnic cleansing which resulted in the destruction of over 400 Palestinian villages, massacre of thousands of Palestinian people and forceful displacement of approximately a million Palestinians who ended up in refugee camps in nearby Arab countries towards the end of 1949. Israeli ethnic cleanse of Palestinians allowed the newfound Israeli state to colonize 77% of Palestinian territory with the exception of the West Bank, Gaza strip and East Jerusalem. After the 1967 war with Syria, Jordan and Egypt, Israel occupied the remaining 23% of Palestine and the US used its veto power in the UN security council to prevent passings of UN condemnations of illegal Israeli occupation of designated Palestinian territory.
Sanders was among the 100 Senators to sign a letter on April 27th 2017, reaffirming key ideas of of the Israeli lobby group AIPAC, addressed to the UN Secretary General with the purpose of claiming that Israel is overly-criticized and singled out by the world—despite the fact that Israel has dodged international law and UN resolutions condemning its settler-colonialism for decades in part because of the disproportionate significance the veto power of the US carries in the UN. Sanders defends a settler-colonial state founded on apartheid, genocide, ethnic cleansing, forceful displacement, and illegal action. The Israeli state continually violates Palestinian self-determination. The Electronic Intifada states that Sanders also justified Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza which left thousands of Palestinians, over a quarter of them children, dead. Sanders also said that he does not defend the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS), which aims to economically isolate Israel for apartheid and occupation–which the Senate letter he signed also discourages. Sanders also claimed that if the two-state solution fails, he would support the singular state of Israel because he supports Israel’s right to exist. Settler-colonialism and white supremacy are anti-socialist and are products of Western imperialism and capitalism.
Val Reynoso is a Politics and Human Rights undergrad, journalist and Marxist-Leninist activist.