It seems Bernie Sanders wants to become President and one of the titular Masters of the Universe. But how is the man going to deal with an international crisis with the fate of the world at stake when he can’t even deal with a little righteous heat right in his own back yard? A handful of activists from Code Pink and Occupy Central Vermont went to a town hall meeting in Cabot, Vermont on Saturday, hosted byBernie and loudly confronted him on his unconscionable complicity with Israel’s murderous attacks on Palestinians in Gaza. (Bernie did not sign on to the Senate Resolution but neither did he speak against it when it was passed by unanimous consent.) His reaction was to freak out and call the state police on us, who came rushing through town at high speed as if there was a crime in progress. A few days later, he had cops pre-positioned at a public meeting in another town.
Many on the Left outside of Vermont think Bernie is just wonderful. But they don’t know him as we radical activist in Vermont do. He may be pretty decent on domestic issues, at least relative to the other set of bad to horrible choices in the U.S. political spectrum. He can talk a good talk about income inequality and the need to fix it Yet, ever since he’s been in the U.S. Congress, he has been consistently atrocious on U.S.-launched and U.S.-supported wars, especially in the Middle East.
This is not the first time Bernie has sicced the cops on anti-war protesters. He had a number of us arrested for sitting-in at his congressional office in Burlington at the time of Clinton’s “humanitarian” bombing of Yugoslavia, which Bernie was happily supporting. This led a disgusted local Marxist, who was one of those arrested, to write the essay “Bernie the Bomber’s Bad Week” which is available at the Vermont Liberty Union Party Website. (Bernie was once a member of this party, which still upholds revolutionary socialist principles, before he decided to go on his own opportunist way.)
Bernie was still an “avowed socialist” when he started out his electoral career in the early 1980s. He proudly displayed a portrait of Eugene Debs over his desk in his Burlington mayoral office. But today Bernie never even uses the term, “working class,” much less talks about what socialism means. That’s been totally dropped from his vocabulary as he seeks higher and higher offices. His populist rhetoric, often at time indistinguishable from right-wingers who advocate “America First,” is now all about saving the threatened American middle class. Lost is any sense that maybe the middle class got to where it was not only by virtue of the hard work he extolls but also by living in an imperialist country that benefits off the exploitation of workers and others in the Third World. There is no sense that maybe that American middle class standard of living is indefensible if we are going to move to a more sustainable way of living on the Earth sharing its resources in a more equitable manner. Genuine socialists, like Eugene Debs, are revolutionary internationalists. Rock bottom as a matter of principle is building solidarity for the working class and oppressed people all over the world.
That includes the long-suffering Palestinians. Israel was created by and continues to be an outpost of Western colonialism. It has no right to exist, at least not in its present form, any more than did racist apartheid South Africa or the racist Jim Crow American South. If it is to survive, if has to drop
its Jewish exclusivism and do justice by the Palestinians. Resistance to Israel is taking many forms, from an armed defensive struggle in Gaza to non-violent anti-Apartheid Wall protests on the West Bank to a growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in this country and elsewhere. Zionist money has a tenacious grip on American politicians. No profiles in courage there. But politicians, especially ones like Bernie who pose as “Progressives,” have to know they will be confronted by outraged protesters on this issue, even if they don’t want to hear and call the cops.
Jay Moore is a radical historian and teacher who lives in Marshfield, Vermont