After President Donald Trump opined that Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is a communist, Sanders responded that he does not know the difference between communism and socialism and that Trump benefited from the latter. Did he?
Communism vs. Socialism
Even to the ideologically learned, the distinction between communism and socialism is hard to pinpoint. Both mean “the public ownership of the means of production.” Sanders checks that box. In 1976, he stated, “I favor the public ownership of utilities, banks and major industries” and has never repudiated his stance.
Since the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 in Russia, the distinction between socialism and communism has come to mean the method of implementation. Socialism primarily operates within the established system, whereas communism is revolutionary in character, intending to destroy the existing system by a violent, totalitarian takeover.
It is worth noting, however, that in Europe, those who rejected communism never called themselves socialists but instead used the term social democrat. All social democrats virulently dismissed the Soviet Union and sided with the United States during the Cold War. Sanders, by contrast, honeymooned in the U.S.S.R. as late as in 1988. In 1985, he attended a celebration of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. He also visited communist Cuba, and as late as 2011 he praised Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela.
No social democrat would ever do this.
Ideologically, if you praise the Soviet Union or any other communist revolutionary state, you are a communist. By that standard, Trump was right in his assessment of Sanders.
More disturbingly, Sanders said that “Donald Trump, before he was president, as a private businessperson, he received $800 million in tax breaks and subsidies to build luxury housing in New York. Now, what does that mean when the government gives you $800 million in tax breaks and subsidies?” The senator added that “the difference between my socialism and Trump’s socialism is I believe the government should help working families, not billionaires.”
If a tax break is socialist, Sanders must believe that all of Trump’s wealth belongs to the state and that keeping the money one has earned is a gift from the government. In this statement, Sanders reveals his real ideological core: Your life and everything you produce belongs to the state.
No Social Democrat
Although Sanders uses the term democratic socialist to describe himself and praises Scandinavia, he is not a social democrat. His policy proposals are closer to that of Venezuela than Sweden. Sweden has among the lowest corporate tax rates in the world and scores higher than the United States on economic freedom on all metrics except welfare, which is mostly paid for by taxing the middle class, not the rich.
The president is, therefore, far closer to the truth than most people know when he describes Sanders as a communist.
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