By Aaron Klein
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., an avowed progressive and a 2016 presidential candidate, has not been shy about his affinity for socialism.
“Do you hear me cringing?” he said rhetorically when Yahoo News asked him last year if he accepted the label “democratic socialist.” “Do you hear me running under the table?”
Now KleinOnline has found that Sanders maintained a close working relationship with the Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA, even helping to raise funds and recruit new members to the socialist group.
Sanders was a central player in the ushering of DSA-supported candidates into Congress and later helped rebrand and incorporate that legislative axis within the Congressional Progressive Caucus, or CPC.
The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States and is the principal U.S. affiliate of Socialist International, the worldwide organization of social democratic, socialist and labor parties.
Rewind to 1998. That year, in the January/February issue of Chicago DSA’s New Ground publication, veteran DSA activist Ron Baiman identified Sanders and Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts as leaders of the Progressive Caucus in Congress, which, Baiman related, the DSA “helped to organize.”
Until November 2002, the website of the CPC was openly hosted by the DSA, demonstrating the close ties between the two likeminded groups.
Following negative publicity about the CPC website being hosted by the socialist organization, the list of CPC names was moved to Sanders’ own website and was later relocated to its own site.
KleinOnline reported as early as 1998 on the DSA and the progressive congressional faction. KleinOnline reported at the time the DSA website featured “The Internationale,” the worldwide anthem of communism and socialism.
Another song on the site was “Red Revolution,” sung to the tune of “Red Robin.” The lyrics include:
“When the Red Revolution brings its solution along, along, there’ll be no more lootin’’ when we start shootin’ that Wall Street throng. …”
“Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Bourgeoisie, Bourgeoisie. And when the revolution comes, We’ll kill you all with knives and guns, Bourgeoisie, Bourgeoisie.”
Sanders and the DSA
The ties between Sanders and the DSA go back to at least 1988, KleinOnline found.
On Oct. 24, 1988, The Nation magazine, identifying Sanders as “the socialist Mayor of Burlington, Vermont,” reported he had been endorsed for Congress by both the Democratic Socialists of America and the progressive founders of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream.
The DSA endorsed Sanders for every one of his subsequent elections and has openly helped to raise funds for him over the years.
In 2006, for example, the DSA boasted in its literature about the socialist group’s “involvement in Bernie Sanders’ pivotal independent 2006 Senate campaign in Vermont.”
Indeed, the DSA held “Elect Sanders” house parties in Atlanta; Boston; Detroit; Portland, Maine; Boulder, Colorado; Indianapolis; Columbus, Ohio; Ithaca, New York; Springfield, Massachusetts; Washington, D.C.; and New York City.
“DSAers wanting to hold Sanders house parties should contact me at email@example.com,” wrote one senior DSA activist in the socialist group’s July 2006 newsletter.
That same year, Sanders spoke at a Detroit fundraiser for DSA’s Political Action Committee. The fundraiser was connected by telephone link to a simultaneous DSA fundraising event in Atlanta.
DSA literature notes that in January 2006, DSA Detroit Chair David Green “took Bernie Sanders to tour Stan Ovshinsky’s United Solar Ovonics plant in Auburn Hills northwest of Detroit.”
“The plant makes successful, cost-efficient solar panels and is pioneering the hydrogen fuel cell,” added the DSA.
In the fall of 2006, Sanders was the featured speaker at several DSA “urban parties” also meant to garner support for his senatorial run while raising awareness about the DSA and recruiting new members to the group.
One New York City event was held Sept. 19, 2006, at the home of DSA activists Gene and Laurel Eisner on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
“The questions and comments actually had to be cut off to let Bernie get to the plane,” reported the DSA.
DSA reported the Sanders events helped to recruit new members to the socialist organization.
“Sanders support work provides a natural vehicle in any locality for DSA to reach out to – and potentially recruit – unaffiliated socialists and independent radicals.”
DSA website and Sanders
The issue of the CPC being hosted on the DSA website rose again in June 2000 in connection with a heated dispute on the House floor between Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and David R. Obey, D- Wis., over the “merits of the F-22 fighter plane.”
When Cunningham stood to defend himself, he included in his argument the fact the DSA website had a link to the CPC, which DeFazio then led.
In 2000, the relationship between the CPC and DSA was an open secret.
In an Aug. 10, 2000, letter to the editor published in The Kentucky Post, it was reported that then-Democratic Rep. Ken Lucas had received campaign funds from Democratic Reps. Marcy Kaptur, John Lewis, George Miller, Nancy Pelosi and Charles Rangel, “among others on the far-left.”
The writer remarked that “those five names stand out because they are all members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus – a group closely aligned with the Democratic Socialists of America.”
The CPC still had not moved to its own website on April 23, 2002. Balint Vazsonyi responded thusly in the Washington Times to the hypothetical question: “‘What?’ I hear you say. ‘Socialists in the Congress of the United States?’”
Dozens, dear reader, dozens. And they make no secret of it. Although of late it has been refurbished and the address altered, they have their own Web site. They call themselves members of the Progressive Caucus, until recently an arm of the Democratic Socialists of America, itself an arm of the Socialist International. The Progressive Caucus may be a separate entity now, but the details of its program, as advertised on the website, are indistinguishable from that of the Socialist International.
To their credit, they make no secret of it. Only the rest of us prefer not to believe it.
In a follow-up article in November 2002, Vazsonyi dug deeper into the continued presence of the CPC on the DSA website. He discussed the issue of constitutionality and the ramifications of the relationship:
The Socialist International carries the torch for Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, V.I. Lenin, Leon Trotsky, and Josef Stalin. Pay no attention to the desperate attempts by socialists to distance themselves from Stalin. For our purposes, it suffices to observe that every single tenet of the Socialist International is the exact opposite of the principles upon which America was founded, and which define the U.S. Constitution.
For our purposes, it suffices also to observe that members of the U.S. Congress are required to furnish an oath whereby they will preserve, protect, and defend said Constitution.
The CPC moved its website in late 2002.
With additional research by Brenda J. Elliott.