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Bernie Sanders doesn't like communist dictators, but he loves their propaganda
I'm sure that Bernie Sanders views the communist dictatorships throughout history as a deviation from "real" socialism, and genuinely believes that literacy and various government sponsored social programs are a good and decent thing. But praising these policies from these particular regimes is a problem. Maybe not a problem for him electorally, I expect most people don't care about this sort of thing, but it should be a moral problem.
We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it's unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?
When Fidel Castro first came into power ... you know what he did? He initiated a major literacy program. It was a lot of folks in Cuba at that point who were illiterate and he formed the Literacy Brigade ... and they went out and they helped people learn to read and write You know what? I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing.
I suppose it's true that learning to read and write is a good thing, but context is very important. In the context of Cuba, we have to ask a couple follow-up questions: What was Castro's intent in doing this? What were people allowed to read and write under Castro?
They were allowed to read and write regime propaganda, and the purpose was to create a docile populous to keep Castro in power. I'm not trying to suggest that Sanders is a secret Castro sympathizer, but I do believe he wants to play up as much "good" as he can from socialist regimes. This is why he praised the Soviet Union's "beautiful" train stations and "their palaces of culture for the young people... which go far beyond what we do in this country." Again, I'm not suggesting that Bernie is a secret apologist for Stalin or any of the Soviet dictators, but he does want to praise socialist policies wherever he thinks he can get away with it.
Never mind that Castro and the Soviet dictators were using these programs to propagandize their own citizens into supporting their evil regimes, or pauperizing their citizens and destroying their economies to build "beautiful" palatial train stations or any other socialist boondoggle designed to impress the world, such as the "House of the Republic" in Nicolae Ceaușescu's Romania or the Juche Tower in North Korea.
The purpose of any of these social programs or architectural feats is never anything other than empowerment of the regimes in question. Sanders wants to divorce the simple fact of the existence of a literacy program or a youth program from the context of the socialist regimes in question because he wants to promote socialism for his own political purposes, but this should be a black mark against his judgement or his priorities if not both. Nobody today would get away with praising Hitler for "making the trains run on time," even if it was a historical fact, for the simple fact that it would be horrifying in the context of his murderous regime.
It is simply not possible to look at history's most evil regimes, the Soviet Union, Castro's Cuba, or Nazi Germany, and say that any of their policies were good, because all of their policies were in the interest of furthering the power of the regime. That Sanders can't or won't understand this shows that he's either delusional or a propagandist himself.