Archived Press Release: Why We are Occupying Bernie Sanders’ Burlington Office: (April 26, 1999)

Date: Tue, 27 Apr 1999 09:21:29 -0400

From: Will Miller []

Subject: Occupying Bernie Sander’s Burlington Office with follow-up

Instant Antiwar Action Group

Contact: Will Miller

Press Release – April 26th, 1999:

Why We are Occupying Bernie Sander’s Burlington Office: [Burlington, VT]

I am writing on behalf of the anarcho-socialist-feminist and anti-racist left in Vermont, some 25 of whom are sitting next to me in this occupation. We are in Bernie’s Sander’s office to help bring a halt to the escalating war in Yugoslavia and the ongoing war against Iraq, both supported by Sanders. Many of us worked on Bernie’s campaigns through 1980’s, the years he was–as the local press repeatedly put it–the “avowed socialist” Mayor of Burlington, Vermont. His descent into de facto membership the Democratic party has been a major setback for the task of building a real electoral alternative to the two factions of the corporate property that monopolize what passes for political choice in the United States.

Bernie’s selling out says clearly to working people and those unable to find work that even leftists become mainstream politicians, when and if they win office. Sanders presented himself to the left outside of Vermont as the leader of the third party movement, vanquishing the two major parties in every Mayoral election from 1981-88. When he first got elected Mayor of Burlington he was the only elected U.S. official to attend the anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution in Managua.

The Gannett owned Burlington Free Press said he had to be removed from office “by any means necessary.” Now that same Burlington Free Press endorses his Congressional candidacy. Bernie became an imperialist to get elected in 1990. In August, 1990–after the Bush administration enticed Iraq into invading Kuwait–Sanders said he wasn’t “going to let some damn war cost him the election,” according to a staff member who was present at the time.

So Sanders backed the buildup in the Persian Gulf and dumped on the left anti-imperialist peace movement, singling out his former allies like Dave Dellinger for public criticism. He lost in 1988 Congressional race, the last time the Democratic party ran an official candidate against him. In that election Sanders and the Democrat, Paul Poirer, split the majority of votes and the election went to the Republican, Peter Smith. Bernie–out of office for the first time in eight years–then went to the Kennedy School at Harvard for six months and came back with a new relationship with the state’s Democrats.

The Vermont Democratic Party leadership has allowed no authorized candidate to run against Bernie in 1990 (or since) and in return, Bernie has repeatedly blocked third party building. His closet party, the Democrats, are very worried about a left 3rd party forming in Vermont. In the last two elections, Sanders has prevented Progressives in his machine from running against Howard Dean, our conservative Democratic Governor who was ahead of Gingrich in the attack on welfare.

The unauthorized Democratic candidate in 1990, Delores Sandoval, an African American faculty member at the University of Vermont, was amazed that the official party treated her as a nonperson and Bernie kept outflanking her to her right. She opposed the Gulf build-up, Bernie supported it. She supported decriminalization of drug use and Bernie defended the war on drugs, and so on…..

After being safely elected in November of 1990, Bernie continued to support the buildup while seeking membership in the Democratic Congressional Caucus–with the enthusiastic support of the Vermont Democratic Party leadership. But, the national Democratic Party blew him off, so he finally voted against the war and returned home–and as the war began–belatedly claimed to be the leader of the anti-war movement in Vermont. Since 1991 the Democrats have given Bernie membership in their Congressional Caucus. Reciprocally, Bernie has become an ardent imperialist. Sanders endorsed Clinton in 1992 and 1996. In 1992 he described Clinton as the “lesser of evils,” ( a justification he used to denounce when he was what the local press called an “avowed socialist”). By 1996 he gave Clinton an unqualified endorsement. He has been a consistent “Friend of Bill’s” from since 1992.

One student I knew worked on the Clinton Campaign in 1996 and all across Vermont, Bernie was on the stage with the rest of the Vermont Democratic Party Leadership, while the unauthorized Democratic candidate for his Congressional seat was kept out in the audience. Sanders continues to support sanctions even though the Iraqi body count has now passed 1.5 million. Just as he has supported every bombing of Iraq since 1992. When Clinton sent military units to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in October, 1994 because Iraq moved troops inside Iraq closer to the Kuwait border (apparently about 100 miles away), Bernie supported this because “we cannot tolerate aggression.”

As a Congressman in Vermont he has allied himself the MIA/POW crowd, the American Legion and the VFW, the very groups that red baited him as Mayor. At the same time he and his staff “forget” to invite the Green Mountain Veteran’s for Peace–the only anti-imperialist veterans group in the state–to his sponsored Veterans events. He sends out mailings to veterans that supports the US having “the strongest military in the world,” while praising our sacrifices as veterans “for the freedom of Americans.” Bernie regularly rides out with the rest of the Vermont Congressional delegation defending the military contracts in Vermont against cuts by the Pentagon, while arguing that some moderation in military spending is possible on the grounds “that the threat of communism is over” (WCAX interview, 10/94)

Incidentally, Sanders now has a stronger record voting on the Democratic side in the Congress than either Bonier or Gephardt–the Congressional Leadership of the Democratic Party. It is tempting to situate Sanders within the framework of the Congress as a whole. By that standard he doesn’t look so bad–though that’s a very low standard to use.

But remember, unlike Maxine Waters or Ron Dellums who moved continuously to their left during their Congressional careers, Bernie got where he is now by a lurch to the right. He promises working people, the aged, the poor, and the “vanishing middle class” that he will defend them while he repeatedly blocks the building of the anti-capitalist political movement and party that might actual make such promises legitimate. Indeed, when challenged publicly about his failure to help build a left alternative to the major capitalist parties, Sanders claims he is now too busy with his work in Congress to be bothered.

Among his other discredits, Sanders supported the Federal Crime Bill that give the gave the capitalist state more than 50 new pretexts to execute members of the working class–because those without capital get the punishment. He did this while courting the Vermont Police Chief’s Assn. Sanders also voted to extradite Assata Shakur from Cuba in violation of the existing treaties with Cuba.

Recently, Bernie championed in Congress the dumping of Vermont’s nuclear waste near Sierra Blanca, Texas, a low income border community with a mostly Latino population that is overwhelmingly opposed to the dump project. Environmental racism and classism seem not to bother him.

On a related issue, Bernie was recently asked by the local press why he was the only member of Vermont’ s three member Congressional delegation who had no person of color on his staff. Bernie responded that “we’re hiring the most qualified people we can.” For all of these reasons, we are sitting-in at Bernie Sander’s Office. We call on all Vermonters who shares our concern and horror at what U.S. Empire is doing in Yugoslavia and Iraq to make your voices heard! Join us at Sanders office or pay a call on the office of Senators Leahy and Stafford. All three of them support both of these wars! In a one-party system, they call it a “bi-partisan” on foreign policy. In solidarity with the peoples of Iraq and Yugoslavia!

Will Miller For the Instant Antiwar Action Group – Westford, VT

Follow-up: At 6:30 PM, one half hour after closing time, Philip Fiermonte of Bernie’s staff had 15 of us arrested for trespass. Sanders refused a conference call with those in the occupation, which was carried out nonviolently and with no disruption to his staff. Fiermonte claimed he could not contact Sanders for the four hours of the occupation–still another way Bernie has gotten out of touch in the Congress. Ironically, Fiermonte was one of the defendants in the celebrated Winooski 44 case in 1984, where the conservative U.S. Senator Robt. Stafford’s (R-VT) office was occupied for his support of Reagan’s murderous wars in Central America. At least Stafford’s staff let the occupation continue for three days before having anyone arrested.

The struggle continues…



via Why We are Occupying Bernie Sander’s Burlington Office: April 26, 1999.

[Emphasis by MT editor]

Editor’s Note: Just to be fair, Sanders is not the only socialist known to have a questionable history with racial matters. Remember the leftist American writer Jack London?

Jack London, Racist Progressive – The Volokh Conspiracy — The richer London became, the more radical his politics were. He was soon praising the assassination of Russia’s political leaders and saying socialism would inevitably come to America. Even as he employed small battalions of servants, he insisted he was a Robin Hood figure: They would be made to wait on the tramps and trade unionists he invited to his mansion.

And yet there is an infected scar running across his politics that is hard to ignore. “I am first of all a white man, and only then a socialist,” he said, and he meant it. His socialism followed a strict apartheid: It was for his pigmentary group alone. Every other ethnic group, he said, should be subjugated—or exterminated. “The history of civilization is a history of wandering—a wandering, sword in hand, of strong breeds, clearing away and hewing down the weak and less fit,” he said coolly. “The dominant races are robbing and slaying in every corner of the globe.” This was a good thing, because “they were unable to stand the concentration and sustained effort which pre-eminently mark the races best fitted to live in this world.”

And for those who are not “best fitted to live in this world”? In his 1910 short story “The Unparalleled Invasion,” the United States—with the author’s plain approval—wages biological warfare on China to decimate its population. It then invades and takes it over. It is, the story says, “the only possible solution to the Chinese problem.”

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