More than eighty years ago, a strange madness swept through the international leftwing movement when Stalin accused a pair of “Old Bolsheviks” named Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev of plotting with both Hitler and the exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky to overthrow the Soviet Union. The result was not only fear and paranoia at home, but terror and bewilderment abroad as Communists and their sympathizers came under intense pressure to endorse every new accusation emanating out of Moscow or face expulsion, ostracism, or worse.
Arthur Koestler described the nightmarish results in his classic 1940 novel Darkness at Noon while George Orwell discussed them as well in Homage to Catalonia, Animal Farm, and 1984. Since then, memories have faded to the degree that, especially among young people, it’s hard to find anyone who remembers what the furor was all about.
Except for Wayne Madsen, that is. In a recent SCF column, he not only resurrected the old conspiracy tale but updated it by applying it to an entirely new target – Bernie Sanders.
The results were nothing short of bonkers. Entitled “Beware of the Scheming Trotskyists,” the article advanced three arguments. The first is that Joe Biden is the traditional pro-labor candidate in the Democratic race. The second is that Sanders is a follower of Leon Trotsky because, for a time in the 1980s, he seems to have been in the orbit of the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist organization dating from 1938. The third is that since Trotsky was a crypto-fascist, Sanders has to be one as well.
It’s as the dark and vengeful mood of the late 1930s had suddenly sprung back to life – as if Stalin was still ordering executions by the thousands and chief prosecutor Andrey Vyshinksy was still raging at the Moscow show trials, “Shoot these rabid dogs. Death to this gang who hide their ferocious teeth, their eagle claws, from the people! Down with that vulture Trotsky, from whose mouth a bloody venom drips….”
Thus, we have Madsen writing along similar lines that “Trotskyists showed themselves all too willing to accommodate fascist forces” to the point of participating in an attempted fascist putsch in France led by such ultra-right forces as the Croix de Feu and the Action Française. Madsen adds that Trotskyists also hooked up with members of the British Labor Party in the 1930s to steer the country in an anti-Soviet direction and did the same with members of Norman Thomas’s old Socialist Party in the US.
That’s what Trotskyists do, you see: they ally themselves with pseudo-left renegades in order to help fascists and undermine entirely laudable people like Uncle Joe. And if they did so then, they must be doing the same thing now. Hence, if Sanders is challenging Biden for the Democratic nomination, it can be for one reason only: to knock the stronger candidate out of the race so that Trump can waltz his way to a second term. As Madsen puts it:
“Sanders’s coterie of campaign officials never miss a chance to attack other Democratic candidates, demonstrating that the Trotskyist tendency toward mounting ‘Fifth Columns’ within well-established political parties of the left and center-left is just as endemic in the United States today as it was in the past when the targets were Franklin Roosevelt [and] British Labor Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald…. Trotskyists have always believed in the notion: ‘my way or the highway,’ even if the highway is one to fascist rule and the collapse of democratic and constitutional governance.”
“The world is slipping into global fascis[m],” he adds, “as the Trotskyists play their fiddles of deception and plot their next moves” – just as they did in the years leading up to World War II.
All of which couldn’t be nuttier. So let’s take Madsen’s arguments one by one.
- Biden is “pro-labor”:
In fact, the opposite is the case. So eager was Biden to carry water for a major Delaware credit-card company that for years he was known as “the Senator from MBNA.” The company, for a time Delaware’s largest private-sector employer, poured money into his election campaigns and even hired his son Hunter as a consultant while the elder Biden rammed a bankruptcy law through Congress that the credit-card industry had long coveted. (Sound familiar?) Prospect magazine described the 2005 bill as “perhaps the most anti–middle class piece of legislation in the past century” and noted that Biden also used his Senate clout to defeat amendments designed to soften the blow for military personnel, women, and children.
This is not what a pro-labor candidate does. Neither does he seek to cut Social Security; push through harsh drug-war legislation that puts thousands of black Americans in jail by ratcheting up penalties for crack cocaine, or back endless imperialist wars in the Middle East in which only working-class kids have to fight.
- Bernie Sanders is a Trotskyist:
This is equally ludicrous. Despite his flirtation with the SWP at a time when the old party was rapidly running out of steam, Sanders is to the right of even the mildest European reformer who would insist on a separate party as the least social democrats can do. Yet Sanders wants to fold the socialist movement into the Democrats, a party so corporate that it might as well be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Trotsky is no doubt rolling in his grave at the heresy of it all.
- Trotskyism is a form of crypto-fascism:
This is even more ridiculous. Trotsky fought to uphold the Bolshevik legacy while Stalin terrorized the left, starved to death millions of peasants, and crippled Soviet defense by killing Mikhail Tukhachevsky and other top military figures. He also opened the country up to an invasion by entering into an ill-considered non-aggression pact with Hitler in 1939. Six years earlier, Trotsky warned that Hitler would eventually turn his guns on the Soviet Union once he took power. Yet Stalin refused to believe it even after German tanks crossed the border in June 1941. Millions paid with their lives for his lack of judgment.
This is the madness that Madsen now defends. Keep that in mind the next time he goes on the Alex Jones show to tout some wacky conspiracy theory about Mossad causing 9/11 or Barack Obama’s years working as a gay hustler.