So What if They Made the Trains Run on Time?Roundup
tags: socialism, totalitarianism, Bernie Sanders, 2020 Election
Dr. Rafael Medoff is the director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., and the author of more than 20 books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and American Jewish history.
Sen. Bernie Sanders’s praise for some policies of the Cuban and Soviet regimes speaks to a broader question that has long attracted public interest: Should our view of authoritarian governments be affected by the fact that their trains run on time?
The old saying about punctual trains often is intended as shorthand for brutal dictators who take some actions that improve the lives of their citizens. In the case of Sanders, however, he has sometimes invoked the term quite literally.
With regard to Cuba, Sanders praised Castro’s communist regime for increasing the literacy rate of the Cuban population. Only after being prodded by the interviewer — Anderson Cooper of 60 Minutes — did Sanders say that he “condemns” the imprisonment of political dissidents in Cuba.
Concerning the Soviet Union, it was the trains that attracted Sanders’s strong interest and effusive praise. On June 13, 1988, Sanders, then the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, held an hourlong press conference there, together with 10 activists (including his wife, Jane), to share their impressions of the Soviet Union, from which they had just returned....
Sanders focused on the trains in particular. “In Moscow, we were extremely impressed by their public transportation system,” he said. “In fact, it was the cleanest, most effective mass transit system that I’ve ever seen in my life … The stations themselves were absolutely beautiful, including many works of art, chandeliers that were beautiful, it was a very, very effective system.”
Sanders, who spoke again toward the end of the press conference, did not mention the plight of the 3 million Soviet Jews who were being persecuted and prevented from emigrating.
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