Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) actively campaigned for the Socialist Workers Party during earlier presidential elections, a report revealed Thursday.
The Washington Examiner documented Sanders's "deep and enduring" ties to the Marxist SWP. Sanders is currently seeking the nomination of the Democratic Party.
Sanders reportedly "proudly endorsed and supported" two SWP candidates—Andrew Pulley in 1980 and Mel Mason in 1984—during their respective runs for president. Pulley once called for American soldiers to open fire on their officers. Mason is a former Black Panther and admirer of Cuba's socialist revolution.
Between the two elections, Sanders was the featured speaker at a Socialist Workers "Campaign Kick-Off Rally" in Boston. A flier for the event describes Sanders as the "socialist mayor."
In an interview, Mason described Sanders as "in-the-camp with us and other socialist organizations." He claimed that Sanders, then the mayor of Burlington, Vt., promised to give him a key to the city.
"In Vermont, everybody knows that I am a socialist," Sanders said in a June 1989 speech. In private notes in the 1980s, Sanders called for a "revolution" central to socialist thought. "I believe that 200 people years after the 1st American Rev.—we need a 2nd American Revolution," he wrote at the time.
But as Sanders gained prominence in New England and nationwide, the longtime socialist sometimes shied away from the term.
"I myself don't use the word socialism, because people have been brainwashed into thinking socialism automatically means slave-labor camps, dictatorship and lack of freedom of speech," he told the Vermont Cynic in 1976.
These days, Sanders is even more muted in his political vision.
"Me, when I talk about democratic socialism, what I’m talking about are human rights and economic rights," he said at a CNN town hall in February of this year. During an NPR interview in March, he distanced himself from the situation in Venezuela and other failed socialist states "What I mean by democratic socialism is that I want a vibrant democracy," he said.
The SWP's Mason worries the senator has lost his fire.
"I think what happens to a lot of folks who come into office as true radicals is that after you've been there for a while and begin to deal with that particular structure, that structure does change people somewhat," he said.