America’s younger generations—many of whom support socialist policies that claim to be a path to achieving equality, the environment, and justice—are unaware that these claims quickly become empty promises once socialism is in action, said Zilvinas Silenas, president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).
Among those who express positive opinions of socialism, they can largely be separated into three different groups, Silenas told EpochTV’s “Crossroads” program. There are people who honestly believe in socialism, people who will use anything bad happening in the United States to justify socialism, and people who do not know what socialism is, he said.
He sympathized with the pro-socialist American youth who want to do good in the world, acknowledging that it is difficult to know the facts given “the world is a difficult place.”
“Whenever something bad happens, there are multiple sorts of factors behind it,” he said.
American media and social media have made this challenge even worse by providing not many facts and a lot of opinions, Silenas said, adding that this is not wrong as long as opinions are presented as opinions, and facts as facts.
“Opinions should not be passed as facts, or vice versa,” he said.
As a result, many Americans have been left confused about the reality of life under socialism, Silenas said.
He warned America’s youth against believing those who claim that socialism is the answer to achieving equality, environment protection, and justice, saying that in reality, these things are “absolutely absent under socialism.”
Environmental Performance Under Socialism
“You couldn’t find any country that has had worse environmental performance than the Soviet Union, or the whole entire Soviet bloc, or even China, for that matter,” Silenas said. “The largest environmental disasters happen in socialist countries.”
Silenas gave examples of two environmental disasters that took place in the Soviet Union: the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, one of the world’s most significant accidents at a nuclear power plant; and the devastation of the Aral Sea, the fourth-largest inland sea in the world that “basically is gone” due to environmental mismanagement.
The Aral was nearly destroyed as a result of the Soviet Union’s irrigation project carried out in the 1960s, which was aimed at boosting cotton production by diverting two rivers feeding the sea to irrigate a desert. “Although irrigation made the desert bloom, it devastated the Aral Sea,” the Earth Observatory of NASA reported.
After visiting the Aral Sea in 2017, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called it “probably the biggest ecological catastrophe of our time,” according to a UN statement.
“If you want environmental protection, socialism is not the answer,” Silenas said.
Life In a Socialist Country
As for justice, that was “a mockery in the Soviet Union,” Silenas said.
Silenas was born in Lithuania when it was still a Soviet republic. It had been forcefully incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940.
“What is right and what is wrong, what is truth and what is lies, are defined by the party and the politicians, not by independent courts. ‘Independent courts’ is an oxymoron under socialism,” he said of the reality in all socialist states.
Silenas also said he witnessed no equality in the Soviet Union while living there, despite the promises of a more fair and equal society.
“There were many poor people. But at the same time, there were connected people that were rich people, all of them were connected to the communist party,” he said.
The humanitarian situation in the Soviet Union at the time was so bad that communist party members had their own special shops selling goods imported from Western countries, the former Yugoslavia, or the former Eastern Germany, Silenas said.
“[Those goods] were sort of considered luxuries that regular people could not even buy.”
Silenas said he grew up in a 30-square meter apartment (an equivalent of just over 320 square feet), which was “considered good because it had its own bathroom and its own kitchen.”
Many families lived in a kind of dorm, where they had to share a kitchen and a shower with other families, Silenas explained.
“It wasn’t a temporary thing like it is for students to live in a dorm. That was basically [the] aspiration of your life to live there.”
People who were connected to the communist party could live really well, Silenas said. “They had cars, they had drivers, they had dachas,” which are seasonal or year-round holiday homes located in the woods or by the sea.
“Anyone else was basically living in poverty.”
According to U.S. congressional records, since the Soviet Union established its socialist dictatorship, the ideology of socialism has unnaturally claimed the lives of least 100 million people in countries under socialist rule.
Many of those victims died as a result of man-made famines. Silenas cited the Ukrainian famine, also known as Holodomor—which occurred in the early 1930s—as an example of the failures of the socialist system.
“The Soviet Union was confiscating grain from Ukrainian peasants on purpose, to punish them for resisting collectivization,” he explained, adding that, as a result, “at least five million people [died], if not more, from starvation.”
More people have escaped poverty under capitalism than they have under socialism, Silenas said.
“I’m not talking poverty, about having a lesser iPhone than your friends. I’m talking real poverty … when you lack food or have nowhere to sleep.
“If you care [about] what’s the best thing for the most people; if you want the world healthy, fed, and reasonably wealthy, capitalism is the way to go,” he argued from his experience of socialism.
Silenas then quoted Winston Churchill, who said: “The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”
“If you’re looking for equity, opportunity … if you care about the environment, if you care about justice … socialism doesn’t deliver any of these things. Socialism delivers a relatively comfortable life for a very small group of people … They’re not the smartest people. They’re not even the most creative people. They’re just people [with the] most connections or people who would give up their friends to the authorities,” Silenas said.
All Socialist systems throughout history have exercised strict control over speech and thought.
In the Soviet Union, millions of people were “shot dead on the spot or sent to reeducation camps, or death camps, for thinking wrong things, for saying wrong things, or sometimes even for just having a little bit of land, on which they would grow crops for themselves and their families, or have fat pigs,” Silenas said.
People were also reported to the authorities by their neighbors for being anti-Soviet, he added.
He also said that although getting banned today from Facebook for 30 days is nothing compared to being sent to a Siberian death camp for 30 years, the tone and intention from the authorities is “eerily reminiscent” of life under socialism.
“It’s the same idea … that people are not smart [enough] to determine what kind of information is correct, that people are not smart and can be manipulated. That’s a very dangerous notion that does look reminiscent of totalitarian regimes.”
“I do hope it doesn’t go any further than it does right now,” he said.