Nearly 30 years ago, the United States and millions of others in the West cheered the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and, eventually, the Soviet Union. Now, just a few decades later, one prominent U.S. presidential candidate openly declares himself a Democratic Socialist and several other candidates are advocating for government-run health care, taxpayer-funded college, and other high-dollar programs that move more power from the private sector to the federal government.
But people who have lived through socialism are warning that the promised utopia is nothing more than a mirage, including Foundation for Economic Education President Zilvanis Silenas.
“It’s so fundamentally wrong it cannot work,” said Silenas, a native of Lithuania, which was part of the USSR until Silenas was ten years old.
Silenas remembers families commonly living in one-room apartments and is quick to point out he doesn’t mean a one bedroom apartment. He says multiple families sometimes shared the equivalent of a college dormitory room.
Silenas says quality food was also unavailable to the general public and consumer goods such as a regular coat gobbled up half or even all of a monthly salary. Yet, Soviet citizens had no idea how poor they were because the government lied to them.
“People did not know they were in bad conditions. Soviet propaganda pretty much used to tell everyone everyone in the Soviet Union lived great, that the United States was suffering from a lot of problems,” said Silenas.
So what does Silenas think about major presidential candidates looking to the government to run health care or pay for college educations? He calls their ideas “wrong” and “insincere.” He also says the middle class will be the ones who suffer the most from more and more government control.
“Their tax bill would go up by a factor of two or even three. Even then, even those countries that supposedly have free education or free health care, it’s not actually free. You have to pay a lot in the form of your taxes. Then when you you go to get these services, you find out they’re not free,” said Silenas.
“All of a sudden you find out that the medicine you get is only the cheapest one. If you want to get more expensive medicine, you have to pay it yourself. If you want to go to the hospital right now, you have to wait in line or you have to go to a private hospital. They’re selling some of the European policies as a utopia, but they’re not utopia and they’re very expensive,” said Silenas.
Silenas is also firing back at Yale University Law School Professor Emily Jane O’Dell who recently tweeted favorable about the USSR compared to the U.S.
“Every single person I have I [sic] asked in Central Asia (and Eastern Europe) over the past decade and a half has said life was better under the Soviets — 100 percent,” O’Dell tweeted.
One of the reasons O’Dell sees the Soviets as superior is because “capitalism is devoid of all humanity.”
That set off Silenas on the appalling record of Soviet repression and persecution.
“Entire portions of countries inside the Soviet Union were repressed or deported. A large part of the population was simply shot. So whenever someone who should know better starts saying how great life was in the Soviet Union, that is simply an offense to literally tens of millions of people who lost their lives from that regime,” said Silenas.
“Where does she see humanity in actually removing people from the economy, removing people from democracy, removing people from having any say in how they live. Where does she see humanity in that?” asked Silenas.
“I can’t even imagine how anyone sane would actually say something like that. There was zero humanity in the Soviet Union. Zero,” he said.
Listen to the full podcast to hear more of the Silenas rant against the supposed humanity of the USSR, why government cannot care about the people, and what similarities he sees between the Soviet Union and the current Russian government.