Deck: Young people in the United States who have grown up only knowing economic, political, and economic turmoil, desire a change of system—the most popular one is Socialism. But young people who have lived under Socialism say this ideology should not be considered an option.
Washington (DC)- “I fear for my life.” says Nelson Mairata an independent journalist from Cuba.
As political, economic, and social issues continue to transverse and affect the lives of young people, an alternative to the current political and economic system is desired by most of them.
A Socialist system has become a possible alternative to that of Capitalism. For many young people, Capitalism has become unsustainable. “Capitalism’s commodification of human relations is producing unprecedented levels of social anxiety and distress, at the same time as its destruction of the natural environment raises serious questions about the sustainability of life on this planet,” says Portside Organization.
In recent years, the preference for Socialism has grown among young people in the United States. According to a survey conducted by Gallup in 2019, 51% of young people have a positive view of socialism. 57% of young people who have registered as Democrats view Socialism positively.
For young people who have lived through Socialism, they say, “be careful what you wish for—the reality is far away from social justice.”
Socialism has its origins in the 3rd century BCE, but it was Karl Marx who made the ideal as notorious as it is. For Marx, Socialism and later on Communism is the solution to end workers’ exploitation and bring equality to all members of society.
German psychologist, Erich Fromm says, “Marx’s concept of Socialism is a society which permits the actualization of man’s essence, by overcoming his alienation (individualism). It is nothing less than creating the conditions for the truly free, rational, active, and independent man.”
In the year 1998, Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela under the promise to bring justice to those who had been ignored by neoliberalism and its elites. His plan fell under the slogan of “Socialismo del Siglo XXI” or Socialism of the 21st century.
Chávez wanted to transform Cuba’s version of Socialism—pulling away from Soviet-style dogmas and implementation, according to CubaDebate.
He believed Socialism could be implemented without the need for guerillas—the mass mobilization to the ballots would now be the preferred method. After the election of Hugo Chávez, the Cuban regime, the last remnant of the Soviet Union, had now a successful ally not only to pursue economic relations but to spread Socialism far from the isolation of the waters of the Caribbean.
Since then, Socialismo del Siglo XXI has won the majority vote in countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, and Argentina.
Cuba and Venezuela remain the only countries in Latin America that have maintained a socialist government without any change for decades.
Esteban Hernández, Williams Perdomo, and Nelson Mairata are all journalists from Venezuela and Cuba who have only known Socialism in their countries. They say day-to-day Socialism is a daily agony.
“It’s not just only being persecuted, it’s not knowing if you are going to have electricity, food, medicine—not having a passport after you immigrate, the agony is constant even after you leave,” says Williams Perdomo.
Williams Perdomo is an exiled journalist born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, now based in Spain. He had previously worked for Maria Corina Machado, a prominent figure of the opposition coalition to the Maduro regime, as part of her communications team.
He, later on, worked for the newspaper El Nacional, which was just recently expropriated by the Maduro regime. Perdomo traveled all over Venezuela to cover, what he calls, “the reality of Venezuela—the stuff the government does not report.”
“I went above and beyond to cover the areas the government has ignored, where necessity and precariousness is; Caracas is a bubble—that is not the reality,” says Perdomo.
In January 2022, Perdomo was almost kidnapped by the state police after the expropriation of El Nacional, thus why he had to leave the country. He cannot return.
Esteban Hernández is also an exiled journalist from Venezuela based in Miami, Florida. He currently is a co-anchor for ContraPoder news. He grew up in Isla de Margarita in the state of Nueva Esparta.
“Am I free to say anything I want in Venezuela? No, absolutely not,” says Hernández after being asked whether he can pursue journalism freely in Venezuela.
Hernández like Perdomo cannot return to Venezuela.
“I mean, I can, but probably won’t be met with the warmest of welcomes,” says Hernández.
Nelson Mairata is a non-binary independent journalist based in Havana, Cuba. Mairata wanted to pursue journalism because they believe, “there are realities that are not told by the government.”
Mairata says that being a journalist in Cuba is extremely hard. Not only are independent journalists followed, persecuted, exiled, and some even disappeared, independent journalists can’t have access to government records.
“A wrong fact can potentially threaten your freedom,” says Mairata. “Living under the Cuban system is to live every day in survival mode. The “access to education, healthcare—food is not guaranteed.” they continued.
Perdomo, Hernández, and Mairata expressed that living under Socialism is living in “survival mode.”
The Cuban regime continues to persecute independent journalists via its institutions. According to Mairata, the Cuban government has just passed a Penal Code, (approved solely by the government), that now puts into law the persecution of independent journalists.
Nelson Mairata also stated that LGBTQI+ rights in Cuba “do not exist.”
They continued, “Apart from the Penal Code, the regime also passed a Family Code where it does not include gender identity laws nor protection against abuse—what social justice are we talking about? There isn’t any.”
Dr. Daniel Pedreira is a Professor at the University of Miami where he teaches Cuban Politics. Pedreira is also a human rights activist.
When discussing the survey conducted by Gallup, he expressed that it was important to know the context in which the term Socialism was explained.
Pedreira said it has to be taken into account how the term was explained—whether it was the Marxist, Maoist, Venezuelan, or Cuban Socialism, or were they told that it would be similar to that of Denmark, Scandinavia? —these countries are not Socialist, they have a market economy that respects property rights.
He continues, “if the survey were to have described it as Socialism as the one implemented let’s say in Cuba and Venezuela, then there is something wrong with the education system.”
“Democracy and radicalism can’t go hand in hand.” he continued.
Esteban Hernández also explained that the countries mentioned above are not Socialist. He says, “Denmark and Scandinavia are not Socialist countries. They have one of the most flexible markets, even more so than the United States. Denmark has fewer taxes on companies than what the United States has on people.” “Socialism will always turn to authoritarianism because it has to be coerced for all members of society to agree to it.”
“In a Socialist country, you do what the government tells you to do,” says Hernández.
For Hernández, he believes that the Socialism that most young Americans want is that of Venezuela. “The same things you hear from them are that you heard Chávez say in 1998 and later implement after he won the presidency,” says Hernández.
As Williams Perdomo said, even after you leave Socialism, life is still hard.
Brian Fincheltub is the director of Consular Affairs at the Venezuelan Embassy in D.C. Since 2019, the Venezuelan Embassy has belonged to the opposition after President Donald Trump recognized Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela after the opposition won the National Assembly’s majority.
Fincheltub says they receive hundreds of requests daily that range from political asylum, to TPS, “well everything.” he said
The Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown, D.C. is currently understaffed. Fincheltub says that due to the high volume of cases, it becomes extremely too difficult to attend to all of them.
As of 2022, more than 6 million Venezuelans have immigrated, according to Brookings Institution. This number continues to increase as more Venezuelans are risking their lives through the Darien Jungle to reach the border of the United States and Mexico.
As Perdomo said, even after you leave Socialism, life is still agony.
In early July, Georgetown University’s Migration and Refugee Policy Initiative volunteered at Union Station to help receive migrants who are dropped via sent from Texas by Governor Gregg Abbott (R-TX).
Most of the migrants were Venezuelan. Some came with children as young as the age of two—others with just the clothes on their back.
Young activists who have lived through Socialism, like Daniel DiMartino, a Columbia PhD student born and raised in Venezuela, believe it’s important to educate the youth, especially before they enter college, about the dangers of Socialism.
He and other activists from Venezuela, Hong Kong, North Korea, and Eritrea, alongside Young Voices Organization, have launched the Dissident Project where they will speak at high schools around the country about the dangers and reality of Socialism.
During the launch party for the Dissident project on August 12 in Capitol Hill, D.C., an audience member pointed out the similarities between those who have escaped communist and socialist regimes—an audience member said, “they all share the commonality of being in survival mode.”
Grace Jo, a dissident from North Korea, said she didn’t have food when she was a child for days whilst she lived in North Korea.
Mairata, Perdomo, Esteban, Pedreira, Di Martino, and all sources interviewed said that the United States is a country where authoritarianism would be difficult to implement but not impossible.
Perdomo pointed out how Congress members such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and ex-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders advocate for democratic socialism and that they even form part of a Venezuela regime sympathizer’s coalition, PUEBLA.
Ocasio Cortez was one of the Congress members who were vocal on her stance against the sanctions imposed by President Trump in 2019.
“No country is exempt of totalitarianism.” agreed Pedreira and Hernández.
All sources interviewed shared a message to the youth who prefer Socialism says to not be fooled by the empty promises of socialist leaders in their cries for equality, to never take freedom for granted, and to defend freedom of speech anytime they can.