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Communism Vs. Socialism; A Slippery Slope of Good Intentions?

Updated on July 29, 2013

Marxist Theory

The main element of Marxism that is consistently, overlooked, perhaps for good recent historical reasons regarding the brutality with which so called, "Communist Parties," around the world throughout the 20th century conducted themselves, is the gradual evolutionary process by which Marx expected a Capitalist society to trans morph into a Communist society by gradual degrees. Of these intermediate states is, "Socialism." Socialism is neither Capitalism nor Communism, and is in fact in erudite but important ways not concomitantly reconcilable with Communism. This of course makes the assertion that the current President of the U.S. is both a Socialist and a Communist not only simplistic and rhetorical but unlettered and unfeasible.

The Dirty Word and The Red Scare

The Cold War, "Red Scare," culminating perhaps in the zealous panic that paved the road for the witch-hunt that was McCarthyism in the 1950s and the insertion of, "Under God," into the pledge of Allegiance in an effort to elevate us over our, "godless," superpower counterparts cannot be logically spread in the pandemic manner that it did simply by a reading of the, "Communist Manifesto," in which Marx outlines his benevolent if not naïve vision for a Communal Utopia.

The kind of panic endemic to this period could only be engendered by a perversion of his ideals that took an undoubtedly fascistic and dictatorial guise in the ostensive implementation of Communist regimes (The Bolsheviks of Russia in 1917, The Communist Part of The Peoples' Republic of China in 1949). The "Communist Regimes," that these revolutionary movements seeded were unsurpassed in brutality and nationalistic fervor. It is surely this brutal implementation, which in both cases were decidedly more socialistic in nature and the added fascistic sadism of their party leaders that has left such an unpalatable taste in our collective historical mouths, in regards to the term, "Communism."

The Communist Vision

The Marxist utopia devoid of money, classes, and state entities operating upon a common ownership of the means of production surely is not in line with the malevolent top down Socialist regimes that are associated with Communism.

In Marxist theory he saw the overthrow of Capitalism followed by governmental machinations of Socialistic imposition as the necessary growing pains needed to eventuate in his worker controlled Utopia. (Interestingly, and perhaps telling of Marxist naiveté, Utopia, the titular term of Thomas More's novel literary means, "nowhere," in Greek.) He referred to this early period as lower-phase Communism and the period to eventuate from it as higher-phase Communism.

Marx saw this period as necessary in that a centralized coordination of the socialist mode of production and specifically labor-time and quantity of social goods could only be made to match a reliable model of consumption with the implementation of a top-down governmental planning model.

Once this model had been implemented and adjusted as needed a truly communal, leaderless state, devoid of monetary abstraction, and accordingly of misery, greed, and excess would emerge. This vision, it may surprise some to see, is entirely benevolent and rather grandiose in the collective altruism and self-disinterestness it ascribes to human beings.

Socialism Vs. Communism

The main difference to be noted is that Communism is both a Political and an Economic agenda while Socialism is merely Economic. Further, Socialism tends to distribute public good to people commensurate to their production of said goods while Communism distributes more along lines of need.

There is a seedy element of deliberate centralized social control that regulates the economic system of a Socialistic State. It may be just this kind of Carte Blanche power that relies to much on altruistic leadership if it is not to be easily abused that may have attracted the likes of Stalin, Moa, and Mussolini to seize power of Socialist movements. It may further be the siren song of power that corrupted these movements before they could begin to approach a true Communist ideal.

Communism seeks a form of classlessness and statelessness where the means of production and the fruits of production are owned collectively and diffusely, not centrally, and distributed upon the guiding tenet of need.

Another major point of departure is that true communism must be independent of all Capitalist activity. This is not the case with socialism, as we see if we examine any developed modern State. All these countries are Socialist-Capitalist hybrids. Socialized medicine is the norm in every developed country except the U.S., this aside farming subsidies, Corporate bailouts, State Universities, highway systems, and the like are all examples of indispensable Socialist programs within the U.S.

The fact that Socialism has been alive and well in the U.S. for most of the 20th century, albeit in it's own limited arenas, should neither surprise nor alarm anyone. Some aspects of government, even for the staunchest of Capitalists, simply need to be centrally planned and funded. Here in the U.S. the most obvious arena that should preclude monetary interests a priori, and yet still does not, is health care. Any liberal Democracy founded on, "welfare ideals," a term which through political rhetoric and posturing has come to take on a dirty pejorative hue, devoid of the humanity engendered in it's original meaning, should simply take this for granted.

While Socialism and Communism have been the banners under which some of the most horrific atrocities of the 20th century have hidden, to equate either of these visions as endemic to fascism, totalitarianism, or anti-individualism is simply an a-historic and simplistic misinterpretation of much of the Political oppression in this time period. The further assertion that any Politicians in the U.S. are nefariously Socialistic or more Socialistic than any of their 20th or 21st century contemporaries is unlettered and the result of a yawning void of individual cognitive acumen in the realms of both Political History and Political Philosophy.


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    • lilylipgloss profile image

      lilylipgloss 3 years ago

      We never really had Communism, we had Stalinism, not Marx/Leninism.

      Stalin's view was far different to Lenin's, with Lenin never wishing for Stalin to take control after his death. So I feel it is unfair to say we had communism, sure after Stalin's death in '53, other's took over, but the train was already in motion and difficult to change.

      It is amazing that we talk about the horrible aspects only of Communism (read Stalinism), yet as we witnessed with the global crises in 2007, started by a capitalist country may I add, that they resorted to Socialism and bailed out the banks etc.

      Again in Lenin's book's he often stated that a blend of Socialism, Capitalism and Communism should be undertake, before full communism would, could, take over.

      Is it fair that only the rich get to decide what happens in "free" capitalist countries? We often hear this debate regarding Communist Government's, that only the so call "elite" got to decide, but what's the difference, only the rich decide in the West don't they?

    • pramodgokhale profile image

      pramodgokhale 3 years ago from Pune( India)


      I am an Indian and victim of controlled economy or mixed economy , combination of local capitalism plus imported Soviet style socialism.

      After independence we need to build core industries at any cost so we have collaboration with USSR, Germany, UK , we built our infrastructure under public sector and developed ourselves. Later we found our socialism has lost the track and on way to negative growth.

      India a backward nation with fifty percent population was illiterate and seventy percent population was living in rural area and agriculture was only livelihood .Agriculture was also not productive and practicing outdated farming methods.

      Yes on our planning commission we had had Utopians who calculate on paper and overlook ground realities and situation.

      We were far away from creativity and productivity, rigid frame of socialism does not accommodate creative people to work and they migrated to west.

      This is the story of Indian socialism.

      I am not a fan of capitalism and socialism. We need to produce system for inclusive growth which will eliminate inequalities in society.

      pramod gokhale