Communism and socialism are different concepts, although their inspired movements have grown in parallel for over a century and a half due to the common opposition to capitalism. Their main differences can be summed up by stating that the eradication of private ownership to attain equitable distribution was the original prescription of the pre-nineteenth communism whereas rational and conscious organization of production activities as the foundation for copiousness is the reason for socialism. The difference between socialism’s focus on production and communism’s focus on distribution offers the framework for separating these two structures and identifying what they entail.
These two concepts are political and economic structures that encourage equality with the aim of getting rid of the social classes. Sometimes, communism and socialism are utilized interchangeably, although they are not the same. In theory, communism and socialism sound attractive, with every individual doing their share and working as a team for the greater good of the society. Each of the two systems uses a planned schedule of production to ensure all the needs of the community members are addressed.i These are Utopian economic structures which some nations have attempted to implement; nevertheless, most have not succeeded but managed to become dictators, making the issues of reform almost impossible.
Socialism, as perceived by Marx and Engels, was a political concept where every individual would benefit from sharing the fruits of industrialization. The workers would perform exceptionally well in their job as there were more employees than employers and the majority would thrive. As an economic system, this is not an ideal way to operate a large scale economy.
Socialism is a way in which goods and services are distributed. At their ideal implementation, laissez-faire capitalism and socialism will be identical as every person will produce whatever is required for exactly who requires it. In practical terms, these two are effective in microeconomic situations but fail to succeed when used or implemented in a national or international economy. Their reason for failure is one – Human Perversity. Many people do not like playing fair, and these systems only work when every person follows the rules.
The socialistic system, as formed about a century ago in the Soviet Union was to be an egalitarian society headed by the people’s representative to work in the best interest of everyone else. This does not sound bad and almost resembles the American political system with a difference observed in individuals’ freedom.
By definition, in socialism, the interest of the society is collectively defined, and those chosen to be representatives are given the mandate to implement it. These powers mean suppressions of the aspirations and rights of people who are thought as not being in line with what the society deems as right. In the Soviet Union, a right to have a private property was among the rights thought to be suppressive to others and was therefore not recognized. Another right that was not recognized was the freedom of expression as this was perceived as something that could disturb people’s minds with immoral and obsolete capitalistic ideas. Personal freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom of enterprise, and protection of private property are all guaranteed in a capitalistic society as people are allowed to pursue their economic interests.
Most people do not have a clearly understanding of what communism and socialism entail, with a good number of individuals using the two terms interchangeably. In their evaluation of capitalism, Mark and Engel pointed out that heartless pursuit of money, combined with ruthless competition are immoral since they lead to exploitation of citizens by the few privileged ones.iiThe two envisioned an alternative classless society, without currency, without hierarchy, and without personal property, and where everyone would work in harmony to solve economic problems in a friendly fashion. Their ideal society was also one where people produce adequate good and services, and where every person would contribute in accordance with their capabilities, and receive according to their personal needs. This form of community-centered social order is what is known as communism.
From a traditional perspective, a communist society was the final goal and the ultimate destination for mankind. The proponents and followers of classic communism recognized that it would not be possible to turn directly to communism from the capitalistic structure they saw to be immoral. They understood that it was reasonable to give time for the system to switch. This transition to communism was known as socialism, where the representatives of the people were in charge of all production means. Additionally, the representatives were in charge of guiding their people toward communism. The transition (socialism) was the basis of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ existence. Although there was a Communist Party of Soviet Union, their long reign in power made it difficult for them to talk about moving toward communism. Things were not very different in China where the Communist Party led the transition to a capitalist society.
As a political system, communism was never implemented anywhere. During the Cultural Revolution,iii China tried moving in that direction but did not succeed. Cuba only flirted with communism for a few years after the revolution but ended up abandoning it. North Korea may claim to have had a communist system, but the reality is; all these countries have always been socialistic. Communism as a social reality only existed in the minds of the commentators and undereducated American politician.
The term communism still has a tricky legal consequence as the 83rd questioniv on the naturalization test of the United States asks about the country’s main concern during the Cold War and the response given by the government bureaucrats is “communism.” This clearly illustrates a misunderstanding of these two terms because if they understand the difference, they would know that communism was never a concern for the United States, but socialism was. Obviously, this creates some dilemma for the citizenship applicant who has more information and knowledge compared to the country’s immigrant officials.
With communism being just an idea, which might one day become an actual policy but most likely will not – presently, socialism and capitalism are the only practical concepts that compete for the minds and heart of people living in the U.S and those across the globe.
Both socialism and communism are opposites of capitalism, without class equality and private property ownership. In capitalism, rewards are automatic and without limitation to those who exceed their average minimums. In the case of excessive production, the property owner can decide to keep it without any obligation to share the spoils with anyone. An environment driven by a capitalistic mindset facilitates competition, and the outcomes are unlimited advancement opportunities.
In today’s society, a lot of countries have taken on pieces of socialism into their political and economic policies. For instance, in the UK, it is allowable for markets to fluctuate freely, and the earning potential of the workers is not limited as long as they earn according to their input. Nonetheless, the basic needs such as healthcare are offered to every individual despite the effort and time they put in their work. In the United States, the welfare programs such as food stamps are forms of socialists programs which fit well into a capitalist society.