The Difference Between Socialism and Communism

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There are 3 major political or economic structures or concepts, namely socialism, communism and capitalism, so what is the difference between socialism and communism?

While considering communism vs socialism, they are sometimes interchangeable, but there are also some unique aspects to each system.

During elections, these terms are used without too much explanation, with different parties adhering to one or the other of these political systems. As far as socialism vs communism is concerned, most people only have a vague understanding of the two systems. Both are alternatives to capitalism, with socialism being placed somewhat in the center of capitalism and communism, which can be considered two extreme forms of political systems.

Let’s check out the nuances and subtle differences between socialism and communism!

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What is Socialism

To put it briefly, socialism is a system where all people of a society have equal ownership of the production factors.

  • In a socialist society, all people get this ownership by electing a government in a democracy. In other cases, they can also get this equal ownership from a public corporation or a cooperative where all of them have equal shares.
  • This means that in socialism all people have equal ownership on natural resources, capital goods, labor and on businesses.
  • People receive a share of the produce according to the amount they contribute, the quality and the quantity of the work they perform.
  • A percentage of each one’s share is reduced to be devoted for the common good of all. For instance, the percentage taken is used for defense or education and so on.
  • People have the right over private property. For instance, they can wear the clothes they wish to or consume goods for entertainment and enjoyment.
  • However, socialism will confiscate properties like a factory that you don’t use for personal use but rather for manufacturing products.

What is Communism

Difference Between communism and socialism

The communism ideology believes that all people are economically equal and that private property should be eliminated. Karl Marx, the father of communism, has stated that capitalism can only result in inequality and suffering, as private businesses own all resources of production and exploit workers by just paying them meagre wages. It is an ideal or utopian society as envisioned by Karl Marx.

  • The proletariat (working class) must rebel against the bourgeoisie (capitalist owners) and create a new society where there are no economic classes, no profits, no private possessions or property.
  • In a communist form of government, there is only one party in the state and it bans political dissent.
  • In its purest form, communism believes in a utopian society where there is no class differentiation. The lower classes must be liberated.
  • The government takes control over all production resources, such as mines, factories, farms etc. so that no one can compete with others and make more money.

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The Relation

Communism can be considered as a higher stage or a more advanced form of socialism. After the likely collapse of capitalism, socialism is considered as the next stage and this, ideally, develops into communism.

  • Both communism and socialism are economic systems, where the people own the production resources like raw materials, machines etc used in the production process.
  • Business activities as well as allocation of resources are governed by the state, for the purpose of the greater good.
  • Socialism refers to a system where the state owns property, but in communism the community owns the production resources, so each person is entitled to the fruits of his labor. This means that there is absolute equality, both social and economic, in communism.
  • Both believe that the public should own economic resources and a central organization should control it.
  • Socialists as well as Communists consider Capitalism as a threat to public interest and to equality.
communism vs socialism

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Differences Between Socialism and Communism

  • The communism ideology is termed as hard left, being more rigid and offering less concessions to capitalism, as compared to socialism.
  • Communism requires that the people change their mindsets along with morality and embrace a system of egalitarianism, whereas socialism has to do with the economic system alone and does not touch the moral sphere.
  • Socialism is an economic system that aims at achieving equality of people in the society. Communism also has the same aim, but in addition, it also comes with a political ideology believing in a classless, stateless society that rejects religion, being a more extreme form of socialism.
  • Socialism is more liberal, as the people decide through councils on the way the economy should work, with a majority of the people having a say on the way the economy must be run. However, in case of Communism, a single authoritarian party controls the economy. It is more conservative as a few people are the deciding authority.
  • In socialism, the goods are distributed based on each person’s productivity or contribution, whereas in Communism, the wealth is shared equally by the people according to the people’s needs.
  • Socialism ensures that people can keep personal properties but not industrial properties, whereas Communism considers all goods/services as public property to be enjoyed equally by everyone.
  • They also differ in their views towards Capitalism. Socialists feel that the capitalist class can still exist as it is useful for transition toward socialism, so long as capitalism is controlled or regulated. Capitalism can continue to exist in a socialist state and vice versa. However, communists believe that capitalism must be totally destroyed in order to form a classless society.

Note: Communism is an extreme form of economic and political system.

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Wrap Up – Communism vs Socialism

Communism and socialism can be confused, as both of them are left wing schools of thought or ideologies with both opposing capitalism. The difference between the two systems is not binary but rather that of degree. In fact, there are many countries that have a mixed economic system, combining the best of capitalism and socialism.

There are several countries that are being governed today by communist and socialist parties, though the ideologies could vary.

As mentioned earlier, communism is a more extreme form of socialism. In short, socialism will allow capitalism to exist in its system, whereas communism wants to completely destroy capitalism and get rid of it.

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