When I Googled Socialism, the very first result I received was:
|n.||Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.|
|n.||The stage in Marxist-Leninist theory intermediate between capitalism and communism, in which the means of production are collectively owned but a completely classless society has not yet been achieved.|
I’ve said in a previous article, that the definition of the word I would use would be different. Were I tasked to explain socialism, I would say:
“Any instance where a task can be performed, or a product created without government, where government instead takes on the task, whether or not the activity is better performed by the private sector.”
I would expect someone looking at my definition, to realize that almost every activity or creation of goods by government is inherently socialistic. If you did so, it would show you understand what it is I’m trying to say.
Put simply, my contention is that all government activity is socialistic.
There is a distinction that can be drawn between a sort of “soft” socialism, and its harder form.
You can say that there is a form of socialism that “takes over the productive functions of society in their entirety.” And one can suppose there to be “in between” versions, where the government takes some portion of what can (and probably should be) done by the “private sector” as its own.
Some have argued that this is the case for at least a large portion of the “health sector” here in the United States, for example.
It can also be argued that there is a sort of “veiled socialism.” This would be when government regulates some producer of goods or services to the point that they really are not in control of their own direction.
Based on these descriptions, if we choose to accept them (and for my part, you may be assured I do), it’s definitely arguable that much of the United States is socialist by this point.
All this being said, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of defining socialism here—both the “standard definition” and the one I find more correct.
For this article, you can assume my definition to be the one about which I’m speaking when I use the word, “socialism.”
I would like to make one more point about socialism, then move on to talk about Communism for a bit.
Whether you think so or not, nazism is socialism—the “word” is actually a “contraction of” National Socialist, and initially referred to the party to which Adolph Hitler belonged at the time of his rise to power.
That means that calling people who assuredly do not support socialism “nazis” could not be more wrong-headed. You may choose to say, “They’re acting like nazis,” but you should know, they’re probably acting more like just plain nationalists, than nazis.
An interesting “segway” into communism. Communism (at least the Marxist version of it), could be described as a “three step process.” It starts with the “common man” revolting and taking over. It goes supposedly then goes though a period of what amounts to dictatorial socialism, but when it reaches its destination, it’s more or less “controlled anarchy.” The second definition of socialism above, describes the final state as a “classless society.”
Like it or not, such a society by definition cannot have a “ruling or governing class,” elected or otherwise.
I have been prone to use set of definitions for “right, center and left” politically, that looks something like this.
Leftist – “Tending towards a desire for a large amount of government. Wishing for government to have control to a great extent.”
Centrist – “Wishing for government to have some control, but not excessive amounts thereof. Desiring a ‘right-sized’ governmental entity.”
Rightist – “Wanting little or no government. Tending heavily towards anarchy.”
The problem with these definitions? Leftists will inherently view centrists as rightists. Likewise for rightists, except in reverse, they will look at a centrist, and see a leftist.
But assuming we could agree, and frankly, even if we cannot do so, we should be able to agree that socialism is inherently leftist (particularly “strong” socialism), and communism is—by the listed definitions—on the “opposite end of the spectrum” (far right) in its final stage.
It’s also important to realize of communism, that it virtually never reaches its final stage.
In short Herr Hitler’s intense hatred for communism, may have been unfounded if he was concerned about resultant anarchy, but would still have been reasonable if one consider he had “competition in the socialist realm” as a result of “immature communism” that would never come to full fruition.
Assuming communism (certainly at least the Marxist version of it) could ever be more than a dream though, it’s pretty obvious what the major difference between communism and socialism would be.
“Final” communism, would be a “classless state” (read here, “a society without any type of class based differentiation”—that would be, as I have intimated, anarchy).
Socialism never gets past the idea that “daddy knows best.” In short, “You need someone looking after you, as you certainly aren’t doing well on your own recognizance.”
It’s pretty hard philosophically, to find two ideals further apart from one another—at least from a position of ideals.
At this point though, pragmatism rears its head!
The problem is that communism (again, certainly the Marxist version) has pretty much never gotten past stage two of the “big plan.”
As stated in the initial definition, that would be, well, socialism.
The “end result” is obvious, where there are entities that swear up and down that they’re communist, it doesn’t take a microscopic examination to see they are pretty much all “stuck on socialism.”
This really shouldn’t surprise the astute observer. When the people who are implementing the socialist phase of communism get a taste of power, they’re likely to be hard-put to give it up (most particularly when they examine the “fruits the ‘revolution’ has wrought.”)
I hope this clears up why I don’t tend to distinguish between communism and socialism. I should point out that I generally find it a waste of time to distinguish between either or the two and outright despotism or tyranny. That’s because they all tend to be functionally the same.
Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.