What is the Difference Between Socialism and Communism?

by Katrina Cain

The main difference between the ideologies is that Socialism allows for some free market economy and that each person is allotted resources according to how hard they work, and Communism seeks communal ownership of everything and that each person is allotted resources according to their need. Socialism is grounded in the theories of Karl Marx who is the father of modern Socialism. Marx’s biggest criticism of the capitalist system is that the workers are subjugated by the people who own the businesses because the owners control the access to all the resources. He concluded that the only method of change was through a worker revolution. Socialism is based on the principle of a collective ownership of the means of production and an equal distribution of resources. According to Marx, Socialism was one stage on the road to Communism, the ideal form of non government. There are differing classifications of Socialism ranging from Social Democrats who believe that there should be a mixture of state and personal control of resources. This is the form of government in Canada. Some Socialists at the other extreme believe that all ownership should be nationalized. Still other Socialists believe that ownership of resources should be decentralized into workers collectives that own and manage all of the resources in one geographic area.

Communism is based on the principle of all members of a society being free and that state ownership of the means of production would ensure that all members of a society would be equally taken care of. Theoretically, there are no social or economic differences between members of society. Think of Communism as a sort of political Nirvana in which all members of a society lived equally in harmony without the need for government. It is important to view the rise of the ideal of Communism though the lens of the Industrial Revolution where workers en masse were exploited to the benefit of very few, rich, owners. The ideal of Communism was that workers unite and rebel against ownership so that they all would share ownership (and profits) equally. In practice, the original idea of Communism was twisted into a means of control over a population and the term Communism has become synonymous with oppressive dictatorships that only have one ruling party who strives to crush any opposition.

Communism isn’t the only ideology that in theory looked good, but was used to subjugate people. Look at how Christianity was used, especially in the Middle Ages as a way of controlling people. Often politicians and religious authorities were one in the same and obedient service to the ruling authority was a way of avoiding hell; “do as we say, or you will have an eternity of torture.” I would like to be clear here. I am not saying that Christians are oppressive totalitarians. I am speaking historically of events where it was used to subjugate and repress populations, for example the Inquisition. This abuse of power was what lead to the movement of separation of church and state.

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