Differences between communism and socialism (2023)

The difference betweencommunismand socialism is not conveniently unambiguous. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but these economic and political theories are not the same. Both communism and socialism grew out of protests against the exploitation of the working class during the Industrial Revolution.

Although the applications of their economic and social policies vary, many modern countries are - all ideologically opposedcapitalism– Being seen as a communist or socialist. To understand current political debates, it is important to know the similarities and differences between communism and socialism.

communism vs. Socialism

In both communism and socialism, the people own the economic factors of production. The main difference is that, under communism, most property and economic resources are owned and controlled by the state (rather than individual citizens); Under socialism, all citizens share equally in the economic resources allocated by a democratically elected government. This difference and others are listed in the following table.

communism vs. Socialism
basic philosophyEach according to his abilities, each according to his needs.Each according to his ability, each according to his contribution.
economy planned bycentral governmentcentral government
ownership of economic resourcesAll economic resources are publicly owned and controlled by the government. Individuals do not own property or personal property.Individuals own personal property, but all industrial and manufacturing capacity is collectively owned and managed by a democratically elected government.
Distribution of economic productionProduction aims to satisfy all basic human needs and is distributed free of charge to the population.Production must satisfy individual and social needs and be distributed according to individual capabilities and contributions.
class distinctionclass is excluded. The ability to earn more than other workers is almost non-existent.Classes exist, but the differences are small. Some people may earn more than others.
ReligionReligion is effectively abolished.Freedom of religion is allowed.

main similarities

Both communism and socialism grew out of popular resistance to the exploitation of workers by wealthy corporations during World War II.Industrial Revolution. Both assume that all goods and services are produced by state-controlled institutions or collective organizations and not by private companies. Furthermore, the central government has primary responsibility for all aspects of economic planning, including economic planning matters.supply and demand.

Main differences

Under communism, people are compensated or cared for according to their needs. In a purely communist society, the government provides most or all of the food, clothing, housing, and other necessities on the basis of what it considers the needs of the people. Socialism is based on the premise that people are compensated based on their individual contribution to the economy. Effort and innovation are therefore rewarded under socialism.

definition of pure communism

Pure communism is an economic, political and social system in which most or all goods and resources belong collectively to a classless society and not to individual citizens. According to the theory of the German philosopher, economist and political scientistCarlos Marx, pure communism leads to a society where all people are equal and there is no need for money or individual wealth accumulation. There is no private ownership of economic resources, as a central government controls all facets of production. Economic output is distributed according to people's needs. Social frictions between blue-collar and blue-collar and between rural and urban cultures are eliminated, freeing each person to reach his or her full human potential.

Under pure communism, the central government provides the people with all basic needs, such as food, housing, education, and medical care, allowing people to share equally in the benefits of collective work. Free access to these basic needs depends on constant technological advances that contribute to increased production.

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Karl Marx and the Origins of Communism

Socialism emerges as a response to the struggles of the working class in the midst of the extreme social and economic transformations brought about by theIndustrial Revolutionin Europe and later in the United States. As many workers became poorer, factory owners and other industrialists became massively wealthy.

In the first half of the 19th century, early socialist thinkers such as Henri de Saint-Simon, Robert Owen, and Charles Fourier proposed ways in which society could be reorganized to embrace cooperation and community, rather than the competitiveness that it entails. implied.capitalism, where the free market controlled thesupply and demandof goods

1848 German philosopher and state economistCarlos Marx, published with his collaborator Friedrich EngelsThe Communist Manifesto, which included a chapter criticizing these earlier socialist models as totally unrealistic "utopian" dreams.

Marx argued that all history is a history of class struggle and that the working class or 'proletariat' would inevitably triumph over the capitalist class or 'bourgeoisie' and gain control of the means of production, annihilating all classes forever.

"Modern bourgeois society, which arose from the ruins of feudal society, did not eliminate class antagonisms. It only established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones," wrote Marx and Engels.

Communism, often referred to as "revolutionary socialism", also emerged as a reaction to the industrial revolution and was defined by Marx's theories taken to the extreme. Marxists often refer to socialism as a necessary initial stage on the road from capitalism to communism. Marx and Engels themselves did not consistently or clearly distinguish communism from socialism, which contributed to a long-standing confusion between the two terms.

In 1875, Marx coined the phrase that summed up communism: "To each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

The Communist Manifesto

The ideology of modern communism began to take shape during theFrench Revolutionfought between 1789 and 1802. In 1848, Marx and Friedrich Engels published their thesis “Communist manifesto.” Instead of the Christian overtones of earlier communist philosophies, Marx and Engels proposed that modern communism required a purely scientific and materialistic analysis of the past and future of human society. "The history of all previous societies," they wrote, "is the history ofclass struggles.“

The Communist Manifesto describes the French Revolution as the point at which the 'bourgeoisie' or merchant class took control of France's economic 'means of production', replacing and giving way to the feudal power structure.capitalism. According to Marx and Engels, the French Revolution replaced the medieval class struggle between peasant serfs and the nobility with the modern struggle between bourgeois capitalists and the working class "proletariat".

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Definition of pure socialism

Pure socialism is an economic system in which each individual, through a democratically elected government, receives an equal share of the four factors of economic production: labor, entrepreneurship, capital goods, and natural resources. Essentially, socialism is based on the assumption that all people naturally want to cooperate, but the competitive nature of capitalism prevents them from doing so.

Socialism is an economic system in which everyone in society equally owns the factors of production. Property is acquired by a democratically elected government. It can also be a cooperative or public corporation in which everyone has a stake. as in aplanned economy, socialist government uses central planning to allocate resources based on the needs of the individual and society as a whole. Economic output is distributed according to the ability and value of each individual's contribution.

In 1980, American author and sociologist Gregory Paul paid homage to Marx by coining the phrase commonly used to describe socialism: "To each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution."

What is a social democracy?

Democratic socialism is an economic, social, and political ideology that holds that while society and the economy should be democratically managed, they should be devoted to serving the needs of the people as a whole, rather than promoting individual prosperity as under capitalism. . Democratic socialists advocate the transition of society from capitalism to socialism through existing participatory democratic processes and not through the revolution characterized by orthodox Marxism. Universal services such as housing, utilities, public transport and health care are distributed by the government, while consumer goods are distributed by a capitalist free market.

In the second half of the 20th century, a more moderate version of socialist democracy emerged, advocating a mixture of socialist and capitalist control over all means of economic production, complemented by extensive social programs to help meet the basic needs of the poor.

What is green socialism?

A recent offshoot of the environmental movement and the climate change debate, green socialism, or "ecosocialism," places its economic emphasis on the conservation and use of natural resources. This is largely achieved through state ownership of the largest and most resource-intensive companies. The use of “green” resources, such as renewable energy, public transport and locally sourced food, is emphasized or mandated. Economic production is focused on meeting people's basic needs rather than a wasted surplus of unnecessary consumer goods. Green socialism often offers aguaranteed living minimum wagefor all citizens, regardless of their professional status.

communist countries

It is difficult to classify countries as communist or socialist. Several countries, despite being governed by the Communist Party, declare themselves socialist states and apply many aspects of socialist economic and social policies. Three countries that are often considered communist states -mainly because of their political structure- are Cuba, China and North Korea.


The Chinese Communist Party owns and strictly controls all industries, which are exclusively designed to generate profit for the government through its successful and growing exports of consumer goods. Health care and primary education are run by the government and provided free of charge to the population. However, housing and land development takes place under a highly competitive capitalist system.


The Communist Party of Cuba owns and operates most industries and most people work for the state. State-controlled health care and primary education are free. Housing is either free or heavily subsidized by the government.

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North Korea

Ruled by the Communist Party until 1946, North Korea now operates under a "Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea". However, the government owns and controls all arable land, workers and food distribution channels. Today, the government provides universal health care and education for all citizens. Private ownership of the property is prohibited. Instead, the government entitles people to government-assigned housing.

socialist countries

Again, most modern countries that call themselves socialist may not strictly follow the economic or social systems associated with pure socialism. Instead, most countries that are generally considered socialist actually follow the policies of democratic socialism.

Norway, Sweden and Denmark apply similar predominantly socialist systems. The democratically elected governments of the three countries offer free health care, education and lifetime pensions. As a result, however, its citizens pay some of the highest taxes in the world. All three countries also have very successful capitalist sectors. Since most of their needs are met by their governments, people see little need to accumulate wealth. As a result, about 10% of the population own more than 65% of each nation's wealth.

additional references

Kallie Szczepanskicontributed to this article.

View Article Sources

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  1. Pomerleau, Kyle."How Scandinavian Countries Pay for Government Spending". base fiscal. June 10, 2015.

  2. Lundberg, Jacob and Daniel Waldenström."Wealth Inequality in Sweden: What Can We Learn from the Capitalized Income Tax Data?"Institute of Labor Economics, April 2016.



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your date

LANGLEY, Robert. "The Differences Between Communism and Socialism". ThoughtCo, December 1, 2022, thinkco.com/difference-between-communism-and-socialism-195448.LANGLEY, Robert. (2022, December 1st). The differences between communism and socialism. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/difference-between-communism-and-socialism-195448LANGLEY, Robert. "The Differences Between Communism and Socialism". ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/difference-between-communism-and-socialism-195448 (accessed March 12, 2023).


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