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What is the difference between Communism and Socialism

Many times socialism and communism are used interchangeably, however both philosophies have important differences. In a way, it can be said that communism is an extreme form of socialism. Several countries have dominant socialist political parties, but only few are communist. In fact, most countries, even those that are fervent practitioners of capitalism, such as the US and the UK, have government programs based on some principles of socialism. Among its most important differences we find that while communism is considered a political system, socialism is rather an economic systemthat it can coexist to some degree with a great variety of political systems. So what is the difference between socialism and communism? Below we will delve into the subject from different perspectives. In this article we will let you What is the difference between Communism and Socialism?

Origin and ideas of Communism

Communism originates from the “Communist Manifesto”, a pamphlet by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels presented in 1848. In it, the theory of the struggle between economic classes is exposed, which would end with a violent overthrow of capitalist society, in the same way that feudal society was eliminated during the French Revolution.

After the communist revolution, workers would take control of the means of production. In time, government would disappear as workers built a classless society and an economy based on common property.

According to the theory, production and consumption would reach equilibrium, since its premise is based on ” each one contributes according to his abilities and receives according to his needs “. Furthermore, religion and other institutions of social control would also come to an end.

This revolutionary ideology of Marx inspired 19th and 20th century social movements such as the Paris Commune. Another example was the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, which overthrew the Russian Tsar and, after a civil war, established the Soviet Union.

However, although the Soviet Union was governed by the Communist Party, it did not achieve a classless, stateless society in which the population collectively owned the means of production. That is, this country was never really communist.

Origin and ideas of Socialism

Socialism takes advantage of some Enlightenment ideas and the first studies were articulated by Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) and his followers Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, Pierre Leroux and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who developed utopian socialism.

These thinkers put forward ideas about a more equal distribution of wealth, better working conditions, common ownership of productive resources, and a sense of solidarity among the working class.

Some also advocated that the state assume a central role in the production and distribution of goods. Marxism emerged in this milieu and Engels called it “scientific socialism”.

Symbols of Socialism and Communism

Socialism identifies itself with a star, while communism uses the hammer and sickle.

Interestingly, both currents of thought opted for the color red as an ideological symbol.

Main economic differences between Communism and Socialism

Socialism and communism advocate that the economy‘s resources should be collectively owned , but they differ on issues of management and control of the economy.

In socialism, citizens make economic decisions through communes or councils, but the state still exists. Under communism, the State loses its meaning and ceases to exist, and decisions are taken collectively by workers.

Socialism and communism also differ in the distribution of produced wealth. Socialism advocates that the goods and services produced should be distributed based on each individual’s productivity. In turn, communism believes that wealth should be shared based on each individual’s needs.

Another big difference concerns ownership. Under socialism there are two types of property: the personal property of an individual and the industrial property that belongs to society. For example, individuals can own a television, but cannot own the factory that produces it, as all production capacity would be commonly owned and managed by the government.

In contrast, under communism, all goods and services are publicly owned.

Main political differences between Communism and Socialism

The differences between socialism and communism are tenuous, as communist society would only be built on socialism.

However, with the doctrinal divergences throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, we can highlight some distinctions.

Under communism there are no class distinctions , as everyone is effectively treated the same. Socialism, on the other hand, sees a decrease in these distinctions, but they would still exist, as there would still be ways for some people to have more wealth than others.

Communism sees the transition from capitalism as a violent revolution, where capitalism would be destroyed as workers rebelled against the middle and upper classes.

On the other hand, socialism advocates a gradual transition from capitalism through legal and political processes, especially through elections.

Communism and Socialism in Practice

Despite the various socialist experiences, there has never been a purely communist state. The Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea are the closest examples, although none of them reached the communist stage.

In these countries, although the government played a dominant role, they never achieved the end of private property, the abolition of money and the elimination of class systems.

Socialism was also never fully adopted in any country. However, some countries like Norway, Sweden and Canada have many socialist policies, such as free healthcare systems, in addition to a preponderant role of public services.

Difference between Communism and Socialism
Ideology According to socialism, all individuals must have access to basic consumer products and public services to enable the fulfillment of people. Large industries are the result of a collective effort. It is for this reason that the resulting benefits should benefit society at large. On the other hand, communism defends that all people are equal, that is why social classes do not make sense. The government must own all means of production (including land). People must work for the government and the collective results must be distributed equitably.
Philosophy Each one gives according to their abilities and to whom according to their contributions. It is emphasized that profits must be shared between society or the workforce. This as a complement to the wages of the workers. Each one gives according to their abilities and for each one according to their needs. Free access to consumer items is only possible through advances in technology, which give way to abundance.
Key defenders Robert Owen, Pierre Leroux, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, John Stuart Mill, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Thorstein Veblen, Emma Goldman, etc. Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, among others.
Key elements Economic activity and production specifically, are adjusted by the state to meet human needs as well as economic demands. “It is produced because it is used” , This means that only what is useful and necessary will be produced. The same applies to services. Centralized government, planned economy, dictatorship of the proletariat, common ownership of the tools of production, there is no private property. There is also equality between genders, and between all people in general. It also tends to have an international, undemocratic focus with a one-party system.
Political system Socialism can coexist with different political systems. Many socialists support participatory democracy, some others (the socio-democrats) are supporters of parliamentary democracy, and Marxist-Leninists support centralized democracy. A communist society does not have a state and is governed directly by the people. This, however, has never been able to be put into practice so it is only known in theory.
Economic coordination Planned socialism depends mainly on planning itself to determine the directions of investment and production. Planning can be centralized or decentralized. On the other hand, mercantile socialism depends on the markets for the allocation of capital to all the different companies (owned by the state). Economic planning coordinates all decisions regarding investments, production, and resource allocation. This is done in terms of physical units, and not money.
Definition It is a theory or system of social organization based on the possession of almost all common property, with title in the name of the workers. It is a theory or international system of social organization based on the possession of common property, with title in the name of the community, of the State. It also rejects free markets and capitalism in any of its forms.
Private property There are two types of properties. The first is the personal (houses, clothing, etc.) that belongs to the individual. The second is the public (factories and means of production) that belong to the State but under the control of the workers. It is abolished. The concept of property is negated and is replaced with the concept of common goods and that of private property with that of public “property”.
Religion There is freedom of worship, but it generally promotes secularism. It is abolished. All religions and metaphysical beliefs are rejected.
Property structure The means of production are owned by society. These produce and accumulate surplus value, either for all people or for factory employees. The means of production belong to everyone, which means that there is no one entity or individual who can own them.
Social structure Social differences are reduced to the point of disappearing. Status comes more from political distinctions. There may be some mobility. There are no social classes, that is, there are no distinctions between people.
Economic system The means of production are owned by public companies or cooperatives. Individuals are compensated according to the individual contribution principle. Production can be coordinated by economic planning or economic markets. The means of production are managed by all, thus nullifying the concept of property within the goods of production. Production is organized to meet human needs without the need for money. Communism seeks the condition in which material abundance exists.
Free will There are issues that are personal, such as religion, professions, marriage, etc. Education is compulsory, access to health is free and equitable. These services must be provided through a social system paid for by taxes. Decisions concerning production would be made by the state. In theory, economic and political decisions are made by the collective “vote”. In practice, demonstrations, propaganda and force are used to control the population.
Derivative political movements Democratic socialism, communism, libertarian socialism, social anarchism and unionism. Leninism, Trotskyism, Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, Left Communism, Stalinism, etc.
Discrimination All people are considered equal, yet the laws protect those who need it from discrimination. Immigration is strictly regulated In theory, all members of the state are considered equal.
Examples The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), although the current classification of its economic system places it rather as a form of centralized socialism. Ideally there is no leader, people rule directly. Although in reality this has never been put into practice, what has transcended is its one-party system. Some examples of a communist state are the former Soviet Union, Cuba and North Korea.
Change’s agents The workers of a socialist state are the nominal agent of change. The transformation of the State by the workers can be slow or fast. This depends on the change in ideology, among other factors. The government in a communist state is the agent of change, and not so much the markets or the desire of the consumers. The transformation of the State can be slow or fast, this depends on the change in ideology, among other factors.
Background In 1516 Tomas Moro wrote “Utopia”, a book about a society based on common property. In 1776, Adam Smith laid out the labor theory of value. In doing this, he set aside the theory that prices are derived from supply and demand. It was theorized by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the mid-19th century as an alternative to capitalism and feudalism. Communism could not be “proven” until after the Russian revolution, in early 1910.


  • Socialism can be a phase that precedes communism, a moment of re-education and abandonment of the influence of the capitalist way of life.
  • Socialists distribute wealth based on each individual’s productive efforts, while communists do so according to each individual’s needs.
  • In socialism there may be remnants of private property, while in communism private property is extinguished and all goods are collective.
  • Socialism allows some traces of capitalism to exist in its midst, while communism, as a later stage, is a new way of organizing society.

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