Communism is a political, philosophical, and economic theory and movement whose ultimate aim is the establishment of a communist state, namely a political state structured on the ideas of equal ownership of resources, currency, and the right to free speech and political freedom.
Communism is sometimes referred to as the “world system” – a concept which is extremely vague due to the fact that there are a wide variety of philosophies and systems used to define communism and many nations that have made up the world system. Communism, however, is the most popular and widely recognized political philosophy in the world today. Many people believe that communism is a harmful political theory that would lead to the destruction of private property and lead to a massive shift towards large-scale collectivism.
The biggest difference between communism and socialism is that communism attempts to organize a transition of power away from the capitalists to the workers. Socialism, on the other hand, tends to be associated with capitalism – the distribution of wealth is left entirely in the hands of the community rather than the elite. The two concepts, when placed together, are often referred to as progressive socialism and capitalistic socialism. In addition, they share some core characteristics such as support for national unity, national independence, equal economic opportunity, centrally planned distribution of resources, strong support for education, healthcare, housing, child care, and social services. But what is the main difference between these two theories and how do they affect society?
Communism is an ideology started in Germany in the 1920s with the German Social Democratic Party. The reason for its inception was the economic conditions in Germany following World War I. With wages stagnant, unemployment reaching high numbers, and small business establishments closing their doors, the middle class began to suffer and support the growth of communism. When communism collapsed in the fall of 1924, the remnants of communism tried to carry out their revolution by party-building.
The main difference between socialism and communism is that it attempts to distribute wealth equally, usually through taxation and a centrally planned economy. The system of communism usually provides public goods or services but leaves private property and markets unregulated. A large portion of the product or service is controlled by the government and sold through a central distribution board or “people’s cooperatives”. Unlike the market, prices are set by the government rather than being dependent on the consumers. This system also restricts trade and limits the number of businesses and workers. The primary goal of this system is to increase overall economic well being.
The biggest difference between socialism and communism is that the former seeks to create a direct, classless society while the latter promotes a centrally planned economy where the state owns and controls the economy. With a completely planned economy, the ruling class controls the distribution of resources and ensures that everyone has access to all basic necessities. Those who are over privileged are able to live in a luxurious and comfortable society with little worry about the overall state of the economy. Conversely, the underprivileged are forced to work in factories where they are forced to sell extremely cheap products at exorbitant prices to keep their families fed and clothed. While this system theoretically increases overall wealth for all citizens, it has come to be seen as nothing more than a way to ensure that the wealthy have a solid grip on society. As a result, there is no real effort to eliminate class divisions and achieve a true communism.
A further difference between socialism and communism is that private enterprise is encouraged instead of discouraging it. Although most modern socialist states have ended up de-emphasizing private enterprise, certain remnants still exist which advocates public sector intervention in the economy. Where this intervention occurs, it is typically a form of direct state intervention such as in the form of public works projects. In some cases, this has served to actually help the economy grow through the employment it creates. The state indirectly helps boost the economy by ensuring that people have access to jobs, thus increasing overall production and employment.
Of course, the opposite of capitalism is democracy, the ideal form of capitalism. Where democracy exists, it is usually a representative system similar to representative government in modern democratic countries, but with more checks and balances to prevent the unchecked power by the general population. Under democracy, the ownership and control of large industries are protected by a limited form of democracy, namely elected public officials. With a limited form of democracy, there are less risk of large corporations taking a monopoly and completely destroying the market. By providing a public arena for political debate, the general populace can exercise control over businesses through regulation of business practices.
So, what is communism? Communism, at its core, is an ideology which advocates the distribution of ownership and control of resources through a central plan. Communism is extremely inefficient as a system of distribution, but it can be used to provide a beacon of hope for the starving nations of the world, because if everyone had access to adequate resources, everyone would have enough to survive. The Soviet Union failed for this reason, but at least they tried.