It is often asserted that Communism “isn’t Socialism” or that Socialism “isn’t Communism”; and just as often asserted they are just the same beast in trivially different wrappers.
So what is it?
So first off, my degree is in Economics and as part of that we had to be educated in ALL forms of economies. So I’ve had formal education in Socialism, Communism, Mixed Economics, Capitalism, and more. That means I come to this topic with an established POV (Point Of View) and with some preconceptions. It is my belief that, being as these were taught by Ph.D.s in the field, they have some decent foundation and are in touch with reality.
Up front, my “thumbnail sketch” would just be that Communism is the final stage of Socialism, or alternatively, that there are things best called Communism-Light that are in various stages of steps away from full on Communism, that are typically called Socialism. Under Communism, in the end stage, all means of production are owned by the State ( in the Utopian Communist POV even the State ceases to be needed… in the real world that stage can not be reached due to human nature ). As one backs out to different degrees of ownership of property outside of the State, you get various levels of Socialism; eventually landing in Lange Type Socialism that is essentially the last stop before you arrive back at Regulated Market Capitalism (a.k.a. the Mixed Economy).
Yet there are many (with much merit) who assert that Communism is just the starting point for Socialism and that all the little wanna-be Socialism-Lites are just bastardizations of the idea to try to save it or make it palatable. I can see their point. (In general, bold bits bolded by me.)
Socialism—defined as a centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production—was the tragic failure of the twentieth century. Born of a commitment to remedy the economic and moral defects of capitalism, it has far surpassed capitalism in both economic malfunction and moral cruelty. Yet the idea and the ideal of socialism linger on. Whether socialism in some form will eventually return as a major organizing force in human affairs is unknown, but no one can accurately appraise its prospects who has not taken into account the dramatic story of its rise and fall.
The Birth of Socialist Planning
It is often thought that the idea of socialism derives from the work of Karl Marx. In fact, Marx wrote only a few pages about socialism, as either a moral or a practical blueprint for society. The true architect of a socialist order was Lenin, who first faced the practical difficulties of organizing an economic system without the driving incentives of profit seeking or the self-generating constraints of competition. Lenin began from the long-standing delusion that economic organization would become less complex once the profit drive and the market mechanism had been dispensed with—“as self-evident,” he wrote, as “the extraordinarily simple operations of watching, recording, and issuing receipts, within the reach of anybody who can read and write and knows the first four rules of arithmetic.”
They then reverted to some market forces, in a move prescient of Lange Type Socialism. (Bolding mine) Then devolved back into a Central Strong Man Tyranny under Stalin.
In fact, economic life pursued under these first four rules rapidly became so disorganized that within four years of the 1917 revolution, Soviet production had fallen to 14 percent of its prerevolutionary level. By 1921 Lenin was forced to institute the New Economic Policy (NEP), a partial return to the market incentives of capitalism. This brief mixture of socialism and capitalism came to an end in 1927 after Stalin instituted the process of forced collectivization that was to mobilize Russian resources for its leap into industrial power.
The system that evolved under Stalin and his successors took the form of a pyramid of command. At its apex was Gosplan, the highest state planning agency, which established such general directives for the economy as the target rate of growth and the allocation of effort between military and civilian outputs, between heavy and light industry, and among various regions. Gosplan transmitted the general directives to successive ministries of industrial and regional planning, whose technical advisers broke down the overall national plan into directives assigned to particular factories, industrial power centers, collective farms, and so on. These thousands of individual subplans were finally scrutinized by the factory managers and engineers who would eventually have to implement them. Thereafter, the blueprint for production reascended the pyramid, together with the suggestions, emendations, and pleas of those who had seen it. Ultimately, a completed plan would be reached by negotiation, voted on by the Supreme Soviet, and passed into law.
This resulted in the “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work” society…
Just to be balanced, I’m including some bits of the Wiki on Types Of Socialism. Can’t be accused of citing only Right Wing Conservative references that way…
The word socialism was coined in the 1830s, and it was first used to refer to philosophical or moral beliefs rather than any specific political views. For example, Alexandre Vinet, who claimed to have been the first person to use the term, defined socialism simply as “the opposite of individualism”.
Other early socialist thinkers, such as Thomas Hodgkin and Charles Hall, based their ideas on David Ricardo’s economic theories. They reasoned that the equilibrium value of commodities approximated to prices charged by the producer when those commodities were in elastic supply, and that these producer prices corresponded to the embodied labor — the cost of the labor (essentially the wages paid) that was required to produce the commodities. The Ricardian socialists viewed profit, interest and rent as deductions from this exchange-value. These ideas embodied early conceptions of market socialism.
Ricardo’s “Labor Theory of Value” has been shown to be quite wrong by many standards and many authors. Those wishing to explore it are advised to set aside a year or two of their life for it… But it was that error that lead to the basic flaw in Communism, Socialism, and all the little-social-isms. There is, in fact, large value in the location and time of arrival of products (“logistics”), in land and natural resources, and in the organizational value of management and markets. There is also much value in the “known-how” or technological base of understanding how to make products.
After the advent of Karl Marx’s theory of capitalism and Scientific socialism, socialism came to refer to ownership and administration of the means of production by the working class, either through the state apparatus or through independent cooperatives. In Marxist theory, socialism refers to a specific stage of social and economic development that will displace capitalism, characterized by coordinated production, public or cooperative ownership of capital, diminishing class conflict and inequalities that spawn from such, and the end of wage-labor with a method of compensation based on the principle of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution”
So here we see that even Karl Marx considers his ideas Socialism. Just “Scientific Socialism”. I presume those advocating that Communism isn’t Socialism realize Karl Marx is the founder of their Communism ideas…
Some are in favour of a socialist revolution (e.g. Marxism-Leninism, Trotskyism, Maoism, revolutionary Marxism, Social Anarchism), whilst others tend to support reform instead (e.g. Fabianism, social democracy, Individualist Anarchism). Others believe both are possible (e.g. Syndicalism, various Marxisms). The first utopian socialists even failed to address the question of how a socialist society would be achieved
One also hopes that the “Communism isn’t Socialism” folks recognize their Communist Dear Leader names in that list. Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao.
But, OK, it’s “just the wiki”. It isn’t like the Communist Party says it is advocating “socialism”… or is it?
CONSTITUTION OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Adopted at 30th National Convention, June 15, 2014
Our basic principles are rooted in today’s struggles, informed by our history and experience, and guided by our scientific outlook and vision of socialism. Our bedrock principles include the leading role of the working class in the struggle for social change; that working class unity is essential, and the fight against racism and for immigrant rights are essential to build that unity.
Our vision is one of “Bill-of-Rights socialism” in the USA, where working people – those who produce all the riches of society – will have political power and will collectively decide priorities for investment and distribution of our nation’s wealth – for education, health care, housing, nutrition, recreation, arts, culture and science in a clean, non-polluting economy.
Members shall strive to attend meetings of their Party club or other collective and to improve their understanding of scientific socialism, to work for the aims and policies of the Party, and to seek to win new members to its ranks. They shall also support and circulate online and printed Party materials.
The club is a place where grassroots conditions help formulate district and national policy, and where district and national programs and policies are adapted to local conditions and implemented. The club should be a center for local organizing. It should also be a warm, supportive and open community for all those fighting for social justice and socialism. Clubs are a primary center for fund raising, including collection of dues, for political education, for organization, and for discussion and promotion of the Party’s online and printed publications.
For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.
Well, I see. Even the Communists think they are Socialists and are actively touting promoting Socialism as their core values and actions. All the major Communist leaders are listed as Socialist thinkers and their works as the foundation of Communism.
Frankly, looks pretty slam-dunk to me.
Back at the Wiki:
Socialists are also divided on which rights and liberties are desirable, such as the “bourgeois liberties” (such as those guaranteed by the U.S. First Amendment or the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union). Some hold that they are to be preserved (or even enhanced) in a socialist society (e.g. social anarchy, Left-Communism), whilst others believe them to be undesirable (e.g. Marxism-Leninism Maoism). Marx and Engels even held different opinions at different times, and some schools are divided on this issue (e.g. different strains of Trotskyism).
So if the main founders, the advocates, the organizers, and the Constitution Of The Communist party all say they are Socialists, I think they are Socialists. Even if of a particular sort. (Or several particular sorts.)
There have been several attempts to move away from Cental Planned Economies of the Stalinist sort, with increasing success the less Central Planned you get. (Eventually reaching market capitalism at that end).
De-centralized planned economy
A de-centralized planned economy is one where ownership of enterprises is accomplished through various forms of worker cooperatives, autogestion and planning of production and distribution is done from the bottom-up by local worker councils in a democratic manner. This form of socialist economy is related to the political philosophies of Libertarian Socialism, Syndicalism and various forms of communal Utopian socialism.
Examples of de-centralized democratic planning include: participatory economics, industrial democracy, classic Soviet democracy, syndicalism, council communism and individualist anarchism.
Further down, the Wiki looks at types of Socialist Ideologies:
Utopian socialism is a term used to define the first currents of modern socialist thought as exemplified by the work of Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, and Robert Owen, which inspired Karl Marx and other early socialists. However, visions of imaginary ideal societies, which competed with revolutionary social-democratic movements, were viewed as not being grounded in the material conditions of society and as reactionary. Although it is technically possible for any set of ideas or any person living at any time in history to be a utopian socialist, the term is most often applied to those socialists who lived in the first quarter of the 19th century who were ascribed the label “utopian” by later socialists as a negative term, in order to imply naivete and dismiss their ideas as fanciful or unrealistic. Forms of socialism which existed in traditional societies are referred to as primitive communism by Marxists.
Now not just the roots of Communism and Marx, but an entire category of Socialism is tagged with the name Marxist; as a type of Socialism.
Karl Marx (1818–1883)
Marxist communism refers to classless, stateless social organization based upon common ownership of the means of production and to a variety of movements acting in the name of this goal which are influenced by the thought of Karl Marx. In general, the classless forms of social organisation are not capitalised, while movements associated with official Communist parties and Communist states usually are. A communist economy, in the classic Marxist definition (Pure communism), refers to a system that has achieved a superabundance of goods and services due to an increase in technological capability and advances in the productive forces and therefore has transcended socialism. (See post-scarcity.) This is a hypothetical stage of social and economic development with few speculative details known about it.
The actual goal of communism has never been attained in practice from a Marxist position, though anarchist societies have provided a glimpse of what a communist world would look like. The real idea behind it is to abolish all leadership, and govern with a commune. That is, the people themselves make all decisions, and everyone contributing to the wellbeing of the state. In practice, most governments that have claimed to be communist have been totalitarian dictatorships.
The modern political marxist communist movement was created when the social democratic parties of Europe split between their rightist and leftist tendencies during World War I. The leftists, led internationally by Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, to distinguish their brand of socialism from the “reformist” social democrats, were called “Communists”. However, after Luxemburg’s and Liebknecht’s murders, the term Communist became generally associated solely with the parties and organisations following Lenin, along with their various derivations, such as Stalinism or Maoism.
There is a considerable variety of views among self-identified Communists. However, Marxism and Leninism, schools of communism associated with Karl Marx and of Vladimir Lenin respectively, have the distinction of having been a major force in world politics since the early 20th century. Class struggle plays a central role in Marxism. This theory views the formation of communism as the culmination of the class struggle between the capitalist class, the owners of most of the capital, and the working class. Marx held that society could not be transformed from the capitalist mode of production to the communist mode of production all at once, but required a transitional state which Marx described as the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
Some forms of the communist society that Marx envisioned, as emerging from capitalism, have been claimed to be achieved for limited periods, during certain historical moments, and under certain circumstances. For example, the Paris Commune in fact let Marx reinforce and implement his theories, by adapting them to a real experience he could draw from. Another similar case, though disputed by anarcho-syndicalism or even anarchism, was the Spanish Revolution of 1936 (often missed or unmentioned by official historiography), during which much of Spain’s economy, in most of Republican areas, some of which enjoyed a practical absence of state, was put under workers’ direct collective control.
SO, Ok, if you want to assert that ALL Communism is entirely hypothetical and has never actually existed in the Real World ™, then I suppose you could fabricate a corner case where “communism is not socialism” as it has never existed… but I think that stretches things waaaay beyond reason. It is an end stage Socialism in a world of surpluses such that nobody wants for anything. Yet the Communists of the world ARE pushing the Socialist model, philosophy, roots, and goals. They just haven’t got enough of it yet… So IMHO that says the view of Communism as just the most remote end stage of Socialism is, in fact, accurate.
Back at Lange:
Lange Type Socialism tries to adopt all the Free Market mechanisms it can, while still having a Socialist core philosophy and pushing for Socialism. In general, Market Socialisms ae the most successful of the Socialisms in the Real World as they are the ones least Socialist.
The Lange model (or Lange–Lerner theorem) is a neoclassical economic model for a hypothetical socialist economy based on public ownership of the means of production and a trial-and-error approach to determining output targets and achieving economic equilibrium and Pareto efficiency. In this model, the state owns non-labor factors of production, and markets allocate final goods and consumer goods. The Lange model states that if all production is performed by a public body such as the state, and there is a functioning price mechanism, this economy will be Pareto-efficient, like a hypothetical market economy under perfect competition. Unlike models of capitalism, the Lange model is based on direct allocation, by directing enterprise managers to set price equal to marginal cost in order to achieve Pareto efficiency. By contrast, in a capitalist economy managers are instructed to maximize profits for private owners, while competitive pressures are relied on to indirectly lower the price to equal marginal cost.
This model was first proposed by Oskar R. Lange in 1936 during the socialist calculation debate, and was expanded by economists like H. D. Dickinson, Abba P. Lerner and Fred M. Taylor. Although Lange and Lerner called it “market socialism”, the Lange model is a form of planned economy where a central planning board allocates investment and capital goods, while markets allocate labor and consumer goods. The planning board simulates a market in capital goods by a trial-and-error process first elaborated by Vilfredo Pareto and Léon Walras.
The Lange model has never been implemented anywhere, not even in Oskar Lange’s home country, Poland, where Soviet-type economic planning was imposed after World War II, precluding experimentation with Lange-style economy. Some parallels might be drawn with the New Economic Mechanism or so-called Goulash Communism in Hungary under Kádár, although this was not a pure Lange-model system.
Despite saying it was never implemented anywhere, in various countries at various times The State has had a nationalized industry and decided how much of what to make and sell at what prices. For a time under Obama, the US Government owned General Motors. That’s pretty darned close to Lange Type. But we’ve now backed away.
There have been many attempts to “glue on” market forces to the Socialist Ideal, with various degrees of failure and success (when compared with Central Authority control).
Main article: Market socialism
Market socialism refers to various economic systems that involve either public ownership and management or worker cooperative ownership over the means of production, or a combination of both, and the market mechanism for allocating economic output, deciding what to produce and in what quantity. In state-oriented forms of market socialism where state enterprises attempt to maximize profit, the profits can fund government programs and services eliminating or greatly diminishing the need for various forms of taxation that exist in capitalist systems.
Some forms of market socialism are based on neoclassical economic theory, with the aim of attaining pareto efficiency by setting price to equal marginal cost in public enterprises. This form of socialism was promoted by Oskar Lange, Abba Lerner and Fredrick Taylor. Other forms of market socialism are based on classical economics, such as those advocated by Thomas Hodgskin, who viewed interest accumulation, rent and profit as deductions from exchange-value, so that eliminating the capitalist element from the economy would lead to a free-market and socialism. The term market socialism has also been applied to planned economic systems that try to organize themselves partially along market-lines while retaining centralized state ownership of capital.
Other types of market socialist systems, such as Mutualism, are related to the political philosophy of Libertarian socialism.
Examples of market socialism include: economic democracy, the Lange Model, the New Economic Mechanism, Ricardian socialism, Liberal socialism and Mutualism.
Socialist market economy
A socialist market economy refers to the economic systems adopted by the People’s Republic of China and Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Although there is dispute as to whether or not these models actually constitute state capitalism, the decisive means of production remain under state-ownership. State enterprises are organized into corporations (corporatization) and operate like private capitalist enterprises. A substantial private sector exists alongside the state sector of the economy, but plays a secondary role usually relegated to the service sector and production of consumer goods.
Examples of socialist market economies include: Socialist market economy with Chinese Characteristics and Socialist-oriented market economy.
Here they’ve split an astounding number of hairs. It’s socialism. It has central ownership or control of the means of production. It has limited markets glued on. All sorts of folks have tried this. One of the first was Italy under Mussolini and the Fascists. Contrary to the image pushed by those wanting to hide the Horrible History Of Socialism (i.e.every Socialist and Communist), Fascism is a Left Wing Socialism. Also called a “3rd Way Economy” or “3rd Way Socialism”. (The term was invented by Mussolini. He began his career translating Marxist / Socialist documents for his parents. At his death, he asked ~”Have I not been a good Socialist”?)
Similarly, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (i.e. Nazi Party) attempted to apply Socialism as a National enterprise while Soviet Communism was pushing Socialism as an INTER-national enterprise. (Thus the Internationale as their anthem and why Stalin proclaimed them “right wing” as they were a tiny bit to the right of international-socialism, being National Socialists.)
All of them ever finer slices of Socialism.
The Fascists distinguished by their use of Government Control, even without ownership, and using Labor Councils to help direct management. The common themes of Socialism. Government and Worker control of the means of production. The Nazis did the same, and added in a rabid racism and fervent ultra-nationalism. Yet the core of both was firmly Socialism.
You now find all sorts of Socialists trying to re-write history and cast their trash onto the Libertarian Free Market side of things. They are rabid in their rejection of anything National as they want to paint the picture of the Evil being Nationalism, not Socialism, in those two failed Socialisms of W.W.II – Fascists and Nazis. Yet somehow don’t connect the Socialism part with the failure of the USSR later or the move away from Maoism to “market socialism”.
Folks wanting to debate that point on Fascism and the Nazis are invited to review the prior posts here first. It has been well and completely thrashed to death and nothing changed.
Sprung from the same source. Grown in the same soil. Espousing the same goals and ideologies. Built on the same ideas. The differences between Communism and Socialism are functionally nill. In minor points of implementation, they have differences. These are mostly issues of degree, not of kind. Over the years the definition of “what is a Socialism?” has been constantly expanded to include ever more Market Forces.
All sorts of creative ways have been found to trim off ever more of the original Pure Scientific Socialism and make it ever more like Free Markets and thus claim that “Socialism Works!” “Socialism is Good!” and even “Socialism is NOT Communism, we’re different!!” in some minor detail or other.
Yet in the end, both are Central Planning systems with strong Social Control, removal of personal property rights (though to various degrees as they try marching closer to Free Markets to try to get it to work for the Little Bastard-isms) and the elimination of personal freedom.
Do realize that the oppression of property rights and personal freedom are essential for Socialism and it’s end case Communism, for a free people, with real property rights, will create a free market economy all on their own, and then the Socialism can’t compete and dies. On the other end, as Socialism (communism) have poor productivity and people suffer from lack of freedoms, the urge to Central Control expands and more State Ownership follows. This eventually stifles the economy and it collapses (see the USSR) at that end, too.
All forms of Central Authority tend to the urge to Empire and Tyranny. Thus those not otherwise failed tend to end up as Tyranny and Wars and then they collapse. (Nazi, Fascist and other Socialisms like Maoism and Pol Pot)
So in the end the Hypothetical Communism has never been reached as their is NO case where Socialism and World Of Abundance end up stable. It can work well as a 3rd Way Economy for a few decades, but inevitably it fails. Though, in fact, the 3rd Way Economics is fairly good. The major problems with it are low innovation, limited choices, and the eventual slide into stagnation or tyranny. Meaning that to the extent Communism is ONLY that unobtainable hypothetical, yeah, it’s different… as the most impossible to succeed form of Socialism.