May 28, 2024
The article discusses the distinction between socialism and communism, their shared origins, the goal of worker empowerment, and the challenges faced in achieving true communism due to varying levels of state control and corruption in socialist countries

This might come as an unexpected fact, but throughout the history of the modern world, there has never existed a country that fully adhered to communism. Although some countries, such as China and North Korea, have claimed to be communist, by definition, true communism has never been realized. So, what precisely is communism, and how does it relate to socialism? It may be easier to understand their commonalities. Both ideologies stem from a shared goal of mitigating worker exploitation and reducing or eliminating economic class distinctions in society. There are numerous variations of both communism and socialism, each implemented differently in various countries, such as Stalinism, Leninism, Trotskyism, Maoism, and others, which are essentially different versions of Marxism, coupled with various styles of revolution.

Karl Marx, an economist and philosopher who co-wrote the Communist Manifesto, developed the foundational theories of communism. His central idea revolved around the observation that during Europe’s transition from centralized monarchies to quasi-democratic capitalist economies, workers were being exploited by those who owned the means of production. For example, factory or farm workers, as was common at that time, were contributing more labor than they were compensated for, creating inherent inequality. Marx referred to the owners of the means of production as the Bourgeoisie and the workers as the proletariat. His proposed solution to address this inequality was for society to shift towards a model where the proletariat collectively controlled the means of production. This forms the basis of both socialism and communism.

According to Marx, socialism serves as a precursor to communism and the logical progression after capitalism. In socialism, a democratic state controls the means of production instead of private companies owning them. Unlike in a capitalist society where companies compete, socialism encourages workers to contribute to the greater good, and they all share in the benefits equally. Similar ideas can already be found in capitalist societies through services like universal healthcare and social services funded by taxes. These services may be used unequally, but everyone is obligated to contribute according to their ability or income level.

The next step after socialism is communism, where the state collectively owns not only the means of production but all aspects of society and the economy, including private property. The ultimate goal is to achieve a classless, moneyless, and stateless society, where everyone collaborates towards the collective well-being, ensuring health, happiness, and freedom. In this system, people contribute according to their abilities and take only what they need.

However, in reality, no country has achieved true communism. What are commonly referred to as communist countries are, in fact, socialist countries, with the state exerting varying degrees of control over employment and the economy. Even Russia, often regarded as communist, was officially called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The difference between socialism and communism is not significant, as most schools of economics view socialism as a steppingstone towards communism, once the state attains enough control over society and the economy.

Nevertheless, total control is one of the major reasons why socialist countries face challenges in reaching the communist ideal. Corruption and abuse of power by those in authority are prevalent in countries like the former USSR, Venezuela, Vietnam, and North Korea, where the leaders often refuse to relinquish their power to the people. Despite this, socialist ideals have experienced significant success when combined with capitalist systems, as seen in countries like Sweden and Canada. The primary obstacle preventing the realization of a true communist country lies in overcoming the human tendency towards power, greed, and government control.