Communism vs Socialism

Uploaded by btuomypausd on 02.11.2012

Communism and Socialism, two interchangeable words and so often thrown around within the
context of the Cold War. The goal of this discussion is to not only shed some light
on these terms but to also put these ideologies into some context.
We’ll start with the definitions of Socialism and Communism
Socialism, as defined by Merriam-Webster is:
any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership
and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled
by the state
a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished
by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done
and now Communism, again by Merriam-Webster:
a theory advocating elimination of private property
a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed
a doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the
official ideology of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned
means of production a final stage of society in Marxist theory
in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably
So as you can see despite the separation there are quite a few similarities. You might also
be able to detect some negative bias here and this understandable. What is interesting
is that the man who is the father of these two theories is only mentioned as a side note.
However, understanding Marx is an integral part of this Communism Socialism equation,
so let’s start with the man himself
So who was Marx? Born in 1818 in the German Rhineland he was exposed early to the harsh
realities of an anti-Semitic Prussia. Marx’s parents who were Jewish, converted to Christianity
so his father could practice law. Marx as a student focused his studies on Philosophy.
After the completion of his PHD and looking for a job in academia in 1841, he again was
forced to realize his limitations as he was dubbed as being too radical. It was with Engels
in 1845, that he began to nurture the seeds of his theory on class struggle. With Engels
he wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848 and other works that broke with the tradition
instead discussing the eventual triumph of the working class. This led to him being exiled
from Europe after the Revolutions of 1848.
So now that we know a bit about Marx, let’s look at Europe, more specifically Germany
in the 1840’s. The Industrial Revolution officially began in Prussia and the rest of
Germany around 1815. This marked the beginning of a new era for Prussia where industry replaced
agriculture. The coal and steel industries boomed, and new railroads were created to
transport raw materials. In addition, thousands of former agricultural workers flocked to
work at factories. The Kings and nobles still controlled the government at this time, although
that was quickly changing because of a rising middle class. In 1848, " Tensions between
the remains of the old order and an increasingly powerful middle class rose to the breaking
point," as it says in the document, "1848: Revolution and Reaction." The rising population
of middleclass people which the new industries created, wanted equal rights as the nobility.
Which makes complete sense because their French and American counterparts had it.
Now let’s take a look at some demographics
Germany in the 1850’s, and I mean the Confederation has 30.4 million people
The Soviet Union in 1970’s, now mind you this is now an apples to oranges comparison,
is 270 million people. This is the problem with the Cold War, no one wants to give you
facts. Okay, so let’s halve that. Let’s say there are 135 million people.
Now, that land across the German provinces was agricultural land
Much of the Soviet Union is frozen tundra.
This is important when discussing Marx.
Now George Kennan, wrote a book on these ideologies called Russia and the West, on the first page
of Chapter One, he says:
“On the one side-the Communist side-you had a social theory (let us call it Marxism-Leninism)
conceived to be general even universal in its relevance. You also had a political faction,
the bolsheviki, dedicated to the purpose of putting this theory into action wherever and
whenever it might be possible. Russia was, as it happened, the political home of these
people. It was in Russia, as it also happened that the first possibilities opened up for
a seizure of power in the same name of this doctrine. This was not the choice of Lenin
and his associates. They would probably have preferred it had this opening in Germany rather
than Russia. Germany was the original home of Marxism. It was in Germany that the preconditions
for the transition from capitalism to socialism, as Marx had defined them seemed to be the
farthest advanced. It was Germany that had a highly developed industry and the politically
conscious and mature proletariat. The German Social Democratic Party was the greatest Marxist
political organization in the world far out shadowing it weak Russian counterpart.”
For Marx, the proletariat, or working class as there was an abundance of in this newly
industrialized Germany, would rise up against the Capitalists, Nobles, and Monarchy and
take over the means of production creating an dictatorship of the proletariat. Marx didn’t
focus on Communism as an entity, but rather socialism as an ideology. It was the practiced
Communism of the Soviet Union that was a bastardization of Marx’s ideals. That notwithstanding,
we must look at what Germany had. Lots of usable land, a smart proletariat, a relatively
enlightened government, manufacturing and history. The Soviet Union, a lack of proletariat,
little to no industrialization, no history, a massive population, vestiges of feudalism,
failure in WWI, lack of National identity, the list goes on and on.
So while, Communism and Socialism depending on who you talk to see one as the evolution
of the other or vice-a versa, it really doesn’t matter. What Kennan and Marx seem to agree
upon, though they go about it different ways, is that it wasn’t meant for the Soviet Union.
It’d be interesting to see what they each had to say about China.