Socialism vs Communism

Communists advocate for a total upheaval of political society to achieve their goals.

Socialists believe it is possible for their goals to be carried out within a pro-market society.

Socialism and Communism are both political ideologies defined by their dissatisfaction with a capitalist socio-political system, but they have distinct outlooks and goals.

Socialism and communism champion the rights of the worker, and the common person, and believe that corporate monopolies and government compliance with elite interests stand in the way of the integrity and emancipation of the common worker.

Because of its less wavering and more radical nature, communism has been considered a late-stage form of socialism.Along the spectrum capitalism is at one end, socialism is in the middle and communism is at the farthest reaches.

Communism is a radicalization of socialisms’ tenets of social equity and fairness across class lines. Communism does not masquerade as being willing to compromise and can be defined by its vocal antagonism toward market capitalism, global market neoliberalism, and social inequities.

Communism: “There can be no compromise: it’s our way or theirs. There can only be one winner and one system to rule them all.”

Socialism: “A mediation between different ideologies and political systems can exist.”

Communism Springing from Socialism

Communism originated as a response to socialism’s perceived failures.

Communism originated in its most concentrated form with Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engel’s 1848 Communist Manifesto in which they outline their many misgivings with the state of socialist thought at the time.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel

In this regard, communism was born from a dissatisfaction with many of the core tenets of socialism. One of its foundational beliefs was that socialism was too soft and that its adherents were not aggressive or radical enough to instigate any meaningful changes in the status quo. This lead many communists to see socialism as simply a stepping stone to a fully communist state.

Marx and Engel believed communism would require discipline and a total commitment on the part of the workers- the ‘proletariat’- to destabilize the elite bourgeoisie.

Goals of Socialism vs Communism

Communism: The communist dedication to the idea of struggle animates much of their mission, namely reconstructing society by eliminating the elite bourgeois classes.

Socialism: Takes a more collaborative approach and are open to fostering an inclusive, non-antagonistic society with more equality between classes.


From its conception in The Communist Manifesto, communism was forged on the idea of struggle. Marx and Engels reconceived history as an ongoing struggle between the rich and poor (who they dubbed the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, respectively).

Communists believe in an inevitable overthrow of the bourgeois hegemonic order, using violent or subversive means, to emancipate the working classes and forge an equitable society where every individual has a common socio-economic background and equal access to social benefits and control of the means of production.


Socialism, on the other hand, is not wholly anti-structure but instead demands reforms on a socio-political level to provide for more equitable wages, humane treatment of workers and a labor structure that fosters independence and a high quality of life for all members of society.

Socialists share many of the same goals as communists, but their methodology and means of achieving their goals can be more balanced. Socialists advocate for equitable treatment of workers and promote fair wages, reform of repressive social systems (like segregated education) and social welfare frameworks (like pensions, unemployment insurance, and disability payments).

Change in Socialism vs Communism

Communism: Dissidence must be crushed from all sides, the communist mission requires complete compliance.

Socialism: Political systems can be adapted to benefit the masses. Dissidence and oppositional ideas are part of any healthy society.


Communism is inherently radical and unwavering. Communism virulently adheres to the belief that there can be no compromise between ideologies. It firmly believes in the complete dismantling and overthrow of the capitalist and pro-corporate, pro-elite systems.

Communists strive to create a post-capitalist society where, after a period of transitional strife, a new system is born wherein the workers and the owners are one and the same.

Communism is focused on creating an environment where a political capitalist infrastructure is completely dismantled, and a new worker-oriented system is established.


Socialists don’t irrevocably believe in the dismantling of the state. Socialist recommendations can be incorporated into a capitalist government structure.

They are not inherently against the idea of capitalist classes or institutions but rather believe there must be a fundamental change to these systems so they can benefit the masses.

Both ideologies advocate for commonly owned factories, or as Marx referred to them ‘the means of production.’ However, socialism does not believe a violent altercation must occur to distribute manufacturing abilities to the many.

Incentives to Work Socialism vs Communism

Communists want to dissolve the financial incentives of work.

 Socialists want to rework them and make them more equitable.


Socialism places a higher level of responsibility on the individual.

Under socialism work ethic, performance, and contributions are rewarded whereas under communism these character qualities can be considered superfluous as every worker and individual receives the same treatment; disincentivizing the desire to strive and become the best. Socialism leaves more room for personal agency and effort.


Under communism, people should want to work for non-monetary benefits, like community pride

Communism is idealistic as much as it is combative. It seeks to create a social environment where workers want to work, irrespective of the reward, out of spiritual necessity and pride. This is one of communism’s most idealistic and unfulfilled goals. Without a monetary payoff or the opportunity to strive and earn more, people can become complacent and indifferent to work.

Hoping for a future where people work merely out of a sense of social responsibility is utopian in nature, and the intended ramifications would likely fall short of communist expectations.

Distribution of Wealth

Communism advocates for a needs-based system. Whoever has need or want of anything, therefore, has a claim on said item or service. While in a utopian society this would allow for more significant coalition amongst people in the world we live in, in reality, this can promote listlessness and indifference to contributing.

If all we need will be provided for us, is there a strong incentive for us to go above and beyond to get the same things others are getting for free?

Socialism addresses this flaw in communist thought by amending the requirement that everyone gets what they need and promotes a society where goods are distributed according to effort.

Socialism is born from idealism, too, but is more directly focused on making labor environments more beneficial to the human spirit and quality of life, rather than removing financial incentives and creating an entirely needs-based system.

Individual contributions are rewarded under socialism, as opposed to our current capitalist society where many who work the hardest and in conditions of drudgery are exploited and underpaid.

The Role of Institutions in Socialism vs Communism

Socialists want more Beneficial Institutions in place. Socialists want the rules of the game to be fairer.

Communism is more preoccupied with societal compliance. Communists just want everyone to follow the rules.


A socialist socio-political system would create institutions like affordable education and free healthcare. And is less invasive of people’s private choices, instead offering them opportunities to seek out better lives through the use of socialist institutions.

Socialists believe that within the larger structure of a class-based society that there should be a safety net, so no individuals fall through the cracks and become destitute. They advocate for a minimum livable wage and a minimum quality of life.


Communism is less preoccupied with creating beneficial social institutions and is more focused on minimizing dissent and building a strong workers’ collective. In many instances, this impedes freedom of choice and personal desires.

Communism necessitates a centralized, robust, and intrusive government infrastructure run by the workers of society. This government would own all factories and manufacturing plants and would be armed with the responsibility of distributing wealth and goods equally. Communism, in this regard, has been criticized because it impedes personal agency and the freedom to choose one’s own life destiny

Class in Socialism vs Communism

Socialists want fewer divisions between classes.

Communists want a classless society.


Classes might be an inevitable feature of society, but we can work to create more equality between them!

Socialism focuses on wealth distribution more equitably, rather than a wholesale redistribution where everyone has the same financial assets. Socialism is more aimed at narrowing the gaps between different classes rather than eliminating these classes altogether.

Socialism vs Communism Social Class Inequality


Classes are the source of all evil and must be abolished!

Communism’s explicit goal is the dissolution of market society and the recreation of the social order as a kind of worker’s paradise where wage disparity and proletariat repression are eliminated.

However, communism cannot be defined as a purely idealistic and benevolent ideology because it advocates, and believes in the inevitability, of much violence and social upheaval to achieve its means.

Private Property Socialism vs Communism

Socialists believe in the benefits of some private ownership.

Communists want to abolish all private property.

Both systems advocate for the transfer of public property from the hands of the elite to a more broad base of citizens. However, they both take a different perspective on private property.

Private property in its totality must be destroyed under a communist system.

Private property is acceptable for socialists, and they seek to establish a social order where more people have access to private property and conveniences and have less precarious, informal living arrangements.

Communism: Let’s eliminate private wealth and property

 Socialism: Let’s ensure more people in society to have the opportunity to access private property.

 Both Ideologies: Workers should have control over the means of production

Socialism vs Communism – Compatibility with Democracy

Socialism welcomes freedom of political choice because democracy does not necessarily obstruct its goals of cooperation between classes.

Communist thought points to the necessity of having one leading workers party to mete out rules and guidelines by which to run society.


Disagreements and differences of opinion are fine if they don’t undermine equality.

Socialists believe that their goals and reforms can be enacted within a democratic or generally pro-market government system.

This is not to say that all socialists are moderate: there are those who believe in more revolutionary means. However, socialism is broadly defined as being less antagonistic in intent than communism and can be compatible with representative forms of democracy.


Why do we need democracy if everyone has the same experiences in society?

Communism has been accused of having totalitarian tendencies because at its foundation it does not believe in a multi-party system or necessarily representational democracy. Communism is anti-democratic because dissent undermines its overarching mission.

Dissidence and the existence of oppositional parties or lines of thought would indicate that communism’s worker’s Eden was inherently flawed. This would be unacceptable to the hard-line communist.

Freedom Under Communism vs Socialism

Communism is more prone to having totalitarian tendencies than Socialism.

Communism seeks to legislate and control political, economic and social aspects of an individual’s life.

Socialism is less invasive and is less preoccupied with personal choices and freedoms.

Communism is radical in its intents because it is not purely an ideology that targets the government: it is also aimed at disrupting conventions like religion and private ownership of goods and property.

Religion is discouraged in a communist system because it further undermines the totality of the communist agenda and establishes social divisions and creates new religious elites. Socialists strive for an atheist society, but it is not a fundamental part of their agenda.

The Soviet Union, one of history’s key examples of an attempted communist state, was often referred to as a ‘proletarian dictatorship’ because individual autonomy and emancipation were not priorities- instead people were compelled to live and work in ways dictated to them from above.

The coercion and repression of rights was a foundational experience under this government system. Socialism, in contrast, does not seek to compel citizens by force or laws to live and conduct themselves in a prescribed way.

The Implementation of Communism

Communist ideology has powered a variety of 20th-century political movements, to varying degrees of success and failure.

The 1917 Bolshevik peasant revolution overthrew the Russian czar. Afterwards, the Soviet Union, perhaps the world’s most famous communist state, was established. However, in practice, many of the central tenets of communism had unintended negative consequences and were often not met at all: namely the creation of a peaceful, classless and stateless society.

The Soviet Union was still rife with class antagonisms and an oppressive state system. Individual enterprise was stifled and rather than being motivated to live in an equal socio-economic world, individuals were forced to live in remedial conditions often contrary to their desires.

One of communism’s goals is to eliminate scarcity by creating an equitable system of distribution. In the Soviet Union famine and poor infrastructure contributed to the deaths of millions by famine and inadequate health care. A similar situation occurred in communist China where millions of peasant communities lacked access to vital institutions like hospitals and perished under the nominal Communist party’s rule.

The failures of communism – and to a degree, idealistic socialism, raise an important question: are these equitable prescriptions for society even feasible?

Even under the nominally communist states of the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, North Korea et al. small groups of elites still prospered, often enriching themselves further under the communist scheme.

Some critics believe that class divisions and antagonisms and inequitable distribution of wealth is inherent in human society and that at best socialist and communist recommendations are band-aids that fail to resolve the problems of fundamental human nature.

The Future of Socialism vs Communism

It is not reasonable to write off communism as an unworkable system of government because of its legacy of failed practical applications.

Rather, it demonstrates that communism’s all or nothing approach is not suitable for a dynamic world where people are motivated by different beliefs and goals. And where the market economy, while not equitable in its present form, can contribute to social wellness and development when coupled with social welfare programs.

This is why socialism as a guiding ideology is expected to have more success; it acknowledges that the goal of a weakened class system is complex and that a wholesale approach to eliminating it without creating a comprehensive replacement strategy will result in social mayhem and instability.

Socialism believes in creating a society where individuals have access to equal opportunities and economic empowerment rather than forcing these equal opportunities on civilians.

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