By Natural Philosopher Mike Prestwood
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Socialism is NOT Communism

By Mike Prestwood

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Socialism is not communism, and neither is capitalism. All three are political and economic ideologies. None of them are good or bad, but if implemented poorly, all three can be very bad for the average person. While socialism and communism seek to reduce economic inequality, capitalism seeks continuous economic growth by providing an environment conducive to profits.

Let’s briefly explore:

Communism seeks to create a classless society where all property is owned communally, and there is no state or private ownership. It envisions a society where wealth and power are distributed equally among all individuals. An example of a communist state was the Soviet Union, where the government controlled all means of production and attempted to eliminate private property to achieve equality. Russia today is more accurately described as an oligarchy, an authoritarian regime.

Socialism, on the other hand, advocates for the means of production, such as factories and resources, to be owned either by the state or by the communities and workers collectively. There are two levels: complete state control and programs within a government. Socialist states aim to distribute all wealth more evenly amongst the population. Socialist programs aim to redistribute targeted wealth more evenly amongst the population through democratic means and can coexist with capitalist elements like private property and market-based economics. In America, the following are examples of socialism:

  • United States Military, CIA, and FBI.
  • Fire departments, police, and national guards.
  • Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
  • Public libraries, the G.I. Bill, and Corporate Bailouts as well as Corporate Welfare.

America has had socialist programs as intended by the Founding Fathers since the framing of the Constitution.

Finally, capitalism is based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. However, unchecked capitalism can lead to significant social and economic disparities, necessitating regulatory measures to prevent monopolies and ensure fair competition.

The Debate in America

It is disingenuous to conflate the discussion of how much of a safety net America should have, which is a form of socialism, with communism, fascism, dictatorships, and other failed and repressive governments.

Democracy is government of the people, by the people, and for the people. America’s unique form of government, a democratic republic, introduced checks and balances. The checks and balances is the unique thing America gave the world and is the real secret to the success of America. Lot’s of countries have constitutions, but not enough have good checks and balances.

Failed governments usually fall because of corruption and poor management–not because of the type of government.

Some stoke fear and outrage about socialism with the intent to confuse the ignorant. They draw on the fact that no one wants their government to fail them. A failed government means a failed economy, a lack of opportunity, and frequently a suppression of rights and freedoms. 
All democracies include socialism as part of their governmental structure. This includes a social safety net paid for by those that have to those that have not.
Do not confuse social programs with a failed corrupt dictatorship. Most governments fail or struggle because of out-of-control corruption. The worst type of corruption breaks the checks and balances of a nation and allows a leader to force their whims on the people. Corruption can break the checks and balances that keep powerful people from manipulating and suppressing the weak. An overly powerful leader with a weak senate and broken checks and balances can allow corruption to creep into the political process, allowing the powerful to suppress the weak.
A much bigger problem to worry about right now is the attack on our American checks and balances. That’s the real fear. When the FBI and DOJ are manipulated and not fully independent from the Trump administration, that’s a problem. A big problem. The fight against anyone trying to breakdown our checks and balances should be a high priority for all.

American Social Programs vs. Failed Socialist Governments

I do think many confuse the idea of socialism with communism and fascism. Throughout American history we’ve believed in a social safety net. This includes our Founding Fathers. The socialist concepts of Post Offices and Post Roads are in our Constitution! See Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution.

A1; S8, Clause 1: “The Congress shall have Power…”

Clause 7: “To establish Post Offices and post Roads;”

It’s our history for 400 years. Remember “40 acres and a mule” after the Civil War? Remember John Winthrop, the shining city on a hill speech from the 1620s? He taxed colonists and gave every new colonist land. It’s disingenuous to associate a negative connotation with the long history of American social programs. It’s also disingenuous to conflate socialism with communism, dictatorships, and other failed and repressive governments.

America is a representative democracy based on capitalism with robust checks and balances and a reasonable social safety net. These checks and balances include regulations. 

Some like to pretend liberals love communism

As for support of communism, haters like to pretend lefties want or used to want or kind of want America to turn communist, which is just not true at all in any way shape or form.
With that said, I’ll leave you with four thoughts to ponder.

  1. Socialism is not communism.
  2. McCarthy saw a communist under every rock and considered anyone who spoke positively or even asked questions about the idea of communism to be a communist. Remember, the first amendment allows people to explore even bad ideas without interference from the government.
  3. Conservatives like to conflate support of a small communist “community” with support for a communist government. Although mostly dead now, I agree that some liberals in the 50s-70s supported the idea of an extended family of up to 100 people living together in a commune. That worked up to about 150 people. That has little to nothing to do with scaling up beyond about 100 people and nothing to do with governing millions of people.
  4. Very few people supported Russia over America even in the 50s and 60s. The statistics show that generally the support for Russia in America during this time came from bribes and money, and not from ideology. Both conservatives and liberals accepted bribes to do things during the cold war. To conflate American-Russian spies with liberals is disingenuous.


Some like to conflate socialism and communism to trick people into hating socialism and our form of checked capitalism. I suspect that if most take a fair look at it, they would see that unchecked capitalism is a very bad idea on par with the feudal system of Kings and Barons. To put it simply,
unchecked capitalism is bad, checked capitalism is good.
The sad fact is that America today looks more like the Kings and Barons of old than like the bottom-up Democracy envisioned by our Founding Fathers. I personally wish people would not conflate socialism with communism. It’s a distraction aimed to distract from the real issues of our day. Likewise, I wish people would not confuse checks on capitalism with socialism. I think the far left is simply saying we need more checks on our version of capitalism because the capitalists are out of control.

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(Submitted frequently asked questions. To participate, comment below,
or submit a question or comment.)

Q. Did our Founding Fathers support unchecked capitalism?
A. Our Founding Fathers did not support unchecked capitalism at all. Not in any way, shape, nor form. The fact is our Constitution gave us checks and balances and we are free to try out any form of government and the checks and balances of the Constitution protect us.
To stoke fear, the top 1% barons of America label every check on capitalism as socialism and then paint socialism as a negative thing. The gap between the rich and the poor will continue to widen until all of us realize unchecked capitalism is bad, checked capitalism is good.
Q. Does America have socialism now?

A. Yes. America has over 75 very successful socialist programs right now! Communism is not socialism and we already have more than 75 social programs in America including the United States Military, CIA, FBI, fire departments, police, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the VA system, the highway system, national guards, public libraries, the G.I. Bill, Corporate Bailouts, Corporate Welfare, Unemployment Insurance, etc.

Q. Does our Constitution support socialism?
A. Yes. Our Founding Fathers defined several in our Constitution. The socialist concepts of Post Offices and Post Roads are in our Constitution! See Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution.

Q. Do socialist countries fail?
A. Republicans like to repeat the lie that socialist countries fail and none have ever succeeded.

FACTS MATTER: Successful socialist countries that are “more” socialist than America include Denmark, Finland, Brazil, France, Germany, Greenland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

How much socialism a country should implement is a fair question. I’m a capitalist but I correctly understand that socialism is not communism and whether a state fails or not has nothing to do with socialism.

Q. Weren’t Nazis socialists?
A. Nazis were and are fascists. Nazis drew their ideology from Italy’s fascists who took power as a reaction to the left. The fact that Nazis called themselves the “National Socialists” was a stunt.

These types of tricks are common. Think of North Korea’s “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” party (DPRK). NK is not democratic, nor a republic. The USSR is the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” but the USSR was neither socialist, nor a republic. (Although they were a union of countries, that fact should not reflect poorly on unions in America.)

Q. Isn’t Venezuela an example of failed socialism?
A. First off, if your point is that the Venezuela government is a good example of a bad government, I agree. As for Venezuela and socialism, I think your definition of socialism differs from mine and I’m not sure any government run by a dictator, or is heavily corrupt is worth considering when looking at types of governments.

I think there are substantial differences in definitions of social democracies, democratic socialism, and communism. Social democracies like Norway show that more equitable democratic societies are possible. But democratic socialism and communism are not the same things.

Venezuela’s “United Socialist Party of Venezuela” is the party of dictator Hugo Chavez and it’s not based on democratic socialism. I’m not even sure if it’s based on socialist democracy. Chavez was more like a dictator than anything else—or near dictator depending on how nice you want to be to his legacy. Chavez created it so he could get elected. It rejected democracy (crushed democracy) and endorsed Chavez’s twisted interpretation of the philosophy of Simon Bolivar.

Parties sometimes use “socialist” or “democratic” in their name but that doesn’t mean they are. Nazis were and are fascists but called themselves the “National Socialists”. The World Series is not of the world, it’s American. These types of tricks are common. Think of North Korea’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). NK is not democratic, nor a republic. The USSR is the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” but the USSR was neither socialist, nor a republic.

Just to be clear, if your point is that the Venezuela government is a good example of a bad government, I agree.

Q. Isn’t George Soros a corrupt socialist?
A. George Soros is one of the most successful Jewish capitalists. Yes, he is an activist, but also a respected capitalist. He is a very successful investor and philanthropist. He grew up and survived Nazi occupied Hungary. Yes, he supports liberal causes, but his focus has always been against poverty, communism, and fascism. He actually helped drive communism out of Europe in the 1980s and 90s.

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