"America has become so socialist. These communists are trying to ruin our country and turn us into the Soviet Union!" It's not uncommon for you to hear something like this from many conservatives today. But is it correct? Well, not really. The difference between communism and socialism has been greatly misunderstood by Republicans and Democrats alike, and oftentimes, the words are used interchangeably. So what is the difference between socialism and communism?
To put it in the simplest way possible, communism is a form of socialism, but not all socialism is communism. If that's all you wanted to know, then you can stop reading now, but if you would actually like to understand what these terms mean, please continue.
Communism is anti-democratic. It is an ideology that believes that all "means of production" (factories, businesses, etc.) should be controlled by the state, and all private property and free-markets should be stripped away. Communism is completely authoritarian, and with its monopoly on the production of everything, in theory, the government is supposed to distribute goods to everyone equally, based on their individual need. In communism, the government is an absolute power and has a say in nearly every aspect of a person's life.
The most prominent form of socialism in the United States today is called democratic-socialism. In this form of socialism, the government has much less power than in communism. The main difference is that in democratic-socialism, the employees of a given factory or business own that business collectively, and they run it democratically. In communism, the government dictates what happens in a given business, but in democratic-socialism, the employees vote on every aspect of that business.
What will the factory produce? How will it produce it? What will the cost of the product be? All of these decisions are decided by a vote by the collective owners - the employees. The role of the government in this system is to provide its citizens with a "social safety net" by providing a wide array of social programs like healthcare, education, retirement funds, etc. It would achieve this by raising taxes on everyone drastically, though it is unlike communism in that all personal property and income are not stripped away entirely.
Politicians such as AOC or Bernie Sanders classify themselves as democratic-socialists. While many like to classify them as communists, accusations such as these are simply false. Democratic-socialists seek to close the wealth gap and bring democracy into every aspect of life, including the workplace. It is up to you to decide whether this is right or wrong, but whatever it is, it certainly is not communism.
No matter your political beliefs, always remember to do your research on topics you don't understand and remember that everyone ultimately has the good of the country and its people at heart.
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