We explain what socialism is and how this system originated. Also, what are its characteristics and differences with communism.
What is socialism?
Socialism is a system of economic and social organization that is based on the control of the means of production and public assets, in order to achieve a more equitable society.
It is opposed to capitalism that defends private ownership of the means of production and that allows individual decisions in the market . See capitalism as an unjust system in which power and wealth fall to a minority.
Origin of socialism
In the socialist system the means of production are owned by the state.
The intellectual roots of socialism go back to the ideas of the Greek philosopher Plato and his work called “The Republic” in which he spoke about the just and the unjust of society, in which a few had the power.
The word “socialism” was used for the first time in 1766 by the monk Ferdinando Facchinei . He used it to refer to the concept raised in the work of Juan Jaques Rousseau on the “social contract” between the State and the community (a pact that defended freedom and social equality).
The origin of scientific socialism occurred during the Industrial Revolution . It was a political idea elaborated in 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their Communist Manifesto that urged the workers (called proletarians) to unite and remove the capitalists from power.
Characteristics of socialism
The main characteristics of socialism are:
- Public property. It is the central characteristic of a socialist economy in which the means of production and distribution are controlled and regulated by the State with the aim of maintaining a just society (unlike capitalism where private property is unequally distributed among the citizens ).
- Economic planning. In the socialist economy all economic activities (production, distribution, exchange and consumption) are planned and coordinated by a central authority of the State to produce only what is necessary and avoid remnants. It is not driven by the laws of supply and demand as in capitalism, where there is unnecessary overproduction.
- The egalitarian society. In the socialist system, wealth is distributed equally among citizens so that it does not fall into the hands of a minority. In this way, it aims to disintegrate social classes and equalize access to goods and services for the entire society.
- The lack of competition in the market. In the socialist market there is no competition since the State is the only entrepreneur and who controls prices. There is no consumer choice , you can only buy what the State provides. This type of intervention aims to avoid labor exploitation and market monopoly .
The socialist system is characterized by the State that manages the means of production of the entire society in such a way that it is the state companies or cooperatives (with the self-management of the working class) that are in charge of boosting the economy . The primary objective of socialism is to build a just society with an equal distribution of wealth. For that, it needs the productive means to be administered by a central authority and not by private property.
However, there are conflicting views among socialists regarding the extent and type of public property that society should control. Some have argued that almost everything should be social property, except personal items such as clothing. Others, such as the so-called Social Democrats, tend to accept the free market as a basic economic system , along with considerable state intervention to correct social inequalities.
Differences between socialism and communism
Socialism seeks to distribute resources according to the work of each person.
Socialism and communism are often terms that are confused or used synonymously. The truth is that these currents differ by:
- The origin of ideology. Socialism arises in response to the enormous failures of capitalism (such as labor exploitation or the inequality of wealth). Communism seeks to end capitalism and private property in its entirety.
- The type of system. In socialism the central authority of the economy (be it the government or a cooperative) is popularly elected. In communism there is no popular election and the government is imposed in an authoritarian way.
- Private property. In socialism the means of production are public property, although individuals have the right to buy some goods. In communism, everything is public property, both the means of production and manufactured goods.
- Citizen participation. Socialism claims that all citizens are involved in the administration of the means of production, through the representation of the State. Communism does not allow citizen participation.
However, both systems are confused because they have some similarities , such as the search for social equality, the concept of public property and state control. In addition, they are used as synonyms because some scholars maintain that socialism is necessary to go from a capitalist system to a communist one, that is, to go from a system where the bourgeoisie has power over the proletariat , to one where the means of production do not fall back. in a bourgeois minority.
The truth is that, at present, no nation considered socialist or communist , has managed to put these ideologies into practice in a pure way due to corruption. The representative of the national authority ends up abusing power instead of helping the society he serves (and refuses to give that power back to the people).
Some examples of countries considered socialist are: China , the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) , Cuba, North Korea, Denmark, Finland, Laos, Venezuela and Bolivia.
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