Socialism and Communism
Socialism is “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.”
Communism is a branch of socialism. It’s a similar idea, where all property is owned by either the community as a whole or by the state. In practice, though, it’s “a system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.”
Our modern idea of socialism and communism tends to come from what Karl Marx outlined in The Communist Manifesto and what was later implemented in Russia by Vladimir Lenin and his followers (the Bolsheviks). Marx’s manifesto called for a complete overhaul of capitalist systems of the time. It advocated an uprising by the working class (the proletariat) against the aristocracy and other elites (the bourgeoisie), followed by the implementation of a new society where everyone was equal. That sounds great on paper, but the way it played out in Russia was a bloody revolution (including the arrest and execution of Czar Nicholas II and his family). In the 1920s, Joseph Stalin took over, and established a completely totalitarian regime. Stalin’s government was marked by widespread famine, poverty, and death.
Modern-day Russia is neither socialist, nor communist. That ended in 1991. However, today, North Korea self-identifies as socialist, and operates in a very similar way to Stalin’s USSR. China went through a Communist revolution not long after Russia did, and today they self-identify as “socialist with Chinese characteristics.”
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Many Nordic countries operate as social democracies. This means they blend a lot of “socialist” policies (like providing state healthcare, social security, and worker’s compensation) with certain “capitalist” features (like private property and the democratic process).