By Carson Wolf
Socialism... What is "Socialism?"
While "socialism" is often used interchangeably with "Communism," they are not the same thing. socialism and communism cannot and should not be used interchangeably because they are not the same ideology.
Anyone can name the big socialist figures–Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler–and the big socialist nations–USSR, China, Vietnam, Cuba–but what about before them? Who inspired these regimes and people to create such dangerous ideologies? What’s the history we don’t know about socialism?
This idea of a utopian society, characterized by its collective ownership of property, inspired political and ideological fanaticism in the centuries to come. The most notable example of the revitalization of utopian ideas was during the time of mass social upheaval: the French Enlightenment Period.
In the late 17th Century, with the publication of The Social Contract, Thomas Moore created Communitarianism, the political opposition to individualist ideologies of Laissez-Faire theories of economic independence to liberate social and political groups. Communitarianism advocates for the collective identity of society—not under any specific characteristics—and the collective ownership of a community, as governed by the greater populace of the community.
Though regarded as a political ideology, Communitarianism was largely a philosophical theory and failed to introduce any seizable way to reform political governance... until the French Revolution.
By the French Revolution, Communitarian philosophy ideology had evolved to take the shape of a political doctrine, being implemented through practices of the French revolutionaries. Most notably, the Jacobins became the beginning of Communist guerillas. The Jacobin leaders, Jean Paul Marat and Gracchus Babeuf, advocated for the seizing of Monarchial funds and the redistribution of that wealth to the French populous. As well, these ideas led to the Jacobins being involved in the Conspiracy of Equals, an attempted creation of a revolutionary state based around the ideals of egalitarian philosophies of Communitarianism and the collective ownership of property. The Jacobins movement was radical but popular, saying things such as, "Property is theft," yet creating civilian militias that built an Ochlocracy in the French popular front. The Jacobins laid the foundations for the beginning of the 19th century's birth of communism.
Early in the 19th Century, the tensions of Jacobinism start to simmer, with the implementation of Social Communitarianism in 1826. Of all places, the home grounds of such practices were in the United States. In the mid-1820s, communitarian communities began to appear in the United States, operating as semi-autonomous communities. The most notable of these were Robert Owen, the 1825 founder of New Harmony, Indiana, and Charles Fourier, who founded Brook Farm in 1841.
New Harmony and Brook Farm replaced the religious values of communitarian movements with philosophical/egalitarian practices based on communal responsibility and the emphasis on the worker's duty to serve his or her community. New Harmony and Brook Farm, as mentioned by Marx and Engels, would become the foreground for the Marxist philosophy of communism.
One of the most critical points in this timeline is the documentation and publication of The Communist Manifesto. However, despite common belief, this book was all but revolutionary. While Marx and Engels were masters of conveying these ideologies in an easily-interpreted way, it was simply communitarianism reimagined. While Marxism, today, is largely an economic theory of political governance, Marx and Engels were political philosophers, not economists. Thus, the birth of communism focuses on the importance of worker's rights, communal values, collective ownership over the production of goods, and fair representation for a person's labor. As well, the ideology advocated for the Robespierre-inspired political/social overthrow of class structures and a global "Communist Revolution."
Communism, however, is the political practices implemented to become and maintain a classless society. These practices include the seizure of the means of production, the abolition of private property and commodities, the prioritization of necessity above greed, the collective ownership over goods, and the implementation of social structures used to promote and encourage the general welfare of the greater community.
However, despite common belief, Marx’s teachings were not all sunshine and rainbows of equality. Marx’s ideology was based on the violent revolt against the wealthy and the persecution of those who had higher standards of living. As alluded to in his second book, Karl Marx—and a majority of communist followers—had a hateful disdain for Catholics and Jews. As Marx blamed many of the successes of the bourgeois on Catholics and Jews, Socialist revolutionaries would later act upon much of these darker aspects of Marxist philosophy in the coming decades. 1
Furthermore, these theories of a “communist” and “socialist” society became the inspiration for ultranationalist totalitarianism seen in Fascist and Bolshevik ideology of the First World War.
In the late 1890s and early 1900s, communism was popularized. With the beginning of a cultural revolution, sparked with the dissatisfaction of monarchism and traditional autocracy in an increasingly-industrial society, communism becomes "the cool ideology." As groups of communist ochlocracies appear, like the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Workingmen, Internationale, Labor Front, and so on, communist ideology is implemented in "de-monarchizing" societies. It is here that communism took its final form: Revolutionary Totalitarianism for the lower-class. 2
It began to seem clear as if Marx’s theories of class revolution were beginning to come to light. This was further prophesied in the rise of Mussolini & Hitler and the rise of National Socialism (Fascism). Mussolini and Hitler’s National Socialism was perhaps the most extreme and ideologically fanatical interpretation of Marx’s philosophy. The darker aspects of Marx’s philosophy, the anti-semitism and social brutality were not only practiced but encouraged. Through their practices, socialism took its final form: Popular Authoritarianism with Cultural Revolution.
However, today, socialism and communism do not quite mean what they used to. Today, the two are interpreted and implemented as designed for the digital age of society we currently live in.
Marx, Karl. “Capital: A Critique of Political Economy: Volume I Book One: The Process of Production of Capital.” PDF of 1887 English edition, 2015.
In addition to fighting in the war against socialism, 18-year-old Carson Wolf is a signed actor living part-time in Los Angeles, California. Carson also lives part-time in the Woodlands, Texas, where he works for the local Republican offices and appears on various county broadcast/podcast studios. Through his political youth show, “Be The People,” and through his work with Young Americans Against Socialism, Carson is determined to unite his generation of increasingly socialist left teenagers and call a truce in America’s “Culture War.”