Communism vs. Socialism


In a way, communism is an extreme form of socialism. Many countries have dominant socialist political parties but very few are truly communist. In fact, most countries - including staunch capitalist bastions like the U.S. and U.K. - have government programs that borrow from socialist principles. "Socialism" is sometimes used interchangeably with "communism" but the two philosophies have some stark differences. Most notably, while communism is a political system, socialism is primarily an economic system that can exist in various forms under a wide range of political systems.

Comparison chart



Philosophy From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. Free-access to the articles of consumption is made possible by advances in technology that allow for super-abundance. From each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution. Emphasis on profit being distributed among the society or workforce to complement individual wages/salaries.
Economic System The means of production are held in common, negating the concept of ownership in capital goods. Production is organized to provide for human needs directly without any use for money. Communism is predicated upon a condition of material abundance. The means of production are owned by public enterprises or cooperatives, and individuals are compensated based on the principle of individual contribution. Production may variously be coordinated through either economic planning or markets.
Religion Abolished - all religious and metaphysics is rejected. Freedom of religion, but usually promotes secularism.
Political System Usually takes the form of totalitarianism as Marx described in The Communist Manifesto. Cronyism common. Can coexist with different political systems. Most socialists advocate participatory democracy, some (Social Democrats) advocate parliamentary democracy, and Marxist-Leninists advocate "Democratic centralism".
Ideas All people are the same and therefore classes make no sense. The government should own all means of production and land and also everything else. People should work for the government and the collective output should be redistributed equally. All individuals should have access to basic articles of consumption and public goods to allow for self-actualization. Large-scale industries are collective efforts and thus the returns from these industries must benefit society as a whole.
Definition International theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, with actual ownership ascribed to the community or state. Rejection of free markets and extreme distrust of Capitalism in any form. A theory or system of social organization based on the holding of most property in common, with actual ownership ascribed to the workers.
Key Proponents Karl Marx, Fredrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky. Robert Owen, Pierre Leroux, Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, John Stuart Mill, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Thorstein Veblen, Emma Goldman.
Social Structure All class distinctions are eliminated. Class distinctions are diminished.
Economic coordination Economic planning coordinates all decisions regarding investment, production and resource allocation. Planning is done in terms of physical units instead of money. Planned-Socialism relies principally on planning to determine investment and production decisions. Planning may be centralized or decentralized. Market-socialism relies on markets for allocating capital to different socially-owned enterprises.
Private Property Abolished. The concept of property is negated and replaced with the concept of commons and ownership with "usership". Two kinds of property, personal property, such as houses, clothing, etc. owned by the individual. Public property includes factories, and means of production owned by the state but with worker control.
Political movements Leninism, Trotskyism, Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, Left-Communism, Stalinism. Democratic Socialism, Communism, Libertarian Socialism, Anarchism, Syndicalism.
Free Choice Either the collective "vote" or the state's rulers make economic and political decisions for everyone else. All choices, including education, religion, employment and marriage, are up to the individual. All health care and education is provided through a socialized system funded by taxation. Citizens have free and equal access.
Key elements Centralized government, planned economy, dictatorship of the "proletariat", common ownership of the tools of production, no private property. equality between genders and all people, international focus. anti-democratic. One party system. Economic activity and production especially are adjusted to meet human needs and economic demands. "Production for use": useful goods and services are produced specifically for their usefulness.
Way of Change Government in a Communist-state is the agent of change rather than any market or desire on the part of consumers. Change by government can be swift or slow, depending on change in ideology or even whim. Workers in a Socialist-state are the agent of change rather than any market or desire on the part of consumers. Change by the workers can be swift or slow, depending on change in ideology or even whim.
Discrimination In theory, all members of the state are considered equal. The people are considered equal, laws are made when necessary to protect people from discrimination.
Ownership structure The means of production are commonly-owned, meaning no entity or individual owns productive property. Importance is ascribed to "usership" over "ownership". The means of production are socially-owned with the surplus value produced accruing to either all of society (in Public-ownership models) or to all the employee-members of the enterprise (in Cooperative-ownership models).
Examples Ideally, there is no leader; the people govern directly. This has never been actually practiced, and has just used a one-party system. Examples 0f Communist states are the erstwhile Soviet Union, Cuba and North Korea. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR): Although the actual categorization of the USSR's economic system is in dispute, it is often considered to be a form of centrally-planned socialism.

Contents: Communism vs Socialism

Economic differences between socialists and communists

In a Socialist economy, the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy. On the other hand, in a communist society, there is no centralized government - there is a collective ownership of property and the organization of labor for the common advantage of all members.

For a Capitalist society to transition, the first step is Socialism. From a capitalist system, it is easier to achieve the Socialist ideal where production is distributed according to people's deeds (quantity and quality of work done). For Communism (to distribute production according to needs), it is necessary to first have production so high that there is enough for everyone's needs. In an ideal Communist society, people work not because they have to but because they want to and out of a sense of responsibility.

Political differences

Socialism rejects a class-based society. But socialists believe that it is possible to make the transition from capitalism to socialism without a basic change in the character of the state. They hold this view because they do not think of the capitalist state as essentially an institution for the dictatorship of the capitalist class, but rather as a perfectly good piece of machinery which can be used in the interest of whichever class gets command of it. No need, then, for the working class in power to smash the old capitalist state apparatus and set up its own—the march to socialism can be made step by step within the framework of the democratic forms of the capitalist state. Socialism is primarily an economic system so it exists in varying degrees and forms in a wide variety of political systems.

On the other hand, communists believe that as soon as the working class and its allies are in a position to do so they must make a basic change in the character of the state; they must replace capitalist dictatorship over the working class with workers’ dictatorship over the capitalist class as the first step in the process by which the existence of capitalists as a class (but not as individuals) is ended and a classless society is eventually ushered in.

Video: Socialism vs. Communism

The following is a very opinionated video that explains the differences between communism and socialism:


Share this comparison:

If you read this far, you should follow us on:

"Communism vs Socialism." Diffen LLC, n.d. Web. 18 Sep 2014. < >

Stay informed Related Comparisons
Follow Diffen
Make Diffen Smarter.

Log in to edit comparisons or create new comparisons in your area of expertise!

Sign up »
Top 5 Comparisons Recently Compared

Comments: Communism vs Socialism

Comments via Facebook

Anonymous comments (37)

September 5, 2010, 5:47pm

No political system works the way it should because in every system there are always going to be those who have the power and change the system to make themselves more powerful. That is the way of Humanity. Politics is a twin to religion in that no person agrees with every tenet of their party/group/sect and has their own views as to how things should be, or what is the truth. People thrive on conflict/competition and because of that there is no "system" that will work for everyone, or in every situation, because we all seem to "agree to disagree" about almost all issues. Everyone wants more...most cannot be content just being content and need to feel "better" than someone to feel good about their own situation. Political leaders are usually in it for the power that comes with the office, not to really make a change for the good of the many. NO decision is for the good of everyone, except possibly the "keep the stupid from breeding" thing, but, good luck with that!

— 98.✗.✗.193

March 23, 2014, 3:51am

Socialism is a non-profit system in which people pay only for the cost of something, without paying extra to enrich a shareholder who didn't actually do any work. Imagine replacing corporations with nonprofit cooperatives. The workers benefit, because they keep the money they receive for their labor. The consumers benefit, because they get things at cost. We already do this for certain services, like public roads, police and fire departments, libraries, and public parks. Socialism is compatible with democracy and freedom.

Corporate capitalism is an insane system that adds a third party into the transaction who overcharges the consumer, underpays the workers, and pockets billions for himself. Those billionaires use the money they steal to bribe politicians and hire lobbyists who then write the rules to benefit the billionaires and harm you. Billionaires also hire armies of propagandists to get gullible rubes to vote against their own interests, and support policies that give the billionaires more control over the economy. (Some of the comments here are rantings from the brainwashed minions of Roger Ailes.) This is why capitalism is not compatible with democracy and freedom. It degrades into a plutocracy (or oligarchy of the wealthy) in which the masses serve the needs of the elite few. Workers in the US have steadily increased in their productivity since WWII, while their standard of living has decreased. All of the benefit of that extra productively has been siphoned off to create a parasitic class of billionaires. (Billionaires are not something to be proud of, but rather a symptom of a failed economic system in which profits are distributed according to authority, rather than contribution.)

Marx believed that socialism was a transition to communism, but he was wrong about that, and many other things. Communist movements have all quickly degraded into facist dictatorships. Stalin for example executed the communists and hijacked the Russian revolution. Communism is not a realistic system for any group larger than a small tribe.

— 76.✗.✗.223

November 6, 2013, 12:53am

And to comment on 109, those are all true, but you forgot one. In America, you have 2 cows, the government takes them, and promises to pay you fair price for them, then goes bankrupt.

— 192.✗.✗.2

November 11, 2009, 3:34pm

capitalism is worse than both, the rich have all the power, despite what you might think, the poor are fucked over by the rich people, the rich people in power give the other rich people more power and money. in socialism the poor and rich would be equal, the harder working poorer people would have a larger share, the people who in capitalism enherit their wealth would become poor because of their lack of skill and motivation. communism is unfair to all parties. i think i prefer socialism.

— 206.✗.✗.253

March 23, 2014, 4:47am

To the person making the cow joke:

A corporate factory farm owns 10,000 cows, which are kept locked up in a tiny stall for their entire lives, pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, and fed genetically modified corn which produces its own insecticide. An immigrant worker is paid minimum wage to care for more cows than he has time for, leading to beatings and horrible animal abuses. The CEO bribes state legislators to pass an agricultural gag law which criminalizes the recording of animal abuse, and which classifies the person recording the abuse as a "terrorist." A giant manure pit pollutes the groundwater, which goes unnoticed by an understaffed EPA which is rendered impotent by regulation loopholes written by corporate lobbyists. Got milk?

— 76.✗.✗.223

March 1, 2014, 9:11pm

Actually, political terms are always somewhat ambiguous and are used in different ways by different people, often in very self serving ways. To some extent this is true of economic terms as well. I would agree that there are no "pure" systems.

— 71.✗.✗.50

April 17, 2013, 12:24pm

Socialists has been in america since the late 1800s and has played an important role in organizing strikes and unions in the country. With out them there may have been a lot more starving people during the great depression

— 165.✗.✗.67

June 21, 2012, 4:01am

Of course, capitalism hampers the freedoms of everybody except the capitalist class just as much as the other systems; people work because they have to, their jobs are largely determined by economic mandates, not personal preference, and without stringent regulations, human rights abuses are as common and as severe as in communism. No system is perfect.

— 168.✗.✗.19

May 19, 2011, 12:15am

A Republic isn't the freest from of government! The freest is total anarchy or total democracy. A republic has representatives to make decision for the people. Even though they are chosen by the people that doesn't mean they're decisions reflect exactly what every person they represent wants. Anarchy has no rules whatsoever so total freedom, Democracy has everyone vote on every decision so nearly total freedom. Also no one compares Communism and Socialism with a republic because they are not on the same field. A republic is how a government is run. Communism, Capitalism, Fascism are how business is run by in the country (sometimes they r views too). Liberal, Conservative are views(also parties) of how the current government system should make decisions. So for example the US is a mix of Republic and Democracy, with Capitalism, and the two parties. The USSR was totalitarian and Communist. Also Rome and China both call themselves republics, which they were once, but we no that changed.

— 173.✗.✗.199

April 24, 2010, 2:24am

There are many reasons why the Soviet Union lagged behind the west: moving from a feudal agrarian society to an industrialized one, and the expenditures of WWII and the cold war. But what was it that ultimately prevented the creation of a viable economy? Why was production always of such poor quality, and goods interminably scarce? The USSR certainly had natural resources and an educated workforce. The answer lies in the deincentivization of productivity. When you take away from the productive to give to the unproductive, you punish initiative and reward idleness. The economy stagnates, and a corrupt kleptocracy develops. This is a cautionary tale for the socialists/progressives/liberals of our day. The road to economic hell is paved with the good intentions of those that equate "social justice" with the distribution of private capital (or perhaps even its abolition) rather than its creation. These are the historical facts of the 20th century.
~ Dr. Juan R. Cespedes

— 76.✗.✗.58

March 1, 2014, 8:58pm

There are NO countries in which "all choices are left up to the individual", even in the listed categories, otherwise you could marry your dog or sister or have 6 husbands, send your kids to a school that bans reading, and practice a religion that involves cannibalism after smoking crack.

— 71.✗.✗.50

June 27, 2013, 10:31am

Hi! I don't know if anyone's mentioned it but Marx (expert? founder?) used the words Socialism and Communism interchangeably. There's a few hints that in its early stages Socialism/ Communism would be different in character from later on. Rock on!

— 81.✗.✗.158

June 9, 2010, 5:10pm

ts people. And hopefully these people realize they have the ability to mold it into a form in which it does this.

— 98.✗.✗.49

June 9, 2010, 5:08pm

In practice, communism and socialism haven’t produced the flawless, utopian societies they purport to foster. Humankind is too diverse, too rife with the self-interest inherent in the human condition. At the same time, it’s ignorant to argue that free-market capitalism bears no responsibility for perpetuating injustice, both in the states and abroad. If it were merely a domestic problem, we could sit here all day and argue amongst ourselves, knowing that we partly have ourselves to blame. However, due to unregulated globalization, a product of the free market, we continue to secure poverty’s chokehold on the third world, making it impossible for our neighbors abroad to import The American Dream at the same time they export our excesses amid squalor. None of the three governmental systems being discussed here are without flaws, but in combining some of the better points of each, we can create for ourselves and each other a society in which social justice and the pursuit of happine

— 98.✗.✗.49

April 5, 2010, 6:31pm here, sorry, just noticed this is communism vs socialism, not socialism vs capitalism. Sorry for going off topic myself

— 24.✗.✗.146

April 5, 2010, 6:30pm , not sure if your are trying to contribute some sort of point or just elongating the list there. More on topic, I believe socialism relies on human good will, but our history has shown that greed, selfishness, and self gain serve as greater sources of motivation. Workers rallying and union protests for better wages and equal pay are themselves against socialist ideal because most of them want greater or distributed pay to increase their own benefit or atleast not to see others benefit more than them. Everyone wants something, capitalism works to exploit it for progress. Capitalistic monopolies however can impied on that desire so I agree with regulation to that extent and lack of a heavy "anti-fire" market means we do infact need fire departments. However these public services purchasing from a capital markets is what allows a better fire engine, or a powerful water pump, or lightwieght ladders.

— 24.✗.✗.146

March 30, 2010, 12:58pm

"These ideologies are used in powerplays, much like religion and racism, by those that believe they are more intelligent than everyone and want to feed on the labor of others like Clinton, Pelosi and Reid want."...and Nixon, and Reagan, and Bushes, and Greenspan, and Gingrich, and Limbaugh, Beck, Leiberman, Palin, McCain...

— 72.✗.✗.130

March 26, 2010, 2:19pm stated the following on 2009-10-12 23:05:18 "I wish Americans would become more educated and less slaves to the false idea that everyone can be rich. It is entirely illogical and immoral." IT ISN'T "EVERYONE" CAN BE RICH -- IT IS "ANYONE" CAN BE RICH!!

— 64.✗.✗.90

February 6, 2010, 6:36am stated the following on 2009-10-12 23:05:18 "I wish Americans would become more educated and less slaves to the false idea that everyone can be rich. It is entirely illogical and immoral."

I wish that fellow human beings would become more educated, and stop becoming slaves to their own misconstrued generalizations of an entire population.

— 67.✗.✗.133

December 24, 2009, 7:02am

It is a terrible thing when the educational system leaves people wondering which of these are better. The fact is that neither is good for anyone. They are vitually the same except for the manner in which they take control of the population, as Marx said when he chose to use "Communism" because someone else used "socialism" for their movement. Communism uses force and socialism uses deception because no population will voluntarily accept systems that are designed to enslave everyone with no individual freedoms. They are both a modern fuedal system that allows the "ruling class" to make all decisions and dispose of those they feel are not productive for the whole.
These ideologies are used in powerplays, much like religion and racism, by those that believe they are more intelligent than everyone and want to feed on the labor of others like Clinton, Pelosi and Reid want. It is parasitic.

— 98.✗.✗.178

December 16, 2009, 10:33am

@ who says: Which system do you think offers you a better chance? One where an all-powerful government tells you what to do and when and for how long, or you being able to chose your own path through a free-market system.

Except that in a Social Democracy, the PEOPLE are the government -- perhaps you are referring to a Social tyranny, and then I'd agree with you. Since I am the vehicle of my own power in a Social Democracy, and I along with a majority favor, say, government building roads, then that is majority rules. There is no big bad bugaboo government because WE are the government.

— 71.✗.✗.106

December 3, 2009, 6:17pm on 2009-11-18 07:23:18 states that "the poorest individual in the US is better off than any proletariat(look it up) from any Socialist/communist country you can name." Well I would like to compare the homeless population of the US (123,833 people officially, though believed by many to be a lot higher), to the that of Cuba, which successfully houses 100% of it's citizen's. You can also compare the access working class Americans have to Healthcare, and compare it with 100% free and equal care in Cuba. Cuba also has a lower infant mortality rate the United States, and, when compared with the infant mortality rate of only the working class population of the US, Cuba wins out with a hugely larger gap.

— 137.✗.✗.232

November 30, 2009, 7:15am

hello i am bharath from india hyderabad
its very nice to read your points
the political difference i feel wrong. politically socialism is the dictator ship of working class over capitalists. and the communism is simply class less society i.e. no capitalists or workers. so no question of class rule. no question of oppression. regarding overthrough of capitalist rule after the great paris commune karl marx said that with the ready made state of capitalists we can not built socialim hence we have to demolish the system to build a new. and the process in not sudden. we will have to build the socialist administrative peoples committees in capitalism itself as soviats in ussr during the period of com.lenin

— 118.✗.✗.247

November 10, 2009, 4:31am

two things: One, all those "this is bullsh*t" and "this is dumb" people should be taken out and shot, or at least prevented from reproducing. That being said, both systems are based on the philosophy that man is basically good-and as overwhelming evidence shows-nothing based on that can ever be succesful.

— 72.✗.✗.0

November 8, 2009, 3:54am

Ugh, it's just that communism and socialism both sound great in theory but then when you try them in practice, both fail miserably. I can't figure which one Marx and Engels favored more, though. My textbook says they agreed with them both, but they're different when it comes to important issues. This is really frustrating.

— 99.✗.✗.217

November 4, 2009, 5:56am

Though communism utterly failed in the Soviet Union and was a horrible combination of Socialistic ideals. People should not throw out the idea of a state reformed with capitalist and socialist theories. Rather than communist a socialist combination. No form of government is perfect. We must continue to change and reform our countries, to try to prevent corruption and decay.

— 216.✗.✗.9

November 4, 2009, 3:34am

Very interesting, but more information could have been added. Like their impact on history.

— 68.✗.✗.161

October 12, 2009, 11:05pm

I wish Americans would become more educated and less slaves to the false idea that everyone can be rich. It is entirely illogical and immoral.

— 24.✗.✗.143

October 12, 2009, 7:56pm

this is an interesting topic but i would also like to know why in the dictionary socialism can be a synonym for communism too?

— 99.✗.✗.130

October 4, 2009, 8:38am

The average American couldn't tell you the difference between socialism and communism. They equate them as one and the same, mutually interchangeable. They have (in my opinion), either an unreasonable fear of both or such an unrealistic positive view that it almost borders on utopia. (a.k.a. Workers paradise etc.)
I've lived in and/or have visited several "communist/socialist" countries. Some of them had some good points, but generally I've found them lacking in several areas. Capitalism will always have its' faults, but human nature, self-interest, and/or basic greed will almost always triumph over any chance of socialism/communism taking root in a democratic society. In my years of living in Eastern Europe, I've talked to a lot of people. I can count on one hand the individuals that admitted to believing in communism. The average citizen wasn't stupid. They could see past their government's controlled news media, and resented the restrictions and/or controls forced on their lives.

— 98.✗.✗.187

August 7, 2009, 8:31pm

Mankind are too unique to stay together to achieve the socialist or communism state... in the believe of common good.. even if we do, there are always culprits and con-men and greedy a$$holes and villains to abrupt this concept.. Capitalist with a Mixed economy with a concern for the people are the one which will work.. anyways, sorry for going out of topic.. buddy down there:
this supposed to be Comm vs Socialism.. WTF.. how to VS if U can't/don't compare between them?!?!

— 203.✗.✗.101

July 12, 2009, 8:39pm

Communism/socialism..........won' Both assume that people are somewhat homogeneous. They are not. Substantially different ambition, energy, work ethic, sense of duty and obligation, sense of right and wrong, willingness to share and be charitable, ability to perceive and/or care about a greater community purpose, etc. Factor in peoples emotions and a persons own sense of what constitutes fairness, and communism/socialism are both dead before they get out of the theory stage.

— 64.✗.✗.180

June 21, 2009, 3:22am

Any one system that all agree on will work. This is not achievable due simply in part to human nature. It is our nature to strive and succeed for a better life regardless what realm you are looking at. But there will always be those who take advantage and reap the benefits of anothers hard work. While it sounds really great in theory to give everybody this and that, not all are going to contribute and not all are going to agree. This is a fact, not a theory.If it were really possible to create a perfect society, whether it be communist, socialist or any other, why have a currency system at all? Afterall, we all agree to help each other. It cannot be done. Utopia would never last just as communism and socialism will never last without genocide to keep from having a revolution. We naturally want what we feel we deserve for the work done and to not have it given away. Having said all this, our system of not only democracy but also capitalism is not perfect either, but it allows change.

— 158.✗.✗.227

June 13, 2009, 7:15am

The muddling of definitions between communism and socialism is caused by frightened capitalists. They like to lump things together and confuse definitions so that one can just easily accept their view. Not to go on about capitalist rhetoric and more to the point, from what I understand Socialism is characterized by "each according to their ability", while Communism is characterized by "each according to their need". Both economic systems, as Socialism and Communism are only economic systems, are theorized to be most effective under two governmental systems: Pure Democracy and Anarchy. Any literature of Communist or Socialist character freely explains this. Research, not only Marx and Engles but alsos Rosa Luxemburg.

— 67.✗.✗.89

May 20, 2009, 1:12am

I believe that the main issues here are that the people, in either classification, socialism or communism, are no longer working on behalf of there own benefit. The reason we should care about this is that (and this is in really basic terms) there are some really lazy people out there. If working no longer benefits the individual, and the general population knows that they will be provided for regardless, where is the incentive to strive? If no one ever advances, why do well in your work? Communism frightens me because of potential lack of a central agency to enforce, and thereby protect. Socialism scares me because I think we can all count on one hand the politicians that actually have our best interests at heart. If they controlled everything, who is to say they would do right by the people? Everything sounds good during a campaign, but when the power is transferred, what happens?

— 70.✗.✗.185

May 15, 2009, 11:34pm

Can someone explain it in English? I'm completely confused about the whole Communism/socialism thing. Is Socialism better than capitalism? Why is Socialism sometimes a synonym for communism? Why am I bothered about it all? Should I be bothered? I don't think i care anymore.

— 93.✗.✗.70

May 2, 2009, 3:51pm

in an article titled socialism vs communism u compare socialism and, stick 2 topic

— 76.✗.✗.81


Up next

Capitalism vs. Socialism