What’s the Difference Between Communism, Socialism, Progressivism, & Welfare Statism

Communism is a species of the genus socialism. It is one of the many variations on the theme.

Communism explicitly calls for the violent overthrow of government. In theory, it is an anarchist ideology which believes that the state will one day magically “wither away,” as Karl Marx famously phrased it, though only after an unspecified period of GIGANTIC bureaucratic control. Of course, in the long and blood-soaked history of communism, the state has never withered away, and never will. Why? Once entrenched, bureaucracy is impossible to retrogress away from.

Democratic socialism, on the other hand, doesn’t advocate the violent overthrow of government but intends to use force peacefully. By definition, by its very nature, socialism must resort to force because it must expropriate people’s money and other property in order to redistribute it. That is the distinguishing characteristic of any and all forms of socialism: government control of property and the means of production (which is one of the reasons “corporatism” — i.e. crony capitalism — is another variation on socialism).

One must never forget: socialism is by definition an ideology of force.

Not all liberals are, strictly speaking, socialists — in large part because most of them don’t even really know what “socialism” means, and it is for this reason also that many liberals, and, for that matter, many conservatives, are socialists and do not even know it.

Welfare statism is not exactly the same thing as democratic socialism.

Welfare statism wants all the wealth and advantages that laissez-faire and private property creates, but at the same time, it wants to undermine the very things that makes all that wealth possible. Welfare statism takes for granted the advantages of laissez-faire — it wants to hold power over the producers of wealth — yet it wants those same wealth-producers to keep producing it for them. It is a short-sighted ideology the prevalence of which dominates academia from sea to shining sea.

The welfare state, which is what we live in today and have for some time, is the result of what Ludwig von Mises called the “hampered or mixed market economy.” It is not identical to socialism proper, primarily because it is not explicit enough, but it too is a variation on the same theme.

Remember clear back in 2013, when many mainstream dems were citing Venezuela as a model to emulate — “an economic miracle,” as David Sirota called it, created by Hugo Chavez’s “full-throated advocacy of socialism.”

(A number of the left-wing geniuses in this country meanwhile took private jets down to Venezuela to pay their respects to the man himself.)

Have you, incidentally, ever seen the inside of a Venezuelan supermarket?

Let us not (ever) forget either that time Bernie Sanders — who owns three mansions — was lecturing us that “the American dream is more apt to be realized in Venezuela…. Who’s the banana republic now?”

He asked this ostensibly in all seriousness.

In response to which, Robert Tracinski wrote:

We’re seeing the answer to that. Today, Venezuelans are starving and the remainders of the Chavez regime are sending gangs of armed thugs into the streets to attack anyone who protests. And all of the people who praised the Venezuelan regime as a paragon of socialism? They suddenly don’t want to talk about it….

The bodies keep piling up, but the ideology that produced those bodies always gets a free pass. You know what this is? It’s the equivalent of Holocaust denial for the Left.

There has long been a ritual, which I sincerely hope will continue, in which young people are required to immerse themselves in the horrors of the Holocaust. But our culture never did that for the horrors of socialism, which is how you get a majority of young people having a positive view of socialism.

What have they missed that they can believe that? Here’s what they’ve missed: the artificial famine in Ukraine, the Soviet Gulags, the forced deportation of Lithuanians, the persecution of Christians, China’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, the killing fields of Cambodia, North Korea’s horrific prison camps and famines, the systematic impoverishment of Cuba, and now Venezuela’s collapse into starvation and mass-murder. All of this should be absolutely required background knowledge for any educated person.

I didn’t provide links for the second half of those examples. If you don’t know them, your assignment is to go look them up, because you’re precisely the sort of person who needs to learn about them.

Now when I cite all of this history, there’s always someone who insists that it isn’t fair to pin all of these crimes on “socialism” because those examples weren’t really socialism. The only “real” socialism is the warm, fuzzy welfare-statism of a handful of innucuous Western European countries. This is a pretty obvious version of the No True Scotsman fallacy, and a good way of disavowing responsibility for the disastrous results of a system you praised just a few years earlier.

The real question is this:

When will left-wingers and right-wingers alike realize that the principle underpinning this entire godforsaken political ideology — i.e. the belief that it’s okay to force people to live for one another — is as dangerous and as dogmatic as any religion … and for the exact same reasons: they’re both predicated upon a policy of pure, unadulterated blind belief.


  • Nice Try

    May 12, 2010

    I love this bs capitalist propaganda which doesn’t take into account all the pollution and environmental degradation capitalism caused.

    Nice try, Ray.

  • Ray

    May 13, 2010

    Nice try, Nice Try. You succeed in refuting absolutely nothing at all. So long as the capital base of a society — any society — remains limited, the means of dealing with societal issues necessarily remains limited. This includes the environment. The wealthier the country, the healthier the country.

    Which is why underdeveloped countries are more polluted (by far) and destroy more woods, water, and wetlands (by far) than wealthier countries.

  • E.A. Blair

    May 13, 2010

    Hey Nice try – have you ever looked at the environmental record of socialism?

    faaaaar worse than the record of “capitalist” countries. But I don’t know if you could call west Germany very “Capitalist”

    Following the worldwide collapse of communism, almost all these claims proved to be false, none more so than the promise to protect the environment. After the Iron Curtain crumbled and uncensored reporting became possible, academics and the popular press rushed to document the massive environmental devastation in the Soviet zone.2

    The West German magazine Der Spiegel indignantly branded communist East Germany as an “ecological outlaw of the first rank,” noting, for example, that the Buna chemical works in the East dumped ten times more mercury into its neighboring river in a day than a comparable West German plant did in a year. The same article also reported that each of the two-cycle cars commonly operated in the East emitted one hundred times as much carbon monoxide as a western auto equipped with a catalytic converter.

    Elaborating on the air pollution problem, an article in Current History pointed out that East German sulphur dioxide emissions per capita were the highest in the world; the burden of that particular pollutant exceeded the corresponding figure for capitalist West Germany by a factor of twelve.

    Don’t forget Chernobyl

    * The Chernobyl accident in 1986 was the result of a flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately trained personnel.
    * The resulting steam explosion and fires released at least 5% of the radioactive reactor core into the atmosphere and downwind.
    * Two Chernobyl plant workers died on the night of the accident, and a further 28 people died within a few weeks as a result of acute radiation poisoning.

    The April 1986 disaster at the Chernobyla nuclear power plant in the Ukraine was the product of a flawed Soviet reactor design coupled with serious mistakes made by the plant operatorsb. It was a direct consequence of Cold War isolation and the resulting lack of any safety culture.

    Oh yeah and the Aral Sea

    In the early 1960’s, the Soviet central government decided to make the Soviet Union self-sufficient in cotton and increase rice production. Government officials ordered the additional amount of needed water to be taken from the two rivers that feed the Aral Sea.

    Today, Muynak is a desert town more than a hundred kilometers from the sea. The only reminders of the once thriving fishing activity are the rusting hulks of ships and an ancient fish plant. The sea has shrunk to two-fifths of its original size and now ranks about 10th in the world. The water level has dropped by 16 metres and the volume has been reduced by 75 percent, a loss equivalent to the water in both Lakes Erie and Huron. The ecological effect has been disastrous and the economic, social and medical problems for people in the region catastrophic. All 20 known fish species in the Aral Sea are now extinct, unable to survive the toxic, salty sludge.

    Shall I continue?

    How about Mao’s War on the Environment?

    Do some reading before you write next time.


    E.A. Blair

  • E.A. Blair

    May 13, 2010

    By the way Ray

    Love the graphic – I recognize it from somewhere… some other persons blog used I think…

  • Gracie Gragg

    November 15, 2012

    So same thing is gonna happen because of the BP oil spill of gulf of Florida. By the way they were convicted with manslauter. And you all about the envirnment. Thanks for your answere. I thought it had something to do with governments and other counteries. We have no right to intererfer with other counteries affairs.

  • garry moss

    February 18, 2013

    You are all full of crap. You all run around, trying to figure out nicer words trying to find some high brow critical explanation for different terms, unable to come to a consensus on those terms that are all central to the same idea that government is smarter than the people, who are too stupid to be free, and should be in control. Let’s throw off the sophistication and just call it what it all is and settle for a term that carries the proper amount of disdain that the stupidity of ideology deserves–Communism.

  • Doc

    August 6, 2017

    I agree with most everything in this post. I do take a slight exception to painting all of communism as “explicitly calling for violent overthrow of government.” Although Marx does contribute to this reading in the final paragraph of the Communist Manifesto, by and large the majority of his work talks about the ‘withering away’ as you put it.

    Marx references the inevitability of the “victory of the proletariat” in many of his writings (Marx, Engels, and Hobsbawm 30). If it is such a scientific certainty that “the bourgeoisie has sown the seeds of its own destruction,” then it makes no sense that death and excessive casualties would be required to bring about this destruction. Rather, it makes sense that the ruling class would naturally act as its own grave digger, as Marx points out.

    In fact, the manifesto was jointly written by Marx and Engels. Engels established a Bolshevist Marxism which Marx himself later suggested did not reflect his own thinking.

    On another note, I think Max Weber had some very interesting things to say about bureaucracy and why it would not, by itself, support the ‘withering away’ predicted by Marx, but rather inhibit change and that man would be trapped in what he called an “iron cage.”

    “Weber’s views about the inescapable rationalization and bureaucratization of the world have obvious similarities to Marx’s notion of alienation. Both men agree that modern methods of organization have tremendously increased the effectiveness and efficiency of production and organization and have allowed an unprecedented domination of man over the world of nature. They also agree that the new world of rationalized efficiency has turned into a monster that threatens to dehumanize its creators. But Weber disagrees with Marx when the latter sees alienation as only a transitional stage on the road to man’s true emancipation. Weber does not believe in the future leap from the realm of necessity into the world of freedom. Even though he would permit himself upon occasion the hope that some charismatic leader might arise to deliver mankind from the curse of its own creation, he thought it more probable that the future would be an “iron cage” rather than a Garden of Eden.” – Masters of Sociological Thought: Ideas in Historical and Social Context, Coser, 1977

  • Ray

    August 6, 2017

    Great comment, Doc!

    Can we agree that there’s been an absolutely staggering amount of bloodshed in the name of socialism-communism-Marxism — and (most importantly) socialism-communism-Marxism has gotten an absurd pass for all this bloodshed?

  • Ray

    August 6, 2017

    P.S. Who the fuck is this?

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