Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Socialism and Communism: What is the Difference? by Arthur Preuss 1908
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What is Socialism? Socialism is a special form of Communism, as Agrarianism is a special form of Socialism.
Every system that attacks private ownership and substitutes in its place common ownership is in the proper sense of the word Communistic. Communism, however, may be more or less comprehensive and radical, according as the denial of private ownership extends to one or several or all of the great classes of material goods that are at present and always have been held in severalty. Extreme Communism denies the private ownership of all classes of objects and advocates the transfer of all goods without exception to the community as owner and administrator. Moderate Communism "advocates only the abolition of private property as far as capital, or the materials of labor, or productive goods in contradistinction to non-productive goods, is concerned. By productive goods are meant real estate, all kinds of raw material, factories, machines, tools, means of transportation, in fine, everything not intended for immediate consumption. . . . This moderate form of positive Communism is at present the only one which has adherents. They are divided into two large groups, bitterly hostile to each other: Anarchism and Socialism.
"Anarchism (Anarchist Communism) demands the transfer of productive property to independent groups of workingmen (communities). . . . Socialistic Communism, or simply Socialism, advocates the transformation of all capital, or means of production, into the common property of society, or of the State, and the administration of the produce and the distribution of the proceeds by the State. Since modern Socialists, and chiefly the followers of Karl Marx, intend to realize this scheme upon a purely democratic basis, they call themselves Social Democrats, and their system Social Democracy." The transformation of all the means of production into the common property of the State or commonwealth, is the final aim and the substance of Socialism strictly so called, in which all Socialist platforms both in Europe and America agree. Their other and more immediate demands, in which there are many differences, are, as it were, only steps and means to accomplish that end.—Agrarian Socialism, finally, denies private and advocates common ownership in land only.
All these systems have one and the same principle in common, viz., common or collective ownership; they differ only in its application. Whether they are called Communism or Socialism is immaterial, these terms properly meaning the same thing, just as the words "community" and "society." In their strict sense, however, the terms have come to signify the special systems as enumerated and described above.
In his Encyclical "Berum Novarum" Leo XIII. does not enter upon any classification or enumeration of the various Communistic forms, which he supposes to be sufficiently known; nor does he mention any of their demands except that which is common to all systems and is the basis of all other demands, viz., common landownership. Using the term Socialism and Socialist in a broader sense, he attacks all Communistic forms at once and refutes them all by disproving the one essential and fundamental tenet in which they agree. This was a veritable masterstroke of the great Pontiff. The foundation of a building being destroyed, the stories erected upon it tumble by themselves. Such is Leo's refutation of Socialism and Communism. Apparently he deals only with Agrarianism, but by refuting it he eo ipso refutes all economic systems destructive of society.
In fact, between Agrarian Socialism and the other Communistic forms there is no essential difference; the difference lies merely in a greater or less degree of consistency, the least consistent being Agrarianism, the most consistent, extreme or absolute Communism. A supporter of common landownership cannot consistently fall short of advocating Anarchism or Socialism strictly so called, nay, even extreme Communism.