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Similarities and Differences Between Communism and Democratic Socialism Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 14th, 2019

The main similarity between revolutionary Communism and democratic Socialism is that both of these political ideologies consider Capitalism (as the form of a socio-political governing) historically outdated and utterly immoral. This is because, according to the proponents of both ideologies, in Capitalist countries, the majority of ordinary citizens are denied the right to have a fair share in the national wealth.

This is because in Capitalist societies, it is namely a small number of the representatives of bourgeoisie that exercise a unilateral control over the means of production. In its turn, this allows them to enjoy an undisputed dominance within the society – even though that there are no objective reasons for this to be the case.

That is, if we exclude the fact that the wealthy members of social elites simply happened to have enough of ill-gotten money in their bank accounts. In its turn, this creates a situation when most citizens are being denied the opportunity of a social advancement – only the individuals affiliated with the rich and powerful qualify for a social uplifting. Such state of affairs, of course, is far from being considered thoroughly fair.

Another thing, upon which revolutionary Communism and democratic Socialism agree, is the sheer inappropriateness of the Capitalist practice of subjecting workers to an economic exploitation.

This is because this practice establishes preconditions for employees to be treated as a soulless commodity – hence, causing them to experience the sensation of a societal alienation. In its turn, this prevents hired laborers (regardless of the essence of their professional duties) from being able to attain happiness. Both ideologies refer to such a state of affairs, as utterly inappropriate.

Revolutionary Communism and democratic Socialism also criticize Capitalism on the account of this political system standing in opposition to the concept of egalitarianism.

After all, it is specifically the assumption of people’s perceptual/cognitive inequality, which justifies the Capitalist idea that, in order to ensure the free-market economy’s proper functioning; societies must remain stratified along class-lines. Both, Communists and Socialists proclaim this idea being not only unethical, but also as such, that contradicts the dialectical laws of history.

Revolutionary Communists and democratic Socialists also share a strongly negative attitude towards the concept of a private ownership. According to the proponents of both political ideologies, the continual institutionalization of this type of ownership contributes to the process of a gap between poor and rich citizens growing wider, and makes the economy more vulnerable to financial crises.

This is why, just as it is being the case with democratic Socialists, revolutionary Communists advocate the concept of a state-ownership, as such that ensures a fair distribution of the national wealth among citizens.

Nevertheless, even though that revolutionary Communism and democratic Socialism do share much of an ideological ground, out which they initially emerged, there are many more differences between them than similarities. The most fundamental of these differences is the fact that, while Socialists consider Socialism to be the final phase of the humanity’s socio-economic advancement, Communists refer to it in terms of an intermediary one.

According to them, Socialism is the ‘transitional’ form of a political governing, which will be eventually replaced by Communism (Kors 3). In its turn, Communism presupposes the complete liquidation of a private ownership, the elimination of money, as the instrument of commercial transactions, and the establishment of the ‘dictatorship of proletariat’, as the mechanism of maintaining the society’s ‘classless’ functioning.

Democratic Socialists, on the other hand, point out to the fact that the practical realization of the earlier mentioned Communist agenda will prove impossible, as it does not consider the actual essence of people’s genetically predetermined psychological inclinations.

Another major difference between democratic Socialism and revolutionary Communism is that, while Socialists refer to the transition between Capitalism and Socialism in terms of an evolutionary process, Communists promote the idea that this transition should be revolutionary.

That is, according to Communists, there is only one way for ensuring the eventual triumph of Socialism/Communism – an armed uprising (Dobbs 495). Socialists, on the other hand, suggest that rather than parting away with Capitalism in the revolutionary manner (by the mean of overthrowing the government and eliminating bourgeoisie, as a social class), progressively minded people should aim to create preconditions for the gradual transformation of Capitalism into Socialism.

As Roberts noted: “In economics, their (Socialists’) main commitment is not to creating a new man by expropriating the expropriators but to taming the excesses of the market through state intervention. They (Socialists) have also been stubbornly reformist and gradualist rather than revolutionary” (358).

Unlike their Communist counterparts, Socialists do not subscribe to the idea that a truly fair society must necessarily be classless. In fact, the Socialist idea of a ‘welfare state’ presupposes that, instead of remaining antagonized against each other, the representatives of different social classes should be equally affiliated with the values of a ‘communal solidarity’.

Partially, the earlier mentioned conceptual dichotomy between democratic Socialism and revolutionary Communism can be explained by the fact that democratic Socialists do not think that the continual functioning of Capitalist societies should necessarily result in strengthening the acuteness of class-related antagonisms.

The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated in regards to the ideas of Eduard Bernstein, who is now being considered the ‘father’ of democratic Socialism. According to Sturmthal: “He (Bernstein) pointed out that by its progress labor was gradually transforming the capitalistic society and predicted that by this method of gradual reform and in co-operation with democratic middle-class parties, European labor would win democracy, and, at the end of a long evolutionary process, establish Socialism” (101).

Communists, on the other hand, promote the idea that, as time goes on; the intensity of class-antagonisms within Capitalist societies should increase. In its turn, this should eventually lead to the creation of a ‘revolutionary situation’, and consequently to the removal of bourgeois governments.

This brings us to discuss another important difference between both political ideologies. Whereas, democratic Socialists do favor democracy, as the people-oriented form of a political governing, Communists do not think this is actually the case – especially when we talk about the democracy’s functioning within Capitalist societies.

According Communists, ‘capitalist democracy’ is nothing but the instrument for the representatives of social elites to maintain its dominance within the society. The reason for this is simple. By providing ordinary citizens with the illusion that they can indeed influence the process of a political decision-making, by the mean of casting their votes, capitalists are able to reduce the acuteness of economic tensions within the society – hence, making these citizens less likely to revolt against being continually exploited.

After all, the very conceptual premise of democracy presupposes the process of people casting their votes being second in importance to the process of these votes’ calculation. This is exactly the reason why, according to revolutionary Communists, the concept of democracy is synonymous with the concept of corruption. It also explains why democracy is dialectically predetermined to transform itself into oligarchy/plutocracy.

Hence, the Communist idea that the best form of government is the ‘dictatorship of proletariat’ when, after having eliminated capitalists physically, workers enjoy a shared ownership over the means of production. This idea derives out of the assumption that capitalists will never be willing to share some of their riches with the society’s underprivileged members – unless when they are being forced to do so by purely external circumstances.

These circumstances, however, must be strong enough. Therefore, in order for socially underprivileged citizens to cease being the subjects of an economic/societal exploitation, they must be ready to defy the very principles, upon which the continual functioning of Capitalist societies is based – including the principle of a democratic voting.

In its turn, this explains why; whereas, democratic Socialists refer to their presence in the Capitalist countries’ legislative bodies, as such that serves the purpose of the society’s betterment, Communists do not make any secret of the fact that the only reason why they participate in political elections, is that this provides them with yet additional opportunity to undermine ‘bourgeois democracies’ from within.

Revolutionary Communism and democratic Socialism also differ, in regards to how the proponents of both ideologies address the issue of people’s political opinions being formed. According to Communists, the manner in which a particular individual perceives the surrounding socio-political reality reflects the specifics of his or her affiliation with one or another social class.

In other words, it is namely people’s class-status, which causes them to be what they are, in the cognitive sense of this word. Democratic Socialists, on the other hand, refer to the Communist interpretation of what causes people to adopt a particular behavioral pattern, as being overly simplistic. According to them, regardless of what happened to be the particulars of people’s class-affiliation, it is in their very nature to strive to enjoy a social fairness.

Hence, the democratic Socialist idea that it is possible for the representatives of different social classes to cooperate. It is needless to mention, of course, that Communists do not agree with this idea, because according to them, the wealthy representatives of social elites, on the one hand, and impoverished workers/peasants, on the other, are sworn enemies. Therefore, there can be no cooperation with then, by definition.

The final difference between both ideologies is that, while revolutionary Communism implies that people’s likelihood to attain happiness is being solely concerned with their varying ability to satisfy their physiological needs, democratic Socialism suggests that, besides being provided with the opportunity to fill up their stomachs, people also need to be given the chance of an emotional/spiritual self-actualization.

In its turn, this can be explained by the fact that, unlike Communists, democratic Socialists believe that there is so much more to a particular individual than solely his or her desire to enjoy having a plenty of food. In this respect, democratic Socialism appears much more intellectually refined, as compared to revolutionary Communism, because it avoids making simplistic assumptions about human nature.

Works Cited

Dobbs, Darrell. “Communism.” The Journal of Politics 62.2 (2000): 491- 510.Print.

Kors, Alan. “Can There be an ‘After Socialism’?” Social Philosophy & Policy 20. 1 (2003): 1-17. Print.

Roberts, Andrew. “The State of Socialism: A Note on Terminology.” Slavic Review 63.2 (2004): 349-366. Print.

Sturmthal, Adolf. “Democratic Socialism in Europe.” World Politics 3.1 (1950): 88- 113. Print.

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