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Hard to Have Holiday Conversations: Socialism and Communism

At every gathering with my extended family, the most uncomfortable conversations always center around politics. In a large, predominately white, multi-generation into the United States family that consists of people from all walks-of-life, from my military uncle in Florida to my cop-wife cousin in Connecticut, to my conservative-leaning climate scientist aunt in California, to my bankruptcy filing conservative uncle in North Carolina, to me, a raging socialist in transit between France and San Francisco, some of these conversations have gotten quite uncomfortable and polarizing.

From these conversations, I have learned how to educate others while keeping my composure. Below are some pointers on the differences between socialism and communism, and some key details to keep in mind when discussing these polarizing topics with family, in a way that should not hurt their feelings, even when they say naive things like “socialism is just communism with a bowtie” or “raising taxes on the rich is one step away from becoming Venezuela.”

Socialism =/= Communism

Capitalism, socialism and communism exist on a sliding scale based on the amount of social support given to the population and the level of privatization of their economic markets, not from “conservative” to “liberal.” Socialism falls in the middle of capitalism and communism, meaning that socialist societies have more social support than capitalist societies, but aspects of their society and economy are still privatized, setting them apart from communist societies. Socialism is in no way a “stepping stone” towards communism; socialism is merely the in-between ground with a combination of social services and private ownership, it is not “getting too close to communism” or “moving too far from capitalism.” Many of the countries that have the highest quality of life and are the happiest on Earth are socialist countries, think of Denmark, Finland, New Zealand or even Canada, socialism is not communism with a pretty name, it is simply a system of support with freedom.

The United States is not a capitalist society

We have all heard it before, the United States is “the ideal capitalist society,” or the President of the United States is the “leader of the free world.” Neither of these is true. The United States has social services, something that does not exist in the privatized capitalist society. For instance, public education, social security, Medicare, debt forgiveness, public transportation and stimulus checks are just some of the many social services that make the United States into a society that lies between capitalism and socialism. While it may be hard for certain people to swallow that their $1200 stimulus check earlier this year was an act of socialism, it was.

There has never been a truly communist society

Communism has never been perfectly executed in the way that Karl Marx envisioned it in his Communist Manifesto. This may sound like a cliché statement that often gets mocked, but it is true. But what about the Soviet Union, or China, or Russia, or North Korea? Trust me, I’ve heard it all. 

The Soviet Union was a socialist state, as evidenced by its full name, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Although the Communist Party of the USSR was a popular one, it was ultimately a position of some of the population, not of the state overall. China, or the People’s Republic of China, has many of the social services commonly associated with a communist society, but due to its economic structure with free-market capitalism, including their stock market, China is not a communist society. Modern-day Russia, or the Russian Federation, is a socialist society like many other countries in Europe. Russia has also become infamous for its oligarchs, who are massively rich individuals that could not exist under a true communist system. North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is not a communist society, it is an authoritarian regime with a cult-like family in charge.

These conversations are difficult and require knowledge and a receptive audience. While I cannot aid you in the latter, I hope that your audience will be receptive to what you have to say and what you have learned. Remember the truth, remember the proof and fight back against the system of your family, as well as of the government and educational institutions. Never forget, the power belongs to the people!

If you have any questions on these topics, feel free to DM me on Instagram. I am always happy to talk about these oft-forgotten or ill-informed topics!

MaryCate (she/her/hers) is a Senior International Studies major with a concentration in the Environment & Development and minors in African Studies and French Studies at the University of San Francisco. MaryCate is Campus Correspondent of HC at USFCA. She loves traveling, baking and all things related to coffee. While in San Francisco, you can find MaryCate getting brunch with her friends or indoor rock climbing in the Presidio. While not in San Francisco, MaryCate is frequently passing time at home with her parents in France or traveling anywhere, when safe.
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