When discussing socialism, it’s not uncommon to hear Marxism or communism, too.
Many politicians will use the two terms interchangeably as though they’re the same.
That isn’t the case.
Socialism and Marxism are two distinctive political philosophies that both support an egalitarian society.
To ensure you know what politicians are actually talking about when they use terms, here’s the difference between a Socialist and a Marxist.
Socialist Vs. Marxist (What’s The Difference?)
The main difference between Socialism and Marxism is how they set up their governments.
In a Socialist society, companies and means of production are owned by the community.
The government acts as an enforcer or surveyor to ensure that the profits generated by the product go towards benefiting the community as a whole.
This is a stark difference from a capitalistic society which benefits the business owner more than the working class or community.
A Socialist society also has room for other elements of government within it.
For example, it supports social democracy and social parliamentary democracy.
It does not require a violent revolution or takeover to transition from a capitalist society to a social one.
Instead, it supports a gradual and peaceful transition through political reform.
This is different from Marxism which relies on a violent revolution.
In a Marxist society, companies and means of production are also owned by the community, but they aren’t necessarily recognized as individuals.
That’s because a Marxist society depends on a classless system.
It does so by having the state, or the government, own and control production and means of production.
The state dictates who works in what company, and then is in charge of distributing the profits generated by the company among the community.
It does not leave room for other forms of political structure within its government.
Therefore, it does not support democracy or any of its variations.
To transition from a capitalist society to a Marxist, or communist, society, the working class has to overthrow the current ruling class.
Then the working class sets up a new state.
When the working class takes over, it’s the only original class left.
As such, there is no longer a class-based system.
It’s a single, or classless, society.
Since everyone is the same, the individual is no longer recognized.
Because the same people stay in power in a Marxist society, it’s easy for corruption to occur.
This is often why communist societies don’t last that long, or they transition to another type of political structure.
What Do Socialists And Marxists Have In Common?
Although there are many differences between a Socialist and a Marxist, there are a few things that they have in common.
In particular, both work towards an egalitarian society.
In an egalitarian society, everyone is born with the same rights and opportunities.
It’s not unlike what the current American Declaration of Independence calls for, but its political structure and ideology set up a society in a way that makes equality a reality.
In particular, an egalitarian society aims to distribute resources and wealth across society evenly.
It’s different from a capitalistic society that supports the wealthy.
Many call an egalitarian society a classless society since there isn’t a poor or wealthy class.
Not even a middle class exists.
Everyone has the means and benefits to access the best parts of life because everyone has the same opportunities to improve their lives.
The weak and disabled receive the same support as those who are healthy and able.
Those who have a different skin color or sexual preference from the majority of the population still receive the same job opportunities and pay.
The methods by which Socialism and Marxism reach this type of society are what make them different from one another.
However, both have roots in the idea of a classless society where resources and wealth are evenly distributed among everyone.
How Do A Socialist And Marxist Determine The Individual?
One of the main reasons some capitalist societies are against Socialism or Marxism is that they’re worried about their status as an individual.
While they may enjoy the idea of sharing the wealth among everyone, they may not like the idea of no longer having private property.
This is another area in which Socialism and Marxism differ.
In a Socialist society, the individual still exists.
That’s because it still supports political structures like social democracy.
Individuals still vote people into power.
Private property also still exists.
You own your home and the land it’s on.
You’re able to sue against trespassers and protect your property.
Socialism mainly affects your work life and what it produces.
For example, you can still choose where to work.
Socialism just ensures that you receive the same pay, benefits, and treatment that a CEO would.
In the workplace, everyone is the same.
Everyone receives equal parts of the profit that they help produce.
Because they’re receiving an equal part of the wealth, they can, in turn, help society by paying taxes that support other programs like universal healthcare and free college tuition.
The emphasis is on supporting the community rather than just the individual.
However, because you are part of the community, you also benefit from it.
As an individual, you can also use your money how you want aside from paying taxes.
You can go on vacations, buy luxury goods, and do everything else that you would normally do.
In a Socialist society, your individualism isn’t erased.
That isn’t the case in a Marxist society.
In a Marxist society, the individual no longer exists.
That’s because the state, or government, owns everything.
You don’t own your home or car or anything else.
The state, or community, does.
In extreme Marxist societies, you’re told where to work and how much to work.
You still receive benefits from your work since the profits and resources are evenly distributed among the working class.
However, you don’t always get a say in what you do.
In less extreme Marxist societies, you do have enough autonomy to choose where you want to work.
However, the state can always force you to work somewhere else if it benefits the community.
In a Socialist society, you still enjoy many, if not all, of the same rights and benefits as an individual that you do in a capitalist society.
The main difference is that you also receive better pay, benefits, and opportunities.
The Difference Between Transitioning To A Socialist Society And A Marxist Society
Many developed countries have a capitalist society.
The motive of any capitalist society is to make a profit regardless of the cuts that they need to make to achieve that profit.
It also uses private actors which own private businesses.
These private actors are able to set the wages they pay their workers as well as the benefits those workers receive.
Before certain federal laws, private actors could also dictate how long their workers worked for.
In the Industrial Revolution age, for example, you had workers operating for longer than 12 hours every day with minimal breaks.
You also had child labor.
These government laws, socialist in nature, reduced the hours in which private owners could force their workers to work and also outlawed child labor.
This enabled children to attend school instead and also forced private owners to pay their workers higher wages.
It shows that in a capitalist society, most of the time, the private actors involved in the society are set on generating profit for themselves rather than benefiting the community.
Philosophically speaking, capitalism relies on the forces of supply and demand in a market to set prices.
The wealth generated by the private owners then benefits the community.
In reality, that isn’t always the case.
The wealthy end up becoming wealthier and the rest of the classes, the Middle Class and the Poor Class, become larger.
Eventually, the Middle Class shrinks, and the Poor Class becomes larger.
Since developed countries mostly have a capitalist society, they’ll need to face a transition period before becoming a Socialist or Marxist society.
The ways in which the societies transform differ are based on their political philosophy.
A Socialist society, for example, supports democracy.
It enables society to vote for the politicians who then discuss the best programs to benefit the society.
Socialism, in particular, uses political reform to transition from a capitalist society to a Socialist one.
The reforms are social in nature.
Some of these reforms have already taken place in American history.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the largest contributor to social programs although he wasn’t the first.
He introduced social security which gives money to the retired group of people living in society.
Without it, the older members of society either become beggars, or rely on their families to support them.
He also introduced unemployment payments.
Should an individual find themselves fired from their place of employment, then there’s a chance that they might qualify for some financial aid while they search for another job.
He also established several regulations to prevent banks and other businesses from taking advantage of the market or taking too many of the risks which caused the Great Depression in the first place.
Another social program that he introduced was first thought of by his relative, Theodore Roosevelt.
He introduced the Civilian Conservation Corps in an attempt to conserve some of America’s greatest natural landmarks and areas.
The idea was to preserve the areas so that all of society could enjoy them.
These social programs are just some of the types of reforms that a Socialist would use to transition away from capitalism and towards socialism.
In a Socialist society, there isn’t any need for a revolution or takeover.
Their gradual use of reforms gives society enough time to adjust and embrace the changes that benefit them.
This is a stark difference from the transition between a capitalist society and a Marxist one.
History has already shown what that sort of transition looks like.
Its most well-known transition is the Russian Revolution.
Marxism demands that the working class revolt against the ruling, or wealthy, class.
Since revolutions rarely occur without violence, it even calls for violent action.
By eliminating the ruling class, the working class no longer needs to worry about any pushback or an attempt to take the government back from the former ruling class.
It’s also a way to reset society.
Since they removed the wealthy class, only the working class remains which means society is now classless.
The transition from a capitalist society to a social or communal one differs based on political philosophy.
A Socialist supports a gradual and peaceful transition to a Socialist society.
A Marxist supports a fast and violent transition to a Marxist society.
What Are The Origins Of Socialism And Marxism?
The origins of Socialism and Marxism are similar, but there are a few key differences between them.
Socialism started first.
It originated during the Industrial Revolution and the uprising of capitalism.
During the Industrial Revolution, businesses were modernizing their methods of production with the use of machines.
It required several people to operate those machines.
At that time, there were no regulations in place to check the safety conditions of the workplace.
As a result, several workers died, became ill, or lost their limbs and became unable to work due to work-related injuries.
There also weren’t any protections to keep employers from preying on their workers.
As a result, workers had to work a certain number of hours or produce a certain quota to keep their job.
Labor was cheap and no one truly benefited aside from the business owners.
Certain empathetic individuals saw the suffering and thought that there must be a better way to do things to ensure the entire community benefited from labor.
Thus, the concept of Socialism came into being.
At that time, it was an effort to improve working conditions and ensure they received a fair and equal share of their production.
Although not entirely equal, many social programs used in that time ensured that people weren’t overworked and had greater protections in the workplace.
Certain Socialist thinkers like Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, and Robert Owen created the idea of a society in which production supported the community rather than only a few people.
Socialism has since moved beyond protecting workers in the workplace and grown to encompass various aspects of someone’s life.
Universal healthcare, free access to higher education, and a better distribution of wealth are the primary concepts of modern Socialism.
Marxism branched out of early Socialism.
It owes its origins to a man named Karl Marx, from whom it receives its name.
Karl Marx was a German political philosopher.
He also lived during the Industrial Revolution and saw the hardships of what a capitalist society did to the working class.
He worked with another Socialist thinker, Friedrich Engels, to create The Communist Manifesto.
Hence the term “Communism” got its start and is now interchangeable with Marxism.
Marx believed that early Socialist thinkers were naïve.
Their dreams of a society that benefits the entire community were utopian in nature.
As such, early Socialist thinkers and practitioners are often called Utopians.
Marx believed that one could trace the roots of history and see a similar pattern.
In all of history, there was always a class struggle.
The working class was always struggling against the wealthy class.
In medieval times, it was the serfs and peasants against the noble class.
In ancient times, it was the slaves and laborers against the nobles and royal class.
One might even suggest that in prehistoric times, some groups of humans who controlled grazing grounds or fertile soil likely struggled against nomadic tribes.
Prehistoric tribes were also likely communal.
Regardless, ancient history up to the 1800s had supported Marxist’s idea that history was nothing more than a struggle between the classes.
He believed that it was inevitable that the working class would eventually overcome the wealthy class and create a classless society.
That’s because the working class has more people in it than the wealthy class.
Although the wealthy class had access to more sophisticated weapons and could buy protection, the sheer number of the working class would eventually wear them down.
He also believed that the takeover was inevitable because of the atrocities of capitalism.
There would come a time when the wealthy class would push the working class too far.
They’d become fed up with living on scraps while the wealthy dined on fine meats.
He believed that the only takeover possible was a violent one.
The problem with Marx’s theories, which leads to confusion between Socialism and Marxism, is that he never defined the differences between the two.
In fact, he believed that Socialism was the first step towards eventual Communism.
Early Socialism, in particular, was what society needed to transition away from capitalism and into Communism.
Because of that, many confuse Socialism and Marxism as the same thing when they’re actually very different.
Marxism is, at best, considered an extreme version of Socialism.
In truth, it’s an entirely separate political philosophy that has its origins in Socialism.
What Do Socialism And Marxism Look Like Today?
In today’s political sphere, Socialism and Marxism look a little different.
To distinguish itself from Marxism, Socialism is often called Democratic Socialism instead.
Its belief is that its government is still voted in democratically.
The economy has more regulation, and the public owns businesses rather than private individuals.
The profit produced by the business then supports social programs like universal healthcare and free college tuition to support the community.
Several countries currently practice Democratic Socialism.
- Great Britain
Marxism still holds sway in some countries as well.
It still supports the idea that the government owns and controls everything.
The individual does not exist.
Countries that currently use a Marxist political structure include:
- North Korea
Socialism and Marxism share roots in the Industrial Revolution.
They also both believe in supporting an egalitarian society.
However, they also have many differences that make them two separate and distinct political philosophies.
Politicians should not be using them interchangeably.NEXT: Why Did Nick Groff Leave Ghost Adventures? (Explained)