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[Thread] The -isms: a very generalized guide. I've wanted to do this for a long time, sparked by how often "#socialism" is thrown about as a catch-all for a variety of vastly different philosophies. I hope BEGIN a #Threaducation here. So, let's talk about this.
First off, let me be CLEAR: These are complex ideas and I am just trying to give a brief overview of the basic distinctions for those who don't know and (hopefully) for those who throw all these ideas together. I make no real endorsements, just try to point out all sides.
It is my FERVENT hope that #AcademicTwitter, #Twitterstorians, political scientists, and philosophers will step up and contribute to this #Thread or use it as a jumping off point for deeper explanations (and/or corrections) of my admittedly general summaries.
"Socialism" is thrown about by politicians, the media, and others. But, let's recognize all the relevant -isms:
Marxism
Socialism
Leninism
Stalinism
Maoism
Fascism
Capitalism
Social Democracy
MARXISM

We have to start with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who wrote the "Communist Manifesto" in 1848. This laid out some basic views of history and economics:
1) History is about class struggle (not national, ethnic, religious, etc)
2) Workers (urban, industrial)- proletariat- are victimized by bourgeoisie b/c they do not own the means of production (i.e. factories, raw materials) so they can't control wages, working conditions, etc)
3) The goal of Marxism is to take an industrial proletariat and educate them to their plight, thus making them the army to overthrow the capitalist system.
4) However, they need leadership. So a "Communist vanguard" of left-wing intellectuals must lead
5) They must also briefly create a "dictatorship of the proletariat" to defeat capitalism and the bourgeoisie and create the classless state where all means of production (but not necessarily property) are owned by the people
6) Eventually, this will lead to a worker's utopia.
Couple important points here:
Much of the Communist Manifesto makes pretty reasonable demands: minimum wages, worker safety, fair working hours, no child labor, universal education, gender equality. It only really goes off the rails when trying to explain what the end result is
There has never been a Marxist state. The "dictatorship of the proletariat" usually just becomes a dictatorship and that's the end of it (to the detriment of those societies.)
SOCIALISM

The concept of socialism predates Marx and takes dizzying variety of forms. Indeed, hardcore Marxists often view it as an unacceptable compromise of the radical revolutionary beliefs of Marxism/Communism.
(In Germany, for example, the Socialists and Communist couldn't band together to oppose the Nazis)
I will touch on more of the different forms later, but essentially socialism does not always require the massive social, political, and economic radicalism that Marx envisions. (It's also not helpful that Marx sometimes uses "communism" and "socialism" interchangeably.)
It is, at its base, founded on the idea that government has an obligation to support equality (in real terms) in society. This can fall along a spectrum of HOW MUCH control the government exerts over society, be it economic, political, or in terms of state funding. More later.
LENINISM

So, when Vladimir Lenin led the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, he encountered some fundamental problems with Marxism in Russia. Marx required a critical mass of industrial (urban) workers so that they could be oppressed by their bosses and become the army he needed.
In fact, Marx encouraged industrialization as a necessary step in creating the proletariat necessary to then be awakened by the intellectual vanguard. He viewed industrialization as NECESSARY to create the proletariat.
But Lenin faced a problem in Russia: basically, no urban industrial proletariat. So, he decided that the peasantry could be the proletariat and very much highlighted therefore the necessity of an urban elite communist vanguard to lead them.
Lenin also firmly believed that the Bolshevik revolution would be a world one, defying national boundaries and that the goals of the leadership should be global in nature.
Interestingly, Lenin exhibited a certain economic pragmatism, returning to freer markets and some private enterprise when it suited his needs (NEP) and tightening state control in other times (War Communism)
STALINISM

Lenin's (unchosen) successor, Josef Stalin further altered Leninism (which was an alteration of Marxism/socialism). Recognizing the need for the industrial proletariat, he decided to jump start its development through a rapid (and successful) industrialization.
This led to a govt driven focus on cities and building manufacturing, often to the detriment of peasant populations via forced food redistribution.
He also backed away from Lenin's global view to one that claimed that "socialism in one country" could inspire the revolution worldwide. In a sense, this reestablished the nation-state in socialist ideology (vs. Marx and Lenin)
Stalin also added a much more overt totalitarianism and a cult of personality centered around himself. While Lenin was responsible for many political murders and other deaths, the majority killing/genocide in the USSR took place under Stalin.
MAOISM

In China, Mao Zedong also adapted Marxist thought and that of its descendants to his own needs. He was much LESS focused on any urban proletariat and concentrated on the peasants as his power base.
In a sense, the cities and industrialization were the enemy. And the larger enemy was Western Imperialism (another departure from orthodoxy). He also returned to the global meaning of revolution, but supported largely rural movements in undeveloped countries.
Mao's agrarian socialism was a HUGE departure from Marx. This focus on industrially undeveloped countries led to the popularity of Maoism among independence movements in the developing world. Maoism also contained a good deal of nationalism
FASCISM

Fascism is a right-wing conservative doctrine that encompasses a great deal of potential elements. Not all are required. Here are some:
1) extreme nationalism,
2) corporatism and government support of industry (but not necessarily nationalization),
3) Irredentism: yearning for reclamation of past glory/land
4) Racial/ethnic view of the world (rather than class based)
5) Militarism
6) Totalitarianism (In this Stalinism and other communist ideologies can be analogous)
7) Homogeneous society
8) Focus on youth
NOTE: many of the elements in the above graphic 👆 can be present in Communist totalitarian states.
Fascism argues for a reorganization of the state but not necessarily the destruction of all its structures and not a nationalization of all industry or even the destruction of the aristocracy, provided it is acquiescent. Fascism seeks no global allies in a unifying sense.
CAPITALISM

Capitalism is primarily an economic philosophy based on the idea that a "free market" will determine the value of good and services and that the drive for maximizing profits will lead to innovation for the common good. (This DOES happen.)
Philosopher Adam Smith was one of the earliest proponents of capitalism and the concept of the "invisible hand" that regulates economies. Capitalists oppose government regulation of business as stifling innovation. Smith was arguing against mercantilism.
Side note: Adam Smith also advocated good working conditions for the working class, albeit for pragmatic purposes that it would make them more productive. econlib.org/library/Smith/…
Capitalism is (often correctly) viewed as more responsive to the needs of society than planned economies (like the 5-year plan). It is not, however, really a political ideology. The accompanying political theory would be liberalism.
Like Marxist economies, there has never really been a TRULY capitalist economy. Governments have always regulated and manipulated markets to some degree and have retained control of certain aspects of society.
SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

Finally, let's talk about social democracy, which is closest to what we are hearing about in modern political debates. Most European countries, for example, fall into this category.
Social democracy is based upon a liberal government (democracy) bound by elections etc. The difference is that is also is committed ideologically to the dispensing of goods, capital, and services by the government to the population to a much larger degree than capitalism.
This often results in higher taxes (but also often in more comprehensive government services and safety nets for those who need them). Social Democracies are democracies and the population could, of course, vote changes in this system (and has).
These systems are ALSO capitalistic. Government does not control, nationalize, or stifle most business. Wealth can be acquired in "free" markets as well. The main difference is that a higher percentage of wealth is distributed by the state as it sees fit.
So, to close, I am not advocating any system here. I simply am hoping to provide a START to having the proper vocabulary to describe what we are talking about when it comes to socialism.
I also hope and encourage fellow scholars to add their corrections, comments, sources, and deeper dives into this BRIEF sketch of a many VERY complex and difficult concepts. /fin
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