It seems these days I get names being thrown at me a lot. I hear people calling progressives communists, and socialists fascists, I’ve even been called a Nazi for my atheism! I think that a lot of conservatives see words such as communist and socialist as insults, without really understanding what they mean. So that’s what this page is for – to explain the real ideology behind these various political movements, and to explain exactly how useless Glenn Beck is being when he accuses somebody of being a communist or a Nazi.
Communism is a far left socioeconomic/political system that advocates a stateless and classless society, as well as common ownership of property. The idea of communism was originally popularized by Karl Marx in the 1800s, though it had existed long before that time. The most famous form of communism is Marxism-Leninism, which is often cited as the type implemented in the Soviet Union. Many other countries have used communism, including China and Cuba. Though in many situations, communist governments have involved a small, powerful group of rulers, this is not necessarily the way a communist state is governed. Many believe that communism is still the best system, but has not been implemented correctly in the past. Communism distributes capital based on individual need.
A lot of people seem to think that socialism and communism are more or less the same thing. This is absolutely untrue. The first thing that people should note is that many countries that have said they’re practicing socialism have in fact been practicing a form of communism. The two systems are similar in trying to do away with the ill effects caused by capitalism, however that’s where the major similarities end. First of all, socialism aims to have as many (usually, fairly elected) people in control of government as possible, while communism usually limits this to a small group. Another difference is that while communism is diametrically opposed to capitalism, socialists see capitalism as a potential part of a socialist society. Unlike communism, socialism distributes capital relative to an individual’s production efforts. Socialism is on the far left of the political spectrum.
Marxism is a system of thought developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 19th century. Especially emphasized are the theories that the state throughout history has been a device for the exploitation of the masses by a dominant class, that class struggle has been the main agency of historical change, and that the capitalist system will inevitably be superseded by a communist order and a classless society. Marxism stresses critiques of capitalism, and advocates the revolution of the working class. Many people simply use Marxism as a synonym for communism, however this is not entirely accurate. Marxism itself is simply a school of thought, which communist systems may adopt partially or entirely as their philosophy.
Fascism is a political ideology that advocates totalitarian and authoritarian rule. Fascist governments forbid opposition groups and parties, and advocate a single-party system. War is viewed as a good and necessary thing in a fascist state, and nationalism is another big element of a fascist state. Fascism is considered to be a far-right ideology, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from communism and socialism. Many countries have had fascist dictatorships at some point, including Italy and Spain.
Nazism is a unique brand of fascism. Though thrust into power by Adolf Hitler in 1932, the idea of it existed before then. Nazism asserted the dominance of the Aryan race, and inferiority or evil of Jews, homosexuals, and other minority groups. Though the word Nazi is a German portmanteau of “national socialist,” Nazi Germany did not practice orthodox socialism. Their economic system took on elements of socialism, capitalism, and communism, but mostly of fascism. Though Nazism mostly disappeared in the years after the Second World War, Neo-Nazi groups still exist today advocating similar or identical ideals.
Progressivism is a political attitude advocating change or reform. Progressivism is usually viewed in direct opposition to conservative principles. Progressivism can be cited for advances in women’s rights, proper working conditions, child labor restrictions, and much more. Progressivism is often considered a more moderate left option as opposed to radical solutions such as communism. My partner Wexler has an upcoming page on the progressive movement which I will link to when it’s done.
Secularism is the belief that government and other public matters should exist separately from religion and religious beliefs. The majority of America’s founders were secularists, and this is why we have many quotes as to this point, as well as laws such as the Establishment Clause. Secularists can disagree about the finer details, such as the actual role of religion, but this is the real definition that you should be using.
If you would like to see a definition added to this page, please comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to expand the page as per public wishes.