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Socialism as an ideal/idealism describes a kind of society where people work together to get a fair standard of living. Society becomes a place of bounty and pleasure. Those people that advocate this cooperative society are called socialists. Socialists believe that everything in society and what is made by the cooperative efforts of society exists for the benefit of society, and that it is from society that the people live in these conditions of life.
There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition to cover all of them.
First, socialism was an economic and government system where everyone, or the state, owns or runs important industries. Its goal is to have the industries make money which can be used for the benefit of everyone. It wants to give workers some control over their work places. When economic planning is largely used, it is referred to as "communism". Communism as used by Karl Marx had a different meaning originally.
Socialism sometimes means Social Democracy, a form of socialism that tries to mix parts of socialism with capitalism. Much of the time the people collectively (as a group) contribute money or other goods for the benefit of the entire community. An example of this would be America's fire departments. They rely on taxes paid by the people to keep equipment and staff for the benefit of the community, should something catch on fire. Some social democratic countries have a higher income tax for people with high incomes, called a "progressive tax". This tax, and other measures, helps to reduce the gap between rich and poor in a nation.
In many countries that practice social democracy, specific services, and some industries, are subsidized and/or partially controlled by the government. For example, education, health care or public transportation are some industries that might be owned/maintained by the government or people in a socialist system. For the most part, people working in these industries are paid by the government, with money paid by the people as taxes.
Another kind of Socialism is "Collectivization." In this system, money and goods are shared more equally among the people, with the government in control. In theory, this system results in the divide between classes getting smaller, with the poorest of a nation's people getting better taken care of while the richest make sacrifices in terms of higher taxes and regulation of business. Of course, socialism as it is commonly practiced differs in many ways from communism (See "The History of Socialism and Communism", later in the article.)
Today, many democratic socialists, especially in Western Europe, want industries to be guided jointly (together) by representatives of shareholders as well as the workers working together in what is known as an industrial democracy because both groups have interests in the success of the enterprise. This would be a more direct democratic way of organizing rather than control by central government. Trade unions and/or workers councils would represent the interests of the employees.
Many countries see Socialism differently. Social Democracy, for example, a Democratic form of Socialism, is the most common kind of government in the world. Socialist International is an organization dedicated to the cause of promoting socialist ideals, and has ties with many Socialist parties, especially Social Democratic ones.
A Welshman, Robert Owen, was the first socialist. His followers began calling themselves socialists in 1841. He is still regarded as a pioneer of the Co-operative Movement in Britain. He said that workers should own the companies they worked for. The workers would then share the profits among themselves. He set up a new model factory in New Lanark, Scotland.
Many socialist political parties were formed during the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. Left Wing political parties are generally newer than Right Wing ones.
The History of Socialism and Communism [change]
At first, the words "socialism" and "communism" meant almost the same thing. Today, they usually mean different things. Most non-communist people say "communism" when they mean the Marxist and Leninist ideas of Russia's Bolshevik party. Marx said that socialism can be used as a period of working towards Communism. However, many non-Communists do not recognize the difference and use the term "Communist country" to refer to a socialist state, though socialists would never use the term. Others call this 'State Socialism,' to distinguish it from the communist goal that does not need a state or any form of government. To non-communists, the word 'socialism' is now mostly used for attempts to come close to this goal in a democratic state.
After World War I, the collapse of the Second International and the Russian Revolution, socialism was split into two ways. Some socialists followed Lenin and were called Communists. Others believed in Parliamentary socialism and were called democratic socialists. Democratic socialists disagreed very strongly with communists.
Today, there are still many different forms of socialism, and some do not agree with others.
Other pages [change]
- Peter Lamb, J. C. Docherty. Historical dictionary of socialism. Lanham, Maryland, UK; Oxford, England, UK: Scarecrow Press, Inc, 2006. p. 1.
- Gale (2001). "Socialism" . World of Sociology. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
- "Socialism". Encyclopedia of World Trade From Ancient Times to the Present. 2005. http://www.credoreference.com/entry/sharpewt/socialism. Retrieved 15 June 2011.