Good morning class. I am sure you've all hears the words Communism, Socialism, and Fascism tossed around a lot in response to almost any political debate. I'd be very surprised if you've heard Fascism lately. Since very few people using these words seem to know what they mean, I will give a summary of each and conclude with an explanation of their relevance to the political discussion in Western (Capitalist Democratic) nations.
FEUDALISM is the political-and-economic system when you have rule by a ruling class (usually a monarchy) and they exploit their subjects. There are no real laws protecting the people, the state owns the land and owns the produce of the land, and the people must work the land to be allowed to live on it and (hopefully) be left enough of the fruits of their labor for them to live. This was the system of government in Europe during the middle ages. Unlike Capitalism (see below) there is no true economic system, with the state allowing the subjects food and other necessities
CAPITALISM is an economic system in which people trade goods and services. 'The market' determines the value of a good or service because people will only pay what they are willing to and will generally want to pay the lowest price possible, while people want to sell at the highest price possible. This works so long as no-one has a monopoly, in which case they control the entire supply of one good or service and can dictate the price to the people who need to buy it. One advantage of Capitalism is that people (should) have the economic freedom to start a trade or business and to compete to seek profit, an opportunity denied under Feudalism and Fascism (and some versions of Communism).
Capitalism Myth 1) A free market is always fair. False. An un-regulated market will not be fair if the person selling a good or service can force the buyers to accept a higher price (for whatever reason).
Capitalism Myth 2) A free market is always moral. False. Capitalism seeks profit, and so profitable but immoral activities like slavery, sweat-shops, selling harmful narcotics, selling weapons to both sides of a conflict, selling weapons to terrorists, trafficking children as sex slave and so on all are profitable and therefore desirable under capitalism.
DEMOCRACY is a political system in which the population vote and elect their leaders who then (in theory) represent the voters. Since the leaders depend upon the vote of the people to rule, they (in theory) must act in the best interests of the people and the nation to maintain the favour and support of the people. One problem with democracy is the tendency to have political parties form to increase the election chances of the individual politicians seeking election and re-election. This leads to the politicians representing the party more than the people, and often Democratic systems simplify down to two opposing political parties (major parties and the "two party system"). At this stage, instead of individual democratically elected polititians attempting to cooperate to solve political issues in the best interests of the people they represent, two opposed parties will fight over the issues to improve the political position of their party. America is the textbook example of the two party system, the Republican party have opposed all Democrat led initiatives since the election of President Obama in an attempt to improve their future election prospects by making the Democrat party appear unsuccessful, even though this enforced political inaction has proven to be detrimental to the nation and its people.
Democracy Myth 1) Democracy and Communism are opposite. False. Currently most Communist states are Democracies. The two are not mutually exclusive.
SOCIALISM is a theoretical economic system in which people value the community as a whole and understand that if the situation of the whole community is improved then they benefit as part of the community. Since human nature (and Capitalism) create a tendency to care about oneself and one's family first, Socialism is not possible until that nature/instinct is somehow overcome. Socialism has never been practiced in reality, the best example of a Socialist society is the Smurf Village in the Smurfs cartoon.
Socialism Myth 1) Giving 'welfare' is socialism. False. Giving aid, welfare, or spending public (government) funds on the population is not socialism.
Socialism Myth 2) All government activities are socialism. False. By this reasoning any government institution is socialism, for example a national army.
Socialism Myth 3) Socialism means no Democracy. False. Socialism like Capitalism is an economic system and independent of the political system determining who is in charge.
COMMUNISM is a political (and sometimes economic) system intended as a stepping-stone from Capitalism to Socialism. The theoretical goal of a communist state is to enable the transition to socialism but creating a society where group cooperation is forced and personal profiteering discouraged. Approaches have varied however no Communist state has transitioned to Socialism, possibly because the ruling class do not wish to relinquish power and possibly because the conditions needed for Socialism to succeed have not yet been achieved.
Communism Myth 1) A government taking from the people (for example taxation) is Communism. False. All political systems (Such as Democracy, Feudalism, and Fascism) tax the public and provide some level of public expenditure back. Even Feudalism guaranteed a state funded army to protect the people.
Communism Myth 2) There is one type of Communism. False. There are many styles of Communism, some including Democratic practices, some including Capitalist practices, and so on.
FASCISM is a variant of feudalism practiced in Nazi Germany in which the government and corporations together own the land, the means of production, and whatever is produced. Typically Fascist regimes choose external enemies to scare the people into accepting the regime's actions in exchange for protection from the external enemy. The fascist model most closely represents what conservative political parties (such as the Republicans) advocate, with no 'welfare', no unions, no protection for employees, minimal health care, minimal education, and so on. The power of the ruling party is absolute under Fascism with the only value of a working class (or middle class) person in a Fascist society being what they can produce for the ruling political party and their corporate partners.
Fascism is typically masked as Democracy (but with only the ruling political party as an election option) and the economic system initially masked as capitalism, but later simplified to government hand-outs of food and necessities to maintain the work-force (equivalent to feudalism).
America is currently a Capitalist Democracy. The political system is Democracy meaning that the population vote (from a selection) on who is to lead the country and to represent the people. The economic system is Capitalism but with laws to prevent Capitalism becoming (too) exploitative and practicing immoral (now illegal) trades such as human trafficking, the drug trade, and so on.
When discussing politics in democratic countries such as America, Australia, and the countries of the European Union, the terms Socialism and Communism are often used, but are completely meaningless in that context. Similarly the term Fascism is used but is not currently an accurate description of the system, and a lot would need to change for these Capitalist Democratic countries to become Fascist countries.