If you are a reasonable person like me hearing terms like communist, socialist, and fascist bandied about as if they are interchangeable drives you a bit mad. So in an effort to educate the masses I would like to present definitions for each of these terms and explain a little bit about how they are different.

Communism: Notice that root word there, commune? This movement is both sociological and political in that it aims for a classless and stateless society where all members are equal owners and participants within the society. Unfortunately there is often a leading party within this movement that ends up either appearing as or becoming a dictator in order to maintain order and progress towards the communist goal. I should also impress upon you that this is a very basic description. Communism has many shapes and forms and can’t be boiled down into a short blog post. But basically it’s that there aren’t separate classes based on income (i.e. middle or upper class) and there isn’t a central government that controls everything. The goal is to have everything run by free-associating individuals. (Focus: socio-political)

Socialism: Often thought to be exactly the same as communism, socialism is actually much different. Socialism is economically and politically driven, in that it seeks to achieve common allocation and access to a society’s resources. Cooperative management should take the place of Exclusive private industry in order to insure that all people gain access to all services (i.e. education, health care). In my short reading of the definition of socialism, it seems to be more concerned about all members of a nation receiving the same benefits as opposed to all members of a nation having control over resources and decisions. In a socialist society there can still be a centralized government who, hopefully, protects the interests of the people by determining how to distribute goods and services equally. Critics of socialism like to scream about the distribution of wealth, but I didn’t see anyplace where socialism seemed to be against private companies. However certain services and goods deemed necessary for the society as a whole should be regulated and distributed evenly to avoid severe social class distinctions. (Focus: Economy/Political)

Fascism: While communism and socialism might in their purest form be said to have the problems of the people at the forefront, fascism is an entirely different ball of wax. Fascism is all about nationalism (i.e. our country is the best ever!!111!!!one!) and authoritarianism (I’m in charge, you do what I say). Fascism rejects individuality in its society in all areas and will attempt to crush all oppositions to the one collective state identity. Fascists concentrate on ending economic class conflict only in the context of achieving national solidarity. The wiki also says that fascism has a large focus on violence and war in that the defeat of others helps to reinforce national identity and pride. (Focus: National Identity/Us vs. Them)

Now I have to stress that I’ve probably left things out here. I’m not a student of political science and my experience with these terms is lacking. However it only takes a second to look up the definition, then put the word(s) back into the context which Glenn Beck or some other anti-government/anti-tax yahoo is using it(them) to see that it makes no sense. It’s like these tv personalities and politicians were handed a Mad Lib for governing the US and they filled in the blanks with the most patriotic and the most feared words they could find. (“If you are interested in liberty/freedom/America then you have to oppose the Communist/Fascist/Socialist ideas being brought forth by the Obama administration/Wisconsin union goons/greedy teachers.) As long as you know the right words and put them together in the right way, it doesn’t matter if you are right because you sound right. He’s saying Nazis are bad and that’s true! So if this stuff is like what the Nazis did it must be bad too! But no one ever stops to ask whether the actions in question ARE like what the Nazis did, or even if we should be comparing anything to what the Nazis did. But I digress.

Know your political movements, understand what these terms mean, decide what you think about them. Ask questions about these movements that might apply to your own country. I’ve asked myself on numerous occasions about whether everyone should be given access to health care. I’ve also wondered why we aren’t equally concerned about all students REALLY getting equal access to an equal education. What basic services should all members of a society receive as a means of government protection of citizen welfare before private industry takes over? And if the government socializes one service does it then qualify as a socialist government? (For the record I say no.) Good questions all. And all should be considered before we throw on Ben Franklin’s hat and go out screaming that our first African American president is a Nazi. In fact, let’s not do that last part, let’s just try to have intelligent conversations about our nation’s future.

Read, learn, ask questions, then teach others. Do not go ignorantly into that good night.

See you tomorrow!