"What are all of these uppity, fancy-ass people talking about, though?"
We feel you, fam.
Here are all of the "isms and skisms" that y'all need to be familiar with in order to jump into the Socialist convos we have about this messed up world we're living in.
2) “Social Democracy” is welfare-state Capitalism.
5) Liberalism and Conservatism both embrace Capitalism (two sides of the same ideological coin, both technically representing traditional “Liberal” values).
6) Liberalism is not Leftism (Liberals are not Leftists).
7) “Liberal vs. Conservative” is a false dichotomy; there are other schools of sociopolitical thought.
8) “Democrat vs. Republican” is a false dichotomy (two sides of the same “business party” coin); there are not only other options in terms of political parties, but other routes outside of electoral politics that must also be explored in order for us to see radical socioeconomic change for the better.
9) Socialism and Communism are not the same thing (think of Socialism as the period between Capitalism and Communism).
10) If you are a Socialist, you are most likely a Communist as well; think of Communism as the “end goal,” and Socialism as the (r)evolutionary stage(s) or pathway that gets us there.
Note: Don't just take our word for it; each term listed below doubles as a link to a Wikipedia primer. Dig into the historical context!
Capitalism: A system that allows private individuals to own the means of production, with the goal of extracting a profit from the sale of commodities produced by wage workers.
Profit / Surplus Value: The difference between the value a worker adds, and the value that they receive (such as a wage) and are able to use for themselves. This surplus value goes to another leeching party that controls production (Capitalists, slave masters, etc.). Surplus Value = Worker Value Added - Wage Paid. Synonymous with unpaid labor, profit, exploitation, and wage theft.
Socialism: A range of social and economic systems characterized by social ownership of the means of production. It can also mean the transitional stage between Capitalism and Communism, sometimes referred to as the "dictatorship of the proletariat."
Communism: A stateless, moneyless, and classless system where the means of production are democratically owned and controlled by the community, for the benefit of all. Wage labor is non-existent, and production is planned for human needs, rather than private profit.
Anarchism: A political philosophy that critiques hierarchical organization, and emphasizes free association.
Social Democracy: Social Democracy is an ideology that supports economic interventionism to promote social justice whilst retaining a capitalist economy. It is often seen by Socialists as supporting "welfare-state" band-aids to Capitalism.
Welfare State: A state that provides social services on behalf of the well-being of its citizens, while retaining Capitalism. It often refers to Germany, the UK, and the Nordic countries, but can refer to any state with social services.
State Capitalism: An economic system where some means of production are owned by the state, surplus labor is still extracted, and wage labor still exists. The state decides how to distribute the surplus. Engels argued that the state form would be the final stage of Capitalism.
Liberalism: Formalized around the 19th century (Classical Liberalism), but with roots that extend further back into history, Liberalism justifies free markets, representative democracy, freedom of the press, free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to own property.
Modern Liberalism is closer to Social Democracy to some, and Classical Liberalism to others.
Conservatism: Characterized in America by respect for traditions, republicanism, support for Judeo-Christian values, moral absolutism, free markets and free trade, anti-communism, individualism, American exceptionalism, and a defense of Western culture from outside threats. Conservative philosophy has deep ties to Classical Liberalism (18th and 19th centuries), which advocated for economic freedom and deregulation.
Modern Conservatism is closer to Classical Liberalism to some, and Fascism to others.
Fascism: A multi-definition term generally characterized by hyper-nationalism, racial supremacy, a cult of personality around a "strong" leader as superior to democracy, and an alliance between big and small Capitalists.
Slavery: A system that allows individuals to own other human beings in order to extract a surplus from their labor.
Feudalism: An arrangement predominating in the middle ages where a local lord would allow serfs to live and sustain themselves on their land, as long as they provided them labor and military support.
Means of Production: Physical, non-human inputs used for the production of economic value, such as workplaces, factories, machinery, or tools. Synonymous with "capital."
Private Property: Means of production, when owned by private individuals, whose ownership is claimed through title, and not use, with the aim of extracting rent from the actual users or workers. Synonymous with absentee property.
Personal Property: Property for personal use and consumption. Put simply, this is your house, and everything in it; neither Socialism nor Communism intend to do away with personal property.
Socialized Property: Means of production, when democratically and socially owned and controlled, put to use to benefit people. Surplus value may still exist, but how this is used is determined through democratic means.
Proletariat: The wage-earning class which lives entirely from the sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for their labor power (their ability to work).
Bourgeoisie: The social class that came to own the means of production during modern industrialization and whose societal concerns are the value of property and the preservation of capital, to ensure the perpetuation of their economic supremacy in society.
Class Struggle: A tension that exists between competing classes, caused by contradictory interests, that can only be resolved through confrontation. The competing classes are determined by the economic mode of society: In Slavery, the master and slave. In Feudalism, the lord and serf. In Capitalism, the Capitalist and wage worker.
Class Consciousness: A state of awareness of the class system and membership to a class, as well as understanding the true collective interests of each class.
Petite Bourgeoisie: The lower subset of the bourgeoisie made up of small-scale Capitalists such as shop-keepers and workers who manage the production, distribution, and/or exchange of commodities and/or services owned by their bourgeois employers. It often refers to "small business owners," and is contrasted with the haute bourgeoisie, or the "big" Capitalists.
Bourgeois Democracy: The name that Socialists use to refer to modern representative liberal democracies, criticized as being democracies for the rich only, since representatives and the media in capitalist countries are often the puppets of the Capitalists themselves.
Reformism: A position advocating for the "reform" of an existing system instead of its abolition or replacement.
Revisionism: A pejorative term used by Marxists to refer to ideas, principles, and theories that are based on a major revision of fundamental Marxist premises.
Cultural Hegemony: The domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class who manipulate the culture of that society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their imposed, ruling-class world view becomes the accepted cultural norm; the universally valid dominant ideology, which justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural and inevitable, perpetual, and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class.
The State: The state is a special organization of force used for the suppression of one class by another. Under capitalist society, the state upholds Capitalism and wields force to suppress the working class. In general terms, a state is any politically organized community under a single government.
Imperialism: The domination of a weaker country by a stronger one, referring primarily to the conquering and exploitation of labor and natural resources of the weaker country.
Nationalism: An ideology which emphasizes nations (and often specific races living in those nations), self-governance, national identity, and patriotism over internationalism.
Revolution: A fundamental change in political power and/or organizational structure.
Praxis: The act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas (theory in action).
Dictatorship of the Proletariat: A transitional state of affairs, between Capitalism and Communism, in which the working class holds political power, and is in the process of changing the means of production from private to social ownership. Dictatorship doesn't refer to an autocracy, but rather that the working class now dictates what happens in society.
Dialectical Materialism: The evolution of the natural world and the emergence of new qualities of being at new stages of evolution. It also recognizes that the mode of production is the main motive force of history, and contains contradictions (such as class struggle), whose resolution results in the development of new modes of production and social organization.
Labor Theory of Value: A theory of value that argues that the economic value of a good or service is determined by the total amount of average socially-necessary labor required to produce it, rather than by the use or pleasure its owner gets from it.
Dual Power: Two powers, one proletarian (democratic) and one capitalist, coexist and compete for legitimacy during the transition away from Capitalism.
"Socialism in One Country": A theory by Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Bukharin that posits the following: given the failure of the European revolutions of the early 1900s (except in Russia), the Soviet Union should strengthen itself internally, and postpone world-revolution. Also called "Siege Socialism."
Permanent Revolution: In Marxism, the strategy of a revolutionary class to continue to pursue its class interests independently and without compromise, despite overtures for political alliances, and despite the political dominance of opposing sections of society. In Trotskyism, PR holds that the only way to achieve world Communism is to allow the revolution to spread unimpeded from nation to nation, the theory being that a revolution in one nation would ignite revolutionary fervor worldwide, and that full-scale working class revolution must be allowed to germinate.
Right of Nations to Self-determination: In Lenin's words: "The bourgeois nationalism of any oppressed nation has a general democratic content that is directed against oppression, and it is this content that we unconditionally support. At the same time, we strictly distinguish it from the tendency toward national exclusiveness." In other words, at the root of this concept is the notion that it is much easier to fight a one-front war against local Capitalists, than a two-front war against much more powerful imperialists.
Democratic Centralism: A tenet of Leninism, described by Lenin as "diversity in discussion; unity in action." Under democratic centralism, after decisions are reached, they are followed by the entire group.
Vanguardism: A strategy whereby the most class-conscious and politically advanced sections of the working class form organizations in order to draw larger sections of the workers toward revolutionary politics and serve as manifestations of proletarian political power against its class enemies.
Two-Stage Theory: Argues that underdeveloped countries, such as Tsarist Russia, must first pass through a stage of Capitalism before moving to a socialist stage.
Mass Line: In Maoism, a method of growing class consciousness and Communism, where Communists consult the masses, interpret their ideas and suggestions within the framework of Marxism-Leninism, decide how to best solve those problems through collective action, and then enforce those resulting policies.
Mass Strike: A strike action in which a substantial proportion of the total labor force in a city, region, or country participates, spreading class consciousness, and forcing capitalist concessions. Rosa Luxemburg identified it as one of the most powerful tactics available to workers.
Alienation: A term used by Marx to denote the estrangement of workers under Capitalism from the products of their labor, and themselves; the worker loses the ability to determine life and destiny when deprived of the right to think of themselves as the director of their own actions, to determine the character of said actions, to define their relationships with other people, and to own the things produced by their own labor. Although the worker is an autonomous, self-realized human being, as an economic entity, this worker is directed by the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production with which they must work to survive.
Cultural Revolution: In Maoism, the idea that Capitalist values do constantly re-appear within the Communist Party, although not uniformly. It is up to the people, who are the real motive force in world history, to call out and denounce Capitalist values and corrupt people in positions of authority, and "bombard the headquarters," to ensure the elimination of bourgeois values and cement proletarian power.
United Front: In Trotskyism, an initiative whereby Communists propose to join with all workers belonging to other parties and groups and all unaligned workers in a common struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie. Through united struggle, many workers can be won over to revolutionary Socialism.
Transitional Demand: In Trotskyism, an agitational demand made by a Socialist organization with the aim of linking the current situation to progress toward their goal of a socialist society. Transitional demands differ from calls for reform in that they call for things that governments and corporations are unwilling or unable to offer, and therefore, any progress toward obtaining a transitional demand is likely to weaken Capitalism and strengthen the hand of the working class. Examples of transitional demands would be "Employment for all" or "Housing for all" – demands that sound reasonable to the average citizen, but are practically impossible for Capitalism to deliver on.
New Democracy: A tenet of Maoism that holds that the national-bourgeois in semi-feudal and semi-colonial countries has a dual character in that although it is an exploitative capitalist force, it can also (though not always) side with the proletariat against colonialism and imperialism.
Protracted Peoples War: In Maoism, a strategy for achieving Communism that includes winning the support of the locals (usually the peasantry) in areas away from Capitalist strongholds, and waging unconventional guerrilla warfare, while building institutions of dual power to replace Capitalist ones.
Workers Militia: An important focus of Trotskyism, where local, self-organized working-class militias, fighting for their class interests, are the primary vehicle to achieve Socialism.
Note: We are a nonsectarian organization, which virtually means that we prioritize sticking to the dialectics (or science), not constricted by any one school of thought or another (nor any form of dogma), but staying true to whatever pathway leads us to true liberation at any given point in time. There is no blueprint; there is only a method.
Democratic Socialism: A branch of Socialism that emphasizes democratic management of enterprises within a socialist economic system. The redundant adjective "democratic" is often used to distinguish it from the other, more sectarian branches, whom Democratic Socialists critique as not being democratic enough.
Libertarian Socialism: Synonymous with traditional Anarchism, Libertarian Socialism (or Socialist Libertarianism) rejects Socialism as centralized state ownership and control of the economy (State Capitalism). Libertarian Socialists advocate for decentralized structures based on direct democracy and federal or confederal associations, such as libertarian municipalism, citizens' assemblies, trade unions, and workers' councils.
Communalism: A system that integrates communal ownership and federations of highly localized independent communities, developed by Libertarian Socialist (and major contributor to the field of Social Ecology) Murray Bookchin.
Syndicalism: A proposed economic system that suggests that workers, industries, and organizations be systematized into confederations or syndicates. It can also refer to the tactic of using general strikes to build trade unions.
Anarcho-Communism: A theory of Anarchism which advocates the abolition of the state, Capitalism, wage labor, and private property (while retaining respect for personal property), and in favor of common ownership of the means of production, direct democracy, and a horizontal network of voluntary associations and workers' councils with production and consumption based on the guiding principle: "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need" (primarily based on the ideas of Kropotkin).
Egoist Anarchism: An individualist school of Anarchist thought that originated in the philosophy of Max Stirner, defining an egoist as one who has no political calling, but rather "lives themselves out" without regard to "how well or ill humanity may fare thereby." Stirner held that the only limitation on the rights of the individual is their power to obtain what they desire.
Marxism: A socialist tradition attributed to Karl Marx and Frederich Engels that places emphasis on the means of production, your relation to them, and the inherent class struggle involved between those who control production, and those who don't.
Leninism: A branch of Marxism developed by Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks drawn from their experiences in early 20th century Russia. Notable concepts include vanguardism, dictatorship of the proletariat, dual power, the right of nations to self-determination, imperialism, and democratic centralism.
Marxism-Leninism (ML): A term created by Joseph Stalin to refer to the ideology of the USSR.
Maoism: A Marxist tendency developed by Mao Zedong. Notable concepts include protracted people's war, new democracy, the mass line, cultural revolution, contradiction, and agrarian Socialism.
Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM): A resurgent tendency of Maoism formalized by the revolutionary internationalist movement in 1993, generally synonymous with Maoism.
Trotskyism: A branch of Leninism associated with Lev Trotsky, a leading Bolshevik. Notable concepts include permanent revolution, world revolution, the transitional programme, transitional demands, the united front, workers militias, and criticism of the Soviet Union under Stalin as a "degenerated workers' state."
Luxemburgism: A branch of Marxism associated with Rosa Luxemburg, a leading figure in the German revolution of 1919. Notable concepts include Revolutionary Spontaneity, emphasis on low-level democracy, the mass-strike, opposition to reformism, and criticism of Bolshevism.
Left-Communism: A range of Communist viewpoints held by the Communist Left, which criticizes the political ideas and practices espoused by Bolsheviks, Marxist-Leninists, Anarchists, and Social Democrats. Proponents of Left Communism include Amadeo Bordiga (Italian tradition), Herman Gorter, and Anton Pannekoek (Dutch tradition). Left Communists assert positions which they regard as more authentically Marxist and proletarian than other traditions.
Council Communism: A type of Socialism that rejects vanguardism and democratic centralism, opposes the state, and advocates workers councils as the basis for dismantling the class state.
Hoxhaism: A branch of Marxism-Leninism associated with Enver Hoxha, Communist leader of Albania, that distinguishes itself by a strict defense of the legacy of Joseph Stalin, the organization of the Soviet Union under Stalin, and fierce criticism of virtually all other Communist groupings as "revisionist."
Autonomism: A set of anti-authoritarian, left-wing political and social movements and theories, emerging from Italy in the 1960s. It involves a call for the independence of social movements from political parties in a revolutionary perspective which seeks to create a practical political alternative to both authoritarian "Socialism" and contemporary representative democracy.
Bordigism: A variant of Left Communism espoused by Amadeo Bordiga. Bordigists refuse on principle any participation in parliamentary elections.
Titoism: A branch of Socialism associated with Josip Broz Tito, leader of Yugoslavia, a once "socialist state" independent of the Soviet Union. Characterized by policies and practices based on the principle that in each country, the means of attaining ultimate Communist goals must be dictated by the conditions of that particular country, rather than by a pattern set in another country. During Tito’s era, his ideas specifically meant that the Communist goal should be pursued independently of (and often in opposition to) what he referred to as the "Stalinist" and "imperialist" policies of the Soviet Union.
Utopian Socialism: A collection of socialist ideas that predated Marx, namely those of Owen, Fourier, and Saint-Simon. They focus on the presentation of visions and outlines for imaginary or futuristic ideal societies, with positive ideals being the main reason for moving society in such a direction. Later Socialists such as Marx and Engels criticized Utopian Socialism as not being grounded in the material conditions of existing society, not identifying the wage-earning class capable of making the transition, and relying on wealthy utopian reformers acting within a capitalist framework.