Socialism facts for kids

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New Harmony by F. Bate (View of a Community, as proposed by Robert Owen) printed 1838
New Harmony, a model community suggested by Robert Owen, 1838

Socialism is an economic system where the ways of making money (factories, offices, etc.) are owned by a society as a whole, meaning the value made belongs to everyone in that society, instead of a small group of private owners. People who agree with this type of system are called socialists. There are two ways socialists think that society can own the means of making wealth: either the state (government of the country) is used or worker-owned cooperatives are used. Another important belief is that management and sharing are supposed to be based on public interests. Socialists believe that everything in society is made by the cooperative efforts of the people.

There are many kinds of socialism, so no one definition can apply to all of them; however, in all types, the workers own the means of production. The major differences between the different varieties are the role of the free market or planning, how the means of production are controlled, the role of management of workers and the government's role in the economy.

Some socialists believe that socialism will over time turn into what they see as a more advanced system with no state, money, or social classes. Because the tools for making and distributing things are owned by everyone in socialism, more jobs will be replaced by machines until the amount of human work needed is made as low as possible, so they say that this will let everyone get what they want without using money. This is called Communism and these socialists are called communists.


Socialism is an economic theory of social organization that believes that the means of making, moving, and trading wealth should be owned or controlled by the community as a whole. In Marxist theory, it is a transitional (temporary, in between) social state between capitalism and communism.

Social democracy is a kind of socialism that tries to mix parts of socialism with capitalism. In this system, the government takes wealth (money) from the rich and gives it to the poor like in a Communist state, but despite there being more government control and less chance to make a very large amount of money, people can still run their own businesses and own private property. Unlike communism, where all private property is taken to be owned publicly, people and businesses pay taxes on their property, and this money is spent on public services (see below), after taking out the costs of running the government and collecting the taxes. The main method of democratic socialism is changing society through slow reform rather than a quick revolution.

In many countries that use social democracy, some services and industries are subsidized (given money to help them run) and/or partly controlled by the government. For example, education, health care, housing, utility companies and public transportation are some industries that might be owned/supported by the government 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. Welfare is also likely offered under socialism.

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 gap between classes getting smaller, with the poorest of a nation's people being helped by the state while the richest agree to higher taxes and economic controls/restrictions. Of course, Socialism as it is commonly used is different 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 (people who own part of the business) as well as the workers working together in what is known as an industrial democracy because both groups want the business to do well. 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. Socialist International is an organization dedicated to the cause of promoting socialist ideals, and has ties with many Socialist parties, especially Social Democratic parties.

Most non-communist people say "communism" when they mean the Marxist and Leninist ideas of Russia's Bolshevik party. Marx believed that capitalism followed the economic and political system of feudalism. He also believed that capitalism would oppress (treat unfairly) many people, and those people would eventually revolt and change to socialism. Then he thought that socialism can be another bridge, but to communism. However, many people incorrectly use the term "Communist" to refer to a socialist state. 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.


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.

Karl Marx is the most well-known creator of the theory of socialism, and of communism. He wrote a book about capitalism, socialism, and communism, called "The Communist Manifesto". Friedrich Engels co-wrote the book, and paid for much of Marx's work and research.

Many socialist political parties were formed during the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. Left-wing political parties are mostly newer than right-wing ones.

Socialism with Chinese Characteristics

Socialism with Chinese characteristics combines the basic principles of scientific socialism with the facts of building socialistic China. Socialism is the common rule and essential feature of the practice, and Chinese characteristics are what the basic principles of socialism really represent in China. And the scientific socialism theory is raised by Deng Xiaoping, the chief designer of opening up and economic reform in China.

1. For the economic aspect, China insists on the economy with different types of ownership basic system of market economy with the public ownership in the leading role.

2. For its political aspect, China sticks to a system of the People's Congress, a system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation, and a system of regional ethnic autonomy.

3. For its cultural aspect, China keeps its socialist value system at the core of social trends, while respecting differences and expanding common grounds.

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