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Socialism Versus Communism

The two events in the twentieth century that had the greatest impact on the course of international socialism were the World War I and the Russian Revolution (1917). The outbreak of hostilities in Europe in 1914 brought to an abrupt halt the numerous theoretical debates inside the socialist movement that had been raging up to that time. The war also dispelled the notion held by nearly all socialists that, irrespective of doctrinal differences, socialist parties everywhere were united by a common goal (the overthrow of capitalism) as well as by their internationalist outlook.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 that brought the Bolsheviks to power had even more far-reaching consequences for the development of socialism. First and foremost, it signaled an end to Marxism as it was generally understood by most socialists up to 1917. This was not least because the epicenter of Marxism was transferred from Western Europe to the east and would remain there for the greater part of the twentieth century. In its new surroundings, Marxism would be widely referred to as communism, a term that was adopted in 1919 by V. I. Lenin (1870–1924) and the Bolsheviks in order to distinguish their movement from the so-called infantile revisionist socialism that had come to characterize the Second International. With the founding of the Soviet Union in 1924, the division between socialism and communism was formalized and made permanent. From this point on, socialism moved along two very distinct paths. One was defined and largely controlled by the Soviet communists and the other followed a course that was defined by the pluralistic socialist traditions of Western Europe. Because the story of communism occupies a distinct chapter in the history of socialism in the twentieth century, it is not our intention here to summarize the main features of that movement. Instead, we will proceed with our survey of European socialism after the advent of communism.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Adam Smith Biography to Spectroscopic binarySocialism - Industrial Revolution And The Rise Of Socialism, Utopian Socialists: Owen, Saint-simon, Fourier