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Communism and socialism are economic and political structures that promote equality and seek to eliminate social classes. The two are interchangeable in some ways, but different in others.

In a communist society, the working class owns everything, and everyone works toward the same communal goal. There are no wealthy or poor people -- all are equal, and the community distributes what it produces based only on need. Nothing is obtained by working more than what is required.

Communism frequently results in low production, mass poverty and limited advancement. Poverty spread so widely in the Soviet Union in the 1980s that its citizens revolted.

Like communism, socialism’s main focus is on equality. But workers earn wages they can spend as they choose, while the government, not citizens, owns and operates the means for production. Workers receive what they need to produce and survive, but there’s no incentive to achieve more, leaving little motivation.

Some countries have adopted aspects of socialism. The United Kingdom provides basic needs like healthcare to everyone regardless of their time or effort at work. In the U.S., welfare and the public education system are a form of socialism.

Both are the opposite of capitalism, where limitations don’t exist and reward comes to those who go beyond the minimum. In capitalist societies, owners are allowed to keep the excess production they earn. And competition occurs naturally, which fosters advancement. Capitalism tends to create a sharp divide between the wealthiest citizens and the poorest, however, with the wealthiest owning the majority of the nation's resources.

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