Return to Socialism (idea)

Sure, socialism is not a system in itself. It's an umbrella term encompassing several different but similar political and economic systems. They can be divided simply between two groups: the Marxists and the non-Marxists (both of which are derivatives of Utopian socialism to some extent).

I. Marxist socialism (Marx, Engels)
 A. Revolutionary Marxism (Lenin)
   1. Stalinism-Maoism (Stalin, Mao)
   2. Trotskyism (Trotsky)
 B. Revisionist Marxism (Bernstein)
   1. Critical Western Marxism (Marcuse, Habermas)
   2. Social Democracy
II. Non-Marxist socialism
 A. Anarcho-communism/Anarcho-socialism (Bakunin, Goldman)
 B. Fabian socialism (Shaw, Russell)
 C. Religious socialism (Bellamy)
 D. Market socialism

I'm not going to go into detail about these; it's rather tangential to my point. What I will say is that all of these are systems in which the control of the economy is collective. In some (such as market socialism), this means the economy operates similarly to traditional capitalism, but with stronger controls and often with public money funding ventures. In others, such as Marxism-Leninism, it may mean a command economy, where everything is ultimately under the control of the state. And under anarcho-communism and anarcho-socialism, this means everyone in a given community gets together and decides on what the economy will be like. They also all include progressive tax plans and welfare-like programs (excepting, of course, the anarchist modes - taxes and welfare programs don't exist without a government).

Socialism is not merely, "being nice to each other". That is, properly, simple human decency. It is a definite term dealing with definite political views. I leave it up to the reader as to whether they are beneficial or not.

Partial source: Ball, Terence and Richard Dagger. Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal (3rd edition). New York: Longman, 1999.