By Linus Hoeller, Northwestern University
Few political words raise such intense emotions as “communism” and “socialism.” A common buzzword in elections in the U.S. and around the world alike, they are also really existing and nuanced ideologies. Because of the politicization of the mere terms, some clarity has been lost about where – if anywhere at all – socialism and communism are the daily norm around the world. Let us take a look.
Scandinavia and Canada are not Socialist or Communist.
Contrary to some popular belief, neither any of the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland) nor Canada is socialist or communist. The latter is currently ruled by Trudeau’s Liberal Party, which, while center-left, is not even truly social democratic. Its main ideology remains liberalism, which lies contrary to some of the key policy points and ideological demands of most socialist and almost all communist parties around the world.
The Scandinavian countries have strong social democratic influences, however are nonetheless distinctively capitalist societies and currently have no parties calling themselves “socialist” or “communist” in government. In fact, none of such parties is even polling at relevant levels above around 8 to 10% in any of the said countries.
Germany isn’t socialist either, despite 26% of Americans believing so. The centrist social democrats (who are not socialists) are the junior party in the ruling coalition, and the left-wing party “The Left” consistently polls at about 8%. Germany’s social security system, while functional, is also not considered as progressive in European comparison as it is often made out to be by Americans. A reason for this might be the U.S.’ relative backwardness: It is, for instance, the only developed country to have neither free nor universal healthcare. Social democratic principles are not radical.
Now that we have established where socialism as a key ideology is not, let us take a look at where it is to be found in the world 2020.
Vestiges of the Cold War: Marxist-Leninist States
The end of the Cold War thirty years ago brought a precipitous decline in the number of Marxist-Leninist states, but a handful of them remain to this day. None claims to have achieved communism as of yet, however they all say they are striving to create a post-capitalist society and are supposedly at some step along the way. These countries are China, Laos, Vietnam and Cuba. Note that neither North Korea, nor Venezuela, is Marxist-Leninist.
A larger number of countries – including, for example, India and Portugal, have enshrined socialism in their constitution in one form or another. Not all of these countries, however, currently have a ruling party that itself subscribes to the ideas. The ones that do include Algeria, Portugal, Nepal and the DPRK (North Korea).
There are also a few countries with current ruling parties that claim to be socialist, but that do not have socialism enshrined in the state’s constitution. This category includes a few Latin American countries, including Venezuela, Bolivia, and Mexico, as well as a number of countries in southern Africa.
Finally, not marked on this map are social democratic countries. This is for a number of reasons: Firstly, social democracy is neither socialism nor communism. It can also sometimes be difficult to identify which parties are social democratic – is Germany’s Green Party social democratic, for instance? Their politics are left-of-center, but that doesn’t automatically make for social democracy.
Therefore, and without further ado, here is the map of the status of communism and socialism in the world 2020: Which countries are communist, which countries are socialist – or at least, which ones say that they are.