Map: Communism and Socialism in the World 2020

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.

6 thoughts on “Map: Communism and Socialism in the World 2020

      1. Portugal is not a socialist country, that is correct. But its constitution contains explicit references to socialism and the ruling party – literally called the “Socialist Party” – not only has the term in its name but is also member of various internationalist socialist organizations and groupings. While their policy might be center-left, this map is not about relatively subjective interpretations, just about the way things are actually written down. Hope this clears things up!

  1. > 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.

    This is wrong; the social democratic parties of Europe explicitly call themselves socialist in their Constitutions or party programmes. The Swedish Social Democratic Party talks about democratic socialism in the very first chapter of its Constitution (“The goal of democratic socialism is free and equal people in a society
    characterised by solidarity”): https://www.socialdemokraterna.se/download/18.12ce554f16be946d04640c13/1568881613048/constitution_2017.pdf

    The Danish Social Democrats call themselves socialists as well, and identify themselves as belonging in that tradition on their website (“Our ideological position is democratic socialism, and the belief in democracy and the struggle for social equity has always driven us forward”): https://www.socialdemokratiet.dk/english/social-democratic-principles/

    The German Social Democrats, in their Hamburg Programme from 2013, talk about democratic socialism as the idea that shaped them and their end goal, while social democracy is their principle of action: https://www.spd.de/fileadmin/Dokumente/Beschluesse/Grundsatzprogramme/hamburger_programm_englisch.pdf

    Also, all of those parties are members of the Party of European Socialists, and most social democratic parties are members of the Socialist International (basically all of them have been until 2013, when many of them split for reasons unrelated to the name).

    My point is this: social democracy is a /socialist/ philosophy, and it originates in the socialist philosophical tradition. There can be no denying that it has drastically departed from the traditional /policies/ that socialists advocate – above all public ownership of the means of production. But the fact still remains that what separates social democrats from social liberals is they originate from the socialist tradition and have a socialist perspective, while seeking to implement their goals incrementally, through reform of capitalism. That is what social democracy has always been about – evolutionary socialism, step by step reforms in the present day, and not focusing on the end goal of socialism (to which we might or might not get), as formulated by German socialist and social democrat Eduard Bernstein in the 19th century.

    Oh, and “public ownership of the means of production” isn’t the only definition of socialism there is. Ethical socialism, for instance, casts it in terms of values and as politics for the many, not the few, rather than a specific end goal. Social democratic (or socialist) thinkers like Karl Polanyi and Ernst Wigforss cast it more as a process and movement than a specific end goal. Social democracy has always been precisely about defining socialism as a process and as incremental reforms rather than blindly chasing the end goal, which might or might not solve all social problems.

    Anti-socialists should understand that not all socialists are the same and that it is a pretty rich tradition that contains more moderate socialists, like social democrats, that /aren’t/ blindly attached to a dogma some more radical ones will advocate.

    Meanwhile, hardcore socialists should also understand that socialism is a rich intellectual tradition and can not be restricted to simply its most radical versions – state socialism and communism. If you do that, not only are you massively downsizing the socialist movement and losing a lot of valuable ideas, but also refuse to take credit for your achievements that way; the achievements of the other segments of the movement.

    1. Hey! Thank you so much for taking the time to write out this detailed comment. This is good and valuable information, and I agree with much of what you have said. Definitely a good addition to my quick-and-dirty writeup.
      Naturally, the line of where something turns “socialist” isn’t clearly defined and for the sake of this map I had to draw it somewhere – choosing to take a pretty limited approach to the term. But, as you have pointed out, of course definitions and interpretations vary.

      As for European social democracy — the state of that and its policy positions are a major topic to discuss as well (perhaps – just perhaps – they might even be linked?) Although recent polling and developments across the continent, not least in Germany, are somewhat encouraging.

      I wish you a great day and again, thank you for your comment! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

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