The difference between socialism and communism is not important. What is important is whether or not the ruling elite believe in the masses or not.
I am reading the book that I never learned in school which is Robert Conquest's The Great Terror: A Reassessment. Published in 1990, Conquest took materials previously unavailable for his original written in 1968 with a view to the provisional title 'I Told You So You Fucking Fools'. Conquest was Solzhenitsyn before Solzhenitzen. Not prophetic, merely accurate in such a way as to be practically immune to wishful thinking.
What emerges is a picture of a society at war with itself, which is always the case of revolution. But what I am taking awy from this read is not something merely awful because of the ways and means through which Stalin himself destroyed the nation and the people, but based on the inevitable injustice of the precepts of the revolution itself. This was new, a surprising revelation to me.
You see the vanguard, be they Menshevik or Bolshevik were ultimately the leaders and definers of the revolution. As it happened, the Bolsheviks 'won'. And so great was their need, it was a revolution after all, to destroy the basis of power of the enemies, that they were willing to jail and kill their countrymen along the lines defined by the revolutionary vanguard. Ulitmately, and principly, all was done for the liberation of the peasant from their capitalist overlords. And so (being very terse here with history) it was inevitable that 'land reform' was part of the process. Collectivization: take from the rich and give to the poor, all in the name of 'the people'. But which people? Which indeed would, by revolutionary defintion, become right and proper leaders of the new ruling class, ie those in charge of collectivization? It had to be organized. It had to be scientific. It had to be orderly and disciplined in order to fulfill the goals of the revolution - otherwise there would be no need for collective power or its exercise. If you left it to *all* of the people, they would become capitalists again. No. There was a need for organized force to insure the proper level of equality.
The problem was that there were different classes of peasants over which to rule. In particular there was the matter of the Kulaks. These were those peasants of the most capable strain - those who had managed to save money and manage what little business they had, oppressed as they were by the landed gentry. And so with the coming of the revolution in 1917, the Kulak welcomed the Bolsheviks as they delivered crushing blows to the landowners. But the Kulaks were not given requisite power in the vanguard who ordered them around more arbitrarily than those bourgeios nationalists they replaced. And where did the farm products of the Kulaks and the peasants go? Well to feed the revolutionary army, and the political vanguard of course. Within one year it became civil war, and the Kulaks thus became the enemy of the people.
Peasants were starved to feed the revolutionary army on behalf of the peasants and the vanguard could not afford to let the revolution die - after all this was not merely a solution for Russia, but for the whole of mankind. It became clear to the leaders of this revolution that Kulaks and those poltically like them would have to be suppressed until the proper new peasant could take his place. Meanwhile the vanguard would suppress the opposition. The Bolshevik party line became all the truth the system could sustain, given the peasants willingness to make war against it. It was this fundamental inversion of democracy that foreclosed any possibility of the Soviet system to produce anything even vaguely resembling justice. The ensuing cruelty, show trials, purges and pogroms were but external and inevitable expressions of the fundamental cancer within.
What is further shocking about Stalin's rule was the extent to which the Party destroyed its own fathers. Conquest details the arrest, detention, torture, confession, trial and execution of Bolshevik after Bolshevik by the Bolsheviks and their replacement, bureau after bureau, region after region.
Imagine, if you could, the idea that Americans for Obama would have all the Clinton Administration shot, starting with Rahm Emmanuel and anyone who supported him. This is how it went in 1930 Russia. Old heads of the 1917 revolution were being put to death in 1937, no matter how high they had been. The only survivors would be the blindly obedient, and the executors.
What is there to fear from socialism? The answers are easy to determine. You merely need to discover who is arrogating it upon themselves to call the status quo unfair and how far they would go to revolutionize. The status quo is always defined by the people who are making the decisions that the people live with. In a free market, that's everyone who participates in it. To shunt aside the market for political reasons is to find fault with the people who sustain it, who must inevitably be suppressed. Those who would take power on behalf of 'the people' will inevitably have to form a sustained, organized, scientific, disciplined new order. A new ruling class, with new powers... for the new people.