Never confuse Socialism and Communism again

By David Grima | Oct 01, 2020

As cooler weather approaches, I am told that some downtown businesses have been buying outdoor heaters so they can continue to serve the public on the street or sidewalks. Certainly, the Trackside bar and restaurant on Pleasant Street has two tall flame heaters on its parking lot patio.

Toast, anybody?

I also heard recently at a business meeting about a temperature-testing device that can scan humans in a crowd for possible sickness, and is not deceived by cups of hot coffee.

Well, it will be interesting to see how far into the fall our businesses can push outdoor service while avoiding coronavirus, which is often considered to be the safest way to provide food and drink in this time of plague, and to offer other curbside deliveries and pickups for customers.

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Thanks are due to the ever-vigilant Mr. Limerock, whose semi-conscious pre-dawn wanderings with his little dog take him all across our fair city. He sent me a note giving the name of the sailing vessel I saw at Rockland Marine’s yard in the South End last week, just a stone’s throw from the concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street where I am forced to live, but too far for my aging eyes to pick out its name.

According to the even more vigilant Wikipedia website, Corwith Cramer is a Spanish-built, 33-year-old, 134-foot brigantine, built as a research vessel and owned by the Sea Education Association out of Woods Hole, Mass.

Mr. Limerock also referred to the cupola that used to be at the top of the old Knox County Jail, which was bought by a private citizen and converted into a shed. He says it reminds him wonderfully of a gothic pizza oven.

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Meanwhile, back on land, I was surprised to drive along Route 17 Sept. 7 and see that blow-down limbs were still leaning on power lines along the north side of the highway in West Rockport. I saw them there a month or so before and assumed they would be taken care of.

But we live in a place and time where it is not always wise to assume anything.

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The current climate of argumentative politics in the country has illuminated many things, and one obvious fact is that some people have become a little confused about the difference between socialism and communism, if they ever knew it in the first place.

I was taught unforgettably about the difference one afternoon in 1980 or 1981, while I was a humble, late-start college student back in the old country. It was an interesting class I joined, maybe 50 of us and many far older than myself, people who were going to college after having long careers. Two of my fellow students, one Scottish and one English, were both named Jim.

We were attending what was supposed to be a moderately forgettable seminar in some subject or other, when almost out of nowhere an ancient and bitter political feud surfaced before our astonished eyes, like two great prehistoric sea monsters roaring from the ocean deeps and breaching the surface to wrestle in a life-or-death contest.

How ever they got started is a fact lost to history, but suddenly, the two Jims were at it tooth and nail, heaping curses and calumnies upon each other in a terrifying, wonderful, argument of souls, while the professor sat at his desk at the front of the class and cleverly decided not to get involved.

Big Jim, the Scot, once worked on a North Sea oil rig off Aberdeen, but was forced to give that up after a bar fight left him with a serious back injury. His adversary, English Jim, was of much smaller stature but of equivalently strong political conviction.

Big Jim was a socialist, but English Jim was a Marxist communist, and they deeply detested each other and each other’s politics. For, dear reader, there is such a gap between the two that it pains me to find people in 21st century America failing to grasp the distinction.

As we indelibly learned that afternoon, socialists believe in the democratic political system and are dedicated to finding ways to use it for the good of the working people.

On the other hand, communists (supposing they now have any beliefs after the collapse of Soviet-style Communism, which had not yet happened at the time of this knock-down drag-out fight) believe in the inevitable decay of the corrupt democratic system altogether, and have their eyes fixed firmly on the world to come in the aftermath of that apocalypse.

Rising to his feet, English Jim bitterly accused Big Jim of helping to sustain a corrupt and doomed political framework, working actively against the historically inevitable popular overthrow of so-called democracy. For him, socialism was a pathetic kind of Uncle Tom notion, where the working people had to grub around in a world controlled permanently by their bourgeois overlords, hoping only to obtain a few crumbs from the head table while carving out a dishonorable grave for themselves at life’s end.

This reminds me of Cassius’ speech in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” in which a similar ignoble end is forecast for those petty mortals who scurry about between mighty Caesar’s legs.

Wielding his walking stick in the air like a Viking battle-axe, Big Jim loudly accused English Jim of utterly betraying the working people of England, making a mockery of the most representative movement to come out of British politics, refusing to join in and help make democracy work more effectively for all concerned.

"Communists are vote-splitters," he roared, "and stand in the way of unity and genuine political progress, acting instead like a self-seeking rabble of deluded, half-baked saboteurs living in fantasy land, whose goal is the absolute destruction of democracy with no serious idea of what should replace it, and who should all be damned to a hot place for their perfidy."

If all my college classes were conducted in this brilliantly clear manner, I would have probably earned a Ph.D. in a couple of months. We all would have.

So, if ever you find yourself feeling confused about who supports democracy and who seeks the violent overthrow of the system, just think for a minute about Big Jim Emslie and his furious sermon on socialism; and reflect a while on English Jim the Marxist communist, whose dream was to see all lying in ruins at his feet. Then think of the huge gap between these men and the ideas that captured them.

If you are so inclined, think likewise about who is the destructive force at work in our society today, and who is trying to make democracy function for more people. Remember how George Orwell showed us there is little or no real difference between the brutal totalitarianism of the extreme left and of the extreme right.

I’m not interested in converting you to one cause or the other, but perhaps, at the very least, you’ll never confuse Socialism and Communism again.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at

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Comments (1)
Posted by: cheryl L Williams | Oct 05, 2020 09:20

Thank you!

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