Core Themes: Equality
Socialists regard equality as a fundemental value, and in particular, endorse social and class equality. Despite shifts within social democracy to a more liberal belief in equality, social equality whether it is relative (social democracy) or absolute (communist), has been seen as essential to ensure social cohesion and fraternity, establishing justice or equity and enlarging freedom in a more positive sense.
There is a strong belief in egalitarianism, largely distributive egalitarianism for the re-distribution of wealth, by which labour and production is commonly owned.
For Marxists, the idea of equality of opportunity is a con and signals the survival of the fittest, therefore they promote absolute equality. Social democrats regard absolute equality as unobtainable in a modern world, therefore promote relative equality or political equality in order to have equal rights. This view is also shared by modern liberals.
Core Themes: Community
At the heart of socialism, is a belief of a unifying vision of human beings a social creatures, capable on drawing on the power of the community rather than stressing individualism. John Dunne said 'No man is an island'.
Socialists believe that human nature is plastic, moulded by the experiences and circumstances of social life, upbringing and education. Communal thinking therefore dominates socialist belief as it illustrates how a society shoul be run and that individuals should be nurtured in order to accomplish goals and achieve.
Socialists draw on the idea of fraternity and the bonds of brotherhood and sympathy which collectivise the thoughts of everyone. It is an inherently positive look on human nature and believes that we are perfectable.
Core Themes: Co-operation
As human beings are social animals, then the nature betwen humans is through co-operation, altruism and care for the common man. Competition is corrupting and divides society and asks humans to deny their social heritage rather than embrace it. Co-operation makes moral and economic sense when it comes to providing for the community.
In theory, capitalism should provide for those who work hard and benefits the individual, however socialists believe that capitalism plays on the idea of competition.
According to Kropotkin, humans have survived due to their capacity for mutual aid and that they are motivated by moral incentives, not like capitalists who argue for the motivation by material incentive.
Core Themes: Common Ownership
A main reason why socialists disagree with competition and inequality is due to the institution of private property, meaning personal wealth or capital. Private property, according to socialists, should be abolished and all wealth should be produced for the community.
Socialists see private property as morally corrupting and goes against the values of the community.
If private property were to be abolished, as Marx and Engels envisaged, a classless society would form as communism would entail instead of the system of capitalism. Examples of common ownership include the nationalisation of utilities by Atlee, and state socialism under Stalin.
Core Themes: Class Politics
Socialists have always regarded the social class system as vital in order to show social-political change. The idea of social class fall in line with a believe in community and that humans will naturally work together hence a class-based society.
In Marxist terms, the social class has always been a roadblock in the road to a stateless society. In order to create a classless society, you must mitigate the bonds between the proletariat and bourgeoisie.
Social democrats have always defined social class in terms of income and status differences between manual and non-manual workers. For social democrats the abolishment of the class system comes from improving relations between the working class and middle class.