Too many people confuse political terms, and think that if they don’t agree with a politician, then that politician’s views are communistic and therefore undemocratic and so on. Let’s try to simplify things.
There are two sets of terms to know: economic and political. A government has both.
Capitalism. This is where the market decides and government stays out of it. No minimum wage, no health inspections, no laws against discrimination, no regulations on business at all. This doesn’t work, because you end up with the powerful running everything, destroying the economy, and keeping people in poverty.
Communism. This is where the government runs business. The idea is that we should all live together in peace and harmony and share everything, and the President earns the same amount as the guy who sweeps the street. This also doesn’t work, because it completely destroys initiative and any reason to try to improve yourself.
Socialism. This is where most countries are, where the government regulates business to prevent the abuses capitalism can bring, and provides many services (libraries, hospitals, parks, fire departments, social security, unemployment, etc.) This is the tough balance to meet. You don’t want to go too far in either direction, and most of the debate in the US is over how far to go.
Democracy. This is where the people decide, usually through representative democracy or republicanism.
Totalitarianism. This is a dictatorship, whether individually controlled (North Korea) or committee controlled (China). Once more, there are degrees here as well as various types (monarchy, fascism, oligarchy). But the key thing they all have in common is that the decision-making power is not with the people.
What usually happens is that people confuse the economic with the political. The Soviet Union was a communist country but was also a totalitarian country, and people started associating the two. This is wrong. You could have a democratic communist country.
It’s even more confusing when countries lie about themselves. Just because you call yourself “the Democratic Republic of Vietnam” doesn’t mean you are a democratic republic, any more than China is the “people’s republic.” The Soviet Union was indeed a communist country, but it was a corrupt one because you know perfectly well that not everyone shared equally in that society.
Disclaimer: This is a really quick and simple explanation and is meant to be a guideline and a start for conversation.
Did you mean _North_ Korea?
Editing it now.
Using these emotionally charged terms to paint the views of an opponent seems to have been in vogue for quite some time now :
“[Some People]…will try to give you new and strange names for what we are doing. Sometimes they will call it ‘Fascism,’ sometimes ‘Communism,’ sometimes ‘Regimentation,’ sometimes ‘Socialism.’ But, in so doing, they are trying to make very complex and theoretical something that is really very simple and very practical…”
And yes, you can have a totalitarian capitalism… in fact that tends to be where it ends up from what I can tell personally.