: 1. Socialism and communism have a number of different meanings to different people, with 4 major variants:
: a) stateless democratic socialism (never existed)
: b) socialism within a parliamentary democracy, (Kerala, Nicaragua)
: c) tribal communes (like in Tanzania)
: d) participatory-democratic party-states with a single party (Cuba, Vietnam)
Cuba has been a dictatorship ever since Fidel has taken power.
: The major offenders in the death-toll category, such as Stalin's Soviet Union, Maoist China, and democratic kampuchea, did not fall into any of these categories, because they were one-man dictatorships and not genuine party-states in which teh workers had a say. ergo, they were not communist or genuinely socialist.
Socialism, like capitalism and fascism, is a socio-economic system. It can be a dictatorship, a monarchy, or a republic. The USSR and the Peoples Rupublic of China were (are) most definitly socialist. Since they ascribed to Marxist theory, they were communist, as well. Just as the current Cuban dictatorship is. I suppose one could argue that they never achieved "true" communism, but by that standard, neither has anyone else.
True communism has never worked, and the USSR only managed to limp along for as long as it did because of aid from the US. Under the primitive land use of Czarist Russia, Russia was the bread box of Europe. Under communist rule, Russia relied upon handouts from capitalists in the US.