- Mar 2012
The USSR was communist but not because they called themselves such. They met the definition. North Korea calls itself "democratic" but that doesn't make it so.
I would say it is fair to call them communist by the US propaganda definition and the academic meaning of the term. With the US term, it's basically a synonym for bureaucratic totalitarianism. While the other meaning being a cashless, stateless, post-scarcity society which gives each according to their need and provides each the opportunity to contribute according to their ability. But it is confusing to conflate the two definitions, because the USSR was most certainly not a communist nation, they weren't even really socialist since socialism is basically a society where the means of production is in the hands of the working class, or in the hands of the people as a whole according to more recent definitions (not sure I like that one); and the USSR had control of the means of production by a bureaucratical government.
Democracy is also more than just voting, it is the ability to express your political views without fear of government persecution or repercussions for that expression; democracy is basically the government of liberal nations (and again, I don't mean the US definition which again basically means left-wing, since right-wing governments can be liberal too: i.e. Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and George HW Bush were all part of the neo-liberal movement). None of the second world nations were democracies.
Anyway, I think both uses of the word communism are OK. Different words mean different things in different cultures. But it can also be problematic in the way "theory" is used by people trying to criticize science.