Karl Marx and Frederick Engels mentioned that communist society had two phases. Socialism, which Karl Marx referred to as "the first phase of communist society" is a transitional stage to highly developed communism, "a higher phase of communist society," where there is a classless social system and full social equality of all members of society. (Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, 1875)
Maurice Cornforth writes in Historical Materialism that: "Socialism means the establishment of new relations of production, a new economic basis for society, namely, the social ownership of the principal means of production." (Maurice Cornforth, Historical Materialism, 1972, Second Printing, International Publishers)
John Eaton, author of the Marxist book Political Economy, notes that:the "two basic ingredients of socialism as a mode of production" are "(economic) planning and public ownership of the means of production." (John Eaton, Political Economy, 1966, International Publishers)
Eaton says that "the basis of a socialist economy is publically owned means of production, which are used according to a social plan to meet the needs of the community....Socialist production is governed by a plan, consciously conceived and co-ordinated to meet the needs of the community...
"Socialism as an economic system can best be defined by noting the respects in which socialism as a mode of production is the 'opposite' of capitalism. Socialism is planned production for use on the basis of public ownership of the means of production. Capitalism is commodity production for private profit on the basis of private ownership of the means of production.
"The essential respects in which capitalism is the 'opposite' of socialism can be contrasted as follows:
"The regulating principle of capitalism is 'the market' (commodity exchange). The regulating principle of socialism is the 'social plan.'
"The motivating force of capitalism is profit. The motivating force of socialism is the satisfaction of needs.
"The property basis of capitalism is the private ownership of capital. The property basis of socialism is the public ownership of the means of production.
"The political basis of capitalism is the dominance of the wealthy--viz. the owners of capital. The political basis of socialism is the rule of the working people, with their mass organizations playing a major role in government and administration." (John Eaton, Political Economy, 1985, International Publishers)
Maurice Cornforth says that "in capitalist society, the means of production--the land, factories, mills, mines, transport--belong to the capitalists, and production is carried on for capitalist profit. But the essence of socialism is that the means of production become social property, and that, on the basis of social ownership, production is carried on for the benefit of the whole of society.
"With socialism, production is no longer undertaken for profit, but for the sake of producing what people need. The primary consideration is to raise the standards of the people. Production is not carried on for profit but to satisfy the material and cultural requirements of society. And this is ensured because the means of production, all the means of creating wealth, are taken out of the control of a capitalist minority, whose concern is it's own profit, and come under the control of the working people themselves." (Maurice Cornforth, Historical Materialism, 1972, Second Printing, International Publishers)
But "the socialist mode of production cannot develop gradually and within the framework of capitalist society but first requires the winning of political power--that is, State power--by the working class and the masses of the people."(John Eaton, Political Economy, 1985, International Publishers)
Socialism requires the dictatorship of the proletariat. What is the dictatorship of the proletariat? It is, as Otto Kuusinen said, "(state and political ) power in the hands of working people, led by the working class and having as its aim the building of socialism." (Otto Kuusinen, Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow)
Afanasyev wrote that "all previous types of state were tools of the exploiting classes used for the subjection of the working people and designed to reinforce the system of exploitation and to perpetuate the division of society into oppressors and oppressed. The dictatorship of the proletariat, however, is the rule of the working class which...destroys capitalism and builds a new society, a society without exploitation." (Afanasyev, Marxist Philosophy, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow)
Indeed, "the dictatorship of the proletariat is the crux of Marxism." (Afanasyev, Marxist Philosophy, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow)
Socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat expands democracy for working people. On the other hand, a dictatorship is exercised over the capitalists, exploiters and reactionaries so they may not bring a return of their filth and the system of capitalism. V.I. Lenin said "simultaneously with an immense expansion of democracy, which for the first time becomes democracy for the poor, democracy for the people, and not democracy for the money-bags, the dictatorship of the proletariat imposes a series of restrictions on the freedom of the oppressors, the exploiters, the capitalists. We must suppress them in order to free humanity from wage slavery." (Lenin, State and Revolution, 1917)