A socialist, in the traditional sense, is an adherent of socialism.
Socialism can be defined as ‘a system of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control’.
In other words it’s a state-controlled economy in which the state controls the means of production: factories – offices – resources and firms.
There are also forms of socialism in which the means of production are controlled and owned by workers.
From an academic standpoint there’s an ongoing debate about what socialism really is.
‘The academic debates about socialism’s ‘meaning’ are huge and arcane and rife with disagreements but what all definitions have in common is either the elimination of the market or its strict containment’ Frances Fox Piven – a political scientist at the City University of New York and a former DSA board member told Vox.
In general socialists believe the government should provide a range of basic services to the public – such as health care and education – for free or at a significant discount.
In the present day ‘democratic socialist’ and ‘socialist’ are often treated as interchangeable terms which can be confusing given democratic socialists don’t necessarily think the government should immediately take control of all aspects of the economy.
They do however generally believe the government should help provide for people’s most basic needs and help all people have an equal chance at achieving success.