I think the problem is that Americans are subject to a particular form of propaganda, in which it is pretended that Socialism equals the centrally planned economy and everything bad one could possibly imagine, while Capitalism was made to mean freedom, prosperity and happiness for all; peace and chocolate, too. In the European Nations, this is less the case where the word Capitalism more likely refers to out of control large business owners, who repress people and generally spread corruption. Being called a Capitalist implies moral callousness and maniacal greed. Being called a Socialist does not happen that often, but it seems to mean someone who is very interested in politics and takes a critical view of the big companies and the wars, being on the side of the workers, but of which it is not entirely clear what they want – with the risk of it being unhinged or otherwise suspect.
The Capitalist system in Europe refers (more) to the system we have, with connotations of a wide divide between rich and poor, wars, lying by Governments, lying and abuses by big corporations, etc. Capital (as in a mountain of money or Capital goods such as vast amount of land or a whole factory as such) rules society. The ones with most/all of the wealth rule. it is a “Capital-cracy,” the rule of the super rich. In American the word is changed to mean something like ordinary people owning a fork or a small business, and being allowed to trade the work of their hand freely, which is not even something opposed by most people on the left.
What a Socialism is, is less clear, potentially entirely unclear, although it is true that there are plan economic tendencies attached to the word, and/or that it is a system of morally caring about people. Moral care about people comes first, everything else comes second. Nothing is allowed to overtake moral responsibility for others. That is important because in the time of Eugenics, (anti)Social Darwinism, survival of the fittest as interpreted in an animal way, such supposedly scientific principles where used to argue that unsuccessful people should just die or rot in their misery, because that was supposed to ultimately be better for humanity in the long run. Socialists reject that attitude. It is a vague definition, but keep in mind that it is a whole complex of experiences, ideas and emotions.
Americans seem to more keenly understand that a plan economy produces a dictatorship. That is the plus on the American side. European Nations seem to have a level of naivety here. In that sense the American definition of Socialism is not without its merit.
The American Oligarchy organized the red scare, to stamp out opposition to their Oligarchy. With that Capitalist violence (which Americans would perhaps rather call crony-Capitalist violence, in line with the changed meaning of words across the Atlantic), the Americans where ordered to adopt this vocabulary and view every opposition to Capitalism as a crime or sign of stupidity. Being a Communist or Socialist became the same thing, and suddenly they where all Stalinists, too.
You are apparently subject to American vocabulary and propaganda, and therefore you may have thought that Animal Farm was about Socialism. You have grown up in a system of propaganda, warping the meaning of words, so that in particular Capitalism suddenly does not have its abusive connotations anymore, and all the attention of negativity focuses on the opposition movements against the super large Corporations. Ironically, that is what 1984 is about: the warping of language.
First published: link.
Wikipedia and dictionaries
When reading (quickly scanning) Wikipedia about the word ‘Capital’, it seems that ideological infiltration has reached that platform (as is well known), even to the point of mentioning that the definition by Adam Smith (a very widely known and followed Capitalist author) is being used. Here it is pretended that Capital simply refers to any good by which one can make profit in trade, listing examples as if an arrow could be Capital to a hunter. This is simply not how the word is used.
They must care a lot about polluting the language with their ideologically motivated Newspeak to go to this length, something they are presumably doing without realizing it, as they have been themselves warped by following the mass media, the education system, etc. Whatever it takes to try to equate “Capital·ism” with the idea that this merely refers to a trade-economy, rather than the rule of society by those who own the Capital in society. One problem for the Americans is that the anti-Capitalist movement has started as a European movement, and only has a muted presence in the USA (though not South America).
Dictionaries seem to be less infiltrated. Here we see more clearly that the word ‘Capital’ is a synonym for ‘gigantic’ (Dutch dictionary). The usual examples are given: the Capital city, a Capital house (very big house), “(…) they earned Capitals with their trade in drugs (…)” (transliterated to English). An English dictionary seems to be clear as well, listing as the second adjective to the term that it means: principal, highly important. The first adjective mentions its relation to the financial industry, where indeed they are typically dealing with large sums of money, because that is the excess that rich people have gathered, and which they are going to play games to get even richer. An arrow costs somewhere in the order of 10,- euro (a one hour wage for a cleaner). This is not something a banker is going to have a meeting about. with that, the meaning of ‘very large wealth’ is also established (indirectly), and with that is implied that Capital·ism is about the rule of society by the large amounts of wealth (generally). I suppose one can see the term as a lesser version of Plutocracy, which is indeed what Capital·ism becomes after a certain amount of time (two to three centuries or so).
Capital·ism means: … taking side with Capital … taking sides with what is gigantic … distinctive practice of what is highly important (etc). It is deceptive to call the garbage bag in which a homeless person is collecting used cans from the street ‘Capital,’ and then to pretend that ‘Capitalism’ is the ideology which advocates the practice of society and economics associated with the importance of such common hand tools. The word ‘Capital’ looses its useful place in the language, after such contorted re-definitions which veer away radically from how the common people use the word. By this redefinition, the symbol of the Communist movement is a particularly Capitalist symbol because it shows to supposedly ‘Capital goods‘: a hammer and a sickle. Even though there are reasons to claim that Communism is a version of Capitalism called State Capitalism, this has nothing to do with those tools, but rather again with the centralized control over the Capital goods, the central planning (implied ownership) over large factories, and other overarching powers over the economy, State and society in general (indeed, as practiced from the Capital city). In no way did the Communists themselves see their symbol with common work tools as symbolising ‘Capitalism.’ Since a human hand is a tool in itself, the next step could be to pretend that everyone is a Capitalist because they have hands, thereby making it impossible to oppose the Capitalist ideology.
Although by taste and personal preference, or the need of the debate, it is possible to put the bar for Capital higher or lower, it will always have to be defined as the higher level of ownership of wealth, goods, property or other, in order to have its meaning. in some cases ‘Capital’ can refer to a small bakery or even merely one significant oven, as compared to the generalized absence thereof (people without it), in other cases it can refer to the ownership of worldwide holdings of almost unimaginable significance, outstripping the economic output of small countries. The point being that it is on the side of the higher wealth (however one wishes to express that precisely, as money, property, with or without land as part of it, as the case might require) versus the lower wealth (the workers, those without, the far lesser versions of the same, etc).