The Owenites in England and the Fourierists in France were considered "respectable" socialists, while working-class movements that "proclaimed the necessity of total social change" denoted themselves communists.
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However, by 1888 Marxists employed the term "socialism" in place of "communism", which had come to be considered an old-fashion synonym for socialism.
It was not until 1917 after the Bolshevik revolution that "socialism" came to refer to a distinct stage between capitalism and communism, introduced by Vladimir Lenin as a means to defend the Bolshevik seizure of power against traditional Marxist criticisms that Russia's productive forces were not sufficiently developed for socialist revolution.
A distinction between "communist" and "socialist" as descriptors of political ideologies arose in 1918 after the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party renamed itself to the All-Russian Communist Party, where communist came to specifically mean socialists who supported the politics and theories of Leninism, Bolshevism and later Marxism–Leninism, The words "socialism" and "communism" eventually accorded with the adherents' and opponents' cultural attitude towards religion.
In Christian Europe, communism was believed to be the atheist way of life.
It has been claimed – though controversially – that there were elements of socialist thought in the politics of classical Greek philosophers Plato In the period right after the French Revolution, activists and theorists like François-Noël Babeuf, Étienne-Gabriel Morelly, Philippe Buonarroti and Auguste Blanqui influenced the early French labour and socialist movements.