Bronwen and I enjoy laughing at people who accuse Obama of being a socialist, and who use "socialism" as a blanket epithet for things that they don't really understand. It's true that, applied to the extreme, socialism can end up as Communism. But it's also true that public libraries and fire departments here in the United States are not capitalist ventures: they're state-run services. And there are many countries that manage to make good and practical use of socialism in some cases - universal health coverage, for example, or welfare states where the citizens don't have to worry about what will happen to them if they get sick or old.
There is a fantastic article by Jacob Weisberg at Slate today that explores this issue in a manner that I found to be most enlightening.
For the record, I'm not afraid of state-run services. I'll gladly pay higher taxes for the government to take better care of the sick, the young, the poor and the elderly, not to mention me.