The term was often used in order to differentiate traditional (or ideal) socialism from de facto socialism as found in the Eastern Bloc. Real referred to the fact that not all utopian promises of the socialism and communism could be implemented in the beginning, and so in reality the real socialism was only a stepping stone towards the ideal, promised socialism.
The term was also used by the anti-communist opposition in an ironical criticism. Real socialism was characterized by domination of communist party in all spheres of public life, and spreading to private life. The communist party had monopoly in legislation, law enforcement, ideology and economy. Censorship was widespread.