Communism is a social structure in which classes are abolished and property is commonly controlled, as well as a political philosophy and social movement that advocates and aims to create such a society. Karl Marx, the father of communist thought, posited that communism would be the final stage in society, which would be achieved through a proletarian revolution and only possible after a socialist stage develops the productive forces, leading to a superabundance of goods and services. Pure communism” in the Marxian sense refers to a classless, stateless and oppression-free society where decisions on what to produce and what policies to pursue are made democratically, allowing every member of society to participate in the decision-making process in both the political and economic spheres of life. In modern usage, communism is often used to refer to the policies of the various communist states which were authoritarian governments that had ownership of all the means of production and centrally planned economies. Most communist governments based their ideology on Marxism-Leninism.
As a political ideology, communism is usually considered to be a branch of socialism; a broad group of economic and political philosophies that draw on the various political and intellectual movements with origins in the work of theorists of the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution. Communism attempts to offer an alternative to the problems with the capitalist market economy and the legacy of imperialism and nationalism. History Early communism Karl Heinrich Marx saw primitive communism as the original, hunter-gatherer state of humankind from which it arose.
For Marx, only after humanity was capable of producing surplus, did private property develop. In the history of Western thought, certain elements of the idea of a society based on common ownership of property can be traced back to ancient times . Examples include the Spartacus slave revolt in Rome. The fifth century Mazdak movement in what is now Iran has been described as “communistic” for challenging the enormous privileges of the noble classes and the clergy, criticizing the institution of private property and for striving for an egalitarian society.
At one time or another, various small communist communities existed, generally under the inspiration of Scripture. In the medieval Christian church, for example, some monastic communities and religious orders shared their land and other property (see religious communism and Christian communism). These groups often believed that concern with private property was a distraction from religious service to God and neighbor. Communist thought has also been traced back to the work of 16th century English writer Thomas More.
In his treatise Utopia (1516), More portrayed a society based on common ownership of property, whose rulers administered it through the application of reason. In the 17th century, communist thought arguably surfaced again in England. In 17th century England, a Puritan religious group known as the Diggers advocated the abolition of private ownership of land. Eduard Bernstein, in his 1895 Cromwell and Communism argued that several groupings in the English Civil War, especially the Diggers espoused clear communistic, agrarian ideals, and that Oliver Cromwell’s attitude to these groups was at best ambivalent and often hostile.
Criticism of the idea of private property continued into the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century, through such thinkers as Jean Jacques Rousseau in France. Later, following the upheaval of the French Revolution, communism emerged as a political doctrine. Francois Noel Babeuf, in particular, espoused the goals of common ownership of land and total economic and political equality among citizens. Various social reformers in the early 19th century founded communities based on common ownership.
But unlike many previous communist communities, they replaced the religious emphasis with a rational and philanthropic basis. Notable among them were Robert Owen, who founded New Harmony in Indiana (1825), and Charles Fourier, whose followers organized other settlements in the United States such as Brook Farm (1841–47). Later in the 19th century, Karl Marx described these social reformers as “utopian socialists” to contrast them with his program of “scientific socialism” (a term coined by Friedrich Engels).
Other writers described by Marx as “utopian socialists” included Saint-Simon. In its modern form, communism grew out of the socialist movement of 19th century Europe.  As the Industrial Revolution advanced, socialist critics blamed capitalism for the misery of the proletariat — a new class of urban factory workers who labored under often-hazardous conditions. Foremost among these critics were the German philosopher Karl Marx and his associate Friedrich Engels.
In 1848, Marx and Engels offered a new definition of communism and popularized the term in their famous pamphlet The Communist Manifesto. Engels, who lived in Manchester, observed the organization of the Chartist movement (see History of British socialism), while Marx departed from his university comrades to meet the proletariat in France and Germany. Growth of modern communism In the late 19th century, Russian Marxism developed a distinct character. The first major figure of Russian Marxism was Georgi Plekhanov.
Underlying the work of Plekhanov was the assumption that Russia, less urbanized and industrialized than Western Europe, had many years to go before society would be ready for proletarian revolution to occur, and a transitional period of a bourgeois democratic regime would be required to replace Tsarism with a socialist and later communist society. In Russia, the 1917 October Revolution was the first time any party with an avowedly Marxist orientation, in this case the Bolshevik Party, seized state power. The assumption of state power by the Bolsheviks generated a great deal of practical and theoretical debate within the Marxist movement.
Marx predicted that socialism and communism would be built upon foundations laid by the most advanced capitalist development. Russia, however, was one of the poorest countries in Europe with an enormous, largely illiterate peasantry and a minority of industrial workers. Marx had explicitly stated that Russia might be able to skip the stage of bourgeoisie capitalism. Other socialists also believed that a Russian revolution could be the precursor of workers’ revolutions in the West. The moderate Mensheviks opposed Lenin’s Bolshevik plan for socialist revolution before capitalism was more fully developed.
The Bolsheviks’ successful rise to power was based upon the slogans “peace, bread, and land” and “All power to the Soviets”, slogans which tapped the massive public desire for an end to Russian involvement in the First World War, the peasants’ demand for land reform, and popular support for the Soviets. The usage of the terms “communism” and “socialism” shifted after 1917, when the Bolsheviks changed their name to the Communist Party and installed a single party regime devoted to the implementation of socialist policies under Leninism. The Second International had dissolved in 1916 over national ivisions, as the separate national parties that composed it did not maintain a unified front against the war, instead generally supporting their respective nation’s role. Lenin thus created the Third International (Comintern) in 1919 and sent the Twenty-one Conditions, which included democratic centralism, to all European socialist parties willing to adhere. In France, for example, the majority of the French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO) party split in 1921 to form the French Section of the Communist International (SFIC).
Henceforth, the term “Communism” was applied to the objective of the parties founded under the umbrella of the Comintern. Their program called for the uniting of workers of the world for revolution, which would be followed by the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat as well as the development of a socialist economy. Ultimately, if their program held, there would develop a harmonious classless society, with the withering away of the state.
A map of countries who declared themselves to be socialist states under the Marxist-Leninist or Maoist definition (in other words, “communist states”) in 1980. The map also includes Communist alignment: either to the Soviet Union, China or independent During the Russian Civil War (1918–1922), the Bolsheviks nationalized all productive property and imposed a policy of war communism, which put factories and railroads under strict government control, collected and rationed food, and introduced some bourgeois management of industry.
After three years of war and the 1921 Kronstadt rebellion, Lenin declared the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1921, which was to give a “limited place for a limited time to capitalism. ” The NEP lasted until 1928, when Joseph Stalin achieved party leadership, and the introduction of the first Five Year Plan spelled the end of it. Following the Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks formed in 1922 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), or Soviet Union, from the former Russian Empire.
Following Lenin’s democratic centralism, the Communist parties were organized on a hierarchical basis, with active cells of members as the broad base; they were made up only of elite cadres approved by higher members of the party as being reliable and completely subject to party discipline. After World War II, Communists consolidated power in Eastern Europe, and in 1949, the Communist Party of China (CPC) led by Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China, which would later follow its own ideological path of
Communist development. Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Angola, and Mozambique were among the other countries in the Third World that adopted or imposed a pro-Communist government at some point. Although never formally unified as a single political entity, by the early 1980s almost one-third of the world’s population lived in Communist states, including the former Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China. By comparison, the British Empire had ruled up to one-quarter of the world’s population at its greatest extent.
Communist states such as the Soviet Union and China succeeded in becoming industrial and technological powers, challenging the capitalists’ powers in the arms race and space race and military conflicts. Cold War years USSR postage stamp depicting the communist state launching the first artificial satellite Sputnik 1. By virtue of the Soviet Union’s victory in the Second World War in 1945, the Soviet Army had occupied nations in both Eastern Europe and East Asia; as a result, communism as a movement spread to many new countries.
This expansion of communism both in Europe and Asia gave rise to a few different branches of its own, such as Maoism. Communism had been vastly strengthened by the winning of many new nations into the sphere of Soviet influence and strength in Eastern Europe. Governments modeled on Soviet Communism took power with Soviet assistance in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Romania. A Communist government was also created under Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia, but Tito’s independent policies led to the expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Cominform, which had replaced the Comintern.
Titoism, a new branch in the world communist movement, was labeled deviationist. Albania also became an independent Communist nation after World War II. By 1950, the Chinese Communists held all of Mainland China, thus controlling the most populous nation in the world. Other areas where rising Communist strength provoked dissension and in some cases led to actual fighting through conventional and guerrilla warfare include the Korean War, Laos, many nations of the Middle East and Africa, and notably succeeded in the case of the Vietnam War against the military power of the United States and its allies.
With varying degrees of success, Communists attempted to unite with nationalist and socialist forces against what they saw as Western imperialism in these poor countries. Fear of communism A 1947 propaganda book published by the Catechetical Guild Educational Society “warning of the dangers” of a Communist takeover. With the exception of the Soviet Union’s, China’s and the Italian resistance movement’s great contribution in World War II, communism was seen as a rival, and a threat to western democracies and capitalism for most of the twentieth century.
This rivalry peaked during the Cold War, as the world’s two remaining superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, polarized most of the world into two camps of nations (characterized in the West as “The Free World” vs. “Behind the Iron Curtain”); supported the spread of their economic and political systems (capitalism and democracy vs. communism); strengthened their military power, developed new weapon systems and stockpiled nuclear weapons; competed with each other in space exploration; and even fought each other through proxy client nations.
Near the beginning of the Cold War, on February 9, 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin accused 205 Americans working in the State Department of being “card-carrying Communists”. The fear of communism in the U. S. spurred aggressive investigations and the red-baiting, blacklisting, jailing and deportation of people suspected of following Communist or other left-wing ideology. Many famous actors and writers were put on a “blacklist” from 1950 to 1954, which meant they would not be hired and would be subject to public disdain. After the collapse of the Soviet Union
A map of countries who declare themselves to be socialist states under the Marxist-Leninist or Maoist definition (in other words, “communist states”) today. The map also includes Communist alignment: either to China or independent In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union and relaxed central control, in accordance with reform policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). The Soviet Union did not intervene as Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary all abandoned Communist rule by 1990.
In 1991, the Soviet Union itself dissolved. By the beginning of the 21st century, states controlled by Communist parties under a single-party system include the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, and informally North Korea. Communist parties, or their descendant parties, remain politically important in many countries. President Dimitris Christofias of Cyprus is a member of the Progressive Party of Working People, but the country is not run under single-party rule. In South Africa, the Communist Party is a partner in the ANC-led government.
In India, communists lead the governments of three states, with a combined population of more than 115 million. In Nepal, communists hold a majority in the parliament. The People’s Republic of China has reassessed many aspects of the Maoist legacy; and the People’s Republic of China, Laos, Vietnam, and, to a far lesser degree, Cuba have reduced state control of the economy in order to stimulate growth. The People’s Republic of China runs Special Economic Zones dedicated to market-oriented enterprise, free from central government control.
Several other communist states have also attempted to implement market-based reforms, including Vietnam. Theories within Marxism as to why communism in Eastern Europe was not achieved after socialist revolutions pointed to such elements as the pressure of external capitalist states, the relative backwardness of the societies in which the revolutions occurred, and the emergence of a bureaucratic stratum or class that arrested or diverted the transition press in its own interests. Scott and Marshall, 2005) Marxist critics of the Soviet Union, most notably Trotsky, referred to the Soviet system, along with other Communist states, as “degenerated” or “deformed workers’ states”, arguing that the Soviet system fell far short of Marx’s communist ideal and he claimed the working class was politically dispossessed. The ruling stratum of the Soviet Union was held to be a bureaucratic caste, but not a new ruling class, despite their political control.
Anarchists who adhere to Participatory economics claim that the Soviet Union became dominated by powerful intellectual elites who in a capitalist system crown the proletariat’s labor on behalf of the bourgeoisie. Non-Marxists, in contrast, have often applied the term to any society ruled by a Communist Party and to any party aspiring to create a society similar to such existing nation-states. In the social sciences, societies ruled by Communist Parties are distinct for their single party control and their socialist economic bases.
While some social and political scientists applied the concept of “totalitarianism” to these societies, others identified possibilities for independent political activity within them, and stressed their continued evolution up to the point of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, Marxist revolutionaries are conducting armed insurgencies in India, Philippines, Peru, Bangladesh, Iran, Turkey, and Colombia. Marxist schools of communism
Self-identified communists hold a variety of views, including Marxism-Leninism, Trotskyism, council communism, Luxemburgism, anarchist communism, Christian communism, and various currents of left communism. However, the offshoots of the Marxist-Leninist interpretations of Marxism are the most well-known of these and have been a driving force in international relations during most of the 20th century. Marxism Like other socialists, Marx and Engels sought an end to capitalism and the systems which they perceived to be responsible for the exploitation of workers.
But whereas earlier socialists often favored longer-term social reform, Marx and Engels believed that popular revolution was all but inevitable, and the only path to the socialist state. According to the Marxist argument for communism, the main characteristic of human life in class society is alienation; and communism is desirable because it entails the full realization of human freedom. Marx here follows Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in conceiving freedom not merely as an absence of restraints but as action with content.
According to Marx, Communism’s outlook on freedom was based on an agent, obstacle, and goal. The agent is the common/working people; the obstacles are class divisions, economic inequalities, unequal life-chances, and false consciousness; and the goal is the fulfillment of human needs including satisfying work, and fair share of the product. They believed that communism allowed people to do what they want, but also put humans in such conditions and such relations with one another that they would not wish to exploit, or have any need to.
Whereas for Hegel the unfolding of this ethical life in history is mainly driven by the realm of ideas, for Marx, communism emerged from material forces, particularly the development of the means of production. Marxism holds that a process of class conflict and revolutionary struggle will result in victory for the proletariat and the establishment of a communist society in which private ownership is abolished over time and the means of production and subsistence belong to the community.
Marx himself wrote little about life under communism, giving only the most general indication as to what constituted a communist society. It is clear that it entails abundance in which there is little limit to the projects that humans may undertake.  In the popular slogan that was adopted by the communist movement, communism was a world in which each gave according to their abilities, and received according to their needs.
The German Ideology (1845) was one of Marx’s few writings to elaborate on the communist future: “In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic. Marx’s lasting vision was to add this vision to a theory of how society was moving in a law-governed way toward communism, and, with some tension, a political theory that explained why revolutionary activity was required to bring it about. In the late 19th century, the terms “socialism” and “communism” were often used interchangeably. However, Marx and Engels argued that communism would not emerge from capitalism in a fully developed state, but would pass through a “first phase” in which most productive property was owned in common, but with some class differences remaining.
The “first phase” would eventually evolve into a “higher phase” in which class differences were eliminated, and a state was no longer needed. Lenin frequently used the term “socialism” to refer to Marx and Engels’ supposed “first phase” of communism and used the term “communism” interchangeably with Marx and Engels’ “higher phase” of communism. These later aspects, particularly as developed by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, provided the underpinning for the mobilizing features of 20th century Communist parties. Marxism-Leninism
Marxism-Leninism is a version of socialism adopted by the Soviet Union and most Communist Parties across the world today. It shaped the Soviet Union and influenced Communist Parties worldwide. It was heralded as a possibility of building communism via a massive program of industrialization and collectivization. Historically, under the ideology of Marxism-Leninism the rapid development of industry, and above all the victory of the Soviet Union in the Second World War occurred alongside a third of the world being lead by Marxist-Leninist inspired parties.
Despite the fall of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries, many communist Parties of the world today still lay claim to uphold the Marxist-Leninist banner. Marxism-Leninism expands on Marxists thoughts by bringing the theories to what Lenin and other Communists considered, the age of capitalist imperialism, and a renewed focus on party building, the development of a socialist state, and democratic centralism as an organizational principle. Lenin adapted Marx’s urban revolution to Russia’s agricultural conditions, sparking the “revolutionary nationalism of the poor”.
The pamphlet What is to be Done? (1902), proposed that the (urban) proletariat can successfully achieve revolutionary consciousness only under the leadership of a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries — who can achieve aims only with internal democratic centralism in the party; tactical and ideological policy decisions are agreed via democracy, and every member must support and promote the agreed party policy. The Bolshevik government was hostile to nationalism, especially to Russian nationalism, the “Great Russian chauvinism”, as an obstacle to establishing the proletarian dictatorship.
The revolutionary elements of Leninism — the disciplined vanguard party, a dictatorship of the proletariat, and class war. Stalinism “Stalinism” refers to the political system of the Soviet Union, and the countries within the Soviet sphere of influence, during the leadership of Joseph Stalin. The term usually defines the style of a government rather than an ideology. The ideology was “Marxism-Leninism theory”, reflecting that Stalin himself was not a theoretician, in contrast to Marx and Lenin, and prided himself on maintaining the legacy of Lenin as a founding father for the Soviet Union and the future Socialist world.
Stalinism is an interpretation of their ideas, and a certain political regime claiming to apply those ideas in ways fitting the changing needs of society, as with the transition from “socialism at a snail’s pace” in the mid-twenties to the rapid industrialization of the Five-Year Plans. The main contributions of Stalin to communist theory The groundwork for the Soviet policy concerning nationalities, laid in Stalin’s 1913 work Marxism and the National Question, praised by Lenin. Socialism in One Country,
The theory of aggravation of the class struggle along with the development of socialism, a theoretical base supporting the repression of political opponents as necessary. Maoism Maoism is the Marxist-Leninist trend of Communism associated with Mao Zedong and was mostly practiced within the People’s Republic of China. Khrushchev’s reforms heightened ideological differences between the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union, which became increasingly apparent in the 1960s.
As the Sino-Soviet Split in the international Communist movement turned toward open hostility, China portrayed itself as a leader of the underdeveloped world against the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Parties and groups that supported the Communist Party of China (CPC) in their criticism against the new Soviet leadership proclaimed themselves as ‘anti-revisionist’ and denounced the CPSU and the parties aligned with it as revisionist “capitalist-roaders. The Sino-Soviet Split resulted in divisions amongst communist parties around the world. Notably, the Party of Labour of Albania sided with the People’s Republic of China. Effectively, the CPC under Mao’s leadership became the rallying forces of a parallel international Communist tendency. The ideology of CPC, Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought (generally referred to as ‘Maoism’), was adopted by many of these groups. After Mao’s death and his replacement by Deng Xiaoping, the international Maoist movement diverged.
One sector accepted the new leadership in China; a second renounced the new leadership and reaffirmed their commitment to Mao’s legacy; and a third renounced Maoism altogether and aligned with Albania. Non-Marxist schools The dominant forms of communism, such as Leninism, Trotskyism and Maoism, are based on Marxism, but non-Marxist versions of communism (such as Christian communism and anarchist communism) also exist and are growing in importance since the fall of the Soviet Union. Anarcho-communism Some of Marx’s contemporaries espoused similar ideas, but differed in their views of how to reach to a classless society.
Following the split between those associated with Marx and Mikhail Bakunin at the First International, the anarchists formed the International Workers Association. Anarchists argued that capitalism and the state were inseparable and that one could not be abolished without the other. Anarchist-communists such as Peter Kropotkin theorized an immediate transition to one society with no classes. Anarcho-syndicalism became one of the dominant forms of anarchist organization, arguing that labor unions, as opposed to Communist parties, are the organizations that can change society.
Consequently, many anarchists have been in opposition to Marxist communism to this day. Anarchist communists propose that the freest form of social organisation would be a society composed of self-governing communes with collective use of the means of production, organized by direct democracy, and related to other communes through federation. However, some anarchist communists oppose the majoritarian nature of direct democracy, feeling that it can impede individual liberty and favor consensus democracy.
Christian communism Christian communism is a form of religious communism centered on Christianity. It is a theological and political theory based upon the view that the teachings of Jesus Christ urge Christians to support communism as the ideal social system. Christian communists trace the origins of their practice to teachings in the New Testament, such as this one from Acts of the Apostles at chapter 2 and verses 42, 44, and 45: 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and in fellowship [… 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. (King James Version) Christian communism can be seen as a radical form of Christian socialism. Also, due to the fact that many Christian communists have formed independent stateless communes in the past, there is also a link between Christian communism and Christian anarchism. Christian communists may or may not agree with various parts of Marxism.
Christian communists also share some of the political goals of Marxists, for example replacing capitalism with socialism, which should in turn be followed by communism at a later point in the future. However, Christian communists sometimes disagree with Marxists (and particularly with Leninists) on the way a socialist or communist society should be organized. Criticism Part of this criticism is on the policies adopted by one-party states ruled by Communist parties (known as “Communist states”). Critics are specially focused on their economic performance compared to market based economies.
Their human rights records are thought to be responsible for the flight of refugees from communist states, and are alleged by some scholars to be responsible for famines, purges and warfare resulting in deaths far in excess of previous empires, capitalist or Axis regimes. Some writers, such as Courtois, argue that the actions of Communist states were the inevitable (though sometimes unintentional) result of Marxist principles;thus, these authors present the events occurring in those countries, particularly under Stalin and Mao, as an argument against Marxism itself.
Some critics were former Marxists, such as Wittfogel, who applied Marx’s concept of “Oriental despotism” to Communist states such as the Soviet Union, Silone, Wright and Koestler (among other writers) who contributed essays to the book The God that Failed (the title refers not to the Christian God but to Marxism). Czeslaw Milosz, author of the influential essay The Captive Mind, was an example of a sceptic holding a party post, that of cultural attache. There have also been more direct criticisms of Marxism, such as criticisms of the labor theory of value or Marx’s predictions.
Nevertheless, Communist parties outside of the Warsaw Pact, such as the Communist parties in Western Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa, differed greatly. Economic criticisms of communal and/or government property are described under criticisms of socialism. Conclusion While the turn of the nineteenth century ushered in a wave of socialist ideology that gained much momentum in the art, culture, and politics of Latin America, with the new millennium came a waning tide for socialist deals and movements. The twentieth century witnessed varieties of communist movements in Latin America, including international Marxists, Fidelistas, guerrilla insurgents, and communist parties participating in the political process. Although democracy seems to have outlasted the alternatives, the book is not closed on the future of the partially consolidated and still transitioning democratic regimes of the region.
With continued economic and political instability and an exceptionally large income gap, Latin America might be ripe for renewed Marxist appeals, as it was in the late nineteenth century. Although guerrilla insurgents and socialist parties remain and leftist coalitions may be securing power in states such as El Salvador, the future may likely see a rise in new forms of statism and authoritarianism, but a return to the failed model of Marxist-Leninism or even a resurgence of strong Marxist movements is unlikely.