"The theory of the Communism may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."
- Karl Marx
Communism refers to a theoretical stateless system of social organization and a political movement based on common ownership of the means of production. As a political movement, Communists have often sought to establish a global classless society by gaining control of the state and confiscating all productive private property. Communism is generally considered the opposite of capitalism.
Communist rule is characterized by large scale starvation as a tool of policy implementation, sending political opponents to concentration camps, genocide, mass executions, denial of individual rights and property rights, and a very weak economy or gradually weakening economy.
Schools of communism
Theoretically communism (written with a small c ) is an idea of a stateless society which, according to communist belief, will be "classless" society. This theory of classlessness is a fundamentally flawed concept. According to the The Columbia Encyclopedia, "communism fundamentally, a system of social organization in which property (especially real property and the means of production) is held in common." However in modern sense, the term Communism (written with a capital C ) refers to a political movement the aim of which is the overthrow of the capitalist order by revolutionary means. The theories of Karl Marx, modified by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, founded the modern Communist movement. Lenin emphasized the role of the party. In classical Marxism, communism refers to a supposed "final phase of history", as described by Communist theorist Friedrich Engels, at which time the state would have "withered away" This is why the term "Communist state" may sound like an oxymoron judging the classical Marxist theory. However the countries in which Communist parties formed governments are described as "Communist states" is standard scholarship and the Communist states described themselves as "Socialist states". In modern usage, Communism refers to "a doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the official ideology of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics" and " a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production".
Communism can be divided into three main schools of thought: Marxist school of communism, anarcho-communism and religious communism. Among these, the Marxist school of communism is the most widely known school of communism and form the official ideology of all significant historical and contemporary Communist parties. There are many Marxist schools of communism: Leninism, Marxism-Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism, Hoxhaism, Titoism, Eurocommunism, Luxemburgism, Council communism, Juche and Songun, Castroism, Prachanda Path etc. Most of these schools are named after the people who formulated the basic principles of the respective ideas. There are slight differences and internal conflicts (in some cases) among these ideas, but the basic beliefs of all the ideas are same: overthrowing of the capitalist system and abolition of private property, which they view as exploitative in nature.
Marxist schools of communism
- Leninism: Leninism refers to the political and economic theories of Lenin and his interpretations of Marxist theory. The term Leninism entered common usage in 1922. Two years later, in July 1924, at the fifth congress of the Communist International (Comintern), Soviet politician Grigory Zinoviev popularized Leninism as a Marxist ideological term denoting what Communists viewed as "revolutionary".
- Marxism-Leninism: Marxism-Leninism is a version of communism adopted by all former and contemporary Communist states and Communist parties. It emerged as the mainstream tendency among the Communist parties in the 1920s and was adopted as the ideological foundation of the Communist International during Stalin's era. The ideology of Marxism-Leninism was formulated by Stalin in his book The questions of Leninism.
- Stalinism: Stalinism refers to "the political, economic, and social principles and policies associated with Stalin; especially : the theory and practice of communism developed by Stalin from Marxism-Leninism and marked especially by rigid authoritarianism, widespread use of terror, and often emphasis on Russian nationalism". Stalin never used the term Stalinist to describe his political orientation, he called himself Marxist-Leninist. The term "Stalinism" was coined by Walter Duranty, the Moscow correspondent of the New York Times in the 1930s, and is in use since the 1930s. A central tenet of Stalinism is the thesis of "Socialism in One Country", put forth by Stalin, which believed that given the failures of Communist takeover in European countries from 1917-1921 except their own (Russia), the idea that an underdeveloped and agrarian country like Russia would be able to build socialism in the more industrialized parts of Europe, should be abandoned. According to the Stalinist concept of "Socialism in One Country", the Soviet Union should begin to strengthen itself internally. Characteristics of Stalinism include cult of personality, elimination of political rivals, centralized state control over all aspects of life including literature and the arts, use of terror tactics like show trials, a network of labor camps (Gulag), denunciations etc.
- Trotskyism: Trotskyism is the theory advocated by Leon Trotsky. After Lenin's death a conflict ensured between Stalin and Trotsky over state power. In the quest for state power, Trotsky and Stalin created a "faux ideological battlefield". Tortsky labeled the Stalinist USSR as "Degenerated workers' state" and Stalin described Trotsky as a "fascist". The core belief of Trotskyism is the theory of "Permanent Revolution" which was antagonistic to the theory of "Socialism in One Country". According to Trotsky's theory of "permanent revolution", a new "workers' state", as he described it, would not be able to hold out against the pressures of the rival capitalist world, so socialist seizure of state power should quickly take place in other countries as well. Communist parties which adhere to Trotsky's ideas describe themselves as "Trotskyist" while Communist parties which adhere to Stalin's ideas describe themselves as "Marxist-Leninist". The second group forms the majority among the Communists.
- Maoism: Maoism is the Marxist-Leninist trend of Communism established by Mao Zedong. Mao emphazized the role of the peasantry in a Communist revolution. The core belief of Maoism is "People's war", a concept according to which the Communist rebels, usually consisting of the peasants, will engage in guerrilla war tactics to surround the cities from the countryside for purpose of capturing state power.
- Hoxhaism: Hoxhaism is the Marxist-Leninist trend of Communism established by Albanian Communist leader Enver Hoxha. Hoxha viewed the the post-Stalinist Soviet Union and the post-1978 China as "social imperialist" and declared Albania to be the world's only legitimate Marxism-Leninist state. Hoxhaism is characterized by strict defense of Joseph Stalin's legacy. The basic characteristics of Hoxhaism included Stalinist organizational principles. Hoxhaism was mixture of Stalinism and Maoism.
- Titoism: Titoism is the Marxist-Leninist trend of Communism established by Josip Broz Tito, leader of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Titoism is characterized by policies and practices based on the principle that in each country, the means of attaining ultimate communist goals must be dictated by the conditions of that particular country, rather than by a pattern set in another country.
- Eurocommunism: Eurocommunism was a Marxist-Leninist trend of Communism adopted by many Communist parties in the Western Eurpe in the 1970s and 1980s. Influential Communist parties in the west, like the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) adopted Eurocommunism. Eurocommunism attempted to develop a Communist social transformation within the framework of Western European democracy and less aligned to the influence or control of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
- Luxemburgism: Luxemburgism is the interpretation of Marxist theory based on the writing of Rosa Luxemburg. Luxemburgism is characterized by its opposition to Stalinism while simultaneously opposing social democracy, but differs from Trotskyism in arguing that Lenin and Trotsky also made undemocratic errors. Luxemburg opposed the Leninist concept of "Democratic centralism"
- Council communism: Council communism or Council Marxism originated in Germany and the Netherlands in the 1920s. Council communism is characterized by opposition to both the Leninist concept of vanguard party and social democratic concept of parliamentarism, and believing in the concept of "workers' council". Council communists believe workers' councils arising in the factories and municipalities are the natural form of working class organization and governmental power. The Communist Workers' Party of Germany founded in April 1920 was the principal council communist organization.
- De Leonism: De Leonism is Marxism as interpreted by Daniel De Leon, leader of the Socialist Labor Party in the United States. De Leonism is somewhat similar to Luxemburgism and council communism as well as to anarcho-syndicalism. According to De Leonism, the working class will organize both in the political realm through a socialist political party, and in the workplaces through industrial unionism. At such time as the socialist political party is strong enough to get a majority vote at the polls, the industrial unions will have built enough presence in the workplaces to sieze control of the means of production and operate them collectively. At that time the government will be reorganized by the socialist party in power to place governance directly under workers councils as a dictatorship of the proletariat. De Leonism rejects Leninist conceptions of vanguard party and revolution.
- Juche and Songun: Juche and Songun are the official ideology of the Communist state North Korea. The core beliefs of Juche, as put forth by Kim Jong-il's On the Juche Idea, are: 1. The people must have independence (chajusong) in thought and politics, economic self-sufficiency, and self-reliance in defense, 2. Policy must reflect the will and aspirations of the masses and employ them fully in revolution and construction, 3. Methods of revolution and construction must be suitable to the situation of the country, 4. The most important work of revolution and construction is molding people ideologically as communists and mobilizing them to constructive action. In practice, chajusong is the absolute dictatorship of the Communist leadership rather than independence of people's thoughts. The Juche outlook requires absolute loyalty to the revolutionary party (Workers' Party of Korea) and leader (Kim Jong-il). Songun, formulated in the mid-1990s, designated the military as the main revolutionary force in North Korea.
- Castroism: Castroism is a Marxist-Leninist trend of Communism established by Cuban Communist dictator Fidel Castro. Castroism is characterized by its focus in the practice and theory behind the revolution and the Communist government in Cuba and advocacy of Cuban nationalism and Latin American solidarity.
- Prachanda Path: Prachanda Path is a Marxist-Leninist trend of Communism established by Prachanda, leader of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Proclaimed in 2001, it is an extension of Marxism, Leninism and Maoism totally based on home-ground politics of Nepal.
One thing should be remembered that despite so many different names, all schools of communism resemble at one point, i.e. opposition of capitalism, property rights and individual freedom. Some communists fought among themselves for power. For example, Trotsky opposed Stalin, but that does not justify Trotsky as a legitimate opposition to Stalin. Trotsky opposed Stalin to capture state power, not for the sake of liberty. According to Mises,
- "The truth is that Trotsky found only one fault with Stalin: that he, Stalin, was the dictator and not himself, Trotsky. In their feud they both were right. Stalin was right in maintaining that his regime was the embodiment of socialist principles. Trotsky was right in asserting that Stalinâ€™s regime had made Russia a hell."
Hoxhaism, Castroism, Juche and Songun are just regional variations of Stalinism. Luxemburgism and Council communism, despite their opposition to Lenin and Stalin, should not be equated with liberty because both ideas are collectivist ideas in which the individual is subordinate to the community, the individual has no right to lead life in his/her own way. Both Luxemburgism and Council communism advocate violent seizure of private property.
Non-Marxist schools of communism
The non-Marxist variant of communist thoughts are anarcho-communism and religious communism.
Anarcho-communism is one of the two ideologies adopted as guiding theoretical positions by the New Leftists, the other being Marxism-Leninism. Many leftists, who were disillusioned with Marxism-Leninism by the bureaucratic and statist tyranny of Stalinist, were attracted to anarcho-communism.
Anarcho-communism can be described as the theoretically form of communism, i.e. focusing on the hypothetical classless and stateless society instead of a Soviet-style government. Now the question rises, is anarcho-communism logical? Anarcho-communists wrongly beilive that the state is the protector of private property. The anti-statism of the anarcho-communists come from their hatred for private property. Since they view the state as protector of property, they believe "the only route toward abolition of property is by destruction of the State apparatus."
The difference of the anarcho-communists from the Marxist is that Marxists believe in a transitional phase between capitalist system and "communist society", which they describe as the "dictatorship of the proletariat", while on the other hand, anarchist-communists such as Peter Kropotkin theorized an immediate transition to a classless society without going through any transitory phase. This marks the difference between anarcho-communism and Marxist school of communism.
Marx and spread of communist ideas
The Communist movement originated in the industrializing countries of Europe during the 19th century. The modern communism is generally associated with The Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, which describes the communist ideal, and proposes strategies to advance this ideal. An early ideological split in the Communist movement was between the statist communists such as Marx who considered the state to be a valid tool in advancing communism, and the anarcho-communists, such as Mikhal Bakunin, who considered the state to necessarily be an oppressive institution and demanded that the Communist movement always act outside and in opposition to the state.
The dominance of the Marxist "statist" strategy was assured during the 20th century as Marx inspired revolutionaries gained control of the government in several countries, notably the former Russian empire, which became the USSR. During this period, Marxist theory developed into "Leninist" and "Maoist" theory while the actual system of government in these countries was often described as "Stalinist". Anarcho-communists persisted as a small movement, with brief success during the Russian and Spanish civil wars.
The process of establishing a communist society is often said to be initiated by the revolutionary overthrow of the wealthy, passes through a transitional period marked by the preparatory stage of socialism. Pure communism has never been implemented, it remains theoretical: communism is, in Marxist theory, the end-state, or the result of state socialism. The word is now mainly understood to refer to the political, economic, and social theory of Marxist thinkers, or life under conditions of Communist party rule.
In the late 19th century, Marxist theories motivated socialist parties across Europe, although their policies later developed along the lines of "reforming" capitalism, rather than overthrowing it. The exception was the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP).
Establishment of the first Communist state
One branch of the RSDLP, commonly known as the Bolsheviks and headed by Vladimir Lenin, toppled the Russian Provisional Government in the Russian Revolution of 1917. In 1918, this party changed its name to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), thus establishing the contemporary distinction between communism and socialism.
The Council of People's Commissar, consisted of Bolsheviks and described as "an administrative facade" by historian Richard Pipes, implemented orders from the Bolshevik Party. Lenin abolished legal procedures and turned justice over to Revolutionary Tribunals manned by, as stated by Pipes, "untrained but "class-conscious" laymen", and by the Cheka. The terror began from the very day Lenin seized power. The Bolshevik regime came to power through the Russian Civil War initiated by Lenin. Millions of people died in the civil war. The Bolsheviks later put the blame for the civil war on the counterrevolutionaries and the foreign entities who supported them; but according to Pipes, "the transformation of the war from a conflict between nations to one between classes had been a central plant in the Bolshevik platform long before 1917."
After coming to power, Lenin consolidated the power of the party which will be later inherited by Joseph Stalin. Civil liberties were destroyed under Lenin. Lenin paved the way for the cult of personality by banning factionalism within the Communist party, created totalitarian terror and justified the use of terror
Spread of Communism
After the success of the October Revolution in Russia, many socialist parties in other countries became communist parties, owing allegiance of varying degrees to the CPSU.
Coalition governments, which included Communists, were established in most Eastern European countries after the end of the World War II. But the Communists, with active Soviet help, destabilized existing governments and established Communist regimes. Communist regimes were formed in the Eastern European countries of Poland, Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany. These countries became satellite states of the Soviet Union and formed the Eastern Block. The Communists in the Eastern Block, after gaining control of the police, press and the radio, used it to spread Communist propaganda.
In 1949 the Communists in China, led by Mao Zedong, came to power and established the People's Republic of China. Among the other countries in the Third World that adopted a Communist form of government at some point were Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Angola, and Mozambique. By the early 1980s, almost one-third of the world's population lived under Communist states.
Communism in the West
Due to the inherently oppressive nature and the fact that it is fundamentally against human nature, communism never became a popular ideology in the United States, either before or after the establishment of the Communist Party USA in 1919.
Since the early 1970s, the term "Eurocommunism" was used to refer to the policies of Communist Parties in Western Europe, which sought to break with the tradition of uncritical and unconditional support of the Soviet Union. Such parties were politically active and electorally significant in France and Italy. With the collapse of the Communist governments in Eastern Europe from the late 1980s as the result of the policies of U.S. president Ronald Reagan and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Communism's influence has decreased dramatically in Europe.
Characteristics of Communism in practice
Mass killings and genocide
Mass killings occurred in the nations where Communist regimes were established. According to Rudolph Joseph Rummel, the killings done by Communist regimes are the result of "the marriage of an absolutist ideology [Marxism] with absolute power."
Communism on a large scale as it relates to human biology
Sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson, referring to ants, said that "Karl Marx was right, socialism works, it is just that he had the wrong species", meaning that while ants and other social insects appear to live in communist-like societies, they only do so because they are forced to do so from their basic biology, as they have relegated all reproductive tasks to one or a few individuals within the regular colony: worker ants, being sterile, need their ant-queen to survive as a colony and perpetuate their genes and individual ants cannot reproduce without a queen, thus being forced to live in centralized societies. Humans, unlike ants, do possess reproductive independence and can give birth to offspring without the need of a "queen". Humans therefore enjoy their maximum level of Darwinian fitness only when they look after themselves and their families, while finding innovative ways to use the societies they live in for their own benefit. On a very small scale Human social skills enable a certain degree of cooperation, however, as the scale of the system goes some individuals see the chance to game the system and increase their own fitness levels. As the number of people gaming the system from inside the ruling party or outside of the ruling party increases the workload becomes unsustainable and the economy collapses.
Causalities of Communism
According to The Black Book of Communism,
- "Communism has committed a multitude of crimes not only against individual human beings but also against world civilizations and natural cultures."
- 65 million in the People's Republic of China
- 20 million in the Soviet Union
- 2 million in Cambodia
- 2 million in North Korea
- 1.7 million in Africa
- 1.5 million in Afghanistan
- 1 million in the Communist states of Eastern Europe
- 1 million in Vietnam
- communism, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2008.
- The quote is taken from a variation of the English translation of Anti-DÃ¼hring by Friedrich Engels, Part III: Socialism - "The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production in the first instance into state property. But, in doing this, it abolishes itself as proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, abolishes also the state as state. Society thus far, based upon class antagonisms, had need of the state, that is, of an organisation of the particular class, which was pro tempore the exploiting class, for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, and, therefore, especially, for the purpose of forcibly keeping the exploited classes in the condition of oppression corresponding with the given mode of production (slavery, serfdom, wage-labour). The state was the official representative of society as a whole; the gathering of it together into a visible embodiment. But it was this only in so far as it was the state of that class which itself represented, for the time being, society as a whole: in ancient times, the state of slave-owning citizens; in the Middle Ages, the feudal lords; in our own time, the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a state, is no longer necessary. The first act by virtue of which the state really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society â€” the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society â€” this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not "abolished". It dies out."
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