What Is Communism?

Communism is a political and financial ideology that positions itself in opposition to liberal democracy and capitalism, advocating as a substitute for a classless system wherein the technique of manufacturing are owned communally and personal property is nonexistent or severely curtailed.

What Is Communism? Learn Its History, Pros, And Cons
What Is Communism? Learn Its History, Pros, And Cons


  • Communism is an financial ideology that advocates for a classless society wherein all property and wealth are communally owned, as a substitute of being owned by people.
  • Visions of a society which may be thought-about communist appeared as way back because the 4th Century BCE.
  • Trendy communist ideology started to develop through the French Revolution, and its seminal tract, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ “Communist Manifesto,” was printed in 1848.
  • Communism was pitted in opposition to capitalism, which depends on democracy and manufacturing of capital to kind a society.
  • Outstanding examples of communism had been the Soviet Union and China. Whereas the previous collapsed in 1991, the latter has drastically revised its financial system to incorporate some capitalism.



Understanding Communism

“Communism” is an umbrella time period that encompasses a variety of ideologies. The time period’s fashionable utilization originated with Victor d’Hupay, an 18th-century French aristocrat who advocated dwelling in “communes” wherein all property could be shared, and “all could profit from everyone’s work.”

The thought was hardly new, even at the moment, nevertheless: The Bible’s E book of Acts describes 1st-Century Christian communities holding property in widespread, based on a system generally known as koinonia, which impressed later non secular teams such because the Seventeenth-century English “Diggers” to reject non-public possession.1


The Communist Manifesto

Trendy communist ideology started to develop through the French Revolution, and its seminal tract, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ “Communist Manifesto,” was printed in 1848. That pamphlet rejected the Christian tenor of earlier communist philosophies, laying out a materialist and—its proponents declare—scientific evaluation of the historical past and future trajectory of human society. “The historical past of all hitherto current society,” Marx and Engels wrote, “is the historical past of sophistication struggles.”2

The Communist Manifesto offered the French Revolution as a significant historic turning level when the “bourgeoisie”—the service provider class that was within the means of consolidating management over the “technique of manufacturing”—overturned the feudal energy construction and ushered within the fashionable, capitalist period. That revolution changed the medieval class wrestle, which pitted the the Aristocracy in opposition to the serfs, with the trendy one pitting the bourgeois homeowners of capital in opposition to the “proletariat,” the working class who promote their labor for wages.

Within the Communist Manifesto and later works, Marx, Engels, and their followers advocated for (and predicted as traditionally inevitable) a worldwide proletarian revolution, which might usher in first an period of socialism, then of communism.

In Communist principle, the ultimate stage of human growth would mark the top of sophistication wrestle and due to this fact of historical past: All individuals would stay in social equilibrium, with out class distinctions, household buildings, faith, or property. The state, too, would “wither away.”

The Communist financial system would perform, as a well-liked Marxist slogan places it, “from every based on his capability, to every based on his wants.”3


The Soviet Union

Marx and Engels’ theories would not be examined in the true world till after their deaths. In 1917, throughout World Conflict I, an rebellion in Russia toppled the czar and sparked a civil struggle that finally noticed a bunch of radical Marxists led by Vladimir Lenin achieve energy in 1922. The Bolsheviks, as this group was referred to as, based the Soviet Union on former Imperial Russian territory and tried to place communist principle into observe.4

Previous to the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin had developed the Marxist principle of vanguardism, which argued {that a} close-knit group of politically enlightened elites was essential to usher within the increased phases of financial and political evolution: socialism and at last communism.

Lenin died shortly after the civil struggle ended, however the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” led by his successor Joseph Stalin, would pursue brutal ethnic and ideological purges in addition to compelled agricultural collectivization. Tens of tens of millions died throughout Stalin’s rule, from 1922 to 1953, on high of the tens of tens of millions who died because of the struggle with Nazi Germany.5

Moderately than withering away, the Soviet state grew to become a robust one-party establishment that prohibited dissent and occupied the “commanding heights” of the financial system. Agriculture, the banking system, and industrial manufacturing had been topic to quotas and value controls specified by a sequence of 5 12 months Plans.4

This method of central planning enabled speedy industrialization, and from 1950 to 1965, development in Soviet gross domestic product (GDP) outpaced that of the U.S. Usually, nevertheless, the Soviet financial system grew at a a lot slower tempo than its capitalist, democratic counterparts.6

Weak client spending was a selected drag on development. Central planners’ emphasis on heavy trade led to continual underproduction of client items, and lengthy strains at understocked grocery shops had been a fixture of Soviet life even during times of relative prosperity.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 after a push to reform the financial and political system and supply higher room for personal enterprise and free expression. These reform pushes, generally known as perestroika and glasnost, respectively, did not halt the financial decline the Soviet Union suffered within the Nineteen Eighties and certain hastened the Communist state’s finish by loosening its grip on sources of dissent.7


Communist China

In 1949, after greater than 20 years of struggle with the Chinese language Nationalist Social gathering and Imperial Japan, Mao Zedong’s Communist Social gathering gained management of China to kind the world’s second main Marxist-Leninist state.8 Mao allied the nation with the Soviet Union, however the Soviets’ insurance policies of de-Stalinization and “peaceable coexistence” with the capitalist West led to a diplomatic break up with China round 1958.9

Mao’s rule in China resembled Stalin’s in its violence, deprivation, and insistence on ideological purity. In the course of the Nice Leap Ahead from 1958 to 1962, the Communist Social gathering ordered the agricultural inhabitants to provide huge portions of metal in an effort to jumpstart an industrial revolution in China.9

The identical interval’s Nice Chinese language Famine killed at the least 16 million individuals and maybe greater than 45 million.10 The Cultural Revolution, an ideological purge that lasted from 1966 till Mao’s demise in 1976, killed maybe an additional 1.6 million individuals and subjected tens of millions of others to political persecution.11

After Mao’s demise, Deng Xiaoping launched a sequence of market reforms that remained in impact beneath his successors. The U.S. started normalizing relations with China when President Nixon visited in 1972, previous to Mao’s demise.12

The Chinese language Communist Social gathering (CCP) stays in energy, presiding over a largely capitalist system, although state-owned enterprises proceed to kind a big a part of the financial system. Freedom of expression is considerably curtailed and significant opposition to the reining Communist Social gathering is not permitted. Briefly, it might take a miracle for the CCP to be ousted.131415


The 12 months marked the collapse of the Soviet Union and the top of the Chilly Conflict between that energy and the U.S.


The Chilly Conflict

The U.S. emerged from World Conflict II because the world’s richest and most militarily highly effective nation. As a liberal democracy that had simply defeated fascist dictatorships in two theaters, the nation—if not all of its individuals—felt a way of exceptionalism and historic function. So did the Soviet Union, its ally within the battle in opposition to Germany and the world’s solely revolutionary Marxist state. The 2 powers promptly divided Europe into spheres of political and financial affect: Winston Churchill referred to as this dividing line the “Iron Curtain.”16

The 2 superpowers, each of which possessed nuclear weapons after 1949, engaged in a protracted standoff generally known as the Chilly Conflict. The closest the U.S. got here to a direct army battle with the Soviet Union was the 1962 Cuban missile disaster.

The U.S. did battle a protracted struggle in Vietnam, nevertheless, wherein its army supported South Vietnamese forces combating the Chinese language- and Soviet-supported North Vietnamese military and South Vietnamese communist guerrillas. The U.S. withdrew from the struggle and Vietnam was united beneath communist rule in 1975.

The Chilly Conflict ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.17

Communism failed for a number of causes, together with an absence of revenue incentive amongst residents, the failure of central planning, and the affect of energy being seized by such a small variety of individuals, who then exploited it and gamed the system.



Why Did Communism Fail?

Whereas there was intensive examine of the explanations for communism’s failure, researchers have pinpointed a few widespread elements that contributed to its demise.

The primary is an absence of incentives amongst residents to provide for revenue. The revenue incentive results in competitors and innovation in society. However, a great citizen in a communist society was selflessly dedicated to societal causes and infrequently stopped to consider their very own welfare.18

The second motive for communism’s failure was the system’s inherent inefficiencies, resembling centralized planning. This type of planning requires aggregation and synthesis of huge quantities of information at a granular stage. As a result of all tasks had been deliberate centrally, this type of planning was additionally advanced. In a number of situations, development information was fudged or error-prone with a purpose to make information match into deliberate statistics and create an phantasm of progress.

The focus of energy within the fingers of a choose few additionally bred inefficiency and, paradoxically sufficient, supplied them with incentives to recreation the system for his or her profit and retain their maintain on energy. Corruption and laziness grew to become endemic options of this method and surveillance, resembling characterised East German and Soviet societies, was widespread. It additionally disincentivized industrious and hard-working individuals. In the long run, the financial system suffered.


What Is an Instance of Communism?

An instance of communism could be a commune the place individuals stay collectively and share obligations and possessions. Many of those communities perform properly, though they do are usually small in scale.


What International locations Are Nonetheless Communist?

Communism is the official type of authorities in China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea, and Vietnam. Nonetheless, these nations additionally abide by some capitalist ideas, are largely autocratic in nature, and do not mirror Marx’s definition of the time period.19


What Is the Distinction Between Communism and Socialism?

Each communism and socialism advocate public over non-public possession, champion equality, and search to present energy to the working class. Nonetheless, socialism is considered as a extra average ideology. Not like communism, it permits the continued existence of capitalism in some components of the financial system and favors gradual change over revolution.20


The Backside Line

Communism, as a principle, has been round for the reason that starting of humanity. Nonetheless, it was the French Revolution, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels who turned it into an influential political ideology.

Since then, the thought of a classless society wherein all property and wealth are communally owned has been tarnished considerably. Whereas it has existed harmoniously in smaller communities, on a bigger stage communism has up to now didn’t be efficiently carried out. The 2 main examples now we have are in Russia and China, the place communist leaders dominated with violence and suppression and infrequently gamed the system for their very own profit.

Some say this proves communism doesn’t work. Others argue that these regimes deviated from communism and shouldn’t, due to this fact, be thought-about as examples.


Liberty Magazine requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Britannica. “Communism.”
  2. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. “The Communist Manifesto,” Page 9. Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1955.
  3. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. “The Communist Manifesto,” Page xxviii. Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1955.
  4. Library of Congress. “Revelations From the Russian Archives.”
  5. History.com. “Joseph Stalin.”
  6. Texas National Security Review. “Assessing Soviet Economic Performance During the Cold War: A Failure of Intelligence?”
  7. U.S. Department of State – Office of the Historian. “Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, 1989.”
  8. U.S. Department of State – Office of the Historian. “The Chinese Revolution of 1949.”
  9. U.S. Department of State Archive. “Background Notes: China, August 1999.”
  10. Columbia University. “The Institutional Causes of China’s Great Famine, 1959-1961,” Page 1568.
  11. Harvard University. “For Whom the Bell Tolls: The Political Legacy of China’s Cultural Revolution.”
  12. U.S. Secretary of State – Office of the Historian. “Chronology of U.S.-China Relations, 1784-2000.”
  13. Human Rights Watch. “China.”
  14. Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Hong Kong 2022.”
  15. Council on Foreign Relations. “Political Participation in China: What’s Allowed Under Xi?”
  16. Library of Congress. “Churchill and the Great Republic.”
  17. U.S. Secretary of State – Office of the Historian. “The Collapse of the Soviet Union.”
  18. Marxists.org. “How to Be a Good Communist.”
  19. Britannica. “Which Countries Are Communist?”
  20. History.com. “How Are Socialism and Communism Different?
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Author: Mohammed A Bazzoun

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