Last Updated: May 14, 2024


Communism, a political and economic ideology, envisions a society without class divisions or government, where the community collectively owns and manages resources. It emerged from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who critiqued the profound inequalities they observed during the Industrial Revolution. Communism seeks to eliminate the exploitation that arises from capitalist economic systems, proposing instead a community where each person contributes according to their abilities and receives according to their needs. Throughout the 20th century, various movements worldwide have attempted to implement communist ideals, often diverging significantly in practice from the original Marxist doctrines.

What is Communism?

Communism is a political and economic ideology aimed at creating a classless, stateless society where the means of production are owned communally. Developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, it advocates for a society where everyone contributes and receives according to their needs and abilities. Historically, communism has been implemented in various forms in countries like the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, often involving centralized control by a single party. While it aims for equality and communal ownership, critics point out that its application has frequently resulted in economic inefficiencies and restricted freedoms. Supporters, however, argue that true communism has yet to be fully realized.

Communism Examples in History

  1. Soviet Union (1922-1991)
  2. East Germany (German Democratic Republic, 1949-1990)
  3. Poland (People’s Republic of Poland, 1947-1989)
  4. Romania (Socialist Republic of Romania, 1947-1989)
  5. Hungary (Hungarian People’s Republic, 1949-1989)
  6. Czechoslovakia (1948-1990)
  7. Bulgaria (People’s Republic of Bulgaria, 1946-1990)
  8. Yugoslavia (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, 1943-1992)
  9. Albania (People’s Socialist Republic of Albania, 1946-1992)
  10. Mongolia (Mongolian People’s Republic, 1924-1992)
  11. Angola (People’s Republic of Angola, 1975-1992)
  12. Ethiopia (Derg and People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, 1974-1991)
  13. Mozambique (People’s Republic of Mozambique, 1975-1990)
  14. Benin (People’s Republic of Benin, 1975-1990)
  15. Somalia (Somali Democratic Republic, 1969-1991)
  16. Congo-Brazzaville (People’s Republic of the Congo, 1970-1992)
  17. Afghanistan (Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, 1978-1992)
  18. Kampuchea/Cambodia (Democratic Kampuchea, 1975-1979)
  19. South Yemen (People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, 1967-1990)
  20. Yemen (Provisional Government of Yemen, 1962-1967)
  21. Seychelles (1977-1993)
  22. Madagascar (Democratic Republic of Madagascar, 1975-1992)
  23. Grenada (People’s Revolutionary Government, 1979-1983)
  24. Nicaragua (Sandinista Nicaragua, 1979-1990)
  25. Burkina Faso (1983-1987 under Thomas Sankara)
  26. Tannu Tuva (Tuvan People’s Republic, 1921-1944)
  27. Bavarian Soviet Republic (1919)
  28. Hungarian Soviet Republic (1919)
  29. Paris Commune (1871)
  30. Slovak Soviet Republic (1919)
  31. Limerick Soviet (1919)
  32. Asturian Socialist Republic (1934)
  33. Soviet Republic of Naissaar (1917-1918)
  34. Finnish Socialist Workers’ Republic (1918)
  35. Persian Socialist Soviet Republic (1920-1921)
  36. Galician SSR (1936)
  37. Sichuan Soviet (1932-1935)
  38. Jiangxi-Fujian Soviet (1931-1934)
  39. Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic (1920-1925)
  40. Khorezm People’s Soviet Republic (1920-1925)
  41. Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam (1969-1976)
  42. Banteng Society (Indonesia, 1948)
  43. Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (1942-1945)
  44. Chinese Soviet Republic (Jiangxi Soviet, 1931-1934)
  45. Latvian SSR (1918-1920)

History of Communism

Early Foundations and Theoretical Development: Communism builds on the ideas of earlier socialist thinkers, who criticized the injustices of capitalism and the vast inequalities it produced. Marx and Engels argued that history was a series of class struggles and that a revolution by the proletariat (working class) was inevitable and necessary to overthrow the capitalist system and establish a socialist state, which would eventually evolve into a communist society.

20th Century and Global Impact: The 20th century saw the rise of several communist states, with the Soviet Union (established in 1922 following the Russian Revolution of 1917) being the first. Under the leadership of figures like Vladimir Lenin and later Joseph Stalin, the Soviet model of government emphasized centralized planning, state ownership of industry, and repression of political opposition. This model influenced numerous other countries, particularly after World War II, in regions such as Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

China and Maoism: Another significant development in communism was in China. Led by Mao Zedong, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took control in 1949 after a prolonged civil war. Maoism added elements to traditional Marxism-Leninism, such as the emphasis on peasant rather than purely proletarian revolution and continued revolutionary struggle even after gaining state power.

Cold War Influence: During the Cold War, communism was one of the two major ideological forces in global politics, opposing the capitalist democratic nations led by the United States. This period was marked by political tensions, military conflicts, and competitions for influence, such as the space race and arms race.

Decline and Modern Perspective: The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 marked significant setbacks for communism as a political force. Many former communist states transitioned to market economies and multi-party political systems. However, a few countries, like China, Cuba, and North Korea, have maintained governments heavily influenced by communist ideology, although in places like China, significant economic reforms have introduced elements of capitalism.

Who Started Communism?

Communism as a distinct political and economic ideology was primarily developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the mid-19th century. Their collaboration culminated in the publication of the “Communist Manifesto” in 1848, which laid out the principles of communism, advocating for the abolition of private property and the establishment of a classless, stateless society through the leadership of the proletariat, or working class. Marx’s further work, particularly “Das Kapital,” provided a detailed analysis of capitalism, which he saw as inherently exploitative and doomed to be overthrown by a proletarian revolution. While there were various socialist and communalistic ideas circulating before Marx and Engels, they were the ones who synthesized these into a coherent theory and strategy that became the foundation for modern communist movements worldwide.

What is the Main Goal of Communism?

The main goal of communism, as envisioned by its foundational theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, is to establish a classless, stateless society where all property is owned communally. In this society, the means of production (like factories and farms) are not owned by individual capitalists, but are controlled by the community as a whole, ostensibly to ensure that all members of society benefit equally from economic gains. The abolition of private property is intended to eliminate class distinctions, economic exploitation, and social inequalities, leading to a society where “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is the prevailing principle. This goal is rooted in the belief that removing economic disparities can lead to the eradication of all forms of social and political inequality, creating a harmonious and self-sustaining society.

Theory of Communism

The theory of communism, in simple terms, is an idea for creating a society where all property and resources are owned in common by the entire community, eliminating private ownership of things like factories and farms. This theory aims for a world where everyone works according to their ability and receives according to their needs, removing the distinctions between rich and poor. The ultimate goal is to have no classes or government needed to enforce rules, aiming for a society that operates on cooperation and equality.

Communism Symbol

Communism Symbol

The most universally recognized symbol of Communism is the hammer and sickle. This emblem combines a hammer and a sickle crossed over each other. The hammer represents industrial workers, while the sickle symbolizes agricultural workers—both key groups in the Communist movement. This symbol was originally adopted during the Russian Revolution and later became the official emblem of the Soviet Union, symbolizing the unity between the working class and the peasantry.

Communism Examples Today

As of now, there are five officially communist countries in the world, recognized by their governance through communist parties. These countries are:

  1. China – Governed by the Communist Party of China, it operates under a socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics.
  2. Vietnam – Ruled by the Communist Party of Vietnam, it follows a socialist-oriented market economy.
  3. Laos – The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party is in control, and the country follows a socialist model.
  4. Cuba – Governed by the Communist Party of Cuba, it has a planned socialist economy.
  5. North Korea – Officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it is ruled by the Workers’ Party of Korea under a socialist state structure, though it is often described as a totalitarian regime.

Examples of Communism in Everyday Life

  1. Worker Cooperatives: In a worker cooperative, employees own the business and participate in its management. Decisions are made democratically, often based on the principle of one vote per worker. This reflects the communist ideal of workers controlling the means of production.
  2. Community Gardens: These are plots of land communally tended by people who share the responsibilities and the harvest. This type of collective ownership and cooperative labor mirrors the communal aspects of communism.
  3. Housing Cooperatives: Similar to worker co-ops but in the housing sector, these cooperatives involve residents managing their own housing complexes, which are owned collectively. Decisions about maintenance, improvements, and rules are made democratically by the residents.
  4. Public Libraries and Parks: These facilities are funded by public resources and accessible to all, embodying the communist principle of shared resources for the benefit of the community.
  5. Credit Unions: As non-profit cooperative institutions, credit unions are owned and controlled by their members, with profits being returned to members in the form of better rates and services. This collective ownership model reflects aspects of communism.
  6. Open Source Software: The development of software that is freely available to use, modify, and distribute promotes a form of digital communal ownership. Contributors work toward a common goal without the direct incentive of profit, which aligns with communist ideals of collective effort and benefit.
  7. Academic and Research Collaborations: Many academic projects involve collaborative efforts where knowledge and findings are shared freely among the global community, reflecting the communal sharing of information and collective advancement.

Famous Communists

  1. Karl Marx – Often considered the father of communist theory, Marx co-authored the “Communist Manifesto” and wrote “Das Kapital,” which laid the intellectual groundwork for Marxism.
  2. Friedrich Engels – Marx’s collaborator and co-author of the “Communist Manifesto,” Engels also provided financial support to Marx and contributed significantly to the elaboration and spread of Marxist theory.
  3. Vladimir Lenin – The leader of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, Lenin was the founder of the Russian Communist Party, leader of the Soviet Union, and developer of Leninism, an adaptation of Marxist theory.
  4. Joseph Stalin – Succeeding Lenin, Stalin was the dictator of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953. He is known for his role in the industrialization of the USSR and for the severe repression of his era, including the Great Purge.
  5. Mao Zedong – The founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Mao was a key figure in the Chinese Communist Revolution and developed Maoism, a variant of Marxist-Leninist theory.
  6. Che Guevara – An Argentine Marxist revolutionary, Guevara played a significant role in the Cuban Revolution and became a symbol of rebellion and leftist revolutionary ideology worldwide.
  7. Fidel Castro – As the primary leader of the Cuban Revolution, Castro ruled Cuba from 1959 to 2008, transforming the country into a one-party communist state.
  8. Leon Trotsky – An influential figure in the Bolshevik Revolution and early Soviet politics, Trotsky was a founder of the Red Army and developed the theory of permanent revolution. He was later exiled and assassinated by agents of Stalin.
  9. Ho Chi Minh – The prime minister and president of North Vietnam, Ho led the Viet Minh independence movement from 1941 onward, successfully establishing communist control over Vietnam after the Vietnam War.
  10. Kim Il Sung – The founder of North Korea and its premier from 1948 to 1972, and president until his death in 1994, Kim Il Sung established a highly centralized and personalized form of communist rule.

Varieties of Communism

  1. Marxism: This form of communism is based directly on the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxism advocates for the overthrow of capitalism through a proletarian revolution and the establishment of a society in which all property is publicly owned.
  2. Leninism: Developed by Vladimir Lenin, this branch modifies Marxism to include the need for a vanguard party to lead the proletariat in revolution. Leninism was the basis for the Soviet model of government.
  3. Stalinism: Joseph Stalin’s interpretation of communism, characterized by centralized control, collectivization of agriculture, and rapid industrialization. It also involved significant use of state terror to maintain control.
  4. Maoism: A variant from China, developed by Mao Zedong, which emphasizes the role of the peasantry in revolution, continuous revolution, and the concept of “People’s War.”
  5. Trotskyism: Developed by Leon Trotsky, this interpretation stresses the importance of the worldwide revolution of the working class, continuous revolutionary zeal, and a rejection of bureaucracy in governance.
  6. Anarcho-communism: Advocates for a stateless, classless, moneyless society where decisions are made through direct democracy rather than a state. Prominent theorists include Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman.

What is the Difference Between Communism and Socialism?

Socialism is a broad ideology that encompasses a range of economic and political systems characterized by social ownership of the means of production. Social ownership can include public, cooperative, or collective ownership. Socialism advocates for production to be regulated by the community as a whole and seeks to distribute wealth more evenly among the population. It does not necessarily aim to abolish private property but rather to limit the disparities in wealth and power that result from capitalist systems. There are many forms of socialism, from democratic socialism, which combines political democracy with social ownership, to more centralized forms that involve significant state control over the economy.

Communism, as conceived by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, is viewed as a higher and more radical phase of socialism. Under communism, there is no private property in the means of production, and ideally, there is no state or class system. Communism aims for a completely classless society where all individuals contribute according to their ability and receive according to their needs. In practice, states that have attempted to build communism, like the Soviet Union and China, have often been governed by highly centralized, authoritarian governments.

Facts about Communism

  • The foundational texts include Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ “The Communist Manifesto” published in 1848, which outlines the theory of class struggle and revolution to achieve a classless society.
  • Based on Marxism, Communism posits that capitalism will inevitably self-destruct and be replaced by socialism and eventually communism.
  • The first major implementation of Communist ideas was in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, leading to the formation of the Soviet Union.
  • Throughout the 20th century, Communism spread to various countries, including Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea, each adapting its principles differently.
  • Economically, Communism involves central planning where the government controls all major aspects of production and distribution, aiming to eliminate worker exploitation.
  • A primary goal is to abolish class structure, seen as the root of oppression and exploitation.
  • In Communist states, the government often controls all aspects of life, from the economy to education, to achieve its goals.
  • After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Communism’s influence declined significantly on a global scale.
  • Countries like China and Vietnam have adapted Communist ideology to incorporate elements of capitalism, such as market economies and foreign investment, while maintaining the Communist Party’s control.

Pros of Communism

  1. Equality: One of the core goals of communism is to eliminate class distinctions among people by distributing wealth and power equally. This aims to create a society where all individuals have the same opportunities and living standards.
  2. Elimination of Unemployment: In communist regimes, the state often controls all aspects of the economy, which typically includes guaranteeing employment for all citizens, theoretically eliminating unemployment.
  3. Central Planning: Communism relies on central planning, which can lead to efficient mobilization of resources, especially in times of crisis, and can ensure that basic needs like healthcare, education, and housing are universally accessible.
  4. Focus on Social Welfare: Communism emphasizes providing all citizens with access to essential services such as health care, education, and housing, often at little or no cost to the individuals.
  5. Reduced Wealth Disparities: Since the wealth and resources are owned and distributed by the state, communism seeks to minimize the disparities in wealth seen in capitalist systems.

Cons of Communism

  1. Economic Inefficiency: The lack of competition and profit motive in a centrally planned economy can lead to inefficiencies, lack of innovation, and poor quality of goods and services.
  2. Loss of Individual Freedoms: Communist governments tend to be authoritarian. The emphasis on state control often leads to restrictions on freedoms such as speech, press, and assembly, which are considered necessary to maintain the regime and suppress dissent.
  3. Motivation and Incentive Issues: In a system where all individuals receive the same benefits regardless of input, critics argue there can be a lack of personal incentive to work harder or innovate, potentially leading to lower overall productivity.
  4. Bureaucratic Corruption: The concentration of power in the hands of a few in the government can lead to corruption and abuse of power, with few checks and balances due to the lack of political pluralism.

What is Communism in Simple Words?

Communism is an ideology advocating for a classless society where all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.

What is the Main Idea of Communism?

The main idea of communism is to eliminate class divisions by abolishing private ownership, ensuring that wealth and power are shared equally among all people.

What is Communism and Why is it Bad?

Critics argue communism is bad due to economic inefficiency, loss of personal freedoms, and the potential for government corruption and authoritarianism.

What is Socialism vs Communism?

Socialism and communism both advocate public control of production, but socialism allows for private property and markets, whereas communism aims for a completely classless society.

Is India Communist or Capitalist?

India operates under a mixed economic system, combining elements of capitalism with a strong framework of socialistic policies.

Is China a Communist Country?

China remains a communist state under the rule of the Communist Party, but it has incorporated significant capitalist economic practices.

Is Russia a Capitalist Country?

Yes, Russia transitioned to a capitalist economy after the fall of the Soviet Union, encouraging private ownership and market-based economic activities.

What is a Capitalist Country?

A capitalist country is one where private individuals and businesses own property and resources, and markets largely dictate economic activity.

What is Meant by Capitalism?

Capitalism is an economic system where private individuals rather than the state own property and businesses, and profit-driven markets determine the distribution of goods and services.

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