Quick, think of three communist countries.
Most likely among your responses were the former Soviet Union, (mainland) China, or Cuba. Maybe you thought of Vietnam or North Korea, or even Albania or Laos.
I am sorry to inform you that whatever your answers were, they were quite incorrect.
Understanding why necessitates a more thorough and nuanced understanding of ‘communism’ than is currently possessed by most citizens, regardless of their government. During the mid-to-late 19th century, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote well-intentioned, philosophical as well as political treatises predicting the fall of capitalism. A simplification of their predictions follows:
- A capitalist economy eventually drives a wedge between two classes of society, the working-class proletariat and the wealthy bourgeoisie.
- The social turmoil stemming from this division leads to a revolution of the proletariat, instituting a government run by the working class, called socialism. Class distinctions are abolished.
- With no class distinctions, there is no need for a government. The state eventually “withers away”, and everyone works together, peacefully, without distinction, for the good of the whole. This is called communism.
From the original definition of communism given by Engels and Marx, we see that a ‘communist government’ or ‘communist state’ is simply an oxymoron. The very presence of a communist society implies a lack of government. Nations such as the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Cuba (which, you notice, do not contain the word ‘communist’ in their names) simply endorse the philosophy of Marx and Engels, and believe themselves to be on the second step. So-called ‘communist states’ are simply attempted socialist approximations at a true classless, stateless communist society.
Indeed, these ‘communist states’ are often even more repressive than the capitalist societies they replaced. In every “working man’s revolution” that we have seen to date, class distinctions have not been abolished – the outgoing bourgeoisie’s place is merely occupied by the leaders of the proletariat. This class swap, as it were, does nothing to aid the proletariat, that disgruntled working class we see today in almost every society. Instead, it simply placates them for a time, giving them the illusion of governmental control where instead it is removed. If religion “is the opiate of the masses,” as Marx famously alleged, then the idea of communism is a potent cannabinoid. #