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:

  1. A capitalist economy eventually drives a wedge between two classes of society, the working-class proletariat and the wealthy bourgeoisie.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. #



7 responses to “Communism?

  1. An idea: Irrelevant of current world conditions, could a true marx-engelist communist society exist?
    The answer to this question is best found by asking if humans can coexist without government. One either believes that humans are naturally aggressive towards their fellow man in competition for resources(Read: Hobbes), or one believes that people are generally cooperative and only fight as a last resort (Locke). Obviously, if Hobbes beliefs about the nature of man are correct, a communist society cannot exist. If one is a follower of Locke, then a communist society seems plausible.

    However, if such a society existed, every member must consciously put the community ahead of his or her own fears of both nature and other people. While this might be possible is a small group, it is impossible on a large scale. If several people acted on their fears, it could easily disrupt the community, necessitating government.

    The apparent solution to this problem is to divide the population into groups small enough to create mutual trust. Here lies the final problem, that if one divides humans into groups, those groups always become competitive. Ergo, no, while a mutually beneficial anarcho-communist society is a nice idea, it cannot work on any large scale in reality.

  2. This is a good point, which I may address later. I am not a follower of either Hobbes or Locke (see my manifesto on false dichotomies). The nature of man is neither cooperative nor competitive, it is merely an ill-defined concept. However, Hobbes is right in that a large enough group will contain at least *some* competitive rather than cooperative members; this cannot be denied. This is the main reason why a macroscopic communist society wouldn’t work.

  3. do you imagine it would be possible to maintain a truly communist city-state? or a truly communist hermitage of sorts within a non-communist country?

  4. Pingback: On Hysteria « Il Piano

  5. Very good definition and explanation… too bad many people are misinformed about the real definition of communism, which has been masked behind totalitarianistic government systems labeling themselves “Communistic.” Historically, it makes sense for these radical socialist countries (i.e. USSR, China) believe they are Communist, because of the method of which they brought themselves to power. Marx and Engels believed that for the Perfect Society to exist:
    – The oppressive government must be overthrown buy the working-class proletariat
    – The proletariat would create a strong, centralized government that would operate with a large amount power in order to establish security
    – After equilibrium was reached between the economic, social, and political systems, the government would essentially be abolished… allowing the community to operate with individuality and peacefulness
    -And so on, people would put their priorities on operating their community first, and obviously “Communism” was the precipitate

    Now those countries such as the USSR, China, Vietnam, … so on … they fulfilled only a portion of these “directions” to an ideal society. So quite obviously in those cases, Communism was the goal for the lower class proletariat, but once the allure of totalitarianistic government was bent down before them, no longer did a society with no government seem needed.

    Quite well said, this definition… perhaps eventually a society will develop a method to reach a system of equilibrium and utter peace.

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