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Communism is a far-left materialist ideology which posits that history moves through stages driven by class conflict. Communist analysis maintains that feudalism, led by aristocrats, was transformed through class conflict with the bourgeoisie (business people/upper middle class) into capitalism, and that capitalism through class conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (working class) would lead to the creation of socialism and communism led by the proletariat. Communists believe that the "means of production" should be owned and controlled by the proletariat.
Modern communist thought took shape in 19th century Europe, when appalling working conditions and low wages were the norm and Europe was on the verge of revolution. These conditions made communism was a serious challenge to the status quo and won over many supporters. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels predicted that capitalism would simply become more and more oppressive in response to communism and result in revolution, but this linear process did not happen; Marx and Engels failed to predict that the pressure and threat of communism would result in political and economic reforms that lessened the threat of revolution.
During the twentieth century, the arrival of more progressive and left-leaning governments and the development of a social safety net helped to diminish economic inequality, which undermined much of communist dogma. Former followers of Marx and Engels such as Eduard Bernstein[wp] abandoned communism and turned to social democratic politics.
It also didn't help that the communist regimes coming to fruition were very much intertwined with democides.
 What communism "actually is"
 Early forms
Communism, as a political philosophy advocating the communal ownership of property, has been around almost since the dawn of politics, even the dawn of time. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels argue that early hunter-gatherer societies represent primitive communism. Such societies had no social classes or forms of capital. Many religious groups and other utopian communities throughout history have practiced it on a small scale as well.
 Karl Marx
The most (in)famous form of communism is derived from the ideas of Karl Marx. Marx, who had studied the German idealist Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, attempted to turn Hegel's idealism on its head in his own philosophy; he did something similar to the earlier communist ideas by attempting to take out the idealism and give them a materialistic footing (what later came to be called "dialectical materialism").
Marx himself is quoted as saying that "if anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist" in relation to how his teachings were being misunderstood or misapplied. However, a set of core beliefs called "Marxist" can certainly be ascribed to Marx, most notably the overthrow of capitalism, the importance of socio-economic factors and class conflict in history, and the rejection of religious or semi-religious justifications for the existing order.
The Marxist view of society focuses on economic and class relationships and the role of the workers, or proletariat. Marx theorized that human society develops from primitive communism to a slave society, then to feudalism, and then, after feudalism ceases to be productive, to capitalism. He claimed that capitalism, in a similar manner, leads to socialism, since once it is developed enough, the proletariat will be an organized force capable of revolution: "What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers."
A workers' revolution having brought about socialism, the State, which Marx defined as the embodiment of the bourgeoisie's end of the class struggle, would "wither away," bringing in communism, this being defined as a classless, and thus stateless, form of social organization. The Communist Manifesto was his statement of purpose, though he later called parts of it (especially the ten planks) antiquated. It was mainly a propagandistic document, and thus did not go into detail in terms of economic theory, as does his later work, Das Kapital. However, one thing that Marx made an explicit warning about was that attempts to do this in a society that had not yet undergone an industrial revolution would most-likely backfire, which brings us to...
 Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin, leading the Russian Revolution, paid large amounts of lip service to Marx, while instead taking more ideas from Blanquism (even though Marx hadn't thought too highly of the chances of revolution from a feudalistic society, and had coined the term 'dictatorship of the proletariat' in order for differentiate from the Blanquist minority dictatorship) and declared open class warfare on the bourgeoisie (and that he would bring 'Peace, Bread and Land!'), in an attempt to take power. Lenin jumped the gun by leading a communist revolution with a small group of intellectuals without waiting for a significant working class to develop, trying to jumpstart a socialist state by skipping an entire step in the process Marx had described. This would become known as Leninism, a sort of backwards Marxism, in which a small group of enlightened leaders, known as a vanguard, took over the state first, and industry and a large working class were developed afterwards. In Leninism, the initial leaders of the revolution were to be caretakers of the socialist state until the workers caught up and society could be transformed into "communism" (as the beginning of the idea of socialism and communism being different stages from revolution originated mainly from Lenin). Crucially, this idea of a vanguard party meant elevating the Bolsheviks to become a new elite within Russia, while the workers and peasants - the same people the Bolsheviks claimed to represent - were subjected to the same dictatorial control as the Tsar's regime. The "soviets" (councils of self-governing workers based on the idea of direct democracy) were suppressed in a direct contradiction of Lenin's rallying cry "all power to the soviets!"
There was a total of one democratic election after the October Revolution, and when the Bolsheviks lost out to the more democratic socialist parties (the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks) they sent in the Red Guard and closed the Constituent Assembly. A one-party state was established and opposition on both right and left fermented and soon exploded into the brutal Russian Civil War.
It is true that Lenin's ideas (especially applying planned economy principles to agriculture) didn't really work, but though some reforms were suggested, Lenin and Trotsky killed most of those suggesting them, and then Lenin died, and Stalin took over the Soviet Union and converted a brutal and repressive autocracy (as Lenin had abolished democracy and implemented Party dictatorship) into an extremely brutal and repressive autocracy, ruling by fear and paying only lip service to the thoughts of Marx. So not only was the great Soviet experiment not working, Stalin stepped in and ensured it never would, which was more than enough to carry the crazy anti-commies of the 1920s into the 50s with McCarthyism, throwing the adjective "godless" in just to give it a bit more emotional sting. Of interest is the fact that the US had helped anti-Bolshevik (and largely pro-Tsarist, though occasionally peasant-based in the case of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, who were more popular than the Bolsheviks in Russia) forces during the Russian Civil War, and never seem to mention it.
To summarize, communism is a classless, "democratic" (Marx called for 'self-government of the commune' in response to Bakunin's accusations that he wished for a minority dictatorship) and international society. There are different theories to how it should be organized, for example, the anarcho-syndicalists and De Leonists wish for a Socialist Industrial Union, while mutualists (inspired by the ideas of Proudhon) wish for a non-capitalist free market (often claiming that the capitalist market can never have anything to do with 'freedom'), other socialists wish for a system of workers' councils (though these can often be compared to the syndicalist unions), as in the "soviets" which represented the working class in Russia until Lenin's coup d'etat. The workers had also taken over factories, instituting elected and recallable factory committees which ran them under their ultimate control, before Lenin took over. Such "worker self-management" has also been a key part of socialism, in both libertarian Marxist and anarchist tendencies or schools of thought.
 Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong's particularly gruesome take on Marxism easily ranks as the most devastating attempt to establish a Communist society, as far as the total number of human casualties is concerned. Having taken over mainland China in 1949, he developed a branch of Communist theory that was supposed to address China's specific circumstances, commonly referred to as "Mao Zedong thought". Since China was a mostly agrarian country without a solid industrial base, it lacked the distinct class of urban factory workers that was supposed to form the backbone of a Communist revolution according to Marxism. Hence, Mao's own ideology emphasized the vast numbers of impoverished Chinese peasants as the driving force of the revolution in China, and concentrated on winning their support for the Communist Party of China. However, during the late 1950s, Mao ordered a vast industrialization program that was supposed to transform China's agrarian economy into a much more advanced one, taking a cue from Stalinism. This project, called the "Great Leap Forward," failed miserably at the cost of up to 45 million lives.
After being sidelined as a result of this failure, Mao eventually launched yet another attempt at rapid societal transformation in a bid to reestablish himself as the undisputed leader of China. Starting in 1966, his so-called "Great Cultural Revolution" again toppled China into chaos, as a fanatic youth movement set out to destroy traditional Chinese culture and the supposed last vestiges of the old elites. In practice, it was a reign of terror that consisted of completely random attacks against anyone and anything that drew the suspicion of the frenzied "Red Guards," among them no small number of their own operatives. Since the campaign had brought the country to the brink of civil war, Maoist ideology was mostly discredited as an actual guideline for governing the nation. Mao's eventual successor Deng Xiaoping effectively abandoned it by promoting pragmatic developmental policies, so that today's China is a booming capitalist economy ruled by a totalitarian oligarchy. However, because of Mao's status as a larger-than-life figure in Chinese politics and especially the CCP, Maoism was never officially denounced by Chinese authorities.
Apart from China itself, several other Communist movements in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Latin America claimed an explicit adherence to Maoism. Despite significant political differences, Cambodia's Khmer Rouge was considered almost a recreation of Mao's Chinese Communist party (down to the extreme, culturally motivated purges). However, many such parties are no longer exclusively agrarian in focus, placing a dual emphasis on both rural and urban workers.
 Various wingnuts
Wingnuts ascribe to the word "communism" quite a different meaning: "Any policy or belief that is insufficiently right-wing for my taste," or "any policy which promotes racial equality and integration."
 Really Existing Socialism
As it stands, there are only a few remaining nation-states which proclaim themselves Communist, and it is obvious without comment how well the judgement of history will handle them. These systems are:
- Castroism in Cuba: One of the more successful examples, the nation boasts a very high average life-expectancy due to socialized health care, and has evaded the issues of overpopulation and pollution which have plagued China. However, economic gains have never materialized, leaving the country relatively poor compared to its neighbors.
- Juche in North Korea: Called a "mauso-tocracy" by Christopher Hitchens, this atheist materialist society insists that Kim Il-sung is the Eternal President of the Republic, despite his noticeable lack of pulse, heartbeat, or respiration since 1994. His grandson Kim Jong-un, therefore, is going to perpetually play second fiddle as Supreme Leader. Note that North Korea has actually removed all references to communism from its constitution, therefore the country is not even nominally communist anymore, and today Juche is more of a bizarre mix of ultra-nationalism, militarism and Kim-worship. While North Korea is still regularly used for red-baiting (those who exhibit leftist ideas are often told to go to North Korea if they love socialism so much), in 2009 the country removed all references to communism from its constitution, and no longer claims to be a communist country.
- Maoism with Deng Xiaoping Thought in China: It's basically market-Leninism. Despite having the fastest-growing economy on earth, the Chinese industrial existence is, ironically, on par with the working conditions in Soho which repelled Marx when he was originally writing Das Kapital. You could say that the Chinese system is the only form of communism that actually works, but considering their record on civil rights (think Tiananmen Square and execution buses), that might be a bit of a stretch. Ironically, despite the heavily polluted country's reputation, the extreme measures taken to control their population growth in the form of the One Child policy was likely one of the largest contributions to the environment any country has made.
- Laos and Vietnam: Still ostensibly Marxist-Leninist. Vietnam has gone in the direction of China's market-Leninism. Laos, at the present, has only introduced limited market reforms.
 Communism and conspiracy theories
Communists are frequently alleged to be the true force behind the United Nations or some other scheme for a New World Order or one world government. These conspiracy theories are sometimes tied into anti-Semitism and the idea of an international Jewish conspiracy due to the fact that many Jews were aligned with leftist politics.
 Communism in practice
This has become rather a touchy subject to bring up, as totalitarian socialist states have a good deal to answer for. Let these facts be submitted for the reader's consideration:
- Several countries with communist parties (bodies that should not have existed according to Marx) for an official governing body have been governed in a highly illiberal and undemocratic manner, characterized by one-party rule, lack of civil rights, and bureaucratic corruption.
- The introduction of democratic government to totalitarian-backed communist countries has been inevitably followed by that country ceasing to be communist. Well-known examples are Poland, Hungary, Cambodia, and Yugoslavia.
- The economies of communist countries have proven themselves largely unable to meet even the basic needs of their citizens. Of the five remaining communist states today, China and Vietnam have introduced market reforms. After these reforms were introduced, their respective economies expanded and living standards rose. On the other hand, Laos, North Korea, and Cuba have not allowed very many market reforms, and one can clearly see the state of their economies.
- Totalitarian Communist governments have been responsible for a great many mass slaughters, often genocides. Prominent examples:
- In the Soviet Union during the premiership of Joseph Stalin, millions of Ukrainians starved to death. Debate continues over whether this was intentional or the result of the general incompetence of Soviet agricultural policy (the Holodomor happened in the context of a broader Soviet famine).
- Later, Stalin railroaded approximately a million people to the gallows in the Great Purge of 1936-1938.
- Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were responsible for killing, by their own estimates, 800,000 people in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.
- During the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution in China under Mao Zedong, at least 750,000 people were killed and many millions more died in consequence of economic upheavals caused by the government's attempts to "modernize" the country, as mentioned above.
The question then becomes what role was played by which ideologue. Some, in particular Leon Trotsky and his followers, claim that the people performing these acts were not actually communists, for the reason that such figures as Joseph Stalin deliberately betrayed the true communist ideals, and that these betrayals were later compounded by many communist states putting them into practice. Others claim that the theories of Marx are impossible to put into practice and thus lead inevitably to economic ruin and totalitarian despotism.
It is certainly true that Marxism has one of the key philosophical elements required of any totalitarian world-view: the notion that non-adherents are in denial or in some way mentally deficient. In Christianity this notion takes the form of the idea that non-Christians only want to continue living in sin. In Marxism it takes the form of false consciousness — the idea that any person who does not put the interests of his class uppermost has been duped by somebody-or-other and is in denial about what his true interests are.
Also, if one tries to assign most or all of the blame to Stalin, as Trotsky did, one must take into account that many of the above atrocities were committed by states that espoused Marxism-Leninism but explicitly rejected Stalinism.
On the other hand, variants of Marxism that do not claim to be a continuation of Marxism-Leninism, such as Catholic Liberation Theology and Eurocommunism, are much more benign, and many of these variants have accepted liberal democracy in lieu of violent revolution as a way to achieve communist goals.
 Communism and religion
 Marx on religion
Karl Marx famously said that religion was "the opiate of the people." Or, in full:
Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man—state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
Of course, these are simply Marx's beliefs, and thus religious socialism still exists, as the system of communism is not opposed to religion in any way. Marx does not advocate the banning of religion, and instead says that it is simply a way to cope, and a way to see something bright at the end of the tunnel when one is faced with the injustices of feudal and capitalist society, and says that the criticism of religion is thus the criticism of the conditions that breed it. In an interview later on, Marx dismissed violent measures against religion as "nonsense," and stated the opinion (he specified that it was an opinion) that, "as socialism grows, religion will disappear. Its disappearance must be done by social development, in which education must play a part."
As for the phrase itself, opium in Marx's time was an important painkiller, a source of extraordinary visions for 'opium eaters', the cause of important conflicts such as the Opium Wars, and also used by parents to keep their children quiet. It is likely that Marx was alluding to all of these.
Despite Marx's view that religion could co-exist with communism, many communist states have cracked down on religious groups or banned them altogether. For example, the Russian Orthodox Church had for hundreds of years been a powerful institution in Russia and had many ties to the former czarist regime. Hence, in the mind of the Soviet leaders the church formed an institutional threat to its existence and had to be controlled. Albania under Enver Hoxha banned religion altogether, claiming that it had kept Albania back for a great many years. China tightly regulates religion within its borders, barring the Roman Catholic Church and other churches not under the direct control of the State, leading to a burgeoning "house church" movement.
 Lenin on religion
Vladimir Lenin further elaborated on how the relationship between socialism and religion was rooted in what he perceived to be the difference between the materialism of the atheist movement and that of the socialist movement:
We must combat religion—that is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently of Marxism. But Marxism is not a materialism which has stopped at the ABC. Marxism goes further. It says: We must know how to combat religion, and in order to do so we must explain the source of faith and religion among the masses in a materialist way. The combating of religion cannot be confined to abstract ideological preaching, and it must not be reduced to such preaching. It must be linked up with the concrete practice of the class movement, which aims at eliminating the social roots of religion. Why does religion retain its hold on the backward sections of the town proletariat, on broad sections of the semi-proletariat, and on the mass of the peasantry? Because of the ignorance of the people, replies the bourgeois progressist, the radical or the bourgeois materialist. And so: “Down with religion and long live atheism; the dissemination of atheist views is our chief task!” The Marxist says that this is not true, that it is a superficial view, the view of narrow bourgeois uplifters. It does not explain the roots of religion profoundly enough; it explains them, not in a materialist but in an idealist way.
Like many atheist thinkers, Lenin attempted to explain the roots of religious ideology in materialist terms, which for him meant the terms of class struggle against capitalism:
The deepest root of religion today is the socially downtrodden condition of the working masses and their apparently complete helplessness in face of the blind forces of capitalism, which every day and every hour inflicts upon ordinary working people the most horrible suffering and the most savage torment, a thousand times more severe than those inflicted by extra-ordinary events, such as wars, earthquakes, etc. “Fear made the gods.” Fear of the blind force of capital—blind because it cannot be foreseen by the masses of the people—a force which at every step in the life of the proletarian and small proprietor threatens to inflict, and does inflict “sudden”, “unexpected”, “accidental” ruin, destruction, pauperism, prostitution, death from starvation—such is the root of modern religion which the materialist must bear in mind first and foremost, if he does not want to remain an infant-school materialist. No educational book can eradicate religion from the minds of masses who are crushed by capitalist hard labour, and who are at the mercy of the blind destructive forces of capitalism, until those masses themselves learn to fight this root of religion, fight the rule of capital in all its forms, in a united, organised, planned and conscious way. Does this mean that educational books against religion are harmful or unnecessary? No, nothing of the kind. It means that Social-Democracy’s [N.B. In Lenin's day this term was strictly a label for Marxist socialism] atheist propaganda must be subordinated to its basic task—the development of the class struggle of the exploited masses against the exploiters.
These passages suggest that Lenin and the Bolsheviks who seized control of the USSR were deeply hostile toward religion, but viewed the conflict against religion more or less the way a liberal New Atheist in the United States might view the conflict against homophobia or the Christian anti-abortion movement: a conflict that must ultimately be won, but can only be won in a meaningful way once a larger, more critical conflict (in Lenin's case the conflict against capitalism; in the New Atheist's, the conflict against religion) is won first.
 Religion in communism
Marxism, despite generally rejecting the supernatural, carries distinct millennial overtones about it. Although all sectors of Christianity at least nominally oppose orthodox Marxism due to its materialism, the amillennial denominations have been most vocal in their opposition to communism; specifically the Catholic Church, which has explicitly condemned "secular messianism," which it cited as a form of millennialism, and of which it cited communism as an example.
 Christian communism
Many Christian sects practice a form of communism (although not the Marxist variety). The early Christians in the Apostolic Age "had all things common" (Acts 2:44). Later, the Radical Reformation gave rise to sects such as the Amish and Hutterites, which practice what they consider to be the same form of Christian communism.
 Is Communism at all workable?
It depends on what you mean by "Communism" and what you mean by "workable."
Certainly 20th century Communism has left a trail of nothing but blood and pollution in its wake; China's communism is barely recognizable under its outward trappings of state capitalism, and the Soviet experiment is most charitably seen as incomplete, cut off by Lenin's death and subverted by Stalin's brutality. Previous experiments in communism, whether fundamentally capitalist (Jamestown, VA) or utopian (the Oneida community) lasted only for a couple of generations at most before being torn apart by internal dissent. In addition, the confusion of Communism and the politics of the Warsaw Pact community has essentially stained the name of communism, to the point that even if it was tweaked into a workable form, we'd have to find some other name for it.
Critics of Communism tend to fault it for its hyper-idealistic egalitarianism, based on the assumption that a state set up to fade away is a sitting target for authoritarians and slackers, and also assuming that there would be no incentive to excel in any given field. In addition, the planned economy aspects of Soviet Communism in particular have consistently failed, due to an ideology that proved unable to react to the slightest outside changes.
Advocates of Communism look at the failure of every attempt to implement Communism and claim "but those weren't real Communism!" In most cases, Communist governments didn't necessarily follow Marx's theories as set out, and corruption and cronyism were rampant; Marx certainly wouldn't have approved of that, or the use of tactics by the governing authorities that he considered reserved for the use of the proletariat at large, such as expropriation. However, Marx's antipathy towards the bourgeoisie was used as an excuse to kill millions (especially in China and Cambodia, but more famously Ukrainian country folk in the USSR) because they were branded "petty-bourgeois counter-revolutionaries" for the crime of looking cross-eyed at the nomenklatura.
The question, then, becomes this: what does this "great apostasy" say about the viability of Marxism? Opinions run the gamut.
- Some (George Orwell, for example) say that Marxism's highly theoretical and dogmatic nature can cause its more enthusiastic devotees to become isolated from the proletariat at large — thus almost ensuring that any successful communist takeover will result in a dictatorship of some sort.
- Some claim that while communism had its uses at the time (Russia did go from laughable backwater to global superpower in one generation), the nature of modern economies - even if you were able to separate the human rights issues - make it outdated and solely the domain of moonbats. Having full state control of the economy can be workable and even helpful when your economy is small and dysfunctional, but when it starts growing the central bureaucracy grows increasingly incompetent at managing the affairs of the economy. Command economies very often follow the pattern of first causing mass deprivation and starvation, then growing rapidly with attendant increases in life expectancy, then stalling, then collapsing or stagnating, necessitating the introduction of market reforms.
- Some suggest that Marxism is by itself just a relatively harmless pile of bullshit, especially as concerns economics, but it can easily be hijacked by a dictatorial methodology like Leninism, so that when its economic methods do not work, anyone who tries to point out that the Emperor has no clothes on can be conveniently silenced.
- Some (greatly reduced in number since the Soviet gravy-train derailed) continue to support the core ideas of Marxism, and continue to work toward the proletarian revolution using a wide variety of methodologies, in sure and certain hope of the pure-communist society to come.
- Some reject Marxism in its original form, but think the core ideas — such as class struggles (generalized into conflict theory) and the comparatively idyllic world spoiled by the ascendancy of one of these classes — are still worthwhile. Indeed, Marxist historical analysis, a distinctly different beast from communism in and of itself, is generally considered a useful tool for understanding quite a bit of history.
Also, although state-imposed collectivism did not work out so well, private corporations run as collectives do just as well as companies based on a more traditional hierarchy, and even if Marx was somewhat naive about economics, he still (being a newspaper reporter by vocation) was a reasonably good historian overall. It's reasonable to look at the train wreck of Communism-in-practice as an utter failure, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to learn from it.
 A few examples when communism worked out just fine
- The communist anarchists before and during the Spanish Civil War had created a very free and prosperous society, as recounted in George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. Franco crushed them.
- The Yugoslav Workers' Councils worked out for a little while
- The Israeli kibbutzim (if you can ignore their place in global capitalism)
 Derivative philosophies
Besides communism, there are a great many different ideologies and schools of thought based on Marx's views.
Unlike some people, Marx actually was an intellectual. When he wasn't sitting in the reading room of a library researching obscure statistics about economics or the discoveries of Charles Darwin, agitating the English to protest for better working conditions, or borrowing money from Engels, he was developing an advancement of German philosophy that would combine its strict logic with French ideals of liberty and sound English economic scholarship. As a student, Marx studied the philosophy of the famous F.W. Hegel, who helped create a matrix of thinking where the world can be divided into strict oppositions, called dialectics. Though they at first seem contradictions, it is only through their fusion, rather than one championing the other, that real progress can be made.
The big difference between Hegel and Marx was a certain You-Know-Who. For Hegel, God was the ultimate solution, and He doth dealt a righteous blow for Christendom by allowing a German Protestant monarchy to triumph over that whole Napoleon business. The fact that the German monarchs were totalitarians who helped foster a culture of fear and paranoia against foreigners and Jews seemed to escape him.
That was where the grandson of the Rabbi said 'no thanks'. Flipping Hegel on his head, he said that there was no God, only man, and that the dialectical solution for the whole mess was for everyone to give up religion, recognize that they were really united by whether they were rich or not, and to thus begin a class-war that would end the international slave trade (still going on at that time), emancipate women, end child labor, bring about better work conditions, and eventually seize the property of the landed elites. 
While Lenin went all gaga for the revolution bit, there still is a great deal academics find useful in Marxism as a research tool. For example, Marxist historians focus on economic relationships and progress in history, and believe economic motivations and class consciousness to be the most important underlying causes of change (or, in layman's, money in fact does make the world go round, but you'll always get screwed by the rich man). Marxist history is a school of social history, focusing primarily on the conditions of the (working class) majority rather than on the deeds of kings and leaders. There are similar Marxist forms of sociology and cultural theory. Marx's outline of how capitalism works is still taught in economics, though it's not considered the whole story.
Additionally, there are many variants on the idea of some underclass being exploited or oppressed by some upper class and the need for that underclass to unite and make a revolution. The second wave of feminism most active in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as radical feminism, views women as the underclass. Nationalism, particularly among colonized peoples, may view the colonized nation as the underclass; an example of this is the strong nationalistic elements in the ideology of communist governments in North Korea, Vietnam, and China. Identity politics abstracts the idea entirely and allows the selection of an arbitrary underclass, thus giving rise to such phenomena as "ethnic studies," "queer studies," "disabled studies," etc. The feminist, militant black, and gay rights movements of the later 1960's and 1970's were blatantly informed by a Marxist outlook, including the Black Panthers, as David Horowitz loves to remind us of constantly.
 Quotes about communism
“”The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.
|—Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto|
“”A communist is someone who reads Marx and Engels. An anti-communist is someone who understands Marx and Engels.
|—Attributed to Ronald Reagan, though it's hard to believe that a Californian actor who thought trees caused pollution actually understood anything.|
|—George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier|
 Notable communists
- Salvador Allende, President of Chile 1970-1973, ousted by right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet
- Fidel Castro, former dictator of Cuba 1959-2006
- Friedrich Engels, dictator of writing
- Antonio Gramsci, Marxist philosopher, inventor of "cultural hegemony"
- Che Guevara, henchman of Castro, t-shirt icon
- Ho Chi Minh, dictator of Vietnam 1945-1969
- Alger Hiss, Soviet infiltrator in the U.S.
- Kim Jong Il, dictator of North Korea 1994-2011
- Vladimir Lenin, dictator of the USSR 1917-1924
- John Lennon, dictator of The Beatles 1960-1969
- Rosa Luxemburg, German communist activist
- Mao Zedong, dictator of China 1949-1976
- Karl Marx (duh)
- Mengistu Haile Mariam, dictator of Ethiopia
- Barack Hussein Obama, dictator of the United States from 2009 and onward
- Pol Pot, dictator of Cambodia 1975-1979
- Pete Seeger, folk-singer
- Joseph Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union 1924-1953
- Leon "Snowball" Trotsky
- The Cambridge Five, Soviet infiltrators in Britain
- Jim Jones
 See also
- List of forms of government
- Moral panic
- Equality -- The general basis of the projected communist society, in which all permanent hierarchies are abolished, including that of class.
- John Birch Society -- the United States' most prominent anti-Communist organization (They didn't get the memo). A common figure of fun, even back then.
- John Ball -- an early priest who favored a then-unnamed communism.
- Slavoj Zizek -- anti-Stalinist Stalinist, pop philosopher, and filmmaker
- ↑ DeVore, Irven (1969). Man the Hunter. Aldine Transaction. ISBN 978-0-202-33032-7.
- ↑ Marx was not deterministic, though he does occasionally seem as such, though he believed that socialists would have to actively help educate the workers, and fight for a revolution, rather than it just happening automatically, though crises and such would aid it.
- ↑ The Communist Manifesto at Project Gutenberg
- ↑ Whether Das Kapital be an economic treatise or the ravings of a nut is a hotly debated question.
- ↑ Around this time, the United States adopted the motto "In God we Trust" to differentiate themselves from their nemesistical superpower and empire.
- ↑ Dikötter, Frank (2010): Mao's Great Famine. New York: Walker & Company, 2010.
- ↑ It is important to note that communist parties have historically formed a number of governments respectful of rights and democracy (e.g., in Moldova and Cyprus) and that it is not uncommon for communist parties to govern as part of broader left-wing coalitions (e.g., the French Popular Front in the 1930s and the communist wing of the African National Congress). However, these governments and coalitions have all been constrained by liberal-democratic, non-communist constitutions guaranteeing free speech, free elections, and the right to dissent.
- ↑ These are the Unitarians to Stalinism's Puritans.
- ↑ It should be noted that Martin Luther said roughly the same thing of Jews, that they did not convert due to rotten treatment at the hands of the corrupt Catholic Church; when the Jews refused to give up their religion in favor of Lutheranism, Luther started calling for the synagogues to be burned.
- ↑ Lenin, The Attitude of the Workers' Party to Religion. 
- ↑ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 184.108.40.206.9.676.
- ↑ Pius XI, encyclical Divini Redemptoris. 
- ↑ The last such movement of any significance, the Shakers, is on the verge of dying out, with only three members left in its last known community in Maine.
- ↑ Communist Manifesto, chapter 2.
- ↑ In his book The Road to Wigan Pier, he compared Marxism to Catholicism, with the Hegelian dialectic taking the place of the Trinity.
- ↑ Similarly, some Christians continue to work toward the elimination of all sin so as to bring about a thousand golden years on Earth before Jesus returns to cast sinners into the Lake of Fire.
- ↑ Examples of companies run along collective lines include REI, King Arthur Flour, and the consortium responsible for Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese.
- ↑ Wheen, Francis. Karl Marx: A Life. New York: Norton, 2001
- ↑ When this is applied to periods of history of which the only surviving records are of said kingly deeds, this must needs result in at least some speculation, which perhaps opened the door for the historical negationism so common among communist historians (most notably in the Soviet Union, where people questioning official Party history could be conveniently clapped in the gulag).
- ↑ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Horowitz
- ↑ However, without due diligence to proper farm management, some animals wind up more equal than others.