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Major Concepts

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 brought Europe on the verge of revolution. These conditions made communism 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 20th 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 BernsteinWikipedia's W.svg 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 events that left mass graves frequent.

Western Communist parties after the fall of the Soviet Union are basically historical reenactment societies that don't realise they are.

What communism "actually is"[edit]

Early forms[edit]

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 argued that early hunter-gatherer societies represent primitive communism. Such societies had no social classes or forms of capital.[1] Many religious groups and other utopian communities throughout history have practiced it on a small scale as well.

Karl Marx[edit]

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. Marxism can also be differentiated from other branches of socialism by its insistence on "scientific socialism". Marx believed his contemporary socialists making arguments based on morality and justice (the sort attacked by Engels in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific) were missing the point entirely, to the extent that he reportedly would burst out laughing when anyone tried to talk to him about morality. For Marx, the contradictions inherent in the capitalist system made the emergence of socialism (and thus eventually communism) an inevitability.He saw himself as a scientist analysing the development of the political economy of his time, not a moralist agitating for its abolition.

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 the dictatorship of the proletariat,[2] 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[3] 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.[4] 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[edit]

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. In Imperialism: Capitalism's Highest Stage, Lenin argued that foreign capital intervention in backwards countries (colonies and semi-colonies) created the conditions for socialist revolution, which was contraty to what the Mensheviks thought (that the Revolution in Russia would first impose capitalism as a way for socialism to develop). Lenin basically asked: "why would you need to make a revolution to put a capitalist system when capitalism is already here"? Russia, although a mainly peasant and backwards country, had developed over the years a significant working class in the cities. Lenin saw this as the basis for the revolution in which workers and peasants would unite against the monarchy and the bouregoise.

This would become known as Leninism, a sort of forced Marxism on steroids, in which a small yet significant group of leaders, known as a vanguard, ensured "two revolutions for the price of one" by "telescoping" the capitalist and communist revolutions and took over the state and industry. In Leninism, the revolutionary party would lead the revolution. This party would be "the voluntary selection of the most advanced, more aware, more selfless and more active workers", which would handle the socialist state and transform society 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 was a big criticism of left-wing socialists to the "mass" party structure of most socialist organizations, which had become a huge bureaucratic apparatus, with thousands of leased politicians and union officials who exercised absolute control of the press and labor organizations that adhered to socialism. A soviet state was established and opposition on both right and left fermented and soon exploded into the brutal Russian Civil War, which in practice, and mainly due to the harsh conditions faced by Lenin and his supporters (German invasion and civil war), resulted in 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.

There was a total of one democratic election after the October Revolution, and when the Bolsheviks lost out to the moderate and liberal parties (the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks), they sent in the Red Guard and closed the Constituent Assembly.

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. Then Lenin died.

Joseph Stalin[edit]

The revolutionary wave that the Russian Revolution started was diverted by the social-democrats in many countries: in Hungary they persecuted the communist leaders, in Italy they didn't seize power and instead made (indirectly) possible the way for Mussolini, while in Germany they outright murdered the revolutionaries Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht (aided by the Freikops, which would later be the basis of the Nazi party). This diversion meant that the Russian Revolution was becoming more isolated. Combined with the inexperience of the communist leaders in other countries, the prestige that the Russian Communist Party had gained, the seven long years of war suffered and the concessions made in the New Economic Policy, this created the conditions for a bureaucracy to form inside the soviet state. 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. Stalin first expelled the Left Opposition (led by Leon Trotsky) from the party and then exiled and persecuted them. Then Hitler rose to power in Germany thanks to Stalin's orders to keep the communists busy fighting the social-democrats. In Spain, the workers brought down the monarchy and instituted the Second Republic; in 1936 (thanks to Stalin's orders of creating coalitions with the capitalists known as "Popular Fronts"), the Popular Front won the elections, which caused the right-wing sectors of the army to commit a coup. The ensuing Spanish Civil war brought people from all over the world to fight against the fascists for the Republic. Stalin's zigzags with France and England and his policy of persecuting "trotskyists" and anarchists meant that the republicans were more busy fighting each other than fighting the fascists, and indirectly helped Franco win the war. With each defeat suffered, a socialist revolution in Europe was more improbable and the chances of another World War starting seemed more likely, thus Stalin's government grew more and more tyrannical with each day. So not only was the great Soviet experiment failing, Stalin stepped in and ensured it never would recover.

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[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Maoism

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," plummeted at the cost of up to 45 million lives.[5]

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 Chinese traditional 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. Yet.

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.

Final remnants[edit]

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: Cuba actually 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, Cuba's full economic potential never came to fruition, partially due to a U.S. economic and commercial blockade and the end of the Soviet Union.[6] Nonetheless, Cuba can boast some of Latin America's highest living standards, especially when compared to other Caribbean countries countries, such as Haiti and Dominican Republic.[7][8] Which isn't exactly an achievement, considering the rest of Latin America was ruled by tinpot military dictatorships while Cuba received absurd amounts of Soviet funding. Also, Cuba, as a dictatorship, holds many political prisoners.[9]
  • Juche in North Korea: Called a "mauso-tocracy" by Christopher Hitchens, this society insists that Kim Il-sung is the Eternal President of the Republic, despite his noticeable lack of pulse, heartbeat, respiration, or brain activity since 1994. His grandson Kim Jong-un, therefore, is going to perpetually play second fiddle as Supreme Leader. Despite its clear influences, North Korea has actually removed all references to communism from its constitution, and today Juche is a bizarre mix of ultra-nationalism, militarism and Kim-worship. Still regularly used for red-baiting — those who exhibit any kind of leftist ideas are often told to go to North Korea if they love socialism so much!
  • 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 June 4th and the one-child policy), that might be a bit of a stretch.
  • 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 in practice[edit]

Symbol of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a former communist state
Communism as set out in theory by Karl Marx differs greatly from how it has been put into practice; indeed, there has never been (and may never be) a "pure" communist society based solely on Marx's ideals. Much of this is certainly attributable to the fact that Marx left a great deal of his work unfinished, and that Vladimir Lenin engaged in a campaign to rectify this by making a complete worldview out of Marx's philosophy — what was later called Marxism-Leninism. But Lenin also deviated a good deal from what Marx had said, as detailed above.

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 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.[10]
  • 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 planned economies of communist countries have proven themselves unable to match the levels of growth and economic benefits found in less strictly controlled economic systems. 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 with North Korea struggling to meet even the basic needs of its citizens.
  • Totalitarian communist governments have been responsible for a great many mass slaughters, often considered 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. The United Nations believes it's likely triple that number.
    • The death toll from the Great Leap Forward in China under Mao Zedong has ranged from 18 million to (as previously mentioned) 45 million,[11] as consequence of economic upheavals caused by the government's attempts to "modernize" the country; a few million more died in the violence of the Cultural Revolution.

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 and deformed 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 despotism.

It is certainly true that Marxism has one of the key philosophical elements required of any totalitarian worldview: 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.[12]

Is Communism at all workable?[edit]

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.[13] 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.

Again, advocates of Communism look at the failure of every attempt to implement Communism and argue that those societies were not really communist - either for immediate, local reasons or for the blanket reason that none of them have taken place in advanced industrial societies, which (for Marx, at least) would doom them to failure. 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.[14] 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[15]) 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, the nature of modern economies — even if you were able to separate the human rights issues — make it quickly 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.[16]
  • 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[17] do just as well as companies based on a more traditional hierarchy, and even if Marx was somewhat naive about economics (and, in hindsight, every economist from the 19th century and prior looks rather naive about economics: forexample, the labor theory of value, the discrediting of which forms the basis for much of the modern economic critique of Marxism, was not unique to Marxism by a long shot, having been conceived by the father of capitalism himself, Adam Smith) his contributions as a historian and pioneering work in then nascent field of sociology shouldn't be overlooked or understated. 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.

The few examples when communism worked out relatively fine[edit]

  • The communist and 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.
  • In a similar vein, the Ukrainian Free Territory had an anarcho-communistic government during the Russian Civil War, although it was also destroyed militarily (not by the White Guards, even — in fact, the insurgent army fought Denikin's army successfully) but rather by the Bolsheviks themselves.[18]
  • The Yugoslav workers' self-management worked out for a little while.
  • The Israeli kibbutzim (if you can ignore their place in global capitalism).
  • The Twin Oaks CommunityWikipedia's W.svg is currently working right now.

Derivative philosophies[edit]

Besides communism, there are a great many different ideologies and schools of thought based on Marx's views.

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 terms, 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.[19] 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.

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 left-wing governments in former territories occupied by empires. 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 informed by a Marxist outlook, including the Black Panthers, as David Horowitz loves to remind us of constantly. So scary.

Libertarian communism is an elimination of the state similar to Marxist communism, but it claims to be a part of the libertarian family.

Communism and religion[edit]

Marx on religion[edit]

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."[20]

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 Evangelical Protestant "house church" movement.

Religion in communism[edit]

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.[21][22]

Communism and rhetoric[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Red scare

Communists are frequently alleged to be the true force behind the UN 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.

Wingnuts also 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." You can thank Joseph McCarthy for that.

Quotes about communism[edit]

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.
One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words 'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.
—George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

Notable commies[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. DeVore, Irven (1969). Man the Hunter. Aldine Transaction. ISBN 978-0-202-33032-7
  2. 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.
  3. The Communist Manifesto at Project Gutenberg
  4. Whether Das Kapital be an economic treatise or the ravings of a nut is a hotly debated question.
  5. Dikötter, Frank (2010): Mao's Great Famine. New York: Walker & Company, 2010.
  8. Cuba has the highest Human Development Index score in the Caribbean and the 2nd highest in Latin America
  10. 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.
  11. Mao and The Great Leap Forward, Rutgers University
  12. These are the Unitarians to Stalinism's Puritans.
  13. 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.
  14. The Communist Manifesto, chapter 2.
  15. In his book The Road to Wigan Pier, he compared Marxism to Catholicism, with the Hegelian dialectic taking the place of the Trinity.
  16. 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.
  17. Examples of companies run along collective lines include REI, King Arthur Flour, and the consortium responsible for Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese.
  18. "Why does the Makhnovist movement show there is an alternative to Bolshevism?"
  19. 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).
  20. 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.
  21. Catechism of the Catholic Church,
  22. Pius XI, encyclical Divini Redemptoris. [1]
  23. However, without due diligence to proper farm management, some animals wind up more equal than others.