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Difference between revisions of "Communism"

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(See also: In this case, the bare quote doesn't quite get the point across. More productive to phrase it as a warning rather than a complaint.)
(What did I tell you about discarding data, Marcus? Whose side are you on, anyway?)
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This has become rather a touchy subject to bring up, as communist states have a good deal to answer for. Let these facts be submitted for the reader's consideration:
 
This has become rather a touchy subject to bring up, as communist states have a good deal to answer for. Let these facts be submitted for the reader's consideration:
  
* All officially communist states have been run in a very illiberal and undemocratic manner, characterized by one-party rule, lack of civil rights, and bureaucratic corruption.
+
* Most officially communist states <ref>Save a few subnational units, such as the region of Emilia-Romagna in Italy, which have existed within a democratic framework of governance.</ref> characterized by one-party rule, lack of civil rights, and bureaucratic corruption.
 
* The introduction of democratic government in a communist country has been inevitably followed by that country ceasing to be communist. Well-known examples are [[Poland]], [[Hungary]], [[Cambodia]], and [[Yugoslavia]].
 
* The introduction of democratic government in a communist country 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 see the state of their economies.
 
* 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 see the state of their economies.

Revision as of 22:28, 29 August 2010

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Communism
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To each
Communism is a leftist ideology of people who think that the (Warning: forbidden phrases ahead) "means of production" should be owned and controlled by the "proletariat." Communists are evil, and have no class. You may now commence your three minutes of hate.


What communism "actually is"

Be careful reading this, because just the simple fact of knowing what actual communism is is treason in the United States of America. And "godlessness" is really only a very small part of it.

Karl Marx

Communism is derived from the ideas of Karl Marx, who 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 workers, or proletariat, will be an organized force capable of revolution. A workers' revolution having brought about socialism[1] 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[2] 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.[3]

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 jump start a socialist state by skipping an entire step in the process Marx had described. This would become know 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 Communists 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 red-baiters of the 1920s into the 50s with McCarthyism, throwing the adjective "godless"[4] 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 has 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's particularly brutal and hypernationalistic form of Marxism (later adopted in part by people like Pol Pot and several South American groups such as Peru's Sendero Luminoso) placed a heavy emphasis on rural life (agrarian socialism) rather than the urban workers of Marx and Lenin. The pro-rural demagoguery (apparently defining anyone who wasn't a rural worker as bourgeoisie) led to the creation of a broad-based Red Guard and the eventual Cultural Revolution, a bloody, Reign of Terror-style purge against elements in society perceived as bourgeois. After Mao's death, one of his political opponents, Deng Xiaoping, gained power and rolled back the worst excesses of Mao's regime; although Maoism is still considered a major component of Chinese political philosophy, in practice Mao's influence on China's modern economic/political system is limited.

Many of the remaining Communist parties in the world, especially those in south Asia and Latin America, are explicitly Maoist, and 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.

Communism in practice

Symbol of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which used to be a Communist state
Communism as set out in theory by Karl Marx differs greatly from how it has been put into practice. 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 world-view 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, and as, historically, most of the major communist states have been run along the lines of some variant of Marxism-Leninism, it is certain that Lenin's alterations of the original theory had some influence on the doings of those states.

This has become rather a touchy subject to bring up, as communist states have a good deal to answer for. Let these facts be submitted for the reader's consideration:

  • Most officially communist states [5] characterized by one-party rule, lack of civil rights, and bureaucratic corruption.
  • The introduction of democratic government in a communist country 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 see the state of their economies.
  • Communist governments have been responsible for a great many mass slaughters and other democides. Prominent examples:
    • In the Soviet Union during the premiership of Joseph Stalin, millions of Ukrainians starved to death. Debate continues over whether this was an intentional genocide of the Ukrainians 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.

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-as-practiced 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.[6]

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."[7]

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.

Religion in communism

Marxism, despite generally rejecting the supernatural, carries distinct millennial overtones about it. Although all sectors of the Christian church 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.[8][9]

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.

Conservapedia on communism

Conservlogo late april.png
For those living in an alternate reality, Conservapedia has an "article" about Communism

They don't even begin to tell you what it is until they're finished telling you how bad it was (see the parody at the beginning of this article). Shows how much they really care about accuracy...

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 recognizeable 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.[10] 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.

However, private corporations run as collectives[11] 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.

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
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

See also

  • Socialism
  • Moral panic
  • Marxism
  • Equality -- The general basis of the projected communist society, in which all permanent hierarchies are abolished, including that of class.[12]
  • 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.

External links

Footnotes

  1. 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.
  2. The Communist Manifesto at Project Gutenberg
  3. Whether Das Kapital be an economic treatise or the ravings of a nut is a hotly debated question.
  4. Around this time, the United States adopted the motto "In God we Trust" to differentiate themselves from their nemesistical superpower and empire.
  5. Save a few subnational units, such as the region of Emilia-Romagna in Italy, which have existed within a democratic framework of governance.
  6. These are the Unitarians to Stalinism's Puritans.
  7. 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.
  8. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1.2.7.1.9.676.
  9. Pius XI, encyclical Divini Redemptoris. [1]
  10. 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.
  11. Examples of companies run along collective lines include REI, King Arthur Flour, and the consortium responsible for Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese.
  12. However, without due diligence to proper farm management, some animals wind up more equal than others.