The thought of Communism, since it led to the formation of superpowers such as the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China in the world, should continue to be considered as an important and influential way of thinking; Because the effects of this type of thinking can be seen every day in our lives.
In this article we present a simple definition of Communism and its history, rapidly as possible.
Communism in simple words
Communism is a philosophical, political and economic ideology that is in opposition to Capitalism and Liberal Democracy (which was formed in the 18th century, during the rise of industrial capitalism, meaning freedom of capital, freedom of trade and expansion of capitalist relations).
The main and final goal of this ideology is to create a communist society, a society in which private ownership of the means of production (the main feature of the capitalist system) is abolished. A society that has no classes and in which there is no need for money and government.
Countries that are ruled by a communist system usually have only one party, the Communist Party, that governs the entire country. The economy of these countries is mainly mandated; This means that the free market and private property have been largely destroyed in them, and central planning is provided by the government to manage economic affairs. In addition, in line with the abolition of private ownership, large economic organizations and enterprises are monopolized by the government. Also, anti-religious positions are mainly seen in these countries, and the governments consider religion as a reactionary factor in the direction of Class Exploitation.
How did Communism begin?
The concept of this ideology in its modern sense was first used in the book “The Communist Manifesto” written by two German philosophers, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
They used the word “Communism” to mean the opposite of “Capitalism”, and until today, this meaning has been one of the fundamental principles of communist thought.
Today, Karl Marx is considered the father of this ideology. Despite this, the history of similar thoughts regarding the need to establish a communal society dates back to years before Marx. For example, Plato, in his book “Republic“, considered private property to be the cause of corruption and believed that the guard class, who are the protectors of the society, should live completely communally. Marx and Engels were deeply offended by what they saw as the blatant injustice of a class society towards the working class. They saw the disease, poverty and early death that the working class was dealing with as the creation of the rich and capitalist society.
These two philosophers believed that replacing the capitalist system with communism, that is, a system that’s based on public ownership and in which all means of production such as factories, mines, etc. are at the disposal of the government; It is the solution to the problems produced by the capitalist system.
For example, in the lord-serf system (or feudal system), there was a class gap between the landowners and those who worked for the landowners. After the industrial revolution, this gap was formed between factory owners and factory workers.
Marx called these two groups the Bourgeoisie (capitalists, owners of industries and wealth) and the Proletariat (workers). He believed that the history of all societies is, in fact, the history of the class struggle between these two groups, which eventually turns into a great revolution, a Socialist Revolution.
Analysis of society from Karl Marx’s perspective
Marx considered it necessary to go through a period of capitalism in order to reach a communist society.
In this period of capitalism, significant scientific and technical advances are made, man dominates nature and a lot of wealth is produced. This wealth is distributed unfairly in the capitalist system. The capitalist class or the Bourgeois have this huge wealth and the working class receives little pay for long working hours and hard work. Therefore, the owners of the capital earn a lot of profit; Because they pay very little to the workers.
Marx called this abundant profit “Surplus Value” and considered the difference between the value of worker’s labor and their wages as “Exploitation Rate“. In this system, the capitalists are getting richer and the workers are getting poorer. By taking advantage of their wealth, capitalists also find the possibility of controlling the government, and the unfair distribution of wealth and power is legitimized.
According to Marx, the capitalist system is doomed to instability and problems such as economic stagnation, unemployment, and increasing poverty among the working class occur.
Finally, the proletariat achieves class consciousness, in the sense that it realizes that its interests conflict with those of the bourgeoisie. Finally, the Proletariat revolutionizes and seizes the means of production and state institutions. They form a socialist government, which Marx calls “The Dictatorship of The Proletariat“. This state exists as long as the bourgeoisie threatens the society and eventually gives way to a classless and stateless communist society.
History of formation of communist systems
The starting point of the presence of communists in the political arena was the October 1917 revolution in Russia led by Vladimir Lenin.
In the years after the communists came to power, the Soviet Union experienced many changes and ups and downs. The rule of Lenin and Stalin in the Soviet Union more or less heralded the rise of a new dictatorship.
Before the 1940s, there were only two communist countries in the world: the Soviet Union and Mongolia. But gradually and after World War II, the communist ideology spread. Until the end of the 1940s, most of East Asia and Eastern Europe were under communist rule, and the Soviet Union had become an industrial empire in the East of the world.
Most of the communist governments were located in areas such as Albania, China, East Germany, North Korea, Poland, Romania, Vietnam and other areas close to the Soviet Union, and all of them followed general Soviet policies such as nationalization of industries, free education and treatment, collectivization of agriculture and of course, severe repression of the opposition.
In the 1980s, when Gorbachev took over the leadership of the Soviet Union, the most important problem of the Soviet Union was the decline in economic growth. Gorbachev tried to make the political atmosphere of the country more open and in this way he could overcome the economic problems. But very soon, the wave of criticism targeted all the policies of the ruling system and got out of control. Finally, when Hungary and Poland, the two communist countries of Eastern Europe, decided to leave the one-party mode and allow other parties to operate, the communist systems collapsed one after the other.
The fate of Communism
Finally, it was the turn of the Soviet Union. In December 1991, this system fell apart, and after that, power was removed from the hands of the communists in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Mongolia. Other communist systems such as China, which were still in power, also faced crises and massive protests.
Currently, communist parties are present in Russia; But the possibility of creating a communist government is almost zero. In China, although it still maintains it’s communist appearance and large industries are owned by the government, the government’s economic policies have clearly moved towards a decentralized economy based on private ownership.
Of course, it should not be forgotten that although China has largely become similar to capitalist systems in terms of economy, in other things it is still a completely communist country. The Chinese Communist Party does not tolerate the slightest dissent, and the crackdown on protesters and critics continues.
The only country in the present era that is completely governed in the Soviet style is North Korea. A country that is rejected by the international community, has forced labor camps to suppress and torture its opponents, and there is no democratic freedom in it.
The difference between Communism and Socialism
Both of these words may end with “ism”, but there are many differences between them.
Communism and Socialism both believe that all goods and services and basically the production system should be under the control of the government and that private ownership has no place in them. In fact, the main difference is that in communism, most of the assets and economic resources are owned and controlled by the government, but in socialism, all citizens share equally in the economic resources allocated by a democratically elected government.
In the communist system, the resources provided to the people are only as much as they need; But in socialist systems, everyone receives resources according to their contribution and effort to advance the economic goals of society. Communism became the accepted name for a form of socialism that went beyond tax regulation and market controls, and into direct government ownership and management of economic enterprises.
A rapid look at 3 best-selling books about Communism
Communism directly affected the lives of billions of people during the last century; And unfortunately it destroyed many lives.
In this part of the article, we introduce 3 good books about communism and its effects on people’s lives:
1.First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
The book “First They Killed My Father” is about the bitter fate of a Cambodian family during the dark era of the Khmer Rouge regime. A family that lost its father, mother and two of its children.
Loung Ung, the author of the book and one of the survivors of this family, describes the bitterness and sufferings of his family and reveals the terrible secrets of the Khmer Rouge regime’s genocide. In this book, we find out how millions of Cambodian citizens were easily killed and buried in mass graves, without any name or address, due to forced labor, improper nutrition, widespread diseases, or political reasons.
The Khmer Rouge were a group with communist ideas and influenced by Mao Zedong (the founder of the People’s Republic of China), who massacred more than one million people (equivalent to about 20% of the country’s population) in the short life of their rule over Cambodia. The leaders of the Khmer Rouge were educated in France, and among them, Pol Pot, who was called the number one brother or leader of the Khmer, was the most famous.
The story of Loung Ung’s life in this book is a story of resilience and resistance of a child that can undoubtedly be very inspiring for all audiences. Years later, after becoming a refugee in the United States, she narrated what she had gone through in the form of a documentary. Her life story is, above all, about the strength of family ties.
Based on this book, a movie of the same name was made and directed by Angelina Jolie, and it depicts the life and sufferings of the Ung family during this dark time.
If you want to get to know one of the blackest pages in history, get this book.
2.Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy by Joseph Schumpeter
The book “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy” by Joseph Schumpeter, the great economist of the 20th century, seeks to provide a new look at concepts such as the rise and fall of capitalism and a revision of the definition of democracy and socialism.
In this book, Schumpeter first takes a look at the views and opinions of the famous German philosopher Karl Marx and examines and criticizes his views on the capitalist system. Then, he takes a look at the capitalist systems and describes some of the most important features of the capitalist system and mentions important terms such as “constructive destruction” regarding the life of the capitalist system.
Finally, Schumpeter discusses the decline of capitalism, the need to review the definition of democracy and provide a new definition of it, and by citing his reasons, he argues that the system of socialism can be compatible with democracy.
3.The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt
This book, which is the third volume of Hannah Arendt’s famous trilogy called “The Origins of Totalitarianism”, was published in 1951.
Arendt examines the institutions and functioning of totalitarian movements and examines two prominent examples of totalitarian political systems, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union under Stalin. With the experience of living under the domination of these two systems, she started writing to create a memorable masterpiece once again.
In this book, the author tells with exemplary accuracy and in a documented way what totalitarianism is, how it is formed, gains power and manifests itself in forms like Nazi Germany.
Hannah Arendt finally says that the danger of the rise of totalitarian states will never be resolved and it is the mission of the people of a society to fight against totalitarianism with self-awareness and self-motivation.
This book by Hannah Arendt is considered by many to be her masterpiece in writing. A book that, even after more than 70 years of its writing, is still one of the best references for getting to know the exact concept of totalitarianism, its roots and the way to fight against it.