In this essay, we will go over Marx’s theory of the rise of communism, its characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages, and how some countries around the world have adapted to it.
Karl Heinrich Marx (1818-1883) was a German philosopher and a pivotal figure in economic thought history. With the arrival of the industrial revolution and its concomitant capitalist mode of production, a slew of changes swept across Europe. Manufacturers consolidated their economic power. They were known as the bourgeoisie because they owned capital. The industrial revolution also gave rise to the proletariat or modern working class. This period was marked by struggles between these two classes, the consequences of which could be seen in all walks of life. This prompted all European thinkers to reconsider history. Marx, a revolutionary democrat, was also influenced by the numerous changes that were occurring at the time. He embraced Hegel’s idea of dialectics in explaining historical changes in society. He believed that conflict was the driving force behind societal progress. While applying Hegelian idealism to his theory Marx deduced that the major factor in the existence of human beings had to do with survival and not religion. He said, “The first historical act is…the production of material life itself.” Marx predicted that dialectical materialism would come to an end when the proletariat grew strong and politically conscious (class for itself), overthrowing capitalism to establish socialism and, eventually, communism.
What is Communism?
The communal organisation of social existence is referred to as communism. It rejects the concept of private property and is distinguished by classlessness (wealth is owned in common), rational economic organisation (production-for-use replaces production-for-exchange), and statelessness (the state ‘withers away’ in the absence of class confliawayMarx distinguishes two stages in the development of a communist society in his work. The first is described as socialism, or sometimes as a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat,’ in which consumer goods are distributed based on an individual’s performance or contribution. The second is communism, in which goods are abundant and can be allocated based on a person’s needs.
Rise of the Communist Ideology and ‘The Communist Manifesto’
Marx’s concept of communism arose from his theory of class and class conflict, which was developed further from Henri de Saint Simon’s views and the writings of French historians on the French Revolution of 1789 (such as Adolphe Thiers and François Guizot). But unlike the philosophers and writers from whom Marx drew inspiration, Marx and Friedrich Engel’s book ‘The Communist Manifesto’ made class conflict the most important aspect of social evolution- “The history of all hitherto existing human society is the history of class struggles”.
Marx and Engel saw the French Revolution as a watershed point in history because it abolished the feudal power structure and gave the merchant class (bourgeoisie) control over the means of production, ushering in the era of capitalism. The serfs were in a class conflict with the nobility during the feudal period. During the capitalist age, the masses were turned into the working class (proletariat), which was adversarial and opposed to the bourgeoisie.
These adversarial ties and class warfare emerged throughout time because, in a capitalistic society, the bourgeoisie’s economic power was translated into political authority. All governmental institutions (courts, police, and military) became obedient to capitalist interests and became a tool of tyranny and economic exploitation of the proletariats.
Because of the extortion of surplus value created by the worker utilising his labour, the capitalist mode of production also led to the pauperization of the proletariat. The proletariats got poorer and poorer while the bourgeoisie’s riches rose by leaps and bounds. Workers were not only impoverished, but the social arrangements that created the framework of labour in a capitalistic society alienated them, leading to the fragmentation of man, which Marx saw as a critical hindrance to the growth or potential of the full, the total man.
In such circumstances, Marx foresaw the development of class consciousness among the working class, which would enable them to go from being a “class in itself” (potential revolutionary class) to a “class for itself” (actual revolutionary class). They would create unions and organisations against the bourgeoisie as class solidarity increased. A class conflict would erupt, and the resulting violent revolution would demolish the capitalistic society’s framework. The bourgeoisie would lose power and be turned into the ranks of the proletariat when the property was taken away from them.
This would establish socialism, in which individuals can own private property, but a democratically elected government manages the means of production. Once the vestiges of old capitalist ways have faded, it would lead to the establishment of a communist society in which all economic resources are publicly owned and controlled by the government. Individuals would have no personal property, and each would give according to their abilities and receive according to their needs.
The Application of the Communist Ideology
Even though some nations consider themselves communist, pure communism, as envisaged by Marx, has not yet been implemented anywhere in the world. Therefore, countries are either socialist or communalist in nature. In this section, we will discuss examples of various socialist/communist nations that exist or have existed in the world.
- The Soviet Union
V. I. Lenin, the head of the Bolshevik Party, put Marx and Engel’s theory of communism to the test in the actual world. In an October 1917 coup, he deposed the czar’s imperial power, and the following year he adopted the name ‘Communist Party’. The communist revolutionaries of the Soviet Union achieved great success, and the communist governments of Cuba and China followed the Soviet example. Joseph Stalin’s tenure had a significant impact on Soviet communism. Agriculture was collectivised under Stalin, and Soviet peasants were compelled to give up their land and join state or community farms at the expense of millions of lives. Industrialization accelerated under centralised planning, and GDP growth nearly overtook that of the United States. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, was dissolved in 1991. This collapse resulted in an economic catastrophe, a rise in poverty and crime, and a general degradation in people’s social situations.
- Communist China
Following a 20-year conflict between the Chinese Nationalist Party and Imperial Japan, Mao Zedong’s Communist Party assumed control of China in the year 1949 establishing a communist society modelled after Stalin’s, with brutality, deprivation, and an emphasis on ideological purity. The Great Chinese Famine and Cultural Revolution killed millions of Chinese people, but the Chinese Communist Party remained in power long after Zedong’s death. The Chinese Communist Party owns and tightly controls all industries committed to earning government profits through the success and expansion of consumer goods exports. The government handles health care and elementary education, which are accessible to people. On the other hand, housing and land development take place in a highly competitive capitalist environment.
Communism- Its Advantages and Disadvantages
- In a communist state, everyone is equal. There is no disparity in terms of wealth, and essential services such as medical facilities and access to schools are available to everybody.
- In a communist society, the problem of unemployment does not exist. All people are provided work in publicly held industries. Every individual contributes to the economy according to their capacity and gets according to their need.
- Because of the lack of competition, communist regulations foster more robust social networks. Work, responsibilities, and resources are shared equally by all members of society, and envy and animosity are absent, promoting social peace.
- The government owns all property and means of production, resulting in the abolition of the free market in society.
- The communist society restricts freedom of expression.
- Central planning, as envisioned by the communist state, is impossible to implement.
- Power concentration in a few hands can lead to corruption and sloth.
- The lack of incentives for citizens to generate profit stifles innovation and societal advancement.
According to Marx and Engel, communism, the fifth and ultimate stage of historical materialism theory, would be a classless society with no private property and no differentiation between the controller and the controlled. War and revolt would cease to exist. The twentieth century, however, did not corroborate Marx’s vision: the Soviet Union, founded by the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, bore little resemblance to Marx’s first phase of communism. The proletarian dictatorship was replaced by a dictatorship of the party and bureaucracy over the proletariat, ruled by a relatively narrow elite inside the Central Committee. Even Communist China based its communist ideology on Stalin’s rather than Marx’s. Even in the twenty-first century, Marx’s vision of communism has not been proven, but it has also not been denied. At best, it demonstrates that communism must be organised differently and that numerous communist options must be considered.
Difference Between Communism and Capitalism
Aron, R. (1965). Main Currents in Sociological Thought.
Coser, L. (1971). Masters of Sociological Thought.
Fischer, E. (1970). Marx in His Own Words.