System of political and economic organization in which property is owned by the state or community and all citizens share in the common wealth, more or less according to their need.

Many small communist communities have existed at one time or another, most of them on a religious basis, generally under the inspiration of a literal interpretation of Scripture. The “utopian” socialists of the 19th century also founded communities, though they replaced the religious emphasis with a rational and philanthropic idealism.

Best known among them were Robert Owen, who founded New Harmony in Indiana (1825), and Charles Fourier, whose disciples organized other settlements in the United States such as Brook Farm (1841–47). In 1848 the word communism acquired a new meaning when Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their famous Communist Manifesto used it as identical with socialism. They, and later their followers, used the term to mean a late stage of socialism in which goods would become so abundant that they would be distributed on the basis of need rather than of endeavour.

The Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, which took power in Russia in 1917, adopted the name All-Russian Communist Party in 1918, and some of its allied parties in other countries also adopted the term Communist.

Consequently, the Soviet Union and other states that were governed by Soviet-type parties were commonly referred to as “Communist” and their official doctrines were called “Communism,” although in none of these countries had a communist society fully been established. The word communism is also applied to the doctrines of Communist parties operating within states where they are not in power.


Communism is an economic and social theory that advocates the abolition of private ownership of land or capital. Karl Marx is the name associated with Communism, but he was not the first person to articulate a theory of Communism, and Marx himself refers to Communist practices in primitive times. There have been many different types of Communism proposed by intellectuals and politicians throughout history.

1.Leninism – It builds upon and elaborates the ideas of Marxism, and served as the philosophical basis for the ideology of Soviet Communism after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the establishment of the Soviet Union.

  • Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870 – 1924) argued in his pamphlet “What is to be Done?” of 1902 that the proletariat can only achieve a successful revolutionary consciousness through the efforts of a “vanguard party” composed of full-time professional revolutionaries and through a form of disciplined organization known as “democratic centralism” (whereby decisions are made with internal democracy but then all party members must externally support and actively promote that decision).
  • It holds that Capitalism can only be overthrown by revolutionary means, and any attempts to reform Capitalism from within are doomed to fail.
  • The goal of a Leninist party is to orchestrate the overthrow of the existing government by force and seize power on behalf of the proletariat, and then implement a dictatorship of the proletariat, a kind of direct democracy in which workers hold political power through local councils known as soviets

2. Marxism-Leninism – It is the Communist ideological stream that emerged as the mainstream tendency amongst Communist parties in the 1920’s as it was adopted as the ideological foundation of the Communist International during the era of Joseph Stalin (1878 – 1953), with whom it is mainly associated. The term “Marxism-Leninism” is most often used by those who believe that Lenin’s legacy was successfully carried forward by Stalin, although it is debatable to what extent it actually follows the principles of either Marx or Lenin.

3. Anarcho-Communism – Feels that the proletariat must liberate itself from capitalist oppression and smash the state. Further, anarcho-communists believe that a workers state should not be established, as anarchists define the state only as rule by a minority. Hence, according to anarchists, it would be impossible for a majority class to control a state. Anarcho-communists also feel that the abolition of money is very important and should take place as soon as possible. They don’t believe in a separate ‘transition stage’ but instead see the revolution as a long process that will result in communism.

4. Stalinism – Claims to follow Marx and Lenin but virtually ignores everything written by them that emphasizes democracy and class rule. Follows the theory of Socialism in One Country that claims that socialism can exist in one nation before it becomes international.

  • Stalinists believe in an extremely long transition period of ‘socialism’ where the ‘workers state’, which is controlled by bureaucrats acting in the name of the workers, suppresses all ‘counter revolution’ and helps the nation’s economy. Stalinism also advocates the suppression of supposedly ‘counter revolutionary’ speech and ideas. Essentially, Stalinism supports totalitarian rule by a vanguard.

5. Luxemburgism – It is a specific revolutionary theory within Communism, based on the writings of Rosa Luxemburg (1870 – 1919). Her politics diverged from those of Lenin and Trotsky mainly in her disagreement with their concept of “democratic centralism”, which she saw as insufficiently democratic.

  • Luxemburgism resembles Anarchism in its avoidance of an authoritarian society by relying on the people themselves as opposed to their leaders; however, it also sees the importance of a revolutionary party and the centrality of the working class in the revolutionary struggle.
  • It resembles Trotskyism in its opposition to the Totalitarianism of Stalin and to the reformist politics of modern social democracy but differs in arguing that Lenin and Trotsky also made undemocratic errors.

6. Left Communism – It is a range of Communist viewpoints held by the Communist Left, which claims to be more authentically Marxist and proletarian than the views of Leninism and its successors. Left Communists supported the Russian Revolution, but did not accept the subsequent methods of the Bolsheviks.

  • The Russian, Dutch-German and the Italian traditions of Left Communism all share an opposition to nationalism, all kinds of national liberation movements, frontism (uniting with anyone against a common enemy) and parliamentary systems.

7. Primitive Communism – Marx proposed the theory that the earliest stage of economic production was actually an early form of Communism. This was an ancient hunter-gatherer society in which property was owned by the community. Because there were no land-owning or capital-owning classes, labor owned the entire product of labor.

8. Council Communism – It is a radical left movement, originating in Germany and the Netherlands in the 1920s, and continuing today as a theoretical and activist position within both left-wing Marxism and Libertarian Socialism. It sees workers’ councils, arising in factories and municipalities, as the natural form of working class organization and governmental power. It opposes the idea of a “revolutionary party” on the grounds that a revolution led by a party will necessarily produce a party dictatorship.

9. Euro communism – It was a trend in the 1970’s and 1980’s within various Western European Communist parties to develop a theory and practice of social transformation that was more relevant in a Western European democracy and less aligned to the party line of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

10. Religious Communism – It is a form of Communism centered on religious principles, whether they are Christian, Taoist, Jain, Hindu or Buddhist.

  • It usually refers to a number of egalitarian and utopian religious societies practicing the voluntary dissolution of private property, so that society’s benefits are distributed according to a person’s needs, and every person performs labour according to their abilities.
  • Christian Communism, for example, takes the view that the teachings of Jesus Christ compel Christians to support Communism as the ideal social system.

11. Trotskyism – Trotskyites follow the contributions of Trotsky and Lenin in addition to Marxism. Leon Trotsky represented the faction of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that was defeated by Joseph Stalin. In contrast to Stalin’s policy of Socialism in One Country, Trotsky emphasized the international scope of Communism; the practice must eventually spread throughout the whole world.

  • Trotskyites are more willing than Left Communists or Anarcho-Communists to participate in capitalist society and subvert it from within rather than through a violent civil war. For example, they will participate in workers unions and vote in bourgeois elections.

12. Stalinism – It is a more pejorative term for Joseph Stalin’s vision of Communism (which Stalin himself described as Marxism-Leninism). Proponents of the term argue that it includes an extensive use of propaganda to establish a personality cult around an absolute dictator, as well as extensive use of a secret police to maintain social submission and silence political dissent, all of which are trappings of Totalitarianism.


Criticisms of Communism can be divided in two broad categories: those concerned with Communist or Marxist principles and theory, and those concerned with the practical aspects of 20th Century Communist states:


  • The promise of a glorious, yet imaginary, future: Some have argued that, like Fascism, Nationalism and many religions, Communism offers a vision of an unachievable perfect future, and keeps its subjects in thrall to it by devaluing the past and the present. It claims to represent a universal truth which explains everything and can cure every ill, and any apparent deviations or under-performance is explained away by casuistry and emotional appeals.
  • An incomplete ideology: Marx and Engel’s never dedicated much work to show how exactly a Communist economy would function in practice, leaving Socialism a “negative ideology” (having removed the market price system, but with nothing to take its place).
  • The assumption that human nature is completely determined by the environment: Some Communists, including Trotsky, believed that all the social, political and intellectual life processes in general are determined by the environment.

Impact of Communism on society

The impact of communism on society has been a subject of debate and varies depending on the specific context and implementation of communist ideology. Communism, as a socioeconomic and political system, aims to establish a classless society where the means of production are collectively owned and wealth is distributed based on need. Here are some aspects of the impact of communism on society:

  1. Economic Equality: One of the primary goals of communism is to reduce economic inequality by eliminating private ownership of the means of production. In theory, this system seeks to ensure that wealth is distributed more equally among the population, with the goal of reducing poverty and narrowing the wealth gap.
  2. Social Welfare: Communism often emphasizes social welfare programs, aiming to provide universal access to healthcare, education, housing, and other basic necessities. The idea is to ensure that everyone has equal access to essential services, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
  3. Centralized Planning: Communist societies typically rely on centralized planning, where the government or a centralized authority determines production goals, allocates resources, and sets economic priorities. This approach is intended to achieve economic efficiency and prioritize societal needs over individual profit motives.
  4. Suppression of Political Dissent: Critics argue that communist regimes have often been characterized by a lack of political freedoms and suppression of dissent. In many instances, communist governments have limited or restricted freedom of speech, assembly, and the press, leading to authoritarian rule and curtailed civil liberties.
  5. State Control and Lack of Individual Autonomy: Communism involves significant state control over the economy and society. Critics argue that this concentration of power in the hands of the state can limit individual autonomy, personal freedoms, and entrepreneurship. The state’s involvement in various aspects of life can also stifle innovation and economic dynamism.
  6. Social Mobilization and Collectivism: Communism often promotes collective action and social mobilization. It encourages a sense of solidarity and cooperation among citizens, emphasizing the common good over individual interests. This can foster a sense of community and unity but can also lead to the suppression of individuality and diverse perspectives.
  7. Economic Challenges: Some argue that communist systems can face economic challenges, such as inefficiencies in resource allocation, lack of incentives for innovation and productivity, and difficulties in meeting consumer demand. Critics point to examples of widespread scarcity, inadequate goods and services, and economic stagnation in certain communist societies.

It’s important to note that the impact of communism has varied significantly across different countries and historical periods. While some societies have experienced positive outcomes in areas like education and healthcare access, others have witnessed repressive regimes and economic struggles. Evaluating the impact of communism requires considering these diverse experiences and examining both its achievements and shortcomings

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