Communism is a political, social, philosophical, and economic doctrine aiming to replace private property profit-based economy with common ownership of major means of production. Communism aims to diminish the two classes of society – the working class and the capitalist class – so that the capitalist class will no longer profit from the working class.
Communism goes against many western principles; therefore, Communism is rejected by most western countries. Communism's state-controlled economy and totalitarian government are greatly opposed by the capitalist, democratic nations in Europe, the Americas, and worldwide.
What are the significant differences between Capitalism and Communism? What are the characteristics of communist countries? Are there currently any communist countries in the world?
Capitalism vs. Communism
Capitalism is an economic system involving free trade and industry that is own and controlled by individuals to make a profit. Wealth distribution depends on the individual, as every person needs to work for themselves to generate wealth, which allows for class distinction and the profit of enterprises to be enjoyed by the owner(s).
Unlike Capitalism, Communism does not allow private ownership of trade or industry, and everything has common ownership. Wealth is distributed as per needs and ability and allows for an egalitarian system (all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities). All profits earned by the enterprise are distributed among all the people, unlike Capitalism, where it is enjoyed by the owner only.
While Capitalism has a democratic system of government with little government interference, Communism has a totalitarian government with high government involvement. This is one of the main reasons why western countries see Communism as a threat.
The Foundation of Communism
A Communist country is a nation that is governed by a single party, and the foundation of the ruling leaders' decisions is based on the philosophies of Marx and Lenin. To fully understand the basis of Communism, it helps to learn more about Marx and Lenin, both philosophers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818. Born in Germany, Marx grew up to become a philosopher who based his beliefs on economics, history, journalism, political theory, revolutions, and sociology. He established a way of thinking known as Marxism.
Essentially at its core, Marxism advocates for the working class of an economy. It zeroes in on the differences between classes and how that impacts the functioning of a society. The theory views Capitalism as the source of many problems, and Marxism is in direct conflict with capitalistic societies. Marxism views Capitalism as the cause of lower wages, heightened selfish behaviors, and greed surrounding wealth, as well as the ever-present emphasis on productivity in capitalistic societies.
Through Marxism's lens, the political agenda that Communism promotes is seen as a form of socialism. The two phases of Communism, as identified by Marx, explain how Communism unfolds and then becomes regularly practiced in a country.
The two phases identified by Marx are:
Marx conveyed that countries have to understand Capitalism before moving onto the elevated state that socialism provides. Karl Marx has said that nations will not understand how to uphold a country politically affiliated with Communism if they do not first master the art of Capitalism. This applies primarily to third-world countries that need to start from the ground up, not countries that already have a stable grip on their economy.
The end goal of the two-step process is a country that operates under Communist ideologies. In theory, it would be ideal for nations to make the jump from underdeveloped with no government to successful and functional without a government, but that is not how it would unfold in the real world.
The reality of that situation would be a chaotic nation that experiences turmoil and corruption. For example, people would need to be paid based on the quality and quantity of their work. But if this understanding is not already deeply ingrained in a society, then everyone would act selfishly and seek success for themselves at the literal expense of everyone else.
The basics need to be instilled, first and foremost. From there, the country will be able to enter the second phase. At this point, the nation would be viewed as a country that implements fully-realized Communism, where class divisions and government are no longer in existence.
Born on April 22, 1870, Vladimir Lenin followed in Marx's footsteps in that Lenin was a philosopher who analyzed politics and crafted theories around what he saw. Lenin did not have identical beliefs to Karl Marx, but his ideologies were deeply rooted in Communism, much like Marx.
Leninism goes so far as to proclaim that socialism can only be achieved once the working class reaches a level of political consciousness that government officials withhold. Under Leninist beliefs, the working class can only overthrow the government and successfully instill socialism once the people understand how the government works. The basic idea is to get inside the heads of government officials, figure out how they operate, and then find ways to unravel their power.
When Marxism and Leninism Combine
Under the combined political theory of Marxism and Leninism, the concept of private property and an economy centered on profits are replaced with public ownership. Overall communal control of both natural resources and the means of production are also characteristics of Communism. This includes open access to mills, factories, and mines, to name a few sources of production. During the twentieth century, about one-third of the world's population lived under Communist rule. The region that contained the most heavily concentrated Communist countries was the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union's economy was inefficient, leading to the country's collapse in the early 1990s.
The countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union include:
As World War II started coming to an end, many European countries were divided based on the political parties they supported. Nations took sides, with some countries supporting the Axis Powers, while others supported the Allies. A handful of countries that were in agreeance with the Allies became known as the Soviet-controlled Eastern Bloc.
The countries that made up the Eastern Bloc were in favor of Communism, and they were officially controlled by the Soviet Union.
These countries included:
The group of countries known as the Balkans were also under total Communist rule. These Balkan countries were:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- The Republic of Macedonia
Various Asian, Middle Eastern, and African countries that once were communists include:
- The Democratic Republic of Congo
While many countries were previously under Communist rule, what countries are still Communist today?
Is Russia a Communist country? Communism in Russia ended after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Russia's 1993 constitution declares Russia a democratic, federative, law-based state with a republican government. Russia has a dual executive consisting of a president and prime minister with the president, currently Vladimir Putin, as the dominant figure.
China is one of the four remaining Communist countries. The Communist Party of China is the founding and sole governing political party of the People's Republic of China.
Vietnam, also known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is also one of the four remaining Communist countries. In Vietnam's third constitution, written in 1980, the Communist Party was stated as the only party to represent the people and lead the country.
Cuba is currently a Communist country. Cuba is ruled by the Communist Party of Cuba, whose role is described in the Cuban constitution as the "leading force of society of the state." The Communist Party of Cuba adheres more strictly to the tradition of Marxism-Leninism and the Soviet model than the Communist parties of other countries.
Laos, or the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is one of the remaining Communist countries. The country's only political party is the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, whose general secretary, Bounnhang Vorachith, is also the president.
Cambodia was a Communist state under the rule of the Khmer Rouge, which took over in 1970. Cambodia became a constitutional monarchy in 1993 with a king as head of state, a prime minister as head of government, and a parliamentary form of government.
North Korea is considered a Communist country; however, it does not consider itself one. North Korea is a "dictatorship of people's democracy." After the Soviet Union collapsed, North Korea revised its constitution to remove all references to Marxism-Leninism. All references to Communism were removed from the North Korean Constitution in 2009.
There are only five remaining Communist countries in the world as of 2019. The modern-day Communist countries are:
- North Korea