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The hammer and sickle is the universal symbol of communism and a representation of solidarity between the proletariat working class and the peasantry

Communism[a] is a mode of production characterized by common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes. The term is also used to refer to the movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of this mode of production.

The material abundance and resultant social relations of such a society can be summarized by the slogan: "From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs." which was popularized in Karl Marx's 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program.

In the first volume of Capital, Marx mentions it as "an association of free men, working with the means of production held in common, and expending their many different forms of labour-power in full self-awareness as one single social labour force."[1]

Etymology[edit | edit source]

Before Marx, the term communism was used by many utopian socialists to describe an idealist, egalitarian society.

Its modern usage is almost always traced back to Karl Marx's usage of the term where he introduced the concept of scientific socialism alongside Friedrich Engels. The theory of scientific socialism described communism not as an idealistic, perfect society but rather as a stage of development taking place after a long, political process of class struggle. Marx, however, used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably and he drew no distinction between the two.

Lenin was the first person to give distinct meanings to the terms socialism and communism. The socialism/communism of Marx was now known simply as communism, and Marx's "transitional phase" was to be known as socialism.

Place in historical materialism[edit | edit source]

In Marx's theory of historical materialism, communism represents the final mode of production. Each mode of production is defined by its relations of production: the class dynamics, the methods of exploitation, the systems of exchange, the level of development of the means of production, etc. Capitalism is defined by the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, commonly referred to as a "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie". Socialism is defined by the same relations, but instead it exhibits a "dictatorship of the proletariat". Socialism still has class dynamics and exploitation, but the proletariat is the class on top.[2]

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels described the evolution of society through the material changes as epochs of history. The relationships between opposing ranks such as patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves, merchants, feudal lords and vassals serve as forces of class antagonism. The current stage or epoch after the demise of feudalism at the hands of capitalism only created new classes and forms of oppression, this time between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

Communism has no classes, and therefore no class dynamics. It has no exploitation, and therefore no methods of exploitation. While communism is never meant to be the "end of history", it is certainly the final mode of production as all contradictions of modes of productions have been wiped out.[3]

Implementation[edit | edit source]

The implementation of communism became an extremely debated issue after the success of various communist movements. Almost all communist political theory concerns dialectical and historical materialism, socialist transformation and socialist development.

Engels provided some theory about the transition from socialism to communism (now known as the withering away of the state) in Anti-Dühring:

The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production in the first instance into state property. But, in doing this, it abolishes itself as proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, abolishes also the state as state. [...] As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a state, is no longer necessary. [...] The state is not "abolished". It dies out.[3]

Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878)

Stalin discusses the topic in his work, Economic problems of socialism in the USSR:

It is necessary, first of all, to shorten the working day at least to six, and subsequently to five hours. This is needed in order that the members of society might have the necessary free time to receive an all-round education. It is necessary, further, to introduce universal compulsory polytechnical education, which is required in order that the members of society might be able freely to choose their occupations and not be tied to some one occupation all their lives. It is likewise necessary that housing conditions should be radically improved, and that real wages of workers and employees should be at least doubled, if not more, both by means of direct increases of wages and salaries, and, more especially, by further systematic reductions of prices for consumer goods. These are the basic conditions required to pave the way for the transition to communism.[4]

Joseph Stalin, Economic problems of socialism in the USSR

According to Cheng Enfu, the transition from socialism to communism requires the following conditions:[5]

  1. Highly advanced productive forces
  2. Ownership of the means of production by the whole people and a planned economy with goods distributed according to need
  3. Full development of culture, education, healthcare, science, and technology
  4. Improved ideological awareness
  5. Withering away of the state

Communism as an ideology[edit | edit source]

Communism is sometimes described as a political theory: Marxists have Marxism, Darwinists have Darwinism, and Communists have Communism. This term is usually used by liberals, although some communists have used the term communism this way. To have a better understanding of it, Engels stated that:

Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat.

Friedrich Engels, The principles of communism, 1847

Communism as a movement[edit | edit source]

According to Marx, communism can be defined as the "the real movement which abolishes the present state of things." The communist movement differs from other workers' movements due to its internationalism and because it represents the entire working class.[6]

In their seminal and most well-known work, Marx and Engels laid the basic principles of communism in which all future revolutionaries build their principles upon. For one, they acknowledged and made clear that communism, as an ideology had always existed since the rise of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. They wrote in the famous opening:

A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of Communism[7]

To begin with, what we recognise as communism stems from the existence of class struggle.[8] Marx and Engels, through historical and dialectical materialism, write that throughout history, there has always been a class struggle within known society between what we know as the ruling class and the ruled class. In the manifesto, they have given the following examples:

  • Freeman and slave
  • Patrician and plebeian
  • Lord and serf
  • Guild-master and journeymen
  • Oppressor and oppressed

Even though all communists hold the bourgeoisie to be antagonistic towards the proletariat, and thus considered to be an adversary, Marx and Engels made it clear that the rise of the Bourgeoisie stemmed from their own revolutionary tendencies in overthrowing the feudal classes[9] which in turn, led to the creation of the current contradictions between themselves and the proletariat, or what we know as, the working class.

Communists do not claim to be the first and only parties that advocate and fight for the working class. What Marx and Engels specified in regards to communists are that they recognise the struggles of the working class regardless of nationality.[10] Marx and Engels then proceeded to emphasise was the need of a revolutionary party that would safeguard and fight for the Proletariat. Marx and Engels were resolute that the Communists are the most advanced parties for the proletariat due to their ultimate goals of:

  1. Forming the proletariat into a revolutionary class
  2. Overthrowing the supremacy of the bourgeoisie
  3. Allowing the proletariat into conquest of political power

A common misconception that right-wingers and even some sections of the left have in regard to another aim of communism is the abolition of all property. Marx and Engels have already made exceedingly clear in the manifesto that while Communists openly intend to do away with property, they are only interested in doing away with private property which belonged exclusively to the bourgeoisie.[11]

Communism has also been defined as a movement for the re-humanization and liberation of the exploited and oppressed masses that restores equal rights to all genders and nationalities.[12]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. See note in Capital, vol. I – The fetishism of the commodity and its secret
  2. Mao Zedong (July 1964) On Khrushchov's Phoney Communism and Its Historical Lessons for the World
  3. 3.0 3.1 Friedrich Engels (1877) Anti-Dühring, Part III, Chapter II
  4. Joseph Stalin (1951) Economic Problems of the USSR, Chapter XIII
  5. Cheng Enfu (2022). On the Three Stages in the Development of Socialism: 'Five Conditions for Transition from Socialism to Communism'. [PDF]
  6. Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels (1848). Communist Manifesto: 'Proletarians and Communists'. [MIA]
  7. “A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of Communism”

    Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels (1848). Manifesto of the Communist Party.
  8. “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”

    Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels (1848). Manifesto of the Communist Party: 'Bourgeois and Proletarians'.
  9. “The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.”

    Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels (1848). Manifesto of the Communist Party: 'Bourgeois and Proletarians'.
  10. “The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality.

    2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.”

    Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels (1848). Manifesto of the Communist Party: 'Proletarians and Communists'.
  11. “We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence.

    Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.

    Or do you mean the modern bourgeois private property?

    But does wage-labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage-labour, and which cannot increase except upon condition of begetting a new supply of wage-labour for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labour. Let us examine both sides of this antagonism.

    To be a capitalist, is to have not only a purely personal, but a social status in production. Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion.

    Capital is therefore not only personal; it is a social power.

    When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character”

    Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels (1848). Manifesto of the Communist Party: 'Proletarians and Communists'.
  12. Stephen Gowans (2018). Patriots, Traitors and Empires: The Story of Korea’s Struggle for Freedom: 'The US Occupation' (p. 77). [PDF] Montreal: Baraka Books. ISBN 9781771861427 [LG]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. From Latin communis, 'common, universal'