Background of Socialism and Marxism
Communism are more accurately called
economic and social systems rather than political systems.
However, the real world application of the economics behind
socialism and communism requires a particular form of
government able to support it.
Early socialists wanted to create self-sufficient
communities where everyone owned everything together, and
where no one was left in need of anything. In other words,
all property and work was shared for the benefit of the
entire community. Socialists believed that if there was no
money and everyone's needs were met, war and fighting would
a German living in London, England, and
Friedrich Engels wrote
The Communist Manifesto to explain their ideas.
In it, Marx and Engels claimed that all of history was a
continuous struggle between people who had material goods
and wealth, and people who did not have any (the "haves" vs.
the "have nots"). They also said that
economic system in which factories and businesses are owned by
private individuals or corporations, took advantage of the
working class, and, therefore, should be abolished.
Marx and Engels believed that all over Europe the working
proletariat, would overthrow the
capitalist system and form their own governments in response
to capitalist abuses. Further, they thought that such
governments would create a classless society in which all
wealth and power would be shared equally among all people.
Communist Revolution, as predicted by Marx and Engels,
did not occur. What neither man had considered, was that
nationalism, a feeling of intense pride and devotion to one's
country, was even stronger than the desire to be free from
The Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) / Soviet Union
the first time Communists successfully overthrew an
established government, it was not even a capitalist one.
Russia, in 1917,
V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky led a group of
socialist revolutionaries called
Bolsheviks, in a coup
Czar Nicholas II. Lenin promised the people
"peace, land and bread," but used secret police and brutality
to create a one-party government where the Communist
Party, and not the people, had the ultimate power.
Josef Stalin, turned Russia, now called
Soviet Union, into a
Every aspect of people's lives was controlled by the
government. To strengthen its control,
economy, where government officials made all economic
decisions, was put in place by the Communist Party.
Stalin forced peasants to give up ownership of their land
and live on government-owned farms called collectives.
On a collective farm, all animals and equipment were owned
by the state. The government controlled the prices
paid to the farmers for their products, and forced them to
quotas, or production goals.
Stalin also tried to spur industrial production, hoping to
catch up to the United States as a world superpower.
People who refused to give up their factories
and businesses and become workers of the government, or
conform, were arrested and sent to prison.
Tens of millions of political protesters, uncooperative
peasants and Stalin's personal enemies disappeared forever.
Republic of China
As in Russia, the
revolution in China was not one of workers vs.
owners, but one of imperial government vs. poor starving
peasants who felt that government had abandoned them.
After years of
civil war, China became a Communist nation in
1949. The newly communist China looked to the Soviet Union for
leadership, but quickly turned in a different direction.
leader of the Chinese Communist Party,
Mao Zedong, wanted to
transform China from an agricultural society into a modern
industrial power. Mao undertook a number of programs in
order to achieve his goal. He created
Chinese version of the Russian collective, tried to renew
Chinese culture. He also launched a series of agricultural and
industrial production initiatives, and improved the social
standing of women.
In both China and the Soviet Union, human rights
were overlooked in the effort to create a strong Communist
nation. Tens of millions of dissenters, people who
strongly disagree with a policy or idea, were killed. In each
county, the goal of turning previously agricultural nations
into powerful industrial giants only led to famine and further
suffering for the general populace because of popular
resistance to government policies.
Both China and the Soviet Union created something very
different from the socialist utopia envisioned by Marx
and Engels in 1848. Mao and Stalin transformed
their nations from absolute monarchies into totalitarian
states with command economies. In both cases, private
citizens ended up in even more strictly controlled societies,
where personal freedoms were severely restricted, and most
people feared to speak out against government corruption or
The Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 after most of its
satellite states regained their independence. China is
still controlled by a communist government.