The ideas of Communism appeared in the middle of the nineteenth century and were expressed in the works of Carl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Communism presupposes the economic equality of all members of a classless society. Marx developed a three-step algorithm of the establishment of Communism.
First, revolution removes all class distinctions, forming a one-class society. Second, new leaders conduct a policy of collectivization and nationalization of the country’s resources. Third, under the control of the new government, society becomes a perfectly functioning, self-sufficient classless society with the help of powerful and omnipresent ideology.
History shows that the successful application of communist theory is virtually impossible because governments cannot find the balance of power. The paper aims to find and explain the differences in theory and practice of Communism.
Communism is a political-economical ideology that proclaims social and economic equality. This doctrine is based on the idea of collective property and the government’s dominance in the political and economic spheres of the state (O’Neil, 2015).
History shows that Communism always appeared in the same circumstances. In countries where people suffered from political or colonial repressions, from endemic poverty and social inequality, there always were people that rebelled against these circumstances and became leaders of communist revolutionary movements (Smith, 2013).
The basics of Communism were introduced by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their The Communist Manifesto in the middle of the nineteenth century.
This political treatise entailed numerous interpretations and inspired many political leaders all over the world: in Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, etc. At first glance, the communist theory describes a perfect society in which there are no classes, where education is free and available for everyone, where people help those who are in need.
The majority of communist leaders condemned the existing political regimes and attempted to establish new rules for their states, the rules that would help to give equal rights for people. Although the ideas of Communism seem to be rather attractive in theory, they do not lead to the expected results when applied in practice and quite often create authoritarian regimes with capitalist political economies instead.
Communism in Theory
The Communist theory was based on the economic liberation of lower classes giving them a chance to fight for their wellbeing. For this purpose, upper classes should have been abolished, and the state would have to “control all means of production” so that no one who has more opportunities and capital could establish their rules and repress the poor once again (Hoyt, 2008).
Communism is often referred to as utopian theory; however, Marx suggested rather concrete steps to the establishing of the Communist regime. The first step on the way to Communism implies a revolution that will help to remove the existing powers and create a new pro-communist government for the state.
It is important to destroy the whole political and economic system so that the construction of a new system may be started from the ground up (Hands, 2013). The second step is the establishment of total control over the classless society. At this step, the members of the Communist movement continue abolishing the upper classes by conducting the collectivization policy that presupposes the massive appropriation of wealth.
Along with this, Communist leaders develop and propagate a powerful and omnipresent ideology of the Communist state that is aimed to influence personal views of society’s members. Total control over the political, economic, and cultural life of the society is justified by “good intentions”: Communist leaders defend newly established rules in order to prevent the possible return to the preceding, in every respect imperfect regime (Walker, 2014).
The third step is supposed to lead a state to the perfectly functioning, self-sufficient classless society with just and fair government ensuring that the “one-class system remains constant” (Roberts, 2013, p. 12).
Although there were numerous and rather successful attempts to initialize the first two steps of Marx’s algorithm, history knows a few examples when Communists achieved their final goal. In any case, even in those countries where Communist leaders managed to establish their power, Communism did not result in the unconditional well-being of the society (O’Neil, 2015).
Communism in Practice: The Case of China
The Communist movement in China gained power after the Second World War and in 1949, managed to establish the People’s Republic of China. Following the experience and example of the Soviet Communist Revolution, Mao and other Chinese communist leaders started to bring Marx’s theory into effect.
They conducted a policy of industry’s nationalization, agricultural collectivization, and central planning (O’Neil, 2015). Adopting Stalin’s methods, Chinese communists started the repressions against the opponents of a new order. After a few years of revolution, Chinese communist leaders refused the idea of a central planning economy.
This backtracking from the traditional Marx’s “prescriptions” resulted in the creation of communes. The aim of Communist leaders was to create such an economy that would be controlled by people in order to expedite the full transition to Communism. The newly created communes were supposed to make a self-sufficient society, where basic needs in all spheres, “from industrial production to healthcare,” were served by people (O’Neil, 2015, p. 425).
In theory, this would boost the broad-line economic development that would eventually lead to common wellbeing. In practical terms, the creation of communes turned to be the economic catastrophe: with a focus on quantity but not quality, all spheres became full of unskilled and incompetent professionals that produced worthless goods and services.
As a result, the economy and agriculture fell into disrepair, and the whole country suffered from famine (Saxonberg, 2013). After Mao’s death, new Communist leaders started to reform the existing system. They strengthened the state’s power in political and economic spheres and shifted the focus on communes to the individual privatization of agriculture and manufacturing.
Thus, the country started to embrace a market economy that created all conditions for capitalism flourishing (O’Neil, 2015). Many of the problems that existed in the country remained and even worsened because the government continued to control political life. The ideal goal of Communism was not achieved since Chinese citizens continued suffering from corruption, unemployment, and inflation.
They were given an “unprecedented degree of economic freedom” while the government holds total control over all spheres of the society (O’Neil, 2015, p. 427). As experience has shown, Communism is the utopian theory that will never be put into practice in such a way that would allow everyone to benefit, because governments cannot establish a right balance of power.
Communism in Practice: The Case of Cuba
Communist Revolution in Cuba has, in fact, positive and negative results. When Fidel Castro overthrew the then existing regime of Fulgencio Batista in 1958, many of the spheres of Cuban life began to change. The revolutionary ideology in Cuba was based on the ideas of Jose Marti, who believed in racial and sexual equality (Smith, 2013).
Indeed, one of the results of the revolution was the fact that all Cubans became equal to each other, and that women’s image ceased to be connected with housework and childbearing. All Cubans were provided with the opportunity of free education and healthcare.
However, among the negative results of the communist revolution was the fact that freedom of speech became restricted, and all the opponents of the established regime were violently repressed, as in other countries where communists took place.
The political and social system became hugely bureaucratic; the economic system fell into disrepair since almost half of the specialists fled the country, and, as a result, the industry and service sectors faced the lack of skilled labor (Saxonberg, 2013).
On the 26th of November, this year, the international mass media have announced the death of Fidel Castro, who established the Communist regime in Cuba for almost half of the century. Currently, the world discusses the political future of Cuba that is governed by another Castro, Raúl. As Burnett, Archibold, and Roblesnov (2016) state, the death of Fidel Castro will affect Cuban citizens, but it will not change “how the country is governed” (para. 10).
It seems to be true, though, because the political course of Cuba was in the hands of Raúl Castro since 2008, and in these eight years, in Fidel’s lifetime, he managed to change the country unrecognizably, digressing from Communism and discarding some maxims that Fidel considered indisputable.
Although Communism presents a rather appealing scheme of a state’s reformation, history, and experience of a wide range of countries show that its successful application is virtually impossible. Ideally, Communism is supposed to lead a country to the classless self-sufficient society that benefits from the absence of supremacy of upper classes over lower ones.
In practice, a one-class society suffers from the unrestricted control of a government over its political, economic, and cultural life. As a result of unbalanced policy and strict authoritarian control of their governments, citizens suffer continued political repressions and economic instability.
Burnett, V., Archibold, R.C., & Roblesnov, F. (2016). With one Castro gone, questions about what the other Castro will do. Retrieved from:
Hands, J. (2013). Platform communism. Culture Machine, 14, 1-24.
Hoyt, A. (2008). How Communism works.
O’Neil, P. H. (2015). Essentials of comparative politics (5th ed.). New York, NY: WW Norton & Company.
Roberts, J. (2013). The two names of Communism. Radical Philosophy, 177, 9-18.
Saxonberg, S. (2013). Transitions and non-transitions from communism: Regime survival in China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Smith, S. A. (2013). Introduction: Towards a Global History of Communism. In S. A. Smith (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of the History of Communism (pp. 1-39). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Walker, G. (2014). The Reinvention of Communism: Politics, History, Globality. South Atlantic Quarterly, 113(4), 671-685.