StudyCorgi Politics & Government

Revolutionary Communism vs. Democratic Socialism

Revolutionary communism and democratic socialism are examples of political ideologies that were byproducts of Marxism. Viewed from a certain perspective, the said political ideologies are similar in terms of their shared disdain for capitalism. Adherents of revolutionary communism and democratic socialism are moving towards the same goal. They want to establish an egalitarian society blessed with a kind of economic prosperity that is at par with those of capitalistic societies. This aspiration is the main driving force for the Cold War that pitted the United States against the Union Soviet Socialist Republic (Muravchik 89). The USSR was founded on the ideals of Marxism-Leninism. It was a government forged through the fiery tempest of revolutionary communism. The Cold War was the manifestation of the struggle between two opposing political forces. The Soviet Union had a monomaniacal desire to prove the validity of Marxism-Leninism. But at the end of the 20th century, the collapse of communism brought the once mighty USSR to its knees and precipitated the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Those who want to continue the struggle that was initiated by Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin are better off if they abandon the path created by revolutionary communism. They have a better chance of success if they embrace the ideals of democratic socialism.

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Democratic Socialism

According to an idealized view of democratic socialism, it is a type of socialism “that takes power out of the hands of elites who run political and economic systems solely for their own benefit at the direct expense to everyone and everything else” (Busky 1) The most powerful argument in favor of democratic socialism is the assertion that it “combines the ideas of liberal-democratic government with that of social ownership and control of the economy” (Busky 7). In other words, it attempts to get the best of both worlds. Liberal-democratic governance means freedom of speech, and a government that is of the people and for the people. Social ownership and control of the economy means the elimination of the negative consequences of capitalism.

Democratic socialism is “eclectic in nature, its ideas coming from many sources, including revised Marxism, Fabian socialism, and religious socialism (Busky 7). With regards to the idea of revised Marxism, democratic socialism adds elements to Marxism while restraining the violent revolutionary aspects of the said ideological framework (Busky 7). One of the main characteristics of democratic socialism is to adopt an evolutionary or peaceful means of achieving its aims.

Revolutionary Communism

Revolutionary communism is founded on Karl Marx’s dream of a classless society, wherein workers are never exploited. It is based on a socialist point of view. However, it is energized by the revolutionary ideals of Vladimir Lenin. The idealistic view of revolutionary communism is the application of Marxism-Leninism in order to create a utopian society. Thus, it is similar to democratic socialism in certain respects. The major difference is the use of force. Bloodshed is justified and the people that will suffer through the use of military force are seen as necessary collateral damage.

It is the violent nature of revolutionary communism that inadvertently created political and leadership structures that would ultimately lead to an undemocratic form of socialism. Thus, many people around the world believe that the natural outcome of revolutionary communism is a totalitarian regime. Revolutionary communists will disagree with this assessment. However, an overview of the political climate and the systematic repression of dissent in the former Union Soviet Socialist Republic; the repressed people of Eastern Germany in the aftermath of the Second World War; Communist China during the latter part of the 20th century, and present day North Korea provide compelling evidence that these regimes were under a dictatorial form of leadership.

Agreement

Revolutionary communism and democratic socialism can be considered as offshoots of the same branch. Both movements came from the soil of socialism. Proponents of revolutionary communism and democratic socialism consider Karl Marx as one of the greatest philosophers of the modern era.

Adherents of both schools have a negative view of capitalism. They believe that capitalism is the foundation stone for the creation of a class-divided society (Busky 1). They are in agreement that the main objective of socialism is to eradicate the desperation of unemployment, hunger, and homelessness (Busky 1). They are in agreement that one of the foulest forms of evil in the world is manifested through the face of corporate greed.

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These two political frameworks were created by people who fell in love with the teachings of Karl Marx. Due to Marx’s influence socialist states from Eastern Europe to Asia were established to demonstrate the belief system that:

Human labor was the only source of wealth, that productive resources should be owned by the people as a whole, and that the working class in capitalist as well as socialist countries would recognize their common interest in a form of shared ownership that would eventually extend across state boundaries (White 1).

Revolutionary communism and democratic socialism’s mission is to fight corruption, exploitation, and the alienation of workers from their labor and the products of their work (Busky 1). But revolutionary communism accomplishes the said goals using different methods.

Disagreement

Adherents of revolutionary communism have an ideal view in creating a utopian society. Therefore, they believe that their movement will ultimately create a classless and egalitarian society. However, based on the history of communism from the former Union Soviet Socialist Republic to the present day North Korea, communism is as guilty as capitalism when it comes to creating significant degrees of inequality. For example, members of the ruling communist party enjoy perks that are not available to ordinary workers.

Democratic socialism is against authoritarianism, fascism, and dictatorial forms of governance. However, revolutionary communism appreciates the importance of authoritarianism by using a different value scale. Proponents of revolutionary communism are easily swayed by the Machiavellian paradigm when it comes to justifying terrible means utilized by authoritarian leaders in order to achieve a utopian society.

Democratic socialism adopts a more humane view of governance. Supporters of democratic socialism believe that they have the correct interpretation of Karl Marx’s doctrine of socialism. Therefore, an idealistic view of democratic socialism leads to the criticism of Russia and China’s imperialist domination. Democratic socialists abhor the systematic exploitation of people and their lands.

Revolutionary communism shares the same view with regards to the creation of an egalitarian society, however it uses different strategies. One of the distinct characteristics of revolutionary communism that sets it apart from democratic socialism is the belief in a nationalized economy. In other words, revolutionary communism favors centralized control of the government.

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Democratic socialism believes in an eclectic system that tends to absorb the best ideas coming from different philosophical frameworks. But revolutionary communism has a fanatical adherence to Marxism-Leninism. In addition, revolutionary communism tends to favor agriculture collectives. It is characterized by a command economy wherein the national government appoints all managers and plans every aspect of the economy (Busky 7). It is in direct opposition to a market economy favored by capitalists (Busky 7).

Towards A Better World

Revolutionary communism and democratic socialism shares one aim, and that is to create a better world. But based on available evidence, the former failed miserably in its attempt to create an egalitarian society that matches the economic superiority of capitalistic regimes. Consider the following commentary:

The enormous tragedy of the Bolshevik Revolution lies in the contrast between the authenticity of its revolutionary ends and the dreadful familiarity of the means to which it increasingly recurred. The self-proclaimed new society rapidly exhibited remarkable continuities with the authoritarian, bureaucratic, and even religious traditions of the Czarist Empire. The proud new humans supposedly peopling it soon seemed bent, service, even sodden – and terrified. Stalin’s reliance on terror was not an inevitable consequence of the isolation of the Soviet Union (Birnbaum 49).

From the point of view of a die-hard communist, it is almost impossible to accept the end result of the revolutionary struggle made in the name of Marxism-Leninism. The proud ideas of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin stood in stark contrast to the pitiful byproducts, such as, the failed USSR experiment and the ongoing man-made catastrophe, which is North Korea.

It is important to revisit the aforementioned commentary in order to determine the reasons why revolutionary communism is an inappropriate political framework to bring about meaningful changes in a society founded on capitalistic ideals. One of the problematic components of this political framework is the use of violence to bring about radical changes to the current political environment. From the point of view of a young revolutionary leader, this is an attractive proposition. But from the point of view of a political veteran there are so many unintended consequences, and the damage done is far greater than the expected gain.

Karl Marx wrote the communist manifesto out of a genuine compassion for the workers that were working like slaves in European factories. Vladimir Lenin argued that significant changes are impossible without the shedding of blood. Ironically the workers that they tried to protect are the same people that their successors and disciples sent to concentration camps. History is a silent witness to the barbaric acts committed by Stalin in order to justify the romantic ideals of revolutionary communism.

The bitter realizations came afterwards when the Soviet Union was stripped of all forms of pretenses. The whole world witnessed the cruel unmasking of a failed state. It took a long time to realize that their opponents in the West are not successful because they operate using capitalistic business strategies. Highly industrialized countries in the Western hemisphere enjoyed significant economic prosperity due to the application of democratic and liberal principles. In other words, residents of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Japan were not sent to concentration camps every time they raise a voice of dissent. Protesters are not mowed down with machine gun fire and flattened with tanks every time they voice out their disgust regarding the government’s failure to provide basic services.

It took a long time to sink in, that democratic societies were far more successful than East Berlin, the Soviet Union, North Korea, Communist China and Communist Vietnam, because these countries are governed by democratic principles. The free market economy has its flaws. However, it is a better system compared to primitive alternatives, such as, a command economy where the government controls all aspects of the production and distribution of goods.

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The failure of the USSR, the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the decision of Communist China to embrace certain aspects of capitalism are compelling reasons to redefine socialism’s aspirations through a paradigm shift. This paradigm shift is called democratic socialism. It is a better alternative because it attempts to get the best of both worlds.

The disciples of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin are heartbroken every time they see the significant disparity of the rich and poor in democratic societies. Economic prosperity is meaningless if millions of people are homeless, uneducated, and unable to experience joy and contentment in their lives. It is imperative to initiate radical changes. However, adherents of democratic socialism are wise enough to realize the lessons of history. Revolutionary communism is an ineffective solution to the current problem of social injustice and social inequality. It is also a cautionary tale with regards to misplaced idealism that created more harm than good.

Conclusion

Democratic socialism is a much better alternative compared to revolutionary communism. The advantages of democratic socialism are seen in its capacity to absorb different types of solutions to a given problem. The rigid framework of Marxism-Leninism is not limiting factor for this particular political ideology. More importantly, democratic socialism abhors the use of violence. Adherents of democratic socialism are wise to believe that good things come to those that wait. Lenin and Stalin were unwilling to wait. But instead of creating a utopian society that honors the legacy of Karl Marx, they created a fragmented society that did not stand up to the ideals of freedom and democracy.

Works Cited

Birnbaum, Norman. After Progress: American Socialist Reform and European Socialism In the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.

Busky, Donald. Democratic Socialism: A Global Survey. CT: Praeger Publishers, 2000. Print.

Muravchik, Joshua. Heaven on Earth. New York: Encounter Books, 2002. Print.

White, Stephen. Communism and Its Collapse. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, December 29). Revolutionary Communism vs. Democratic Socialism. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/revolutionary-communism-vs-democratic-socialism/

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