Communism An Overview Essay, Research Paper
Communism began in the early 19th century in response to the problematic beginnings of modern capitalism. At that time communism was the basis for many utopian settlements, most, however, eventually failed. These small-scale experiments into communism were done with voluntary cooperation, with everyone participating in the governing process.
Later Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels greatly helped spur renewed interest in a communistic society with their book Communist Manifesto. In their writing Marx and Engels tried to analyze modern society at that time which they described as capitalistic. They showed disagreement between ideals and reality in modern society. Marx argued that every social system in the past has been a device by which the rich and powerful few could live by the toll and misery of the powerless many. They believed that the capitalist system, too, was flawed and therefore bound to destroy itself like many of the communistic experiments had done years before. It was thought that with the collapse of the capitalism, society would conclude in a political revolution in which the huge number of poor would rebel against their oppressors. The revolution would do away with private ownership of the means of production. Society would be run by and for the people.
Marx and Engels expected that this movement would happen in the most highly industrialized nations of Western Europe, the only part of the world where the conditions were ripe for these developments. This had not happened, though, and capitalism, though all its shortcomings, had been retained in Western Europe. Yet in other nations that lacked the conditions they considered essential for communism to thrive, Marx followers had attained power. The first of these was Russia, a huge, poor nation that was just beginning to acquire an industrial base. The people had almost no experience in political participation. In 1917 that rule was swept away. The Communist Party, led by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, succeeded.
From the beginning the Communist rule in the Soviet Union had many problems. Early on the governments very existence was challenged repeatedly by its enemies in the country. After the Communist Party emerged victorious it rebuilt the nation’s economy and trained the Russian people for industrialized life. Later the efforts moved to transforming the backward country into a leading industrial nation and a first rate military power. This all had to be done with brutal marshalling of all available human and material resources. The system was labeled totalitarianism. Other people called it Stalinism, named after Joseph Stalin, the leader who controlled the government of the USSR for many years after Lenin’s death.
Joseph Stalin’s rule in no way resembled the utopia that Marx and Engels envisioned. Even 30 years after Stalin’s death the USSR was still ruled by command, not consent. This led to the collapse of the Soviet Communism Party and the termination of the USSR.
The latter is a very good example of the rise and fall of communism in some countries. Yet this is not true for all. China for example, after the fall of the USSR in 1991, became the only remaining major world power with a Communist government. The Chinese government worked hard to ensure that its own system did not follow a similar demise by continuing to pursue economic policies that reduced poverty, such as allowing workers to search for jobs.