24
Jul
09

The Many Faces of Communism

Like Capitalism, Communism is not a single political, socio-economic system but a term used to denote any number of systems based around the abolition of private property and the establishment of a democratic, classless system. Listed below are some of the more major forms of Communism.

Classical Communism/Marxism

A common misconception about Communism is that it was created by Karl Marx. In reality, however, the concept of Communism existed before Marx’s time and it was a young Karl Marx who became Communist, rather than Karl Marx founding Communism. Nevertheless, Marx did for Communism what Adam Smith did for Capitalism. Marx, by writing the first authoritive Communist works (particularly The Communist Manifesto) will be forever credited with establishing the basic principles of Communism (also called Marxism). The fundamentals of Communism, as discussed in previous posts, is that the working class, after ages of exploitation by the upper classes, will revolt and establish a new world order in which all property is shared, the concepts of royalty and nobility are abolished and democracy is instated, and the entire class system is destroyed in place of a single, working class. While this might appear more or less straightforward, the exact details of the Communist society were never stated by Marx, and as a result, many have built off of Classical Communism and combined it with other political and economic theories.

Christian Communism

Perhaps the earliest known Communist society was the primitive Christian Church. According to early records and the Christian bible, the Christian community (though technically the word “Christian” had not yet been created) shared all property and had a government specially created to facilitate the distribution of property. As Christianity grew and became more institutionalized, Christian Communism died out and was not revived until the early 1600s, when religious separatists began colonizing America (the most famous of these groups to instate Christian Communism was the Plymouth colony). Again, as Christianity became more established in the New World and as more and more settlers arrived, Christian Communism withered away again (though some groups, such as the Amish and Hutterites, have kept it alive in certain parts of America). Aside from a brief period in the 1700s when many Catholic Missions cooperated with the local Native American population as isolated Communist societies, the actual practice of Communism has died out among most Christian sects- partly because of the spread of Capitalism and partly because of the religious persecution instated by the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea (motivated by Marx’s rather disparaging attitude towards religion). Nevertheless, many Christians have combined Christianity and Marxism, stating Marx’s anti-religious comments were the result of corruption within the church at the time. Indeed, in many parts of the world Christianity and Marxism have been combined as the basis for anti-Capitalist revolution (take the Palestinian PFLP, or the Catholic “Liberation Theology” for example).

Leninism (Bolshevism)

Leninism is the political/socio-economic plan that was in the process of being instated in post-revolutionary Russia. Pioneered by the revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin, Leninism (sometimes called “Bolshevism” after Lenin’s party) was more or less the same as Classical Marxism with a few added modifications. Firstly, Leninism holds that in order to effectively redistribute property and manage the national workforce, a strong centralized (federal) government was required. Secondly, Leninism focused on industrialism, factory workers, and production- attempting to make industry the backbone of the Communist society (though it should be noted that some hold that the Leninist focus on factory work was a result of Russia’s involvement in WWI, not ideology).

Maoism

While most Communists hold that Mao Zedong was nothing more than a dictator and a narcissistic megalomaniac who used Communism as a Trojan horse to seize control of China, there are a number of those who believe that before Mao came to power he was a genuine believer in Communism. Using Mao’s early actions and teachings, “Maoism” has been developed as a Communist philosophy acting almost as a counter-balance to Leninism. Unlike Leninism, Maoism demands a strong provincial (state, local) government rather than a massive central power. Also, Maoism puts emphasis on peasants, farmers, and agriculture as the foundation of a Communist society (as opposed to the Leninist focus on industry).

Trotskyism

Created by Leon Trotsky after his exile from Russia by Joseph Stalin, Trotskyism is what one might call “the left wing of Communism”. Trotskyism focuses on the revolutionary aspect of Communism. While most other schools of Communism believe that the revolution must occur before the establishment of the Communist society, Trotskyism holds that a Communist society and the revolution will be happen almost simultaneously. Trotskyism is also perhaps the most anarchic form of Communism, focusing heavily on localized government and state/provincial rights (extremely similar to the Jeffersonian of the early US). Another major aspect of Trotskyite Communism is the belief in circular-revolution, the concept (originating in ancient China as the “Mandate of Heaven”) essentially states that all governments- including Communist governments- will become inevitably corrupt over time, therefore it is not the right but the obligation of the public to revolt and instate a new government each time this happens (a principal also found in The Declaration of Independence).

Luxemburgism

Established by Rosa Luxemburg, this form of Communism is perhaps the middle-ground between Leninism and Maoism. Lexemburgism focuses on the importance of ensuring Democracy, and calls for a balance between local and centralized power. Luxemburgism also calls for populism and general abolition of political parties (extremely similar to the philosophy of George Washington and- with the exception of the call for the balance between federalism and provincialism- Andrew Jackson).

Green/Eco/Environmental Communism

Perhaps the youngest form of Communism, Environmental Communism holds that Capitalism is destroying the planet’s ecosystem and devouring its resources and that Communism is the only viable solution. Eco Communism (as it is sometimes also called) focuses on low-consumption levels through shared property, controlled levels of production, and a lack of corporations blamed for damaging the plant. While most Communist contemporary Communist systems espouse some form of ecological protection, Eco Communism differs in that the protection of the environment is the primary goal, rather than establishing a Communist society based on agriculture or religious principles.

Revisionary Communism

The term “Revisionary Communism” does not refer to a specific philosophy or class of Communism but rather an aspect. While Revisionary Communism can be applied to almost any non-Classical Marxist ideology, it is most often used to describe various fringe groups who believe in amending some or all of Marx’s teachings, particularly on the subject of the Proletariat revolution or class system. While technically Communist, these groups are often motivated by the belief that Marx’s revolutionary ideology is too harsh or unnecessary for a Communist society to be implemented.

Pseudo Communism

Technically, this category refers not to Communists but to various groups, individuals, or philosophies claiming to be Communist but in reality functioning as something else. The best example of this would be the post-Leninist Soviet Union, which claimed to be Marxist but in actuality was simply a Socialist dictatorship. “Pseudo Communism” is, of course, a derogatory name most often given to Stalinist and Contemporary-Maoist groups. It is also used by some to mock Revisionary Communism.

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16 Responses to “The Many Faces of Communism”


  1. July 26, 2009 at 1:33 am

    You describe the Christian Communism of the 1600s forward dying out because of the spread of capitalism. Why did the communism of the early church end?

  2. 3 trotskyite
    July 26, 2009 at 2:28 am

    Personally, I blame it on the Greeks turning the message of Comrade Jesus into a philosophy, and the Roman Empire turning that philosophy into an institution. Once Christianity became incorporated into the semi-Capitalist Roman government, it ceased to be a movement and turned into a form of social control.

  3. July 26, 2009 at 3:40 am

    R.H. Coase wrote a paper in 1937 titled The Nature of the Firm. In it he talks about the limits beyond which a command economy becomes inefficient. I’d be interested to hear yourtake on it one of these days.

  4. 5 trotskyite
    July 26, 2009 at 6:11 am

    I’ll read it.

  5. July 29, 2009 at 5:41 am

    Just wanted to let you know that I’m reading along(maybe you saw me lurking in your stats) in an effort to learn and to understand the reasons you have embraced Communism. And, I admit that I haven’ only read about Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” and Marx’s works, not the actual works. It seems to me that you often speak of Capitalism and Communism in an either/or way. Must it be so? Is embracing Adam Smith’s brand of capitalism or Marx’s brand of sharing he wealth really our only two choices? I’m thinking not and I’m interested to hear what you think.

  6. 7 trotskyite
    July 29, 2009 at 6:47 am

    While there is state-property (modern Socialism), I don’t know of any other option aside from Communism and Capitalism.

  7. July 29, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Communism is defined by Marx as a society that is not only classless but is stateless! Communism can only exist under the conditions of material abundance. An abundant society that cooperates instead of competes because competing would not be compatible with a social environment of material abundance.
    With the passage of time a new human type would emerge from the material conditions of material well being. That new type of person would be a “social scientific being.” A state apparatus of police, courts and enforcement of laws would no longer be necessary because the need for a state apparatus to enforce social conduct would not need to exist because when individuals that are materially secure and scientifically aware of all of their surroundings will not need a state apparatus to force them or tell them to be social. The powers of a state apparatus would gradually wither away. Communism can only be defined as a society that has eliminated the need of class warfare and political rule from the top down. Every individual will have the freedom to be an individual that is finally free to contribute to his fellow humans as a social scientific human being!
    THIS IS WHAT IS COMMUNISM ACCORDING TO MARX! IF ANYONE SAYS DIFFERENTLY THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT!

  8. 9 trotskyite
    July 29, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Had I said differently, Comrade?

  9. August 2, 2009 at 11:21 am

    You appear to be right on!
    If you are a “dialectical materialist” we should always be on the same page!

  10. August 10, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    He raised the questions that we would have to face, century French or British could conceive. Eco Friendly

  11. August 13, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    I just love your weblog! Very nice post! Still you can do many things to improve it.

  12. 13 trotskyite
    August 14, 2009 at 4:49 am

    What did you have in mind?

  13. August 14, 2009 at 8:30 am

    I suspect the comment from Extenze is spam. When you get a comment that could fit just as well with any blog article whatsoever, it usually means somebody’s trying to pull a fast one on you. What they gain from this, I do not know.

  14. 15 TomMarx
    June 19, 2013 at 3:27 am

    A very excellent blog website, and its a shame that the word communism has been so demonized,

    Trotskyite i wanted to know your opinion on the communists in England and French parties that have labelled themselves trotskyists?

    • 16 trotskyite
      June 19, 2013 at 3:32 am

      I really don’t know a ton about the self-proclaimed Trotskyists of Europe. I’d like to be optimistic about them, but my experience with most of the far left is going to make me assume that they’re as bogged down in intellectual exercises and pointless analysis as the American left is. Again, though, I’m just speculating.


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