Posts Tagged ‘historic

23
Nov
09

A Brief History of Communism

It is commonly assumed by the public that Communism (also called “Marxism”) was created by the German philosopher Karl Marx. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, a young Marx joined the already existing Communist movement and, after publishing several works on the subject of Communism and Capitalism (a term he coined), he became such a central figure that the term “Marxist” became synonymous with the term “Communist”. In much the same way Adam Smith did not create Capitalism but rather created the authoritative work on Capitalism (The Wealth of Nations) and yet is still considered the “founder” of Capitalism.

So who did create Communism?

Like most things in life, there is no short and simple answer. Communism, or at least the primitive ancestor of Communism has existed for thousands of years. At the dawn of man, humans lived in tribes, working together for survival. What one man killed was food for everyone, the spear or hammer made by one person could be used by another. The concept of private-property did not evolve until much later in human history- the reason being that selfishness and individualism simply could not mesh with the harsh realities of the time. One human could not survive on his own, the tribe as a whole could not waste time and energy on creating twenty individual hammers for the twenty men of the tribe when one could be shared just as easily. At the same time, the shared property (combined with the need for everyone to pull their own weight) eliminated any chance of a class system evolving. Without any difference in wealth or workload, society was more or less egalitarian.

So what happened?

As humans became more settled and as the barter system emerged (to be discussed in a later post), shared-property died slowly out and the class system arose. While today the vast majority of hunter-gatherer, pastoral, horticulturalist, and nomadic people groups still live in classless, shared-property systems, the majority of the world’s population began moving away from this system after the establishment of permanent agricultural communities. By the fall of the Roman Empire, most of the world’s people groups practiced Capitalism in some form. It was not until 1516 when Thomas Moore, one of Henry VIII’s closest advisers, published his work Utopia that the concepts of shared-property and classlessness were reintroduced into society (albeit merely as subjects of intellectual discussion). Only in the early 1800s were the concepts developed into actual political/economic theories. Henri de Saint-Simon, a member of the French aristocracy, created several works on the subject and while never implementing them in any major way, laid the foundations for what would become known as the Communist movement. It was not until 1848 when two young Prussian authors named Marx and Engels published their collaborated work The Communist Manifesto that Communism (or “Socialism”- at the time the two words were more or less interchangeable) became a concrete theory. Between the two men’s works, the entire Communist philosophy was created, though it was not implemented until 1871, when Parisian Socialists revolted against the imperial French government and established a short-lived attempt at a Communist government until the Commune (revolutionary government) was wiped out by the French military. While Communist philosophy spread across much of the Western world, there were no major attempts at Communism (baring the establishment of Amish, and later, Hutterite, communities- which are closer to the primitive classless/shared-property practices of various tribal societies). There was a brief attempt at Fabianism (a British Socialist movement), however it quickly devolved into a philosophy, rather than a physical attempt at the implementation of Communism. It was in Russia in 1917 that the first major attempt at a Communist revolution (since the 1871 revolution) took place. The Bolsheviks (the Russian Communist party and revolutionary movement), led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Russian monarchy and the feudal system. After Lenin’s death in 1923, a split ensued that left the USSR divided between the followers of Leon Trotsky (creator and commander of the Red Army and Lenin’s second-in-command) and the followers of Joseph Stalin (the General Secretary of the Communist party). Stalin, despite the efforts of Trotsky and his followers, assumed control and eventually exiled Trotsky in 1929. Under the despotism of Stalin, the USSR, while maintaining the facade of Communism, devolved into a semi-Socialist dictatorship (Trotsky referred to it as a “deformed workers’ state). While Trotskyism grew in popularity in the West, the general Communist movement was marred by the atrocities committed by Stalin and the imperialists policies pursued in Eastern Europe after his death. In China, Mao Zedong led what is generally considered to have been a Communist revolution, but the later policies of Mao have caused many other Communists to doubt whether China could be counted as true Communist country since the mid 1950s. While the revolution itself is considered to be beneficial, the vast majority of modern Communists hold that contemporary China is no more a true Marxist country than Stalin’s USSR (this opinion is viciously opposed by Maoist factions of the Communist movement). While Communism was quickly becoming popular in the third-world (due largely to Western neo-colonialism) the next major advancement of Communism occurred in Cuba after Fidel Castro and Che Guevara defeated the dictator Batista. Once again Communists are split on the subject of whether Cuba may be considered a true Marxist government- much like China, there is popular that the revolution was a positive event but the movement is split on whether Cuba did or did not devolve into another deformed workers’ state. Indeed, the same could be said for almost every country where a Communist revolution has taken place (though almostĀ all Communists are united in believed that North Korea is not a true Communist country). While the collapse of the USSR in 1990 has led many to believe that Communism has been defeated, the Communist movement is technically as active as it ever was.

In short, the history of Communism is far from simple. Much of its history can be interpreted depending on your sympathies and opinions.

Then again, the same could be said for any aspect of history.

 

Author’s Note: Since Communism isn’t merely an economic or political or social theory but rather a combination of all three, you can see how describing the theory itself- let alone its history- is a massive undertaking that could easily fill a book. Considering my space and the attention span of the reader is sorely limited, I have been forced so skim over the major events of Communist history. Don’t be ticked off at me if I missed some (though if I have something that might be wrong, please correct me).

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05
Aug
09

The Cases for Communism

We all know what it’s like Comrade- whether it comes up casually in a conversation or it appears as we flick through channels on the TV, we almost inevitably manage to hear some form of anti-Communist argument. So it occurred to me, since there are countless anti-Communist arguments being shot at us, it is necessary for us to have some good counter-arguments. Listed below are some of the more common anti-Communist arguments and several proposed defenses.

Human Nature (1)

Argument: Communism cannot work, because Humans are inherently evil.

Counter-Argument: Communism does not and can not function on the idea that humans are perfectible, otherwise there would be no need for Communism.

Human Nature (2)

Argument: Capitalism is a better system than Communism, since Capitalism is based off of human (fallen) nature.

Counter-Argument: If we set up a socio-economic system based on humanity’s inherent greed, then why don’t we set up a legal system based on humanity’s murderous, thieving, and destructive disposition. If human nature is basically flawed, then how can we not expect an economic system based on human nature to be flawed as well?

Historic Precedent

Argument: Communism has proven time and time against to result in oppression and failure- just look at the Soviet Union and North Korea.

Counter-Argument: These are not Communist countries but Socialist dictatorships which claim to be Communist, in much the same way that Batista (a dictator) masqueraded as a democratically elected leader. Communism is no more responsible for the atrocities committed by Stalin than Jesus is for the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition.

Religious Issues (1)

Argument: Communism cannot work because it is godless- it denies any role of religion within the government.

Counter-Argument: Depending on your religion, one might also be able to call the Greek, Roman, and Mongolian Empires “godless”. Even the US has no state religion, yet it- like the empires of Greece and Rome- is generally productive, prosperous, and free.

Religious Issues (2)

Argument: Communism cannot work because it is godless- there are no moral restrictions placed upon the public and/or government.

Counter-Argument: The lack of a “religion” does not mean the lack of ethic or moral values. The Russian Revolution was generally atheistic, yet the revolutionaries were driven by a sense of social justice. Besides, countries which do have religion (either in the sense that religion is present or that religion plays a role in the government) have not been stopped from committing atrocities such as the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII or the Crusades and witch hunts…

Size Problems

Argument: Communism can only work in small communities and cannot be applied to nations and states.

Counter-Argument: Firstly, the world is a smaller place than it was fifty years ago. With advances in technology, communication and transportation are incredibly easy, making it easier to manage massive areas with ease. Secondly, humans don’t need massive states to live- indeed, most countries are, if you look at a map, small compared to the four “super-states” of the US, Russia, India, and China. Communism would probably result in smaller countries.

Governmental Issues (1)

Argument: Communism requires a massive and intrusive government to function. Citizens would lose all freedom.

Counter-Argument: Communism calls the general abolition of the state. Like the Jeffersonians, Communism calls for a basic level of centralized government, but puts most of the power on local government. Control rests in the hands of the public, not the politicians. It is the public and the public only who decide how intrusive to let their government be.

Governmental Issue (2)

Argument: Communism lets the people be lazy- they can sit back have the government take care of them.

Counter-Argument: Communism requires people to work even more than Capitalism does. The “to each according to his needs” requires a “from each according to his abilities”. People must work for their daily bread, people must vote and take an active role in their own governance.

Governmental Issue (3)

Argument: Communism has been attempted and it failed- even if we accept everything about Communism, we can see that it doesn’t work since Leon Trotsky, the populist leader, was ousted, exiled, and assassinated by Stalin. Communism doesn’t work.

Counter-Argument: Neither does Democracy. Corruption entered into the Greek political system and brought the democratic city-states crashing down. Do we claim that Democracy is impossible? Do we give up on it? Not at all- we simply figure out what went wrong, fix it, and try it again. It’s what the founding fathers of the US did, it’s what the French and English did, and so on.

Lifestyle Dilemma

Argument: Communism brings about a lower standard of living. Capitalism is better than Communism since Capitalism can provide a higher quality of life.

Counter-Argument: In this Capitalist world, it is only a slim minority who benefit from the free market. Yes, some standards of living will decrease but across the globe, billions of people will have a massive increase in their standard of living. Besides, even if the world could live as the average American does, we would need at least three more planet earths just to sustain our decadent lifestyle.

And so Comrades, with these arguments we should have a pretty decent defense against the attacks that are most often brought against us. Naturally none of these arguments are air-tight, but please keep in mind, they aren’t meant to be. These are simply the bulwark against the preliminary attacks.

As we said in the BSA, Comrades- “Be Prepared!”.