What is Communism? | Success and Failures of Communism | By Dhruv Rathee


Hello friends!

Communism! Capitalism! Socialism! Liberalism! You must have heard these words quite often. But do you know the real meaning of these ideologies in its true sense? What has been their impact on our world? What are their advantages and disadvantages?   

I will explain such concepts, topics and things in a simple language, about which we talk frequently, but hardly anyone amongst us has tried to go in-depth to understand their meaning. 

What are Communism and Communist ideology?

 In one line, communism means, “From each according to his ability, To each according to his needs.”

 Meaning a society, where every person works according to his ability If one person is more fit, is muscular and can lift heavy weight, then he works according to his own ability. 

If another person is a little weak, is disabled and cannot work extensively, then he too works according to his ability and contributes towards society. And such a society where every person gets things according to his need. 

You will say here, “Bro, this is a strange kind of society. I being a fit and healthy individual will work hard and in return, I will only get some money that fulfils my need!” 

How will this work?

Communism is basically a society or you can say that it is a way of structuring people where there is no money. It is a moneyless society. It is a stateless society. There are no countries. No borders have been drawn between countries.


 It is a classless society with no discrimination between the rich and the poor.  Such a society where the means of production, such as land, farms, industries, factories, all of them are operated and owned by the labourers, by the common public. 

Whenever we hear the word communism, Karl Marx, the Soviet Union and countries like China come to our mind. But in reality, if you go through the basic definition of communism, the foundational ideas of communism are actually thousands of years old. 

Throughout human history, you will get to see these examples. Think about 10, 000 years ago. How did humans live? Humans lived in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, in tribes. Many anthropologists believe that it was the primitive form of communism. When you live in jungles in tribes then there is no concept of money, country. No country exists. 

Many tribes might have had class or hierarchy, but some tribes might not have even that. All people existed together. There would be no private ownership. It isn’t that one individual from the tribe can say that this thing is mine and JUST mine. In these tribes, when you searched for some food or hunted then you shared with everyone. The shelters were also shared with everyone. Most of the things were shared by everyone. Everyone lived like a closed community.

 If we talk about today then, Karl Marx is called the father of Communism. Karl Marx was a German philosopher who published the Communist Manifesto in 1848. 

What was written in this Communist Manifesto? Before we understand this, we need to understand the era Karl Marx was living in ? What were the conditions around him? 

Karl Marx grew up in an era when the industrial revolution had just begun. The Industrial Revolution brought about big machines and factories. The labourers working in these factories quite often worked in a very bad condition. The owners of these factories were often rich people who exploited their workers. 

The owners of these factories made their workers work for the maximum hours while giving them the least amount of payment. The profit coming out of these factories, most of it was basically taken away by these factory owners.

So basically according to Karl Marx, there were two classes here;


  • First the class of rich factory owners who took away most of the profits.

  • The second class is of the workers/labourers who work in the factories for hours but get nothing in return.

 As a solution to the problems, Karl Marx imagined such a society where there are no differences between the rich and the poor.

 In a way, he imagined a utopia. Utopia is a perfect society that doesn’t exist in reality. And he named this utopia Communism. In his communist manifesto, he revealed the details as to how communism can be achieved. He said that workers together can overthrow the monarchy that exists, whoever is the king or whichever government exists. 

Such a society will be built where the means of production i.e, the factories or the farms will not be owned by a single owner but rather the entire public. According to this communist manifesto, the communist society, there won’t be any class or discrimination between rich and poor or on the basis of race, religion. 

Free education and healthcare would be provided. There would be no inherited wealth. If someone is rich then that doesn’t mean that all his future generations too, would be rich. No concept of Inherited Wealth There will be no concept of private ownership. 

No person can say that this farm is mine or this land is mine. Everyone will own all the land and all the factories. There will be an even distribution of wealth. There won’t be rich or poor. There will be equality. And everyone will be the owners of everything. Everyone owns everything!

 So, these things are quite idealistic but at the end of the day, everything is quite theoretical. You will ask how these things can be practically implemented. It is nice to say but how can it be done in reality.

 At the end of the day, Karl Marx was a philosopher. He did not see the practical implementation of communism. Practical implementation in reality in the true sense was majorly seen after the Russian revolution of 1917.

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 In Russia, communist workers together overthrew the Russian monarch who used to be called the Czar at that time. And their leader Lenin for the first time implemented communist ideas on a big scale. Lenin took some revolutionary steps for his time. 

The human rights of the labourers were recognized. The working week was limited to 8 hours per day and 5 days a week. Prior to this, workers worked for 12, 13, 14 hours in the factories. But Lenin first introduced the 8hours and 5 days which is quite common in the world today. Everyone works Monday to Friday for 8 hours per day. Women were introduced to education. 

For farming, the land was taken away from rich landowners and redistributed amongst the farmers. The factories were nationalised and they were taken under the control of the government. But if you remember, the original ideas, written in the communist manifesto, it wasn’t written that the government will control everything rather it said that the public will control everything. 

So, you can say that the communism implemented by Lenin was a little different from ideas thought out by Marx. 

Now think about it friends, if such big steps will be taken in such a big country such as the Soviet Union it isn’t possible that every person living there would agree to it. Some people will say that what the government is doing, we disagree with it. Or disagree with the way of doing it. 

But Lenin believed that what he was doing was an absolute right. He did not have the ability to take criticism. For this reason, he banned the rest of all political parties and established a one-party state. In fact, a state where it was not allowed to criticise the party. Secret police used to spy on the people and if anyone criticised the government, he was put in jail. 

Any person opposing communism or suspected to have spoken against used to be jailed, deported, or executed. So, this Marxist-Leninist political structure is called Soviet Communism. 

Today, most people associate Communism with this Soviet Communism. But obviously, every Communist did not agree with this Leninism. There was a very famous Polish communist Rosa Luxembourg who was strictly against Leninism. She used to Libertarian Marxism. Such a Marxism philosophy where people are given freedom of speech. They are given their freedom.

 But anyway, Lenin died in 1924. After him, came Stalin who implemented his own ideas of communism which were worse than Lenin. Stalin’s communist ideology went farther away from the Marxist ideology. Stalin tried to increase the output of the factories. For that, he tried to make the labourers work more and the workers started working in the same conditions that Marx had initially mentioned. 

The only difference was that this time, the factory owners were not any rich business owners but rather the government. Soviet Union government kept their workers in the same bad conditions and the economic conditions were so bad that millions of people died due to famine and hunger. 

Because of this, many people call Stalin’s ideology, State Capitalism. It doesn’t have much to do with communism rather it was a structure of capitalism that was state-controlled. After this, came Mao. His communist ideology was much more extreme and all the more violent. 

There is a very famous dialogue of his, “All political power comes from the barrel of the gun.” In some way or the other, he advocates for violence. His ideology is called Maoism and the word Maoist comes from here only. 

The Naxal-Maoists who have picked up weapons in India believe in his ideology. It isn’t surprising that they are so violent. Inspired by the Soviet Union, many countries around the world tried to implement communism. In all these countries, their own ideas of communism were implemented. 

How should communism work according to them and practically how it worked?

 But one thing was common in all these countries. All these countries had dictatorships. Most of communist countries transformed into dictatorships. 

On one hand, dictators like Stalin and Mao killed people because they thought that they were against communism. On the other hand, were Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy, Franco in Spain, killed people in their own countries on the suspicion of them being a communist. 

In fact, it is said about Hitler and Mussolini that one technique they used to come to power scared people of communism. was to scare people into believing that they were the only ones to protect them from the evils of communism. 

This is how these people came to power and became dictators. So, by now, you must have understood one thing friends. It is not a black/white thing to be or not to be a communist. Consider it a spectrum. 

You can make a graph in fact. One hand is communism, capitalism and on another are dictatorship and supporting freedom and democracy. 

So some dictators such as Stalin are communists but also dictators but some dictators such as Hitler are on the side of capitalism but are still dictators. And some other such people who believe in capitalism and support democracy will come under this section. 

What were the successful ideas that the world has borrowed from communism?

 You can say such ideas that turned out to be successful in communism and the rest of the world have implemented it today. 

  • The first idea is of a classless society, one where there is no class difference. There is no discrimination between upper caste and lower caste or the rich and poor. Today everyone generally accepts that racism, casteism, sexism are bad. It is a bad thing to discriminate between people. It is a good thing to give equal opportunity to every person. 

  • Although, I would definitely say that some communist countries have taken this idea to the very extreme. They took "no discrimination between people" to mean that there should be no difference between people. Every person will be given the same house, same car and same standard of living. There should be no difference in beliefs among people. 

  • No one should believe in a certain religion or ideology. This is the reason why communist dictatorships came into being. In fact, if you focus on the architecture in communist countries, then you would see such buildings which are styled quite like a boring dystopia. There is no creativity and people are not given a chance to express their beliefs The second idea is of no inheritance.

  •  Each one of us raises our voice against nepotism, dynasty politics. It is quite something similar to Karl Marx thoughts. Karl Marx had said that there should be no inheritance. And if we look at the implementation in reality, then  in many democratic countries in Europe, there exists an inheritance tax. 

  • If you are wealthy, and you are gifting that wealth to your children and letting them inherit it then that wealth would be taxed. The third idea is worker rights. The exploitation Karl Marx talked about; we get to see that in many places. For this reason, in most democratic countries we get to see workers unions and labour unions. For example, the farmers protest going on has many farmer unions participating. 

What are these farm unions? 

All the workers come together and raise their voices together. Whenever they feel that they are being exploited then all these unions stand together to amplify the voice of the workers or the farmers. 

Karl Marx had also said that most factory owners exploit their workers. They make them work the maximum hours and give them the minimum payment. To avoid this, the concept of minimum wage exists in most countries. A lesser salary than this would not be given to any worker. 

Similarly, there are ideas of free education and free healthcare that have been successfully implemented in many developed countries. 

Now, let’s come to the failures of communism. What was the reason that whenever it was tried to implement communism, it always kept failing. 

What are the fundamental problems of this communist ideology? 

The biggest problem of communism in my opinions lies in its basic definition. Every person will work according to their ability but will get things according to his need. 

Now think about it yourself. If I am a fit and healthy person and I am working really hard according to my ability but what do I get in return? I get the same thing whatever everyone else is getting? What is then my incentive to do more hard work? If I work less then I would get the same payment. Work even lesser, I'd still get the same. No reason exists to improve my work. What will I get If I am more efficient and innovative? I will get nothing. I will get what I have been getting since always. 

Now think about it, if every person living in society starts thinking like this, no competition in the society. There would be no development in technology or in any other field. This is quite a philosophical reason behind the failure of communism. 

The practical reason is that when you try to make a classless society in a reality where everyone is the owner of everything.This society has a power vacuum. The space at the top is empty and there is no one to lead. Due to this power vacuum, there will always be space for a dictatorship. 

One person who will tell direct the way of work. And he will then become a dictator. Through this very dictatorship, one-party rule is established. People’s freedom is snatched away. There is no democracy. And if anyone speaks against the party then they are either arrested or killed. 

On top of it, when this dictatorship is established, the government will control all factories, lands, all distribution processes. The things which are to be distributed amongst the people will be under the control of the government.

When one person or party will control everything then what will happen? 

Corruption.! The people in power will keep getting corrupted because they have so much control in that they can decide everything about the public. 

What kind of houses will people live in? 

How much land will they get? 

How many factories will they get?

 In reality whenever there have been efforts to implement communism practically, it ceases to be communism. Some party comes up and dictates how things will work. Which is quite different from the original definition. 

What is the principal definition of communism? 

The original definition is that every person is the owner of everything. But if one party, one government tries to control everything then it ceases to be communism. It will now be called socialism.

After hearing all this, one question will come to your mind.

Does a successful practical example of communism exist? 

Where communism has been implemented in the true sense? 

Where it did not turn into a dictatorship?

 The answer to this question is yes but only in small communities. Whenever the scale gets bigger up to the level of a country then communism is always seen to be failing. Communism has thrived in small communities in some places. 

The biggest example of this like early humans who lived in tribes, worked together when there was no concept of money. In today's modern world too, there are few examples of it as well where it has worked in small communities. For example, OSHO’s ashram in the US on which a Netflix documentary series has been made as well. People lived in a small commune together. Everyone worked with each other.There was no concept of money. It was called Rajnishpuram

You can call it a successful implementation of communism. But it is not right to call it successful even. Because if you look at what actually happened to it in the end you will know it turned out to be a big failure as well. 

But in India, there is still one example of it. There is a community in Puducherry named Auroville. 2000 people live in a community where there is no concept of private ownership of land, housing and business. All the people living there work for everyone and take care of the entire community Everyone has been assigned their work and there is not much concept of money either. 

comment below about your opinion. 

What are the successful ideas of communism and what are its failures?


 Thank you so much.

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