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The Uprising of Communism

By definition, communism is a political and economic system that calls for a classless society where all wealth and properties are owned communally rather than by a few individuals. The modern communist started developing in the 19th century in Europe. With the advancement of the industrial revolution, socialist critics condemned capitalism for the miseries of the urban factory workers who worked under hazardous conditions. Among the critics were the two German philosophers, Karl Max and Friedrich Engels who would later publicize the communist manifesto in 1848 (Mason 28). Marx and Engels advocated for a global revolution in the communist manifesto to usher in socialism and later communism. In the manifesto, the two philosophers predicted a classless society without family structures, class divisions, or private ownership of properties. The main idea in the communist manifesto was that creating a classless society would bring to an end the problem of consistent class struggle between the capitalists owning the means of production and the majority working class. Communism was first tested in the Soviet Union in 1917, but it later spread to other parts of the world as a global revolution. This discussion analyzes the emergence of communism in the Soviet Union, China, Germany, and other parts of the world.

Communism in the Soviet Union

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ theory was not applied in the real world until after they had died. The Russian revolution that occurred in 1917 towards the end of World War I transformed the traditional Russian Empire to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Essentially, the revolution replaced Russia’s traditional monarchy with a communist state, thus becoming the first state in the world to usher in communism. Vladimir Lenin lead a group of other Marxists through a group called Bolsheviks to gain power in 1922 in order to put the communist system into practice (Draper 49). Before the popular Bolshevik revolution, Lenin had attempted to develop another Marxist theory called Vanguardism that argued that forming a group with economically and politically enlightened elites would be necessary. According to Lenin, these elites would commence the higher stages of political and economic evolution. However, Lenin died shortly after the civil war and was succeeded by Joseph Stalin.

Contrary to Lenin, Stalin pursued a brutal economic and political ideology that oversaw massive ethnic purges and agricultural collectivization. During Stalin’s brutal tenure, millions of people died including those who died from the war with Nazi Germany. With Stalin in power, the banking system and the industrial sector were subjected to price controls and quotas, which were part of his regime’s plan (Draper 52). The system of central planning, which was initiated by Stalin’s administration, allowed massive industrialization, so the Soviet Union’s GDP outperformed that of the US between 1950 and 1965. However, the Soviet’s economy still grew at a slower rate than capitalist economies. Low spending was the main contributor to the slower growth given that overemphasis on heavy industrialization resulted in underproduction of consumer goods. In 1991, however, the Soviet Union collapsed after the masses pushed for reforms in the political and economic systems with greater emphasis on the expansion of private enterprises.

The Rise of Communism in China

Drawing inspiration from the Russian revolution, the communist party of China was formed in 1921. However, it was not until 1949 that Mao Zedong, China’s communist party leader, declared the creation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This move caused the United States to cut diplomatic ties with China for decades. Mao’s political ideology was similar to that of Stalin in terms of deprivation and violence. For example, during the Great leap forward that occurred between 1958 and 1962, the People Republic of China’s communist party forced the rural population to produce massive quantities of steel in order to spur the industrial revolution. Households were also forced to build backyard boilers to smelt scrap metals and other household items (Chen and Kung 95). Given that there was no rural labor to harvest crops, Mao exported grain to show the success of his policies, but this backfired leading to food scarcity. Consequently, drought and famine claimed the lives of over 15 million lives. In addition, the Cultural Revolution which was an ideological purge lasting between 1966 and 1976 further claimed the lives of another 400,000 lives.

After Mao’s death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping took over and introduced several market reforms that his successors have maintained in effect even today. The United States also started stabilizing its relations with China when President Nixon visited the US in 1972 shortly before the death of Mao (Chen and Kung 102). Today, the Chinese communist party is the founding and only ruling party of China. It oversees the largely capitalist system, although state-owned enterprises still dominate a large portion of the economy. Freedom of expression is significantly limited and elections have been banned except for Hong Kong where the voting rights are highly controlled and candidates have to be approved by the party. No opposition to the ruling party, The Chinese Communist Party, is allowed.

The Rise of Communism in Germany

Communism in Germany did not receive much attention until the German students’ movement that occurred between 1960 and 1970. A referendum was conducted in East Germany in 1951 to remilitarize Germany where over 95% of the population voted in favor (Mason 42). As a result, GDR was dissolved to reunite with West Germany in 1990. The former East Germany States also reunited with the Federal Republic of Germany. Communism in Germany lasted for over four decades starting after the end of the German Nazi’s dictatorship between 1945 and 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell.

East Germany, however, had a command economy where almost all decisions were made by the ruling communist party called the Socialist Unity Party. Their system of planning was highly inflexible which caused devastating economic implications (Mason 36). Power and personal connections influenced economic decisions, while all groups including trade unions were forced to collaborate to accomplish the governing party’s objectives. The industrial sector was also characterized by many inefficiencies such as lack of technological innovation and quality controls. Despite having the right training, workers were hardly rewarded with increased wages. The end result was the collapse of communism.

The fall of Communism

One of the reasons behind the fall of communism is the lack of incentives among the people to produce with a motive for making a profit. Producing to make a profit motive spurs competition and leads to innovation. Citizens in communist societies were selflessly devoted to societal welfare and rarely thought about their welfare. In addition, the geographically diverse populations made it difficult to sustain a set of rules or a common goal for shared resources and effort (Somin 2). Societies began putting their self-interests ahead of party interests, which is against the ideals of communism. Another cause of the fall of communism was the system’s inefficiencies including centralized planning. For example, this kind of planning requires extensive synthesis and aggregation of information in a centralized location. Given that all projects were centrally planned, this kind of planning became sophisticated. In many instances, centralized planning was error-prone, thus creating an illusion of progress.

The concentration of power in the hands of a few selected individuals became problematic breeding inefficiencies. It gave the select few excessive control over others, allowing them to manipulate the system to their advantage in order to continue holding power (Benedetto et al. 930). The system was also characterized by massive corruption, which discouraged the hard-working people. For example, the embezzlement of public resources among those entrusted with leadership positions largely contributed to the fall of communism in the Soviet Union and Germany. The end result of these inefficiencies was that the economies suffered to the point of collapse.

Massive loss of lives was another cause of failure and the fall of communism. For example, millions of people lost their lives in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. While the deaths can be attributed to the leaders’ brutality, some deaths were ideologically inflated and motivated (Law 71). Mao Zedong of China and Pol Pot of Cambodia also oversaw massive killings. Notably, the killings were executed as part of rapid industrialization and modernization policy.

In summary, the rise of communism involves a wide range of political movements and ideologies sharing the common goal of communal ownership of wealth, property, and economic enterprise. What began as a result of the industrial revolution in Russia in 1917 became a global revolution spreading to different parts of the world. However, due to many inefficiencies, this economic ideology could not be sustainable.

Works Cited

Benedetto, Giacomo, Simon Hix, and Nicola Mastrorocco. “The rise and fall of social democracy, 1918–2017.” American Political Science Review 114.3 (2020): 928-939.

Chen, Ting, and James Kai-Sing Kung. “The Rise of Communism in China.” Available at SSRN 3748521 (2020).

Draper, Theodore. American Communism and Soviet Russia. Routledge, 2017.

Law, Ian. Red racisms: racism in communist and post-communist contexts. Springer, 2016.

Mason, David S. Revolution and transition in east-central Europe. Routledge, 2018.

Somin, Ilya. “Lessons from a century of communism.” The Washington Post (2017).


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