What is Communism? Its Definition, History, Marxism, Social Revolution

What is Communism?

Communism is a social, political and economic ideology. The objective of communism is to establish a classless and stateless society. A communist society has common ownership over means of production. This is to say that each and every member of the society owns the means of production. In such a society, there exists no need for any medium of exchange for transaction purposes like currency. Thus, a communist society is also moneyless.

Definition of Communism

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, communism is defined as “a theory or system of social organization in which all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs”.

Symbol of Communism

The widely recognized symbol of communism is hammer and sickle. The meaning of this symbol is very easy. The hammer represents the industrial workers and the sickle represents the farm workers. Soviet Union was the first country to officially adopt hammer and sickle as their symbol in 1922.

Color of Communism

History has been traditionally associating red color with socialism and communism. As we know, red is considered as the color of revolution. Red flags were first used in the French Revolution of 18th century.

Proletariat and Bourgeoisie

Many schools of thoughts have developed and evolved under the umbrella of communism. One common thread between all these schools is the belief that the current economic order of the society is based on Capitalism. It is this theory of capitalism that forms of the basis of conflict between the two classes of the society, namely, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The proletariat class works for survival and forms majority in the society. They are the wage–earners whose main source of economic strength is their labour power. The bourgeoisie class owns the means of production and derives profit by employing the proletariats.

Marxism & Theory on Social Revolution

The history of communism encompasses various political theories and movements which have revolved around the core principles of common ownership of wealth, property and means of production in a market economy. Philosophy of Karl Marx, a 19th century German philosopher, has greatly influenced the modern theories on communism. Marxism is the philosophy of Karl Marx.

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According to the theory proposed by Marx, the wage-system and capitalism oppress the proletariat or the working class. Due to the oppression, the proletariat eventually end up having common social, economic and political goals. The unison of all these interests ends up taking power away from the capitalist hands. Thus, eventually a social revolution resolves the conflict between the two classes. Such a revolution puts the proletariat or the working class in power and establishes social ownership of the means of production.

ideology of communism. symbol of communism is hammer and sickle on a red flag.

History of Communism in Modern Times

The Communist Manifesto

Manifesto of the Communist Party or the Communist Manifesto is a political document published in 1848 by the Communist League. Karl Marx, with the assistance of Friedrich Engels, drafted the Manifesto. It eventually became one of the most well-known international political documents of the 19th century. “Workers of the world, unite!” was the motto of the Communist Manifesto. Thus, the document eventually became source of motivation for the working class to revolt against the capitalists.

October Revolution

Russia witnessed Tsarist autocracy for almost five centuries. The autocracy of Tsars or the supreme leader of Russia began in the 15th century and ended in the second decade of 20th century with Russian Revolution of 1917. The first phase of this socio-political revolution began during the first world war, with February Revolution and finally climaxed with the second phase in October 1917 which came to be popularly known as October Revolution. Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) led by Vladimir Lenin overthrew the Imperial Tsarist regime. Russia was thus proclaimed a socialist nation and Lenin became its leader.


Lenin’s ideas became popularly known as Leninism. Leninism drew inspiration from Marxism. Marxism-Leninism is the Lenin’s way of interpreting and implementing the doctrines of Marx. As a political philosophy, Marxism-Leninism intended to transform a capitalist state into a socialist state and eventually to a communist state. A communist state so established ought to be a classless social system with common ownership of the means of production. Social and economic equality of all members of society ought to prevail in a communist state.

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Emergence of Soviet Union

The political philosophy of Marxism-Leninism laid down foundation for creation of the Soviet Union. Soviet Union was the first formal nominally communist state of the world.

Soviet Union or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) existed from 1922 to 1991 in the Northern Eurasian region. Nominally, the country was a union of multiple Soviet republics. Formation of Soviet Union resulted in a widespread association of communism with the Soviet economic model (a specific model of centralized planning implemented in Soviet Union).

Stalin & Great Purge

Vladimir Lenin stayed in power from 1917 to 1924. After Lenin, Joseph Stalin took over the official rule of the Soviet Union. Under Stalin’s rule the government was functioning in a highly centralized manner. Stalin industrialized the nation through state controlled economy. This led to famine. Deportation or imprisonment of the critics of his regime was common. Gradually over one million people faced execution. This act of massacre became known as the “Great Purge” or “Great Terror”.

Spread of Communism

Communism saw a large scale spread after 1940s. Communist regimes were being established either by force or otherwise. Some of these countries entered into communist regime just after gaining freedom from imperialism. China’s Communist Party leader Mao Zedong declared creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Cuba became a Communist state in 1959 with Fidel Castro taking over the corrupt Fulgencio Batista regime. In 1976, Socialist Republic of Vietnam was established under the communist rule. Countries like Yugoslavia, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Kenya, Sudan, etc. either opted for communist regime or were forced to embrace it.

Korean War & Armistice

With Japan’s defeat in the Second World War in 1945, Korea was bifurcated into North Korea occupied by Soviet Union and South Korea occupied by United States. In 1950, North Korea attempted to invade South Korea with an intention to create unified communist state of Korea. This resulted in Korean War. This was ended with signing of an armistice agreement by North Korea, China & United Nations.

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Truman Doctrine & Cold War Era

Communism saw a tremendous spread since the beginning of the 20th century. However, at the same time, efforts to stop this spread were also underway. With an objective to contain the communist powers, President Harry Truman of the United States also introduced the Truman Doctrine in 1947. Later, this doctrine became the foundation of United States’ cold war policy.

The Cold War (1947-91) was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union and the United States and their respective allies, the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc.

Fall of Berlin Wall

Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 resulted in the collapse of communist regimes. The Berlin Wall separated East Berlin (communist) and West Berlin (democratic) for nearly three decades. Soon after, communism in states like Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, Benin, Romania, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Yemen — also saw the fall.

Dissolution of Soviet Union

Finally, in 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the leader of the Soviet Union. The resulting desolution of Soviet Union ended the cold war between the two superpowers — the USA and the USSR. It led to the establishment of America’s hegemony over the World. The dissolution of Soviet Union had a ripple effect around the world. Soon the influence of communism ended in countries like Angola, Albania, Kenya, Congo, Afghanistan etc.

Communism in the Present Times

Presently, only a few nations of the world are adhering to the principles of communism. These countries include China, Cuba, Vietnam and Laos. However, these countries have never claimed to have achieved socialism or communism in its core form. They only assert that they have been striving towards establishment of a purely communist state in its ideological form. In addition, globalization has also played a significant role in diluting the implementation of some stringent principles of communism in the present times.