Misconceptions about Communism (2024)




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International Worker’s Press


7 min read


Sep 6, 2017


What comes into your head when you hear the word communism? Is it individuals such as Lenin, Stalin, or Marx? Countries such as Cuba, the USSR, or China? Our contemporary discussion is rife with contrary definitions and examples of communism, many of which are a historical distortions of reality. In this piece, I will dispel many of the commonplace myths about communism, and in their place move towards a more succinct and accurate definition of the socioeconomic model that is communism.

First, we should clarify the meaning of communism, and avoid the academic laziness of parroting innacurate red scare era definitions. Communism is a stateless, moneyless, classless society. [1] This description is generally used by classical Marxists, who follow Marx’s work and not later distortions of it. Karl Marx was born in Germany in 1818, and is generally considered to be the foundational thinker responsible for devising and formulating communism. He wrote extensive criticisms of capitalism, culminating in his 4 volume flagship work Capital (The fourth volume of which was only partly finished at the time of Marx’s death and was revised and completed by Engels). [2] His critique of capitalism is the foundation of scientific socialism, and has been built on extensively by others to form new ideologies. Marx’s work can be categorised as classical Marxism.

Marx defines socialism as a system in which the workers take control of the state in a revolution and form a dictatorship of the proletariat [3], where the workers control their workplaces, the means of production, so to no longer be exploited by the bourgeoisie. He called it a dictatorship because he considered the state to be necessarily dictatorial, and considered the state in capitalism to be a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie; although his more detailed views on the state are largely lost or unwritten (because Marx died before he had written all that he planned to). However, for it to really be socialism, the state had to work in the interests of the workers, and let them control their own workplaces. He then proposed that the state would “wither away” to form communism (Engels coined the phrase). [4] [5] This one phrase is largely unexplained by Marx himself, and there is heated debate amongst leftist thinkers as to how this would take place. But the definitions are clear: socialism is when the workers have control of the government and make it work in their interests, take ownership of their workplaces from the bosses; communism is a stateless, classless, moneyless society without government, which some may call a utopia. Marxist, authoritarian, and statist socialists believe that socialism is the route to communism. [6]

Many anarchists (myself included), however, believe that communism should be achieved directly by a revolution, and that the stage of socialism should be skipped. We hold this position because authority corrupts its holder and debases its victim [7], and that a state will never give up power and will never wither away voluntarily. Authority and thus the state must always be destroyed by force; it will never dissappear on its own. Communism is anarchistic and anarchism is communistic. In fact, they are synonyms. Both represent a society based on mutual aid, love, individual autonomy, collective cooperation, fairness, equity, freedom, and harmony within humanity and with nature. That is communism. That is anarchism.

Given our now clarified and improved definitions of socialism and communism, we see relatively clearly that many depictions and definitions of of communism are incorrect. Instead of clinging to old and inadequate examples, I shall explain a few of the most outstanding examples of socialist societies that have existed thus far. First let me again assert that Communism as a socioeconomic sysem has not yet been achived, as nowhere where socialism exists have the actual conditions of Communism come into being. However, while communism has never been achieved, this is no charge to be used with any validity against it. Rather, in spite of the inability of a revolution to fully bring into existence communism, we must look to the historical glimpses of communism as example and inspiration. In the Spanish Civil War, from 1936–9, the CNT FAI, an anarcho-syndicalist federation (a form of anarchism distinct from anarcho-communism, but not without major similarities), seized land in Catalonia and created a truly liberatory society, defined by its radical expansion of production,standard of living and individual liberty. As I have previously claimed, anarchism/communism has never been fullyachieved , but in Catalonia we saw more closely than before what the specter of communism may appear like when it is finally manifest. [8] Another example of close anarchism is the Free Territory of Ukraine, which existed from 1918–21, in the wake of the 1917 Russian Revolution. It was situated in south eastern Ukraine, and was headed by Nester Makhno and his Black Army. The style of his leadership was not purely anarchist, and neither was the society created, although it was deeply libertarian and left wing. The Free Territory was eventually overun and annexed by the Red Army, an early example of the history of betrayal of working class movements by the Bolsheviks that would mar the revolutionary validity of the Bolsheviks and Marxist-Leninism.

In discussing the most heinous misconceptions about communism it seems only fitting to begin by discussing the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), or Soviet Union. Communism must be decentralised, and the USSR was highly centralised. The USSR failed to abolish classes, as there were still peasants and other workers, and the privileged, bureaucratic government class. The government exploited the workers instead of the bosses. The USSR also still had money, as well as vast amounts of inequality and authority. The huge government was very authoritarian and oppressive, which is the complete opposite to communism. Government propaganda said that the USSR was communist, but this was a blatant lie to win over the workers. Many argue that the USSR was not even socialist, but merely sate capitalist. This is because there was a neo-bourgeoisie, the government or “vanguard” who exploited the workers for their own profit. It simply replaced private capitalists and businesses with beuraucratic state apparatus. In short, the workers did not control the means of production (factories, equipment, and natural resources), the state did. [11] [12]

The ideology of the USSR was Marxist-Leninism, and could possibly have been Leninism or Stalinism at various points, but they are almost indistinguishably similar, and none of them are communist. This developed out of Leninism, a theory which Vladimir Lenin had created. It claimed to be communist, yet combined the two most anti-communist concepts in existence: the state, and capitalism. [13] Marxist-Leninism has nothing to do with Marx or Marxism, and only pretends that it does so to present itself as a legitimate ideology. Marxist-Leninism is, in fact, state capitalism. It is not socialism. It is not communism. All criticisms of the USSR and countries following the same or similar an ideology are criticisms of government and of capitalism. [14]

The second vital explanation that I must give is on China. China’s revolution, completed in 1949, was Maoist. Maoism is an ultra authoritarian ideology, which wants hugely oppressive government and claims to be communist, yet is not. Maoism is more akin to socialism than Marxist-Leninism is, but in its iterations has still ended in a state capitalist system. The state still effectively controls the means of production in Maoism, and the hugely oppressive neo-bourgeoisie governmental class exploits the workers. There are still large amounts of authority, social class, and money within this ideology. In fact, the state killed millions of workers under Maoism. [15] Maoism is state capitalism, not communism or socialism. [16] China today has a mixed economy, like all countries; some industry is privately owned, by the bourgeoisie and their businesses, and some is owned by the state, and its neo-bourgeoisie class. Private and state exploitation go hand-in-hand. China does have a larger proportion of state owned/controlled industry than most countries, but does still have much private ownership, and is fully integrated into modern day capitalism. [17]

North Korea is in a similar situation to China. It is not and never was communist or socialist, and is under authoritarian state capitalist rule. Venezuela is not socialist either. It has a mixed economy, but with a higher proportion of state owned industry and services than most countries. There is much private ownership, money, class, and authority, and the workers do not control the means of production. It meets none of the criteria of socialism, let alone communism. Cuba, also, was under state capitalism, although less authoritarian than the USSR or Maoist China, it was still fairly authoritarian. [18] It is now moving towards a more mixed economy, combining state capitalism with private capitalism.

I hope that I have given you an understanding of what socialism and communism really are, and shown that most charges brought against them are false.


[1] http://www.moneylesssociety.com/home/category/communism/

[2] Capital Volume 1, Karl Marx, introduction by Ernest Mandel, Penguin Classics 1976

[3] https://www.marxists.org/subject/marxmyths/hal-draper/article2.htm

[4] https://theredphoenixapl.org/2010/03/09/the-withering-away-of-the-state/

[5] http://www.socialiststudies.org.uk/polemic%20withering.shtml

[6] http://www.workerspower.co.uk/2011/04/the-transition-to-communism/

[7] What is Communist Anarchism? Alexander Berkman, 1929

[8] https://www.britannica.com/event/Spanish-Civil-War

[9] http://jdennehy.com/the-forgotten-story-of-the-free-territory/

[10] http://syriancivilwarmap.com/

[11] https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-7/cpml-ussr.htm

[12] https://chomsky.info/1986____/

[13] https://libcom.org/forums/theory/lenin-acknowledging-intentional-implementation-state-capitalism-ussr-23032011

[14] https://libcom.org/forums/theory/marxist-lenin-11122009

[15] http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/maos-great-leap-forward-killed-45-million-in-four-years-2081630.html


[17] http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2015/02/09/the-long-march-to-the-mixed-economy-in-china/

[18] https://iea.org.uk/has-real-socialism-never-been-tried/

[19] https://medium.com/@TheCassieDog/myths-of-castros-cuba-not-socialism-not-bravery-just-authoritarianism-9889a4305255

Misconceptions about Communism (2024)


What are the main criticisms of communism? ›

Communist party rule has been criticized as authoritarian or totalitarian for suppressing and killing political dissidents and social classes (so-called "enemies of the people"), religious persecution, ethnic cleansing, forced collectivization, and use of forced labor in concentration camps.

What are 3 disadvantages of communism? ›

Disadvantages of Communism
  • The government owns all the businesses and properties (the means of production).
  • There is no freedom of speech.
  • Large or geographically-broad populations tend to be diverse, making it difficult to maintain a common goal or set of rules for shared effort andresources.

What are some critiques that people offered against capitalism? ›

Capitalism has been criticized for a number of reasons throughout history. Among them are the unreliability and instability of capitalist growth, production of social harms, such as pollution and inhumane treatment of workers, and forms of inequality attributed to capitalism, such as mass income disparity.

What is communism in simple words? ›

Communism is a political and economic ideology that positions itself in opposition to liberal democracy and capitalism, advocating instead for a classless system in which the means of production are owned communally and private property is nonexistent or severely curtailed.

Has communism ever been successful? ›

Although Marxist theory suggested that the places ripest for social revolution, either through peaceful transition or by force of arms, were industrial societies, communism was mostly successful in underdeveloped countries with endemic poverty such as the Russian Empire and the Republic of China.

Is communism better than capitalism? ›

Investors desire to invest in a capitalist economy because they make their own decisions not like communist economy and they set their own prices and they are not restricted to minimum wages. It is clear that capitalism is more advantageous than communism in every aspect in the economy.

Who benefits from communism? ›

In a communist system, people are entitled to jobs. Because the government owns all means of production, the government can provide jobs for at least a majority of the people. Everyone in a communist country is given enough work opportunities to live and survive.

What are 2 pros of communism? ›

List of the Advantages of Communism
  • It reduces the impact of socioeconomic differences in society. ...
  • People start life off with the same opportunities. ...
  • Employment opportunities abound in Communism structures. ...
  • Educational opportunities increase during Communist rule. ...
  • It creates a stronger social community.
Jan 1, 2019

Are there any positives to communism? ›

This common ownership would eliminate distinctions between intellectual and manual labor, bridge the gap between rural and urban life, and create the potential for future human development in every industry, category, or pursuit. This potential outcome is often seen as the primary benefit of Communism.

What is the main goal in communism? ›

Communism (from Latin communis, 'common, universal') is a left-wing to far-left sociopolitical, philosophical, and economic ideology within the socialist movement, whose goal is the establishment of a communist society, a socioeconomic order centered around common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and ...

How many Americans support socialism? ›

Today, 36% of U.S. adults say they view socialism somewhat (30%) or very (6%) positively, down from 42% who viewed the term positively in May 2019.

What country is socialist? ›

Marxist–Leninist states
People's Republic of China1 October 1949Communist Party of China
Republic of Cuba24 February 1976Communist Party of Cuba
Lao People's Democratic Republic2 December 1975Lao People's Revolutionary Party
Socialist Republic of Vietnam2 September 1945Communist Party of Vietnam

What is the opposite of communism? ›

They are theories that represent two inherently opposite ways of thinking. One is extremely individualistic (Capitalism), while the other one (Communism) believes in putting the society before self. The communism vs capitalism clash polarized the world during the cold war.

What is fascism vs communism? ›

Fascism. While communism is a system based around a theory of economic equality and advocates for a classless society, fascism is a nationalistic, top-down system with rigid class roles that is ruled by an all-powerful dictator.

What is the biggest advantage of communism? ›

It embodies equality.

In a communist society, everybody is equal and no one is left alone. That is, no social class is better than the other because there is no social class system at all. All the resources of a country like property are under the control of the state and governed by a group that represents the masses.

Who is the father of communism? ›

Karl Marx
Karl Marx FRSA
BornKarl Heinrich Marx5 May 1818 Trier, Kingdom of Prussia
Died14 March 1883 (aged 64) London, England
Burial placeTomb of Karl Marx, Highgate Cemetery
NationalityPrussian (1818–1845) Stateless (after 1845)
21 more rows

Is communism and socialism the same thing? ›

Socialism and communism both place much value on creating a more equal society and removing class privilege. The biggest difference between them is that socialism is compatible with liberty and democracy, while communism depends on an authoritarian state to create an “equal society” that denies basic liberties.

Which is better communism or socialism? ›

Both socialism and communism place great value on creating a more equal society and removal of class privilege. The main difference is that socialism is compatible with democracy and liberty, whereas Communism involves creating an 'equal society' through an authoritarian state, which denies basic liberties.

What countries are communist? ›

Today, the existing communist states in the world are in China, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, and North Korea (DPRK). These communist states often do not claim to have achieved socialism or communism in their countries but to be building and working toward the establishment of socialism in their countries.

Why capitalism over communism? ›

Capitalism is in favor of class distinction, i.e. working class and capitalist class, hence the degree of class distinction between rich and poor is very high. On the contrary, communism opposes a division of society according to class, as it promotes a classless society, so, there is no gap between rich and poor.

Is everyone paid the same in communism? ›

In a Communist system, the central authority dictates the means and quantity of production, and places strict rules on businesses. Since there is no competition amongst firms, each is given the same amount of money and each worker is paid the same, with the same expectations of each.

Who owns the money in communism? ›

There is no government or private property or currency, and the wealth is divided among citizens equally or according to individual need. Many of communism's tenets derive from the works of German revolutionary Karl Marx, who (with Friedrich Engels) wrote The Communist Manifesto (1848).

Can you pick your job in communism? ›

Communism is primarily occupied with the workers owning the means of production, from each according to his ability, to each according to his need, and of the dictatorship of the proletariat. None of this is in contradiction with being able to choose your own profession.

What are 3 unique characteristics of communism? ›

In conclusion, the features of communist society are as follows: economic planning through a centrally-controlled economy, distribution of resources based on need, social ownership of the means of production, and elimination of class distinctions.

Is North Korea a communist? ›

A portrait of Karl Marx on the wall of the Ministry of Foreign Trade. Communism has been phased out in North Korean politics and replaced with Juche.

What does communism do to society? ›

Communism is based on the goal of eliminating socioeconomic class struggles by creating a classless society in which everyone shares the benefits of labor and the state controls all property and wealth.

Who benefits the most from capitalism? ›

Capitalism tends to benefit capitalists the most. These include business owners, investors, and other owners of capital. While capitalism has been evaluated as improving the standard of living for many people across the board, it has by far benefited those at the top.

What are some pros and cons about communism? ›

In conclusion, communism offers some benefits such as economic equality, collective ownership, social welfare, and greater democracy. However, it also has significant drawbacks such as limited individual freedom, lack of incentives, inefficient resource allocation, and suppression of dissent.

What is the communist motto? ›

The political slogan "Workers of the world, unite!" is one of the rallying cries from The Communist Manifesto (1848) by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (German: Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt Euch!, literally 'Proletarians of all countries, unite! ', but soon popularised in English as "Workers of the world, unite!

What are the 5 stages of communism? ›

According to Marx's theory of historical materialism, societies pass through six stages — primitive communism, slave society, feudalism, capitalism, socialism and finally global, stateless communism.

What is the difference between a communist and a Marxist? ›

Answer: The difference between Communism and Marxism are the following: The ultimate goal of Marxism is socialism while the ultimate goal of communism is a classless society. Marxism believes that socialism will come about through revolution while communism believes that it will come about through gradual reform.

Which party is socialist in USA? ›

The Socialist Party USA, officially the Socialist Party of the United States of America, is a socialist political party in the United States.

Which is better socialism or capitalism? ›

Capitalism affords economic freedom, consumer choice, and economic growth. Socialism, which is an economy controlled by the state and planned by a central planning authority, provides for a greater social welfare and decreases business fluctuations.

Which US politicians are socialist? ›

List of members of Congress
Bernie SandersSenateVermont
Alexandria Ocasio-CortezHouseNew York
Rashida TlaibHouseMichigan
Ilhan OmarHouseMinnesota
30 more rows

What countries have failed socialism? ›

Critics of socialism cite the Soviet Union and Venezuela as examples of countries where socialism has failed.

Is North Korea a socialist? ›

According to Article 1 of the state constitution, North Korea is an "independent socialist state". It holds elections, though they have been described by independent observers as sham elections, as North Korea is a totalitarian dictatorship with a comprehensive cult of personality around the Kim family.

Why China is not socialist? ›

Other Marxist analyses point out that because the Chinese economic system is based on commodity production, has a role for private capital and disempowers the working class, it represents a capitalist economy. Classical Marxists believe a socialist commodity economy (or a socialist market economy) is contradictory.

What are signs of communism? ›

  • Hammer and sickle.
  • Red star.
  • Red flag.
  • Red and black flag.
  • Guerrillero Heroico.
  • The Internationale.
  • Plough or Starry Plough.
  • National emblems.

What are the three types of communism? ›

These span philosophical, social, political and economic ideologies and movements, and can be split into three broad categories Marxist-based ideologies, Leninist-based ideologies, and Non-Marxist ideologies, though influence between the different ideologies is found throughout and key theorists may be described as ...

How is China a communist? ›

The Chinese Communist Party is organized on the basis of democratic centralism, a principle that entails open discussion of policy on the condition of unity among party members in upholding the agreed-upon decision. The highest body of the CCP is the National Congress, convened every fifth year.

Why did the US fear the spread of communism? ›

The government has complete control over the production and distribution of goods. Americans are worried that the spread of Communism threatens their freedoms, their individuality, and their way of living.

Is fascism a socialist or capitalist? ›

In terms of economics, fascism incorporates elements of both capitalism and socialism. Fascist economists advocate for self-sufficiency and individual profit, but promote government subsidies of corporations.

What are 3 synonyms for communism? ›

synonyms for communism

On this page you'll find 11 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to communism, such as: socialism, totalitarianism, bolshevism, collectivism, leninism, and marxism.

How is socialism good? ›

Advantages of Socialism

The government treats the citizens as equals, and the wealth generated by employees is distributed equally to everyone. The government manages the means of production, which ensures that there is fairness in resource utilization and distribution.

Which country is capitalism? ›

Download Table Data
RankCountryIndex of Economic Freedom - Heritage 2021
2New Zealand83.9
75 more rows

Does fascism allow private property? ›

Fascists have commonly sought to eliminate the autonomy of large-scale capitalism and relegate it to the state. However, fascism does support private property rights and the existence of a market economy and very wealthy individuals. Thus, fascist ideology included both pro-capitalist and anti-capitalist elements.

What are 5 negatives of communism? ›

What Are the Cons of Communism?
  • Individual rights are restricted. ...
  • There is no unauthorized opposition. ...
  • People are kept in ignorance. ...
  • Violence tends to be the only option for dissent. ...
  • Earning is limited. ...
  • It often results in poverty. ...
  • No savings are allowed. ...
  • Employment may go up, but meaningful employment goes down.
Sep 22, 2017

What are the major criticisms of socialism? ›

Socialism Some of the primary criticisms of socialism are claims that it creates distorted or absent price signals, results in reduced incentives, causes reduced prosperity, has low feasibility, and that it has negative social and political effects.

What are the criticism of Marxist theory? ›

Eight criticisms of Marx's view of society are:

The class structure today is more complex. Capitalism today is less exploitative. Control of the economic base does not mean control of the superstructure. False consciousness is a problem concept in postmodern society.

Why did the communist economy fail? ›

The economy collapsed when the stability conditions required for a successful command system, that had been present in the Soviet Union for seventy years, ceased to hold. These conditions can be defined by the equilibrium of a game of strategy played by a dictator and a producer.

Why capitalism is better than socialism? ›

Capitalism affords economic freedom, consumer choice, and economic growth. Socialism, which is an economy controlled by the state and planned by a central planning authority, provides for a greater social welfare and decreases business fluctuations.

What country are socialist? ›

Marxist–Leninist states
People's Republic of China1 October 1949Communist Party of China
Republic of Cuba24 February 1976Communist Party of Cuba
Lao People's Democratic Republic2 December 1975Lao People's Revolutionary Party
Socialist Republic of Vietnam2 September 1945Communist Party of Vietnam

Is communism and Marxism the same thing? ›

Is Marxism the Same Thing As Communism? Marxism is a philosophy, while communism is a system of government based on Marxist principles. Marx envisioned a society in which workers owned the means of production. In real-world communism, governments own the means of production.

What is the opposite of Marxism? ›

On the "left" of politics is communism (or Marxism) and on the "right" is capitalism. Capitalism is a political system in which factories, companies, land, etc. are owned privately in order to create profit for the owners.

What were Karl Marx's weaknesses? ›

One weakness was his urge for perfection, which Engels criticised early on. He never finished anything. He was also apparently an insufferable person. Although Marx may have shown self-criticism, he was also incredibly convinced of his own abilities.

Why the usa was unsuccessful in containing communism? ›

The policy of containment had failed militarily. Despite the USA's vast military strength it could not stop the spread of communism . The guerrilla tactics used by the Vietcong and their absolute commitment to the cause, far outweighed the desire of the Americans to keep going.


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