On Feb. 21, 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto. It was not until the formation of the Soviet Union in 1917 that a government tried to put in place a communist system. During the subsequent century, the battle between the political and economic system of communist countries and those built upon democracy and free institutions dominated world politics.
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels called on workers around the world to unite. Their argument was that class, rather than some other characteristic, united people. They argued that history was on their side, and that communism was the inevitable outcome of material, historic processes.
The history of communism is bleak. Under Stalin in the Soviet Union, Mao in China, and others such as Pol Pot in Cambodia, tens of millions of people were killed as a result of government policies and war. By some estimates, as many as 100 million people died under communism in China alone.
Marx and Engels believed, however, that communism would bring about a system free of want, in which people worked according to their abilities and received goods according to their needs. Despite the horrors of actual states trying to bring about communism, this utopian vision has not lost its appeal.
- What do you associate with the idea of communism?
- In a recent survey, millennials expressed a preference for regimes built on centralized control, including communism, over individual-based “capitalism”. Why do you think this is the case?
- One of the traits of communist regimes has always been a strong police, who often engaged in surveillance of individuals suspected of political crimes. A great film on this topic is The Lives of Others. Would you prefer to have increased economic security, if you had to give up your privacy?
The Communist Manifesto. Digital Image. International Publishers February 14, 2019. https://www.intpubnyc.com/product/communist-manifesto/