Now this is sincerely a question asked out of ignorance.

Marxism, Leninism and Maoism.

All variants of the same creature.

I’ve grown up to accept that the guy wearing read, sitting at left end of the bench is bad. But why is that?

Is Communism an inherently bad concept? Or was it a good concept wielded incorrectly?

The 60 through to the 80s were obviously anti-comm. But was it communism we were opposed to? Or was simply a nation who happened to run a communist show?

Was it Democracy vs Communism? Or was it simply USA vs USSR?

Having been born in the mid 70’s I was too young to remember what the fuss was all about.


Democracy and Communism aren’t really opposites - I’ve heard it pointed out a socialist system would work well with democracy. Seems to be going fine for Europe. I think what happened was that you had two large nations that were becoming the two biggest players on the world stage (since Europe was pretty well smashed into pieces) and didn’t want to share the power. Not to say that’s all that happened. Democracy and Communism might not be diametrically opposed, but Democracy and Totalitarianism rather are. The nations had entirely different ways of doing things. And let’s not forget the whole arms-race part of the equation.

Purely an opinion thing, I guess. The kind of heartless dictatorship that the USSR turned into is inherently bad. Likewise, any system that calls for blood and dictatorships and forced redistribution? Bad, I’d say. Then again, there are plenty of problems in capitalist, democratic Russia, and the USA. Communism as a political system sucks, Socialism as an economic system has its advantages and disadvantages.

IIRC, Stalin was paranoid to a large degree. This probably factored into the way he ran the country. I guess I’m saying a more qualified leader might have done better.

According to a 2002 poll:

The common perception of communism = bad is hardly based on any sort of rational analysis.

You are right about the first part. Democracy is not really good or evil, it is just a system that you can use.

You are wrong about the second, It is not just a matter of opinion. There are very deep-rooted and significant conflicts between Socialist philosophy and the philosophy behind America.

But honestly, we have had this damned debat so many times. Use the search function and you will find all aspects of this debated several times over.

Yes, that’s indisputably true. I meant the question “Is Communism an inherently bad concept? Or was it a good concept wielded incorrectly?” is a matter of opinion.

There are a number of reasons why communists were the bad guy, some genuine and some not. Bear in mind I am speaking who is both left wing and anti-communist so others will have a different take on it. Also bear in mind that what I am calling communism here would be better called Marxist-Leninism as communism is really a generic term that could cover everything from a Israeli kibbutz to a bunch of Catholics living together.

  1. The first communist state arose in a nation with no real democratic tradition and was authoritarian at birth and got worse later. It attracted much foreign hostility for this and other reasons. It often initially used much inflammatory rhetoric about exporting its revolution which while later dropped was still naturally not well received by foreign governments. Its program was radical and threatening to many conservative and business elements. It dropped out of WW1 at a time when its active involvement in the war was considered vital to its western allies who even went so far as to militarily intervene to restore a government that would remain in the war on its side.

  2. Communist states arose in violent revolutions and were built by violent and ruthless men.They were men who were prepared to kill for political ends. The ends justified the means to them, they believed you cant make an omelette without breaking eggs, they justified mass-murder by speaking of how the ‘oppressive class wont just liquidate itself’. Having achieved power violenty they exercised it in the same way. Millions were killed.

  3. Communist planned economies do not work. Human society of which economy is a part is too complex to be planned on a scientific basis. State planning agencies and five year plans led to shortages of everyday goods and ridiculous surpluses of barely needed items.

  4. While not inherently atheist Communism was widely associated with atheism and in practice either ignored or oppressed religion which generated much hostility from the pious.

  5. Communism and anti-communism became an ideological dressing for American-Russian rivalry which really had very little to do with ideology at all but was a traditional great power rivalry such as has always occurred.

  6. Communism became a convenient bogeyman to further domestic interests and agendas. No one wanted to be seen as ‘soft on communism’. Anti-communism was used to stifle domestic dissent and to justify large defence expenditures to combat the ‘red menace’ in the same way histrionic fearmongering is now used to justify large defence expenditures for the ‘war on terrorism’. Same old, same old.

  7. Anti-communism was also used as a shield for all sorts of foreign policy misdeeds. Dictatorships were propped up because they were ‘anti-communist’, democratic governments were toppled because they werent anti-communist enough.

In short communism was opposed because it was violent and didnt work. At the same time much of the opposition was fabricated and totally insincere and communism was a bogey used to beat anyone left-wing over the head.

The sound bite “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” sucks.
A slobbering, slothful idiot could end being more thoroughly rewarded for less contribution to society than a hardworking smart guy like myself who contributed more.

I do like the idea of workers owning the means of production. It seems to work pretty well for companies who compensate their employees at least partially with stock in the company. Enlightened self interest on the part of employees is a good thing.

But IRL, I don’t think that there ever was either an actual commmunist state or an actual capitalist state. They were all something else and only adopted the terms in name and ideal only.

Another reason (why doesnt this board have an edit function?)

  1. Communism was associated with internationalism and universal solidarity. This was offensive to nationalists everywhere. On a more practical level it resulted in individuals in many nations effectively serving the interests of one nation, the Soviet Union, gathering intelligence for it or in the 1930s performing bizarre about turns in their ostensible beliefs to reflect changes in Soviet foreign policy towards Nazi Germany. They didnt see themselves as traitors, they saw themselves as serving a higher cause that transcended national borders.

There are many, including myself, that would argue that Socialist philosophy is evil. Just as Nazi philosophy of race was evil, except socialism is moreso.


Why Can’t We Edit Our Own Posts Here?

You’d probably feel different about that quote if your needs weren’t being met or were only marginally met. That’s where communism flourished.

“Enlightened self interest” and “workers owning the means of production” used in conjunction. :cool:

I’d agree. Although ideally, neither of system was supposed to be associated with the state.


A sad statment about our educational system that you have to ask this question.

Communism is bad. Every country that has tried it (and there are many) could only do so under a totalitarian dictatorship. Thousands if not millions of people risked their lives to escape this system. So, the struggle you missed was just as much freedom vs dictatorship as it was democracy/capitalism vs ditctatoship/communism.

IMHO, that’s a bit twisted.

Socialist policies can be implemeted in democratic systems.
Communism however, according to Marx’s “Communist Manifesto”, requires violent overthrow of the powers to be and a dictatorship as an interim solution. That’s inconsistent with democracy.
Although some folks like to paint this picture, but Europe ist by no means communist. Social democrats might have political goals which point in the same direction, but they accept the democratic process and therefore have to be more moderate if they want to be elected.

It boils down to this:
You can’t get rid of truely communist governments as seen throughout the history and as described in the “Communist Manifesto” by non-violent means. That’s the fundamental difference to any democratic government and makes communism - IMHO - fundamentally flawed.

Strictly speaking, all communism is is a way of organising economy activity, and represents the other end of the scale from capitalism. In practice, all economies are mixed, with the relative proportion of public/private spending varying. Countries like Hong Kong (at least under British rule, not so sure now) and Singapore are closer to the capitalist end of the scale, whereas say Cuba is closer to the communist end.

Both capitalism and communism have their problems. The biggest problem with communism i think is lack of incentive. Communism essentially relies on altruism to motivate workers. Capitalism uses money. Also modern economies are extremely complex, and in the past have clearly been too complex for a central authority to manage efficiently. The result of this is that a capitalist economy tends to grow a lot faster than a communist one.

The phrase someone quoted above sums up the thinking behind communism “each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”. Unfortunately communism is not as good as a capitalism based mixed economy at acheiving these aims. If wouldn’t say this makes it evil, just inefficient.

The problem with Communist ideology can easily be pointed out with the problems in this statement “each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” That is, everybody will have an incentive to give less than their ability and an incentive to “need” as much as possible. That is what happens when you destroy the correlation between how much your work is valued by others and how much you recieve for doing that work replacing it instead with an arbitrary assesment of how much you “need.”

Who decides how much you really need? Whatever happened to the nice things that you may have simply wanted? You think some corrupt party official is really going to play fair with these considerations? Forget about those things, they are the luxeries of an “exploitative” society. The bitter irony being of course that so long as you have the “ability” in a Communist society, there will always be free riders out there ready to suck it out of you.

I suppose “true” Communism where the state has withered away and there is no longer any scarcity might be a good thing. Communism as it is most often practiced however, is the exact opposite. The government is far, far more intrusive and the incentive to produce is stamped out by the self-defeating ideology alluded to above. It’s almost as if Communists really believe that communal ownership of the means of production (the factories) will suddenly produce magical factories that don’t need repairs and inputs and can ignore the law of diminishing returns. Unfortunately, the sort of people who usually worry about things like that are the first to be murdered in a communist uprising.

IMO Communism is appealing because it is promises something for nothing. It promises that the forced “altruism” of others will provide for your own selfishness. It promises to give you a little bit of what the other guy has and you don’t, while at the same time making the same promise to others who covet what you have.


Exactly, but that feeling would be based on the same kind of self-interest that makes people want to be the guys at the top of the pyramid scheme. People who are starving and struggling always seem to go for the most extreme option politically, it hardly makes that option right.



Could you explain why?

To be fair, the common perception of anything is hardly based on any sort of rational analysis.

Communism has actually been demonstrated to work.

Unfortunately, the only situations in which it appears to work are in small communities of people who have banded together for a common purpose–and usually seems to work only where the members are celibate and refrain from having children. This is most easily seen, of course, in various religious communities. There were several idealistic communities founded in the nineteenth century who failed when their children began to grow up.

The “communism” bogeyman of the 20th century was never actually communist in nature, of course. It was nearly always a totalitarian socialism. Whatever it was was probably doomed to failure, but the movement never quite made it to its goal of Communism.

Communism works great…for ants. I don’t think its really suited to humans though. I was going to post a long and probably meaningless post concerning those hateful words “each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”, but Azael already said (and much better than I) many of the points I was going to bring up.

Communism is a deeply flawed philosophy. But I think the main contention wasn’t Capitalism vs Communism, but Totalitarianism vs Democracy. Another part, that has already been said and that made the contention greater (at least in some parts of the US) is the atheism angle. I know a lot of people were opposed to communism (and demonized it) for this reason alone.

Democracy and Capitalism are fairly vague concepts. Many countries implement them in very different ways (just look at the difference between America and many of the European Social Democracies)…some are successful, some aren’t. The common thread though is a popularly elected and relatively changable government that is at least to some degree beholden to the people.

Communism also is a very vague concept, and has also been implemented in different ways (though the differences are more minor, at least IMO). The common thread though has been a totalian central government which is NOT accountable to the ‘people’. As far as I know, ALL have been unsuccessful to one degree or another (possible exception: China).

I don’t know if communism is inherently ‘evil’…but I would say that it is deeply flawed and ultimately unworkable, at least in the modern world. I could probably see something like communism having worked a thousand years ago (if anyone would of had the means to try it), but I just don’t see it working now. Hell, it doesn’t even work very well when I play Civilization. :slight_smile: