Marxist/Leninist Communism: How to folks keep the faith?

This debate was sparked by a conversation I had with two of my younger cousins Saturday night over beers. They are both in their 2nd and 3rd years going to Boulder (liberal arts type majors). They were both extolling the virtues of Marxist/Lenin-ism brands of communism and blasting Capitalism as evil, corrupt and generally a bad system, etc etc…blah blah blah. It got me thinking, especially in light of some of the threads I’ve seen on this board on just about every thread that touches on the economy, and trade (globalization).

Having seen several out and out Marxist type Communists on this board, as well as several closet ones who blast from the shadows I thought I’d ask the question…how do folks who advocate this system keep the faith? From my perspective and my own reading of history it seems to be pretty much a universal failure. Every nation (with one exception I’ll get to eventually) who has attempted to implement such a system has been an economic disaster area. Most of them have had large segments of their populations willing to do just about anything to get away…and have had to resort to draconian measures to keep their citizens locked into the ‘workers paradise’.

The one notable exception, to my mind, is China…and they have basically resorted to putting up a Capitalist type system and attempting to keep the trappings of Communism. In fact (well, it can be argued anyway), the Communist baggage is holding China back, and eventually the situation will come to a head…with China either moving forward and dumping Communism or going back and keeping it.

I don’t want to really get into Capitalism here at all as a debate point. I don’t want to talk about Social/Capitalism which is the real world version, a sliding scale somewhere between the more Socialist oriented Europe and the more Capitalist oriented US…or the various Asian Capitalist nations who also fall somewhere on that sliding scale. I think that the success of Capitalism is undeniable, but that’s just my opinion. What I want to know is, how do folks, seemingly in the face of overwhelming evidence showing how bad a Marxist/Communist system is, still managed to be advocates of the system? How do they keep the faith?


Well, the people promoting it have never actually lived under it. They see flaws in capitalism (and there are many) and it’s fairly easy to conclude that it is an evil system, so long as that hypothesis never has to be actually tested by living in a communist state.

I tend to put hardcore Marxists in the same category as UFO believers. It makes them feel special and doesn’t cost me anything (so long as they don’t get any actual power or influence) so let them have their fun.

Except that UFO believers don’t occasionally get together and slaughter 40 million people. That would make them somewhat less harmless.

Marxism is a poisonous philosophy, and the implementation of it is evil. As far as I’m concerned, continuing to believe in Marxism, wearing Che Guevera shirts, and using Stalin iconography as a form of kitsch is just about on par with being a holocaust denier.

I understand, but arguing a Marxist (or a holocaust denier, or a UFO nut) out of their beliefs is damn-near impossible. Better to isolate them with ridicule and condescension and hope they eventually outgrow it.

Within the borders of the US, yes, they’re pretty harmless. The odds of a M/L revolution here is about as close to zero as can be. Sam’s point is well taken, though, on an international and/or historical level.

The reason that communism is dangerous is that it can’t be brought about voluntarily. Without the heavy hand of a one party state, it isn’t a viable system.

Really a blistering debate you guys got going here.

“Boy, Marxists sure are dumb!”

“Well, that’s 'cause Marxism is so dumb. You gotta be dumb to believe something that dumb.”

“I find your ideas intriguing, and would like to subscribe to your world-view…”

Well, try not to get too rowdy, OK, guys?

For my macro-econ class we were assigned to watch and discuss a PBS (Frontline?) documentary on China. Watching it seemed to make clear that the workers and peasants, the very folks who were supposed to benefit form socialism/communism, were screwed-over as a direct result of the Chinese economic systems of the past. For example, laborers in a steel mill (formerly the pride of industrialized China) had little job security and if they did happen to keep their jobs they continually were forced to accept pay cuts. The factories are still state run, so no laws prevented age discrimination or provided health care for the workers. Corruption and naked greed was so outrageous it almost seemed like satire. We’re talking things that would make the most hard-core greedy stereotypical “capitalist” boogeyman blush; gangs of roving bureaucrats wandering through villages collecting “taxes” and “license fees” from the poorest peasants.

Even today, there seems to be a distinct lack of freedom for the average citizen. The State still holds enormous sway in determining the career path a given person can take. It occurred to me that many of the things people criticize about capitalism exist in China, only more-so.

• Gulf between rich and poor. Only this gulf is based on your rank in The Party. In some ways, infinitely more insurmountable than any perceived gulf in America
• Greed/Corruption. If you want to see a true example of a few individuals getting wealthy at the expense of many, look no further than the People’s Republic
• Lack of social programs.
• Lack of sustainability. Clearly the old system wasn’t anything close to sustainable. It would appear that the new system must continue to reform as well.
• Low environmental quality.
and so on.

My point is, let’s not hold China up as the shining star of socialism just yet. :wink: Although, diehard proponents of and apologists for socialism are welcome to move there and try it out if they think our system is inferior…

I got into this debate one day with an academic after the USSR imploded, the wall fell, Czechoslovakia and other eastern European countries adopted capitalism, etc. I said that the system had had its run, had failed - time to move on.

Her response? “Those examples don’t really matter, because there hasn’t yet been a true Communist state.” No explanation given as to what a “true Communist state” would be, and how it would differ from those examples.


I recall that the argument was that no state has ever met the requirements of Marx and Engel’s before attempting to become a communist state. And that even in their peak the so-called communist ocuntries were never so. If that’s the case, I can see how you can’t really say communism itself doesn’t work. At the same time ofcourse, you can’t just say it does, since we’ve never had it. Marx said a revolution would be inevitable. Kind of a hard statement to disprove.

Coupled with the acknowledgement from Marx himself that a communist state cannot compete with a capitalist one (and therefore the need for a worldwide revolution), I can see how some people would say to still give communism a chance. I’ve heard sincere arguments that America has best met the requirements to become a sucessful communist state. Meh.

As for the China case, I think the argument would be that it was never a communist state to begin with, so any fault shouldn’t be put to communism.

Gosh I hope I didn’t jack it up for the truly knowedgable on this topic matter :stuck_out_tongue:

Oh, and as to the original question, I would imagine the faith is kept the same way any faith is kept: speaking the tenets (like a prayer), hearing them spoken, listening to sermons, reading “scriptures” (and given the prolific nature of marxist writers, there is no lack of literature), ignoring the field of economics as mere “theories” (as some religions do evolution), believing in a fuzzy promise of “paradise”…

A person also hears a fair amount of apologetics (like one hears from some religions). A common argument was that such-and-such did not practice “true” communism/marxism/socialism. X country’s government started off on the right track but ultimately failed/was prevented from succeeding by Y.

I also wouldn’t underestimate the contribution of some college professors (pastors) in keeping the ol’ spectre of communism a-haunting.

(Okay, so its a silly analogy… :wink: )

I have heard tell that there are no true Scottsmen. Seemingly the same goes for communists. These all failed miserably because they weren’t REAL communists. Next time I’m sure it will be different.

Well, a bit disappointed here. I really wanted some folks from the dark side to come in and explain what keeps them going…what allows them to keep the faith and continue to support Marxism/Communism. So far, no takers…not even any quasi-commies, several of which could be seen in lastest Globalization disaster or in the pit thread talking about whether the board is skewed to the left. Not even some wistful socialists coming in to rally round the cause and show support, even though their breatherin dislike them nearly as much as they dislike us Capitalist types.

Oh well…its late. Maybe tomorrow we’ll get some honest to Carl Communists in here to explain it. I hope so. 'luci’s one foray into here with some humor kind of fell flat. He’s definitely losing his touch. EIther that or he simply needs more carnage to be effective, and so far this ‘debate’ has been almost completley one sided.


That’s a…really…long…explanation. And I’m sure I’d jack it up, since I hated reading Marx (how in the world he could write so many volumes and yet stay so vague on the topic still has me in awe. And I thought I was a good padder in college).

In short, the country has to have reached a certain level of economic development and have enough of a disparity in class. China was still dominantly an agricultural society when the revolution came about, an explicit no-no in Marx’s writings. Later on Mao tried to distance China away from Marxist Communism. Guess he didn’t like some of the predictions it gave for his case. As for Russia, they were in a better position to get there, but I can’t remember exactly what it was my professor said about why it wouldn’t have worked there either. I think it was related to how it had to be a worldwide revolution, otherwise the capitalist nations would simply outpace the communist ones.

Well, but the key is that it’s not just any old revolution - it has to be a certain type of revolution, and in a certain type of society - a heavily industrialised, modern society. As near as you can tell, by Marx’ theory, he thought that the true proletariat revolution would come in countires like Britain, France, the U.S., or Belgium (at the time he was writing, one of the most heavily industirialised countries in Europe). As WonJohnSoup notes, he wouldn’t have said a revolution in a primarily agricultural country would be the right type of revolution.

Of course, this argument runs into two problems. First, Marx does not seem to have appreciated that the western liberal societies would recognize the inequities in their economic structures, as they existed in the latter half of the 19th century, and take steps to correct those inquities through lawful democratic means. Second, Marx’ original argument doesn’t explain why the revolutions came in agricultural states like Russia, China, or Cuba.

So we’re still not sure what a true Communist proletariat revolution looks like. Considering it’s been a century and a half since Marx predicted such revolutions were imminent, it strikes me as another reason to conclude that Marxism is a fundamentally flawed theory.

How do folks keep the faith? Well, easy. It is for the same reason that folks keep their faith in Christianity or Capitalism. Even though there is overwhelming evidence that there is no god, the bible is wrong, blah blah… that capitalism causes poverty, destroys the environment, deprives workers of opportunities to advance… etc.etc.

I would also note that posts 1 - 5 misunderstand and misrepresent the idea of communism. The same way that (like Sam Stone once said) leftists “don’t understand” the market or atheists “don’t understand” Christianity.

Every March, for the past two years anyway, my friends throw me a Marcist party for my birthday. We set up missile command on the advanced Soviet defense platform we call the Atari 2600, we have a contest where we come up with the best captions for old school Soviet propaganda posters we don’t understand, Russian music, vodka, and last year we even had some borsht…or however you spell that awful soup. It’s a lot of fun but even with the Soviet flag hanging on the wall, the book of Marx, and Stalin’s official biography lying around none of us are into communism. They just think it’s funny that I dislike communism so much.


I agree that Marx didn’t see the regulation of the markets after the Depression(which in turn kind of lends credence to some of Marx’s predictions and criticisms of capitalism). Also, most communist supporters today probably don’t adhere too closely to Marx’s original writings as much as they do to some of the later offshoots. So they can say they have faith in communism, just not Marxism specifically. They’re probably closer to Leninism.

My favorite complaint about Marxism was the how the revolution would be brought about. Mostly because of how my professor put it:

“Wait, prof, so how’s it gonna happen that the proletariat all just get together and overthrow the bourgeois and stuff?”

“Bob’s your uncle.”

“What? Wait, what, how?”



The thing is, though, I don’t really think any of this proves that communism itself doesn’t work as much as it just says that capitalism has found a way to march on or that maybe it’s just too hard to get there right now. The belief that "we’ll get there and it’ll work, " in regards to communism is still viable if you just look at what’s been argued in opposition to it so far here (not that I personally think it’ll happen, but I’m just trying to stay as true to the OP title as much as I can).

Allow me to add as much to this debate as you have.

OK. Done.

This is my opinion, too. Some of the defences given here are nothing more that ‘Capitalism works, so nothing else will happen’. Well, history shows us we can’t absolutely rely on capitalism remaining dominant - the fall of Rome, for example. Do I think Marxist a world-wide revolution could happen? Possibly, but very unlikely.

Have you tried sitting on your hands?

The same way Creationists do. Karl Popper, father of the modern scientific method of falsification, called Marxism a “pseudoscience”. He observed that a Marxist could scarecely see a newspaper story and fail to find something in it that bolstered his theories. If a company failed, it was evidence of the failure of capitalism. If a company succeeded, it was evidence of the inevitable success of post-socialist communism. Marxism typically attracts people who have a wealth fetish but no wealth.