Why have Communist revolutions happened only in industrially backward countries?

Marx expected Communist revolution would result from crises of fully developed industrial capitalism. The first countries to go Communist would be the most advanced – Britain and Germany. As it worked out, Communist movements have been successful (at least, successful in winning power) only in relatively backward, unindustrialized or partially industrialized countries – Russia, China, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba. (There were several Communist rebellions in Germany immediately after WWI, but they were crushed; and the Communism of East Germany was imposed by the force of Soviet arms.) Why?

Industrially backward countries==substandard living conditions==miserable poverty==lots and lots of undereducated, disaffected, angry citizens. They’ll follow anyone who gives them an AK and promises them food.

Communists aren’t the only ones who take advantage of that sort of thing. Islamic fundamentalists and right wing generalissmo’s have exploited the poverty of the people very successfully.

Which is another reason why using extremely harsh measures to stamp out communist movements only makes it worse. Because then, well, you don’t have anything much to lose.

Well, I think many people have realized that while brilliant, some of Marx’s predictions were wrong.

One might add that key elements of why Marx thought revolutions would occur in advanced capitalist countries changed, in no small part due to leftist forces. That is, organized labour greatly reduced the level of exploitation occuring in the workplace by successfully winning things like workplace health and safety standards, reasonable length work weeks, etc. Once you’re getting overtime pay for work past 60 hours a week, can reasonably expect to avoid being maimed on the job, and have some basic job security, your incentive to engage in an armed uprising against the bourgeoisie just isn’t that great.

I think Marx basic assumptions and premise were fundamentally flawed. Not only were his predictions wrong (as per the OP), but as we’ve seen the underpinnings were seriously flawed as well. One has but to look at the broken wreckage ‘communism’ has spawned in the various nations it (attempted) to take root in. (Yeah, I know…no true scotsmen, right? :stuck_out_tongue: ).

Why backwaters as opposed to the powerful industrial nations? In addition to whats been said already (and which I think was the major factor…i.e. it was easy to exploit because in those nations there were a LOT of poor…and they would do anything for some food at the time in history when these revolutions occured), I’d hazard it has to do with having a ‘middle class’, somewhere in between the elite rich and the destitute poor. Having that middle ground I think, and the either indifference or hostility to outright communism I think may have been a factor.

Also, ‘capitalism’ is more adaptable…especially when coupled with some form of democracy. It wasn’t the rock solid monolith that Marx et al envisioned, and it was able, through time, to adapt and change itself to become more palatable…or I should say it was forced to change due to the demand of the masses, yearning not to be killed at work when it could be prevented.


One reason why Communism became a “Third World” movement is because the emphasis of Marx-inspired ideology shifted from the exploitation of workers within a country to the exploitation of entire poor countries by entire rich countries. In other words, the “class struggle” was translated to an international scale.

Do you think that the post Communism world in these countries is a little more miserable because of the Capitalist countries’ policy towards them?

Saying “Marx was wrong” might explain why revolution did not happen in Britain, but not why it did happen in Russia, etc.

It happened in Russia in part because the Bolsheviks were incredibly bloodthirsty. The people that would have opposed them were either terrorized into submission or slaughtered. Surprising how well that works.

Most likely. In addition, the developed nations are a little ore miserabl;e becaue of the 3rd world’s polciies toward them. But on both sides it’s much more a mater of complicated internal politics, ignorance, and incompetence than any malign feeling.

But it also happened because there was a broad-based popular demand for revolution and for “socialism” – although views on what exactly that meant varied widely. E.g., the largest party (because it had the support of the peasants) was the Social Revolutionaries, who wanted to “socialize” the land by confiscating it from the landlords and distributing it to the peasants in smallholdings – a form of what later Catholic intellectuals termed “distributism.” Whereas the Bolsheviks wanted all the land owned by the state and organized into collective farms. But both groups invoked Marx and considered themselves “socialists.” No matter who won the faction fight, the revolution – even the February Revolution, assuming the Bolsheviks’ October Revolution had never happened – would have produced a consciously “socialist” system in some form or other.

So, “bloodthirsty” doesn’t entirely explain it.

Regarding the above, see the results of the election for the 1918 Constituent Assembly (which Lenin allowed to meet for only one day, and then sent in troops to disperse it). No historian, AFAIK, has ever suggested that election was not free and fair. The Socialist Revolutionaries got 17.1 million votes; the Bolsheviks 9.8 million; the Mensheviks 1.3 million; the Constitutional Democrats, or “Cadets,” only 2 million. All these parties were socialist and Marxist except for the Cadets – the only party in the field with something close to an “American” vision of what Russia’s future should be. Obviously, that simply was not a popular view in Russia at the time.

‘a little more’? Certainly. However, to my mind at least its pretty minor compared to the damage they have done to themselves. Ask yourself WHY most of those countries became national pariah? One has but to look at one of the few examples of a ‘communist’ country that works, China, to see that its not impossible to re-join the international community and throw off any lingering anti-communist policy prejudice…one simply has to show a willingness to work and play well with others. Of course, it helps if you didn’t burn your bridges at both ends, so to speak, initially…and if you make the effort to come back to the world community with an attitude (even if fained) showing a willingness to compromise and desire to fully integrate.

To the core of what I take as your question though: Communism didn’t fail because the capitalist countries undermined it…it failed because its fundamentally flawed in its assessment of human nature.


Is it? Marx (like Adam Smith) assumed, quite consistently, that people are fundamentally greedy and self-interested.

Then his assumptions didn’t translate into his philosophy in any practical way…IMHO. I never noticed in my readings of works by Marx (or Engels for that matter), that ALL people are motivated by greed and self interest…but I grant you, perhaps you have a deeper insite than my own wrt their works.


The answer is pretty simple: life is pretty decent in industrialized democracies compared to people who are basically serfs to oligarchs.

But Marx assumed that human nature could be changed. That was his major mistake.

As for the OP, I think **Apos **got it correct. What does Communism have to offer an industrialized, free society? Communism hasn’t been able to be sustained democratically in any country on earth.

But note that there was significant electoral support for various leftist ideologies until Western capitalist societies incorporated some limited aspects of socialism into the works, most importantly imho collective bargaining, but certainly other leftist policies have been enacted as well. I submit that if working conditions prevalent in Marx’s time had remained to this day, at least some industrialized nations would have experienced Marxist revolutions.

And it’s also worth noting that while out and out communism hasn’t been sustained democratically, various socialist parties have been voted into government, or at least given sufficient mandate to influence government, as may be witnessed in Scandinavia, several western European nations, and even a few provinces in Canada.

People always seem to forget that every modern industrialized nation on the planet including the USA is running a mixed economy, predominantly capitalist but with some limited but significant socialist elements. If we had to choose between the pros and cons of strict communism versus strict laissez faire capitalism, the choice is not anywhere near as obvious as the choice between strict communism and our current economic systems, nor is it at all obvious that strict laissez faire capitalism would have avoided the sort of proletarian uprisings Marx envisaged.

In fact, in every industrialized democracy except for the United States. The reasons why we are the exception are discussed in It Didn’t Happen Here by Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks.