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Submitted on
December 28, 2013


13 (who?)
I've run into this as an argument rather frequently on DA, and online in general.  "Communism has never worked, and therefore can never work."  I ask them to prove the claim, and they give the Soviet Union as the primary example, although some do give North Korea, China, or Cambodia as examples.

Before I get into specific reasons as to why "communism never works", I would like to clarify a few things.
-Communism  =/=  Totalitarianism
-Communism  =/=  Soviet Union
-Communism  =/=  Stalin

There are two reasons in particular that explain why communism has "never worked" which I have deduced and would like to bring up.

1)  Firstly, communism has only existed as an ideology since the 19th century, and has only been attempted a handful of times since then.  Capitalism, or at least some form of free-market system has existed for thousands of years in hundreds of different civilizations like:
---Numerous city states during the Sumerian Renaissance (2111 BCE - 2004 BCE), 
---Intrastate trade within the Achaemanid Empire and later the Hellinistic Kingdoms (550 BCE - 63 BCE)
---All across the Mediterranean region in Greek/Phoenician city states and later within the Roman Republic (500 BCE - 500 CE)
---The Silk Road in antiquity and Pax Mongolica (100 BCE - 1400 CE)
---Medieval Islamic Caliphates and Post-Medieval Europe (660 CE - 1650 CE)
---Possibly numerous other, unrecorded times in historical regions such as Mesoamerica, North America, the Andes, Sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, and Polynesia.

The modern incarnation of capitalism is merely the most recent elaboration on a system which has been in place for centuries.  There have been numerous times in history where the system of capitalism has led to the downfall of civilizations, such as governments that fell to economic collapse in Indonesia and Indochina during the Medieval Period.  Some of these civilizations were ultimately destroyed because of their free market economic system, and yet the free market is still widely viewed as a successful system.  So, communism itself has not been given enough opportunity to become successful, or have the same time for it's infrastructure to develop into an effective system.

2)  Widespread communism was spawned in a time of conflict.  The very idea of communism was under attack by ideological disagreement from the first world.  But not only that, each individual nation which adopted communism was either at war, or undergoing a harsh time economically, more often than not, both.

---The Russian Revolution occurred while Russia was at war with the Imperialist Germans, and the contemporary Russian Empire had suffered more than 2 million military deaths and over 3 million civilian deaths due to military action and famine (this amounted to approximately 2% of the population at the time).  Mass starvation was already a rampant problem when the Bolsheviks took over and with the rise of the White Army that same year, a further million+ Russians, so in the course of ten years, from 1914 to 1924, Russia had lost millions to both war and famine.  A country which had lost millions, and continued to lose millions, and was constantly under attack needed strong leadership.  Even capitalist countries have only endured war through strong military leaders (Churchill, etc.), and with the premature death of Lenin, there was a call for strong leadership.  The call was answered, fortunately or unfortunately is up for debate, by Joseph Stalin.  A few years later, the Soviet-Japanese Wars in the 1930s and 1940s, and of course, World War 2, resulted in a further nearly 24 million civilian and military casualties.  My purpose in this, is to point out that the Soviet Union was born into a time when constant death and war was commonplace, a theme which will be found in these other examples.
---China became communist during the Second Sino-Japanese war which was one of the bloodiest wars, in terms of total casualties, in all of recorded history.  The Imperialist Japanese tortured China for eight years and killed an estimated 2 million Chinese.  Also notable is that, while the Chinese government was struggling to remain intact during this time, it was divided between two major parties: the nationalists, and the communists.  So, even after the Japanese surrendered to America in 1945, those two parties continued to fight among each other, resulting in further conflict during the onset of the Cold War.
---In the aftermath of the Pacific War, anti-European sentiments in French Indochina had grown, and when they were denied independence, they did what almost every group did when denied independence from overseas rulers: they fought for independence.  And the French, who were only just recovering from the damage done by the Nazis, called for foreign aid, which was not immediately answered.  But when the revolutionary leader, Ho-Chi-Minh, adopted communism as the ideology for the fledgling nations emerging in Indochina, America sprang into action to prevent the further spread of communism.  This ultimately resulted in some of the longest, most expensive and taxing wars for both sides, of the twentieth century as America tried its best to suppress communism in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
---Korea had been under imperialist occupation by Japan for over thirty years, and when the Allies advanced into Japanese-occupied Korea, the land was divided according to which ally "liberated" the region.  The North went to the Soviet Union, and the South went to the United States.  The already devastated Koreans were further divided by the ideological differences of their benefactor superpowers.
---Cuba was the only officially communist country in the entire western hemisphere, and when the Cuban Revolution occurred, the United States placed a trade embargo on Cuba, which essentially ended any chance Cuba may have of economic growth, and with the US already on a paranoid defensive because of the Cold War, Cuba had to devote its entire focus to military protection, which led to the government vying for absolute power, which was not a difficult accomplishment in the already fractured Cuba.

No country under the circumstances I've listed above can flourish, regardless of their economic system.  There are capitalist countries under similar conditions all around the world in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, but people don't consider this grounds for the invalidation of capitalism itself, so considering this grounds for the invalidation of communism is ignoring a lot of facts.

I hope that I've shed some light on this subject for communists and anti-communists alike, and hopefully opponents of Marxism who have used this argument before can understand my point of view on the issue, and maybe have a bit more open of a mind.
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menapia Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014
Good job on the essay.  Ireland could have become communist or anarchical.  During our revolutionary period there were over 300 so called "soviets" where workers took over businesses such as creameries and assorted light industries and ran them as worker co-operatives. 

In Limerick city when the British army occupied the locality, the citizens overthrew the old city council and temporarily ruled the city with an open council and directory of trade representatives.  They opened workshops to keep people occupied or teaching workers how to cobble their shoes and repairs clothes.  They also rationed food so that women and children wouldn't suffer, this regime short as it lasted was nicknamed the "Limerick Soviet".  Unfortunately the IRA routinely attacked strikers and anyone else whose definition of freedom differed from theirs.
Atamolos Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Interesting. I am thinking if rewriting it (its a bit lacking in my opinion) since it doesn't even adress the Paris Commune, Rosa Luxemburg, Yugoslavia, or the Spanish Republic. Plus everything I listed is an attempt at socialism rather than communism to begin with.
menapia Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014
Rosa Luxemburg and our James Connolly seemed to be thinking along the same lines. Connolly warned about what could happen if a state had communism or socialism that was not democratically accountable, he himself used the term democratic unionism. 

I have his 1913 Edition of his book The Workers Republic in my rare book collection, he paints an interesting picture of an Irish socialist commonwealth where you would have local democratically run worker co-ops owned by the community they served with strong local government, he also used the term "one big union" to describe how society would be run.

Many of the Irish rebels had some socialist ideals, I've just put up some old black and white photos of the Irish Citizen Army which was a workers militia founded years before the Red Guards or Red Army in Russia. 

All members had to practice a trade and be recommended by the City Trades Councils who helped train people, most were veterans of the 1913 Lockout where factory owners locked out the majority of workers out because they dared to start a trade union in Dublin, the bosses also used hired thugs to attack strikers and their homes, after people died in police truncheon charges the army was founded to protect workers and their families
Jmoc1 Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2014
A well written argument. I would like to point out that Lenin did come to with gained freedoms like gay marriage before Stalin came around. Other than that, extremely well written.
Atamolos Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Spiritswriter123 Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
It saddens me that you forgot one thing: Communism has worked, but under only one man: Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia (if you consider him a Communist). After he broke off from Stalinist ideology in 1949, Yugoslavia just thrived, and then basically went down the toilet after Tito died. Gotta love Tito
Atamolos Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're right there, but my main purpose here was to illustrate the logical fallacy in using the USSR, PRC, PDRK, etc as arguments against communism.
Zucca-Xerfantes Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Your essay disregards the factors in these civilization's downfalls present other than Capitalism in and of itself. That's as intellectually dishonest as your opponents claiming Stalin is indicative of Communism as a whole.

I would argue that Capitalism at its most untainted is better than Communism at its purest because people are afforded *choice*, first and foremost. And a Communist state would require extensive bureaucracy to operate and maintain. And you know as well as I do that bureaucracy opens the grates wide for people to fall through.

In recent history, attempting to hybridize Capitalism with Socialism has been leading to utter disaster. Detroit, being chief and foremost.…

The video is four years old. Since then, Detroit has declared bankruptcy and the response time for emergency services is *four hours*.

Sit down and watch nine episodes of The Office on Netflix. That's the time it takes for someone to arrive.

Capitalism would work (As it has up until recent times in America) if there were a *balance* between freedom for the companies and sensible, no-nonsence policies and restrictions that protect the little guy and environment without crippling a company's ability to function.

Now I admit that Capitalism may not work in all countries. But in America, whose culture and foundation is that of liberty and freedom of choice, anything that represses that will never work.
Atamolos Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I did not claim that these civilizations fell due to capitalism. No civilization has collapsed exclusively because of its economic system, which was the general purpose of this essay.

I do agree that an extensive beaurocracy is not a good idea, but I believe that communism does by require such an extensive social system. An example of a society that came very close to true communism was Kronstadt, near modern day St Petersburg which was unfortunately captured by the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. It still serves as a Russian naval base on the Baltic Sea. Also, I would again like to point out that communism has not had the same time and effort put in to develop it as capitalism.

Also, the "choice" of capitalism was also made by the people who "chose" slavery, institutionalized sexism and racism, both encouraged and enacted imperialism, and created a beaurocratic oligarchy under the guise of democracy.

Regarding Detroit, a hybridization of socialism and capitalism would obviously be a failure, as the two ideologies exist in opposition with one another. Also, Detroit is not, by any means, self sufficient, or a democracy, which are two things required for a society to evolve into socialism.

America's foundation is an oligarchy, as the original government was set up so that only wealthy, white, men could attain power. So, if anything that represses choice can never work, then capitalism, by essence cannot work.

Also, you seem to be under the misconception that communism represses freedom of choice and liberty. This is not true, as the goal of communism is to create an equal, classless, moneyless, stateless, peaceful, and entirely self-sufficient society.

Also, you claim that capitalism can't work everywhere. If it can't, then why is it practiced? It exists in both wealthy First World countries, and poor Third World countries, but it seems to only be "effective" in the wealthy ones. If it can only work in wealthy countries, then this leads to socio-economic Darwinism, which is another fundamentally flawed ideology, and if capitalism can only exist in a social Darwinist world, then it must suppress other, non-wealthy and non-capitalist countries in order to further it's own practice.
Zucca-Xerfantes Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Communism would have slaves if the definition of what constitutes a human being said some people are more human than others.

Slavery is not the fault of capitalism, but instead is the fault of the notion that some human beings are lesser and are little more than a disposable workforce.

That's why Capitalism is best when it has a government that enforces the law.

I also strongly disagree with the notion that America was founded to make wealthy white men wealthier. That's complete and utter reformist, ivory tower academic, bullshit nonsense if ever I heard it.

The country was formed with a principle in mind. Freedom.

Has it taken is a couple centuries to master that notion? Oh yeah. We still struggle with it. But the foundation of the country gave us the *ability* to improve upon it. We've done a hell of a lot of growing in the last centuries and the growing pains are clear. Our start had blood, misery and sorrow, but it also brought out the best of us just as surely as the worst.

You've yet to sell me on the idea of Communism as a workable government.

How would people get food? Who's in charge of giving out food? Why would some be allowed to drive nice cars while others have to settle for jalopies? Who enforces this all? How is a person's effort in work gauged?

I'm telling you right here, right now, the goal of Communism is a pipe dream. It can't work as a system because it leaves out fundamental facets of human nature.

Communism works well for ants because there's no variety of individual from ant to ant.

But we're talking about people here. Not ants.

Tell me, how exactly is Communism supposed to work if you have no basis for measuring human energy and work? (That's currency.) How does it work if people desire to live a certain way and are willing to work hard for it, but can never get there because the state deems it unfair? How does one *ENFORCE* this kind of society?
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