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Legal Dictionary

communism

Definition of communism

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /'kɒm.juˌnɪzm̩/

Etymology

    A calque of the German word Kommunismus (from Marx and Engels's Manifesto of the German Communist Party), in turn a calque of the French word communisme, which was formed from commun ("common"), from Latin communis, and the suffix -isme ("-ism").

The red flag, particularly when marked with a yellow hammer intersecting a yellow sickle, is an iconic symbol of communism.

Noun

communism (plural communisms)

  1. Any political philosophy or ideology advocating holding the production of resources collectively.
  2. Any political social system that implements a communist political philosophy.
  3. The international socialist society where classes and the state no longer exist.

Usage notes

  • Beginning in the 1950s, the term communism was used to describe something negative. This usage is very similar to the way that the word gay is used. This practice is derived from the fact that people, during the Red Scare, accused those they disliked of being communists, often for absurd or impossible reasons. For example, one might describe a difficult test as "communism". This colloquial usage is restricted primarily to American English.

Further reading

Communism is a social structure in which classes are abolished and property is commonly controlled, as well as an ideology and social movement that advocates and aims to create such a society. Karl Marx, the father of communist thought, posited that communism would be the final stage in society, which would be achieved through a proletarian revolution and only possible after a socialist stage develops the productive forces, leading to a superabundance of goods and services.

"Pure communism" in the Marxian sense refers to a classless, stateless and oppression-free society where decisions on what to produce and what policies to pursue are made democratically, allowing every member of society to participate in the decision-making process in both the political and economic spheres of life. In modern usage, communism is often used to refer to Bolshevism or Marxism-Leninism and the policies of the various communist states which had government ownership of all the means of production and centrally planned economies. Communist regimes have historically been authoritarian, repressive, and coercive governments concerned primarily with preserving their own power.

As a political ideology, communism is usually considered to be a branch of socialism; a broad group of economic and political philosophies that draw on the various political and intellectual movements with origins in the work of theorists of the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution. Communism attempts to offer an alternative to the problems with the capitalist market economy and the legacy of imperialism and nationalism.

Marx states that the only way to solve these problems is for the working class (proletariat), who according to Marx are the main producers of wealth in society and are exploited by the Capitalist-class (bourgeoisie), to replace the bourgeoisie as the ruling class in order to establish a free society, without class or racial divisions. The dominant forms of communism, such as Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism and Trotskyism are based on Marxism, but non-Marxist versions of communism (such as Christian communism and anarcho-communism) also exist.

Karl Marx never provided a detailed description as to how communism would function as an economic system, but it is understood that a communist economy would consist of common ownership of the means of production, culminating in the negation of the concept of private ownership of capital, which referred to the means of production in Marxian terminology.

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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