FOR Communism

AGAINST Communism


The society described by Marx and Engels is one many of us would like to live in. In a communist society, the means of production are collectively owned and what is produced is fairly distributed. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is one of the tenants of such a system, meaning that the community would take care of those who couldn’t work, and goods and services would be distributed to everyone as they required them. In this way, everyone would equally benefit from economic and scientific progress. In a communist society, none would be exploited for the profit of someone else, and society would be collectively managed on the basis of common interest.


The 20th century communist states were very different from the classless society envisioned by Marx and Engels. These were states administered and governed by a single communist party, claiming to represent the whole collectivity, but in fact creating a totalitarian government. Not all totalitarian states were communist, but those that were have been responsible for some of the greatest horrors of the past century. Deportation of political opponents, classicide, mass starvation and famine induced by reckless economic planning were common traits of both the Soviet Union under Stalin and China under Mao Zedong, while the Khmer Rouge which ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 were responsible for the mass killing of political opponents. Critics might argue that these weren’t “genuine” communist states, yet the unavoidable truth is that the ideology of communism gave birth to some of the bloodiest dictatorships of the 20th century.


According to the theories of Marx and Engels, the proletarian revolution is an unavoidable evolution of capitalism and a result of its inherent contradictions. Today, those contradictions are even more striking than during the 19th century: the climate crisis, burgeoning social injustice, and the disproportionate accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few are all clear signs that capitalism is socially, economically and environmentally unsustainable. And even though communist states generally do not fare well in terms of respect of human rights, some of their policies such as free education and healthcare are just a dream in many capitalist countries. In Cuba under Fidel Castro, the population enjoyed a national healthcare program, government-sponsored education free for nationals at all levels, subsidised housing, utilities, entertainment, and even subsidised food programmes.


A socialist state might provide you with everything you need, but definitely not with the range of choices available on the free market. The emergence of black markets to offer alternatives to the standardised and lower-quality products provided by the government is a common trait of communist states. Moreover, under a communist system it’s not just consumer choice which is limited: education is also controlled by the government and jobs are assigned according to collective needs. It is no wonder that glamourous capitalist societies, with their bounties of colourful and beautiful products, and their promise of freedom and self-determination, were so attractive to the citizens of communist states. Ultimately, the demise of communist parties in Eastern Europe was in great part due to the irresistible attraction of the Western lifestyle, as it could be imagined through the little information reaching behind the “iron curtain”.


As with other totalitarian regimes, so communist states have the advantage of efficiency. A command economy, where the government follows a multi-year macroeconomic plan setting objectives regarding employment and production, and where the state owns all key industries, makes it possible to wholly transform societies according to the planner’s vision. The rapid industrial development of Stalinist Russia or the economic growth of Maoist China would not have been possible without central planning.


According to classical economists such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, economic planning is at least irrational and probably impossible. According to them, setting prices through bargaining in a free market and through the law of supply and demand is essential in order to determine what to produce and how. Market-set prices reflect the local knowledge of buyers and sellers regarding their needs and preferences, and give information about what is relatively abundant and scarce. Shortages are a consequence of improper allocation of resources, and they were all too common in communist states. In fact, the economic success of modern day China rests on the fact that its economic model is a mixed one.

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