Communism: A Very Short Introduction

Communism: A Very Short Introduction

Leslie Holmes

Language: English

Pages: 144

ISBN: 0199551545

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


If now in decline since the tumultuous events of 1989, communism was without doubt the great political movement of the twentieth century--at its peak, more than a third of the world's population lived under communist rule--and it is still a powerful force in many areas of the world, most notably in the People's Republic of China. What is communism? Where did the idea come from and what attracted people to it? Is there a future for communism? This Very Short Introduction considers these questions and more in the search to explore and understand this controversial political force. Explaining the theory behind its ideology, and examining the history and mindset behind its political, economic and social structures, Leslie Holmes considers the evolution of communism from Marx's time, to its practice in the Bolshevik Revolution, to its collapse in 1989-91. Holmes highlights the inner dynamics, crises, and demise of communism as a global system, and introduces the major players in the communist world, including Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

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history, the People’s Chamber only once experienced a less than unanimous vote; this was in 1972, when the East German Communists permitted members of the Christian Democratic Union a conscience vote on the proposed new abortion law. But this vote in no way threatened the Communists’ position or represented open opposition; the whole process was tightly controlled. In some ways, ministries in Communist states were not dissimilar to their counterparts in Western systems. Thus there were ministries

Industrial Revolution and the emergence of capitalism, the most fundamental class division was between those who owned land, and those who had to work for those who owned the land. With the advent of the spinning jenny, the steam engine, and other inventions of the early Industrial Revolution, the most important class division became that between those who owned factories, and those who worked for the factory owners. Marx called the former ‘capitalists’ or ‘the bourgeoisie’, and the latter the

was reached, there would be a temporary or transitional state, the dictatorship of the proletariat. What Marx meant by this is not entirely clear; he only used the actual phrase twice in his writings, and never provided much detail on it. But he was impressed by the short-lived experiment in France known as the Paris Commune (1871), and saw many features of that experiment, including the way in which ordinary workers exercised power – became the new ruling class – as indicative of what a

of the latter. But Lenin was more explicit that the distribution of wealth under socialism was to be on a different basis from that under communism; whereas the guiding principle under the latter was to be ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their need’, under the former it was to be ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their labour’. This distinction has been used to justify sometimes significant differences in income in Communist states. Lenin also

Specifically on the Soviet economy, see A. Nove, An Economic History of the USSR, 1917–91 (Penguin, 1993) or P. Hanson, The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Economy: An Economic History of the USSR 1945–1991 (Longman, 2003). A useful and accessible recent study of the Chinese economic system is B. Naughton, The Chinese Economy: Transitions and Growth (MIT Press, 2006). The somewhat different approach of the Yugoslav Communists is well covered in B. McFarlane, Yugoslavia (Pinter, 1988), especially Part

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