"The Communist Manifesto," a 19th-century book by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, serves as the foundation of communist beliefs. Central to their ideology is the idea that capitalism exploits the worker, inspiring a class struggle finally resulting in a revolution. In fact, such events later occurred in countries including Russia and China. The beliefs of communism revolve around supporting the worker in opposition to capitalism with community and government-owned property.
Communism believes in the liberation of the "proletariat," workers living entirely by selling their labor and not drawing profit from the production. The big businesses of Marx's time created a system of production stemming from large-scale manufacturing. Because the proletariat can neither afford factory-size machinery nor compete with the systematic production from factories, they're forced to sell their labor. Their labor is a commodity as long as it promotes capital, or profit. A core communist belief, then, is that the capitalist structure causes the exploitation of the worker and gives the profit to those doing the least amount of work.
Opposition to Capitalism
Communist belief is a reaction against capitalism. According to "The Communist Manifesto," the "bourgeoisie" are the big capitalists who own the means of production. That puts them in direct opposition to the proletariat, the "propertyless" workers who have to sell their labor at subsistence levels. The bourgeoisie use their wealth to concentrate political power, manipulating governments to their own ends. The manifesto urges the proletariat to organize into unions to protect their rights, which eventually leads to the formation of a political party. Ultimately the government takes control of production and farm communes as a reaction to the competitive nature of capitalism.
Many communist beliefs center on the idea of community property. In fact, according to "The ABC of Communism," an explanatory book of communist belief published during the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, production and exchange must fall under social ownership. All property, means of production and means of exchange should be centralized under an organization in which all members of society cooperate. The key belief is that such centralization, in the hands of the community, puts an end to class struggle and worker exploitation.
Centralization leads to government "ownership" of industries such as communication and transportation, factories, labor control and education. However, the communist belief is that this ownership is not in the hands of a traditional government, or ruling class. Rather, the government runs the industries through a series of bookkeeping offices and statistical bureaus. These offices and bureaus further plan out every aspect of the industry, from labor to materials to the day crops are picked. Since all members of the community participate in the ownership, the communist belief is that traditional government dies out. In the end, all people within the communist state are equal.
- Stanford University Computer Sciences: History and Background of Communism
- Manifesto of the Communist Party; Karl Marx and Frederick Engels
- The ABC of Communism; Nicholas I. Bukharin and Evgenii A. Preobrazhensky
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