The 20th century, a time of major political upheaval, witnessed the rise of communism and the decline of monarchy throughout the West. In theory, these two forms of government work in direct opposition to one another: monarchy is based on the rule of an individual and communism on the rule of the people. In practice, however, these political styles have several features in common.

Aspects of Monarchy

The most universally accepted definition of a monarchy is a system of government wherein one person rules the state -- either in theory or in fact. Leadership status is usually for life, and succession is often hereditary, although this is not always the case: The pope is an elected monarch, and the Malaysian sovereign rules only for five years. In addition, some monarchies, such as in Denmark, limit the powers of their monarch via constitution.

Central Authority

Unlike monarchy, communism is intended to be a system of government in which political power is held by the people of the country. In this situation, the government is in place to maintain structure and to provide services. People are elected to government positions, with those in leadership positions considered "first among equals." In reality, communist governments have sometimes become political systems in which one person was invested with most or all political power. Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro were each examples of men who rose to central positions and remained unchallenged for prolonged periods of time.

Constitution

Despite the implications of the title, some constitutional monarchies, such as Great Britain, do not actually have a formal written constitution. In these instances, treaties, formal written laws and acts of Parliament provide the countries with structure and establish the basic rights of citizens. Other monarchies, like Japan, share the use of a constitution with communist countries. The former Soviet Union, China and Cuba each adopted formal constitutions that expressed the fundamental beliefs and goals of their governments. In addition, these constitutions established basic rights for citizens and described the organization of each country's political system.

Succession

In China and the post-Stalin Soviet Union, succession to leadership positions was handled through the process of general election within the party. In Cuba and North Korea, however, the situation more closely resembles the common hereditary succession of a monarchy. North Korea's leadership has been passed down from father to son for three generations. Likewise, the leadership in Cuba has been handed to personally chosen successors. In 2006, for instance, Fidel Castro passed leadership to his brother Raul, and Raul has determined his successor when he leaves office in 2018.