What Are the Defining Characteristics of Communism?

Karl Marx is considered the founder of communism.
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Communism is an economic and political ideology expressed in the Communist Manifesto by German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marx and Engels based their writing in turn on the ideas of the Utopian socialists from France and British economists of the 18th century. Although communism government characteristics came to be transformed by the later influences of historical figures from Vladimir Lenin to Mao Zedong, some of its most essential characteristics remained the same.

1 Communism Examples of Class Struggle

Central to the communist definition and ideology is the idea human history is intertwined with economics and class struggle. It begins with primitive communist societies where all members depend equally on whatever the society produces. In communism, private land ownership has no meaning and individuals are entirely free. Communism examples can include the such a society of Native American cultures prior to the arrival of Europeans. Eventually, a communistic society evolves to a point where wealthy individuals or the bourgeoisie own all property and the means of production. Workers, called the proletariat, are enslaved through wages. Over time, works inevitably recognize their plight and rise up in an international movement to overthrow the bourgeoisie.

2 Achieving a Classless Society

A Communism definition can never exist with private ownership of property. In order to achieve a classless society, all citizens must work cooperatively. The Communist phrase of "From each according to his ability; to each according to his need," means a person's contribution to production has no effect on their access to what society produces creating a society with no need for competition and private property. Since the workers control the means of production, all share equally in the benefit of success or the consequences of failure.

3 Communism through Socialism

Socialism, referred to by Marx as a lower form of communism, is necessary to alter society into a truly communistic state. In a socialized system, the state comes to control all of the utility and major economic systems with banks and all social services nationalized. With careful centralized planning, Communist government characteristics show that a belief there is no longer a need for money, trade, profits or wages evolves in the society. Marx believed personal security would end psychological stress that resulted from feelings of isolation and powerlessness over one's destiny and inequality.

4 Marxist-Leninist Communism

Marx believed class warfare and the ultimate evolution of a communist society was an inevitable process within industrialized societies. By the early 20th century, however, communists like Lenin believed the process required revolutionary impetus. Industrialists and monarchies needed to be overthrown and replaced with socialist governments as characteristics of a Communist dictatorship. Political opposition and religion were seen as threats to state cohesion. Thus in most communist nations, religion is repressed and only the Communist party rules. Enforced patriotism and loyalty is an expressed goal in communist countries, where the fate and happiness of the individual is inextricably linked to that of the state.

Charles Hooper began writing as a career in 2009. Since then he has published a nonpartisan political advocacy book and hundreds of articles. An honors graduate from the University of North Carolina at Asheville where he concentrated in sociology and political science, he later earned a Masters degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.