Communism: it’s all whom you follow.
It’s the political season, which means that everyone is being called everything. All the isms, all the obias, and everything in between is being assigned to everyone who disagrees with you. I thought it would be good to utilize my degree in Political Science by helping to break down the differences between the Communism of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao.
It should also be noted there’s a huge difference between governmental structures and economic structures, which I’ll have to get into later.
First a little bit of background. I got my bachelor degree in International Studies: Political Science and I specialized in the formation of the Soviet Union through Khrushchev. As a young little political scientist in the 2000’s, I thought that Communism/Socialism would be the big threat to my series of beliefs more so than other political systems so I felt I should focus on what it looked like in practice and how it began.
Communism, as we understand it today, was written of in a book my Karl Marx and Fredrick Engles.
For simplicity’s sake, I’ll just be referring to the writers as Marx.
There is a spectre haunting this work that argues Communism was an invention of Marx or that the Communist Manifesto is a call to action or a roadmap for how to establish Communism. I would disagree, because, if one reads through it, Marx is writing more like a scientist writing about a discovery and the conditions that the experiment required. He was detailing the beliefs of the current communists and how to identify other communists, as well as the situations that would ultimately bring it about. Marx looked at Communism as the natural ending of the capitalistic system. Marx was outlining how if the capitalistic system is left alone the abuses of the Bourgeois would lead to their end as the Proletariat would realize what happened (as they did in the past and Marx clearly outlined how it happened previously) and rise against or shed their chains.
In the section entitled, Bourgeois and the Proletarians Marx describes a situation that is currently happening and what the results are:
The weapons which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself. But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons – the modern working class – the proletarians.The Communist Manifesto, 42.
It’s extremely important to note that he isn’t saying what they should do, but instead describing what has happened. He does lay out the situation needed for the Bourgeoisie to be felled, however, he doesn’t call for said felling.
Marx didn’t think that it would actually happen in his generation and his brand of communism was a social communism and an economic communism with no authority – much like Anarcho-Communism. Marxism is a utopian view of communism without the need for government because we would have gone through the struggle and united past the need for individualism.
Marx did list some things that would be done that would lead to the fall of the Bourgeoisie. Three of them being:
– A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
– Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
– Free education for all children in public schools…The Communist Manifesto, 60-61
Marx also saw how Christianity could be used to advance the ideals of Communism:
Nothing is easier than to give Christian asceticism a socialist tinge. Has not Christianity declaimed against private property, against marriage, against the state? Has it not preached in the place of these, charity and poverty, celibacy and mortification of the flesh, monastic life and Mother church? Christian socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.The Communist Manifesto, 64
It’s interesting that Marx saw the use of religion in advancing the Communist society even though, religion would be done away with in a Communist society. As he later stated:
But communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis; it therefore acts in contradiction to all past historical experience… [This is because all of past history stems from one thing] the exploitation of one part of society by the other.The Communist Manifesto, 59
I went a little deeper into Marxism because it’s important to show how and what the conclusions of Marx were as they’re ultimately the foundation for Lenin/Stalinism.
Marxism Recap: Marxism is a utopian anarcho-communist state where there is no need for any sort of governmental authority because the society has evolved past the need for it. This is possible because it came about naturally and organically.
Marxism is the stated goal of Lenin/Stalinism.
Lenin/Stalinism’s main difference is that it’s dependent on active actions. It’s designed to be the means of the end as opposed to the end of ideal. Lenin had experience disappointment as the visions of Marx hadn’t come true. The Proletarians hadn’t rallied against the Bourgeoisie because the cries of the Proletarians had been listened to, reforms were made and thus capitalism had strengthened.
Lenin was able to explain this away in two ways. First, since the proletariat were the working class, they spent their time working. They didn’t have the time to spread the good news of Marxism, nor was there any time to train people. Secondly, there were too many concessions being made that polluted the purity of Marxism.
The people were being placated via bread and circuses.
Lenin took inspiration from the work of Karl Kautsky, who had been taken under the wing of Marx and Engels, and developed the concept of a vanguard of the party. These people would-be full-time revolutionaries solely devoted to bringing about the Communist revolution. They would be pure of ideology and represent the proletariat with a single unified voice. However, since they were dedicating their life to this, they would need to be supported by the proletariat.
These vanguards would be open to the ideologically pure and would oversee the transition from a more capitalistic system to a socialist one following by the communist system. Once the capitalistic system was completely eradicated, there would no longer be a need for the vanguard as they would all be revolutionaries. However, in every instance of Lenin/Stalinism in practice, the vanguard remains in power after the communist state has been established – thus making it extremely authoritarian in nature.
The second thing that is a sign of Lenin/Stalinism is the violence of the revolution. Marx’s revolution could be peaceful. During the revolution in Russia there were the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. The Mensheviks believed that the revolution could be achieved by working within the system. The Bolsheviks believed in a violent revolution.
Use this handy remembering tool!
Mensheviks = Marx // Bolsheviks = Bullets.
Marxism has yet to be established in the world. Lenin/Stalinism has yet to be enacted without leading to the murder of citizens and opposing ideologies.
So! Now that you’ve learned the difference, make sure you spread the word, and give your friends who believe differently the benefit of the doubt. If you have left leaning friends and they’re talking about communism, they’re probably thinking about Marxism not Lenin/Stalinism. And vice versa, if you have right leaning friends they’re probably thinking Lenin/Stalinism when they reference Communism.
Have you heard the terms used interchangeably? Did you know the difference?
– Mr. Funkhouser