What Does Communism Mean in World History?

Communism is a political ideology and a social movement that has played a significant role in world history. It originated in the mid-19th century as a response to the injustices of industrial capitalism. The central idea of communism is the abolition of private property and the establishment of a classless society, where resources are owned and controlled collectively.

The Origins of Communism

The roots of communism can be traced back to the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In their seminal work, The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, they laid out their vision for a society free from exploitation and oppression. They argued that capitalism was inherently unjust because it allowed a small group of capitalists to extract surplus value from the labor of workers.

The Principles of Communism

The principles of communism are based on the idea that all individuals should have equal access to resources and opportunities. This means that there should be no private ownership of property or means of production, such as factories or farms. Instead, these resources should be collectively owned and managed by society as a whole.

Another key principle of communism is the elimination of class distinctions. Under communism, there would be no ruling class or working class. Instead, everyone would work together to create a society based on equality and cooperation.

Communism in Practice

Despite its idealistic principles, communism has had mixed success in practice. One reason for this is that it has often been implemented by authoritarian regimes that use force to suppress dissent and maintain power.

One example is the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, where millions were killed or imprisoned in forced labor camps for opposing the government’s policies. Similarly, China under Mao Zedong saw widespread human rights abuses during his Cultural Revolution.

However, there have also been examples where communism has been more successful in improving people’s lives. For instance, Cuba under Fidel Castro has achieved significant gains in areas such as education and healthcare, although it has also been criticized for its lack of political freedom.

The Legacy of Communism

Despite its mixed record, communism has had a lasting impact on world history. It has inspired social movements and revolutions around the world, particularly in the 20th century. It has also contributed to the development of other political ideologies, such as socialism and anarchism.

Today, communism remains a controversial and divisive topic. Some see it as a utopian vision for a more just society, while others view it as a failed experiment that led to oppression and suffering. Regardless of one’s perspective, there is no doubt that communism will continue to be an important part of world history and political discourse.

  • Communism is a political ideology that originated in response to the injustices of capitalism.
  • Its central idea is the abolition of private property and establishment of a classless society.
  • Communism has often been implemented by authoritarian regimes with mixed success.
  • Cuba under Fidel Castro achieved gains in education and healthcare but was criticized for lack of political freedom.
  • Communism continues to inspire social movements and remain a divisive topic today.


Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Penguin Classics, 2002.

Fitzpatrick, Sheila. The Russian Revolution. Oxford University Press, 1984.

Guevara, Ernesto “Che”. Socialism and Man in Cuba. Published by Pathfinder Press (NYC), January 1st 1965