Communism is an ancient concept. Since the dawn of civilization, once primitive equality disappeared in all eras and all countries, thinkers and philosophers became conscious of the inequalities of human life, principally due to the institution of private property prevalent in contemporary societies. They dreamt of an idealistic state, devoid of any poverty or injustice, where men would work for the good of all and would lead a fraternal life. In the, “Republic”, Plato gave the picture of such an ideal imaginary state. Thus as an ideal, communism goes back to the beginning of western political thought. In, 1516, Sir Thomas More of England wrote a book named Utopia’ in which he dwelt on a dreamland, where people lived in perfect harmony. These were the early communist pronouncements.
In the past, men have experimented with communist ideals. In the early part of Christianity, many Christian communities established a rudimentary form of communism, wherein members helped each other and lived in peace and amity. More recently, after the Industrial Revolution also, many people—notable among them Charles Fourier in France and Robert Owen in England—made communistic experiments of some sort or the other. However, they did not have a clear cut theory to explain social changes. They wanted to usher in the ideal state in a peaceful manner. Consequently, these experiments were brief and short-lived. Credit goes to Marx and Engels for the modern exposition of communism.
It is difficult to define communism clearly. It is an old word meaning different things to different people. Sometimes communism has stood for the establishment of paradise on earth. Sometimes, it has stood for a violent revolution against the miseries of capitalism. Today by communism we understand the philosophy delivered to the world by Karl Marx and Engels and interpreted subsequently by Lenin, Stalin and others.
R.N. Carew Hunt observes, “We should call it (communism); Marxism-Engelism-Leninism-Stalinism, but it is often referred to as Marxism-Leninism and more commonly as Marxism.” Out of these four apostles of communism, Marx was indeed the most original and the greatest thinker Carew Hunt again says : “Communism at least according to the classical theory, aims at creating a classless society in which all the means of production, distribution and change will be owned by the community, and from which the state— conceived as an instrument of coercion and oppression— will have disappeared.”
According to Marx, in a higher phase of communism society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour has vanished ; after labour has become not only a means of life but life’s. prime want ; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual, and the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly— only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirely and society inscribe on its banners : “From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.”
To give the views of Lenin “Communism represents a state of things where all shall fulfill the functions of control and superintendence so that none shall have the opportunity of becoming bureaucrats at all………. The State itself wither away, by virtue of the simple fact that freed from capitalist slavery, from the innumerable horrors, savagery, absurdities and infamies of capitalist exploitation, people will gradually become accustomed to the observation of the elementary rules of social life, known for centuries, repeated for thousands of years in all sermons. They will become accustomed to their observance without constraint, without subjection, without the special apparatus for compulsion which is called the state.”
According to Dr. Laderar, “the term communism is applied to those movements in particular which rest to a greater of less degree on Marx’s and Engel’s Communist Manifesto, which identifies with the cause of the proletariate as a party to the class war and which as a corollary to this strain of thought, look to the communalizing of the means of production to bring about not merely increased total production and total consumption and just distribution, but also a radical reorganization of all conditions of life, whatsoever, all creative achievement, the whole spiritual contents of the age.”
Maurice Cornforth has described communism in this way : “This means that social production has been so expanded that abundance is produced to satisfy all the needs of all the members of society ; that the subordination of the individual to the division of labour has been ended and every individual is free to develop fully all his physical and mental abilities ; that work has ceased to be only a necessary means of supporting life and has become itself a primary need or life; that social property has become the basis of society; that all the means of life provided by society to all human beings.”
Although communism is popularly by known as Marxism, yet everything Marxism is not is not Communism. There never was and is not today a consistent and fully comprehensible doctrine called Marxism. Many theories were inspired by the teachings of Marx. Only some of these theories may be taken for Marxism. Similarly, Marx was a prolific author. He left behind him a stock of ideas. Not all such ideas are considered to be Marxist. Communism is orthodox Marxism.
The communist philosophy was mainly propounded in the following works of Marx and Engels : The Communist Manifesto (1848), 1844 Manuscripts, Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875), Anti-Duhring, Capital, etc. Today when we speak of ‘Communism, we associate it with Marxian ideas as well as the politico-economic system prevalent in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Vietnam and some other European countries.
The communist philosophy also has changed with the passage of time. It has been differently interpreted to suit the changed conditions. According to Mao Tse-tung, Marxism has to assume a national form. If somebody talks of Marxism, unrelated to the peculiarities of the land and people concerned, it would become only an abstract philosophy. But Marxism is not only an abstract theory, but a concrete approach and practical politics. Lenin said, “Marxism is not a dogma, but a guide to action.” So it has to be adapted to changing circumstances.
Lin-Shao Chi also strongly asserted Mao’s thesis. He called the application of Marxism and Leninism to the Chinese conditions as “Chinese Communism”, ‘”Chinese Marxism.” Marx had credited the industrial workers as initiators of communist revolution. Mao applied the communist theory to the agrarian economy of China and implied that the peasantry would be the class to bring about the revolution. Similarly, the Russian Revolution started from the cities and spread to the rural areas whereas the Chinese Revolution started from the countryside and spread to the towns.
Naxalism of Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal was the Indian version of orthodox Marxism. According to Naxalism, the landlords and moneylenders etc. were responsible for the exploitation of the rural masses. So emancipation of the peasantry lay in the annihilation of class enemies.