Can communism work for us all, after all?

From Marx to Stalin, Ellis O’brien weighs up communism by briefly exploring the historical tension between the the ideology and its practical reality.

Photo by @scotty_webb from Pexels

By Ellis O’brien
Subedited by Yasi Qureshi and Jasmine Wing

Communism is the ideology that all property should be owned by the community, with each person contributing to their best ability and receiving according to their ability and needs. This is what many would deem an ideal society, so why does communism have such a bad reputation?

Marx’s description of communism has been presented as a perfect system in an imperfect world yet communism as the product of that ideology is widely dismissed as an unrealistic model for state governance. In light of this tension, why is it that we hate communism?

Marx states that to live in the communistic utopia we must endure times of hard repression from the state in order to rally together to overthrow capitalism. This is largely unrealistic in our western society; to live in repression today would mean we would have to derail our current democracy and backpedal into the past, which is almost impossible.

Arguably, communism is ideal until you realise its intense nature. Imagine a world with no freedom of expression? No religion, no capability to be different- almost resembling the big brother scenario in Orwell’s 1984.

General disapproval of communism in the western world stems from historic activity undertaken by the soviet state. The legacy of Joseph Stalin- the figurehead of communism is one of an extremist that legitimised criticisms of communism.

The dictatorship under his reign has gone down in history for the inhumane and criminal acts he played out including the 1932-1933 soviet famine and the imprisonment of many in concentration camps. People with different ideologies were classed as ‘working against the state’ and often tortured and killed.

Humans are flawed in our nature, we are greedy and corrupt, communism has not worked in the past due to this reason. Stalin used it for his own gain displaying perfectly the exact opposite of what the founders of the communist ideology wanted to achieve.

Marx wanted to use communism as a tool to overthrow the upper class government who used their position in society to benefit the rich. Marx thought the upheaval of the government by the working class citizens would bring about a never seen before equality.

The major flaw in this plan and the reason why it would still not work today is people, no matter their background, are imperfect. Marx relied heavily on the hope that the working class societies would want their utopia to be equal for all but we cannot guarantee that everybody wanted or wants the same situation.

Greed is fundamental in humans and a natural instinct to want more and to want the best that is possible, communism is a fragile state that can easily be turned inhumane and cruel when put into the wrong hands.

Perhaps the fragility of the situation is too uncertain for our human hands. Although the UK is not a communist state, we live in a democratic society that borrows from the best aspects of communism, most notable the ‘benefit’ system, that allows an average wage for people incapable of work.

However, the scale of economic inequality in the U.K does show that our current situation needs to be revamped, although perhaps not to the level of complete communism. The average income is spread unequally across the U.K with the average household income in London being considerably higher than the average household income in the North East.

Compared to other developed countries, the U.K has a very high level of income inequality, with households in the lower 10% of the population having on average a net income of £9,277 whereas the highest 10% of the population have average incomes over 9 times that at, £83,897. As it may be, our democracy could learn a few tricks from the ideals of communism.

Nevertheless, communism does have its negatives such as the lack of expression, the sheer uncertainty of the situation and the fact its politics are more of a fantasy than a reality. It may be in our best mind set to combine both the democracy of today and the Marx’sto create the ultimate government.

Regardless of the ideals we have about the way our government should be run, the system will never please everyone. Clearly, the vicious circle of human differences is the reason why communism displays such contradictions.

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Breathe News provides reactionary commentary on various aspects of contemporary culture, focusing on the misdeeds of political figures, the actions of governments, and global economic inequalities. We address socio-political issues through the use of multimedia content to tell a story from all angles. Breathe News aims to implement and promote change by informing our readers about a given problem and appealing to people's sense of justice. An informative, entertaining news site propelling social impact during turbulent times.

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