According to Richard Pipes, the idea of a classless, egalitarian society first emerged in Ancient Greece. The 5th-century Mazdak movement in Persia (Iran) has been described as "communistic" for challenging the enormous privileges of the noble classes and the clergy, for criticizing the institution of private property and for striving to create an egalitarian society. At one time or another, various small communist communities existed, generally under the inspiration of Scripture. For example, in the medieval Christian Church some monastic communities and religious orders shared their land and their other property (see religious and Christian communism).
Communist thought has also been traced back to the works of the 16th-century English writer Thomas More. In his treatise Utopia (1516), More portrayed a society based on common ownership of property, whose rulers administered it through the application of reason. In the 17th century, communist thought surfaced again in England, where a Puritan religious group known as the "Diggers" advocated the abolition of private ownership of land. In his 1895 Cromwell and Communism, Eduard Bernstein argued that several groups during the English Civil War (especially the Diggers) espoused clear communistic, agrarian ideals and that Oliver Cromwell's attitude towards these groups was at best ambivalent and often hostile. Criticism of the idea of private property continued into the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century through such thinkers as Jean Jacques Rousseau in France. Later, following the upheaval of the French Revolution communism emerged as a political doctrine.
In the early 19th century, various social reformers founded communities based on common ownership. However, unlike many previous communist communities they replaced the religious emphasis with a rational and philanthropic basis. Notable among them were Robert Owen, who founded New Harmony in Indiana (1825), as well as Charles Fourier, whose followers organized other settlements in the United States such as Brook Farm (1841–1847).
In its modern form, communism grew out of the socialist movement in 19th-century Europe. As the Industrial Revolution advanced, socialist critics blamed capitalism for the misery of the proletariat—a new class of urban factory workers who labored under often-hazardous conditions. Foremost among these critics were Karl Marx and his associate Friedrich Engels. In 1848, Marx and Engels offered a new definition of communism and popularized the term in their famous pamphlet The Communist Manifesto.
Communism in the Soviet Union
The 1917 October Revolution in Russia set the conditions for the rise to state power of Vladimir Lenin's Bolsheviks, which was the first time any avowedly communist party reached that position. The revolution transferred power to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, in which the Bolsheviks had a majority. The event generated a great deal of practical and theoretical debate within the Marxist movement. Marx predicted that socialism and communism would be built upon foundations laid by the most advanced capitalist development. However, Russia was one of the poorest countries in Europe with an enormous, largely illiterate peasantry and a minority of industrial workers. Marx had explicitly stated that Russia might be able to skip the stage of bourgeois rule.
The moderate Mensheviks (minority) opposed Lenin's Bolshevik (majority) plan for socialist revolution before capitalism was more fully developed. The Bolsheviks' successful rise to power was based upon the slogans such as "Peace, bread and land" which tapped into the massive public desire for an end to Russian involvement in the First World War, the peasants' demand for land reform, and popular support for the soviets. The Soviet Union was established in 1922.
Following Lenin's democratic centralism, the Leninist parties were organized on a hierarchical basis, with active cells of members as the broad base. They were made up only of elite cadres approved by higher members of the party as being reliable and completely subject to party discipline. In the Moscow Trials, many old Bolsheviks who had played prominent roles during the Russian Revolution of 1917 or in Lenin's Soviet government afterwards, including Kamenev, Zinoviev, Rykov and Bukharin, were accused, pleaded guilty of conspiracy against the Soviet Union, and were executed.
Countries by GDP (nominal) per capita in 1965 based on a West German school book (1971)
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Its leading role in the Second World War saw the emergence of the Soviet Union as a superpower, with strong influence over Eastern Europe and parts of Asia. The European and Japanese empires were shattered and communist parties played a leading role in many independence movements. Marxist–Leninist governments modeled on the Soviet Union took power with Soviet assistance in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Romania. A Marxist–Leninist government was also created under Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia, but Tito's independent policies led to the expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Cominform which had replaced the Comintern and Titoism was branded "deviationist". Albania also became an independent Marxist–Leninist state after World War II. Communism was seen as a rival of and a threat to western capitalism for most of the 20th century.
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union was dissolved on December 26, 1991. It was a result of the declaration number 142-Н of the Soviet of the Republics of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. The declaration acknowledged the independence of the former Soviet republics and created the Commonwealth of Independent States, although five of the signatories ratified it much later or did not do it at all. On the previous day, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (the eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union) resigned, declared his office extinct and handed over its powers – including control of the Soviet nuclear missile launching codes – to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. That evening at 7:32, the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time and replaced with the pre-revolutionary Russian flag.
Previously, from August to December all the individual republics, including Russia itself, had seceded from the union. The week before the union's formal dissolution, eleven republics signed the Alma-Ata Protocol formally establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States and declaring that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist.
Countries of the world now (red) or previously (orange) having nominally Marxist–Leninist
At present, states controlled by Marxist–Leninist parties under a single-party system include the People's Republic of China, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam. North Korea currently refers to its leading ideology as Juche, which is portrayed as a development of Marxism–Leninism. Communist parties, or their descendant parties, remain politically important in a number of other countries. The South African Communist Party is a partner in the African National Congress-led government. In India, as of March 2018 , communists lead the government of only one state, Kerala. In Nepal, communists hold a majority in the parliament. The Communist Party of Brazil was a part of the parliamentary coalition led by the ruling democratic socialist Workers' Party until August 2016.
The People's Republic of China has reassessed many aspects of the Maoist legacy and along with Laos, Vietnam and to a lesser degree Cuba has decentralized state control of the economy in order to stimulate growth. Chinese economic reforms were started in 1978 under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping and since then China has managed to bring down the poverty rate from 53% in the Mao era to just 6% in 2001. These reforms are sometimes described by outside commentators as a regression to capitalism, but the communist parties describe it as a necessary adjustment to existing realities in the post-Soviet world in order to maximize industrial productive capacity. In these countries, the land is a universal public monopoly administered by the state, as are natural resources and vital industries and services. The public sector is the dominant sector in these economies and the state plays a central role in coordinating economic development.