Featured image: Poster by Vladimir Kalensky (Soviet Union, 1968) on a red background. The slogan is “Long Live the Socialist Revolution!”
4 for Now
Communism has been pretty seriously vilified in the United States, which would lead us to believe it must be something that existed, because there would have been no imminent threat from something that wasn’t already somewhere in the world, right?
However, all the classical examples that anti-communist propaganda points to have been socialist, at best. Communism is a stateless, classless, moneyless society where the means of production are commonly owned.
How the USSR Was Not Communism
After the October Revolution in 1917, the Bolsheviks (led by Lenin) overthrew the existing government and established the Russian Soviet Republic, a socialist state.
When Lenin died, Stalin became the leader of the country and established totalitarian rule, though he remained focused on further building the socialist economy. Famine, World War II, and the Cold War followed.
Khrushchev’s “Thaw” shifted the economy to commodity production, and Gorbachev sought to reverse economic stagnation through liberalization. Commodities (based on wants and value rather than need) and liberalization (loosening government regulations to increase participation by private entities) are both moves away from socialism toward capitalism.
Bottom Line: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was socialist. In later years, it adopted more capitalist approaches. The USSR was never communist.
How China Is Not Communism
The Chinese Revolution (1925-1949) resulted in socialized rule under the Communist Party of China. By the 1960s, China was a great threat to imperialism, which led the United States moving to isolate it from other nations seeking to radicalize.
In the 1970s, China restored relations with the US, normalizing the US’s imperialism and allying against the USSR. This opportunism weakened the Communist Party, leading to a bloody struggle. After Mao’s death in 1976, the left wing of the party was purged and the “capitalist roaders” took over, seeking to integrate China into the global capitalist market.
Bottom Line: China, like the USSR, has achieved socialism, but has also swayed capitalist. At present, China uses a system they call “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
How Cuba Is Not Communism
After Spain’s imperial rule and US occupation, Cuba became relatively independent (if you ignore the US control via sanctions and restrictions). After President Machado, who did not leave office after his one allowed term, was overthrown, there was a period of unrest followed by a democracy.
In 1952, Batista (backed by the US) staged a coup and Cuba became a dictatorship. In 1959, Fidel Castro led the revolution and, subsequently, the adoption of socialism.
Bottom Line: Since 1959, Cuba has both state-and privately owned sectors, and is still a state. It is socialist, but it is not communist.
4 for Later
- The best action you can take is to inform yourself. I’ve found the Communism 101 subreddit to be very helpful, with links to lots of additional resources. I’ll link to my favorite commie Twitchers/Tweeters again, too, because sometimes it’s easier to watch and listen than to read.
- Arguably, the next best action you can take is calling out misinformation when you see it. Here’s a post on the aforementioned subreddit with resources specific to countering reactionary arguments.
- Check out this video, The Socialist guide to surviving in Capitalism [YouTube], for ideas on how to make life a little less shitty while we fight the system.
- And as always, if you can engage in mutual aid, do it. Not only does it help the folks suffering under capitalism, it also reduces our reliance on capitalism. (Yeah, a tiny little bit. But it adds up. The more we help each other, the weaker the state’s hold on us.)