The debate over whether communism is a valid alternative to capitalism or even its logical replacement seems endless, exacerbated by its practical implementation in history. The countries where the government tried to enforce the ideology, such as the USSR, China, and others, were mostly noted for their undemocratic regimes, and in the case of the USSR, military ambitions (Makin-Waite, 2017). The confrontation between the two systems, vividly manifested in the Cold War, made people wary of communism, and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union signified that the project was a failure (Makin-Waite, 2017).
However, one may argue that those countries did not have the necessary foundation for the ideology’s successful implementation, including democracy and sufficient quality of life (Chrysis, 2018). Regardless of the reasons for doubting communism’s validity, it offers solutions to some of capitalism’s persisting societal problems, although it requires a rigorous transformational process.
The main issues communism addresses are related to the way workers, the majority, are treated. Under capitalism, those with power exploit them, making people work more than necessary until they can generate profits (Marx, 1867/1992). Furthermore, both the capitalist and the worker treat the latter’s labor power as a commodity, allowing the former to use it as they see fit (Marx, 1867/1992).
It is also more beneficial for capitalists to have as much working force as possible at a low price, and it comes at the worker’s expense (Marx, 1867/1992). The issue leads to people not feeling entirely human due to the job’s nature, the fear of being replaced by machines, and the absence of meaningful regulations (Marx, 1867/1992). The recreation of capital also preserves the status quo, although the process allows for changes, sometimes revolutionary (Marx, 1867/1992). Politics-wise, the power is also in the hands of capital and those with more property (Marx, 1867/1992). Thus, communism can potentially target such implications as exploitation, dehumanization, stativity, and political consequences, all of which prevent workers from participating in decision-making on many levels.
The Transformational Process
Changing the system would probably alleviate those issues, although the process is nothing short of revolutionary. A prominent idea was for proletarians to become the ruling class, although it would undermine democracy, which is also an essential factor for communism to function (Marx & Engels, 2009). Less radical solutions involve abolishing private property, centralizing communication, and expanding public land (Marx & Engels, 2009).
Other necessary implementations are an equal liability to work, free education, and blurred lines between urban and rural settlements with a balanced distribution of the population between the two (Marx & Engels, 2009). It is worth noting that those demands are for so-called advanced countries, meaning that a state should reach a certain level of economic prosperity and sociopolitical development to attempt the transformation (Marx & Engels, 2009). The highlighted measures are only precursors to the desired outcome, which is supposed to resolve the societal problems rife under capitalism. The long-term result would be establishing a society without classes, as no one would be more affluent or powerful than others, and occupations will probably determine new dynamics.
Resolving the Problems
The absence of classes under communism can directly impact the societal problems existing in the capitalist system. It can potentially resolve the issue with exploitation, as there would be no notion of a superior class. Considering the dominance of the working class, dehumanization is also likely to vanish, as fearmongering for the sake of facilitating effectiveness will probably be obsolete. Abolishment of inheritance, which is another point in Marx’s vision of the transition, will ensure that the status quo is no longer applicable, as the capital will become the state’s property (Marx & Engels, 2009).
The political sphere will be able to represent the population, and the parties will probably form depending on the occupation sector. The nature of the dynamics within the society will probably be mostly horizontal, with promotions barely impacting one’s social standing. Altogether, communism has the means to resolve the issues existing under capitalism by erasing classes.
While the advantages are evident, a new system cannot avoid flaws. For instance, communism would need incentives in place of capitalism’s cruel but motivating ones. Under capitalism, people strive to be successful, wishing to have a better job, position, or share. One may remove the capital from the picture, but something else should compensate for it. For instance, Soviet people were driven by the shared dream of building communism someday, which served as a powerful motivator (van Ree, 2015).
The morals remain ambiguous, but it was one of the solutions to the highlighted issue. Another related problem is the political spectrum, which may suffer as a result of the all-encompassing communist ideology. Capitalism enables some flexibility, with countries leaning left or right or remaining centrist. On the other hand, communism seems more straightforward, so the parliament will probably be diverse occupationally but not economically. Those are some potential issues a country adopting communism may face, although nowadays, they are more approachable than during Marx’s times.
Communism is fascinating in a way that it is humanistic, aiming to improve people’s lives and establish justice for everyone. In comparison, capitalism appears to have too many problems, and a feasible solution is to remove all classes altogether by gradually implementing socio-economic changes. It already happened in several countries with varying degrees of success, and the most developed states, perhaps, could attempt to transition to communism. It may bring a new set of problems, tackled by a universal ideology in communist countries, but a more democratic and technology-driven approach might work.
Chrysis, A. (2018). ‘True democracy’ as a prelude to communism: The Marx of democracy. Palgrave Macmillan.
Makin-Waite, M. (2017). Communism and democracy: History, debates and potentials. Lawrence & Wishart.
Marx, K. (1992). Capital: Volume 1: A critique of political economy. (B. Fowkes, Trans.). Penguin Classics. (Original work published 1867).
Marx, K., & Engels, F. (2009). Manifesto of the Communist Party. Cosimo Classics.
van Ree, E. (2015). Boundaries of utopia – Imagining communism from Plato to Stalin. Routledge.