Commies - Etymology and Terminology


Etymology and Terminology

Communism comes from the Latin word communis, which means "shared" or "belong to all".

In the schema of historical materialism, communism is the idea of a free society with no division or alienation, where the people are free from oppression and scarcity. A communist society would have no governments, countries, or class divisions. In Marxist theory, the dictatorship of the proletariat is the intermediate system between capitalism and communism, when the government is in the process of changing the means of ownership from privatism to collective ownership. In political science, the term "communism" is sometimes used to refer to communist states, a form of government in which the state operates under a one-party system and declares allegiance to Marxism-Leninism or a derivative thereof.

In modern usage, the word "communism" is still often used to refer to the policies of self-declared socialist governments comprising one-party states which were single legal political party systems operating under centrally planned economies and a state ownership of the means of production, with the state, in turn, claiming that it represented the interests of the working classes. A significant sector of the modern communist movement alleges that these states never made an attempt to transition to a communist society, while others even argue that they never achieved a legitimate socialism. Most of these governments claimed to base their ideology on Marxism-Leninism (though this, too, may be erroneous), but they did not call the system they had set up "communism", nor did they even necessarily claim at all times that the ideology was the sole driving force behind their policies: Mao Zedong, for example, pursued New Democracy, and Vladimir Lenin in the early 1920s enacted war communism; later, the Vietnamese enacted doi moi, and the Chinese switched to socialism with Chinese characteristics. The governments labeled by other governments as "communist" generally claimed that they had set up a transitional socialist system. This system is sometimes referred to as state socialism or by other similar names.

"Pure communism" is a term sometimes used to refer to the stage in history after socialism, although just as many communists use simply the term "communism" to refer to that stage; the term is synonymous with "Full communism". The classless, stateless society that is meant to characterise this communism is one where decisions on what to produce and what policies to pursue are made in the best interests of the whole of society—a sort of 'of, by, and for the working class', rather than a rich class controlling the wealth and everyone else working for them on a wage basis. In this communism the interests of every member of society is given equal weight to the next, in the practical decision-making process in both the political and economic spheres of life. Karl Marx, as well as some other communist philosophers, deliberately never provided a detailed description as to how communism would function as a social system, nor the precise ways in which the working class could or should rise up, nor any other material specifics of exactly how to get to communism from capitalism. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx does lay out a 10-point plan advising the redistribution of land and production to begin the transition to communism, but he ensured that even this was very general and all-encompassing. It has always been presumed that Marx intended these theories to read this way specifically so that later theorists in specific situations could adapt communism to their own localities and conditions.

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