Communism (from Latin communis - common, universal), defined broadly, is a form of society in which there are no classes, no money, no state, and the means of production (tools, work materials, etc.) are held in common by all people. The word can also refer to the revolutionary movement whose aim is to create that form of society, or to the theory used in the movement.
The idea of communism is very old, and can be traced back at least as far as Plato (4th century BCE) and to early religious communes. In modern times, the idea gained a following in France in the years immediately after the 1789-1815 Revolution. It was by these French radicals that Karl Marx, communism's most famous theorist, was led to take up the idea.
Marx developed an analysis in which communism inevitably supercedes the present form of socio-economic organisation, capitalism, through a process of class struggle which is driven forward by changes in the technological basis of the economy. (See Historical materialism.) He predicted that the working class, or proletariat, would grow to be of enormous size under capitalism, and would rise up to throw off the rule of the parasitic capitalist class which lives off of the workers' labour. After the overthrow, a transitional stage which Marx called the dictatorship of the proletariat, and which has also sometimes been referred to as the socialist stage, would be necessary in which counter-revolution by the newly dispossessed capitalists would be guarded against, production shifted to production for use rather than production for profit, and the greedy, acquisitive states of mind fostered by capitalism, along with commodity fetishism and the reification of consciousness, would gradually fade away and attitudes of mutuality and egalitarianism, corresponding to the new relations of production, would take hold. Finally, the stage of communism would be reached, in which people would cooperate with each other on the principle, `from each according to her ability, to each according to her need', and since there would be no exploitation of the labour of one person by another, there would be no classes, no class rule or class oppression, and no need for a state whose function is to defend and implement class rule. ( Full article...)
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