Social Question

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

What are some positive merits of Communism?

Asked by RealEyesRealizeRealLies (30960points) December 12th, 2013

Are there any?

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74 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Democracy in every aspect of society, political and economically.
Classlessness, full equality, the abolition of the state and money as a means to allocate resources.

Kropotkin's avatar

Which communism are you talking about?

I’ll assume that you’re not actually talking about state capitalism, and you’re not actually talking about corrupt authoritarian regimes that self-style themselves as communist.

There is an underlying precept shared by all communist theories (there are dozens of them), and that is that economic allocation should be based on need.

So, are you asking why this underlying precept is a good idea or has positive merit? I’ll assume you are, for the sake of brevity.

I’ll be lazy and pull up a quote from Wikipedia which should help establish why particular communists think this is a good idea.

”...instead of running the risk of making a confusion in trying to distinguish what you and I each do, let us all work and put everything in common. In this way each will give to society all that his strength permits until enough is produced for every one; and each will take all that he needs, limiting his needs only in those things of which there is not yet plenty for every one.”—Errico Malatesta.

If this is the sort of thing you’re asking about, then I’ll be happy to answer any further queries.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“If this is the sort of thing you’re asking about…”

I don’t know enough about it to even know what I’m asking about… Beyond the thread title.

But from your welcome words so far, and especially the Malatesta quote, I’m wondering where art comes into play in that scenario. Could anyone own a personal Dali? Or would the work be considered always public domain, enjoyable by all in a public space? Commercial art as well. For instance, an Enzo Ferrari. Who could justify a need for something like that? And if public need always trumps personal desire, then how could such a beautiful creation ever be justified in any maner?

Kropotkin's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies That’s a good question. Communism typically includes personal possession and personal property. I think existing artwork of long dead artists should be in the public domain, and that goes for ancient artifacts—I abhor private collectors of antiquities and old art, but that’s an aside.

Well, let’s just imagine it. You produce a work of art, but you can’t sell it because there’s no remuneration in a communist economy. You can hang it on the wall and keep it for yourself to admire (and anyone else who visits), you can put it on public display—permanently or perhaps temporarily. You can give it away to someone else, or potentially barter it.

I think it would be much less likely for any individual to hoard a private art collection.

You picked what I consider to be one of the ugliest Ferraris ever designed, but I guess that’s just my subjective opinion.

” And if public need always trumps personal desire” — You’re not the first to bring up the luxury sports car example. I get struck by the vanity of it. I was wondering, do you currently own a Ferrari, or just dream of owning one?

I think public needs should have priority over personal desires, and this is one serious thing we have backwards at the moment. People starve, go hungry, homeless, are left with inadequate health care, poor infrastructure, etc but the resources are there for luxury status symbols and the most fabulous buildings which serve and satisfy almost no one.

But, even middle-class consumerism seems pretty vain—so often I see some beggar sat under the lights of a store, where people will shop for things that will satisfy them only transiently, and are willing to pay mark-ups of 100% to anything near 1000% on their items, and step past him like he’s not there, or just drop a few pennies of loose change.

That said, I can conceive of a society where people can go and get things that are personal desires—well above any basic needs, indeed, needs themselves can evolve and expand with time. But, this only seems justifiable to me when everyone’s needs are met—which they’re currently not.

flutherother's avatar

1. Everyone is truly equal and economic inequalities don’t exist.
2. People are entitled to a job and everyone who works gets a living wage.
3. Those who can’t work are looked after by those who can.
4. The economic system is planned and stable and not subject to the whims of the market.
5. Health care and education are provided to all.
6. Encourages a sense of community.

ucme's avatar

I quite like those furry Russian hats…no?

zenvelo's avatar

From a high level, communism as it was originally theorized is an idealistic system. It is very caring in many ways for those less fortunate, and offers much for society as a whole.

Where it fails from an economic standpoint is in not having any structure to incent anyone to do anything. One is not at all encouraged to work at any particular task where one would find joy and also be rewarded for expressing that joy through hard work and creativity.

Because of the lack of any ability to demonstrate and be rewarded for real pride in one’s work, the quality becomes nil, and the lack of choice becomes sensorially deadening.

Communism has caring goals, inability to meet those goals.

dougiedawg's avatar

It works great for the “elites” but not so good for ordinary folk. Sounds like democracy in the U.S., doesn’t it?
They just don’t come and drag you out of your home and office like they do in communist countries. i.e. China, North Korea, Iran etc.

josie's avatar

The history books have answered your question.
Once you overlook ignoring human nature, slavery, mass murder, economic stagnation, police states and misery, there might be something there.
But whatever the something is, nobody has ever seen it.
The only thing that people still cling to is one of the oldest logical fallacies-the Mind/Body dichotomy-that old axiom that something can be “good in theory, but poor in practice”. If it is poor in practice, the theory was wrong.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I never read Marx, Lenin, Mao or any of the others—Boring. But I read many of their biographies—Interesting. I’ve lived in countries that claimed to be socialist, but their governments were totally corrupt dictatorships in reality and if you weren’t a member of the elite – aka the Communist Party—you were SOL without a political voice, self determination, and few civil rights. Tribal life, like that among many indigenous peoples of America and the Pacific Islands were often Communistic, some with elected Chiefs and concentration of the common weal for survival. I could do that.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m pretty much with @josie on this.

I guess when I think about it more I realize I am trying to come up with positives that show why communism is better than a democracy. In both systems there are negatives and positives. I don’t know much about education in communist countries, but it seems to me the commitment to educate the entire population would be very good. We see that also in countries that are democracies, but here in America education is somewhat under fire. People not caring about public education and not caring about educating the population at large.

Also, under communism everyone has access to healthcare.

But, the drawbacks of communism are too great. I think most prosperous countries have aspects of capitalism and socialism (some might even call it communism) and we are trying to find the ideal mix as we move through the 21st century, each country on its own path.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

It’s failure should serve as a lesson to the rest of the world.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Short term, there can be (not must be) some good effects. These generally have to with raising the communal standard of living and the good of the “tribe”.

Long term, communism ALWAYS fails, largely because true communism fails to take into account that people (the basic building block of the community) have different aspirations and abilities.

It’s a bit glib for some of the answerers to say “it’s a failed idea” without giving reasons. Communism can have a short-term, temporary positive effect in a developing society. But it will eventually fail.

Dutchess_III's avatar

There would be lots of positive things about Communism, if it worked.
I’m far from an expert here, but the word Communism = common, as in common good. Think of the hippies in the 60’s and their communes. Everybody works, everybody puts what the have into a big common pot and everyone pays their bills from that pot. It’s really a wonderful idealistic concept, but since there are humans involved it just can’t work.

For example, why should I bust my but 16 hours a day and get the exact same materialistic benefits out of it as some lazy ass who pretends to work 1 hour a day?

Also, those in power are going to be stealing money from the common pot because that’s what they do.

I read somewhere that in Russia, in protest, the farmers would only plant in the outside 20 feet of their fields and the rest would go fallow. Inside that 20 feet is where the state inspectors would come to do their checks. (Not sure how that would actually work though because that fact that 90 percent of the field isn’t planted would be painfully obvious in a very short time.)

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Is China doomed to failure because of Communism?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think China is making it work. They have a unique mindset that has existed for thousands of years that’s foreign to European countries. Tienanmen square comes to mind, though.

CWOTUS's avatar

Most families – at least those with primarily or only minor children – operate on some level of communism, don’t they? That is, “the communistic ideal”: “From each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs.”

Mom / Dad or Mom and Dad together (or whatever parental combination you want to posit) earns the money to support the family, and portions it out according to who needs what, and what can be afforded. A democracy with minor children in a family would be simply unworkable. And that might explain why so many families are so dysfunctional, because they actually try “family democracy” sometimes.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies – China’s economy can not, in 2013, be called communism,

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

What do they call it?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

How does Communism compare to Corporatocracy?

Sounds like I’m picking a side here. I’m not. I just don’t know what other words to use to describe my question.

janbb's avatar

Universal healthcare would be one advantage and ideally, the abolishment of hunger and homelessness.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But I think the way it worked in Russia people were given places to live, but they were in crowded, dirty tenements. But hey. They weren’t homeless.

CWOTUS's avatar

@janbb do you think there is any way that you can respond positively given “the world as it is” and not some utopian fantasy? Because “in reality” communism and socialism do lead and have led to “shared privation” more than “shared bounty”, at least once these things is attempted outside of a family or tribe.

It’s those fantasy ideas that “it could work if only…” that lead to those abysmal trials.

Dutchess_III's avatar

“Shared privation.” Nice @CWOTUS. That’s what I was trying to express up there.

janbb's avatar

@CWOTUS Given “the world as it is” all we have is abysmal failure. But that is perhaps a discussion to be had over a homemade Korean dinner perhaps?

janbb's avatar

I’m not making excuses for communist Russia but we do also have to look at how backward and classist that society was before communism arose. Russia had a long way to go in a short time.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But the Powers that Be really made a balls of it. I mean, they had to put up a wall to keep people from leaving!

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^^Whether it be the Berlin Wall, The fact my wife could not replace Bing with something better on her LG phone or the fine for not being insured under Obamacare:

Being forced to participate in something is a pretty good sign to me that it blows.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@SecondHandStoke We are forced to participate in hundreds of things in this country. It would be anarchy if we weren’t.

ragingloli's avatar

Haha, nonsense. No one is forced to do anything. If you do not want to do something, you can always choose to kill yourself. If you decide to not kill yourself, you are thus voluntarily participating.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

So the solution is to violate my own Constitutional right to life?

; p


There’s no wall surrounding Manhattan preventing my inevitable escape once I’ve had enough of it’s police and nannystate.

Apples and oranges Hon’.

JLeslie's avatar

In Singapore, a leader a long time ago, I can’t remember his name, I am not sure if his title was President or what, decided that if everyone has a safe place to live they can be more productive in society. The government built many many residential buildings for the people. Even now the majority of the housing in Singapore is public, but I am not sure exactly how it is done. I don’t think it is completely free. I assume it has evolved over time.

Edit: I found this wikipedia page on Singapore public housing.

China basically started with communism and is incorporating ideas from capitalism, while America is a democracy and capitalist society, but we have added over time social systems and a larger government. They all seem to be working towards some sort of middle to me.

One thing that stands out to me is in Communism freedom of speech is almost always extremely curtailed, sometimes to the extreme of people being jailed or worse if they speak out against the government.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@SecondHandStoke Um…we all gotta die sometime. As far as I know, it isn’t against the constitution to take your own life. It’s against the constitution to take someone else’s life. And damn it. They force us to participate in that constitutional protection. They even make laws about it that we have to abide by, or suffer consequence. Just stripping us of our right, left and right, aren’t they.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^I was kidding.

SecondHandStoke's avatar


The narrow wedge in free speech has already struck in the form of political correctness.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III “For example, why should I bust my but 16 hours a day and get the exact same materialistic benefits out of it as some lazy ass who pretends to work 1 hour a day?”

And this isn’t the case in capitalist systems as well?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Darth_Algar No, it isn’t. I assume that’s a jab at Welfare recipients (and I have been one in the past,) and they do NOT live as well as my husband and I do now. It’s a struggle. Granted, the “poor’ in this country are much better off than the poor in many other countries, but their standard of living isn’t very high.

People who work at McDonalds do not have the same materialistic benefits that my husband and I have.

JLeslie's avatar

@SecondHandStoke I think of free speech as the freedom to say what you want and the government having no right to stop you. Freedom of the press being an important part of that idea. That we can’t be convicted of a crime because of what we say. To me political correctness is more society deciding what is acceptable to say.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III No, it isn’t, and if that’s you assumption then you completely misread me. The fact is under the system we have there are many people who bust their asses doing back-breaking work but see little material benefit from it. At the same time there are plenty of folks who’s work consists of sitting on their asses all day, doing little to know real labor and are rewarded generously for it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That is true, but it depends on the job, not the government @Darth_Algar. At my last job I pretty much sat on my ass doing little to nothing, but the position dovetailed with my Education degree, so I was paid accordingly.
When we owned our own small business we were working 60+ hours per week and had almost nothing to show for it.
That’s just the way it goes. No one’s fault.

Jaxk's avatar


The truth is we value intellectual work more than physical labor and compensate that way. Whether communist or capitalist, there will always be both types of work.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III Regardless the effect is the same.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Jaxk That may be, but it was a question of working hard. Essentially you just re-enforced my point (ie: hard work is just necessarily rewarded in material benefit).

ETpro's avatar

The OP is looking for good things that flow out of communism. There are no nation states today that are truly set up per the visions of Marx and Lenin. Instead, the extant communist states are set up to make the politically well connected of a single, permanently ruling party very rich and provide them a grand lifestyle at the expense of all their other citizens. So there isn’t much good to be said about them. About the only thing I can think of to recommend that style of communism is at least they can get things done. They aren’t paralyzed by partisan gridlock.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But it’s not always the same. Under communism, it would always be the same, no matter what.

ragingloli's avatar

During the time the Berlin Wall fell, West Germany was in a joint project with other countries to develop a new air-to-air missile.
After the fall of the wall, West Germany got its hand on some East German MiGs, including the soviet Vympel R-73.
The missile, including the accompanying helmet mounted target acquisition gear on the MiGs, were so superior to what the new missile would have been, that Germany dropped out of the project.
And let it not be forgotton, that during the space race, the soviets were ahead every step of the way. The only reason that it was not a soviet flag raised on the moon was, that the soviets lost interest in going there.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Why did they lose interest @ragingloli?

ragingloli's avatar

politics. same reason why nasa is so cripplingly underfunded

JLeslie's avatar

The communists always seem to value science and the arts. It seems that way anyway. In America our government run research facilties like National Institutes of Health draw researchers from all over the world. Some right wing people like to say the government never does anything right, but a lot of good comes out of NIH, and other government agencies. The government does screw some things up and there is too much waste, but it is not black and white.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@JLeslie Do we value science and the arts that much ourselves? Sure there’s the NIH, but on the other hand there’s the piss-poor funding of NASA, the lack of funding for artistic programs in many schools and the blade that’s constantly hanging over the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think we do @Darth_Algar. The problem comes in when it’s time to decide where to allocate the money.
I was watching a program on Nova last night about the Mars rovers. Fascinating stuff!! Amazing. If we had to decide between funding that and funding PBS….well, I’d throw a fit because I’d probably lose PBS, but if something had to go…...

rojo's avatar

What about reducing the military budget so that we do not spend more than the next 26 countries combined (twenty five of which are allies) and then using those funds to cover both NASA and PBS and to provide a national healthcare system @Dutchess_III ?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t know enough about what the military needs actually are to answer your question @rojo.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III The problem with that logic is that the funding that NASA and CPB receives is minuscule in the first place, yet some want to eliminate it entirely. Whenever I hear a politician talk about reducing government spending and one of the first things they mention is PBS I know they’re not actually serious about reducing government spending.

rojo's avatar

@Dutchess_III You don’t actually have to know what they need to realize that we spend far too much on it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

How can you state that when you don’t know what they need?

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III I don’t think you have to know the specifics of what the military needs to understand that we don’t need to spend more than the rest of the world combined on it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Is that true?

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III Well to give you an example for the most recent fiscal year the United States spent $682 billion on the military. The next highest spender is China at $166 billion.

Kropotkin's avatar

“Is China doomed to failure because of Communism?”

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies China isn’t communist. If you’re writing “Communism” with a capital c, then I’m not sure whether you’re referring to communism the economic system, or to the policies of the Communist Party of China. I guess the latter?

The self-styled political parties with “Communist” in their names are practically all Marxist-Leninist in nature, or later adaptations and variations of Leninism. In China’s case, it would be Maoism—except that they’ve been moving toward increasing economic “liberalisation” ever since the early 1990s.

The irony of authoritarian centralised regimes like China (at least until the last two decades of their economic reform), is that they’re better described as “state capitalist”, because the state is the owner of the means of production, while wage labour is still maintained (presumably maintaining an “incentive” for work by “rewarding” workers with pay.)

That regimes like China, the former USSR, North Korea, etc, developed into corrupt authoritarian regimes, is more a failure with Marxist doctrine than communism. Communism itself has been pretty much the norm for almost the entirely of human existence and our evolution (so much for being “against human nature”). If you want examples of communism being put into practice in a modern setting on a larger scale, then only the anarchists have managed to do so.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Thanks @Darth_Algar. I found this. We’ve spent 2.5% of our Gross National Product. China spent 4.4%.
What does that mean?

Dutchess_III's avatar

You found it too! Great minds think alike! Or…they just think “Google!”

mazingerz88's avatar

Has authentic communism ever been practiced by any country as far as real history is concerned-? I remember reading a long time ago here in Fluther a great informative thread on this same subject. And I recall reading an excellent post that explained thoroughly that the ideals of communism have been tried but so far no one has practiced them successfully.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III Actually we spent 4.4 % of our GDP. China spent 2.0%.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@mazingerz88 To my knowledge no. I’m not sure that authentic communism can even be authentically practiced on a nation-state level.

JLeslie's avatar

@Darth_Algar I guess it depends if we are talking about the government valuing and supporting the arts and sciences, or the people. I realize the government represents the people in America (or we like to think so). I remember there used to be conversation about the Olympics being unfair becuase Americans had to fund it themseves, while the communist countries the government took care of their athletes. I don’t know to what extreme that is true, or if it is still true. There certainly are people in our country, private citizens, who really care about keeping the arts alive and they fight to keep it in the public schools systems too. There was a Q a while back asking why some city in Arizona doesn’t have a good theatre or symphony, or something along those lines, and a few people agreed, not enough Jews. If you go to the “Jewish” cities in America you pretty much know the arts will be very present. Not that other cities don’t have it. I lived in Memphis and it is a music town and the local theatre is fantastic (founded by a Jew, but that’s beside the point) and the art museums, and all museums are surprisingly very good. I don’t know about the average public school teaching the arts? I know there is a music charter school, but it is in a not so great part of town. It isn’t really a Jewish city, although there is a surprising amount of Orthodox Jews there.

Growing up in a suburb outside of NYC and also a suburb outside of DC, the difference was drastic in terms of classes regarding art, music, even learning poetry, theatre at the elementary age. I can’t speak to secondary school, because I didn’t go to jr. high or high in NY, but my guess is the opportunities for children were still really good.

Jewish people also tend to really support public education (k-12) for all, for the betterment of society. They are generally more social minded I would say, more likely to be liberal. Since they are just 2.2% of the population they only have so much affect though. When I have lived in red states they don’t want to pay for anyone else’s child. They want their tax money so they can pay for their own child’s private school, it’s waste to try to educate those poor people anyway. Their words, not mine.

There seems to be a push now to improve math and science in the schools.

Darth_Algar's avatar

The whole thing with the Olympic games was when they still prohibited professional athletes from competing. The crux of the argument was that athletes from countries such as the Soviet Union and China were essentially professional as they were sponsored by the state, with the state taking care of pretty much all their living, training, travelling, competition, etc expenses. That argument eventually won out as the IOC began to allow professional athletes to compete in the Olympics (hence the USA’s various basketball “dream teams”).

stanleybmanly's avatar

The one distinct benefit to communism or the threat of communism is that it scares the living hell out of laissez faire capitalists.

Paradox25's avatar

The alleged disciples of Jesus living The Way of Life were communists, and so are the Amish pretty much. Personally I don’t feel that authoritarianism and communism are synonymous since there are plenty of counter examples. I really feel that morality and freedom comes down to personal preferences, and are influenced by cultural norms more than anything else.

Personally I would had never thought that I’d be called a communist simply for implying that children should be taught to be more compassionate, caring, generous and empathetic. What are some positive merits of right wingism? Authoritarians come in all forms, shapes, sizes, colors, religions, ethnicities, politics and economic systems as history has very clearly shown. Communism has never been truly implemented by any nation in history either.

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