Social Question

Demosthenes's avatar

Is communism a dangerous ideology?

Asked by Demosthenes (14561points) October 20th, 2018

Communism (in the form of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot) was responsible for huge amounts of death and destruction in the 20th century.

Should communism be grouped with white supremacy, Nazism, and other dangerous ideologies?

When someone says they’re a communist, do you see that as being similar to someone claiming to be an ethno-nationalist?

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26 Answers

Irukandji's avatar

Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot are messy examples because all three of them were also ethno-nationalists. That’s why Marx was so insistent on internationalism followed by the elimination of the state. In his view, permanent political states, even supposedly communist states, were just another way of justifying oppression.

That said, communism has no problem with violent revolution in places where peaceful revolution is not feasible. That’s how Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were able to justify their wars and purges to the party faithful, even if some would argue that it is an abuse of the ideology. So it’s definitely dangerous if the possibility of inciting violence is your criterion for danger.

Caravanfan's avatar

Of course it is. And you stated why in your comments. More people have died under communist rule than even fascism.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Not in theory, but it’s sure dangerous in practice.

Socialism is great in theory too, but an utter failure in practice.

Zaku's avatar

Philosophical communism is different from violent revolutionary communism, and is not dangerous except to the wealth of extremely-wealthy capitalists and corporations.

It’s like saying any ideology is dangerous by example of people who had that ideology and did violent things.

Capitalism is a dangerous ideology too – see all the capitalist armies and weapons produced and sold by capitalist companies.

@Dutchess_III Socialism isn’t an utter failure if you include the socialist aspects of Europe and even the United States.

Nearly any ideology is dangerous if you take it to violent extremes.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Zaku, I agree. Some sort of socialism is part of every successful government. I meant that trying to run a government on pure socialism alone is doomed to failure.

janbb's avatar

Not inherently or ideologically, no. It’s how it’s been implemented by dictators that makes it dangerous.

chyna's avatar

I remember hearing about communism in the 9th grade and thinking that was how we all should live. I think when the dictators get involved, it ruined the whole thing.

flutherother's avatar

Communism is a philosophy of fairness. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. There is nothing intrinsically dangerous in that philosophy whether you agree with it or not. It can’t be compared with white supremacists or Nazism which treats some categories of people as less than human.

zenvelo's avatar

Communism was envisioned as evolving from industrially developed nations. It was not designed for adoption by underdeveloped impoverished agrarian societies like Russia or China.

If it had been adopted as Marx intended, it might have solved much of the problems we face today.

SergeantQueen's avatar

Socialism and communism are the 2 perfect examples of “things that look good on paper”
The ideas might be appealing or good to some but people practice them terribly

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Yes it should, just like fascism or laissez faire capitalism. These extremes do not work. Capitalism is the natural order of things. Even in a communist state capitalism still largely exists on the black market, you cannot escape it. Human behavior is capitalistic by nature and it is written into our biology. Communism as an idea looks great except that that it’s impossible with a free population. I sure as hell would not want to live under a system where “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is compulsory. Being a hard worker, creative talent or generally enjoying the fruits of your own labor are not going to be an option under such a system. Fuck that. Similarly, a system with unbounded, unregulated capitalism leads to oligarchy where the average person would be in just as poor a state. Anything they do to improve their situation is essentially stolen through wage slavery. From that perspective it’s very hard to distinguish between these two systems. A regulated free market is about the best we are going to get and while it’s never going to be completely fair there is at least something for everyone. Trying to formulate a system that is completely fair for everyone is a fool’s errand.

Caravanfan's avatar

I agree with @ARE_you_kidding_me mostly. To my knowledge, however, there hasn’t been a 20th century capitalist society that has systematically tried to eliminate by genocide entire populations of people like the what happened in the Soviet Union, Cambodia, Germany, Rwanda, etc.

zenvelo's avatar

@Caravanfan The United States did its best to wipe out the indigenous population of North America.

Caravanfan's avatar

@zenvelo Ah, yes. Of course. That was careless of me. Let me edit my comment.

flutherother's avatar

Capitalism can be dangerous too. It was responsible for the slave trade which brought labour costs down to almost zero but misery and death to millions.

josie's avatar

Of course it is.
On a lot of levels.
First, the idea that Communism is good in theory, but poor in practice. This is the fallacy of the mind/body dichotomy. It is a throw back to Plato and Aristotle. It comes from the idea that there is a perfect example of reality out there somewhere, but when we fallible humans try to interact with it, or imitate it, we must fail because we are imperfect, or afflicted by the original sin or whatever.

The truth is, a theory that does not work in the real world is invalid.

Second, Communism is a species of the genus Socialism. The original egalitarian Socialists did not imagine that the State, the institution that has a monopoly on the legal use of violence and force, would compel people to practice communal socialism. They imagined that it would be voluntary. That people would choose to form cooperative communities, much in the same way that people establish clubs or churches. It was the Communists who suggested that the idea should be forced upon people by violent revolution.

And finally, they believed that it would work because they denied that human beings have a reasoning self interested nature. They believed instead that human beings are mindless clusters of synapses and gland squirtings that can be conditioned to behave a certain way, sort of like Skinner rats. They figured if they could have a couple of generations in order to condition the masses, they would have succeeded. This strategy included murdering people who simply, according to their true human nature, chose not to cooperate.

And it still didn’t work. People always eventually rebel against capricious tyranny.

Demosthenes's avatar

I don’t agree that it’s “good in theory” either. If something is “good in theory” but fails miserably over and over, then it’s bad, m’kay?

To those who think the problem is just the way it’s been applied: is it possible to have communism without murderous dictators? What is it about communism that draws in the dictators?

kritiper's avatar

Not fundamentally, no. It’s the despots who muck it up.
Again, it’s best to remember that there are at least 20 different kinds on socialism, of which communism is a part. Sooner or later, by trial and error, we humans could get it right. So it’s best not to rule the concept out entirely.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@Demosthenes to quote @AYKM: Being a hard worker, creative talent or generally enjoying the fruits of your own labor are not going to be an option under such a system

That’s exactly what drew dictators. Creative people are a threat to them. They are too intelligent to sit still and enjoy what their ruler want them to enjoy because they have a strong urge to create and change, and they have sharp eyes for flaws. Imagine a society that work like mindless drones, where everyone is happy with whatever they are given and is content that nothing will change. Would it be a great society for you to rule over? No risk of ever getting dethroned right?

And keep in mind that some countries that adopted communism were also desperate for a quick “way out”. China was under the rule of several countries. Vietnam was so sick of the French. Russia was tired of their corrupted rulers. And they were like “Hey, there’s this hot shit called communism and it sounds good! Let’s jump onto this bandwagon and see what happens.” And then they realized communism was much harder to comprehend and definitely wasn’t something you took just because everyone was doing it. So they were forced to go with what they already knew. And some societies with communism were also deeply rooted in the “I belong, therefore I am, and the one in charge is always right” ideology. That and communism were a good recipe for dictatorship I don’t know about Russia but that’s basically what happens in Asia If you look closely, you’ll see that the Asian communist countries were actually operating disturbingly similar to their ancient royal ancestors, with every power went to the king and the citizens just minded their own business and kept everything to themselves lest they “offended” the king. They were actually going downhill instead of upward like they thought.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It would seem that the great flaw with communism is that once all power is concentrated in the hands of the state, the inevitable dictator arrives to sieze control in an environment where the instruments are already in place to smother any opposition.

Zaku's avatar

@Mimishu1995 Yes, exactly. I have studied Russian history, and that is also very much what happened there (maybe not “I belong, therefore…” but perhaps more like “I see no alternative, and I want to survive, so…”). There were educated intellectuals who led the communist revolution, but in 1917 much of the country was still closer to medieval than industrial in terms of social organization and thinking, and remained through the Soviet period (and today, under mafia and corruption-ocracy) a hierarchy of people exploiting other people, not because of communism, but using communism as an ideology/pretext/justification for having non-aristocrats be the people who were at the top, but otherwise continuing to have a class system where most people are controlled and exploited by self-righteous law. Again, labelled communism, but not.

(... I write, from a country labelled a democracy, but that is actually run by two dominant parties, which in turn have their strings pulled by people and corporations in ways the people don’t really have clear visibility into who they are.)

@stanleybmanly The idea that it’s inevitable that communism leads to dictatorship is not at all proven by the examples where that has happened. But that idea is routinely exploited to take advantage of people’s binary thought habits (reducing ideas to only two alternatives as if they were opposites and the only options), as an excuse why capitalism must be a good doctrine (so don’t consider alternatives, and/or even vote for excessive right-wing politicians).

janbb's avatar

@Zaku I was following you until the last phrase. Do you mean that it is used to steer people toward excessive right wing candidates or away from them?

Zaku's avatar

@janbb Sorry, my writing was really unclear at ”(so…”, wasn’t it?

I mean that the idea that communism is bad is used very frequently (particularly in online forums) to steer opinion away from alternative ideas and often towards anything and everything in “the opposite direction” (as if there was one opposite direction), including supporting the status quo, support for pro-corporate policies, support for policies that favor the mega-wealthy, and by extension, support for right-wing candidates. Even right-of-center Democrats become lumped in as “leftist commies”, so vote Republican.

janbb's avatar


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