As usual once I decide to research a subject it becomes an onion with many layers, taking me deeper and deeper and sometimes sending me on tangents. History has that effect on me and it is an exciting adventure, the child in me I suspect.
Reigning myself in and remaining on point is a challenge. However, I set myself deadlines for each research unit for my articles and I am tough on myself…usually.
I had found Communism an interesting subject way back in the early 1980’s. Infact, as a teen reading Dr Zhivago and War and Peace there was almost a romanticism attached to it. In my teen years Communism was in the news almost as much as ISIS and the Middle East is today. The struggles of Poland and Solidarity with their leader Lech Walesa, The Berlin Wall and the communist defections. Later of course reading the novels on Stalin, the Gulags and the prisons in Siberia it seemed less romance more hell on earth. My interest in studying Communism ended with Brezhnev and this is the first time I have looked into the beginnings of Communism in depth. What I found was fascinating and I will be reading more over the coming months.
Please read on and enjoy the journey of discovery I’ve been on the last few days:-
Capitalism in the 19th century was producing a society full of social abuses of for instance factory workers living in appalling conditions. Overwork especially of women and children and a widening gap of the have’s and have not’s. Nothing changes huh?
Lets start with the textbook description of Communism:-
Is a social, political and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of a communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon common ownership of the means of production, absence of social class, money and the state
We see Communism as a new entity really beginning with Karl Marx and then primarily the Russian Revolution, of course this is a nonsense. In reality the first Communist society was in fact the very first hunter gatherers who realised a collective community was a safe community, that helping and sharing with each other created a liveable environment and a stronger collective. We can simply look back to ancient times here are a few examples :-
- PLATO – he first wrote of a classless society in “The Republic” in 380 BC, in his article he described a state where people shared all their property, wives and children.
- THE MAZDAK MOVEMENT- In Persia, which was the movement of the peasantry and urban poor in the Sassanid state that lasted from the early 490’s to 520’s. They sought to weaken the Aristocratic and priestly class
- THE MEDIEVAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH – the monastic communities who lived within a community property lifestyle
- THOMAS MORE – the writer of “Utopia” written in 1516
- THE JESUIT REDUCTIONS – The reductions originated in the 17th Century in Paraguay and were described as jungle utopias or as theocratic regimes of terror.
Then along came Mr Robert Owen and the beginnings of the Communism as we know it today :-
ROBERT OWEN (1771-1858)
He was opposed to the system of “competition” which is how he saw “capitalism”. He wanted to create a model factory, a model community based on “co-operation” between the community. His model community ultimately failed and he left for the States, returning in 1829 to be involved in Trade Union and Socialist projects. He was President of the first congress at which all Trade Unions of England united in a single great trade association. Every real advance in the UK on behalf of workers can be linked to Robert Owen, including the 8 hour working day we all enjoy today.
He believed there were three main obstacles which blocked the path of social reform: private property, religion and the present form of marriage. He knew he would lose his social position if he attacked any of these, but social position be damned he spoke out and was ostracised and for the next 30 years he continued his fight for the working classes.
FREDIERICK ENGELS (1820-1895)
A German Socialist, author and father of Marxist Theory together with Karl Marx, he spent 21 months in Manchester and wrote “The Condition of the Working Class in England”
He co-authored “The Communist Manifesto” in 1848
KARL MARX (1818-1883)
A German philosopher, economist, sociologist, journalist and revolutionary socialist. After finishing university he started writing for a radical newspaper in Cologne. He moved to Paris in 1843, where he wrote for another radical newspaper and met Engels, who would become his lifelong friend and collaborator. In 1849 he was exiled and moved to London with his wife.
Together with Engel’s he wrote “The Communist Manifesto” and “Das Kapital” and the rest his history……..
We now move on to Russia and the epitome of Communism as we know it today:-
VLADIMIR LENIN ( 1870-1924)
A Communist revolutionary, politician and political theorist. Under his administration the Russian Empire was replaced by the Soviet Union, all wealth including land, industry and business was confiscated. Based on Marxism, his political theories are known as Leninism.
JOSEPH STALIN (1878-1953
Leader of the Soviet Union from the mid 1920’s to his death in 1953 he was one of the seven members of the 1st Politburo founded in 1917 in order to manage the Bolshevik Revolution, alongside Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamener, Trotsky, Sukoinikov and Bubnov.
Lenin opposed Stalin as the proposed leader after his death, alas Stalin was pronounced regardless. He replaced Lenin’s “New Economic Policy” with his “Command Economy.” These economic changes coincided with the imprisonment of millions of people in gulag concentration camps. There is no doubt he suppressed all religion in Russian, that he was an atheist in later life we have no doubt.
However, what you probably do not know is that he was born a Catholic and in 1895 at the age of 17, was studying for the priesthood in Tiflis Spiritual Seminary, he was expelled for non payment of tuition fees and never graduated. In later life this makes you wonder if he held a personal grudge against the Catholic Church and also one wonders at his motivation against his religious community when he came into power?
As a young man he was an accomplished poet and we find many of the poems on spirituality and romance right up until the 1970;s being taught in Russian schools.
A sample from “Morning” by Stalin
The Pinkish bud has opened
Rushing to the pale-blue violet
And, stirred by a light breeze
The lily of the valley has bent over the grass
For further reading on Stalin I recommend the following books by Simon Sebag Montefiore
- The Whisperer’s:Private Life in Stalin’s Russia
- Young Stalin
Christian Communism is a form of religious communism based on Christianity. It is a political and theological view based on the teachings of Jesus which compels them to support communism as the ideal social system.
It is in effect a radical form of Christian Socialism. Christian Communists have adapted Karl Marx ideologies to their system, they hold the biblical verses in Acts 2 and 4 as evidence that the first Christian’s lived in a communist society. Here are just a few of the many Christian Communist’s you may wish to read up on:-
- THOMAS J HAGERTY – was a Catholic priest from New Mexico, he was one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He was suspended from the church by his Archbishop for urging the miners in Colorado to revolt in 1903.
- DIANE DRUFENBROCK – A Franciscan Nun and Socialist Party member, she was vice-president candidate for the Socialist Party USA in 1980. She works as a teacher in Milwaukee.
- CAMILO TORRES RESTREPO- considered a Christian Communist due to his attempts as a priest to reconcile the Roman Catholic Church with marxism and the Communist Revolution. Hew as a key person for “Liberation Theology” which was called communist by the Vatican.
Atheism and Communism…… Oh really?
My point in this article was not to push the simple fact that atheism is not to be mistaken for a belief in a communist ideology, it was simply to prove that any walk of life can be a believer in the communism, and in fact all of us would like to see a less capitalistic mindset and more of a collective society.
What I am saying is you can be from any walk of life and be a communist or not, it is completely up to you.
THE SIMPLE TRUTH IS … NOTHING IS UTOPIA