The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, is perhaps one of the hardest literary texts I’ve ever read.
It was written during 1847 and later published in February 1848.
But what is communism anyway?
Essentially, it is a theory of social organisation in which all property is owned by the community, not by individuals.
Members of the community each contribute and receive according to their needs.
To put it simply, it is the idea that all things will be shared equally throughout the community.
Contrary to popular belief, socialism and communism are different.
While they are both economic and political structures built on the idea of equality, they differ in certain respects.
In theory, it sounds like a fair and beneficial system, but when put into practice (which occurred in Russia after 1917) major problems occurred.
The Communist Manifesto acts as a critique of capitalism.
Marx and Engels believed that capitalism was a flawed system that would ultimately destroy itself.
Long after their deaths, Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin adopted many of Marx and Engels’ ideas in the formation of the USSR, but in a far more violent way than had been suggested.
Lenin spoke of the need for a dictatorship of the proletariat (poor people), which led to the violent overthrow and murder of wealthy landowners and gentry in Russia (known as the USSR after the Revolution of 1917).
Millions of people were killed or left poverty-stricken, especially during 1930 to 1933 during a time of collectivization (forced re-distribution of land) and famine.
This was during the reign of the infamous Joseph Stalin.
Furthermore, Stalin’s ‘Red Terror’ of the 1930s led to the deaths of millions of innocent Russians, many of whom died in the gulags (concentrations camps) of Siberia.
These extremely violent practices were also used by Mao Zedong in the creation of the Chinese Communist state in 1949.
More people were killed in the name of Communism in the 20th century than in any other cause.
It is important to recognise that this is not what Marx and Engels had in mind when they wrote The Communist Manifesto.
Socialism is supposed to be a transitional state on the road to communism in which the workers are free to spend their money, but the economy is controlled by a central government.
The idea is that eventually the government will no longer be needed once communism has been fully achieved.
However, after the Russian Revolution, communism was not achieved before the eventual collapse of the USSR in 1991.
Despite the failings of the USSR, other countries around the world adopted a socialist model, some of which still exist today. Examples include North Korea and China.
Communism has come to stand for an extreme form of repressive government, which is a far cry from the utopian ideals of Marx and Engels.