The main features of Communism
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Communism follows the ideology of Karl Marx. It is a way of leading a country completely opposing the capitalist view of private ownership and free market. In Communism, the State owns everything and controls markets strictly. Marx had the idea that after implementing the ideology, the State and social classes would “wither away”. These are reasons why Communism is so hated by Capitalists; it is the end of free ownership and upper-class rule.
An important tool in achieving these goals is nationalisation of foreign enterprise. Self-sufficiency, which is another aim of Communism, is achieved by limiting foreign trade and foreign intervention. The only way to make a country profitable by itself is to train experts and industrialise the country.
Stalin was one of the first Communist leaders, and followed Marx’s ideas quite closely. When the Communists took over in Russia in 1917, the country was very backward and inefficient. Stalin ordered collectivisation of everything from farm tools to cattle, and everything was shared amongst the people and brought under state rule. He sent experts to study abroad and organised education for the people. He introduced the Five-Year-Plans, which were supposed to make Russia a wealthy, industrialised country in just a few years. But, lacking realistic planning, this failed miserably and as people started lying about the results to try and keep up with his mad goals. Factories were built and for some time, Russia really seemed to be making process after the many years under Tsars who weren’t willing to do anything about the situation.
When he was finished with planning the industrialisation process, Stalin turned his focus on another key concept of Communism; destroying opposition and establishing a single-party-state. Although all other parties had been banned after the October Revolution, where the Communists took power from the Provisional Government, he now started purging former party leaders and opposers of the Bolshevik regime.
Terror is an important tool of exercising power in Communist countries. Stalin used this without hesitation, torturing opposers and sending them to Gulag camps. At first it was just dissidents and revolutionaries, after that it went further but that will be discussed later on.
Another thing he needed terror for was fighting off his opponents in the Civil War. Westerners, made up of troops from Great Britain, France, USA and other countries, were worried about the revolution and especially the Bolsheviks’ intentions; already before Stalin came to power, Lenin had set up the Comintern, an organisation responsible for promoting a worldwide Communist revolution. They were soon driven out by the Reds, and Cheka, the army that practised Communist terror in all aspects of life.
Meanwhile, he was slowly implementing other aspects of Marxist ideology. Censorship was tightened, no-one was allowed to criticise the party, and anti-Communist newspapers were abolished. Propaganda is an important weapon and was used actively to manipulate people to believe that everything was going very well for them. Every now and then Stalin would give an enthusiastic speech about how well the Five-Year-Plans were doing and how everything would be just great.
However, all this time, he was growing more and more paranoid about opposition. Little by little he started accusing people of crazy things, suspecting that his own men would overthrow him. He didn’t want to give any power to anyone but control everything himself, and all of a sudden his own Communist ideas started paving the way to his destruction. Besides purging his opponents to Siberia, according to the Communist doctrine, he also started purging and executing people for no reason. People whom he’d sent to be educated, all the military leaders, all the party members were either executed or exiled. Show trials have been used in many Communist countries, and this is a tradition begun by Stalin. Show trials are public trials, where the complainant is tortured until he confesses. This of course to strengthen the public image that he really had opposers to fight off and he wasn’t just shooting people as he liked.
During his reign, he had managed to create a kind of ideal human being that everyone wanted to be. This ideal human, “Homo Sovieticus”, was hard-working, devoted to the party and a model citizen in every way. This made people who died feel like patriots; they were dying for their country! This also caused people to spy on their neighbours and families and turn them in – no-one could be trusted.
Besides all this, he turned back to the idea of a worldwide revolution and started gathering a ‘Soviet Sphere of influence’ around the USSR, taking land from Finland, Romania and the Baltic countries.
Stalin was a very devoted Communist and used all the aspects of the Marxist doctrine. Some he successfully brought to end, like destruction of opposition, however he also killed thousands of innocent people while he was at it, including all the experts and talented workers and soldiers needed to run the country. Others failed completely, like trying to make the people happy to be Communists. His Five-Year-Plans weren’t that successful either, even though they did manage to increase the output of heavy metals and metal industry by a huge percent. And, at least his industrialisation worked and after him, Russia was not as backward.