Types of communism

Written by brian gabriel
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Types of communism
There have been many different manifestations of Communism in the real world. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Communism is an economic and social theory that advocates the abolition of private ownership of land or capital. Karl Marx is the name associated with Communism, but he was not the first person to articulate a theory of Communism, and Marx himself refers to Communist practices in primitive times. There have been many different types of Communism proposed by intellectuals and politicians throughout history.

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Primitive Communism

Marx proposed the theory that the earliest stage of economic production was actually an early form of Communism. This was an ancient hunter-gatherer society in which property was owned by the community. Because there were no landowning or capital-owning classes, labour owned the entire product of labour.


Anarcho-Communism advocates the abolition of capitalism and private property, just like all the other forms of Communism, but it is distinct in that it also advocates the abolition of the state. It opposes any form of hierarchy, political power or domination, according to the Anarchist Federation. The system of production for any voluntary group is managed by the group's participants rather than any outside parties. Anarcho-Communism can also be called "voluntary Communism."

Left Communists

The Left Communists were followers of Karl Marx who disagreed with Lenin and Trotsky over the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Left Communists, which included Karl Korsch, Herman Gorter and Paul Mattick, criticised the Bolshevik Party elites for taking power away from the workers. Andy Blunden says that Left Communists tended to reject the "democratic centralism" of Lenin and the revolutionaries' participation in parliament. The Left Communists preferred a direct democracy in which workers would be elected to workers' councils and could be taken out of office. Thus, they were not anarchists like the Anarcho-Communists, who believed that a "workers' state" was a contradiction in terms; Left Communists envisioned a legitimate Communist state with power given to democratically-elected workers' councils.


Trotskyists follow the contributions of Trotsky and Lenin in addition to Marxism. Leon Trotsky represented the faction of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that was defeated by Joseph Stalin. In contrast to Stalin's policy of Socialism in One Country, Trotsky emphasised the international scope of Communism; the practice must eventually spread throughout the whole world. Trotskyists are more willing than Left Communists or Anarcho-Communists to participate in capitalist society and subvert it from within rather than through a violent civil war. For example, they will participate in workers unions and vote in bourgeois elections.

Stalinism and Maoism

Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong are the two largest practical examples of Communist state leaders in the 20th century. They both neglected the democratic principles of most earlier communists, such as Karl Marx. Stalin and Mao justified their totalitarian dictatorships of a vanguard party by invoking the necessity of a transitional period to Communism.

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