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A communist state is a state where the means of production are collectively owned by the society. It has a form of government characterized by single-party rule or dominant-party rule of a communist party (referred as Dictatorship of the Proletariat by its proponents) and a professed allegiance to a Leninist or Marxist–Leninist ideology as the guiding principle of the state. Technically, "communist state" is a contradictio in terminis as a communist society as defined by both Marxists and anarcho-communists is in principle stateless. From this perspective, the term Marxist-Leninist state is more appropriate.
Historically, a "communist state" referred to a system where public ownership of all or most means of production by the Communist party-run state is deemed necessary to further the interests of the working class; today, a communist state can also, for instance, refer to contemporary China and Vietnam, where a Communist Party-run state exists alongside a mixed economy. According to Marxist–Leninists, the state is a tool in the hands of the ruling class, which in a socialist society is the working class, so a socialist state is, according to Leninists, a state of the working class.
In practice, communist states do not actually refer to themselves as such. They do this not to disguise the fact that the ruling party is communist, but rather because they do not consider themselves to be a communist society at present. Instead, they constitutionally identify themselves as socialist states or workers' states. The primary goal of these states, which also explains their official name, is to guide their respective countries in the process of building socialism, ultimately leading to communism.
Communist states may have several legal political parties, but the communist party is usually granted a special or dominant role in government, often by statute or under the constitution. Consequently, the institutions of the state and of the communist party become intimately entwined, such as in the development of parallel institutions.
In the 20th century, most communist states adopted planned economies. However, there were exceptions: The Soviet Union during the 1920s and late 1980s and Yugoslavia after World War II allowed limited markets and a degree of worker self-management, while China, Vietnam and Laos introduced far-reaching market reforms after the 1980s. In the 21st century, China and Vietnam have allowed a mixed economy to develop.
The fundamental concepts of communist states often diverge from the original socio-economic ideologies from which they develop. As a result, many adherents of these ideologies often oppose the political systems commonly associated with these states. For example, dissenting communists such as Trotskyists were often opposed to the communist states of the 20th century, claiming either that they had nothing to do with "real" communism or that the ideology of such states had reached a point of irrevocable corruption.
Types of communist states
While historically almost all claim lineage to Marxist thought, there are many varieties of communist states, with indigenous adaptions.
These Communist states often do not claim to have achieved socialism or communism in their countries; rather, they claim to be building and working toward the establishment of socialism in their countries. For example, the preamble to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam's constitution states that Vietnam only entered a transition stage between capitalism and socialism after the country was re-unified under the Communist party in 1976, and the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Cuba states that the role of the Communist Party is to "guide the common effort toward the goals and construction of socialism".
Alternative names that states adhering to an officially communist ideology may assign themselves is socialist state, socialist republic or "people's republic". This is because these nations have not yet transcended capitalism or state capitalism and progressed toward pure communism in the Marxist sense, which can only be achieved once capitalism exhausts itself.
Marxist-Leninist states share similar institutions, which are organized on the premise that the communist party is a vanguard of the proletariat and represents the long-term interests of the people. The doctrine of democratic centralism, which was developed by Vladimir Lenin as a set of principles to be used in the internal affairs of the communist party, is extended to society at large.
According to democratic centralism, all leaders must be elected by the people and all proposals must be debated openly, but, once a decision has been reached, all people have a duty to obey that decision and all debate should end. When used within a political party, democratic centralism is meant to prevent factionalism and splits. When applied to an entire state, democratic centralism creates a one-party system.
The constitutions of most socialist states describe their political system as a form of democracy. Thus, they recognize the sovereignty of the people as embodied in a series of representative parliamentary institutions. Such states do not have a separation of powers; instead, they have one national legislative body (such as the Supreme Soviet in the Soviet Union) which is considered the highest organ of state power and which is legally superior to the executive and judicial branches of government.
Such national legislative politics in communist states often have a similar structure to the parliaments that exist in liberal republics, with two significant differences: first, the deputies elected to these national legislative bodies are not expected to represent the interests of any particular constituency, but the long-term interests of the people as a whole; second, against Marx's advice, the legislative bodies of communist states are not in permanent session. Rather, they convene once or several times per year in sessions which usually last only a few days.
When the national legislative body is not in session, its powers are transferred to a smaller council (often called a presidium) which combines legislative and executive power, and, in some communist states (such as the Soviet Union before 1990), acts as a collective head of state. In some systems, the presidium is composed of important communist party members who vote the resolutions of the communist party into law.
Another feature of communist states is the existence of numerous state-sponsored social organizations (trade unions, youth organizations, women's organizations, associations of teachers, writers, journalists and other professionals, consumer cooperatives, sports clubs, etc.) which are integrated into the political system.
In some communist states,[which?] representatives of these organizations are guaranteed a certain number of seats on the national legislative bodies. In socialist states, the social organizations are expected to promote social unity and cohesion, to serve as a link between the government and society, and to provide a forum for recruitment of new communist party members.
Historically, the political organization of many communist states has been dominated by a single-party monopoly. Some communist regimes, such as North Korea, East Germany or the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic have or had more than one political party, but all minor parties are or were required to follow the leadership of the communist party. In socialist states, the government may not tolerate criticism of policies that have already been implemented in the past or are being implemented in the present.
Nevertheless, communist parties have won elections and governed in the context of multi-party democracies, without seeking to establish a one-party state. Examples include San Marino, Republic of Nicaragua, Moldova, Nepal (presently), Cyprus, and the Indian states of Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. However, for the purposes of this article, these entities do not fall under the definition of communist state.
Objections to use of term
The states ruled by communist political parties nonetheless self-identified as socialist states rather than as "communist states", because they did not consider themselves to have achieved the classless and stateless society known as communism. In Marxism, communism is the final phase of history at which time the state would have "withered away" and therefore "communist state" is a contradiction in terms under premises of this theory. Current states are either in the capitalist or socialist phase of history – making the term "socialist state" preferable to many communists and Marxist theorists.
From the liberal or conservative viewpoint
Totalitarian communist regimes have been criticized for their one-party dictatorships, totalitarian control of the economy and society and repression of civil liberties by the Council of Europe, economic focus on heavy industry at the expense of consumer goods, sometimes resulting in shortages of vital products or even famine, and militarism and propaganda to cover up the mistakes of the government .
Within the socialist and communist movements themselves, there are a number of criticisms of using the term "communist states". Left communists, Anarchists and some Trotskyists contend that the so-called "communist" or "socialist" states or "people's states" were actually state capitalist and thus cannot be called "socialist".
List of current communist states
The following countries are one-party states in which the institutions of the ruling communist party and the state have become intertwined; hence they fall under the definition of Socialist states that officially support communism. They are generally adherents of Marxism-Leninism in particular and as such represent a particular ideology that many communists may not share. They are listed here together with the year of their founding and their respective ruling parties:
|People's Republic of China||1 October 1949||Communist Party of China||Xi Jinping|
|Republic of Cuba||1 July 1961||Communist Party of Cuba||Raúl Castro|
|Lao People's Democratic Republic||2 December 1975||Lao People's Revolutionary Party||Choummaly Sayasone|
|Socialist Republic of Vietnam||2 September 1945 (in the north)
2 July 1976 (unified)
|Communist Party of Vietnam||Triumvirate:|
Disputed or mixed governments
- Democratic People's Republic of Korea (since 1948); Many people, especially in the west, would describe the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a Communist state. The DPRK has actually claimed that its so-called Socialist system was chosen by its people as a defence to human rights allegations, thus justifying it when the DPRK is labelled as "Socialist". The government's official ideology, on the other hand, is now the Juche policy of Kim Il-sung, as opposed to traditional Marxist–Leninist communism. In 2009, the constitution of the DPRK was quietly amended so that not only did it disavow all Marxist-Leninist references present in the first draft, but it also dropped all reference to 'Communism'.
Democratic states with current governing communist parties in power
These are multi-party states that currently have communist parties leading the government. Such states are not considered to be communist states as the countries themselves allow for multiple parties, and do not provide a constitutional role for their communist parties.
- Nepal (since April 2008); Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist); In Nepal, the ruling Communist parties participate in a multi-party coalition government, an alliance of 22 parties that holds 350 seats in the 601-member constituent assembly.
Communist parties as part of a ruling coalition
There are also some parties that participate as junior partners in ruling coalitions, as listed below.
- Bangladesh, the Workers Party of Bangladesh participates in the ruling coalition
- Belarus, the Communist Party of Belarus participates in the ruling coalition
- Brazil, the Communist Party of Brazil participates in the ruling coalition
- Mali, the Malian Party of Labour participates in the ruling coalition
- Peru, the Peruvian Communist Party participates in the ruling coalition
- South Africa, the South African Communist Party participates in the ruling coalition
- Sri Lanka, the Communist Party of Sri Lanka, participates in the ruling coalition
- Syria, the Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) and the Syrian Communist Party (Unified) participate in the ruling coalition
- Ukraine, the Communist Party of Ukraine participates in the ruling coalition
- Uruguay, the Communist Party of Uruguay participates in the ruling coalition
- Venezuela, the Communist Party of Venezuela participates in the ruling coalition
- Capitalist state
- List of socialist countries, which includes a list of current and former communist states.
- List of communist parties
- Criticisms of communist party rule
- List of anti-capitalist and communist parties with national parliamentary representation
- "N.I. Bukharin and E. Preobrazhensky in The ABC of Communism write "In a communist society there will be no classes. But if there will be no classes, this implies that in communist society there will likewise be no State." See also State and Revolution by Lenin, chapter 5.4 "The Higher Phase of Communist Society"
- "The first defining feature of a Communist system is the monopoly of power of the Communist Party" : Archie Brown, The Rise and Fall of communism, Vintage Books, 2009, page 105
- VN Embassy - Constitution of 1992 Full Text. From the Preamble: "On 2 July 1976, the National Assembly of reunified Vietnam decided to change the country's name to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; the country entered a period of transition to socialism, strove for national construction, and unyieldingly defended its frontiers while fulfilling its internationalist duty."
- Cubanet - Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, 1992 Full Text. From Article 5: "The Communist Party of Cuba, a follower of Martí’s ideas and of Marxism-Leninism, and the organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the highest leading force of society and of the state, which organizes and guides the common effort toward the goals of the construction of socialism and the progress toward a communist society,"
- Furtak, Robert K. The political systems of the socialist states, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1986, pp. 8-9.
- Furtak, Robert K. The political systems of the socialist states, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1986, p. 12.
- Furtak, Robert K. The political systems of the socialist states, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1987, p. 13.
- Furtak, Robert K. The political systems of the socialist states, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1986, p. 14.
- Furtak, Robert K. The political systems of the socialist states, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1986, p. 16-17.
- Furtak, Robert K. The political systems of the socialist states, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1986, p. 18-19.
- Kinzer, Stephen (15 January 1987). "NICARAGUA'S COMMUNIST PARTY SHIFTS TO OPPOSITION". The New York Times.
- "Cyprus elects its first communist president", The Guardian, 25 February 2008.
- Kerala Assembly Elections-- 2006
- Furtak, Robert K. (1986). The Political Systems of the Socialist States: An Introduction to Marxist-Leninist Regimes. Wheatsheaf Books. p. 3.
- The oft-cited quote is borrowed from a variation of the English translation of Anti-Dühring 1878 by Friedrich Engels, Part III: Socialism - «The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production in the first instance into state property. But, in doing this, it abolishes itself as proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, abolishes also the state as state. Society thus far, based upon class antagonisms, had need of the state, that is, of an organisation of the particular class, which was pro tempore the exploiting class, for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, and, therefore, especially, for the purpose of forcibly keeping the exploited classes in the condition of oppression corresponding with the given mode of production (slavery, serfdom, wage-labour). The state was the official representative of society as a whole; the gathering of it together into a visible embodiment. But it was this only in so far as it was the state of that class which itself represented, for the time being, society as a whole: in ancient times, the state of slave-owning citizens; in the Middle Ages, the feudal lords; in our own time, the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a state, is no longer necessary. The first act by virtue of which the state really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society—the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society—this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not "abolished". It dies out.»
- Badiou, Alain. The Communist Hypothesis, transl. by David Macey and Steve Corcoran; (New York: Verso, 2010
- Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Resolution 1481 (2006) Need for international condemnation of crimes of totalitarian communist regimes
- The Economics of Soviet Agriculture by Leonard E. Hubbard, p. 117-18
- Kenez, Peter (1985). The Birth of the Propaganda State: Soviet Methods of Mass Mobilization, 1917-1929. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-31398-8.
- STATE CAPITALISM | International Communist Current
- Tony Cliff, for example. See: Tony Cliff's Internet Archive
- Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook: FIELD LISTING :: GOVERNMENT TYPE
- KCNA Assails Role Played by Japan for UN Passage of "Human Rights" Resolution against DPRK, KCNA, December 22, 2005.
- KCNA Refutes U.S. Anti-DPRK Human Rights Campaign, KCNA, November 8, 2005.