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Communism is a political ideology that seeks to establish a future without social class or formalized state structure, and with social organization based upon common ownership of the means of production. It can be classified as a branch of the broader socialist movement. Communism also refers to a variety of political movements which claim the establishment of such a social organization as their ultimate goal. Early forms of human social organization have been described as "primitive communism". However, communism as a political goal generally is a conjectured form of future social organization which has never been implemented. Marxism is a form of socioeconomic analysis that analyses class relations and societal conflict using dialectical materialism. There is a considerable variety of views among self-identified communists, including Bolshevism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism, council communism, Luxemburgism, Western Marxism and various currents of left communism, which are in addition to more widespread varieties. However, various offshoots of the Soviet and Maoist forms of Marxism–Leninism comprise a particular branch of communism that had been the primary driving force for communism in world politics during most of the 20th century.

The Soviet Union was a one-party federation, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital, which lasted from 1922 to 1991. The Soviet Union had its roots in the October Revolution of 1917, when the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Russian Provisional Government. There was a succession of Soviet secret police agencies over time: Cheka, GPU, OGPU, NKVD, NKGB, MGB and KGB. The activities of these agencies include: suppression of dissent and political opposition, persecution and deportation of deserters, religious people, Jews, invasions, fabrication of crimes, espionage and disinformation. Joseph Stalin's cult of personality became a prominent part of Soviet culture in December 1929, after a lavish celebration for Stalin's 50th birthday. The Soviet Union has been described as totalitarian police state. The Cold War was a state of geopolitical tension after World War II between powers in the Eastern Bloc and powers in the Western Bloc. Historians do not fully agree on the dates, but a common timeframe is the period between 1947 and 1991.

Mass killings occurred under some Communist regimes during the twentieth century: the Red Terror occurred during the Russian Civil War, Decossackization aimed at the elimination of the Cossacks, the Soviet famine of 1932–33 was a man-made famine that affected the major grain-producing areas of the Soviet Union, leading to millions of deaths, Dekulakization included the murder of peasants, purges of the Communist Party in the Union were a key ritual in which periodic reviews of members of the Communist Party were conducted to get rid of the "undesirables", NKVD prisoner massacres were a series of mass executions carried out by the Soviet NKVD secret police during World War II against political prisoners across Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union has also conducted several acts described as war crimes. Concentration camps came to be know as Gulags, established officially in 1930. Racism in the Soviet Union targeted Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europeans, Jews and Asians. There was systematic political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union, based on the interpretation of political opposition or dissent as a psychiatric problem. Homosexuality was criminalized from 1933 to 1993.

Selected article

East German stamp commemorating the conference
The Conference of Communist and Workers Parties of Europe was an international meeting of communist parties, held in the city of East Berlin, on 29–30 June 1976. In all, 29 parties from across Europe participated in the conference. Notable participants at the meeting included Brezhnev, Ceauşescu, Gierek, Husák, Honecker, Kádár, Tito, Zhivkov, Carrillo, Berlinguer, Marchais and Cunhal.

The conference highlighted several important changes in the European communist movement. It exhibited the declining influence of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and a widening gap between the independent and orthodox camps amongst European communist parties, with the ascent of a new political trend, Eurocommunism.

Selected biography

Joe Slovo (23 May 1926 – 6 January 1995) was a South African politician, long-time leader of the South African Communist Party (SACP), and leading member of the African National Congress.

Slovo was born in Obeliai, Lithuania to a Jewish family who emigrated to South Africa when he was eight. His full name was Yossel Mashel Slovo. His father worked as a truck driver in Johannesburg. Although his family were religious, he became an atheist who retained respect for "the positive aspects of Jewish culture". Slovo left school in 1941 and found work as a dispatch clerk. He joined the National Union of Distributive Workers and, as a shop steward, was involved in organising a strike.

Slovo joined the South African Communist Party in 1942. Inspired by the Red Army's battles against the Nazis on the Eastern Front of World War II, Slovo volunteered to fight in the war, afterwards joining the Springbok Legion, a multiracial radical ex-servicemen's organization, upon his return.

Between 1946 and 1950 he completed a law degree at Wits University and was a student activist. He was in the same class as Nelson Mandela and Harry Schwarz. In 1949 he married Ruth First, another prominent Jewish anti-apartheid activist and the daughter of SACP treasurer Julius First. They had three daughters, Shawn, Gillian and Robyn. First was assassinated in 1982 by order of Craig Williamson, a major in the Apartheid security police.

Selected quote

I would like to say a few words about a question which is closely connected with the problem of maternity – the question of abortion, and Soviet Russia’s attitude to it. On 20 November 1920 the labour republic issued a law abolishing the penalties that had been attached to abortion. What is the reasoning behind this new attitude? Russia, after all, suffers not from an overproduction of living labour but rather from a lack of it. Russia is thinly, not densely populated. Every unit of labour power is precious. Why then have we declared abortion to be no longer a criminal offence? Hypocrisy and bigotry are alien to proletarian politics. Abortion is a problem connected with the problem of maternity, and likewise derives from the insecure position of women (we are not speaking here of the bourgeois class, where abortion has other reasons – the reluctance to “divide” an inheritance, to suffer the slightest discomfort, to spoil one’s figure or miss a few months of the season etc.)

Abortion exists and flourishes everywhere, and no laws or punitive measures have succeeded in rooting it out. A way round the law is always found. But “secret help” only cripples women; they become a burden on the labour government, and the size of the labour force is reduced. Abortion, when carried out under proper medical conditions, is less harmful and dangerous, and the woman can get back to work quicker. Soviet power realises that the need for abortion will only disappear on the one hand when Russia has a broad and developed network of institutions protecting motherhood and providing social education, and on the other hand when women understand that childbirth is a social obligation; Soviet power has therefore allowed abortion to be performed openly and in clinical conditions.

Besides the large-scale development of motherhood protection, the task of labour Russia is to strengthen in women the healthy instinct of motherhood, to make motherhood and labour for the collective compatible and thus do away with the need for abortion. This is the approach of the labour republic to the question of abortion, which still faces women in the bourgeois countries in all its magnitude. In these countries women are exhausted by the dual burden of hired labour for capital and motherhood. In Soviet Russia the working woman and peasant woman are helping the Communist Party to build a new society and to undermine the old way of life that has enslaved women. As soon as woman is viewed as being essentially a labour unit, the key to the solution of the complex question of maternity can be found. In bourgeois society, where housework complements the system of capitalist economy and private property creates a stable basis for the isolated form of the family, there is no way out for the working woman. The emancipation of women can only be completed when a fundamental transformation of living is effected; and life-styles will change only with the fundamental transformation of all production and the establishment of a communist economy. The revolution in everyday life is unfolding before our very eyes, and in this process the liberation of women is being introduced in practice.

— Alexandra Kollontai (1872-1952)
The Labour of Women in the Evolution of the Economy , 1921

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