What is communism in simple terms

Communism explained in an easy to understand way

The term “communism” is not protected. Anyone can call themselves a communist. Anyone can found a party, an association or an initiative that has this label in their name. Much of it had and has nothing to do with communism. Much was and is exactly the opposite of what it should actually be. But who determines that? In the following, building on Marx, what is understood by progressive communists today:

Communists want to overcome capitalism. Communism describes the state that is to be achieved after capitalism has been overcome. What this state of society looks like in detail Marx gave only a few details. Most of the writings of Marx and Engels deal with the analysis of the existing capitalist society and its problems (contradictions). There are only a few references to how Marx and Engels imagined a communist society. And with good reason:

Communism is movement

Man / woman cannot simply wish for a better society: Man / woman has to fight for it against the resistance of those who benefit from capitalism and, above all, one / woman has to build it together. Only in this process can the details of this social order be found.

In addition, Marx says: (MEW 3:35)

“For us, communism is not a state that should be established, an ideal that reality will have to conform to. We call communism the real movement that abolishes the current state. The conditions for this movement result from the pre-requisite that now exists. "

According to this definition, communism means: no utopia in the distant future but to start fighting the misery in this world here and now.

Communism is anti-capitalism

In view of this negative definition (“We say what we Not want ”- capitalism) we have to know the criticism of capitalism in order to be able to understand what communism means. So we will be around a "Capitalism explained simply“Article can't get around. What exactly the communist alternative to capitalism looks like is not defined. That there must be an alternative to 10 million starvation per year, to environmental destruction, war and exploitation is not a very daring hypothesis. But even that is disputed by the demagogues of neoliberalism, who claim that we live in the “best of all possible worlds” ... Back to communism: what can still be said about communism?

Communism is radical humanism

“To be radical is to get to the root of the matter. But the root for man is man himself. [...] The criticism of religion ends with the doctrine that man is the highest being for man, that is, with the categorical imperative to overturn all relationships in which man is one humiliated, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being. "
- Karl Marx, On the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Introduction, MEW 1: 380

From this quote at the latest, it should be clear why most of what has gone under the title “Communism” in history or what is still adorned with this title today has little to do with it. Anyone who tramples on the most elementary human rights, who sets up gulags, who supports violence and terror and war cannot be a communist.

To overturn all conditions in which man is a humiliated, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being.“So consequently we fight against: racism, sexism, nationalism and all forms of exploitation and oppression.

Communism is feminism

The oppression of women is an example of the oppression of people by people. This does not exist (like most forms of oppression) of course, it does not first exist in capitalism, but as it was, like so many mechanisms of oppression, integrated into the system of capitalist exploitation and oppression. In analyzing these mechanisms, feminists have gained important insights into how capitalist oppression works and how it is combated. Knowledge that is indispensable for all communists.

Communism is individual freedom

Communism is often portrayed by its opponents as a unifrome (and unifromised) equivalence of people and as submission to a collective. In contrast, the (neo) liberal ideology is praised as “individual freedom”. The individual freedom of the people is one of the most important goals of communism:

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaved subordination of individuals to the division of labor, with the result that the opposition between mental and physical labor has also disappeared; after work has become not only a means to life, but itself the first necessity of life; After the all-round development of individuals, their productive forces have grown and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more fully - only then can the narrow bourgeois legal horizon be completely exceeded and society can write on its banner: everyone according to their abilities, everyone according to their needs!“- Marx, Critique of the Gothaer Program, MEW 19:21

"Everyone according to their abilities, everyone according to their needs" - The focus here is on the individual, his / her individual abilities and needs. In contrast, capitalism only cares about needs insofar as it can benefit from them. When around 10 million people die of hunger each year, the need for food cares little for neoliberal capitalism. Capitalism negates these needs and the skills that are in these people. Neoliberal capitalism is at best the individual struggle “everyone against everyone”.

In the Communist Manifesto, communism is described as follows:

"Instead of the old bourgeois society with its classes and class antagonisms, there is an association in which the free development of everyone is the condition for the free development of all."

Communism is internationalism

For Marx and Engels it was clear: Overcoming capitalism is a global matter. This struggle against capitalism with its urge to expand is only possible in a joint, worldwide effort. So whoever spreads racism and nationalism and incites people against one another hinders this struggle and thus supports the interests of capital.

Marx writes about this in the "Critique of the Gothaer Program":

“It goes without saying that in order to be able to fight at all, the working class must organize itself at home as a class, and that the home country is the immediate arena of their struggle. In this respect, their class struggle is national, not in content but, as the "Communist Manifesto" says, "in form". But the "framework of today's national state", e.g. the German Reich, is itself again economically "within the framework of the world market", politically "within the framework of the state system". The first best businessman knows that German trade is also foreign trade, and Herr Bismarck's greatness consists in his kind of international politics.

And what does the German Workers' Party reduce its internationalism to? To the awareness that the result of their striving "will be the international fraternization" - a phrase borrowed from the bourgeois freedom and peace alliance, which should be used as an equivalent for the international fraternization of the working classes in the common struggle against the ruling classes and their governments. So not a word about international functions of the German working class! And so it should stand up to its own bourgeoisie, already fraternized against it with the bourgeois of all other countries, and to Mr Bismarck's international conspiracy policy!

In fact, the international commitment of the program is still infinitely below that of the free trade party. She too claims that the result of her endeavors is "international fraternization". But it also does something to make trade internationally, and is by no means content with the awareness that all peoples trade at home.

The international activity of the working classes does not depend in any way on the existence of the "International Workers' Association". This was only the first attempt to create a central organ for that activity; an attempt which, thanks to the impetus he gave, was of lasting success, but in its first historical form after the fall of the Paris Commune was no longer feasible. "

For more on this see under: Internationalism in Marx - more topical than ever.

Communism and anarchism are no longer opposites

Communists and anarchists want the authoritarian state to disappear. Until recently, the difference was in the way one imagined its abolition: anarchists fought directly against the state, authority and hierarchies. Communists first wanted a “socialist state” that would abolish capitalism and establish a “socialist economy”. With the disappearance of the antagonisms between the classes, the need for the state would slowly disappear. Marx writes about this:

“If class differences have disappeared in the course of development and all production is concentrated in the hands of the associated individuals, then public authority loses its political character. Political violence in the strict sense of the word is the organized violence of one class for the oppression of another. When the proletariat in the struggle against the bourgeoisie necessarily unites into a class, makes itself the ruling class through a revolution and, as the ruling class, forcibly abolishes the old relations of production, with these relations of production it abolishes the conditions of existence of the class antagonism, the classes in general, and thus its own own rule as a class. "

At the latest with the failed “real socialism” one can of course no longer see it so one-sidedly. Overcoming capitalism must go hand in hand with overcoming authoritarian structures of rule and oppression:

Communism is radical democracy

Radical democratization must gradually replace the many decisions that are made about the market under capitalism. See at the beginning: Communism is movement.

Communism is radical criticism

Marx's motto was "De omnibus dubitandum“[1] and radical criticism of the existing social conditions runs through his entire work.

Anyone who unquestioningly and uncritically adopts traditional dogmas and beliefs is not a communist. Those who do not self-critically review their own positions and insights in the face of a changing world run the risk of being stuck with an ideology.

Fine, but where do I find such communists?

As already mentioned at the beginning: Today there is a lot that describes itself as communist. Most of these groups, however, have different views on what they associate with the term. They have mostly got stuck in their development at various stages. A check whether these are actually progressive communists should be relatively easy on the basis of the above criteria. The only possible pitfall: Being and appearance do not quite fit together: The group publicly represents a program that does not fit what it actually wants, as is the case, for example, with the KPÖ: Being and appearance - reality and claim of the KPÖ. But that shouldn't be a reason to be discouraged and to dare a new beginning ...

Franz Schäfer, March 2008