January 26, 2013 by Kevin Daugherty
Last year, while in a Business and Personal Law class, I came out as a communist. The comments I heard from other people about communism were amazing. It was not hard to tell that they had never actually looked up what communism was. Instead, they heard their parents or the media say that China, North Korea, and others were communist. They heard that communism is state control of a country through a “Communist Party.”
To be honest, these criticisms have some weight to them. For the last century, many self-described “communists” have established brutal dictatorships. These brutal dictatorships then used the history and positive origins of communism to justify themselves, and the capitalist countries used the term to slander any form of progressive change in society. Still to this day, you will find “communists” who identify with the Cold War dictatorships rather than the historical meaning of the term. (I call such people “Stalinists” to make an important distinction.) I am still a communist, as are a large number of other anarchists, but term “communism” has often been used to mean its opposite.
Communism originates from a French Christian socialist named Étienne Cabet. You can actually trace communism to many movements in history (such as the Jamestown colony or the early church), but Cabet is the one who invented the term. Cabet used it to describe the early Christian church, but the idea was soon borrowed by Karl Marx and a number of anarchists and Mormons too. (Yes, communism was not invented by Karl Marx, but by a Christian.)
Simply put, communism means to live in a commune — it is a society in which property is held in common. Some communists (like some Christians, Hippies, and others) have believed in the elimination of all property. Others, like Marxists and anarchists, believe in the elimination of private property (in the means of production), but still believe in personal property.
This is the important part of this post: In all forms of communism, the state is rejected. In Marxism, you have socialism which comes first and has a worker-controlled state, and then communism comes later when the state is destroyed. However, you also have Libertarian Marxism (Left Communism, Council Communism, etc.) that is against the state from the start. In most expressions of communism (anarchist, religious, etc.), the state and capitalism are equally opposed.
Communism is not a statism. The real issue today is that many do not bother to look up what the word means before using it. As a result, even the dictionary now has many contradictory definitions of communism. So, before you use that wretched word, please read a book or at least a Wikipedia article, I beg of you.