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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: March 06, 2017

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Submitted: March 06, 2017

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Socialism and Communism

Socialist Thought Emerges
To end poverty and injustice, some thinkers offered a solution – socialism. Under socialism, the people as a whole would own and operate the means of production – the farms, factories, railways, and other large businesses that produced and distributed goods. When socialist governments gained power in the 1900s, they attempted to regulate the production and distribution of goods, which proved inefficient. Socialism grew out of the Enlightenment faith in progress and human nature and its concern for social justice. Socialist thinkers developed a number of different ideas about how to achieve their goals. 
Owen and Utopian Socialism
Utopians were known as, to critics, impractical dreamers who strived to establish communities in which all work is shared and all property is owned in common. One of these Utopians was Robert Owen. He started life as a poor Welsh boy and became a successful mill owner. Owen was known to have refused child labor and campaigned for laws that limited child labor and encouraged the organization of labor unions. Like other Utopians, he strived for a better society. To prove his point, he set up a model community around a mill in New Lanark, Scotland. In his community, he built homes for workers, opened a school for children, and treated employees well. Doing this, he proved that an employer could offer decent living and working conditions and still run a profitable business.
Marx and the Origins of Communism
In the 1840s, Karl Marx, a German philosopher, condemned the ideas of the Utopians as unrealistic idealism. Marx rather preferred the idea of bringing a classless society in which the means of production would be owned in common for the good of all, also known as communism. In Marx’s pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto, he theorized that economics was the driving force in history. He argued that the bourgeoisie had owned the means of production and thus controlled society and its wealth. In the end, he predicted the proletariat, or working class, would be triumphant. Workers would take control of the means of production and set up a classless, communist society and that the struggles of the past would end due to people being equal.
Marxism Finds Support
Even though Marx’s ideas had little support at first, he soon gained supporters around the world. In the 1860s, German socialists adapted Marx’s beliefs to form social democracy, a political ideology in which there is a gradual transition from capitalism to socialism instead of a sudden violent overthrow of the system. By the late 1800s, a rift formed between strict Marxists, who believed in revolution to end capitalism, and social democrats, who believed in the possibility of peaceful reform. In the late 1800s, Russian socialists embraced Marxism and formed a communist party to bring about revolution. In 1917, the Russian Revolution set up a communist government there that lasted until 1991. During the 1900s, revolutionaries in countries from China to Cuba adapted Marxist ideas to their own situations and needs. Independence leaders in Asia, Latin America, and Africa often experimented with Marxist ideas.
Marxism Loses Its Appeal
Marx claimed that his ideas were based on scientific laws. However, many of his ideas turned out to be wrong. He predicted that the misery of the proletariat would touch off a world revolution. Instead, by 1900, the standard of living of the working class improved in industrially developed countries. He also predicted that workers would unite across national borders to wage class warfare. Instead, people continued to feel stronger ties to their own countries than to any international workers’ movement. Finally, by the late 1900s, the few nations that had experimented with communism were moving away from government control of the economy and were adding elements of free-market capitalism.


© Copyright 2018 Jim Server. All rights reserved.

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