Night: Communism and Modern World History Essay

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Cassidy 1 Caleigh Cassidy 12 January 2011 World History (H) Mr. Szostak Communism in Theory and Practice "How do you tell a Communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin," said former president Ronald Reagan (Knott). All across the world, Karl Marx's radical tracts fueled the ardor of revolutionaries (Sheldon). In their despotic regimes, rulers such as Stalin, Lenin, Mao, and Castro localized the principles of Communism to bolster their dictatorial craving for absolute power. Despite the fact that it was intended to create the perfect society, Communism weakened economies, oppressed citizens, and led to indefensible abuses of the socioeconomic system. Although Karl Marx's theory of Communism seemed idealistic and justifiable at the time it was written, in practice it hurt the people it intended to help. "The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: abolition of private property," wrote German writer and agitator Karl Marx. After studying philosophy at the University of Berlin, Marx entered the fields of journalism and economics. In 1848, Marx and Friedrich Engels, a key financial supporter, compiled their ideas into a twenty-three page pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto. Though Engels managed a Manchester textile factory, he was sensitive to the struggle the working class faced from the Industrial Revolution. Between the horrible working conditions, dangerous machines, grueling hours, and meager wages, it was a time of great poverty and exploitation of workers. The principles of Communism were intended as an explanation and a prophetic solution to this widespread crisis. Marx and Engels argued

Cassidy 2 that many of society's problems result from class struggles; consequently, the solution to maintaining social order is a classless society (Beck 303). As long as class distinctions divide society, groups compete for control over scarce resources – that is, until power is held by the proletariat, meaning the working class. Marx and Engels postulated that revolts were imminent and inevitable across Europe; workers would overthrow the wealthy middle class, or bourgeoisie, to create a "worker's state" (Marx and Engels). Marx argued that nationalism was irrelevant in a Communist world. Since life would become a worker's paradise, the resulting society would produce all that was necessary, share profits without greed, and maximize economic equality. Soon, the means of production (all land, factories, railroads, and businesses) would be in the hands of the people (Sheldon). Marx's incendiary pamphlet helped trigger several European revolts. In 1871, these ideas took root in a bloody rebellion that shook Europe. The leaders of the rebellion overturned the established government in Paris, France, declaring a Commune. All citizens were declared to be equal with no class distinctions. Before long, these revolutionaries were brutally crushed by the French government. The leaders of the revolt became martyrs who died for their ideals (Laffont and Courtois). Historically, Communist governments arose as a consequence of war – bullets, never ballots, deciding the ruling party. In 1917, Russia, exhausted from World War I, became the first Communist state, led by Vladimir Lenin's Bolshevik Revolution. When Russia took over surrounding states, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was declared (Jacobs). This became the foundation for the first practical application of Communist theory. Communist leaders historically failed to meet the economic needs of citizens. Though Communism claims to evenly distribute wealth, this has proved to be an invalid and vainglorious claim. Marx claimed that under Capitalist systems, people are in

Cassidy 3 constant competition for scarce resources – all at the expense of the lower classes. These resources are scarce because the poor "have nots" are divided and defenseless against the innate…