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Origins of Communism

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Origins of Communism


Throughout the history of the modern world, man has sought out the perfect government. An invincible system of order. And in our search for this ideal system, the idea of holding property in common has been a reoccurring thought. From early Christian communities to modern Marxist states, socialism and more specifically, communism has had an important role in the development of this ideal system.

After the Great French Revolution of 1789-1794, the roots of modern-day communism can be clearly seen. In 1795, Gracchus Babeuf wrote the 'Plebeians' Manifesto' which stated, for full social and economical equality:

'...to establish a common administration; to suppress individual property; to attach each man to the employment or occupation with which he is acquainted; to oblige him to place the fruits of his labor in kind into a common store; and to establish a simple administration for food supplies, which will take note of all individuals and all provisions, and will have the latter divided according to the most scrupulous equality.' - 'Plebeians' Manifesto'1

Because of this and other acts considered to be threatening to the Directory, Babeuf was executed in May of 1797. Babeuf was not forgotten though, others followed in his footsteps. Another 19th century French reformer, Charles Fourier, shared many of Babeuf's ideas, but where Babeuf favored immediate political change, Fourier was for longer-term social reform. The Comte de Saint-Simon, another political thinker of that time, was similar to Fourier in many respects, although he valued a mixed society of capitalist thinkers and socialist workers which he believed would triumph in future French communities.

Meanwhile in England, Robert Owen, a Welsh industrialist, was developing his own brand of Socialism. Unlike many philosophers of his time, Owen based his ideas on experience rather than speculation. He managed a factory and realized that labor was the essential 'factor of production'. He looked to the workers rather than government for solutions to economic problems. He proposed 'cooperative societies', or self-contained communities of producers and consumers which he hoped would prove his theories. But his socialist experiment never took place because adequate funding was denied.

In the mid-1830's, the term 'Communism' was introduced to the world of French politics. First used to describe Saint-Simon and Fourier's egalitarian slant on socialist ideas, Louis Blanc built on the ideals of Fourier to establish an important point of modern-day communism. He stated the principle, '...from each according to his capacities, to each according to his needs', where as the old principle stated, '...from each according to his capacities, to each according to his works.' This would prove necessary to later philosophers such as Marx and Engels whose fundamental ideas were largely based on such principles.

Even more influential, though, was German thinker Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel introduced 'radical' ideas to European politics in the early 1800's, but they would not be fully realized by others until after his death in 1831. He was convinced that all life evolves from total unconsciousness to full self-consciousness. By this he meant that we as a race of people are gradually becoming more aware of our existence. At his intellectual peak, Hegel said, 'The real is the rational.' And although this may not have been Hegel's intent, many 19th and 20th century followers interpreted this as a outward rejection of religion which in itself is centered on faith.

But to fully understand the evolution of modern-day Communism, we must first understand it's beginnings as a communal system. It wasn't until about the 6th century B.C. that the Buddhist monks who made up the 'Sangha' tried to abolish the 'caste' system. During this time in Greece, Pythagoras and his disciples believed that friendship was the basis for a good society, and to them is attributed the phrase, 'friends should have all things in common.' But for obvious reasons, this system could never work on a larger scale.

The idea gained momentum in late 5th century Greece when Plato recorded his predecessor's dialogue in The Republic. Socrates outlines two types of communism in his dialogue. The first was a 'utopian' communism which basically describes a peasant society not complicated by luxuries. He goes on to say that such a society would work for 'pigs' but not a civilized 4th century Athenian. For this he explained a sophisticated communism, one that would do away with the hardships caused by a wealthy ruling class. Plato then goes on to lay out a community ...

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Keywords: origins of communism in china, origins of communism in russia, origin of communism in india, origin of communism word, origin of communism in kerala, origin of communism in vietnam, origins of chinese communism, origins of international communism

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