Author Topic: Why doesn't communism work?  (Read 122862 times)

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Offline abbigail

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Why doesn't communism work?
« on: January 31, 2010, 07:29:53 AM »
(I looked this up in the search bar and found no specific topic titled this)

I'm trying to understand this better. From an ordinary human standpoint, it seems communism would work among a small population of people, but not so with a huge population (such as Russia). Can anyone explain why to me?
However, if you think it does work, or should, to some extent, please share your thoughts, because I'm interested in hearing all kinds of opinions.

Thank you very much.
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Offline Sergei Witte

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2010, 12:28:57 PM »
Communism doesn't work because it means giving up your freedom. It is against human nature.

Naslednik Norvezhskiy

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2010, 12:35:07 PM »
Communism generally doesn't work well because people are motivated by self-interest. If they themselves don't directly benefit from their own effort and hard work, they get frustrated and unmotivated. Then society stagnates, like it did in the Soviet Union.

I'm trying to understand this better. From an ordinary human standpoint, it seems communism would work among a small population of people, but not so with a huge population (such as Russia). Can anyone explain why to me?

People can accept degrees communism in small groups (tribes, village mirs etc.) if they see that they could hardly survive on their own, that the community depends on some degree of collectivism in order to survive. This probably goes all the way back to the small packs of tribal hunter-gatherers in the Stone Age, so I wouldn't say, like Sergei Witte above, that it's against human nature.

But if the ones who benefit from your efforts just are a faceless "society at large", like in the Soviet Union, it does not work. In societies that have passed from the nomadic stage to the agricultural or even industrial level, people are less likely to share with their neighbours. They are possessive and want their own stuff. If they work hard, they want to see results like better food, better housing, a better life. They don't want to work to improve the lot of some members of "the great Soviet people" they don't even know.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2010, 01:02:39 PM by Tainyi Sovetnik »

Offline Sergei Witte

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2010, 03:13:55 PM »


People can accept degrees communism in small groups (tribes, village mirs etc.) if they see that they could hardly survive on their own, that the community depends on some degree of collectivism in order to survive.

Can you give me one example of a small communist state that works well and is lasting? I don't know of one.

You say that communism works well in a small society. Same could be said of democracy that works best in the old Greek city-states which invented democracy. But that isn't the point. The point is that democracy is chosen to be the statesform in most western countries and communism is not. And communism doesn't work because, like was proven by the Soviet economy, there are no stimuli to work hard. It is proven that workers who are forced to work hard, have lesser results than workers who work freely. Stalin thought he could make people work hard in the Goulags. But when he enforced tougher environment the production quota suffered.

Offline abbigail

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2010, 03:19:58 PM »
Thank you both for your very helpful and insightful comments!
There is a clock that never strikes...
There is a cathedral that goes down and a lake that goes up...
There is a little carriage abandoned in the copse...
There is a troupe of little actors in costume...
And when you are hungry or thirsty, there is someone who drives you away.

Naslednik Norvezhskiy

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2010, 04:08:47 PM »
People can accept degrees communism in small groups (tribes, village mirs etc.) if they see that they could hardly survive on their own, that the community depends on some degree of collectivism in order to survive.
Can you give me one example of a small communist state that works well and is lasting? I don't know of one.
Neither do I!
As you see I was thinking of smaller entities: Nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes (Native Americans, Inuits etc.) and villages were land was held in common, like in medieval Europe and Tsarist Russia (I.e. "the Russian village mir", especially after the emancipation of the serfs when land was held by the village mir in common and distributed and redistributed among the villagers by the village assembly. But even earlier if you ignore the feudal overlords as a small number of negligible parasites, you could view the unfree village communities of both medieval Europe and pre-emancipation Russia as small Communist communities. At least to the great mass of the people, the serfs themselves, who had to co-operate with their fellow villagers in order to cultivate their share of the village land, it worked as a kind of Communism. Especially when in the Early Middle Ages the means of production, the oxen for ploughing, were the joint property of the whole community.

NB: Even though all successfull democracies are more or less capitalistic, it's important to remember that democracy and capitalism is not the same. The world has never known a Communist state with free elections, multiple political parties, accountable government, freedom of speech and a free press, as far as I know. In theory it should be possible, at least politically, even though it might fail economically.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2010, 04:12:23 PM by Tainyi Sovetnik »

Alixz

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2010, 03:48:43 PM »
Young Americans tried this type of living arrangement in the 1960s and early 1970s with their "communes" or communal living.

Again, in small groups, it seemed to work.  But as others have said, people need to be motivated with the achievement of individual goals not general goals and they become disenchanted.

Also, communism tried to work on the barter system, but if you don't have anything that I want, why would I want to barter with you for something I have that you want?

Communism is not an evil as we have come to see it in the 20th century.  It is a way of life.  Just not a way of life that most of us would want to live.

Actually the idea of living in a stress free commune sounds blissful to me.  I help you and you help me and we all profit from our own individual talents.

Stalin wasn't looking for that kind of community and he still wanted to be Tsar.  I think he corrupted the original idea and that too is why it didn't work.

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2010, 04:22:55 PM »
I must chime in here.  Cuba, does work, despite the  US embargo [no one else follows it].  They have excellent health care, food distribution and  housing. Not the the best, but  survivable.
 As for successful examples of small scale  Communism  works  quite well in monastic communities in  many religions. The theory is essential an economic practice, the problem occurs when it  becomes a large scale political  establishment. Rigid and unadaptable.  China, as an example, is still a Communist  country yet it prospers very well, while North Korea  starves most of the time. It is a matter of leadership.
  In my view, socialism,  on the Euro  model is the happy ideal.
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Offline Nicolá De Valerón

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2010, 04:33:05 PM »
I think he corrupted the original idea and that too is why it didn't work.

Alixz, I must say that you little bit surprise me with this quote! I did not expect this from such an intelligent person. Moreover, I think that for any normal man the question "Why doesn't Communism work" is clear without any extra additions. I thought that at least in the U.S.A people are free from an endless socialist diseases (and monarchical) and do know exactly why Communism/Socialism doesn't work.

I can only continue your probable idea just for fun: If Mr Stalin would not be a "Tsar like" dictator, if he would continue the "Party line" and so on, if he would built typical communist/socialist state with equality, brotherhood, "no bourgeois" politics, state control economics, then this state might work!? I've been studying later Russian/Soviet period for a rather long time, and I never heard such ideas. I've been always thinking that the problem with Communism started not in Mr Stalin and his "Tsar" politics, it started much earlier. I think that the problem, is that any "Communism" like ideologies are absolutely unsuitable for human nature (at least for intelligent person with brains), and there is no difference in this case and no differences in "degrees of Communism/Socialism" - Stalin/Lenin/Marx and other "creative" men.

Only what you earned, only that you get. No absolute equality, brotherhood, equal money for all, working state control of economics and so on. Just my opinion.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2010, 04:38:02 PM by Nicolá De Valerón »
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Offline abbigail

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2010, 06:51:40 PM »
Again, in small groups, it seemed to work.  But as others have said, people need to be motivated with the achievement of individual goals not general goals and they become disenchanted.


I agree. Another question:
If a group of people were recovering from a huge worldwide disaster, would a form of communism would work then--while dealing with basic recovery and reestablishment of govt, living situation, etc? Going by what you said about individual goals. (Sorry if this makes no sense.) I'm just looking for opinions.

There is a clock that never strikes...
There is a cathedral that goes down and a lake that goes up...
There is a little carriage abandoned in the copse...
There is a troupe of little actors in costume...
And when you are hungry or thirsty, there is someone who drives you away.

Naslednik Norvezhskiy

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2010, 08:02:30 PM »
If a group of people were recovering from a huge worldwide disaster, would a form of communism would work then--while dealing with basic recovery and reestablishment of govt, living situation, etc? Going by what you said about individual goals. (Sorry if this makes no sense.) I'm just looking for opinions.
People have to co-operate and co-exist no matter which political model their society is based on. Because there will always be a society whereever humans live. Truly Communist in a Marxist sense it only becomes when the means of production are collectively owned and nobody can live off the work of others, for example by merely owning land, housing, businesses, machines and other forms of technology, shares, stock or capital. That is for me the essence of the Communist ideology.

Does anybody know what Marx thought about people getting wealthy strictly by their own personal work and not by "exploiting" (i.e. hiring) employees? 

I think we have to differentiate between Communism in the (utopian) Marxist sense above and different forms and degress of communalism, as in primitive hunter-gatherer societies, medieval agricultural communities, monastic and other religious communities, hippie communes etc. - even though they might overlap, especially if the members both own and work their means of production. (So monks living off outside charity or feudal property rents don't qualify in the strict sense.)



Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2010, 08:29:01 PM »
The  monasteries I know produce their own  food and products,  share  them communally and  give away what they do not need.  Or sell the products for communal benefit.They sometimes receive receive endowments,  but not often. The old days of feudal lands are  long over!
 If Marx were to  be around to make an assessment now, I think [pure speculation, of course] he would expect those who have achieved more to share it  with those with less. That is the ideal.   In both situations, that is what communism is about- the ideal.
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Naslednik Norvezhskiy

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2010, 08:56:26 PM »
Agreed, Communism is a political ideal and/or an analytical tool, not something the world has (yet) experienced.
If Marx were to  be around to make an assessment now, I think [pure speculation, of course] he would expect those who have achieved more to share it  with those with less.
On the contrary I think he would have expected class warfare and ultimate revolution. He was a German and believed in an Endlösung, not bumbling charity.

Alixz

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2010, 09:16:05 PM »
Perhaps Communism would only work in an agrarian society.  Such as those that were tried here in the US.

However, Robert is right about Cuba and China and North Korea.  None of which are agrarian.  It is a matter of leadership.

There are those wealthy individuals who do share their wealth with those less fortunate than themselves in our times, but never would they give all and live equally with those whom they now try to help.

One of the things that I hear a lot of talk about lately is materialism and how it is affecting everyone.

I just watched a show about a monastery in Ann Arbor, Michigan and how the nuns live and why they are nuns in the first place and many of them gave up many material comforts to become nuns. One of the nuns said that materialism and conspicuous consumption was like a noise in her head that she couldn't get rid of.  She didn't like that noise and turned to the monastery as a place to become what she truly felt she could be.  Now I know that in any religious order the religion plays a very big part, but those communities are communal, as Robert said, and they do seem to work.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2010, 09:19:50 PM by Alixz »

Alixz

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2010, 09:22:33 PM »
I think he corrupted the original idea and that too is why it didn't work.

Alixz, I must say that you little bit surprise me with this quote! I did not expect this from such an intelligent person. Moreover, I think that for any normal man the question "Why doesn't Communism work" is clear without any extra additions. I thought that at least in the U.S.A people are free from an endless socialist diseases (and monarchical) and do know exactly why Communism/Socialism doesn't work.

I can only continue your probable idea just for fun: If Mr Stalin would not be a "Tsar like" dictator, if he would continue the "Party line" and so on, if he would built typical communist/socialist state with equality, brotherhood, "no bourgeois" politics, state control economics, then this state might work!? I've been studying later Russian/Soviet period for a rather long time, and I never heard such ideas. I've been always thinking that the problem with Communism started not in Mr Stalin and his "Tsar" politics, it started much earlier. I think that the problem, is that any "Communism" like ideologies are absolutely unsuitable for human nature (at least for intelligent person with brains), and there is no difference in this case and no differences in "degrees of Communism/Socialism" - Stalin/Lenin/Marx and other "creative" men.

Only what you earned, only that you get. No absolute equality, brotherhood, equal money for all, working state control of economics and so on. Just my opinion.

I am sure that you know more about the post revolution and the Stalin period than I do.  My area of study is 1860 to 1918, but I have never seen communism as an evil, just an idea that was corrupted.

As humans we are not capable of sharing our gains totally with others.  Our idea of self worth has never been what we do to help others but how much we own and how materially wealthy we are.  It is so very easy to write a check and feel satisfied with ourselves for "giving" than to truly roll up our sleeves and get dirty.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2010, 09:27:13 PM by Alixz »