A spectre is haunting Europe―the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies...
...Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries? ~ Excerpt from 'The Communist Manifesto'
These lines from one of the most historically influential treatises of the world, 'The Communist Manifesto', published in the year 1848, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Angels, have changed the political dynamics of the world ever since their conception.
The publication of 'Communist Manifesto' is the most important event in the history of communism, as it laid down the principles and ideologies of the communist league, the first Marxist international organization, founded in about 1836, by a group of German workers.
Communism, a branch of socialism, envisages a society where there is equality for all people. This is achieved by distributing equal wealth to all members of the society, thus making everyone at par with each other.
Some regarded it as a utopian idealism that can never be attained in a society, while its proponents believed that it was the answer to all their miseries and sufferings. The supporters of the ideology believed in declaring an open war on their opposition, and this is clear from the popular last lines of the Manifesto:
"The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. "
The Russian Civil Revolution (1917)
The Russian Revolution, also called Bolshevik Revolution or the October Revolution, is famous for being the first major outburst of the unrest among the people due to the growing economic divide. There were two revolutions in Russia in 1917.
The first was the February Revolution, where the monarchy of the Tsar ended, and the provisional government rose to power. The second revolution was the Bolshevik or October Revolution, where the provisional government was replaced by the Bolsheviks, the group of self-proclaimed professional revolutionaries, led by Vladimir Lenin.
Lenin, one of the most prominent political figures in world history, is known for his contributions to the theory of Marxism-Leninism. The start of communism in Russia is associated with Lenin.
Death of Lenin, Stalin Become USSR Leader (1924)
Another revolutionary leader who has acquired a crucial place in the history of communism is Joesph Stalin. As a young revolutionary, Stalin supported the acts of Lenin, and slowly gained the latter's confidence.
Lenin saw great potential and power in Stalin's personality, and he appointed Stalin as head of many important organizations in the party. In October 1922, Lenin was admitted in hospital and was slowly succumbing. Stalin gained enormous power in the party during this period. Finally, when Lenin died in 1924, Joseph Stalin became the USSR leader.
The Great Famine Hits Ukraine (1932-33)
Regarded as the most debated topic on the political and cultural face of Ukraine, the famine of 1932-33 led to the loss of 7-10 million lives. There are various controversies about the famine. Some historians believe that hunger was used as a weapon by Joseph Stalin to break the unity of Ukrainian people, so that he could strengthen his power in Ukraine.
Many judge the great famine to be an artificially planned genocide program by the Stalinist regime. The mass killings clearly highlighted that class struggle and utopian ideologies can be threat to the life of common peasants and workers.
Treachery of Joseph Stalin (1936)
Power corrupts the heart of the best of men, and it was clear when tens of millions of people were executed in Stalin's labor camps. In the camps of 'Gulag', millions who opposed the dictator were killed.
Nazi Pact, Stalin and World War II (1939-1945)
The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, a short-lived peace treaty between two divisive leaders, Adolf Hitler and Joesph Stalin, was signed as an agreement not to invade or attack each other.
In 1939, Adolf Hitler, a staunch supporter of Nazism and Fuehrer of Nazi army, was preparing for war, and he wanted to acquire Poland the same way he annexed Austria―without force. However, Hitler didn't want to fight two wars. So he signed the pact with Stalin, thereby gaining assurances of peace from the Soviet.
While they were allies, they split up Poland. Hitler, however, broke the pact in 1941, shocking the USSR into action. Germany invaded Russia in 1941 as the ill-fated 'Operation Barbarossa', regarded as the largest military operation in human history.
The number of casualties were one of the largest ever in the history of military operations of any country. The development of communism was chiefly affected by World War II and the Russian invasion of Axis powers.
The Iron Curtain Speech (1946)
The historic Iron Curtain Speech was given on March 5th, 1946, by Winston Churchill, the great wartime leader of Britain, at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, after receiving an honorary degree.
The concept of the Iron Curtain was meant to create ideological and physical boundaries between various powers in Europe and divide them into two areas. It took the shape of the physical borders between Eastern and Western Europe, most prominently including the Berlin Wall.
The Cold War, lasting till 1991, shaped the future of the world in a significant way. The US was aware of the danger of communism again raising its head, and carried out significant military operations to prevent that. The most well-known of these are, of course, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
As the Soviet Union won many important allies in the Second World War in Eastern Europe, communism spread to many countries. Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Romania formed governments based on the ideologies of Soviet communism.
By the end of the 1950s, communism in China was also soaring due to the rise of Maoism, and Cuba had become a thorn in the side of the US. After Joesph Stalin died in 1953, Nikita Khruschchev became the Soviet's Union leader. He called for a return to the principles of Lenin, denouncing the inhumane war crimes committed by Stalin.
The progress of communism during the Cold War was mostly dominated by some important events that have been mentioned here:
- Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan (1947)
- The famous Berlin airlift and Czechoslovakia and North Korea coming under communist Domination (1948-1950)
- The Korean War
- Tibet comes under communist control (1951)
- North Vietnam comes under communist domination (1954)
- Hungarian revolt of 1956
- Fidel Castro rises to power in Cuba (1959)
- 'The Great Leap' forward in China (1959)
- Cuban missile crisis (1962)
- Gulf of Tonkin incident (1964)
- Invasion of Czechoslovakia by USSR (1968)
- Paris Peace Accord, end of US role in Vietnam War (1973)
- Khmer Rogue genocide, nearly 2 million killed (1975)
- Angola and Mozambique dominated by communists (1977)
- USSR invasion of Afghanistan (1979)
- Resistance of communism in Poland (1980)
- Invasion of Grenada Island by the US (1983)
- Mikhail Gorbachev takes over as Soviet Union leader (1985)
- Fall of communism in Europe, fall of Berlin Wall, and the Tiananmen Square incident (1989)
- Democratic Election in Nicaragua (1990)
- Formal ending of Cold war (1991)
- Countries that still are Communists: China, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea
The history of communism, as we can see, has been marked by some great political movements and wars.
The ideology of communism, though aimed for equality, has led to massive loss of life and property in the history of the world. The debate whether communism is effective or not is clouded by doubts when we look back into its history.
However, some nations still believe in it and follow it as their ideology. Hope this write-up has given you some idea about the most debated political movement in world history.