Theory of ideal society.

The management of material resources should be a common enterprise of the whole society.

A communist society would be characterized by the absence of private property, classes based on economic possession, or any form of state. The term was loosely and strictly nonsensically applied to the state socialist regimes of Eastern Europe between 1917 and 1989.

Communism is thus a form of communalism.

David Miller et al., The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political Thought (Oxford, 1987)


Communism derives from the French communisme which developed out of the Latin roots communis and the suffix isme.[16]

Semantically, communis can be translated to “of or for the community” while isme is a suffix that indicates the abstraction into a state, condition, action, or doctrine. Communism may be interpreted as “the state of being of or for the community”. This semantic constitution has led to numerous usages of the word in its evolution. Prior to becoming associated with its more modern conception of an economic and political organization, the term was initially used in designating various social situations. The term ultimately came to be primarily associated with Marxism, most specifically embodied in The Communist Manifesto which proposed a particular type of communism.

One of the first uses of the word in its modern sense is in a letter sent by Victor d’Hupay to Restif de la Bretonne around 1785, in which d’Hupay describes himself as an auteur communiste (“communist author”).[17] Years later, Restif would go on to use the term frequently in his writing and was the first to describe communism as a form of government.[18] John Goodwyn Barmby is credited with the first use of the term in English, around 1840.[16]

Communism and socialism

Since the 1840s, communism has usually been distinguished from socialism. The modern definition and usage of the latter would be settled by the 1860s, becoming the predominant term over the words associationistco-operative and mutualist which had previously been used as synonyms. Instead, communism fell out of use during this period.[19]

An early distinction between communism and socialism was that the latter aimed to only socialise production, whereas the former aimed to socialise both production and consumption (in the form of free access to final goods).[20] By 1888, Marxists employed socialism in place of communism which had come to be considered an old-fashioned synonym for the former. It was not until 1917, with the Bolshevik Revolution, that socialism came to refer to a distinct stage between capitalism and communism, introduced by Vladimir Lenin as a means to defend the Bolshevik seizure of power against traditional Marxist criticism that Russia’s productive forces were not sufficiently developed for socialist revolution.[21] A distinction between communist and socialist as descriptors of political ideologies arose in 1918 after the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party renamed itself to the All-Russian Communist Party, where communist came to specifically refer to socialists who supported the politics and theories of Bolshevism, Leninism and later in the 1920s of Marxism–Leninism,[22] although communist parties continued to describe themselves as socialists dedicated to socialism.[19]

Both communism and socialism eventually accorded with the cultural attitude of adherents and opponents towards religion. In Christian Europe, communism was believed to be the atheist way of life. In Protestant England, the word communism was too phonetically similar to the Roman Catholic communion rite, hence English atheists denoted themselves socialists.[23] Friedrich Engels argued that in 1848, at the time when The Communist Manifesto was first published, “socialism was respectable on the continent, while communism was not”. The Owenites in England and the Fourierists in France were considered respectable socialists while working-class movements that “proclaimed the necessity of total social change” denoted themselves communists. This latter branch of socialism produced the communist work of Étienne Cabet in France and Wilhelm Weitling in Germany.[24] While democrats looked to the Revolutions of 1848 as a democratic revolution which in the long run ensured liberty, equality and fraternity, Marxists denounced 1848 as a betrayal of working-class ideals by a bourgeoisie indifferent to the legitimate demands of the proletariat.[25]

According to The Oxford Handbook of Karl Marx, “Marx used many terms to refer to a post-capitalist society—positive humanism, socialism, Communism, realm of free individuality, free association of producers, etc. He used these terms completely interchangeably. The notion that ‘socialism’ and ‘Communism’ are distinct historical stages is alien to his work and only entered the lexicon of Marxism after his death”.

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