Definition of communism
1a : a theory advocating elimination of private propertyb : a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed
2 capitalized a : a doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the official ideology of the U.S.S.R.b : a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of productionc : a final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitablyd : communist systems collectively
Examples of communism in a sentence
On one side stood Hitler, fascism, the myth of German supremacy; on the other side stood Stalin, communism, and the international proletarian revolution. —Anne Applebaum, New York Review of Books, 25 Oct. 2007
… I grew up in an idyllic midwestern town in the 1950's, when America was obsessed with the threat of communism. In Lawrence, Kansas, people felt the cold war as something real and very close. In the first grade, my teacher pointed to a giant orange blob on the map. That was Russia, Mrs. Postma announced. They were bigger than we were, and they were out to destroy us. —Sara Paretsky, Booklist, 1 May 2003
Like me, he has lived his adult life in the context of the cold war. He was … in some sense always justified, at the back of his mind, by a concept of freedom, of America, that took sharpness from contrast with Communism. —John Updike, New York Times Book Review, 5 Aug. 1990
Communism is a religion of the state, committed to the extinction of the Church. —Flannery O'Connor, The Habit Of Being, 1979
communism, socialism, capitalism, and democracy
Communism is one of our top all-time lookups, and user comments suggest that’s because it is often used in opaque ways. In some sources, communism is equated with socialism; in others, it is contrasted with democracy and capitalism. Part of this confusion stems from the fact that the word communism has been applied to varying political systems over time. When it was first used in English prose, communism referred to an economic and political theory that advocated the abolition of private property and the common sharing of all resources among a group of people, and it was often used interchangeably with the word socialism by 19th-century writers. The differences between communism and socialism are still debated, but generally English speakers used communism to refer to the political and economic ideologies that find their origin in Karl Marx’s theory of revolutionary socialism, which advocates a proletariat overthrow of capitalist structures within a society, societal and communal ownership and governance of the means of production, and the eventual establishment of a classless society. The most well-known expression of Marx’s theories is the 20th-century Bolshevism of the U.S.S.R., in which the state, through a single authoritarian party, controls a society’s economy and social activities with the goal of realizing Marx’s theories.
Communism is often contrasted with capitalism and democracy, though these can be false equivalencies depending on the usage. Capitalism refers to an economic theory in which a society’s means of production are held by private individuals or organizations, not the government, and where prices, distribution of goods, and products are determined by a free market. It can be contrasted with the economic theories of communism, though the word communism is used of both political and economic theories. Democracy refers to a system of government in which supreme power is vested in the people and exercised through a system of direct or indirect representation which is decided through periodic free elections. Democracy is contrasted with communism primarily because the 20th-century communism of the U.S.S.R. was characterized by an authoritarian government, whereas the democracy of the 20th-century U.S. was characterized by a representative government.
Origin and Etymology of communism
French communisme, from commun common
First Known Use: 1840
COMMUNISM Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of communism for English Language Learners
: a way of organizing a society in which the government owns the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) and there is no privately owned property
COMMUNISM Defined for Kids
Definition of communism for Students
: a social system or theory in which property and goods are held in common
Seen and Heard
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