communism

noun
com·​mu·​nism | \ ˈkäm-yə-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce communism (audio) , -yü- \

Definition of communism

1a : a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed
b : a theory advocating elimination of private property
2 capitalized
a : a doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the official ideology of the Soviet Union
b : a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production
c : a final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably
d : communist systems collectively

Frequently Asked Questions About communism

What is the difference between communism and socialism?

English speakers generally use the word communism to talk about 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, controlled a society’s economic and social activities with the goal of realizing Marx’s theories. Socialism refers to a system of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control. The conception of that control has varied significantly over time. In the modern era, "pure" socialism has been seen only rarely and usually briefly in a few Communist regimes.

What exactly is communism?

When it was first used in the mid-19th century, communism referred to an economic and political theory that advocated the elimination of private property and the common sharing of all resources among a group of people; in this use, it was often used interchangeably with the word socialism. Today, the word communism usually refers to the political and economic ideologies originating from 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.

What countries are communist?

The countries of China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, and North Korea are the existing countries typically identified as being communist.

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
Recent Examples on the Web Sherman thinks that Putin’s motivation today is mainly maintaining his grip on power within Russia, not the previous generation’s ideological struggle between communism and capitalism. Scott Nover, Quartz, 13 Apr. 2022 Their mutual interests have included the free flow of oil and fighting the spread of communism and extremist groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS. CNN, 31 Mar. 2022 As a child, Wolynetz fled Ukraine with her family to escape communism and spent four years at a displacement camp in Germany. Washington Post, 25 Apr. 2022 McCarthyism had given conservatives a populist makeover by linking anti-communism to the campaign against big government. Timothy Shenk, The New Republic, 12 Apr. 2022 The first two described an apocalyptic image of hell, foretold the end of World War I and the start of World War II, and the rise and fall of Soviet communism. Nicole Winfield, ajc, 25 Mar. 2022 Kochiyama was a Japanese-American activist for communism and racial equality during the 20th century. Fox News, 25 Mar. 2022 Raised during communism, Zelenskyy went into politics months before the 2019 election with no prior experience or solid policies. NBC News, 25 Feb. 2022 Four years later, his family fled the country to escape communism and eventually landed in Toronto. New York Times, 14 Feb. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'communism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of communism

1840, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

History and Etymology for communism

French communisme, from commun common

Learn More About communism

Time Traveler for communism

Time Traveler

The first known use of communism was in 1840

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near communism

communise

communism

communist

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for communism

Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Communism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/communism. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for communism

communism

noun
com·​mu·​nism | \ ˈkä-myə-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce communism (audio) \

Kids Definition of communism

: a social system or theory in which property and goods are held in common

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!