MAHFUZ R. CHOWDHURY
The socio-economic system that we used to live in was known as capitalism, where people could use their private properties for their personal gain. With the advent of the industrial revolution in the late eighteenth century, the exploitation of the labor class under capitalism became very prominent. To counter this, communism then proposed policies for achieving economic progress and equality for everyone by eliminating personal property rights and exploitation. Thus, economic prosperity under communism was to be achieved through its central planning system.
For sure, communist ideas had attracted attention. Many even thought the communist system would be a viable one. But in the end, the system couldn’t deliver what it had promised. So communism had to surrender to capitalism. Today, the communist system, as we knew it, is no longer in practice in the world, except possibly in North Korea.
There are lots of books and articles written on why communism couldn’t succeed. I was mostly inspired to write this article to show what, if anything, we have learned from the failed system. Well, if the communist system was a bad system, why have the capitalist countries decided to adopt so many of its ideas? Although we may have disliked or disagreed with the workings of the system, we couldn’t somehow ignore the benefits of some of the communist ideas. I have tried to point out here what kinds of communist ideas capitalism has adopted.
The rise and fall of communism in the twentieth century was a very momentous event for the world! At the height of its power, communism had directly or indirectly influenced almost half of the world. It all began with the establishment of a communist regime in Russia in 1917. Within the next four decades of the Russian Revolution, communism swept through Eastern Europe, China, and parts of South East Asia, and established itself as a formidable force against capitalism. Russia, having formed the Soviet Union with some of its neighboring countries, emerged as a communist military super power against the capitalist super power – the United States. At one time, Russia along with China, was involved in bitter proxy fights with the United States in Korea and Vietnam. Though Vietnam was a complete loss, the United States somehow managed to hold on to the southern half of Korea. Though there is an armistice, the United States is still technically in war with North Korea.
As noted, the communist system itself set out with a big bang on a clear mandate to establish a classless society with equality and opportunity for all. The achievement of such a promising society was to be made without practicing any kind of exploitation where goods and services would be freely exchanged based on need. The communist doctrine had attracted many followers, especially in the developing countries. But, about the time when people began to believe that the communist system was here to stay, cracks within the system started to appear. First, there was the policy difference between Russia and China on the approach to communism – Russia had taken a conciliatory approach of peaceful co-existence with capitalism, which China opposed. This was followed by serious internal dissent in both countries.
In the end, the system faltered, and communism practically surrendered to capitalism. The communist parties, which are still in power, have all embraced capitalist policies in some modified ways. What went wrong with such a promising system, and what may be the legacy of communism? Economics may shed some light on such questions.