The foremost work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, was first published in 1848 and introduced a new revolutionary movement that pioneered a money less, classless, and stateless society. The Communist Manifesto garnered much bad rap for its idealist views but it cannot be negated that it did revolutionize the ideas of politics at the time. Fast forward 165 years and the effects of the Communist Manifesto can still be seen today. In 2013 there exist five official communist countries which include Laos, Cuba, Vietnam, China, and North Korea. The former considered by many to also be a communist country but actually defines its state ideology to be Marxism-Leninism, a communist offshoot based on the ideas of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Through analyzing communism in the five main countries that embrace the ideology, we can begin to see how the Communist Manifesto has impacted the world today.
The Communist Party of China was first formed in 1921 but did not gain control of the government until 1947 after a revolution led by Mao Zedong. The newly communist China gained much of its new ideas from the communist Soviet Union where heavy industries and surpluses took greater importance than consumer goods. Although China became highly industrialized, many of the poor still starved to death and a cultural revolution ensued that was crushed by the ruthless Mao. Deng Xiaoping, the leader of China after Mao’s death, instituted a form of “market socialism,” which helped China become the world power it is. The current constitution of China was created in 1982 and has been revised several times since. The constitution allows free speech, press, worship, right to trial, and right to own private property. Sadly, many of these rights have not been applied and the government in China is considered very corrupt. When looking at the communist manifesto, it can be seen that the Chins is not money less, classless, and a stateless country, and private property still exists, all things the Communist Manifesto battled against.
Revolutionary Fidel Castro led a group of guerrilla fighter s and staged a revolution in 1953. He was initially imprisoned but was able to leave to exile in Mexico and was able to build up a small amount of troops who began to harass Cuban police in the late 50’s. Eventually, Batista, the president of Cuba, fled the nation and Castro came into power. 1961 marks the year in which the ties between the United States and Cuba were severed and from there the economy of the new communist country deteriorated, and the farmers became the slaves of the state. Today, the Communist Party of Cuba is known for retaining a stricter adherence to the traditional Marxism- Leninism Soviet model than other communist countries and is considered to be more tied to the concept of socialism than other ruling parties. Although a developing country, Cuba has a high life expectancy of 78 and a 99.8% literacy rate. Although it may have these positive statistics, Cuba is a country known for its brutal treatment of political dissent and in 2003 the European Union accused Cuba of “continuing flagrant violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms”. Like China, it can be seen that Cuba is not money less, classless, and a stateless country, and private property still exists.
In 1975, Communist forces successfully overthrew the monarchy of Laos. The Communist forces brought in years of isolation but in the 90’s through tentative reforms, Laos began to open up. Such efforts failed and the country is one of the poorest countries in the newly emerging economies of East Asia. Although communist, Laos has taken small steps to bring in more liberal policies into the economy such as opening the first stock market of the country in the capital of Vientiane. Although small steps have been taken the country still relies heavily on foreign aid from more wealthy Asian countries. Although the Communist Manifesto championed the destruction of social and economic classes, the country still has a large gap between the rich and poor which is illustrated in the fact that most of the people outside of the capital live without electricity and other basic human necessities. The human rights record of Laos has repeatedly come under scrutiny and it is known that dissent is dealt harshly by the countries authorities. Although this country claims to be Communist, like the two countries above, it does not follow Marx’s and Engel’s criteria.
Vietnam, nestled between the communist country of Laos, and the South China Sea, is itself a communist nation. After the brutal failure of the Vietnam war, North and South Vietnam finally unified in 1975 when the Communist north took over the South to the chagrin of the many U.S. and French forces who had worked tirelessly to defeat the communists. Although one of south-east Asia’s fastest-growing economies and already projected to become a developed nation by 2020, the country has struggled to keep its inflation rate in check, which approached 20% near the end of 2011. Many Vietnamese in the country have begun to protest for more liberal government policies but the Communist Party of Vietnam, which is also the only party, refuses to give up its grasp on political power in the country. Vietnam cannot even be considered a true communist country by Marx and Engel’s criteria and the cries for liberal reforms further separates the policies of Vietnam from the Communist Manifesto’s original ideas.
The last of the communist nations still existent in the world, and considered by many to be the most secretive of all, North Korea comes in last in our list of Communist nations. Rising from the utter chaos following the end of World War II, the modern history of North Korea is shaped by the mysterious Kim II-sung, who ruled as sovereign leader for almost 50 years. The economy of North Korea is very dilapidated due to natural disasters and poor planning on the part of the government. Unfortunately, up to 2 million citizens of North Korea have died from starvation and natural disasters since the mid-1990’s. Like Laos, North Korea heavily relies on foreign countries to provide aid to feed its population. Like all the other countries on this list, the totalitarian state of North Korea has been accused many times of numerous human rights abuses and reports have risen of torture, slave labor, public executions, and many more atrocities in the country. Like the last 4 communist countries of the world, North Korea is certainly not classless, money less, stateless, and without private property.
After seeing the hard facts that the last 5 remaining communist countries in the world are not even communist when sized up to the criteria of the Communist Manifesto, we ask ourselves why this is. Seen as one of the most revolutionary writings of our modern times, the Communist Manifesto is also a largely idealistic writing. Maybe the idealistic goals set up by Marx and Engels for a perfect society are unattainable goals for countries, maybe we as humans are too corrupt and selfish to accept a society in which money, class, and the state cease to exist. Originally, Marx and Engels hoped that after a revolution was staged the leaders of said revolution would step down and from there positions and usher in a new age of communist policies and the likes in the country. By analyzing the indisputable facts of history, it can be seen that after the initial revolution, the leaders became too power hungry and refused to step down, thus eliminating any chances of even starting a successful communist state. The Communist Manifesto presented incredibly venerable ideas, but human nature is too complicated, unpredictable, selfish, and overly power hungry to be able to accept the idealistic nature of the Manifesto, perhaps this is the reason why all the communist nations to exist have either disappeared completely or are on the urge of failure. If Marx and Engels were able to visit our modern age, they would be disappointed to see what an utter downfall their ideas have experienced when applied to a country and not the theoretical musings of two brilliant philosopher’s minds.
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