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Communism is a political movement striving to create a moneyless, classless, and stateless society known as a communist society or full communism. Communism as it’s used today was described by Karl Marx and Frederich Engels in 1848 as written in the Communist Manifesto. Communists that follow the ideas of Marx and Engels are known as Marxists. Many communist leaders have been credited for contributing their own ideas and theory to communism, most notably the revolutionaries Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong. Marxism-Leninism was codified by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and is the primary political ideology employed by countries such as China and Cuba. Marxism-Leninism was also employed by many countries during the Cold War, such as the Soviet Union and East Germany.
The term “communism” has been in use since the late 18th century. However, the modern interpretation of it was developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels when they wrote the Communist Manifesto. In 1917, the Bolsheviks initiated the October Revolution in the former Russian Empire, forming the Russian Soviet Federalist Socialist Republic, the first socialist state. This later evolved into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (known as the USSR or Soviet Union), lead by Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. After Lenin’s death, Joseph Stalin rose to power and industrialized the economy. A famine known as the Holodomor broke out in the Soviet Union in 1932, which claimed millions of lives, the specific number still highly disputed today. The Soviets were later involved in World War 2, after which rising to be one of two global superpowers alongside the United States.
The People’s Republic of China was formed in 1949, lead by Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong employed Marxism-Leninism while attributing his own theory in an effort to better apply it to China’s unique characteristics. His attributions were later codified into Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, or more broadly Mao Zedong Thought. While China today is still nominally Marxist-Leninist, whether or not it is in fact a socialist state is highly disputed.
Contemporary countries described as communist include China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and Venezuela.
Communism as a movement has been criticized since its inception. Common modern arguments against communism involve the living conditions and decline of 20th century socialist states, as well as modern examples such as North Korea and Venezuela. The Holodomor of the USSR and Great Leap Forward of China are often cited, which collectively claimed tens of millions of lives. However, proponents of Communism claim that this is not the fault of Communism itself, rather mismanagement, poor luck, or Western intervention.
As communism is one of the most hotly-debated topics in the 20th and 21st centuries, various internet memes and sarcastic criticisms of communism have been created, including various subreddits, websites, and countless memes.