A New World Order

The pros at the etymology desk ( What is etymology?) trace the word communism back to the French word communisme, which, in turn, stems from the French word commun, meaning common.

Were the French the first ones in history who came up with the idea of communism?

Absolutely not.
Ancient Greek philosopher
 Plato had already written about it.

Were the French the first ones in history who implemented a system of communism?

Not at all.


So why do we have the French at the root of the term communism?


The Origin of the Term Communism
The following is a quote from the 2002 book Communism in History and Theory - From Utopian Socialism to the Fall of the Soviet Union by Donald F. Busky.

As for the word communism, London Owenite
* (John) Goodwyn Barmby (1820-1881) claimed in 1848 to have first coined the word in 1840.

*= By the way, what is an Owenite?
An Owenite is a follower of Robert Owen, who was from Wales and lived 1771 - 1858. Owen was a social reformer who for example bought a stretch of land in Indiana, U.S., named it New Harmony, and had people living and working there together while sharing their goods. These kind of ideas were called utopian socialism which was a big hit in the 19th century. Back to quote.

He was on a visit to Paris at the time. He described how the word came to him. It was while discussing ideas with some of the disciples of French revolutionary
Francois Noel "Gracchus" Babeuf that Barmby wrote, "I also conversed [in 1840] with some of the most advanced minds of the French metropolis, and there in the company of some of the disciples of Babeuf, then called Equalitarians, I first pronounced the name Communism, which has since . . . acquired that world-wide reputation."

Barmby also may have been the first to use Communist in 1840. British socialist scholar G.D.H. Cole noted that we find the words used in his letters from Paris that year published in the Owenite journal The New Moral World.

However, Barmby, maybe been mistaken that he was the first to use the words communism and communist. Cole pointed out that how and when the word communism first came into use cannot be said for certain. In fact, they were first used in France among the Parisian revolutionists of the 1830s.

Barmby may have thought that he invented the words communism and communist, but he was mistaken. What Cole noted for the words socialism and socialist can also be said for the words communism and communist: that they were likely used in speech well before anyone thought to write them down.

Therefore, in all probability the word socialist was used by the 1820s, socialism by the 1830s, and communist and communism by the 1830s or 1840s. Albert S. Lindemann stated that the term communism appeared earlier than socialism. This may be so, although it has not been verified. Not until 1842 did Karl Marx use the word communism in print.

here you can buy Busky's book.

So there we have it. The French are at the root of the term communism because it was coined in France shortly after the
French Revolution, which was the ultimate French quest for alternatives to absolute monarchy.

Now, who was Babeuf?


The French and the Idea of Communism
Mentioned above by author Don Busky was the French revolutionary François-Noël Babeuf.

Babeuf disagreed with the Directory, which was the French Revolutionary government from 1795-1799. How come? Because in Babeuf's opinion, the goal of the French Revolution of 1789, i.e. Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, which means Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood, stood for something much more radical.

In particular, Babeuf argued that true equality could only be achieved if everybody had the same amount of money and the same share of property.

Babeuf and others got caught plotting against the government and people put him on the guillotine in 1797. Babeuf's idea, however, lived on and gained momentum throughout Europe, regardless of political boundaries.

And here is a map of Europe from around that time.

Europe 1815
Map of Europe in 1815
Click to enlarge


The Spread of the Communist Thought -

A Timeline of Communism

In France, the communist dream of Babeuf's friends and followers was rudely interrupted when Napoleon declared himself emperor in 1804.

In England, and as just read in the book quote above, Mr Barmby was proud to have been among the first who used the new terminology in 1840. (See Goodwyn Barmby in The Apostle No. i. 1848)

In 1842, Friedrich Engels became a communist.

Then Karl Marx blew everyone out of the water with his Communist Manifesto. The year? 1848.

Click picture to enlarge


In 1889, Lenin became a Marxist.

In 1892, Lunacharsky joined the Bolshevik party.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 made everyone look. Communism was made official national policy in the USSR.

In 1921, the Chinese Communist Party was founded.

After World War II followed the Cold War in which the Iron Curtain divided the two camps on a world map — pro and anti communism.

In 1948 and 1949, the Communists in China were on the roll. Here are the maps.

Map of China - Communist Offensives Sept-Nov 1948
1948 Sept-Nov - China: Communist Offensives
Click to enlarge

Map of China - Communist Offensives Nov 1948-Jan 1949
1948 November-January 1949 - China: Communist Offensives
Click to enlarge

Map of China - Communist Offensives Apr-Oct 1949
1949 April-October - China: Communist Offensives
Click to enlarge

Outstanding communist stamina can be studied in the case of
Fidel Castro.

Remarkable skill in dissolving communism can be studied in the case of Mikhail Gorbachev.

What Is Communism? The Definition
In a nutshell, communism is a social system in which the community controls the economy and in which property is commonly owned.

 Plato went a step further and also advocated the sharing of spouses and children. Now I got your attention.

Communism is the opposite of capitalism.

What Is the Difference Between Communism and Socialism?
Communism is Socialism with extra zing.

Here is the more detailed answer phrased by Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman in their 1968 Introduction to Socialism.

What is the difference between Socialism and Communism?

Socialism and communism are alike in that both are systems of production for use based on public ownership of the means of production and centralized planning. Socialism grows directly out of capitalism; it is the first form of the new society. Communism is a further development or higher stage of socialism.


The Communists believe that as soon as the working class and its allies are in a position to do so they must make a basic change in the character of the state; they must replace capitalist dictator­ship over the working class with workers dictatorship over the capitalist class as the first step in the process by which the existence of capitalists as a class (but not as individuals) is ended and a class­less society is eventually ushered in. Socialism cannot be built merely by taking over and using the old capitalist machinery of government; the workers must destroy the old and set up their own new state apparatus. The workers state must give the old ruling class no opportunity to organize a counter-revolution; it must use its armed strength to crush capitalist resistance when it arises.

The Socialists, on the other hand, believe that it is possible to make the transition from capitalism to socialism without a basic change in the character of the state. They hold this view because they do not think of the capitalist state as essentially an institution for the dictatorship of the capitalist class, but rather as a perfectly good piece of machinery which can be used in the interest of whichever class gets command of it. No need, then, for the working class in power to smash the old capitalist state apparatus and set up its own. The march to socialism can be made step by step within the framework of the democratic forms of the capitalist state.

Why Are There Different Types of Communism?
Marx and Engels were the first who had given a full treatment of the subject in their Communist Manifesto. People took it from there and henceforth, the terms Communism and Marxism were used interchangeably.

Marxism was an idea, meaning Marx never tested his theory in the lab. Each time somebody tried to implement Marx' idea, the idea had to be adapted or enhanced according to the individual situation of that country, their citizens, and so on.

And of course, each interpreter of Marxism added their own two cents.

What Are the Different Versions and Variants of Communism?
The main categories are...

Developed and phrased by
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.


Marxism as interpreted by
Vladimir I. Lenin. Also called Marxism-Leninism.


Marxism as interpreted by
Joseph Stalin.


Marxism as interpreted by
Leon Trotsky.
Emphasis on the importance of revolutions all around the world.
Very much opposed to Stalin's interpretation of Marxism, which prompted Stalin to send an assassin after Trotsky.


Marxism as interpreted by
Rosa Luxemburg.
Luxemburg was against nationalism and for united international communism.

Marxism-Leninism as interpreted by
Mao Tse-Tung. Emphasis on agrarian revolution.

Fidelism / Castroism

Marxism as interpreted by
Fidel Castro.


The term anarchism stems from the Greek word anarchos, which means without authority. Property is commonly owned and equally distributed but no state or government should exist, because these institutions are by definition above the community and hence anti-communist.

Emma Goldman, also called Red Emma, was an anarchist.

Anarchism is Communism without Marxism. More here.

See also Forms of Governments.


What Is the Difference Between Marxism and Leninism?
View of Marxism:
1) The proletariat, which is the working class, should start a revolution that will ultimately lead to a communist state.
2) Most likely, this revolution will start in advanced capitalist countries, because they will have the highest amount of exploited, and thus dissatisfied, workers.

View of Leninism:
To 1) The workers can't get themselves organized for a successful revolution, the proletariat needs proper leadership. This leadership will be provided by the communist party, which will run a very tight ship. (see also
To 2) No way the proletariat of the rich countries will start the communist revolution, their lives are still too painless. It will be the proletariat of a poorer country, let's say... Russia.


What Is the Difference Between Marxism, Leninism, and Stalinism?
View of Marxism:
1) Everybody is equal.
2) The communist revolution must take place all over the world. Communists worldwide will support each other.

View of Leninism:
To 1) Everybody is equal but they need a group of leaders to guide them.
To 2) The communist revolution must take place all over the world and it starts in Russia.

View of Stalinism:
To 1) Everybody is equal but Stalin is God.
To 2) The communist revolution was successful in Russia, so screw the rest of the world. Except if the rest of the world could be used to protect Stalin's empire.


What Is Bolshevism?
Russia under the communist rule of the Bolsheviks, which started with the  Bolshevik Revolution of October (November) 1917.

What Is the Principal Literature of Communism?

A list of the main books, communist classics, recommended reading to understand the basics of Marxism.






Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei
(The Communist Manifesto)

Karl Marx and
Friedrich Engels



Das Kapital

Karl Marx



Sozialreform oder Revolution?
(Reform or Revolution)

Rosa Luxemburg



Chto delat?
(What Is To Be Done?)

Vladimir I. Lenin



Imperializm, kak vysshaya stadiya kapitalizma
(Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism)

Vladimir I. Lenin



Gosudarstvo i revolyutsiya
(The State and Revolution)

Vladimir I. Lenin



Collected Works

Mao Zedong



Detskaya bolezn "levizny" v kommunizme
("Left Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder)

Vladimir I. Lenin



The Permanent Revolution

Leon Trotsky


What Is War Communism?
War Communism is the name of the Bolsheviks' financial strategy from June 1918 until March 1921, essentially the time during which the Russian Civil War was fought.

The goal of this strategy was to switch the Russian economic system from imperialism to socialism. In practice, this transition exhausted the citizens.

The Bolsheviks had to pause the radical pursuit of their goals when people stopped cooperating in 1921. The strain was too much, the nation was starving and the inflation had gone through the roof.

A major indicator that people weren't able to take it anymore was the Kronstadt Rebellion in March 1921. The event was noted, although brutally crushed, by the Bolsheviks and it became clear to them that it was time to yield if they wanted to keep the upper hand.

Later in March of 1921, the Bolsheviks switched their economic policy from War Communism to the New Economic Policy (NEP). The NEP was in use until 1928 when Stalin became sick and tired of pussy-footing around.



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