*DISCLAIMER: This essay was written for a political science class while I was still in college. It was written by a student with a lot to learn.
When communism was first thought up by Karl Marx, it was a new system supposed to bring about total equality to humanity. The rise of capitalism, due to the industrial revolution, created a large working class of people. These workers were often forced to work for barely livable wages and in dangerous working conditions.
The communists asked Marx to write up a plan that they could implement to bring about changes in policy. The communists were instantly divided into two philosophies, those who wanted to bring about slow changes through laws in the existing system, and those who wanted to bring about radical changes by over throwing the old system and implementing an entirely new order.
When the workers originally sat out to create the communist manifesto, their original intention was to improve working conditions for the laborers. They mostly wanted a world where each person “worked according to his ability and was rewarded according to his need.” The idea was basic needs would be met of all citizens and that everyone would be equal.
In order to make this happen they needed to take control of the production of goods in order to equally distribute those goods. They also needed to take control of the government in order to put their policies in place since most countries had laws protecting land owners. They also felt that they would do away with religion and unite the people together under a secular world view that would make everyone feel connected to one another and further reinforce the idea of total equality.
There were several reasons why the communist model failed to achieve what the visionaries had hoped. First of all people were not exactly ready to just abandon their faith. Another factor that led to challenges was the United States set an example by introducing safe working conditions, a minimum wage, anti-trust legislation, and other measures that were designed to bring about similar results without removing the personal freedoms that their citizens came to expect. This showed the leaders of the world that some reforms could be introduced into a capitalist system without the need of violence and without the need to sacrifice liberty.
Perhaps the most troubling factor that had the biggest impact was the tyranny that communists countries resorted to in order to maintain control of the people. The systems were put in place to make their lives better; instead what they got was a system that threatened their very way of life.
If you consider the model of the United States it becomes apparent that communism was not necessary to create better working conditions. The system that was developed in the early part of the twentieth century created a well off middle class society with enough disposable income to purchase commodities in large quantities. This increase in wages of the middle class created new demand for additional goods and created even more wealth.
The economy of the United States became the model of the western world where capitalism quickly became the dominant economic system. By creating a middle class system where the wealth is spread around naturally through competitive wages and fair taxation policies, the people of the United States were able to enjoy many of the envisioned benefits of the communist model, without having to sacrifice their individual liberties along the way. This provided a model for the rest of the world that would ultimately see the fall of communism for the most part near the end of the century.
The world has changed since the rise of capitalism and the fall of communism. Both systems proved to have their faults. The main fault with the communist system was the inability of the ruling class to take total control of the people. Human nature is to be free, and when a people are subjugated they tend to fight back eventually. The most glaring flaw then with the communist governments was in assuming that people would willingly trade freedom for equality, even perceived equality.
After it was all said and done the communist economies were no better off than they had been prior to implementing the policies.
Because of the long period of time that communism was allowed to reign, it is difficult to predict how much longer it will take to repair the scars left on their people. Only time will tell if the communists countries can ever recover and fully embrace the policies of the free market system, or if they will eventually revert to their previous ways.