Could Communism Work Today?

There is a remarkable answer to this question by a responder in Quora. I find it quite logical except that the idealists of the communist movement overestimated the human factor. If human beings behaved as they morally ought to, perhaps communism would have worked.

I copy paste the response to make it easier for my readers to get the gist of the response.


Communism works—and has long worked—on the level of family. In a “normal” family, parents give to each other and to their kids according to their capacities and skills, often without expecting anything in return. Kids receive care according to their needs, often not giving anything in return. There’s an implicit promise that they will switch the roles when the parents get old and sick, and the kids become breadwinners. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is a Communist principle.

The system often malfunctions. Negligent parents and thankless kids are the stuff of a zillion tales, stories and soap operas. Amazingly, however, the arrangement reproduces itself generation after generation. It also inspires a powerful dream of extending the arrangement to the entire society. Every attempt to do it has down like a lead balloon—yet the dream resurfaced generation after generation.

Much of the Communist principle is also reproduced in faith-based communities (e.g., monasteries) and altruistic or idealistic organizations. Relief workers and their backers who distribute food and necessities in areas of distress help people out of charity. The recipients are not expected to give something back, apart from the implicit expectation that they in turn will lend a hand to others in need when the occasion arises.

The cartoon below is from a Soviet satirical magazine in the 1970s. The wife says to her husband: “You need to find a second job. Our kid has grown; he’s got a lot of advanced needs”. The reluctance of younger Soviet generations to sacrifice themselves in accordance with to the austere commandments of Communist ideology caused much chagrin to Soviet rulers during the sunset years of the USSR.”

14 thoughts on “Could Communism Work Today?”

  1. I am reminded that true communism taught that the family was a bourgeoisie corruption. Instead, the women should be common property of the men, who alone constituted the commune, and the children were to be raised jointly. Modern feminism reverses this formula, making the men common property of the women, and the children are to be raised by the state.
    Looney recently posted..On Teaching Young Men To Be Men

    1. Just to revise this a bit, we must consider what the word “works” means in the context of “communism works”. The cynical side of me says that communism almost always “works” brilliantly. The aggrieved will always look for a savior, and a con-artist will always offer himself in that role. Thus, communism is always a ready made formula that is guaranteed to “work”, at least for the con-artist.
      Looney recently posted..On Teaching Young Men To Be Men

    2. I simply found the answer fascinating. The ideology or the economics of Communism did not play any part in my fascination. All the more because the writer Dima Vorobiev, claims to have worked for Soviet Propaganda.

  2. Communism will never work – the “people” will always work harder when they are benefitting directly from their own efforts. Socialism, however, can and does succeed because it is a system that understands that basic fact. Social democracies are viable entities but I think they work best in smaller environments /countries. In our system, I suppose it might be possible on a state level for social democracies to work but it would require a herculean effort. We have states whose economies are among the world’s largest.

    Then there is the matter of faith/religion in communist societies. The state does not like any competition for the people’s loyalty.
    shackman recently posted..Comfort Zone (सुविधा क्षेत्र) 2-on-1 #17

    1. I am not a fan of communism Shackman. If anything, quite the contrary. I simply found the answer fascinating. The ideology or the economics of Communism did not play any part in my fascination. All the more because the writer Dima Vorobiev, claims to have worked for Soviet Propaganda.

  3. We choose how and why we work. I’m one who don’t think pure communism, facism and capitalism would work. I guess anything with a dictatorship calling the shoot doesn’t work. and it doesn’t matter the political philososphy backing it.
    Coffee is on
    peppylady (Dora) recently posted..Now A Dinging thoughts.

    1. I worked for wages for 46 years and my own business for five years. I simply happened to be at the right time in the right places throughout and strongly believe that it was destiny that gave me those opportunities.

  4. Not likely. No matter what the system some people will try to take advantage of it. They tried it in Jamestown and gave it up:

    The result of this communism was what we might expect: each individual gained only a negligible amount of goods from his own exertions — since the fruit of all these went into the common store — and hence had little incentive to work, or to exercise initiative or ingenuity under the difficult conditions in Virginia. And this lack of incentive was doubly reinforced by the fact that the colonist was assured, regardless of how much or how well he worked, of an equal share of goods from the common store. Under such conditions, with the motor of incentive gone from each individual, even the menace of death and starvation for the group as a whole — and even a veritable reign of terror by the governors — could not provide the necessary spur for each particular man.

    Cheerful Monk recently posted..Fire Season

    1. The last democratically elected Communist government in the world operates in India. Electors just threw out another one two months ago and swung completely the other way by electing a right wing nationalist government. I am not in favour of either communism or socialism having operated within both systems. I am a libertarian moderated by concern by choice. I simply found the answer fascinating. The ideology or the economics of Communism did not play any part in my fascination. All the more because the writer Dima Vorobiev, claims to have worked for Soviet Propaganda.

  5. this post and the responses are so interesting rummy.
    when in high school that last year and our exchange student was from Sweden
    i remember her rather defensively saying that “we have socialized medicine but we are NOT communists!” i wasn’t even aware of all the various differences then between all the isms. i was reading what formed my future.
    i was personally deep into Thoreau and his life at Walden Pond. i didn’t read Civil Disobedience until much later. 🙂
    i think these governments like Denmark and Sweden and small populated countries like them have a better chance at Socialism. even Marxism. but Communism to me breeds discontent always. for reasons that Shack gave.
    and really just as Capitalism breeds discontent.
    if we ever find out why people have to be Envious And Greedy we could pursue a different way perhaps. capitalism for me is anathema.
    it’s the “i want what you have. and i’ll get it.” the more is better mentality.
    everything is based on keeping the masses discontent. it’s never enough.
    and when Greed is in the hands of big corporations and government… well.
    any ‘ism’ is bound to work poorly. except for those in power.
    the “let them eat cake!” and “Screw the planet. I’ve got MINE!” mentality.
    uh oh. i think i might have digressed all over the place in this crazy reply.
    just pick your fight. i’m like a fly in a roomful of ice cream cones.
    tammy j recently day rain

    1. Your digressing all over the place is most welcome as it gave me an opening into your way of thinking about the matter. You must try and find something about India’s tryst with socialism before the nineties of the last century and post nineties India.

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