What is communism?

Dora Longo Bahia. 13. Escalpo Paulista, 2005 Acrylic on fiber cement 210 x 240 cm


The main reason for the growth of curiosity about communism is capitalism itself.

Among the “what is it” questions asked on Google Brazil, the one that grew the most this year was “what is communism”. That's what Google's own survey revealed last week.[I]

Undoubtedly, such curiosity in the country is due, in part, to the demonization campaign carried out by Jair Bolsonaro and the late Olavo de Carvalho, who elected communism as “the” target of their ideological offensives.

But the main reason for the growth of curiosity about communism is capitalism itself. Yes, capitalism. Let's see: in the last three years alone (a) we have seen the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which claimed more than 6,6 million lives worldwide; (b) we are witnessing an increase in income concentration, where 2 thousand billionaires have more wealth than 4,6 billion people; (c) we feel the consequences of climate change in an increasingly drastic way, with prognoses that are not encouraging; (d) and we follow Russia's war against Ukraine, which revived the fear of a new world war.

Given this, it is natural for people to want to know an alternative to capitalism.


A specter roams (again) the world

No Communist Manifesto, 1848, Marx and Engels provocatively asked: “What opposition party has not been accused of being communist by its opponents in power? What opposition party, for its part, has not cast the infamous mark of communist on its opponents on the right or on the left?

In Brazil, bolsonaristas accuse parties like PT and PCdoB of being communist; Stalinists, on the other hand, say that the USSR under Stalin was communist... But, after all, what really is communism?

We can say that the word communism has two senses that are connected: (1) it is a political movement of workers; (2) and it is another way of organizing the production and distribution of wealth that would create, consequently, another way of living in society.

The two meanings start from the observation that capitalist society is divided between two powerful social classes: bourgeois and proletarians. Or, put another way, capitalists and workers. Two classes whose interests are completely antagonistic since the source of wealth for one of these classes comes from the exploitation of the labor force of the other.



Although it is treated as a synonym for communism, socialism and communism are not the same thing. When we talk about socialism, we are referring to a society with a mode of production that emerged from a workers' revolution, where there will still be a bourgeoisie and a state.

However, unlike what happens in capitalism, the State in socialism will not be controlled by the bourgeoisie, but by the workers who will impose a “dictatorship of the proletariat” on the bourgeoisie to prevent it from taking back power and exploiting them again. The reverse side of this coin is that this dictatorship over a handful of bourgeois will be a formidable democracy for millions of urban and rural workers and for the poor population.

In socialism, the means of production (industries, platforms, large tracts of land, large supermarkets, etc.) cease to be the private property of the capitalists and become collective property under the control of the workers' state. By establishing economic plans, workers will decide on “what”, “how”, “how much” and “when” to produce, meeting social needs and, of course, putting an end to waste. It is the end of market anarchy.

But to do so, socialism must go beyond national borders, driven by what Leon Trotsky called permanent revolution.



Communism is the evolution of socialism. In it, the State will have been extinguished, as well as the social classes that gave it life. Private ownership of land, industries and medicines will be vague memories, difficult even to be explained to future generations.

Competition among workers will be replaced by the most genuine cooperation, thus extinguishing the material basis of oppression such as racism and xenophobia. As a logical result of the scientific and technological development achieved, the working day will be reduced to a necessary minimum and will be decided and distributed by freely associated producers.

If today technological development turns against workers, producing more unemployment and intensifying work, in communism this will be radically different. The automation of work, for example, will be rationally used to increase the productivity of social wealth and offer free time for workers to develop their interests and vocations freely. Playing sports in the morning, working for three hours afterwards, acting in theater plays in the afternoon, enjoying a movie in the evening...

*Wagner Micah Damascene is professor of sociology at UNIRIO. Book author Racism, Slavery and Capitalism in Brazil: A Marxist Approach (mireveja) and leader of the National Secretariat for Blacks and Blacks of the PSTU.


[I] View: https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/colunas/painel/2022/12/o-que-e-comunismo-foi-a-pesquisa-do-tipo-que-mais-cresceu-no-google-do-brasil-em-2022.shtml.

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