How Communism Works

By: Alia Hoyt  | 

Communist Theories and Principles

Marx believed that a truly utopian society must be classless and stateless. (It should be noted that Marx died well before any of his theories were put to the test.) Marx's main idea was simple: Free the lower class from poverty and give the poor a fighting chance. How he believed it should be accomplished, however, was another story. In order to liberate the lower class, Marx believed that the government would have to control all means of production so that no one could outdo anyone else by making more money. Unfortunately, that proves to this day to be more difficult than he might have realized.

Marx described three necessary phases toward achieving his idea of utopia.


  • Phase 1: A revolution must take place in order to overthrow the existing government. Marx emphasized the need for total destruction of the existing system in order to move on to Phase 2.
  • Phase 2: A dictator or elite leader (or leaders) must gain absolute control over the proletariat. During this phase, the new government exerts absolute control over the common citizen's personal choices — including his or her education, religion, employment and even marriage. Collectivization of property and wealth must also take place.
  • Phase 3: Achievement of utopia. This phase has never been attained because it requires that all noncommunists be destroyed in order for the Communist Party to achieve supreme equality. In a Marxist utopia, everyone would happily share property and wealth, free from the restrictions that class-based systems require. The government would control all means of production so that the one-class system would remain constant, with no possibility of any middle-class citizens rising back to the top. (You can see the full text of the manifesto at this website.)

Marx also detailed the 10 essential tenets of communism, namely:

  • Total abolition of private property
  • Heavy progressive income tax on everyone
  • Elimination of rights of inheritance
  • Property rights confiscation
  • State-centralized banking system
  • Government ownership of transportation and communication vehicles
  • Government ownership of agricultural means and factories
  • Equal liability on all to work
  • Combining agriculture with manufacturing industries; eventual redistribution of population around the country so as to equalize it
  • Free education for children in public schools; combine education with industrial production

In the communist society that Marx described, the government has supreme authority through its total control of land and means of production. Because the government distributes land and property among the people, communism sets a standard of equality — both economically and socially — among its followers.

"When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character," Marx wrote. "In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all."

The system seems to work in theory, but how did communism work in practice? Read on to learn about the rise of the first communist nation.