How Communism Works

By: Alia Hoyt

The Spread of Communism

Chinese plainclothes paramilitary police officers patrol above the huge portrait of late communist leader Mao Zedong displayed at the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing.
Chinese plainclothes paramilitary police officers patrol above the huge portrait of late communist leader Mao Zedong displayed at the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing.

Communism wasn't contained inside the Soviet Union. As Marx's tenets had instructed, it had be to spread worldwide to achieve utopia. Some countries had adopted communism to help realize that goal, including:

  • Warsaw Pact Nations: Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Poland and Hungary (communist from about 1945 to 1991). The Warsaw Pact was a military treaty signed by these countries and Russia. In short, it guaranteed that they would come to each other's aid if targeted by another country.
  • Yugoslavia (1945 - 1992)
  • North Vietnam (1954 - 1976, although still technically communist following the unification of Vietnam)
  • Yemen (1969 - 1990)
  • Somalia (1969 - 1991)
  • Cambodia (1975 -1989)

It's interesting to note that the communist governments in all of these countries (except North Vietnam) collapsed right around the same time as the Soviet Union, which was a huge support to the smaller countries.


If Stalin had his way, communism would have become much more widespread, especially in the West. In the 1930s, he enacted a plan to overtake this region with furious industrial development. His hope was that Russia would become such a military powerhouse that it would stand up to the other powerful nations, especially the United States. His efforts fell short, and as we've learned, the Soviet Union slowly fell apart due to these economic disadvantages.

However, communism does have a presence in the United States today. The Communist Party USA supports political candidates in local elections. In fact, the group has even supported a presidential candidate as recently as 1984. The group advocates the end of the working class's exploitation and oppression. Ultimately, the party hopes to implement a socialist society where all people will benefit from the wealth present in the United States.

Communism also rose to power in the following nations, where it is still alive today:

  • China, since 1949
  • Cuba, since 1959
  • Vietnam, since 1976
  • North Korea, since 1948
  • Laos, since 1975

Home to more than 20 percent of the world's population (1.3 billion people), China is one of the world's most prominent communist governments. Mao Zedong, China's dictator, launched and raised the communist government in China, employing many of Stalin's tactics.

In addition to the death camps Mao instituted to combat Chinese counter-revolutionaries, he also developed a plan called the Great Leap Forward, which forced collectivization of agriculture. Peasants were ushered into communes when Mao seized their property. They were forced into slave labor, and personal ties they had to their families and former lives were severed. Mao also forced mass industrialization, which, coupled with the extremes of forced agricultural collectivization, killed somewhere around 16.5 million to 40 million Chinese from 1957 to 1961. He also ordered the executions of Communist Party members during his tenure [source: University of Chicago Chronicle].

Today, China's government encourages capitalist ventures, which has resulted in a greatly improved economy. China boasts a huge manufacturing industry, churning out toys, furniture, electronics and other products. Despite these gains, the government remains extremely dictatorial in nature, exerting authority over censorship and other basic civil liberties. Human rights activists are regularly harassed, prisoners are detained without a trial and censorship abounds [source: Amnesty International].

To learn more about communism and communist nations, past and present, follow the links below.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • BBC News. Asia-Pacific Country Profiles. Timeline: Laos.
  • "China." Amnesty International.
  • Cold War Timeline.
  • Profile of Kim Il Sung.
  • Communist Party USA.
  • Eaton, William J. "Gorbachev's Rise to Power." Los Angeles Times. 12 March 1985 (12 February 208).
  • "Fidel Castro." New York Times. 19 Feb 2008.
  • Harms, William. "China's Great Leap Forward." University of Chicago Chronicle. 14 March
  • Karnow, Stanley. "The TIME 100: Ho Chi Minh." TIME. 9 February 2008.
  • "Made in China: China's boom creates opportunities, problems." Current Events, a Weekly Reader publication. 107, 4. 1 October 2007 (12 February 2008).
  • Museum of Communism.
  • "One Castro for Another.",2933,331448,00.html
  • Submarine and Cold War History: Cold War Timeline. Smithsonian Institution Museum of American History.
  • University of Washington, Department of History.
  • Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
  • Wolcott,Martin, Gilman. "The Evil 100." Citadel Press, 2004.