chapter  1
10 Pages

What was communism?

Karl Marx told workers they ‘had no country’: in other words, they had a common interest more important than the national loyalties that might otherwise have divided them. In 1917 the world’s first socialist state was established in the USSR on the basis of his teachings. And for more than seventy years, latterly in association with a group of states in Eastern Europe and Asia, it was governed on the basis of Marx’s belief that human labour was the only source of wealth, that productive resources should be owned by the people as a whole, and that the working class in capitalist as well as socialist countries would recognise their common interest in a form of shared ownership that would eventually extend across state boundaries. It was the longest attempt that has so far been made to place ‘an ideology in power’. What, in broad terms, was this ideology? And what role did it perform in the states that were committed to it?