Most individuals refer to the former USSR as a "communist" nation, but, in reality, it was only a "socialist" nation with a high level of governmental control in all areas of its citizens' lives.
Have there been any true "communist" nations as Marx envisioned?


(I am not certain of whether I use established English terminology here).

The answer is no, because in a communist state (as described by Marx), there are no markets, especially, markets for production factors. And in none of the countries that implemented a socialistic socio-economic system, was labor "directly socialized" -it continued to be considered as owned by each worker individually, and it was priced, bought and sold. And it doesn't matter how this was done, i.e. of whether the wages were determined through some market mechanism or decreed by the state. All it matters is that labor was still private property.


No. Importantly, the conditions for the creation of a Marxist communist state has never occurred. Namely, the identification of workers along class lines over nationalist lines. Soviet totalitarian communism insisted upon socialist 'brotherhood', but this was mandated rather than organically occurring.


I think an excellent example of communist societies would be small tribal societies, before the industrial revolution. Means of production were generally shared and workers generally worked to benefit the societal unit which worked because individual societies generally small and tribal.

In modern day industrialized society I think the answer is probably no given the difficulty of convincing workers to not take the whole fruits of their labor and instead share it with the rest of society, most of whom they will never meet.


“Communism” in Marx’s writing can indicate one of two social relations of being:

  • “FULL COMMUNISM” being some end state of human expression underwritten by lack of want; and,
  • lower communism, or “socialism,” where the value form has been abolished as a social relationship by a self emancipating and self abnegating proletariat (it is busy destroying the wage and capital, and thus itself)

The first has never existed. “Primitive communism” is an entirely different category rooted in appropriation of the environment at band and tribal scales.

Whether the second has existed is a fraught historical question. We’re going to deal with it in three points: substitutionalism, historical material dialectic, and tenuousness and modes of production.

Substitutionalism is the social practice of groups within or outside of the working class substituting themselves for the position of the entire working class. Some organisations, such as those inspired by Lenin have this as a strategy. Others, such as anarchist inspired armed movements have it as an unconscious practice as a result of, for example, shooting bosses. In both cases these groups are acting for, not as, the working class. A state or chaos that claims to be abolishing the value form is not necessarily doing so. We thus must discount the claims of any state or agency to be implementing socialism, and look at their actual historical practice in material relations, and the dialectical manner in which forces contest with each other. It isn’t what you say: it’s whether everybody is actually no longer working for wages.

In the historical material dialectic no agency is “total.” Capitalism is a process which is never complete. There is always a seven year old to subject to wage labour. There is always a new commodity to invent for sale. There is always capital to expand or devalorise. Correspondingly socialism is not an end state, but a process. The process is one of workers forming deeper solidarity and stopping wage labour, the commodity and capital as social relationships. Every “sick” day. Every shop lifting. Every freebie. Every sabotage. Every strike. Every union (even the “bad” ones). Every closer union in culture, politics, distribution or production. Every factory occupation hung. Every council of workers put to a wall and shot. Each of these processes is socialism coming into being as a new form of human relationships. Are some stronger than others? Yes: capitalism repeatedly failed in China and Europe. Socialism has repeatedly failed. The 1917-1919 Russian workplace soviets were less advanced than the 1956 Hungarian councils. In Hungary they took state power with delegated leaderships of workers from the job. In Russia geographic councils of intelligentsia took power on behalf of workers. But none of these have ever achieved a mode of production, all have been drowned in blood within revolution, and in heartbreak and commodities without revolution.

A mode of production is a self-sustaining system of economic relations where people replicate themselves and their relations generation to generation with an increasing density or volume of whatever constitutes “property.” No group of workers have maintained self control over a vast majority of an economy while seriously and immediately abolishing wage commodity capital. It has barely lasted three years in the best cases. But as recognised above “absolutes” aren’t appropriate analysis. Working class cultures and communities have maintained and expanded cultures and material relations within capital that seek to abolish wage commodity capital, even while they work within that relationship. Workers coops for distribution have lasted three plus generations. Mondragon might be workers whipping themselves, but they’re not broke yet. Villages and suburbs have controlled to limited extents the rate of exploitation, and produced grey and black markets of solidarity lasting over generations.

So no: Full nor lower communism have neither been achieved, however, the working class communist movement has a long history of actually trying, with notable and limited advances. Many of which were strangled in the crib, or privatised later.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.