Difference between Communism and Marxism

By: | Updated: Jun-14, 2021
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The world today is divided into two camps, capitalist and communist. The latter is controlled by a Marxist-Leninist government. Communist governments are currently found in almost all of Asia, Eastern Europe, and Cuba. The former is mainly found in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia. Both camps are underdeveloped countries and have experienced extreme poverty. Many people are not satisfied with the political systems that exist in their countries. However, Marxism and communism are very different from each other.

Summary Table

Communism Marxism
Centers on the creation of a classless society. More moderate than communism.
Government controls all economic activities. Does not control economic activities.
Prohibits private ownership of property and businesses. Allows for private ownership of property and businesses.


Difference between Communism and Marxism

Marxism is the body of political and economic theories and practices developed by Karl Marx, the 19th century economist and social theorist. The term “Marxism” is also used to refer to the movement associated with Marx’s name. “Marxism” is a term that covers a family of political ideologies, economic theories, and sociological concepts derived from the work of Karl Marx. In the years after Marx’s death in 1883, Marxism split into several branches. One of these branches was Russian Marxism or “Bolshevism”, which was founded by Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924). It is from this ideology that communism gets its roots.

Communism is a socio political movement whose ideology centers on a classless society structured upon common ownership of the means of production (the resources used to produce goods). At present, communism exists as an international social movement aimed at achieving an egalitarian society without social classes, money, or government through the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. Communism has developed into many different schools of thought and can be summarized as both an economic system and a political philosophy. Marxist communism (sometimes called scientific socialism) refers to particular movements in which communism appears as a particular stage of historical development.

Communism in the form of primitive communism was first practiced in tribal societies. These early societies lacked a formalized structure and any significant level of social stratification. In such societies, production was limited to natural resources which could be used directly to produce the necessities of life. In many tribal societies, for example, there was no formalized division of labor or government; all members of the tribe were essentially equal. Each member produced food and other necessities to sustain themselves and their families. When this type of society has a surplus, there is little incentive for any individual to work harder than others because all will benefit equally from any extra work done by one person or another. For this reason, primitive communism is considered a type of “primitive socialism”. The most famous example of primitive communism is found in hunter-gatherer tribes such as those found among some Native American peoples such as the Hopi and Iroquois tribes.

Early forms of communism also existed in ancient Greece (such as the system practiced by the Pythagoreans) and in ancient Rome. These societies had little to no social stratification, but their members did own slaves. Ancient Greece and Rome both had rudimentary economic systems, but neither society was based on private property.

Communism was also practiced in medieval monasteries. In these societies, members of the community (usually monks) contributed all of their possessions to the monastery and received sustenance from the monastery in return. These early forms of communism were intended to promote equality among all members of the community; they also allowed for self-sacrifice by any individual member for the good of others or for some greater religious goal. Modern communism is a much more radical ideology than its predecessors, however; it is characterized by anti-religious sentiment and it aims at creating a classless society through political action rather than spiritual goals.

Communism vs Marxism

Marxism and communism are both forms of socialism. They are also both based on the idea that the ownership of property and resources should be shared equally. But Marxism and communism differ in the way they control a country. Communism is more extreme than Marxism. It controls a country in an almost totalitarian manner.

The following are the characteristics of communism:

  1. The country is run by a single political party. All other parties are outlawed.
  2. The government controls all the economic activities of the country. Private ownership of property is not allowed. It controls production, trade, and distribution of goods and services. Production is based on the principle that each worker should be paid according to his or her needs and abilities, rather than according to his or her efforts or contribution to production.
  3. The government controls all information in the country through a single official news agency. It also censors everything published in the country, including private letters and diaries, to prevent any anti-government activities from being conducted or reported. Citizens are encouraged to spy on each other and report anyone who criticizes the government or tries to form an opposition party against it. Such persons are punished severely by imprisonment or death sentence without trial.

The following are the characteristics of Marxism:

  1. A Marxist government allows for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly as long as these freedoms do not threaten its power over the people in any way.
  2. The government allows for opposition parties to be formed. But at the same time, it tries to discourage public demonstrations against its policies or actions. It often uses police force to disperse these demonstrations and break up any large crowds that may form as a result of them.

43 The government tries to promote economic growth and improve living standards by allowing for private ownership of property and businesses, encouraging business investments, increasing foreign trade, creating new jobs, improving public services such as health care and education, and raising taxes on high-income earners so that more money can be spent on social programs such as unemployment insurance, pensions for retired workers, welfare payments for single mothers, and food stamps for the poor.

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