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Communism. According to the generally accepted definition, communism is a classless and stateless socio-political system involving collective ownership of the means of production and consumer goods. An early form of this order can be found in the primitive clan system. Communism is also the name of the ideology and the movement that aims to bring about such an order in the future. Certain communist ideas can be found in ancient Greek philosophers, early Christianity, medieval sects and peasant rebellions, and utopian literature. The term communism was first used by the French utopian thinker E. Cabet in 1840. The Communist League, which existed from 1847 to 1852, was the first communist political organization. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels composed the Communist Manifesto for the league in 1848. Then, until 1917 there were no organizations bearing the name communist, and the term almost fell out of use. In 1918 the term acquired a particular meaning when the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party (Bolshevik) adopted the name Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik). Then, in 1919 the Communist International (Comintern) was set up. From that time communism became a separate political movement, distinct from socialism. Its aim is to overthrow capitalism by violent, revolutionary means and to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, which would bring about a Communist order. Since 1918 Communist parties have been founded in other countries. By 1980 there were 99 Communist parties around the world, with a membership of 75 million. Outside of the USSR, Eastern Europe, and the People's Republic of China there were eight million Party members.

Communist ideas were found among Russian political organizations in Ukraine: in the populist Kyiv Commune (1873), cells of Zemlia i Volia, Narodnaia Volia (1876–85), the South Russian Union of Workers (Odesa, 1875), the South Russian Workers' Union (Kyiv, 1880), and the Marxist Union of Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class (Kyiv and Katerynoslav, 1897). The Communist Manifesto appeared in Ukraine in the 1880s in Russian translation. In the 1890s students' and workers' circles in Kyiv, Katerynoslav, Odesa, and Kharkiv studied Marxist literature. In the 1900s much Communist literature was published in Ukraine, particularly in Odesa. The communist utopias of Atlantikus (K. Balodis), A. Bogdanov, and others were very popular. Only the utopian-moralizing and science-fictional aspects of the communist ideology entered Ukrainian literature: in Panas Myrny's Son (The Dream, 1905) and later Volodymyr Vynnychenko's Soniashna mashyna (The Solar Machine, 1928). Academic Marxism in Ukraine (Mykola Ziber) was not communist.

A spontaneous, Ukrainian-organized communist movement hardly ever existed. The Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) originated as a Russian organization, and it remained anti-Ukrainian in tendency. The Borotbists, the Ukrainian Communist party (Ukapisty), Vynnychenko's émigré Ukrainian Communist party, and other groups were not consistently Ukrainian Marxist-Communist organizations, but rather attempts to adapt to the Russian Bolshevik regime in Ukraine and to continue the struggle for independence under new circumstances. The Ukrainian national oppositions in the CPU, headed by Vasyl Shakhrai, Oleksander Shumsky, Mykola Khvylovy, and Mykola Skrypnyk, were more spontaneous, yet they too were mainly reactions to Moscow's policy. The basic conviction of the Ukrainian national Communists was that communism could be realized only in a national form, that in order to win the Ukrainian masses for communism their national aspirations had to be satisfied. This meant that communism in Ukraine should take the form of a Ukrainian communist state supporting the Ukrainian language and culture, books, schools, etc, and not an alien, strange, and hostile Russian form imposed on the masses. To make communism more palatable for the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian Communists demanded greater autonomy for the Ukrainian SSR, Ukrainization, and other measures. Moscow regarded these demands as symptoms of ‘nationalism’ and destroyed all Ukrainian national Communists during the 1930s. Although Ukrainian national communism had no influence abroad, its ideas were identical with those defended by the national Communist movements in such countries as Yugoslavia, Poland, and Hungary after the Second World War.

In the early 1920s Communist organizations were established in Galicia—the Communist Party of Western Ukraine—and in Transcarpathia—the Communist Party of Transcarpathian Ukraine. Sel-Rob and other organizations in Western Ukraine were Sovietophile, but not consistently Marxist. The same can be said of the ‘progressives’ among Ukrainian immigrants to the United States and Canada, of whom only a small fraction belong to a Communist party.

Communism as a blueprint of the future socioeconomic order was one of the key ideas of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and the CPU. At first the CPSU tried to put into effect so-called War Communism, in 1918–21, but had to renounce it and adopt the New Economic Policy (NEP). With the introduction of the five-year plans, the abolition of private capital and the market, the centralization of planning, collectivization, and the institutionalization of what was in fact forced labor, the CPSU declared that all these measures established socialism and paved the way for communism. But all these pseudo-theories were merely adaptations to the internal political situation. Not only the deadlines for the building of communism, but even the main features of communism were changed to suit the current conditions: as Joseph Stalin introduced the terror, he asserted, contrary to Marx, that the role of the state would increase, not diminish, in the process of realizing communism. After Stalin's death this thesis was rejected in theory, but it continued to hold in practice. According to later promises, the era of communism was to begin in the 1980s (new program of the CPSU). Concrete results were more noticeable in the growth of Soviet military might than they were in the building of communism.

In foreign relations the most important development was the schism between Soviet and Chinese communism, which occurred at the beginning of the 1960s.

On the national question both Marx and the CPSU predicted that all nations, cultures, and languages would merge and disappear, although Marx thought that this would be a long, worldwide process, while Joseph Stalin, as the spokesman of Russian chauvinism, held that under communism all the nations of the Soviet Union should be submerged in the Russian nation and their languages replaced by Russian. After some hesitation in 1956–8 owing to the political situation, most Communist theoreticians and particularly the Russians continued to assert that with the coming of communism Russian culture and language should prevail throughout the USSR. At the beginning of the 1970s these theoreticians won the acceptance of the concept of the ‘Soviet people’ as a normative one. The Soviet people was defined as a new, supranational, historical society of individuals. The nationality policy of the CPSU was directed towards achieving this end. (See also Marxism, Leninism, Socialism.)

Marcuse, H. Soviet Marxism (New York 1958)
Wetter, G.A. Dialectical Materialism: A Historical Survey of Philosophy in the Soviet Union (New York 1958)
Meyer, A.G. Leninism (New York 1962)
Carew Hunt, R.N. The Theory and Practice of Communism (Baltimore 1964)
Yearbook on International Communist Affairs (Stanford 1966–80)

Vsevolod Holubnychy

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]