Communism is an economic and social system in which most property and resources are collectively owned by a classless society and not by individual citizens. It was founded by two German political philosophers, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who met in the second half of the 19th century. They discovered that they had similar principles and in 1848, wrote and published The Communist Manifesto, which became the foundation for Communism… Communism became the dominant political philosophy for many countries across Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and South America, and in the late 19th century, it also began to develop in the old Soviet Union.
But in 1991, when the Soviet Union disbanded, Russia constituted itself as a semi-presidential republic. Communism still exists in a number of countries, but in many cases it’s a legacy of the past and has lost much of the doctrine it originally came with. So where is communism still being practiced? And is it the communism that Marx and Engels proposed? That’s what we’ll find out, in this episode of the Infographics Show: Which Countries Are Really Truly Still Communist?
Communism envisaged common ownership of all land and capital, and the dissolving of the coercive power of the state. In such a society, social relations were to be regulated on the fairest of all principles: from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. Differences between manual and intellectual labor and between rural and urban life were to disappear, opening up the way for unlimited development of human potential.
The rise of capitalism in the 20th century disrupted communist principles, and so many countries either turned to alternative political frameworks or allowed the philosophy to blend with a new cultural climate. So how many countries are still officially communist? When we started to research this subject, we first discovered that there are several countries with multiple political parties, and some have had leaders who are affiliated with their nation’s communist party.
These countries are not considered truly communist because of the presence of other political parties, nor is the communist party empowered by the constitution. These countries are Nepal, Guyana, and Moldova, who have all had ruling communist parties in recent years. In terms of true communist states left today, there are five that most experts consider communist, and those are: Vietnam, Laos, North Korea, China, and Cuba. These countries adhere to different levels of commitment when it comes to living by communist principles. Let’s take a look at them one by one.
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Following the First Indochina War, Vietnam was split up at a conference in 1954. North Vietnam established itself as a communist state, supported by the Soviet Union, while South Vietnam was democratic and backed by America. Then followed two decades of the war we know as the Vietnam War, which is also the Second Indochina War, and in 1976, Vietnam was unified to become a communist country. Technically Vietnam is still a communist country, with one-party rule, the Communist Party of Vietnam, under Marxist-Leninist governance, but like many other communist countries, Vietnam has in recent decades moved toward a market economy that has seen some of its socialist values disrupted by capitalism.
In fact Vietnam is now one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and is on track to becoming a modern, industrialized nation by 2020. Despite these economic reforms and adoption of capitalist values, human rights and freedom of speech are still limited in the country. All news media are under control of the government, and there are heavy penalties for criticizing the government or broaching politically sensitive topics. Vietnam continues to shift in both policy and culture, and it’s not unimaginable that it will veer fully away from communism sometime in the next couple of decades.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Laos, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, became a communist country in 1975, following a revolution supported by Vietnam and the Soviet Union. The government in Lao is largely run by military generals who support a one-party system that is grounded in Marxist ideals. Media outlet, The economist, published an article in 2016, stating that “Laos has what may be the world’s most closed political system after North Korea, and that for the few visiting media, the communist official appointed as spokesman for the occasion responded to most questions by blinking.”
But Lao is changing and has been heavily influenced by democratic ideology, both via tourism and trade. Many aspects of business and culture have changed in the country over the last three decades. Is Lao truly a communist state, when there is a stock exchange and a Private Sector that is fast expanding to be the most productive part of Laos’s economy? Though Lao is ruled by a communist party, as far back as 1988 the country began allowing some forms of private ownership, as well as joining the World Trade Organization in 2013. And in 2009, the Obama administration declared that Laos had “ceased to be a Marxist-Leninist country.” So Lao is on the list, but the verdict is still out there and things seem to be rapidly changing for this South East Asian Country.
Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea
Korea was occupied by the Japanese in World War II and divided after the war into a Russian-dominated north and an American-occupied south. North Korea did not become a communist country until 1948 when South Korea declared its independence, leaving the north to declare its own sovereignty soon after, when Korean communist leader Kim Il-Sung was installed as leader. Getting clear information on North Korea is not easy as the state has full control of all media.
Though most of the world sees North Korea as a communist state, the country itself does not, and the ruling Kim family has always promoted their own doctrine based on the concept of ‘juche’, which means self-reliance. Juche was first introduced in the mid 1950’s bringing with it Korean nationalism as a core value within the countries leadership strategy. Juche became official state policy in the 1970’s. So is North Korea really a communist country or is this a western misinterpretation of the way this secretive country is governed?
In 2009, North Korea’s constitution was changed to remove all mention of the Marxist and Leninist ideals, the foundations of communism, and the word communism was also removed from the text. What we do know is that North Korea has a very questionable human rights record and many strict controls…
According to the South Korean government estimates and Human Rights Watch, between 150,000 and 200,000 North Koreans live in prison camps; only government and military officials are able to own motor vehicles; all televisions are tuned to state-controlled domestic programming, and there is no Internet other than a closed domestic network. It’s not easy to get a clear picture of North Korea, but one person who may know more is ex basketball player Dennis Rodman, who is a frequent visitor to the country and has met with President Kim Jong-Un on a number of occasions.
The People’s Republic of China
In 1949 Mao Zedong took control of China and declared the nation as the People’s Republic of China, a communist country. China has remained communist since that date, although economic reforms have been in place for several years and there is debate over how long China can continue to declare itself communist. The Chinese Communist Party or CCP has revolutionized many things for the country in recent years. Most notably, it has made China the world’s second largest economy. It has also strengthened China, especially in the South China Sea, where it has challenged America’s hold.
And China’s presence in the Indian Ocean has expanded by re-building the ports of Sri Lanka, and by developing the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. The underpinning of all of these activities has been the expansion of a capitalist economy that continues to grow year after year. Some of the communist principles have clearly been eroded, and in 2004 the country’s constitution was changed to recognize private property. So what makes China truly communist?
The Chinese government still controls major aspects of society and the economy. Nearly all Chinese banks are state-owned, which means the government decides which businesses and individuals are lent money. Chinese media companies are entirely state-owned and virtually all of the land in the country still belongs to the government. So though communism is at the core of the Chinese political system, the CCP is not really a communist party in the conventional sense, as it’s now motivated by the same market drivers as the majority of democracies in capitalist states.
Republic of Cuba
Cuba is perhaps best known for the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, a 13-day confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union concerning American ballistic missile deployment in Italy and Turkey. It was a nerve wracking time that could have led to full-scale nuclear war. Cuba became a fully communist country in 1961, following a revolution that led to a government takeover by Fidel Castro and his associates. Cuba continues as a one-party communist state under President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who very recently took over for Raúl Castro, who succeeded his brother in 2008.
The government has a monopoly on the majority of economic activity within centralized state enterprises. And there are restrictions to the freedoms of the press, assembly, and speech. In 2016, the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported 9,125 arbitrary detentions in the first 10 months of the year, and there was a crack down on digital media, and the emerging private sector, by temporarily halting the issuance of business licenses, for new private restaurants in Havana.
There have been changes in Cuba in more recent times including increased engagement with the United States under President Barack Obama. This resulted in relations between the two nations becoming more relaxed and travel restrictions loosened during Obama’s second term. However in June 2017, President Donald Trump tightened travel restrictions on Cuba.
From our research we found that most of the experts agree, these five countries are still communist. However, there is clearly divided opinion on this subject and even within these five countries, there is a lot of deviation from the original communist economic and social systems that Marx and Engels initially proposed.
Will these countries continue operating under communist ideology or will things change as new ways of living and systems of governance are adopted? Let us know your thoughts in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called Top 10 Weakest Militaries in the World! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!