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Communism in Europe

Non-marxist Communism

Ironically, after the collapse of the German Communist League in 1850 The Communist Manifesto remained largely unread until rediscovered later as a prophetic work. No new political creed and form of political organization followed its publication, nor did Marx or Engels wish to separate themselves from other revolutionary currents. In fact, no other movements describing themselves as "communist" appeared again for seventy years. Nevertheless, the use of the term communism did resurface, but it was largely used by individuals and movements that were unconnected with Marx's ideas. The Russian anarchist thinker Mikhail Bakunin had used the term as part of his early political lexicon. Again he used communism rather loosely to indicate a future form of egalitarian society; decentralized and communally organized, it would be free from domination by the propertied classes and above all from a dictatorial state. Bakunin argued that the peasantry, and not just the working class, could be revolutionary agents and that communism could be based on peasant institutions. However, by the time the International Working Men's Association (IWMA, 1864–1876) was formed, Bakunin had changed his views. The First International, as it became known, was an attempt to create cooperation between all the European political groups that claimed to speak on behalf of the working class, but within a few years the organization foundered in a welter of internal disputes.

By the 1880s, however, a fully fledged version of anarchist or "libertarian" communism had appeared that was most closely associated with another Russian revolutionary, Peter Kropotkin. As well as expanding the theoretical basis of anarchist thinking, Kropotkin also provided a critique of the state-centered approach of socialist communism to revolution. He argued that the state must be destroyed for a communist society to exist, as the state in any form was always an oppressive force. In contrast, Marx and Engels, and their later followers, asserted that the state needed to be captured and used by the workers in the "dictatorship of the proletariat" of the revolution. It would then "wither away" as the emergence of communism made it either completely or partly redundant. Other non-Marxist socialist movements also espoused forms of communism, most notably the Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs), who appeared in Russia in 1902. Following in the footsteps of the Russian Populists of the 1860s and 1870s and writers such as Alexander Herzen, who had again argued that the peasantry could be the basis of a revolutionary society, the SRs proposed an agrarian form of socialism that would be based upon village communes. Once again, a perfect society was the aim, though the nature of that society and the means to achieve it were quite distinct from Marxist communism.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Cluster compound to ConcupiscenceCommunism in Europe - Karl Marx And The Origins Of Modern Communism, Non-marxist Communism, Marxism And European Socialism