Karl Marx, author of The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, was the originator of the political and economic theory of Scientific Socialism (modern Communism). Communism, by definition, is the complete control of major resources and the means of production by government, initially in the form of autocracy. In theory, under this system all would be equal; all would share in both work, according to their ability, and profit, according to need. According to Marx, the proletariat, or working class, would revolt against the bourgeoisie, or wealthy capitalist class, because of the stark contrast prevalent between the wealthy and poor. The new economy, run by and for the people, would produce not for profit, but for the needs of the people. Thus, abundance would rule. Marx further predicted this revolution would occur in Western Europe, the most industrialized and capitalist portion of the world.
During the late 1920s up until World War II, the United States went through a period of severe economic depression, also called the Great Depression. Multitudes of Americans everywhere were inadequately clothed, nourished, and sheltered. As hunger and unemployment reached never before seen levels, despair reigned. During these times Labor Union enrollment dramatically increased and Americans were searching for a panacea to their social and economic problems. It was at this time that groups of citizens, jobless and hungry, looked upon Communism favorably. These individuals longed for what seemed to be a utopian society, which they viewed in the USSR, where everyone was employed and cared for. Communist political parties sprung up everywhere, literature and newspapers in support of Communism proliferated. More and more, seeing the success and the promises, the enrollment in Communist parties increased. Members of the American Communist party idealized the leaders of the USSR, Lenin and Stalin.
American politician Joseph McCarthy led a campaign against Communist subversion in the early 1950s. McCarthy charged several high-ranking officials with subversive activities. Then, as chairman of the Senate subcommittee on investigations, McCarthy continued inquiry into subversive activities in the U.S. He created much controversy with his allegations, which were more like a modern day political witch hunt.Americans, deeply worried about the spread of communism, panicked with the highly publicized hearings. People were fired from jobs and had themselves and family members physically threatened if they were unfortunate enough to be accused of supporting Communism. There was a nationwide Red Scare.
After the death of USSR leader Joseph Stalin, reports were made about his method for controlling his country. The Khrushchev Reports, as they were called, revealed the brutal tactics that Stalin used in marshaling resources to accomplish his objectives. If discord was detected, Stalin and his regime were quick in suppression, at any cost.This had a disastrous affect upon the American Communist movement. For, it was Stalin that the members of this party most highly regarded. These revelations were so disheartening that, within two years, the membership of the American Communist party declined by more than 80%.The will of the believers had been crippled.
American government and society, as seen through events such as the McCarthy hearings, displayed a Communist as an evil, traitorous, spy. They were portrayed as contrary to all American ideals, as wanting the destruction of democracy and freedom, by means of force. However, the communists, in actuality, were none of the kind. Firstly, they were individuals who believed in Socialism, not Communism. Furthermore, they did not want the demise of democracy through revolt. Rather, they wanted to change the political structure through their right to vote, a democratic right. These individuals were accused of trying to overthrow the foundation of the government that our forefathers had laid, when truly they wanted to enhance it, to spread equality and freedom through socialism.
The work of these individuals was not in vain, however. They accomplished much, just by their faith and belief alone, which served to bring them out of inactivity and into progressive thought and activity in a time of despair. Also, the movement strengthened many Americans capitalist, democratic views along with their nationalism. As their will prevailed, the resolve of the Americans to rid the world of Communism grew as well, as can be seen in many skirmishes between the non-Communist and Communist countries throughout this century.
As we can see, Marxs predictions were failed in the United States. This can be attributed largely to the fact that in every American there lies a certain self-serving incentive to work, whether large or small, which coerces that person to make personal gain or profit. In other words, many capitalist values are hereditary in nature for Americans. Furthermore, our government was such that our complete political system would have had to be demolished, and there was never enough dissension to cause a total upheaval. Finally, after World War II the U.S. entered an era of economic prosperity, which is to this day continuing. Soldiers returned from the war with money that they had saved. The government also enacted legislation to help veterans fund further education. These elements combined to form a very strong, consumptive middle class. If people are secure and happy with their lives it is harder to precipitate change than if they are afflicted.
Not only in the U.S., but also worldwide we see this economic philosophy losing its appeal. This can be attributed to technological advancement, which has created an average level of affluence unknown to any previous time. The strength and aid of the non-Communist countries has persuaded developing nations to form capitalist, constitutional governments similar to those in place. Furthermore, in societies where Communism was attempted, there was a large degree of scarcity and inequality, not to mention the coercive nature of the governments attempting Communism. Finally, in all societies where Communism was attempted the preconditions that Marx set forth were not met. For example, Russia was not a largely industrial and capitalist society prior to the attempt at Communism; nor were they a highly intellectual or accomplished society. Rather, the society prior to the attempt was a feudalist government comprised of a Czar, much like a king, and nobility, not a capitalist upper class.