Communism | The 20th century | World history | Khan Academy
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Communism | The 20th century | World history | Khan Academy

Thought I would do
a video on communism just because I’ve been talking
about it a bunch in the history videos, and I haven’t given
you a good definition of what it means, or a good
understanding of what it means. And to understand
communism– let me just draw a spectrum here. So I’m going to start
with capitalism. And this is really just
going to be an overview. People can do a whole PhD
thesis on this type of thing. Capitalism, and then I’ll
get a little bit more– and then we could
progress to socialism. And then we can go to communism. And the modern
versions of communism are really kind
of the brainchild of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. Karl Marx was a
German philosopher in the 1800s, who, in his
Communist Manifesto and other writings, kind of created the
philosophical underpinnings for communism. And Vladimir Lenin, who led
the Bolshevik Revolution in the– and created,
essentially, the Soviet Union– he’s the first person to make
some of Karl Marx’s ideas more concrete. And really every
nation or every country which we view as
communist has really followed the pattern
of Vladimir Lenin. And we’ll talk about
that in a second. But first, let’s talk about
the philosophical differences between these things,
and how you would move. And Karl Marx himself
viewed communism as kind of a progression
from capitalism through socialism to communism. So what he saw in capitalism–
and at least this part of what he saw was
right– is that you have private property,
private ownership of land. That’s the main
aspect of capitalism. And this is the world that
most of us live in today. The problem that he
saw with capitalism is he thought,
well, look, when you have private property, the
people who start accumulating some capital– and when
we talk about capital, we could be talking
about land, we could be talking
about factories, we could be talking about any
type of natural resources– so the people who start
getting a little bit of them– so let me draw a
little diagram here. So let’s say someone has
a little bit of capital. And that capital could be a
factory, or it could be land. So let me write it. Capital. And let’s just say it’s land. So let’s say someone starts
to own a little bit of land. And he owns more
than everyone else. So then you just have
a bunch of other people who don’t own land. But they need, essentially–
and since this guy owns all the land, they’ve got
to work on this guy’s land. They have to work
on this guy’s land. And from Karl Marx’s point
of view, he said, look, you have all of these laborers
who don’t have as much capital. This guy has this capital. And so he can make
these laborers work for a very small wage. And so any excess
profits that come out from this arrangement,
the owner of the capital will be able to get it. Because these laborers
won’t be able to get their wages to go up. Because there’s so much
competition for them to work on this guy’s farm or
to work on this guy’s land. He really didn’t think
too much about, well, maybe the competition
could go the other way. Maybe you could have a
reality eventually where you have a bunch of people with
reasonable amounts of capital, and you have a
bunch of laborers. And the bunch of people would
compete for the laborers, and maybe the laborers could
make their wages go up, and they could eventually
accumulate their own capital. They could eventually start
their own small businesses. So he really didn’t
think about this reality too much over here. He just saw this reality. And to his defense–
and I don’t want to get in the habit of
defending Karl Marx too much– to his
defense, this is what was happening in the
late 1800s, especially– we have the
Industrial Revolution. Even in the United
States, you did have kind of– Mark Twain
called it the Gilded Age. You have these
industrialists who did accumulate huge
amounts of capital. They really did have
a lot of the leverage relative to the laborers. And so what Karl Marx
says, well, look, if the guy with all the
capital has all the leverage, and this whole arrangement
makes some profits, he’s going to be able
to keep the profits. Because he can keep all
of these dudes’ wages low. And so what’s going to happen
is that the guy with the capital is just going to end
up with more capital. And he’s going to have
even more leverage. And he’ll be able to keep these
people on kind of a basic wage, so that they can never acquire
capital for themselves. So in Karl Marx’s point of
view, the natural progression would be for these people
to start organizing. So these people maybe start
organizing into unions. So they could collectively
tell the person who owns the land or the factory,
no, we’re not going to work, or we’re going to go on strike
unless you increase our wages, or unless you give us
better working conditions. So when you start talking
about this unionization stuff, you’re starting to move in
the direction of socialism. The other element of moving
in the direction of socialism is that Karl Marx
didn’t like this kind of high concentration– or
this is socialists in general, I should say– didn’t like this
high concentration of wealth. That you have this
reality of not only do you have these people
who could accumulate all of this wealth– and
maybe, to some degree, they were able to accumulate it
because they were innovative, or they were good
managers of land, or whatever, although
the Marxists don’t give a lot of credit to
the owners of capital. They don’t really
give a lot of credit to saying maybe they did
have some skill in managing some type of an operation. But the other problem is is
that it gets handed over. It gets handed over
to their offspring. So private property, you have
this situation where it just goes from maybe father to son,
or from parent to a child. And so it’s not even based
on any type of meritocracy. It’s really just based
on this inherited wealth. And this is a problem that
definitely happened in Europe. When you go back to
the French Revolution, you have generation after
generation of nobility, regardless of how incompetent
each generation would be, they just had so much wealth
that they were essentially in control of everything. And you had a bunch of
people with no wealth having to work for them. And when you have that
type of wealth disparity, it does lead to revolutions. So another principle of moving
in the socialist direction is kind of a
redistribution of wealth. So let me write it over here. So redistribution. So in socialism, you can
still have private property. But the government
takes a bigger role. So you have– let me write this. Larger government. And one of the roles
of the government is to redistribute wealth. And the government
also starts having control of the major
factors of production. So maybe the
utilities, maybe some of the large factories that do
major things, all of a sudden starts to become in the
hands of the government, or in the words of communists,
in the hands of the people. And the redistribution
is going on, so in theory, you don’t
have huge amounts of wealth in the hands of a few people. And then you keep– if
you take these ideas to their natural
conclusion, you get to the theoretical
communist state. And the theoretical
communist state is a classless, and
maybe even a little bit– a classless society, and in Karl
Marx’s point of view– and this is a little harder to
imagine– a stateless society. So in capitalism, you
definitely had classes. You had the class
that owns the capital, and then you had
the labor class, and you have all
of these divisions, and they’re different
from each other. He didn’t really imagine a
world that maybe a laborer could get out of this, they could
get their own capital, then maybe they could
start their own business. So he just saw this tension
would eventually to socialism, and eventually a
classless society where you have a central–
Well, he didn’t even go too much into the details
but you have kind of equal, everyone in society has
ownership over everything, and society somehow
figures out where things should be allocated,
and all of the rest. And it’s all stateless. And that’s even harder to think
about in a concrete fashion. So that’s Karl Marx’s
view of things. But it never really
became concrete until Vladimir Lenin shows up. And so the current
version of communism that we– The current thing that
most of us view as communism is sometimes viewed as a
Marxist-Leninist state. These are sometimes
used interchangeably. Marxism is kind of the pure,
utopian, we’re eventually going to get to a world
where everyone is equal, everyone is doing
exactly what they want, there’s an abundance
of everything. I guess to some
degree, it’s kind of describing what happens in
Star Trek, where everyone can go to a replicator and
get what they want. And if you want to
paint part of the day, you can paint part of the day,
and you’re not just a painter, you can also do
whatever you want. So it’s this very utopian thing. Let me write that down. So pure Marxism is kind
of a utopian society. And just in case you don’t
know what utopian means, it’s kind of a perfect society,
where you don’t have classes, everyone is equal, everyone
is leading these kind of rich, diverse,
fulfilling lives. And it’s also, utopian is also
kind of viewed as unrealistic. It’s kind of, if you view it
in the more negative light, is like, hey, I don’t
know how we’ll ever be able to get there. Who knows? I don’t want to be
negative about it. Maybe we will one day
get to a utopian society. But Leninist is kind of the more
practical element of communism. Because obviously, after the
Bolshevik Revolution, 1917, in the Russian Empire, the
Soviet Union gets created, they have to actually
run a government. They have to actually
run a state based on these ideas of communism. And in a Leninist
philosophy– and this is where it starts to become
in tension with the ideas of democracy– in a
Leninist philosophy, you need this kind
of a party system. So you need this– and he
calls this the Vanguard Party. So the vanguard is kind of
the thing that’s leading, the one that’s
leading the march. So this Vanguard
Party that kind of creates this constant
state of revolution, and its whole job is to guide
society, is to kind of almost be the parent of society,
and take it from capitalism through socialism to this
ideal state of communism. And it’s one of
those things where the ideal state of
communism was never– it’s kind of hard to
know when you get there. And so what happens
in a Leninist state is it’s this Vanguard Party, which
is usually called the Communist Party, is in a constant state
of revolution, kind of saying, hey, we’re shepherding the
people to some future state without a real clear definition
of what that future state is. And so when you talk
about Marxist-Leninist, besides talking about
what’s happening in the economic
sphere, it’s also kind of talking about this party
system, this party system where you really just have one
dominant party that it will hopefully act in the
interest of the people. So one dominant
communist party that acts in the interest
of the people. And obviously, the negative
here is that how do you know that they
actually are acting in the interest of people? How do you know that they
actually are competent? What means are
there to do anything if they are misallocating
things, if it is corrupt, if you only have a
one-party system? And just to make it clear,
the largest existing communist state is the People’s
Republic of China. And although it is controlled
by the Communist Party, in economic terms it’s really
not that communist anymore. And so it can be confusing. And so what I want to do is
draw a little bit of a spectrum. On the vertical axis, over
here, I want to put democratic. And up here, I’ll put
authoritarian or totalitarian. Let me put– well,
I’ll put authoritarian. I’ll do another video
on the difference. And they’re similar. And totalitarian is more an
extreme form of authoritarian, where the government
controls everything. And you have a few people
controlling everything and it’s very non-democratic. But authoritarian is kind
of along those directions. And then on this spectrum, we
have the capitalism, socialism, and communism. So the United States,
I would put– I would put the United
States someplace over here. I would put the United
States over here. It has some small
elements of socialism. You do have labor unions. They don’t control everything. You also have people working
outside of labor unions. It does have some elements
of redistribution. There are inheritance taxes. There are– I mean it’s not an
extreme form of redistribution. You can still inherit
private property. You still have safety
nets for people, you have Medicare,
Medicaid, you have welfare. So there’s some
elements of socialism. But it also has a very
strong capitalist history, private property,
deep market, so I’d stick the United
States over there. I would put the USSR–
not current Russia, but the Soviet Union
when it existed– I would put the Soviet
Union right about there. So this was the– I would put
the USSR right over there. I would put the current
state of Russia, actually someplace over here. Because they actually
have fewer safety nets, and they kind of have
a more– their economy can kind of go crazier,
and they actually have a bigger
disparity in wealth than a place like
the United States. So this is current Russia. And probably the most
interesting one here is the People’s Republic of
China, the current People’s Republic of China,
which is at least on the surface, a
communist state. But in some ways, it’s more
capitalist than the United States, in that they don’t have
strong wealth redistribution. They don’t have kind of
strong safety nets for people. So you could put some
elements of China– and over here,
closer to the left. And they are more– less
democratic than either the US or even current Russia,
although some people would call current Russia– well,
I won’t go too much into it. But current China, you could
throw it here a little bit. So it could be even a
little bit more capitalist than the United States. Definitely they don’t even have
good labor laws, all the rest. But in other ways, you do
have state ownership of a lot, and you do have state
control of a lot. So in some ways, they’re kind
of spanning this whole range. So this right over
here is China. And even though it is called a
communist state, in some ways, it’s more capitalist
than countries that are very proud
of their capitalism. But in a lot of other ways,
especially with the government ownership and the government
control of things, and this one dominant
party, so it’s kind of Leninist with less
of the Marxist going on. So in that way, it is more
in the communist direction. So hopefully that clarifies
what can sometimes be a confusing topic.

About James Carlton

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100 thoughts on “Communism | The 20th century | World history | Khan Academy

  1. i seriously find the way he talks annoying…. auurrgghh!!! im trying to understand what he's explaining but ended up annoyed by how he talks…auurgghhh!!!!

  2. Hi my name name is Sal Khan I like to make a bunch of videos everyday about a million different subjects.
    I would be better off making quality videos about subjects I was educated in but that's lame.

  3. so did the bolsheviks kinda mess it all up from the get go then? ideally, in marxs view, this new society wouldnt even have a leader/government. correct me if im wrong. if not, then the whole problem is like a causal loop. you cant immediately switch from one government to the next. it has to be gradual, which you really cant do without some form of leadership. but then, leadership corrupts the whole stew cause once you give power, its no longer Marxism. and so on and so on…


  4. Could do better on his public speaking skills. And I feel like the little "chart" example was thrown out there without any real substance to back up why they were rated that way. Not bad though, if you get over the bias.

  5. Man you are neglecting the blood spilled, you can't have an understanding without truth, this academic exercise is like performing surgery with one eye open.

  6. Right now, in the western world, vast sums of wealth and the levers of power, are in the hands of the chosen few. Is money changer an apt description.

  7. "he didn't think too much about…" YES HE DID!!
    YOU did not!
    it is not possible for everybody too be a capitalist. you have no f'n clue !!

  8. >Be communist
    >See pornography
    >Get arrested and taken away to a labor camp (if lucky)
    >Drought occurs
    >Suddenly no food, the state forces you to work harder
    >You get hungrier and hungrier
    >You starve to death
    This isn't invented, this is actually what happens in North Korea. Communism doesn't work, capitalism democracy has its faults, but at least you have now internet to be able to read my comment.

  9. The problem is corporate. Small government will generate big corporate. Pick your battle. Keep in mind that big corporate puts money into the government's back pocket. So, it's not much different. The top 20% in thr US has 80% of all currency available. The bottom 20% barely shows up on the graph.

  10. Explaining capitalism, socialism, and communism without considering the concepts of coloniality and colonialism makes this video good for the middle school level, even conservative and in many ways biased.

  11. the school of life does a much better job of describing Karl Marx… to what extent this guy is biased is embarrassing

  12. The Chinese Government like to think they are running the country on a socialistic system with "Chinese characteristics".

  13. Speaking of Lenin, there's a great article on his journey to becoming the first communist leader in March 2017 issue of Smithsonian magazine.
    I also find it exciting and shockingly enlightening that last month (April of '17) was the 100 year anniversary of Lenin's trip from his place of exile (Switerland) to his home country of Russia. Even though the actions carried out by his administration violated human rights, we need to understand the logic behind them.
    When we of the present analyz the actions and events of the past, we see patterns. I think if a majority of people who understood these patterns came together, we could prevent them from happening again.

  14. Economical Justice cannot be attained except with Islam.
    In Islam, there's Zakah, where financially able muslims Must pay 2.5% of their wealth to the needy annualy, this is obligatory charity. Other than that, Islam promotes voluntary charity

  15. I like most of this video but did anyone else his strange take on modern wealth disparity? 'The rich got ever richer by exploiting the workers and incompetent buffoons inherited unearned wealth from their parents, thats how it used to happen but not anymore!' uhh what planet have you been living on friend?

  16. I Think he is wrong where he placed the united states on the scale. It is pretty evident our country is way up there on the scale of Authoritarianism with minority members of society. We effectively live in a borderline police state.

  17. It's hilariously watching a capitalist attempt to explain Marxism. You continually say "there's no way to tell when you get there." The entire point of the socialist state, is to give power to the worker, and eventually dissolve itself when it's no longer needed. Socialism is "workers own the means of production", i.e. Workers control the workplace – NOT THE GOVERNMENT DOING STUFF. All of you classifications of socialism were horrendously incorrect and you left out the fact that communism is moneyless.

  18. VHey there i want to create an online group where people can have intelligent debates about science, politics, philosophy and art. if interested, respond

  19. Reading about the Bolsheviks, Lenin appears to "molest" Marxism. Karl envisions a classless state, Lenin pit the classes against one another.

  20. I'm just sad with how biased this is. High school kids watch this, so they should get more neutral history lessons, but whatevs. This video's old.

  21. Since when Communism means a  stateless society? Communism has defined state in a certain way though. But stateless society is the idea of Anarchism and not Communism.

  22. Too much talk and not exactly to the point. Here are three points to contemplate over to get you started with this subject:

    1. Collective ownership of the means of production.

    2. Abolishment of a profit-driven economy (ie. capitalism).

    3. A democratic economy (ie. socialism).

  23. Calling Marxism "utopian" is pure ridiculousness as it is not based on some idealist, subjective wish but through a materialist, objective analysis of society. There's a reason why Marxism is called "scientific socialism". Also, there's the fact that one of the groups that Marx focused much of his work against was Utopian Socialism which was the dominant socialist tendency before Marxism.

  24. Communism killed over 100 million people in the 20th century alone. You simply cannot centralize all economic power in the hands of a few without the worst type of human corruption arising. Communism can only work in only very small groups, in communes, and even then everyone must be wary of any one person gaining too much power or influence.

  25. Have any of you actually read the communist manifesto written by Marx ? It’s very telling and they spell it all out, so stop saying “that wasn’t communism” because they followed the game plan to a tea

  26. so many commies in the comment section….smh. if you think this is a mis-informed video, then make a better one about the "true facts about communism" losers.

  27. This doesn't even explain what Marx means by Capital. You're using means of production a bit too loosely and liberally and this just reeks of anit-communism everywhere. Marx also isn't the philosophical underpinning of Communism. That has French roots that he developed as did Lenin.

  28. When Marx talks about Capital he doesn't mean physical properties he's referring to value that increases through the process of exchange. And when he talks about surplus value he doesn't just mean taxation, interest or the exploited wages, those are all FORMS of surplus value.

  29. Marxism isn't an economic system it's in general the thought of Karl Marx. It involves his theory of history and analysis of capitalism. There is no such thing as a "Marxist society" but there are societies that exist in relation to the means of production which Marx described.

  30. Where's surplus value? Where's dialectical materialism? Anyway, you definitely have a bias when it comes to socioeconomic and historical topics. The creation of surplus value is not even related to something material, since it's greater than the value of the constant capital (means of production, commodities) and the variable capital (labour). The extraction of surplus value leads to massive consolidation of wealth in the hands of the few, who then acquire more constant and variable capital to expand the surplus value, ad infinitum. In Capital, Marx referred to this as centralization of capital, which has come true!

  31. People who say that Communism doesn't work in practice but works in theory are wrong.

    Communism doesn't work in practice AND in theory.

  32. I don't think this guy knows what he's talking about. Socialism is simply where the workers democratically control and collectively own where they work.

  33. The reason a true communist nation or "Utopian" society can't/doesn't/hasn't worked is because the world as whole is capitalistic in nature.
    If you're a communist "country" you would only succeed if your area was abundant in every natural resource needed for a society to function. If not, you then have to trade with other nations, thus adopting their economic principals in order to broker deals. Nobody trades raw materials for anything other than money and if you have no money your fate is based solely on the "what can you do for me" attitude. Essentially, the world as a whole would need to be on board in order to achieve a successful truly communistic society.
    The flaw in capitalism is the monetary system itself. The fact that more than 70% of America's money exists solely as 1s and 0s in computers while 0% of it is backed by nothing but faith should be proof of this flaw.
    Money is just another social advent of man. Nothing more than a stage of social evolution. One we'll eventually move beyond. Especially since, in the 1st world, our own advancements in technology are displacing the work force.

  34. 0:00 First three minutes: Feudalism
    4:00 minutes: Monopoly, oligarchy, plutocracy, fascism
    5:38 I have a lot to say about inheritance of wealth. I am a strong meritocratic person. I share some ideas from across the entire spectrum.
    14:50 China is a series of dots throughout that range.

  35. This video is a pretty good introduction for 15 minutes, but I would have to disagree on where the USSR feel on the spectrum. Like many countries that have called themselves communist, that isnt really the case. Communism, and this is probably the most important problem of communism to be solved, is it's ability to be taken over quickly by a totalitarian (such as the USSR under Stalin, North Korea under Kim-il Sung). Stalin also made quiet a few false claims. At one point, he declared that the Dictatorship of the Proletariat to be over. When that happens, Government is supposed to dissolve to nothing, which it clearly didn't under Stalin.

    One issue with the video, it did not make it clear that while Marx had a lot of critques of Capitalism, but he didn't necessarily hate it. It was mentioned the evolution of capitalism to socialism to communism. But it did not express the importance Marx saw in Capitalism, especially the fact that Marx did not endorse the Russian Communists. Marx thought the Russian to be barbaric and they didn't have a proper industrial revolution (key step), so he thought that Russia would probably be the last place for a revolution. Marx may have endorsed the Russian communists late in life, if so it was because it became clear that the Russians were the only ones that may have a shot at revolution. But he still did not internally approve. To describe his distaste, his works were Translated into many languages, but not Russian (on purpose), and did not want his works circulated in Russia. Lenin and other Russian Marxists had to read it in another language (mostly German). Actually rather funny story. During the time, the Tsar of Russia had tight rules on literature that could be circulated. Marx's work would have been banned except that the Tsar government thought their own population was too stupid to understand it, so it was allowed. Back to Marx and Capitalism. Capitalism was the route from Feudalism and to begin introducing ideas of Democracy. But, capitalism would lead to a limited Democracy, think of it as a spectrum also. Representational Democracy is not the same as true direct democracy. Feudalism leads into Capitalism, giving some power to the lower portion of society, limited control and say, but more say than in Feudalism. Capitalism would also generate the necessary environment, as it creating or launching industry. The factories would be started under the Capitalist.

    Also, there isnt an emphasis on the Anarchy portion. The core of Communism/Marxism is Anarchy. Not only would the economic transitions give power to the proletariat and make the bourgeois whither away, it would give control locally. The factory comes under control of the workers who work in it. Once enough control is shifted over, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat ends and government is no more*. I place an asterick because the best way to think of it is like communal anarchism.

  36. 3:24 “So he really didn't think about this reality too much over here.”
    On the contrary, I'm sure he did. Proof of that would be exactly what is happening now.
    The number of dominant corporations in the realm of food, a one-armed man could count on his fingers. Food. Banking. Transport. Software. Electronics. Data. Construction.
    And those numbers are getting smaller every year. Consolidation of power. They are eating each other, as they eat everything else. They will soon tower over governments.
    And soon after that, they will each stand alone in their monopoly. Unquestionable, unchallenged, omnipotent. You think they're competing for our labour? Give me a break.

  37. The communists throw THE PEOPLE into communism, for them the people are cattle, they will NOT live abroad with the mafia that finances them, in luxury, they are the "left caviar", then they will put their children and co-workers at the key points of the power and perpetuate themselves at the expense of the misery and suffering of the people! the communist is the worst of the bad guys, and why are they as they are? They are the sons of Lucifer, the first revolutionary. * BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM ** RED COCAINE

  38. Socialists are funded by globalists, supported by NGOs, international foundations such as the "Open Society", devilish men like David Rockeffeler, george soros, to fund and implement puppet governments, imposters whose goal is to steal countries from their peoples, as we see today in venezuela, yet another genocide by hunger and encouraged crime.

    And the worst bourgeois is the communist bourgeois, gets rich without ever producing anything, even worse: taking and leaving the porridge who produced … the communist is the worst of the bad guys!

  39. Socialism exists only because it is a powerful tool of domination and perpetuation in power, requiring only psychopathy as a prerequisite, exactly what all Communist leaders are, absolutely unscrupulous people.

    Socialism caused the death of over 120 million innocent people between 1917/2004 *, they are founding partners of drug trafficking in Latin America **, just stuffing pockets and briefs, drugging our young people, molesting our children!

  40. Communism is an estelionate: All Marxian theoretical discourse only serves to divert attention from what communism really is: a satanic handbook of lies, deception, betrayal, domination, dehumanization, enslavement, the only way for the disqualified of the worst kind to gain absolute power. .

    Socialist parties are criminal organizations indoctrinated with collective hysteria, their members having removed from them all scruples, values ​​and moral limits.

  41. According to the theory of the first 8 minutes, almost all countries in the world now are socialist because the power of government had been strengthened in the 20th century, in order to do the redistribution of wealth.

  42. Marx and Engels never differentiated between the terms Socialism and Communism, to them it meant the same thing. Socialism is the system that will exist once capitalism is abolished, a classless, stateless society where the means of production and the world resources are collectively owned by all the people. Production would be for need and not profit, and as the people collectively own what is produced, there is no need for money or exchange, as you can not buy what you already own.
    Lenin was the person who differentiated between the terms socialism and communism, describing socialism as a form of state control which he described as a necessary step before achieving communism. Lenin later described what he had achieved in Russia was in fact state capitalism.

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