While materialist understandings of the world, like the communist ideal, have been referred to on-and-off in world history, the word 'communism' came in vogue only with Karl Marx and Frederich Engels, and their Communist Manifesto.
The duo believed that global order would gradually, and inevitably, move to a system where there would be no private ownership, and all means of production would be owned by the public.
To that end, they sought to speed up the process, calling the capitalist system exploitative.
Capitalism vs Socialism
Although the words ‘communism’ and ‘socialism’ were used interchangeably, they have always been distinct. For Marx and Engels, socialism was the segway between capitalism and communism—where the proletariat (the working class) would run the government and the economy, but still find a reason to pay people according to how long or well they worked.
Or, well, that’s what they claimed.
Today, communism is considered to be more of a cult group.
The 19th century saw Marxism spread like wildfire across Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and South America. But it’s downfall was even more swift— exposing flaws in the communist ideal.
Leaders like Stalin (and the failure of the great Russian communist experiment) served more as an embarrassment, with their totalitarian tendencies and clear desire for power. This coincided with the Cold War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall sealed communism’s fate.
Has communism evolved?
Today, only a handful of countries explicitly call themselves communist — Cuba, China, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam.
Despite the lives that the communist experiment claimed, affinity for the ideology seems to have sustained in many pockets. Newer generations, especially, are keener to embrace terms that were anathema to previous generations.