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Communism Timeline

December 14, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

The political and economic ideology that calls for a classless, government-controlled society, surged and then receded through history.

Since its start a century ago, Communism, a political and economic ideology that calls for a classless, government-controlled society in which everything is shared equally, has seen a series of surges—and declines. What started in 1917 Russia, became a global revolution, taking root in countries as far flung as China and Korea to Kenya and Sudan to Cuba and Nicaragua.

Communism launched from Lenin’s October Revolution and spread to China with Mao Zedong’s rise to power and to Cuba, with Fidel Castro’s takeover. It was the ideology behind one side of the Cold War and saw a symbolic decline with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today just a handful of countries remain under communist rule. Below is a timeline of notable events that shape Communism’s arc in history.

Soviet Union Emerges From October Revolution

February 21, 1848: German economist and philosopher Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto, calling for a working-class revolt against capitalism. Its motto, “Workers of the world, unite!” quickly became a rallying cry.

November 7, 1917: With Vladimir Lenin at the helm, the Bolsheviks, ascribing to Marxism, seize power during Russia’s October Revolution and become the first communist government. Later that month, the leftist Socialist Revolutionaries defeat the Bolsheviks in an election, but, despite his promises of “bread, land and peace,” Lenin uses military force to take power. It’s during this period the Red Terror (executions of the Czar’s officials), prisoner-of-war labor camps and other police state tactics are established.

Communism Takes Hold in China and Beyond

July 1, 1921: Inspired by the Russian Revolution, the Communist Party of China is formed.

January 21, 1924: Lenin dies at age 54 of a stroke, and Joseph Stalin, who had served as Lenin’s general secretary, eventually takes over official rule of the Soviet Union until his death in 1953 from a brain hemorrhage. He industrialized the country through a state-controlled economy, but it led to famine. Under his regime, detractors were deported or imprisoned in labor camps, and, as part of the Great Purge, 1 million people were executed under Stalin’s orders.

Joseph Stalin (TV-PG; 4:04)

1940 to 1979: Communism is established by force or otherwise in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Yugoslavia, Poland, North …read more


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