I have always felt democracy and socialism/communism actually have similar origins and emulate the same perspective. In fact, they seem like branches off the same line of thought. The circumstance of history made them diverge apart and, eventually, war with each other as if they were two totally separate points of view. I’ve often compared the cold war as being similar to the wars of religion in Europe when the Catholics fought the Calvinists and other forms of Protestantisms. All that was is one version of Christianity fighting another version of Christianity. In that sense, its like the same point of view fighting with itself. This seems no different with democracy and socialism/communism.
And, interestingly, it seems that the origin of both these points of view is in Christian thinking. Christianity, which taught that life revolved around the ‘body of Christ’ – the people. It gave the concept of the ‘people’ a sanctity. When political/social problems began to appear in the 1500’s or so it was only natural for them to give the idea of the ‘people’ special signifigance. Another reason for giving people signifigance was that this was the era of the Protestant Reformation. Christianity, with its teachings, were given great signifigance and, accordingly, ideas relating to Christianity like the ‘people’. In many ways, the Protestant reformation began democracy/socialism/communism by saying that the ‘people’ were more important than the Pope, who represents authority. In effect, they said that the ‘people’ were the authority, not the Pope. Once this happened to the Pope it seems that there then began a tendency to downplay, villainize, and condemn authority. It would extend to practically to all forms of authority . . . religious, political, moral, etc., all the way down to the authority of the mother and the father in recent times (this treatment of authority is common with democratic countries).
Because of the great interest in Greece and Rome that was going on at the Universities in Europe at the time, the Christian idea of the ‘people’ as sacred gave great creedance and support for the democratic ideas of Greece. In a way, the Protestant Reformation made democracy valid and legitimate, something that ‘made sense’. As a result, this would make democracy a viable political theory during this time and offer an alternate view to government and the problems of the times.
Socialism, on the other hand, is very reflective of the idea of poverty and that we all should share our belongings and that no one should have more than another. This, of course, was based on principles taught by Christ. Many versions of this idea would appear in a number of different socialist theories over the years. One of these was communism.
Because of the situation in the 1800’s there was great influence of economic theory which would be implanted into the original Christian concepts. This would give communist theory a unique, unChristian, and scientific flavor. Later, when Russia adopted it and became a political force it forced the west to pit its economic method – capitalism – against it. As a result, during the cold war the west was professing, really, democracy/capitalism against communism. It forced a blending of political theory with economic theory which has become a hallmark of the cold war era.
Both of these ideas preached somewhat similar ideas with, of course, variations. Here’s a few similiarities:
– The idea that the ‘people come first’.
– There was the idea that people should rule the government.
– There was the idea that the governement was for the people and not the people in power.
– They were against authority and tried to remove the power of authority.
– They were for a society where everyone was treated alike.
Just looking at the traits above and you can see Christian influence. In a way, it describes a Christian society, though without the religion. In many ways, that’s what it is, a ‘gutted out Christianity’, as I always say. By this I mean that they kept Christian principles but there was no religion behind it. In some ways, it was almost a ‘mechanical Christianity’, a system geared to keeping society running.
Its interesting that if you sit and listen to statements said by the Communists and the west during the cold war it is amazing how similar some of their statements really are. Oftentimes, a change in a few words of a statement and you couldn’t tell the difference.
When many people think of communism it is actually not communism but usually something else. In reality, most of ‘communism’ is actually Russian politics. Much of what was seen during the cold war had nothing to do with communism. Russian politics determined almost everything, it seems. Some of the traits of Russian politics are:
– Very strong totalitarian point of view. The people in power had power.
– The government controls things. It basically did what it wanted.
– Changed was forced onto the population. There was not a whole lot anyone could do.
– There was great monitoring and policing of the population. Nowhere in communist theory, as near as I can tell, does it say that the People should be monitored by a government system like the NKVD or KGB.
– There was an attempt at trying to force change upon the world (Leninism).
These traits above seem to be in conflict with Christian/socialist/communist viewpoints. In fact, they are the exact opposite and contradict some of the basic principles. No doubt, this led to Soviet Communist failure.
Frankly, I don’t know if anyone knows what communism really is. To me, all it seems to be is an academic idea. I don’t think Karl Marx had mentioned how it was to be implemented in an actual government. But, still, Russia tried to implement a version of this academic idea onto their country. Personally, I don’t feel it emulated it very well, if at all. It got too engrossed in their politics and in the Russian temperement to of amounted to too much.
But, with all this, you can see that there are great similarities in the logic each side took. It appears that they were not so far different as it may of looked like at first.