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Communism: the theory and some of the countries that practice it

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Those of you who watched the Olympic Games in Los Angeles may have marveled at the fantastic performances of such superstars as America's Carl Lewis, the world's fastest sprinter, and Britain's Daley Thompson, the world's greatest all-around athlete.

The only disappointment to many sports fans was that so many world-class athletes from communist countries didn't participate. The Soviet Union led the ban because it said Los Angeles wouldn't be safe for its athletes. In quick succession its communist partners found similar reasons not to come.

But remember the outstanding gymnasts from Romania and China? They came from communist countries. So did athletes from Yugoslavia.

This shows that not all communist countries act together. China and Yugoslavia are examples of communist countries that don't take their lead from the Soviet Union. Romania, which is an ally of the Soviet Union, takes a somewhat independent stand in foreign policy.

Albania, a tiny communist country, also has a fiercely independent spirit. It did not take part in the Olympics.

What is not in doubt is that the Soviet Union is still regarded as the most important and most powerful communist country. It was also the first government in the world controlled by Marxists.

Today about half the people in the world live under governments regarded as Marxist. Some examples of Marxist countries are these: Soviet Union, China, Poland, Cuba, East Germany, Vietnam, and Ethiopia.

Marxist is the term often used to describe communists, even though in its method and approach Marxism is not an exact definition for communism.

The word ''communist'' comes from the word ''community.'' It means that the public at large, and not the individual, owns property and that the benefits are distributed for the common good.

Capitalism, which is the system generally in practice in the West, stresses individual ownership and initiative, not that of the community or, as it is interpreted in the communist world, the state.

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