From Set the Record Straight: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What Is Communism? What Is Its Real History? What Does It Have to Do with the World Today?

Part 4

Revolution #021, November 6, 2005, posted at

Revolution is running this FAQ in four parts. The full FAQ is available online at or

Q Socialism might be good as an idea but has it really worked in practice?

A The socialist revolutions in the Soviet Union (1917-56) and China (1949-76) made tremendous advances towards a liberated world. With state power in their hands, the former have-nots were taking hold of and transforming society. The rule of profit and exploitation was ended. Basic social needs were met. Life expectancy in Maoist China doubled between 1949 and 1976, from 32 to 65 years. Unprecedented strides were made in uprooting the oppression of women and minority nationalities. These revolutions did not fail but were defeated by bourgeois and reactionary forces.

Q Won’t socialism or communism come up against the realities of human nature and selfishness?

A There is no innate or unchanging "human nature." People’s thinking, behavior, and values are shaped by the economic structure and corresponding institutions and culture of a given society. Ancient Greek society and America’s "founding fathers" regarded slavery as perfectly "normal." Capitalism is organized around the private accumulation of profit and economic competition. Selfishness, greed, and individualism are rewarded by the workings of capitalism and promoted by the institutions of capitalist society. They are not "hard-wired" into our genes, and neither is racism or male supremacy.

Q Will people be able to practice religion under socialism?

A Yes. People will have the right to worship and hold religious services (as well as the right not to believe in god). But the schools, and the government generally, will promote a scientific-materialist understanding of the natural world and of human society. People will not be forced to give up religion, but there will be society-wide ideological struggle to help people voluntarily cast off enslaving religious belief.

Q Will people still have personal possessions under socialism?

A Yes. But socialism will not be the same kind of "consumer society" we live in today. For example, it will move away from an environmentally destructive "automobile culture." People in the working and middle-class will have the right to live in the homes they currently occupy. But segregation and speculative real estate markets will be ended; and decent housing for those who had been on the bottom of society will be a priority.

Q Will there be democracy and elections under socialism, and will dissent be allowed?

A There will be real and unparalleled democracy for the masses of people. There will be dictatorship over the old exploiters and those organizing to overthrow the new system. This dictatorship of the proletariat gives the masses the right and the ability to change the world and participate in society in an all-around way. Communist leadership will unleash diverse thinking and action from the bottom up and everywhere else. It will also foster dissent, including opposition to the government itself, and provide the means and resources for such viewpoints to be heard. Elections will have a role as one means of selecting and developing leadership, and keeping it accountable to the masses. But one thing that will not be up for vote is whether society should go back to capitalism. A revolution to completely change society requires firm and visionary leadership to enable the masses to hold on to power and to guide the challenging and liberating struggle to get to a communist world: where the division of people into ruler and ruled, and between leaders and led, is finally overcome.

To Learn More About Socialism and Communism

Read the Writings of Bob Avakian

“Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism,” at
Phony Communism Is Dead...Long Live Real Communism, at
Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy, at
“REVOLUTION: Why It’s Necessary·Why It’s Possible·What It’s All About” DVD at


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