Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto defines communism as the abolition of private property. It ends with a call for the forcible overthrow of all existing social institutions. The failure of communism lies in the fact that it is not an economic answer to political problems, it is only an ideology that is sound, yet not well rounded enough to provide true solutions. Communism arises through the ultimate elevation of the workers as sole components of an eternal, unchanging, industrial Eden in which the individual subsumes all personal interest to the good of the collectivity. When that nirvana is achieved, the state withers away and a communist party forwards the interests of the workers.
In the past, communist doctrine considered its ultimate triumph a natural or "scientific" development and one that would fully liberate the masses. This belief even had some expected practical components. For example:
- Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky predicted that under communism human beings would be physically stronger and intellectually more gifted.
- Under the new regime, crops would be grown in otherwise unsuitable soil because of the fervor of the workers. Early Soviet agriculture suffered from the application of ideology. Traditional agriculture was considered decadent and bourgeois. Any subsequent crop failure was interpreted as resulting from treason and sabotage and punished accordingly.
After the defeat of his enemies in the post-World War I civil war, it quickly became evident that the initial communist economic programs had resulted in virtually no industrial production and very little agricultural produce for the cities. To avoid starvation and to jump-start the economy, Soviet dictator Lenin established the new economic policy NEP which allowed a significant measure of independent economic activity, at least on the personal level. It was only when Stalin had consolidated his leadership position in the party that he chose to reverse field and place agricultural lands directly under the state. This would have long-term disastrous effects on the Russian people, effects which are only now being fully grasped and ones which will require more years to be fully overcome.
Since the communist party was the embodiment of the interests of the workers, the party could use the population to further party interests, even if this meant gross mistreatment of millions of individuals. Rights did not inhere in the individual but, rather, in the worker collectivity. Anti-social elements (e.g., those with bourgeois tendencies) by definition had no rights. This justified the starvation of millions of Ukrainians in the effort to collectivize agriculture. And it justified the deaths of millions of slave-laborers to further the industrialization of the country. Since such practices -relying on the state's capacity for brute force--have no market information mechanism (that is, no practical vehicle for determining the effectiveness of policy), there was no way for the Soviet leadership to actually know how much production they were getting for the effort being made, assuming that was a leadership consideration.