No political ideology is better than another. They are products of their time and traditions, each of them responding to the challenges their epoch presents, attempting to signal and solve particular issues that are context-specific. Under that interpretation, ideologies such as the communism, socialism’s offshoot, rose to preeminence due to the rampant inequality in the Industrial-era Europe. Albeit important and necessary, the Industrial Revolution widened the gap between the rich and the poor, calling for a political system that addressed those concerns and redistributed the riches of the State among the lower classes. Thus, being the politic ideology that attempted, at least ideally, to fix the inequality and redistribute riches, is one of the greatest influences in the European political culture.
The Industrial Revolution brought wealth to the rich and advancements to those who could afford them. On the other hand, life was horrible to those who supported the wealth of the capitalists. Jobs were inhuman with shifts of sixteen hours. Workers had no job security and were subject to their patrons who exploited them. These all lead to an alienating situation where workers, whose rights were constantly violated, banded in unions against their patrons. Part of the need of allying themselves against the capitalists came from the fact that most workers earned their wages in manual labor, obtaining raw resources from the earth in backbreaking conditions (Communism and the Early Labor Movement). The Revolution, rather than helping people, alienated them.
Nevertheless, despite the role the lower classes had in the construction of the industrial society most individuals did not know about their conditions (Seeing History: Visualizing Class Differences). Magazines and newspaper portrayed these situations, showing the conditions of these unnamed workers whose work was mostly performed underground, outside of the eyes of the public, as if their labor was not worth the eye of the masses. Communism addressed the rampant inequality in Europe, looking for the fairest forms of wealth distribution that benefitted society as a whole, not the individuals. One of the capital ideas that communism upholds is the fact that social classes are, essentially, a social construction. Before the Industrial Revolution, Europe was still feudal in some parts, which meant that even if the lower classes did all the work, it was their masters who reap the benefits.
Hence, communism advocated a social restructuring that made visible the disparities among the population, theoretically improving the lower classes’ lives through literacy and social education. Similarly, as the population left the countryside for the cities, its new dwellers needed places to settle, contributing to the cities’ urbanization, which sped the spreading of political ideas. These factors contributed to the increasing dissatisfaction within the workforce, permitting workers’ revolutions that collectivized factories and means of production. In fact, communism aimed for the downfall of the bourgeoisie and the ascendancy of the working class (Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto). The workers regard the capitalist class as oppressive, looking for a society without classes where privilege comes from reasons other than social classes. For that reason, communism seeks to create a new society where the workers abolished exploitation through revolution and heavy industrialization.
Communism sought advancement through cooperation, forming societies to resist the influence of the capitalists who oppressed them. Labor organizations flourished, even against the wishes of the patrons, and became part of the lives of the patrons and the workers, working as the intermediary between the capitalist and the proletarians, protecting the latter. Unions sought collectivization of the means of production; nevertheless, this achievement was not going to be possible without a struggle capable of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and replace it with a state in which all property is collectively owned rather than individually owned by a few capitalists.
Consequently, the eighteenth-century society was considered as flawed by the communists, who called for a place where people destroyed the feudal society, a sprout of a society riddled by class antagonisms. Feudalism brought conditions of oppression and brought forms of struggle that needed to be dialectically improved to achieve the Communist goal. The Industrial Revolution, as a revolutionary struggle possesses a distinctive feature, simplifying the class antagonisms; pitting the two extremes against each other, making them face each other (Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto).
In the twentieth century, communism saw its golden era thanks to the Russian Revolution that overthrew the Tsar, turning Russia into a communist powerhouse that absorbed most of Eastern Europe in its sphere of influence. The case of Russia turning into a communist country is not strange as its pre-industrial nature made it susceptible to a revolution that took the intentions of the workers and the lower classes into its account. Communism turned the country into an industrial behemoth that focused on the industry as a form of improvement; yet, closed its sphere of influence against the rest of the world, becoming a relentless self-reliant country to thrive. However, the Fall of the Berlin Wall in the late 1980s signaled the end of Communism in Eastern Europe due to its impossibility to maintain the bureaucratic superstructure it had created to sustain itself.
Ultimately, communism sought, and still seeks, the collective good over the individual liberties. Historically, it attempted to change the relationships of production, flipping the pyramid and empowering the workers, advancing in subjects such as workers’ rights through unionizing and self-help. These movements that had the workers’ wellbeing in their ethos contributed to the improvement of their conditions, dignifying them. Similarly, since workers had access to literacy due to the Industrial Revolution, they became aware of their situation and struggled to change it. Under that light, communism is important because it advanced the workers’ rights and paved the road for real improvements to their condition.