What is communism? - BBC News Brazil (2023)

  • Matheus Magenta*
  • From BBC News Brazil in London

What is communism? - BBC News Brazil (1)

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The "list of new communists" is updated almost daily on Brazilian social networks: Rede Globo, Leonardo DiCaprio, Supremo Tribunal Federal, MBL, The Economist, Bill Gates...

You've likely come across a meme similar to the one described above countless times over the last few years — and it goes without saying that none of the people or institutions cited are actually communists.

The joke, however, illustrates the polarization that dominates Brazilian politics in recent years and how the word communist has become a kind of curse word used by some supporters of the right in Brazil — even when the target is on the opposite side of the political spectrum from communism, like the liberal British magazine The Economist, for example.

But beyond the memes and attacks on opponents, what does it really mean to be a communist? What are the origins of the political ideology that inspired ideals, revolutions and massacres around the world?

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To understand all this, BBC News Brasil outlines an overview of the origins of communist ideas, going through the different strands into which the ideology was divided and explaining how the ideology impacted Brazilian politics.

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The Origins of Communism

There is not much consensus because there are several strands of socialism and communism, such as the Christian (marked by the community spirit of the emergence of Christianity) and the Marxist (considered the most popular and influential).

The origins of communism are also unclear. There are those who point to the emergence of these ideals in Ancient Greece, more specifically in the workTo Republic, by the Greek philosopher Plato, who was born four centuries before Christ.

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In his work, Plato already discussed ideas such as the end of private property and the family (it would be up to the State to educate children) to avoid conflicts between public and private interests. But this model, for the Greek philosopher, should only be applied to the most powerful social classes — the rest of the population (poorer and less powerful) would follow the traditional model, which would supply those above in the social hierarchy.

The Italian philosopher and professor Giuseppe Bedeschi (Universidade de Roma La Sapienza) counts noPolitical Dictionary, organized by Norberto Bobbio, that the first communist ideals aimed at all men, and no longer just a few classes, flourished within the framework of Christian civilization. "The ideal of life in common, lived in poverty and charity, and the consequent detachment from earthly goods, would operate powerfully in the Christianity of the first centuries." It would be a kind of Christian communism.

According to Bedeschi, the connection between Christian spirituality and social claims with a communist bias would span centuries. In the 8th century, for example, the Catholic monk and theologian Joachim of Fiore preached the ideals of poverty, chastity, fraternity, universal communion and the end of "struggles for mine and for yours".

In the Modern Age (15th to 18th centuries), communist ideals begin to gain utopian contours. "It seems to me that in every place where private property prevails, where money is the measure of all things, it is very difficult to achieve a political regime based on justice and prosperity", he writes in the workUtopiathe English jurist and philosopher Thomas More, venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church.

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The work was written in the midst of the expulsion of peasants from their properties because the English economic system at the time needed space to raise sheep in order to supply the textile manufactures in the cities. The former peasants would become salaried labor that would work in these urban factories in unhealthy conditions.

In the 17th century, the so-called utopian communism began to emerge, which considered social changes in vogue, such as popular sovereignty through universal male suffrage and religious tolerance, insufficient to correct social inequalities. Supporters of these ideas proposed the abolition of private property and land. "The earth, given by God to all men in common, must be cultivated in common, so that each one can get products from it according to his needs", explains Bedeschi.

In the 18th century, the Babuvist movement (led by the French journalist and revolutionary François-Noël Babeuf) advocated just before the French Revolution ideals such as the end of private property, direct democracy in which the people decide on laws made by politicians and the dictatorship of insurrection. In other words, "revolutionaries must not hesitate to adopt extreme political measures to guarantee the success of their work".

Already at the beginning of the 19th century, another French thinker would have crucial importance for the advancement of communist and also utopian ideas: Charles Fourier, also known today for having coined the term feminist.

Considered one of the founders of the so-called utopian socialism, Fourier advocated a peaceful transition towards a social, political and economic model formed by small communities (phalansteries) in which people live and work together around their own subsistence.

The division of labor, without conflicts, would alternate from time to time between individuals (something similar to the initial phase of kibbutzim in Israel in the 20th century).

Fourier's ideas would serve as the basis for the next phase that would emerge decades later: the so-called scientific socialism, led by the German thinkers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

in your workFrom Utopian Socialism to Scientific Socialism, Engels quotes Fourier's description of the "vicious circle" of modern society, "in a cycle of contradictions, which it constantly reproduces without being able to overcome them, always achieving precisely the opposite of what it wants or claims to want to achieve".

Engels, however, states that Fourier could not, in his time, envision that the vicious circle would not be eternal, but would head towards a social tragedy in which workers would be replaced by the machines of dominant capital. And so, for Engels, the working class needed to react and replace this capitalist economic system.


But despite its more ancient origins, much of what is understood by communism today derives from the ideas and works of Engels and, above all, Marx.

In general, experts claim that so-called Marxist communism preaches a class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat that leads to revolution. Socialism would be a kind of intermediate stage in this process, with capitalism in place and the working class becoming aware and empowered.

When the revolution actually happens, in theory, society ceases to have classes and private property. Furthermore, the means of production now belong to all people.

Marx saw society as built around the "material forces of production" (labour and the means of production) and the "relations of production" (the social and political arrangements that regulate them).

For him, communism would inevitably emerge in countries with advanced economies, although many rereadings of his work have tried to transpose his philosophy to poor agrarian countries (such as China in the first half of the 20th century and Russia in the times of the tsars). .

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Perhaps the most important part of Marxist thought is in the workThe capital, the first volume of which appeared in 1867. The book is essentially a description of how the capitalist system works and how, Marx claims, it will destroy itself in the course of its development.

The German thinker had already exposed his ideas in the Communist Manifesto and in other works about the class struggle, and how the workers of the world would take power from the ruling elites.The capitalit is an attempt to give these ideas a basis in verifiable facts and scientific analysis.

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It's not an easy read. The product of 30 years of Marx's work and study of the condition of workers in English factories at the height of the industrial revolution is part history, part economics and part sociology. Simply put, Marx argues in his work that an economic system based on private profit is inherently unstable.

The workers are exploited by the factory owners and do not own the products of their labor, which makes them little better than machines. On the other hand, factory owners and other capitalists hold all the power because they control the means of production and can amass vast fortunes while workers sink deeper and deeper into poverty.

As Engels said of Fourier's ideas, Marx believed that this is an unsustainable way of organizing society and it will eventually collapse under the weight of its own contradictions.

Socialism in Marx's view, explains to the BBC Lea Ypi, professor of political theory at the London School of Economics, was a stage that preceded communism.

"Socialism is a form of capitalism in which a specific part of the population, the working class, has been empowered against the capitalist classes. On the other hand, communist society is the utopia in Marx's vision. It is the end of class society, it is the end of politics as conflict."

The German theorist wasn't sure when this would happen, only that it was inevitable. He also does not clearly explain what form the communist society that will replace capitalism should take, he only says that it will free the workers from their bondage. His theories became inconclusive with his death in 1883.

In any case, the thoughts of Marx and Engels, who did not put their ideas into practice, served as a basis and inspiration for concrete actions: the most diverse attempts throughout the 20th century to put communism into practice around the world.

But before talking about attempts to put Marxist theories into practice, it is important to explain that, over time, the terms socialism and communism often came to be used interchangeably.

With the creation of the Soviet Union, however, the term socialism often came to be associated with political experiences outside the Russian sphere of influence (including social democrats) and the term communism became more closely linked to parties linked to Moscow. And it is about this experience that we will understand better below.

the real socialism

The most important attempt to make socialism a reality began in 1917 in Russia, in the so-called Communist Revolution. The Russian revolutionary movement was led by names like Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin.

The first phase of the movement ended centuries of rule by the tsarist monarchy. Eight months later, the second phase was marked by the replacement of the capitalist model by the socialist one, something that had never been attempted around the world.

Lenin, the first communist leader, adopted the slogan "peace, bread and land" for the population, which faced famine and war, among other crises.

He was a radical thinker who believed that a communist revolution would help bring equality to the newly founded Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Many Russians remember him as a great leader who freed the people, but for others his rule was controlling and cruel, imprisoning and killing people who disagreed with his ideas or actions.

These two opposing views would also be striking during Stalin's government, Lenin's main successor. He would also name the so-called Stalinism, considered a more hard-line, inflexible, authoritarian, hierarchical, intolerant of dissent and undemocratic form of Marxist-Leninist communism, according to theRoutledge Policy Dictionary.

Lenin's death in 1924 opened up a power struggle between Stalin and Trotsky, leader of the Red Army seen by some as a natural successor as Soviet leader. But most of the Communist Party considered Trotsky too idealistic to take command.

Stalin, on the other hand, developed his own reading of Marxism that concentrated powers and would make the Soviet Union a kind of empire.

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In the late 1920s, Stalin became dictator of the Soviet Union. Throughout the Stalinist government, the Soviet Union underwent profound and troubled transformations, such as a rapid industrialization process and a broad program of dispossession and collectivization of rural properties (which also ended up leading to hunger and millions of deaths).

Amid these changes, Stalin promotes what became known as the Great Terror: the persecution, purge and murder of all those who were considered enemies of the revolution.

Paranoia and denunciation take over society. Between 1934 and 1939, it is estimated that around 750,000 people were summarily killed without the right to a fair trial.

But Stalin, on the other hand, is praised for the key role of the Soviet Union in the victory against the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler and its allies. And even today Stalin is considered a great leader in Russia.

A survey carried out in 2019 by the Levada Center research institute found that 51% of adults in the country respected, liked or admired Stalin, with an increase among younger people compared to previous surveys.

For Ekaterina Schulmann, a Russian political scientist and professor at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, there are several important factors behind this positive index, such as a romanticized nostalgia for living conditions in the Soviet period, current state propaganda that portrays Stalin as an astute leader and victorious in war and a contemporary anti-elite sentiment.

"Stalin's memory is not of the real man, but of what remained in the popular imagination, as a symbol of iron-handed discipline and a last bastion in the battle against greedy bureaucrats," the researcher told BBC Russia.

The communist model of the Soviet Union would be, until 1990, the main counterpoint to the capitalist model, led by the United States.

But in addition to the Russian Revolution, other important communist movements took place around the world, such as the Chinese Revolution, victorious in 1949, led by Mao Zedong.

He implemented Marxist policies, but unlike Soviet communism, which centered on the industrial working class, the Maoist revolution was peasant-based. The collectivization and centralization of the economy transformed Chinese society.

In four decades, China managed to lift 850 million people out of poverty. But inequality has increased in the country. And today, 70 years later, some experts classify China as state capitalism, in a model in which the "invisible hand" of the Communist Party of China is in all aspects of the economy.

It is the State that controls almost all the largest companies in the country, which manage natural resources. He is also officially the owner of all the land, although in practice people can own private property. And the state also controls the banking system, broadly deciding who can borrow, for example.

Another revolution that shook the world and influenced several countries — mainly in Latin America, was the Cuban Revolution, when, in 1959, a small group of guerrillas led by Fidel Castro, Ernesto Che Guevara and Raúl Castro managed to overthrow a dictatorship and set up a government socialist in the country.


The Cuban regime, which lasts until today, brought social advances to the country mainly in the areas of education and health, but it is also characterized by an authoritarian concentration of power in a single-party regime, where oppositionists are often persecuted and imprisoned.


But communist, socialist and Marxist ideas did not advance throughout the 20th century only in the form of revolutions or authoritarian regimes.

So-called social democracy (or democratic socialism) is, alongside communism, one of the main forms of socialism in the 20th century.

According toRoutledge Policy Dictionary, most of the time, a party that presents itself as social-democratic is in the center-left of the political spectrum and seeks, with this label, to place itself a little more to the right of the revolutionary or radical version of socialism.

Germany, France and Scandinavian countries have influential socialist parties that have, on several occasions, taken over their governments. These parties drink from Marxist sources and other socialist traditions in policies that seek to reduce inequalities, increase public services provided by the State and regulate capital through laws, always remaining in the democratic field.

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"A typical social democratic party, for example, is likely to adopt some degree of nationalization, but it will do so more in terms of organized planning of the economy, or the guaranteed provision of public services, than any theoretical opposition to private property per se. ."

Furthermore, Marx's theories would exert a powerful influence on many labor parties and union movements, even if they did not always share his vision of a global workers' revolution.

Like the Communist Parties in Italy, Spain and France, which moved away from the image of communism implemented by the Soviet Union and came closer to the idea of ​​reducing social inequality through the democratic process (inside and outside the parties). This movement would be known as Eurocommunism.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, however, dealt a major blow to the credibility of Marxist theory, and it fell out of fashion on many university campuses and in the main left political parties aspiring to gain power in the West.

But Marxism occasionally reappears with recurrent financial crises, such as that of 2008, a classic example of the Marxist view of capitalism in crisis.

Marx argued that the unregulated economic system was doomed to periods of recurrent crises (or recessions, in today's terms) that were inherent in it.

"Although he was not the only one to talk about it, his original idea was that each turmoil would lead to another worse one, and so on until the destruction of capitalism", explains Albrecht Ritschl, from the London School of Economics, to BBC News Mundo.

For Ritschl, Marx's idea that the capitalist system would collapse because of its intrinsic defects was discredited, but today we are more alert than ever to turmoil and are more wary of it, thanks in part to Marx himself.

Biographers of Marx, such as Francis Wheen and other scholars of his work, agree that the philosopher was wrong with his deterministic idea that capitalism would bury itself by creating its own gravediggers.

Instead, the opposite happened: with the fall of communism, capitalism not only got stronger, but also spread across the world.

Perhaps no one expresses this irony of history better than the Marxist thinker Jacques Rancière, professor of philosophy at the University of Paris 8.

"The proletariat, far from burying capitalism, is keeping it alive. Exploited and underpaid workers, freed by the greatest socialist revolution in history, in China, are driven to the brink of suicide so that the West can continue playing games with its iPads. Meanwhile, Chinese money finances the otherwise bankrupt US."

Marxism has been rescued in the current debate on the problems of globalization. "There are currently many people in the world who are concerned about the destruction of local markets, insecurity and job losses," said Ritschl.

Of course, despite some failed predictions and outdated ideas, Marx raised in the 19th century a number of debating questions about politics and economics that are still valid more than a century later. But can it be said that Marx's thought has become obsolete? Or should some of his ideas that came true and are still valid be rescued?

For historian Daniel Beer, from the University of London, several capitalist countries were inspired by pioneering initiatives by the Soviet Union by creating social welfare systems, unemployment benefits and popular housing (many of these policies are considered examples of democratic socialism or social democracy ).

"That's because governments fear that if they don't address the needs of their working classes, they may face the risk of a kind of Russian Revolution in their own territories."

Who was and who is a communist in Brazil?

In Brazil, communism takes shape in 1922, with the foundation of the Brazilian Communist Party, the PCB or "Partidão", composed of workers and intellectuals such as Caio Prado Jr. and Graciliano Ramos. The acronym strengthened union and peasant movements and disseminated Marxist theses to the working class.

The PCB would grow until 1935, the year in which the National Liberation Alliance (ANL) was created, headed by the communist leader Luís Carlos Prestes, along the lines of popular anti-fascist fronts in Europe, explains the Research and Documentation Center (CPDOC) of the Foundation Getulio Vargas (FGV).

The ANL tried to overthrow the government of Getúlio Vargas, who had come to power in 1930 through a coup d'état. "Initiated with military uprisings in several regions, the movement should have the support of the working class, which would trigger strikes throughout the national territory", says the CPDOC. But that's not what happened.

The working class did not join the insurrection, the military uprising was restricted to a few cities and the movement was violently repressed. The communist offensive (known pejoratively as Intentona Comunista) would serve as one of the pretexts for a new coup d'état in 1937.

The Communist Party would forcefully return to institutional politics in 1945, with the end of the Vargas era and almost 200,000 affiliates. But, over the next few years, the party would have a trajectory of internal disputes, comings and goings towards illegality and moving away from Stalinism.


The first major split took place in 1962, with the founding of the PC do B. Thirty years later, with the end of the Soviet Union, another major division took place in the PCB, with the formation of the Popular Socialist Party (PPS, now called Citizenship).

Today, the group that, after so many splits, inherited the acronym PCB, acts in national politics on a one-off basis, without managing to elect any candidate in 2020. In any case, PCB members claim to be communists who fight "for the radical transformation of society with a view to replacing the capitalist system with socialism, with a view to building a communist society".

According to sociologist and researcher Sabrina Fernandes (Free University of Berlin), author of the bookMorbid Symptoms - The Crossroads of the Brazilian Left, the PCB is part of what she calls the radical left, formed by other movements and acronyms such as MTST (Movement of Homeless Workers), PCO (Workers' Cause Party), PSTU (Unified Socialist Workers Party) and PSOL (Party Socialism and Liberty, initially formed by PT members who refused to support the Social Security reform in the first Lula administration, in 2003).

"PSOL parliamentary representatives (until 2019) typically do not speak so openly of socialism, although their positions in Congress were consistent with the socialist premise of building popular power, defending minority rights, promoting anti-capitalist policies, empowering dissidents, and mobilizing to the left."

Fernandes traces in her book a panorama of the Brazilian left, divided by her into radical, composed of anti-capitalist groups and critics of PT governments, and moderate, which includes parties and movements such as PT, PCdoB (Communist Party of Brazil), CUT (Central Única of Workers) and MST (Movement of Landless Rural Workers).

"Not even in its conception did the PT set out to be a communist party. It was always a broad left-wing party, which harbored several different progressive positions, and the communist positions always lost disputes to leadership positions", explains Fernandes in a video about anti-PTism .

And he adds: "The PT is a moderate left-wing party that adapted very well to the order in power, and whose way of governing, which is marked by a policy that people call lulist, was much more focused on promoting allied capitalist growth to social inclusion policies than to make, at the very least, some important reforms, such as agrarian reform."

'Communist' as a political insult or scarecrow

The decline of the Soviet Union and the millions of deaths attributed to this and other communist experiments around the world led to a global discrediting of the ideology as a viable political system.

But why then is there still so much talk about communists in 2022, more than 100 years after the Russian Revolution and more than 30 years after the end of the Soviet Union, the main communist experience in history?

There are many reasons, but two are worth mentioning.

First, the word and all the ideas around it still serve as a basis for those who are inspired by this ideology.

"It is still possible to see the influence of the ideas of Marx and Engels in contemporary debates, such as the question of nationalizing important sectors of a country, such as the transport system, under a more democratized control, expanding the notion of property and including workers as as much as possible," Lea Ypi from the London School of Economics told the BBC.

Second, part of society sees communism as a threat or a kind of political scarecrow (a kind of "imaginary enemy" that is useful in political propaganda against opponents).

"Marxism is a blood-soaked ideology associated by many with the crimes of communist dictatorships in the 20th century. So the word 'Marxism' (or 'communism') conjures up images of firing walls in the Soviet Union, forced labor camps, tanks invading Budapest in 1956," Daniel Beer, professor of modern history at the University of London, told the BBC.

But not only that. In the political debate in Brazil and in other countries, the meaning of the word "communist" has moved away from the original definition and has become a tool to attack political opponents. Something similar to what happens with the terms fascist and nazi.

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"The political function is the demonization of the other. You transform the opponent, in discursive terms, into an unacceptable position from a moral point of view. The dispute here is basically moral. (...) You go to the extreme of the position you want to demonize , it doesn't matter if it corresponds to reality or not, but it is what produces moral panic", says Wilson Gomes, professor at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) and author of the bookChronicle of a Foretold Tragedy: How the Far Right Came to Power.

In Brazil, this type of strategy today aims to associate the PT with communism on two fronts: either by comparing measures and ideas (although the party never proposed to be communist), or by being closer to the governments of Cuba and Venezuela (mainly during the Lula era). But this type of anticommunist speech is not new in the country.

"Anticommunism has always been widely used in Brazil around fears. Communists were considered radical and violent who want to impose another way of life and who go against the traditional family. Communists are seen as those who promote disorder, unlike the conservatism, which preaches order. It's like that enemy that needs to be fought", explains social scientist and professor Esther Solano (Unifesp) to BBC News Brasil.

For historian and professor Rodrigo Patto Sá Motta (UFMG), many critics of communism in Brazil make use of comparisons with Nazism and "superlative numbers of violence in communist states" in a kind of Cold War propaganda tactic, a period in which great part of the countries were geopolitically divided between the capitalist bloc led by the USA and the communist one, by the Soviet Union.

For Sá Motta, anti-communism bears a strong resemblance to anti-PTism. "There is no doubt that Bolsonaro's candidacy was supported by the anti-communist tradition, which was reappropriated and adapted to the new times, which contributed in a central way to the construction of anti-PTism."

According to the researcher, anti-communism can be ridiculed in memes on the internet and have its relevance belittled, but this political phenomenon "opened the way and justified the two longest-lasting dictatorships in Brazilian history, and continues to help awaken/provoke right-wing sensibilities these days. who run".

The so-called "red danger", says Sá Motta, served, for example, to overcome differences between supporters of the 1964 coup, mobilize society and overcome internal divisions within the Armed Forces themselves around the "mission".

Criticism of communists and accusations of violence

For many, Marxist doctrine and communist governments became synonymous with authoritarianism, political violence and totalitarianism, as one-party states and dictators proclaimed Marxism as their guiding philosophy.

Some Marxists argue that these communist experiences (the target of these accusations and criticisms) are distortions of Marx's ideas, and that the Soviet Union, for many Marxists the ultimate example of a Marxist state, was actually just a form of state capitalism, in which factory owners were replaced by government bureaucrats.

The question of whether or not to use revolutionary violence is one of the main debates within socialism.

In the bookPolitical Ideologies: An Introduction, Vincent Geoghegan, Professor of Political Theory at Queens University, says that socialists have struggled with a variety of practical and moral issues since the emergence of the ideology in the early 19th century amid the development of industrial capitalism.

That is: when is radical political action legitimate? When can violence be used to achieve a violence-free society? Who are the enemies of socialism? Who will be the transforming agent: the working class, part of the working class, an alliance of the working class with sectors of the bourgeoisie, the people or the nation? Should the path towards socialism pass through insurrections or through the ballot box?

In this rift, summarizes Geoghegan, one side is seen as naively idealistic and the other as cynical and manipulative.

That is, on the one hand, many socialists advocate strict consistency with socialist values ​​throughout the transformation process, in order to increase the chances of success. "If the goal of socialism includes peace, respect for others, truth and integrity, these qualities need to show up in the transition towards socialism," says Geoghegan.

On the other hand, the motto is that you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. In other words, still according to Geoghegan, "resistance to socialism is so great in society that transformation may require the use of methods that move away from the socialist value system. Thus, the use of violence may be necessary, although the objective is a society without violence".


Brazilian Marxist writer and historian Jones Manoel, PCB militant and party candidate for governor of the State of Pernambuco, argues in a video on the subject that the debate around violence and repression during socialist transitions ignores that the processes of capitalist modernization also they were marked by violence and brutality, like the British industrial revolution, the territorial expansion and American civil war and the agrarian reform against aristocratic lands in the French revolution.

"The collectivization process (expropriation of private rural properties) in the Soviet Union was indeed violent, but it is not an exception in history, it is the rule in history. And in the history of socialist experiences in the 20th century, collectivization was the most violent of all, but there was nothing like it after that. It didn't happen in Cuba, Yugoslavia, People's Korea or China."

In addition to accusations of political violence, the most important current of communism put into practice (Stalinism) is also usually pointed out, alongside its rival Nazi-fascism, as an example of a totalitarian state, a classification that is rejected by some leftist thinkers.

In totalitarianism, rulers control all aspects of citizens' private and social lives, in addition to having such extensive political power that virtually no freedom or autonomy in decision-making is left to individuals or groups outside the system of political power.

One of the fiercest debates about communism revolves around how many people were killed by the Soviet Union under Stalin. Experts from many countries have made their own estimates, but the divergences are huge. The scarcity of reliable official data is the main reason for this, but there are researchers who accuse some counts of being overestimated for the purposes of anticommunist propaganda.

Robert Conquest, English historian, author ofThe Great Terrorand one of the first to shed light on the extent of violence in the Stalinist regime, he speaks of at least 20 million dead. Among them, about 2 million dead in forced labor camps (gulag system) and another 1 million summary executions of people accused of being traitors to the regime.

Communist Party members, workers, artists, peasants and even housewives were among the large number of prisoners or killed as "counterrevolutionaries" during a phase of intense paranoia led by Stalin, who encouraged citizens to denounce each other.

Then there are the millions who starved to death in Ukraine during the period known as the Holodomor, or "death by starvation". According to Timothy Snyder, American historian and professor at Yale University (USA), about 3.3 million people were killed in the country when Stalin's regime led Ukraine to a great famine with the aim of forcing rebellious peasants (kulaks) to expand agricultural production and work on collective farms.

In 1997, a group of European researchers launched the workThe Black Book of Communism: Crime, Terror and Repression, which accounts for around 94 million deaths by communist or socialist regimes around the world, including the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, North Vietnam, North Korea, Afghanistan and Cuba.

The book was praised by renowned historians, such as the American Tony Judt, but it generated a lot of controversy, including among researchers themselves.

Two of them, Nicholas Werth and Jean-Louis Margolin, stated that there was pressure among those involved for the death toll to reach 100 million, but the figure was somewhere between 65 million and 93 million. Both also criticized the comparisons in the book between communism and Nazi-fascism (one of the arguments is that there were no mass death camps in the Soviet Union).

Over the decades, criticism, research and revelations about the violence of the Soviet regime provoked reactions in both politics and academia. In 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed, for example, that Russia's enemies excessively "demonize" Stalin as a form of attack on the country.

*With additional information from BBC News and BBC News Mundo

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