In 1980, a mere generation ago, 1.5 billion people, out of a global population of about 4.4 billion, lived in one of the world's 17 Communist countries. Today, there are still about 1.5 billion living under Communism, but there are also 7.4 billion worldwide.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the wave of economic liberalization in the late 1990s across the republics that made up the U.S.S.R. and other formerly red nations, just five countries, the People's Republic of China, the Republic of Cuba, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, call themselves Communist. And as the video above explains, that's really just a label.
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In a purely Communist society, all assets are owned by the state, which itself consists entirely of the working class. Production is based on ability and distributed according to need. Workers are supposed to at least have their basic needs met, but they also have no way of getting ahead.
Socialism shares a similar vision of equality, but isn't quite as extreme in terms of its political and economic implications. In a socialist society, the government owns the means of production and workers are paid wages that they spend on whatever good and services they like.
Every country that espouses Communism in principle is socialist in practice, and even then there are varying degrees of market reforms each of the five countries has enacted that led to a creep toward capitalism.
China, for example, in the 1980s pushed through reforms that moved the country toward a market economy, the beginning of the People's Republic's assent to become the global economic powerhouse it is today. Around the same time, Vietnam, the country where the United States found a war to throw the Communists out, liberalized its formerly isolationist, centrally planned system, and today has one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia.
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Despite the success of market reforms, some Communist nations strongly isolationist. This is particularly true in North Korea, where the philosophy of "Juche," which more or less translates to "self-reliance," is the official state ideology. This result is North Korea is left with an economy about 1/35th the size of its southern neighbor.
The five remaining Communist countries do share some things in common, however, specifically political repression and censorship. Each government places heavy restrictions on the press and its people's Internet access. In fact a recent leak of official data by North Korea Internet admins revealed that just 28 websites exist under the .kp domain.
Communism had the better part of the 20th century to make its case, and most of the world today seems to have collectively said no thanks. When the largest self-described Communist country on Earth also happens to have the second-highest number of billionaires, you know the party's over for the ideologues of the Communist party.
-- Talal Al-Khatib
Huffington Post: Capitalism, Socialism, and Capitalism
Britannica: Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU)
Radio Free Asia: China, Myanmar, North Korea, and Vietnam Among the 10 Worst Media Censors