Communism Today

August 2, 2011 • Volume 5, Issue 14
Are its days numbered?
By Alex Kingsbury


Kaysone Phomvihane (AFP/Getty Images/Hoang Dinh Nam)
Kaysone Phomvihane — beloved former leader of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party — smiles down from a billboard announcing the opening of the party's 9th national congress in Vientiane, in March. The one-party communist government of Laos, one of the world's poorest countries, recently began experimenting with market-based economic reforms. (AFP/Getty Images/Hoang Dinh Nam)

When Fidel Castro said earlier this year that communism had failed in Cuba, one might have thought the sun had finally set worldwide on the Marxist-Leninist ideology. But, despite Cuba's shaky economy and the fall of the Soviet Union and its satellite states nearly 20 years ago, one in five people on the planet still lives under communist rule. Single-party authoritarian communist governments still run five countries: Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, North Korea and — most significantly — China, with its 1.3 billion inhabitants. In addition, elected communist parties run the governments in Nepal and Cyprus, while communist parties are members of ruling coalitions in South Africa, Belarus, Brazil and six other nations. In Europe and elsewhere, modern communist parties are more centrist than their leftist ancestors. Academics still debate whether the threat of communism was overrated during the Cold War, whether President Ronald Reagan was responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union and if today's communist economies are sustainable.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Communism and Socialism
Aug. 02, 2011  Communism Today
Mar. 04, 1988  Communist Reformers Look West
Dec. 28, 1984  Communist Economies
Sep. 21, 1984  Southern European Socialism
Feb. 09, 1979  Communist Indochina and the Big Powers
Apr. 23, 1976  Western European Communism
May 28, 1969  World Communist Summit
Nov. 20, 1968  Intellectuals in Communist Countries
Aug. 28, 1968  Scandinavia and Socialism
Oct. 18, 1967  Soviet Communism After Fifty Years
Sep. 21, 1966  Soviet Economy: Incentives Under Communism
Sep. 15, 1965  Thailand: New Red Target
Dec. 18, 1963  Communist Schisms
Mar. 13, 1963  Venezuela: Target for Reds
Apr. 25, 1962  Teaching About Communism
Dec. 01, 1960  Farming and Food in Communist Lands
Apr. 27, 1960  Communist Party, U.S.A.
Nov. 07, 1956  Reds and Redefection
Apr. 11, 1956  Communists and Popular Fronts
Dec. 07, 1955  Religion Behind the Iron Curtain
Nov. 12, 1954  Communist Controls
Feb. 11, 1953  Red Teachers and Educational Freedom
Apr. 04, 1950  Loyalty and Security
Aug. 19, 1949  Church and Communism
Jul. 22, 1949  Reds in Trade Unions
Jul. 05, 1949  Academic Freedom
Feb. 11, 1948  Control of Communism in the United States
Feb. 05, 1947  Investigations of Un-Americanism
Nov. 13, 1946  Communism in America
Mar. 28, 1935  Anti-Radical Agitation
Oct. 19, 1932  The Socialist Vote in 1932
Aug. 08, 1931  National Economic Councils Abroad
Global Issues
Regional Political Affairs: Russia and the Former Soviet Union