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Anti-communism is a property of political ideologies which oppose communist ideology, organization, or government, on either a theoretical or practical level. For much of the period between 1950 and 1991, it was one of the major components of the containment policy of the United States.

The basis of anti-communism is sometimes claimed to lie in perceived contradictions or errors within communist theory and gaps between communist theory and practice. However, most anti-communists tend to find the theory as objectionable as its adherents' actions in power. Some anti-communists consider Communism a variant of fascism and refer to both Communism and fascism as totalitarianism.

Many anti-communists also believe that capitalism gives economic freedom, and regard the lack of property rights under communism as taking away fundamental human rights.

Moreover, many of the objections to Communism took on added urgency to anti-communists because of the Communist view that the ideology was universal. The fear of many anti-Communists within the United States was that Communism would triumph throughout the entire world and eventually be a direct threat to the government of the United States. This view led to the domino theory in which a Communist takeover in any nation could not be tolerated because it would lead to a chain reaction which would result in a triumph of world communism. There were fears that powerful nations like the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China were using their power to forcibly assimilate other countries into communist rule, in a new form of imperialism. Throughout its history the Soviet Union did manage to overthrow the governments of many of its neighbouring European countries, and provided covert support to rebel communist guerilla groups in many others. These actions prompted many politicians who might have otherwise been somewhat sympathetic to communist ideology to adopt a sort of pragmatic anti-Communism, opposing the ideology as a way of limiting the expansion of the so-called Soviet Empire.

Anti-communism became significantly muted after the fall of the Soviet Union and communist backed regimes in Eastern Europe in 1991, and the fear of a worldwide Communist takeover is no longer a serious threat. Remnants of anti-communism remain, however, in United States foreign policy toward Cuba, the People's Republic of China, and North Korea. In the case of Cuba, the United States continues to maintain economic sanctions against the island due to pressures from Florida's Cuban exile population, in a policy which is widely regarded outside of the United States as absurd and counterproductive. In the case of China, United States policy is influenced by business interests, and much of the United States foreign policy establishment does not regard China as Communist in any meaningful sense. Nevertheless, there is some hostility toward China, particularly among conservative Congressional Republicans which can be regarded as remnants of anti-communism. North Korea remains Stalinist, but U.S. policy toward North Korea is less the result of anti-communism than of its classification by the United States as a nuclear-armed rogue state or part of an axis of evil.

Objections to Communist theory

Communism's theoretical basis is dialectical materialism, which is predicated on the assumption that there is no God, that spirit is generated by matter, and that all progress and development in both nature and human society comes about through contradiction. For religious believers, communism's atheism is anathema.

The other central part of Karl Marx's communist theory is historical materialism, which states that human society must necessarily evolve through historical stages, with each transition to the next stage (except the last) involving the overthrow of the existing socio-economic order. The next step after capitalism is socialism, followed ultimately by communism.

Most anti-communists reject the entire concept of historical materialism, or at least do not believe that socialism and communism must follow after capitalism. Some anti-communists question how and why socialism is supposed to "wither away" into true communism without struggle.

Many critics also see a key error in communist economic theory, which predicts that in countries with free-market economies ("capitalist society"), the rich will inevitably get richer and the poor will get poorer. Anti-communists point to the overall rise in the average standard of living in the industrialized West as proof that contrary to Marx's prediction, both the rich and poor have steadily gotten richer.

Promise and Practice

Anti-communists also object to the actual practices of communist governments in contrast to the stated promises of communism. Many argue that while communism may be an excellent-sounding idea in theory, in practice it is thoroughly incompatible with basic human nature. A properly functioning communist society requires every citizen to be an equal contributor, working for the common good, sharing everything, and never socially advancing. Many believe it is difficult for self-interested humans to adapt to this system, and that other less positive (but unavoidable) human traits, such as greed, laziness, or stupidity are further obstacles that make establishing proper communist society fundamentally impossible. Since there is so much room for error in an aspiring communist society, communist governments have almost always had to use coercion and threats in order to make sure everyone "follows the system."

Communist parties (sometimes combined with left socialist parties as workers' parties) which have come to power have tended to be rigidly intolerant of political opposition. No communist country has shown signs of advancing from Marx's "socialist" stage of economy to a "communist" stage. Rather, communist governments have been accused of creating a new ruling class (called by Russians the nomenklatura) with privileges parallel to those in the overthrown "capitalist" societies.

Another criticism of communism is its history of internal repression. Joseph Stalin's Soviet regime presided over millions of civilian deaths in purges and famine, as later Russian governments admitted. In China, Mao Zedong's regime is accused of more extensive bloodshed, compounded by the disruption of economic life through ill-judged revolutionary experiments (See Cultural Revolution). Vietnam and North Korea have also made use of reeducation camps.

Criticisms of Anti-Communism

Proponents of communism in capitalist countries historically tended to downplay or deny the accuracy of such claims. Another rebuttal was that these failings were failings of the specific country's rulers, not communism itself. Furthermore, most modern communists do acknowledge failings on the part of communist governments, saying that Marxism is clearly against these dictators' practices. A useful comparison would be the Catholic Church's Inquisition which was a fundamental error in its history.

Some anti-communists, particularly those with libertarian leanings, extend their criticisms well beyond Soviet-style communism, associating it with any state-run activity beyond the most minimal. People who support a mixed economy where some services are supplied by government-run institutions, such as what takes place in social-democrat countries, resent the association with communism.

Some writers object to anti-communists' comparisons of communism to fascism. Moreover, during World War II the Soviet Union fought against Hitler and said that fascism was the enemy of communism, while many anti-communists in occupied Europe took the side of Nazi Germany (others, however, placing anti-fascism or national independence above their dislike of communism). The term totalitarianism was invented to comprise both communism and fascism, partly in response to these objections.

Yet another objection to anti-communism which became more widely advanced in the 1970s was that in pursuit of anti-communism, the United States was conducting a foreign policy in which persons and governments who egregiously violated human rights were being supported in the name of anti-communism. In order to justify these actions, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick stated the Kirkpatrick doctrine which highlighted a difference between totalitarian regimes and authoritarian regimes.

Repression, of course was not unique to communist regimes. Under slavery, colonialism and later imperialism (which some argue still continues), western powers also have a record of: denial of political or labour rights, racism, oppression and violence, support for governments which presided over mass killings, torture and detention of political opponents, or engagement with regimes (usually on the basis of their shared anti-communism) which practised genocide or racial segregation.

Ironically, many anti-communists were too focused on the perceived challenges of Communism to notice its internal decay, and few anti-communists were able to predict the fall of the Soviet Union even as late as the mid-1980s.

In some of the earlier 19th century usages anti-communism referred to people opposed to the growth of independent, self-reliant and often religious communities such as the Oneida and Amana communities.

See also