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- "Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite." -Attributed to Yakov Smirnov
Communism is the economic and political system, and it works by screwing over the people and claiming it is in the benefit of the whole (the "Greater Good", so to speak) and the ownership of all industry by the workers. At least the bureaucracy has cool aesthetics when it shows up.
Throughout history there were various systems and methods based around the idea of not owning anything to various degrees, but proper communism starts with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, a 19th century proto-SJW and a rich kid, turned socialist college student, turned businessman and hypocrite. These two developed their economic theory as a response to the effects of the Industrial Revolution, particularly since OSHA and its analogues and a minimum wage weren't a thing. He observed that while the mechanization of production was a good thing since it generated a lot of wealth, it was grossly unfair since said wealth was accumulating in the pockets of only a few fucking rich pricks and most other people lived in Victorian poverty. He viewed society as being on a very clear cut path of social evolution with clearly defined phases and stages based around competition between various socioeconomic classes, and came to the conclusion that soon a revolution would end the division between social classes entirely as a single centralized state claimed ownership of all property and land for the good of its people. While his motivated reasoning made a few leaps in logic, and he never made a clear explanation of how this all would be achieved, he considered such a transition to be inevitable.
Another controversial aspect of communism, since it's a moral system, is that it tends to be anti-religious; this is why communists are described by their detractors as "godless" (especially Marx's version, as Marx himself was outspokenly anti-theistic atheist, even calling religion "an opiate of the masses, the heart of a heartless world..."). Communism has either caused or played a role in the violent persecution of religion and religious people, and the violent propagation of atheism, from the 20th century onward (as can be seen with Stalin's "League of Militant Atheists" in Soviet Russia and North Korea's Marxism-inspired murderously anti-religious regime to take two of several examples. This is also seen to a lesser degree in China, where religion is allowed but tightly regulated...three guess what happens to religious locals who don't adhere, though religious foreigners who don't are just deported; all religious leaders must swear absolute loyalty to the party before anyone or anything else and open evangelism is forbidden. This has resulted in the hilariously terrifying law that the Dalai Lama can't reincarnate without the party's permission. On a somewhat lighter note, Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Terk, was an aggressive atheist who wrote the Federation as an idealized communist economy and made the Klingons and Romulans expies of communist nations; coincidence? unlikely). However, due to the increasing popularity of secularization in Western society, this anti-religious aspect of communism tends to either generate much debate or be swept under the rug by an increasingly secularized media.
To make a very long story that composes much of 20th century history short and would likely require a college-level economics course just to understand why events played out the way they did, some of his ideas were good on paper, but he which forgot the old adage "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". In practice, having so much power accumulated in the hands of just a few top-level ministers who weren't accountable to anybody didn't work out to the benefit of the people. States that attempted to implement communist ideology either tended to devolve into dictatorships themselves (or degenerated worker's states according to Trostsky such as the USSR), got crushed by counter of revolutionaries if a dictatorship was not in place (Revolutionary Catalonia), or learned the hard way that collectively controlling an entire economy in every possible way without something going horribly wrong is impossible. As a result, trying to get it to work made more variations of Communism than there are lasguns in the Imperium.
Communism in Traditional Games
In general there are three ways communism is used in fiction and board games:
1: FILTHY GODLESS COMMIE-NAZIS: Dangerous, faceless enemies, ripped straight from the wettest dreams of the Cold War-era American John Birch society. These communists are the enemy; a vast, brutal, godless horde determined to take over the world that our heroes must resist. Nowadays, this attitude is usually played for comedy, as in Paranoia where Friend Computer's glitched-out personality has made it a paranoid wreck obsessed with a largely-imaginary adversary (while creating some actual communists in the process). By the way, if you want an example of literal CommuNazis, the East German Stasi are a good place to start, although the Nazi part is mostly aesthetic and the Communist ideology is what was dominant. No way would God Emperor Stalin let Nazism actually resurface.
2: Champions of the Proletariat: The other side of the coin to what is listed above. These are either rebels against corrupt corporate overlords (frequently cyberpunk heroes) or a body of workers and soldiers fighting against fascist invaders (any game from the Russian perspective in WWII will count), and most people who complain about GeeDubs think they are being this. Occasionally this show up in Medieval settings as anachronistic peasant revolts or other politically-radical types out to pull down the social parts of Medieval Stasis.
3: GLORIOUS COMMUNISTS: Somewhere between the other two and generally played for laughs. Communist regimes are oppressive, but also able to do great things through sheer force of Industrial Might, Soviet Super Science, Stalinist Architecture and Will-Of-The-People and can be heroic just as easily as villainous. See Red Alert-II and III, and to a lesser extent a few parts of the Imperium of Man. This is as close to the glorious accuracy of communism as you can get, comrade.
Communism has also provided us with the Russian army, which is an awesome gaming resource and reference, in a drunken, drown your enemies with bodies and artillery sort of way in World War II or send in the hardened, manly Spetsnaz and tanks in the Cold War. It is a sacred law of /tg/ alternate history homebrew settings that there must be at least one communist faction and it must control at least 50% of the world's total landmass. Even Khador draws on the imagery of the Soviet armed forces, despite being more analogous to Tsarist/Imperialist Russia politically, aside from their Manifest Destiny "Why can't everyone else just roll over and let us conquer them?!" ideology that has... other roots.
Like all radical ideologies, communists are all over the Sixth World, mostly among the poor and disenfranchised who can't help looking up at the big fancy megacorp enclaves and wondering how that makes any kind of just sense. The Berlin Flux State was probably the biggest and most successful anarcho-communist enclave in-setting for a while, before it became such an embarrassment to the megacorps insisting they should be the only game in town that many of them (including the one run by the great dragon Lofwyr) had it dismantled somewhere around second or third edition.
People like to call the Tau communist. There's some truth to that, given they're a highly-collective society that generally values group achievement over personal accomplishment, but they're also a largely class-stratified society, with only the assurance that their leaders are theoretically cooperating for the Greater Good to keep them from being out-and-out feudalists with castes. Then again, that isn't too different from what many commie states became. There was also the Gretchin Revolutionary Committee, a parody of the kinds of communist guerrillas of previous decades, who are armed grots out to demand equal treatment from their Ork masters with comical results. The Imperium, being a decentralized feudalistic empire, undoubtedly has many worlds that have communist governing bodies and economies, and maybe even a few where things worked out okay.
Golarion has got a semi-hemi-demi communist nation in-setting: Galt, land of insane, constant revolution where the only winners are the final blades. It represents the "messy revolutionary" kind of communism rather than any of the three flavors above, though there's some obvious mixing with the principals of the French Revolution that was its more-direct inspiration.
Star Trek is complicated. On the one hand, the Federation has essentially a communist economy, but their advanced technology has created a post-scarcity economy, so it can be interpreted that the producers thought this would be a natural product of a society where everybody was self-sufficient. Conversely, their chief rivals, the Klingons and the Romulons, are transparent analogues of the USSR and Maoist China seen through the pre-détente eyes of an American lounge lizard. Similar post-scarcity communists are common in Eclipse Phase, though with a much stronger anarchist bent. They are largely and uncomplicatedly perfect due to the game designers' raging stiffy for that kind of thing.
Any WWII or quasi-WWII game worth its salt will have a communist faction, including the classic Axis & Allies and the modern wargame Flames of War. Additionally, many classic board games have attempted to tap into the forty-five year struggle for dominance between Amurica and the communists. The most famous and best is probably Twilight Struggle. TSR also released an RPG set during the Cold War called Top Secret, though, like most non-D&D TSR products, no one under thirty-five has ever heard of it.
This article has been marked as containing treasonous capitalist road sentiments. Please report to your local commissariat for re-education through labor.