In Communist framework, the concept of equality is central to the goal of communist society, but this equality is different from any other form of equality we know. Communists don’t refer to political equality where people have equal political rights, legal equality as in being equal before the law or even equality of outcomes where people have equal amount of wealth.
Neither Communists predicate their ideas of equality on the social constructionist and Left liberal assumption of all men being equal in abilities and capabilities where they’re born equal. All such incorrect understanding comes from not reading Communist literature and conflating the concepts of Left liberalism with those of Communism.
In Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels declared the goal of Communism in a single line: abolition of the private property. The concept of equality within Communism has to be understood within the framework of abolition of private property.
In Communism, equality means equality of people with regards to their position in social production as per Lenin. Communists were cognizant of the fact that the concept of political equality where citizens have equal civil rights is not the kind of equality which they seek. Their concept of equality lies in how different classes are placed vis-a-vis means of production.
The bourgeoisie class owns the means of production and benefits from appropriation of values produced by proletariat while proletariat thrives on wages by selling their labour. This is the inequality which they seek to address.
The only way to remove this inequality of classes vis-a-vis their position with means of production is to abolish the concept of private property. When parivate property is abolished altogether, the classes of bourgeoise and proletariat cease to exist. Every means of production is publicly owned in the hypothetical Communist society.
It’s obvious that to abolish private property, dictatorship of proletariat is necessary to abolish the private property owned by the bourgeoisie.
There are often people wondering if Communists are in favour of equality, why didn’t they distribute the property of bourgeoisie equally after snatching it away from them in Soviet Union or China? The answer lies in the central goal of Communism i.e. abolition of private property, as redistribution would have again ensured that people have private property. In reality, goal of Communism is to make everyone a slave of state by abolishing private property.
When classical liberals criticized Communists for advocating such radical concept of equality when humans are not equal in their physical and mental abilities, Lenin wrote in response, “It goes without saying that in this respect men are not equal. No sensible person and no socialist forgets this. But this kind of equality has nothing whatever to do with socialism.” He further added, “The abolition of classes means placing all citizens on an equal footing with regard to the means of production belonging to society as a whole.”
So, Marxism or Communism never envisioned their concept of equality on the basis of assumption that all men are equal in terms of their capabilities or strengths and hence, that should be reflected in the outcomes as well. Neither the concept of political equality espoused by Enlightenment era liberals nor the concept of equality advocated by Communists is based on the assumption that all men have equal potential or abilities.
(This article was first published on the author’s blog and has been reproduced here in full.)