“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” – John Steinbeck

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Kinda sorta, but I have to back up a bit in order to answer that question so bear with me.

First off, you generally only get the formations of nations under capitalism and the creation of integrated national markets. Before capitalism you might have feudal fiefdoms, family clans, larger tribes, city states, even large empires, but a national economy and a national consciousness comes later. For example, the Roman empire spent a lot of it’s time fighting internal wars with one batch of Italians fighting another batch of Italians because the fact that they were both Italian wasn’t that important. So on one hand, no, communism has never been reached on a national scale in that sense.

On the other hand, the vast majority of human history (going back 200,000 years or so when we first evolved into modern humans) has been spent in what Marx unfortunately called primitive communism. Nowadays that sounds insulting but at the time it meant more like “original” communism. They didn’t have private property, standing armies, or a state. Production was social and so was consumption (we all hunt and gather as best we can and we all share in the bounty). Private property and wage labour in evolutionary terms is a very recent invention so arguments that try to base themselves on some imagined “human nature” really don’t make a lot of sense. If you asked a 15th century feudal lord about human nature he’d tell you all about the “great chain of being” and that everyone has a fixed place within a hierarchy as ordained by God and now get back to work, peasant. If you ask an indigenous elder you’ll get a very different answer. Ask a stock broker you’ll get an entirely different one again.

Back to today though: It’s probably impossible for one nation to reach communism until either the whole world or at least most of it is socialist. While a socialist society should always try to move forward towards communism there are real world limitations on that while imperialism still exists. There’s a real contradiction between deepening a revolution and defending the gains you’ve already made eg. under communism you don’t have standing armies of professional soldiers under the command of a centralized state but if you’ve got Fascist armies on your border your revolution is fucked if you don’t have that. Within that contradiction you also get new ruling classes within the Party that have a vested interest in going back to capitalism while others want to continue the revolution (this is why the totalitarian model is incorrect – these are not monolithic entities all marching in lockstep). Stalin more or less thought that socialism would develop in a fairly linear way and if there are enemies of socialism they’re all foreign agents or corrupt criminals. Hence why class struggle in the USSR frequently took the form of sending out the NKVD and having your political enemies shot, which had a real chilling effect on the revolution. This was one of Mao’s major insights, that class struggle actually continues under socialism, that socialist society generates new ruling classes that must be defeated politically through mass democracy and popular struggle, not shooting.

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