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Communism (in Marxism) proposes everyone should work. Does it propose people who are ill to work if they cannot?

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    You should define clearly what you mean by communism. As different people have different definitions. Should we limit the answers to Marx, or should we include Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Mao, Ho Chi Min, Deng Xiaoping, Kim Jong Il, Xi Jinping etc etc? You should provide evidence for the first assertion. How do you know that "Communism proposes everyone should work". – James K Jul 14 '17 at 11:56
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    Ironically, capitalism does pretty much the same thing. – J Doe Jul 14 '17 at 19:03
  • It's my understanding that most communist organizations have supported hospitals for treating illness over working sick people to death. There have been exceptions. – user9389 Jul 14 '17 at 20:02
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That depends on whose definition of communism you are using.

Ferdinand Lassalle, a socialist who predates Karl Marx and the term Communism, wrote:

To each according to his contribution

This credo would imply that people who do not contribute to society do not deserve to receive from society.

Karl Marx, however, criticized this philosophy in his 1875 essay Critique of the Gotha Program and coined the phrase:

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs

That means according to Karl Marx, people should only work as much as they are able to. People who don't have the ability to contribute to society due to sickness or disability are not expected to contribute. Those who have special needs due to health problems should have those needs been taken care of by the society.


Later socialists / communists used different versions of this phrase.

Joseph Stalin wrote this into Article 12 of the constitution of The Soviet Union:

In the U.S.S.R. work is a duty and a matter of honor for every able-bodied citizen, in accordance with the principle: "He who does not work, neither shall he eat."

The principle applied in the U.S.S.R. is that of socialism: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his work."

(emphasis mine). The duty to work is restricted to "able-bodied" citizens, so anyone who isn't able-bodied isn't forced to work. However note that Marx' phrasing "according to his needs" was changed to "according to his work", which removes the duty of society to take special care of people with special needs while also justifying rewards for those who work harder than others.

Leon Trotzky was rather following Lasallee than Marx when he wrote in The Revolution Betrayed:

the distribution of life's goods in proportion to the quantity and quality of individual labor

which implies that those unable to work do not deserve to receive goods from society.

  • +1 But even the Trotzky or Stalin quotes don't sound like the forced labor the OP had in mind, but equivalent to many variants of capitalism (of course without surplus value), where there is a strong incentive to work (as people would otherwise not get access to necessities and thus die), but no direct physical force. – tim Jul 14 '17 at 14:10
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    @tim If you are wondering if there was forced labor in the Soviet Union: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulag – Philipp Jul 14 '17 at 14:12
  • Definitely, but afaik that was not a policy that extended to every citizen, but used as punishment for political dissidents. – tim Jul 14 '17 at 14:20
  • @tim The gulag system was used to punish all kinds of criminals, not just political ones. But that's a topic for a different question (which would likely fit better on history.SE) – Philipp Jul 14 '17 at 14:24
  • @tim - yes, in Soviet Union not working when able (the term was "tuneyadstvo") was actually a criminal offense. I have a cite and everything, if you're truly interested please post as a separate question as this would exceed the margins of the comment and would only fit into actual answer. – user4012 Jul 14 '17 at 15:37

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