The primary examples of communism (USSR, China, Cuba, Venezuela) have at their head a very strong central authority which approaches if not is in fact a dictatorship. Are there any examples showing that it is possible to have a communist country that has free and fairly elected leadership or other non dictatorial governance?

  • Not really. I would say that they are all totalitarian, though. Even the USSR wasn't strictly a dictatorship (well, maybe under Lenin and Stalin it was), because there was a group of cronies (AKA politburo) that controlled the USSR, not a single individual.
    – user8806
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 19:30
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    @DavidBlomstrom- Quite a few dictators mask their dictatorship through rigged or sham elections. Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 14:28
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    There are no "communist countries"; this is so frequently misused and more of an oxymoron. Under communism we have no class and no states.
    – xuq01
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 23:30
  • @DavidBlomstrom - Are you saying they were not and Chavez is not? The sham that is the US electoral process is not used to mask dictatorship, but it is definately used to keep a certian political class in power. I am not sure what it would qualify as but definately not dictatorship. Nor would I classify US elections as free and fair. Venezuela qualifies under the common definition of communism, but much like Ussr, and Cuba its really a socialist totalitarianism. Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 16:54

4 Answers 4


Yes. You could conceivably have a democratic communism.

Communism is an economic type not a government type. Communism is simply a system of non ownership and shared resources for a group of people, in this case a nation. You could have a nation that agrees that no one owns or has anything other than a temporary possession of any thing. That any item including the home that you built and have taken care of can be reapportioned to someone else just on the vote of a majority.

I would note that many so called communist countries (China, Russia, Venesuela, Cuba) are actually Socialist Marxism.

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    "That any item including the home that you built and have taken care of can be reapportioned to someone else just on the vote of a majority." ... That's true in theory, but provided the minority doesn't rebel, in which case things lead to a dictatorship to impose it, or at the very least an extremely heavy handed government to enforce it. Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 22:10
  • @DenisdeBernardy - Actually more likely you start rocking the boat and the masses decide to put you back in line with a nice hut in siberia where you can contribute best... people can be very evil when you mess with their calm. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 18:19
  • I think it's important to emphasise the importance of the distinction between Marxism which dictates communist property theory and Leninism which dictates communist social theory. It's unfortunate that so few people understand this, hence statements like "the leaders of BLM claim to be fully-trained Marxists". Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 12:23

I believe it more accurate to say that pure communist governments are more prone to facilitating dictatorship, with their single party, lack of general elections, and state control of just about everything. In the communist countries, the party runs everything. With the government dictating everything, it is a lot easier for a genuine dictator to take over, than it would be in the democratic nations.

It may also be accurate to say that dictatorships appear more like communist countries, with the dictator running everything.


A communist government is just another political government. In fact, communism is an ideology. An ideology does not make a government and hence a dictatorship, but rather dictates the governments point of view on politics and how things are done.

This said, communist countries tend to be or at least to become a dictatorship at least per se, even though they might have elections. However, it is not a mandatory step. Theoretically, a country could follow the ideology of communism, while still having an elected government. It works the same way on the opposite side: you can lead a fascist government while still not being a dictatorship.

Issue is, that most such governments tend to make changes to laws or to decrete restrictions, which at least limit democracy or lead to a full dictatorship.

But to answer your question: at least theoretically you can be a communist, fascist, etc. country, without being a dictatorship as communism is just an ideology, not a form of government.

On the other hand, there are right now just four communist countries left... North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and China. There is not much to say about North Korea, as it is a dictatorship... so is Cuba, though it is opening. China on the other hand, while it does have many restrictions and limitations, is not a dictatorship.

  • China is communistic in name only nowadays.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 21:21
  • I think your definition of communist country might need to be clarified.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… has 4 communist party only countries and 4 more with communists currently in power from winning contested elections. And North Korea is not on either list.
    – user9389
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 21:26

In the general form in which the question is asked, yes, under some specific conditions.

  • As an example, take some theoretical communist state which exists in Star Trek like post-scarcity technological development state, with near infinite cheap energy and near-free material goods up to an including some luxury ones.

    In such a system, theoretically, a majority of population would be content enough that they would not need to be oppressed to vote for the "right" leader who agrees with the system, as they would not want to change the system. So free elections would not be a problem to system's stability, as they are in scarce economic conditions where people are NOT happy to live in socialist "paradize" which in reality sucks.

    Pre-oil-crash Venezuela would be the closest practical example I can think of - while Chavez was a dictator, he WAS immensely popular due to bribing his population with material wealth from export of expensive oil; and thus was widely popular; and I suspect would have won free and popular elections. Until oil revenues fell.

  • A community that's packed by design with people who stably hold to the communist system (for example, for religious reasons) would also theoretically be able to sustain free elections - throughout history, people are willing to tolerate pretty bad poverty with no tyranny forcing them if they do it for religious reasons.

    Frankly, I find it difficult to come up with a historical example (the best such examples would be Oneida or Münster Anabaptists; but they came built in with the authoritarian top dogs and no elections; from the start so couldn't serve as experiments to test this theory).


  • "USSR, China, Cuba, Venezuela" aren't communist countries. They were socialist ones, and socialism is a dictatorship by definition.

  • I decided not to mention Sweden, since Nordic model isn't even fully Socialist per se, never mind communist.

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    "socialism is a dictatorship by definition" There is something seriously wrong with your dictionary.
    – Batman
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 23:12
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    @AlexanderO'Mara - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictatorship_of_the_proletariat
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 0:25
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    I see. So you are conflating socialism (which is, by definition, a belief and not an actual dictatorship) with a Marxist theory. If you read the article you linked, it might help.
    – Batman
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 0:55
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    I agree with @AlexanderO'Mara, socialism is an economic system (short definition: state-owned means of production), not a political one. Marxism, on the other hand, calls for a proletarian dictatorship by definition. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 12:44
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    Democratic Socialism actually is a thing. It's actually one of the more mainstream socialist ideologies. There are parties in various European parliaments which represent it.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 16:16

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