Picking up on a question that was posted here, it said that in Communism

a home that one built could be reapportioned to someone by the vote of a majority

It seems to me that this isn't a fair state of affairs, to give a new use for some one else's hard labor of building a home.

What kind of justice system is there if private property can just be seized? What is the proposed model?

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    I would note something very similar is possible in most western countries. The majority criteria looks to imply democracy, and be unrelated to communism.
    – user9389
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 12:58
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    What @notstoreboughtdirt said. In communism, either you don't have any property rights (house or handkerchief, doesn't matter); or you don't have property rights to specific property, namely "tools of production", whatever that means; but have rights to other things. If you do not have rights to something, "reapportioning" it isn't an option as it already belongs to community, not to you. if you DO have rights to it, then it has nothing to do with communism, but with whatever legal/political system you have which is orthogonal to economic system of communism vs. not.
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 16:19
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    And yes, in a straight up democracy, a majority can vote to do anything at all; which is why most "democratic" countries aren't actual straight up democracies but democratic republics - this was discussed earlier on Politics.SE
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 16:20
  • Where does working to build a home confer any property rights on the results?
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 10:23

4 Answers 4


"It isn't fair to give a new use for some one else's hard labor" is the capitalist idea of fairness. The communist idea of fairness is "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" (Karl Marx: Critique of the Gotha Program).

In Communist theory, the communist worker wouldn't build a home for themselves. They would build a home for the community. All products of labor are distributed by the community following the Marxist doctrine of "to each according to his needs". So the community would then give that house to the person in most need of a new home.

Most forms of communism differentiate between private property and personal property. Ownership of personal property is protected while private property is to be abolished. Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx wrote in Chapter II of the Communist Manifesto: "The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property". Andreas Berkmann clarified what exactly that means in Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism: "The revolution abolishes private ownership of the means of production and distribution, and with it goes capitalistic business. Personal possession remains only in the things you use, Thus, your watch is your own, but the watch factory belongs to the people". However, that line can be blurry. Different interpretations of communism have different ideas where the separation between personal property and communal property should happen.

Depending on how your branch of communism interprets personal property, the house would then either become personal property of that citizen or just considered a temporary lend by the community.

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    “It isn't fair to give a new use for some one else's hard labor" is the capitalist idea of fairness. Not really, property rights are treated as preexisting, merely working hard doesn't confer any, certainly not in proportion to how hard it is. By default, a newly built home doesn't belong to the construction workers!
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 10:27
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    @Relaxed In a capitalist system, a newly built building does belong to the one who built it, unless they entered a mutually consensual contract which says that someone else will own it. Which construction workers usually do.
    – Philipp
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 10:30
  • No, it doesn't, in practice or in theory. The construction workers are not ceding ownership derived from working on the house or anything like that. They enter a contract to provide a service which is only tangentially related to the ownership. In practice, for real estate, ownership of the land is paramount, that's a key feature of capitalism you cannot simply ignore. No house building happens without land and materials.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 12:24
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    It could be interesting to consider services and manufacturing goods or analyze the relationship between promoters and landowners but this whole notion of property resulting from work is an after-the-fact rationalization that bears no relationship to the actual dynamics of capitalism.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 12:25
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    And you said it yourself: in many theories of capitalism, the fairness derives from the “mutually consensual contract”, not in any way from how hard the labor was. For example, there is no inherent capitalist standard of fairness that would command that workers would get more money depending on the price of the house on the market (which would be the case if what they were ceding was “ownership” in the house) or that the different trades involved in building the house would be compensated depending on how tough their work is. All that is completely irrelevant in a capitalist. society.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 12:33

The basis of Scientific Socialism, as described by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in Communist Manifesto, talks about the abolition of bourgeois' private property (factories, corporations, etc), which in turn will become public. This derives from Marx's Theory of Value, which proposes that the earnings of the capitalist come from the surplass value, extracted by the worker (i.e. the capitalist uses labor-power but pays not for the full amount and that's how he gains profit).

All property relations in the past have continually been subject to historical change consequent upon the change in historical conditions.The French Revolution, for example, abolished feudal property in favour of bourgeois property. The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few. In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property. We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence. Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily. Or do you mean the modern bourgeois private property?

Source: Communist Manifesto Chapter II

Btw, I would suggest editing to "What happens with private property in Communism" in order not to be marked as opinion-based.

Edit (motivated by user4012's comment):

the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it

Marx's insight here concerned the (violent) expropriation of peasants from their lands by the people who formed the capitalist class afterwards, during the transition from feudal to capitalistic model of economy. The peasants turned into factory workers during industrialization. (Source: Marx's Das Capital, Vol I, On Primitive Accumulation).

and is still destroying it daily.

Even the recent crisis originated from house loans and resulted in millions of homeless people around the globe.

Homeless Children in US

Source: Wiki

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    Te last paragraph seems like a logical fallacy. "There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it" - it omits an answer of what to do if it does NOT get destroyed (as it clearly hasn't been, so Marx was wrong). I'm torn on upvoting this because this is indeed Marx's answer, and downvoting because his asnwer is meaningless vacuous non-answer evasion, in its content.
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 16:24
  • I edited my answer, to make it more clear Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 6:27

This question reflects a deep and pervasive misunderstanding of Marxist philosophy, a misunderstanding that I suspect was intentionally created (somewhere in the early to mid 20th century) as a straw-man argument in the 'fight' against socialism.

When Marx talks about the abolition of private property he is talking specifically and exclusively about the private ownership of collective means of production. Marx is not particularly interested in the ownership of non-productive property: housing, food, clothing, etc. Such things only come into consideration, for Marx, to the extent that the private ownership of collective means of production becomes a system to deprive laborers of such niceties. Marx also doesn't worry much about an individual owning his own means of production. A carpenter can own a hammer — a tool he uses to ply his trade — and all is well with the world.

Marx is concerned about a specific feature of capitalist society. Let's say (extending the above example) that instead of every carpenter in the world owning his own hammer, six people with a lot of money buy up every single hammer on the face of the earth, and then turn around to rent those hammers back to carpenters. These six people — let's call them 'hammer capitalists' — are now in a position where they can dictate whether any given carpenter works, because a carpenter can only work by renting a hammer from one of these six people. That means these six are in a position to dictate whether a carpenter has decent housing, has new clothes, or even whether a carpenter has anything to eat, because a carpenter cannot do or have any of those things unless he works, and he only works if he rents a hammer from these 'hammer capitalists'. The 'hammer capitalists' can thus set their hammer rental rate arbitrarily high, forcing carpenters to work increasingly more merely to pay off the rent. The end result is that most of the carpenter's excessive labor produces value and income for the 'hammer capitalist', leaving the carpenter only enough to get by, even after long, long hours of work.

Of course, in the practical context of Marx's world we don't have 'hammer capitalists' who own all the hammers and rent them to carpenters. We have industrial capitalists who own industries, and rent 'employment'. That is the nature of an employment contract: an employee is given the right to use the capitalist's industrial property to produce goods, at the capitalists's pleasure; the capitalist takes all of the goods that are thus produced as his rent for that right, and offers the employee a comparatively small wage which the employee is obliged to take, because if the employee does not agree to the terms, he cannot work at all, and will not be able to afford the basic requirements of continued life. In its most degraded form this system is akin to slavery, where laborers labor incessantly merely to keep body and soul together, while owners sit back and reap massive profits.

The core of Marxist thought, setting aside all of its complexities for the moment, is the question of how workers can break free of this noxious 'rent' condition, gaining some ownership and control over the means of production they need to do work, so that their labor cannot be exploited and they can reap a reasonable profit from the products of their own labor. If you've ever wondered why lower income people often spend more than half of their total income merely to have a place to live, you've touched on the edges of Marxist thought. No one has yet come up with a good solution — and plenty of people have come up with bad solutions — but the question is a vital and important one. However, we have to recognize that the point is not the end private rights in some vacuous and draconian fashion. The point is that property rights, construed poorly and prejudicially, can become a tool in its own right for depriving other people of their own property rights. For Marx, a man who invests labor to produce a product has property rights over the product produced, regardless of who owns the tool used. He can sign those rights away — sell his product — if he so chooses, but he should not be forced to sign those rights away merely to meet the basic necessities of life.


Keep in mind that there is no single "Communist" political theory just like there isn't a single "Capitalist" political theory.

However, generally speaking, Communist theory approaches property on a completely different level:

There are four types of Property according to Communist theory:

  • Personal Property: Things you own to take care of yourself.
  • Familiar Property: Things you own to take care of your family.
  • Communal Property: Things owned by a group of people to meet their needs collectively.
  • Private Property: Things owned to lease to others for profit.

Note that one of these is very different, and Communism sees it as such.

Depending on the variety of Communism, Private Property is either discouraged or banned.

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