Since the 1830s, adherents of radically equality-oriented models of society in England and France called themselves “communists”. Even in antiquity, visions of a community of goods overcoming inequality can be found (example: Plato’s “Politeia”). In modern times, ideal state designs were based on this. Ideas of this kind were not alien to Christianity either in theory or practice, as some orders and monasteries showed.
However, the great churches shifted the realization of salvation to the afterlife and aspired to a Christian way of life, mainly on the basis of existing political orders. Revolutionary groups of communist character, as they organized themselves politically since the French Revolution, on the other hand, propagated a state of complete freedom and equality in this world.
Karl Marx claimed to place communism on a materialistic, historically and economically sound scientific basis. Marxian-style communism gained worldwide recognition through the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks led by Lenin in Russia in 1917 (see also False role models: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin) and the expansion of the Soviet sphere of power as a result of the victory in the Second World War. Only the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev brought about the end of the Cold War – and the Soviet Union in 1991. Long before, Marxism-Leninism had lost its intellectual charisma as a result of the ever-deepening gap between propagandistic promises and a gray reality characterized by a lack of economy.