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A communist revolution is a proletarian revolution often, but not necessarily inspired by the ideas of Marxism that aims to replace capitalism with communism, typically with socialism as an intermediate stage. The idea that a proletarian revolution is needed is a cornerstone of Marxism; Marxists believe that the workers of the world must unite and free themselves from capitalist oppression to create a world run by and for the working class. Thus, in the Marxist view, proletarian revolutions need to happen in countries all over the world; see world revolution.
Leninism argues that a communist revolution must be led by a vanguard of 'professional revolutionaries'—that is, men and women who are fully dedicated to the communist cause and who can then form the nucleus of the revolutionary movement. Some Marxists disagree with the idea of a vanguard as put forth by Lenin, especially left communists but also including some who continue to consider themselves Marxist-Leninists despite such a disagreement. These critics insist that the entire working class - or at least a large part of it - must be deeply involved and equally committed to the socialist or communist cause in order for a proletarian revolution to be successful. To this end, they seek to build massive communist parties with very large memberships.
The following is a list of communist revolutions throughout history. The most significant ones are marked in bold. Among the lesser known revolutions, a number of borderline cases have been included which may or may not have been communist revolutions. The nature of unsuccessful revolutions is particularly contentious since one can only speculate as to the kinds of policies that would have been implemented by the revolutionaries had they achieved victory.
- The creation of the short-lived Paris Commune in 1871, which was crushed within months by the French Army.
- The 1917 communist revolution in Russia, known as the October Revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution. It resulted in the victory of the Bolsheviks and the creation of Soviet Russia, the predecessor of the Soviet Union.
- The Finnish Civil War of 1918 between the Reds and the Whites, ending in defeat for the Reds.
- The German Revolution of 1918–19, led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, which ended in defeat for the communists.
- The creation of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919, which was defeated within a month by the German army and Freikorps.
- The creation of the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919, led by Béla Kun, which was defeated after five months.
- The Mongolian Revolution of 1921 led by the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, which defeated the Republic of China's Mongolian Puppet state and the White Guards under Baron Ungern with the help of the Russian Red Army.
- The 1932 Salvadoran peasant uprising, known as La matanza (the slaughter), Pipil and peasant rebellion led by Farabundo Martí.
- The Chinese Revolution was final stage of the Chinese Civil War, that resulted in the victory of the Communist Party of China in China in 1949.
- The People's Liberation War in Yugoslavia waged by the Yugoslav Partisans under the command of Josip Broz Tito with Allied support against the invading forces of Nazi Germany and the pro-Nazi Croatian Ustase. The victorious partisans establish the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
- The August Revolution of 1945 creating the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
- The Proclamation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in 1948, when the Soviet-backed Workers Party of Korea, led by Kim Il-sung, announced the formation of the state of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
- The Cuban Revolution of 1959 was a nationalistic revolution led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara which overthrew former president Fulgencio Batista and instated a socialist regime later on in Cuba. Even though Batista had been elected for his first term, he got himself into power for his second term through a coup d'état.
- Les Trois Glorieuses of 1963 in Congo-Brazzaville, a successful coup d'état led by the Confédération générale aéfienne du travail and the Union de la jeunesse congolaise against Fulbert Youlou established the People's Republic of the Congo.
- The Communist Party of Indonesia's support for President Sukarno, which ended when Indonesian General Suharto removed President Sukarno from power and defeated the Communist Party of Indonesia.
- The First Indochina War that resulted in the defeat of the French at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, 1954, and brought the Communist Party of Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh to power in North Vietnam. A victory followed closely by the protracted guerrilla warfare-dominated Vietnam War (1957–1975), which in turn led to the Fall of Saigon and the driving-out of occupying United States military forces there, and the unification of North and South Vietnam by communist guerrilla forces into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The conflict drastically changed neighboring Laos and Cambodia.
- The Laotian Civil War resulting in the victory of the communist Pathet Lao/Lao People's Revolutionary Party in Laos by 1975, eliminating a coalition government with anti-communists led to the establishment of the communist-administered Lao People's Democratic Republic.
- The victory of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 1975, establishing the agrarian socialist regime known as "Democratic Kampuchea," with Pol Pot as dictator. In 1979 it was overthrown by former allies: socialist neighbor Vietnam and another communist party faction, reconstituted as the Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party and establishing the People's Republic of Kampuchea.
- The Malayan Emergency when the Malayan Communist Party and communist guerrillas fought against, and were defeated by, British and Malayan forces.
- Maoist-styled "Protracted People's War" in the Philippines, launched by the New People's Army in 1969 and continuing at present.
- The overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie I by Mengistu Haile Mariam who then set up one-party Marxist-Leninist rule in Ethiopia by the communist Workers' Party of Ethiopia establishing the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, until they were defeated and expelled by the democratic socialist Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front during a subsequent civil war.
- The Saur Revolution that brought the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan to power in Afghanistan. They were overthrown by the mujahedin in 1992.1
- The overthrow of Eric Gairy that brought the New Jewel Movement to power in Grenada from 1979 until 1983, when they were deposed by a United States-led invasion.
- The Nicaraguan Revolution that overthrew the dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle and brought the Sandinistas to power in Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.
- The Salvadoran Civil War, FMLN (mainly composed of Marxist-Leninist guerrilla groups) fought against the U.S. backed military government which suppressed the rebel movement by framing and mass murdering alleged Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries (El Mozote massacre). The FMLN was inspired by the ideologies of Farabundo Martí and Vladimir Lenin.
- The Internal conflict in Peru comprised two rebellions by two different Marxist organizations. One of several groups that calls itself the Communist Party of Peru, the Shining Path fought a bloody war beginning in 1980 with successive Peruvian governments, both democratic and authoritarian in nature, and independent paramilitaries organized by the government known as Ronda Campesina. The Shining Path attempted to enforce a particular brand of communism inspired by the beliefs of Mao Zedong, the leader of the People's Republic of China from 1949 to 1976. The Shining Path opposed any form of democracy and committed numerous human rights violations. Another organization, known as the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), named after an Incan warrior Tupac Amaru began their own rebellion in 1982. The MRTA did not adhere to Maoism like the Shining Path, claimed to be fighting for democracy, believed in a more mainstream version of communism and modeled their movement on other left-wing guerrilla groups in Latin America. The MRTA and Shining Path quickly became bitter enemies and fought one another as well as the government of Peru. During the war atrocities were committed on all sides, but mostly by the Shining Path and the Peruvian military. Fighting goes on today with a small number of Shining Path cadres, however the movement has mostly been crushed and only operates in a very remote jungle region. Since the capture of Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman, the organization has lost most of its earlier support. The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement was largely destroyed in 1997 after the Japanese embassy hostage crisis.
- The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) fought a fairly successful revolutionary war against the autocratic King of Nepal. In 2006 peace was declared, and an agreement was reached that the Maoists would join an interim government.
- In India, various Maoist-oriented factions (generally called Naxalites) have waged armed struggles since the Naxalbari rebellion of 1967. Today, the most prominent Naxalite group is the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
- "Afghanistan’s Saur Revolution of 1978, and the U.S.-backed counterrevolution" Rebel Yell! Spring 2007. Retrieved 08-10-07.