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A communist is someone who adheres to the economic theories of Karl Marx and Lenin, or other theories related to them. These theories, basically, call for the rank and file workers to own the means of production in society, rather than the "capitalists". These theories also argue that this development is an inevitable historical event.

The Russian revolution that led to the formation of the Soviet Union and the Maoist revolution that led to the current government in China purported to be based upon communism, and the Cold War from framed as a conflict between the communists, made up of these countries and their allies, and the capitalists, which included all other countries. The ruling parties in all of these countries called themselves Communist Parties, and were responsible for mass violations of fundamental human rights and the murder of tens of millions of people.

Modern supporters of communism argue that the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe collapsed as economic systems not because communism is inherently a bad economic system, but because the way that communism was implemented in those countries deviated in important ways from communist doctrine.

Most countries in Europe have viable political parties that are called Communist. In the United States the Communist Party has never been very successful in the electoral sphere.

People who don't want to call themselves communists, but are sympathetic to social equality and to the dangers of excessive private power that communism addresses often call themselves "Socialists" or "Social Democrats".

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