Rhetoric:Communism Killed 100+ Million

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The atrocity tale is a typical Ultra‐Rightist propaganda device. In its simplest terms, it consists of charging the Communists with atrocities of such astronomical proportions that the [Axis] bestialities and mass extermination pale to insignificance. It is an oblique way of whitewashing [the Führer] and his associates.

—Morris Kominsky, [1]

At present, the claim usually comes in part from a polemic called The Black Book of Communism,[2] a work of sensationalist and profascist[3] tripe originally slapped together by professing leftists to promote the status quo.[4] The total itself is a careless mixture of millions of anti‐Semites,[5] millions of nonexistent Chinese babies,[6] millions of famine deaths, and some automobile accidents, all falsely considered morally equivalent to the Third Reich’s atrocities. Here is what two of the authors said of the work:

Jean‐Louis Margolin and Nicolas Werth reproach Stéphane Courtois considering ‘the criminal dimension as one of the proper ones of the communist system’s set’, he writes in his text. ‘This results in taking away the phenomenon’s historic character’, claims Jean‐Louis Margolin. ‘Even if the communist breeding ground can lead to mass crimes, the line between theory and practice is inevident, contrary to what Stéphane Courtois says.’ Disputing the ‘approximations’, ‘contradictions’, and ‘clumsinesses that make sense’, the two authors reproach Stéphane Courtois’s ‘obsession to reach one hundred million deaths’.

—Le Monde, [7]

Margolin and Werth furthermore rebuked Courtois in an article published in Le Monde,[8] stating that they disagreed with his vitriolic introduction and its obvious political agenda. Margolin and Werth both rightfully disavowed the book, recognizing that Courtois was obsessed with reaching a body count of a hundred million and consequently leading to careless and biased ‘scholarship’. Courtois also composed the book’s introduction in secret, refusing to regurgitate it for his other contributors. They both rejected Courtois’s equivalence of German Fascism with Communism, with Werth correctly telling Le Monde that ‘death camps did not exist in the Soviet Union.’[9]

Maybe somebody should arrest them for ‘genocide denial’. (The book itself technically listed 94 million rather than 100 million as popularly claimed.) In addition, a group of people’s warriors have refuted Black Book to the point where[10] Harvard University Press’ Mark Kramer in particular had to admit that it contained remedial mathematic errors.[11] (Note though that they are needlessly sectarian and overly skeptical of some famines.[12]) Many of the subtotals are not widely accepted by historians.[13] [14] One response from the Soviet Union critic Noam Chomsky:

‘[S]uppose [that] we now apply the methodology of the Black Book and its reviewers to the full story, not just the doctrinally acceptable half. We therefore conclude that in India the ‘democratic capitalist experiment’ since 1947 has caused more deaths than in the entire history of the ‘colossal, wholly failed…experiment’ of ‘Communism’ everywhere since 1917[.]’

A very common variation of this claim is that Stalin or Máo killed more people than the Third Reich’s head of state. Independent investigation indicates otherwise.[15] For example, an Attorney General’s 1954 report to the Stalin critic Nikita Khrushchev indicated that the Soviets had by that time imprisoned 2.5 million people, and sentenced about 600,000 to death.[16] Similarly, Dr. Victor Zemskov had studied activities of the state security bodies from 1921 to 1954, and discovered that during this period about 650,000 people had received death sentences (not all of which were enacted) and 2.3 million suffered prison terms.[17] Worrisome numbers indeed, but clearly not anywhere nearly as high as antisocialists would like (and only 12–33% suffered imprisonment for unambiguously political reasons).[18] Even so, it still raises a very important question: why would any state kill so many people?

It is true that the rural civil war and famine in the USSR in the early 1930s caused much misery, and that thousands of innocent people were executed or otherwise abused in the 1936–38 period. But Western analysis of these events is rarely presented in other than self‐serving anti‐Communist terms of ‘Stalin’s power hunger’, ‘the impossibility of the socialist project’ or even simple sadism. Such standards of scholarship would not be acceptable for the study of the history of repression in the U.S., where the need to win the Revolution or Civil War is argued and the consequent suspension of the Bill of Rights, and the forcible relocation of Loyalists excused if not justified; similarly, the need to mobilize during World Wars I and II is seen as a mitigating factor in ‘overreactions’, such as the internment of the Japanese. The dual standards of scholarship conveniently ignore the serious world crisis within which the Soviet leadership was acting in the 1930s, together with the threat of domestic, rural upheavals, and the absolute imperative of industrializing and feeding the people, aside from the fact that they were attempting to pursue an historically unprecedented course.

—Albert Szymański (emphasis added), [19]

The University of Melbourne analysed the excess mortality under the U.S.S.R. and the Reich, finding that about three million ‘repression deaths’ (either executions or deaths in prison) occurred in the Soviet Union from 1930–1945 (far lower than the common claims of 20–50 million). They concluded that these ‘are clearly much lower figures than those for [which the Reich] was responsible.[20] (The author of this paper, Professor Stephen Wheatcroft, also wrote two other[21] excellent articles[22] describing the exaggeration of the Soviet death toll.) In comparison, the Mouvement contre le Racisme, l’Antisemitisme, et pour la Paix attributed at least fifty million deaths to German Fascism alone[23] (Morgan Visser argued that it’s much higher). In the U.S. particularly, the extreme right have murdered at least 450 people since 1990, in contrast to the couple of murders that antifascist activists have caused there since then.[24] As for the infamous Khmer Rouge,[25] there has been debate over whether they were communist at all,[26] and few socialists of any type have any praise for them, but regardless the loss of life that they inflicted was probably closer to 90,000–300,000 than anything over one million; most of the other deaths in the region were far more due to the U.S.’s incessant bombings and other neoimperialist activity than anything that the Khmer Rouge committed.[27]

A more accurate number is difficult to ascertain, in no small part due to the subjectivity of what constitutes a ‘victim of communism’. Nevertheless, using updated statistics on many of the tragedies discussed, assuming that we are fully culpable for the consequences of natural disasters, and subtracting millions of dead anti‐Semites and similar oppressors, the actual number is probably far closer to something under thirty million[28] than anything over ninety million. If that is an accurate estimate then obviously it’s still nothing to boast about, but neither would the death toll of anticommunism, which is in the range of 66–111 million lives.


  1. Kominsky, Morris (1970). "IV". The Hoaxers: Plain Liars, Fancy Liars, and Damned Liars. I. Boston: Branden Press, Inc.. p. 265. 8283-1288-5. https://archive.org/stream/TheHoaxers. 
  2. https://archive.org/details/BlackBookOfCommunism
  3. "The Black Book of Communism is Bullshit". Twitter. https://twitter.com/i/moments/923349474390528000. Retrieved 2019-10-09. 
  4. https://revolutionaryleftradio.libsyn.com/black-book
  5. Visser, Morgan (2019-02-20). "Debunking: “Communism killed more people than naziism!”". Medium. https://medium.com/@discomfiting/debunking-communism-killed-more-people-than-naziism-7a9880696f67. Retrieved 2019-10-09. 
  6. https://redd.it/9iebm6
  7. "Les divisions d'une équipe d'historiens du communisme". Le Monde.fr. 1997-10-31. https://www.lemonde.fr/archives/article/1997/10/31/les-divisions-d-une-equipe-d-historiens-du-communisme_3811179_1819218.html. Retrieved 2019-10-09. 
  8. "Communisme : retour à l'histoire". Le Monde.fr. 1997-11-14. https://www.lemonde.fr/archives/article/1997/11/14/communisme-retour-a-l-histoire_3810094_1819218.html. Retrieved 2019-10-09. 
  9. Getty, J. Arch (2000-03-01). "The Future Did Not Work". The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2000/03/the-future-did-not-work/378081/. Retrieved 2019-10-09. 
  10. https://maoistrebelnews.com/2011/08/10/the-black-book-of-communism-debunked/amp
  11. "A Campaign to correct anti-communist propaganda". 2008-08-30. https://web.archive.org/web/20080830080456/http://www.etext.org/Politics/MIM/agitation/blackbook/blackb3.html. Retrieved 2019-10-09. 
  12. Wheatcroft, Stephen. "Current knowledge of the level and nature of mortality in the Ukrainian famine of 1931–3". http://www.melgrosh.unimelb.edu.au/documents/SGW-UkranianFamine_mortality.pdf. Retrieved 2020-01-26. 
  13. https://i.reddit.com/comments/7n6ql2/_/dsb6cv6
  14. Heft, Peter (2014-05-02). "Attempting the Impossible – Calculating Capitalism’s Death Toll". Archived from the original on 2014-12-28. https://web.archive.org/web/20141228020530/https://www.petersaysstuff.com/2014/05/attempting-the-impossible-calculating-capitalisms-death-toll. 
  15. https://i.reddit.com/comments/85ib6v/_/dvydyz8
  16. https://web.archive.org/web/20180918193732/http://school.rusarchives.ru/bolshoj-terror/dokladnaya-zapiska-generalnogo-prokurora-sssr-ra-rudenko-ministra-vnutrennikh-del-sssr-sn-kruglo
  17. "What Were the Chances To Be Sent to Gulag?". https://www.northstarcompass.org/nsc0901/gulag.htm. Retrieved 2019-10-09. 
  18. Getty, J.; Rittersporn, Gábor; Zemskov, Viktor (1993). "Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-war Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence". American Historical Review: 1030–1. http://sovietinfo.tripod.com/GTY-Penal_System.pdf. 
  19. Syzmański, Albert (1984). "7". Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books Ltd.. pp. 247–8. ISBN 0 086232 018 6. https://archive.org/stream/HumanRightsInTheSovietUnion#page/n131/mode/1up. 
  20. Wheatcroft, Stephen (1996). "The Scale and Nature of German and Soviet Repression and Mass Killings, 1930-45". Europe‐Asia Studies 48 (8): 1319–1353. http://sovietinfo.tripod.com/WCR-German_Soviet.pdf. 
  21. Wheatcroft, Stephen (1990). "More Light on the Scale of Repression and Excess Mortality in the Soviet Union in the 1930s". Soviet Studies 42 (2): 355–367. http://sovietinfo.tripod.com/WCR-Scale_Repression.pdf. 
  22. Wheatcroft, Stephen (1997). "A Further Note of Clarification on the Famine, the Camps and Excess Mortality". Europe‐Asia Studies 49 (3): 503–505. http://sovietinfo.tripod.com/WCR-Scale_Repression.pdf. 
  23. "Bordiga’s “Auschwitz, or the Great Alibi”". Programme Communiste (11). https://www.marxists.org/subject/jewish/bordiga/auschwitz.htm#a1. 
  24. Sunshine, Spencer (2020-06-23). "“Debunking the 3 Biggest Myths about Antifa”". https://spencersunshine.com/?p=1355. 
  25. "The lesson of the Kampuchean tragedy". https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-7/mlp-kamp.htm. Retrieved 2019-10-09. 
  26. "Cambodian Revisionism". Archived from the original on 2019-12-02. https://web.archive.org/web/20191202075320/https://espressostalinist.com/marxism-leninism-versus-revisionism/cambodian-revisionism. Retrieved 2020-01-26. 
  27. "Counting Hell: The Death Toll of the Khmer Rouge Regime in Cambodia". https://www.mekong.net/cambodia/deaths.htm. Retrieved 2019-10-09. 
  28. "ImNotMarshalZhukov comments on Is the Black Book of Communism an accurate source?". https://i.reddit.com/comments/7n6ql2/_/dsb6cv6. Retrieved 2019-10-09.