[First published May 1, 2005] I have put on my commentary page a much longer version of this article. A full version (minus the last two paragraphs) is also published at Catallarchy.net as a May Day Remembrance (turn off your block pop-ups option). What follows are its major points and statistics.
The bubonic plague that in 1347-1353 depopulated Europe has horrified historians and surely all those who have read about it. Death. Death everywhere. Cities and towns devastated. Whole families of several generations gone. About 25,000,000 people perished, at least.
Yet, we have had a different kind of plague in the last century, one over four times more deadly, and historians shy away from writing about it. Indeed, most contemporaries did not even know it was occurring, for the media and politicians that were not effected by it, tended to ignore it. It was a Red Plague. A plague of democide by communist governments.
The table below lists all communist governments that have committed any form of democide and gives their estimated low, mid-estimate (what I call the prudent estimate), and estimated high. It also shows the total for communist guerrillas, including quasi-governments, as of the Mao soviets in China prior to the communist victory in 1949.
As you can see, the total mid-estimate is about 110,286,000, an incredible total. It is around 65 percent of all democide over the same period, and is about three times greater than all the international and domestic war deaths, including the two world wars, Vietnam, Korea, and the Iran-Iraq War, to mention the bloodiest. This is the Red Plague driven by ideological fervor. The Black Plague, only carried by fleas from rats and not by ideology, killed a quarter of the number the communists murdered.
There is much to dwell on in the table, if your stomach is up to it, and I will only note the most incredible estimates. The Soviet Union appears the greatest megamurderer of all time, apparently killing near 61,000,000 people. Stalin himself is responsible for almost 43,000,000 of these (I know you’ve read the toll as 20,000,000, but it was only for the 1930s and has been mistaken applied to Stalins full and bloody reign 1928-1953). Most of the Soviet deaths, perhaps around 39,000,000 are due to lethal forced labor in gulag and transit thereto.
Communist China up to 1987, but mainly from 1949 through the Cultural Revolution, which alone may have seen over 1,000,000 murdered, is the second worst megamurderer (I excluded the great famine of 1959 to about 1961 as nondemocidal – it alone cost about 27,000,000 lives). Then there are the lesser megamurderers, such as North Korea and Tito’s Yugoslavia.
Obviously, the population that is available to kill will make a big difference in the total democide, and thus the annual percentage rate of democide is revealing. By far, the most deadly of all communist countries and, indeed, in this century by far, has been Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot and his henchmen likely killed some 2,000,000 Cambodians from April 1975 through December 1978 out of a population of around 7,000,000. This is an annual rate of over 8 percent of the population murdered, or odds of an average Cambodian surviving Pol Pot’s rule of slightly over 2 to 1.
Communism has been the greatest social engineering experiment of all time. It failed utterly and in doing so it probably killed the number of men, women, and children, totaled in Table 1, not to mention the near 30,000,000 of its subjects that died in its often aggressive wars and the rebellions it provoked. But there is a larger lesson to be learned from this horrendous sacrifice to one ideology. That is that no one can be trusted with power. The more power the center has to impose the beliefs of an ideological or religious elite or impose the whims of a dictator, the more likely human lives are to be sacrificed. This is but one reason, but perhaps the most important one, for fostering democratic freedom and assuring a democratic peace.
Oh, yes, our academic and intellectual Marxists today are getting a free ride. They get a certain respect because of their words about improving the lot of the worker and the poor, their utopian pretensions. But when empowered, Marxism has failed utterly, as has fascism. Instead of with respect and tolerance, Marxists should be treated as though they wished a return of the Red Plague, which they do, passionately, blindly, innocently, or not, it would make no difference to the hundreds of millions that would be killed.
The next time you come across or are lectured by one of our indigenous Marxists, or almost the equivalent, leftist zealots, ask them how he can justify the murder of over a hundred million their absolutist faith has brought about, and the misery created for many hundreds of millions more.