At the Democratic Peace blog (hat tip: Ann Althouse, No Speed Bumps) political science professor R. J. Rummel admits that his earlier estimtes of Chairman Mao’s “democide” was too low. After reading two new books — Wild Swans: Two Daughters of China by Jung Chang, and Mao: the Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday — Rummel is now convinced that the China’s Great Famine in 1958-61 was indeed mass murder by starvation, not a result of misguided but well-intentioned policies. Says Rummel:
Now, I have to change all the world democide totals that populate my websites, blogs, and publications. The total for the communist democide before and after Mao took over the mainland is thus 3,446,000 + 35,226,000 + 38,000,000 = 76,692,000, or to round off, 77,000,000 murdered. This is now in line with the 65 million toll estimated for China in the Black Book of Communism, and Chang and Halliday’s estimate of “well over 70 million.”This exceeds the 61,911,000 murdered by the Soviet Union 1917-1987, with Hitler far behind at 20,946,000 wiped out 1933-1945.
(Someone tell John Daly.)
….. Mao emerges from these pages as another Hitler or Stalin.In that regard, I have reservations about the book’s judgments, for my own sense is that Mao, however monstrous, also brought useful changes to China. ….. I agree that Mao was a catastrophic ruler in many, many respects, and this book captures that side better than anything ever written. But Mao’s legacy is not all bad. Land reform in China, like the land reform in Japan and Taiwan, helped lay the groundwork for prosperity today. The emancipation of women and end of child marriages moved China from one of the worst places in the world to be a girl to one where women have more equality than in, say, Japan or Korea.
Kristoff also tries to minimize Mao’s “legacy” of corpses.
BizzyBlog rightly concludes:
1950s and 1960s radicals who lionized Mao owe the world abject apologies. Few have been forthcoming. “Mao wasn’t so bad” revisionists like Kristof need to take the blinders off.
I think that a lot of people on the left, and even a lot of centrist liberals such as Kristoff, have not yet fully come to terms with the fact that, when it comes to communism, Ronald Reagan was right with that evil-empire thing. In 1999, writing in The Nation about The Black Book of Communism, Daniel Singer opined:
If you look at Communism as merely the story of crimes, terror and repression, to borrow the subtitle of the Black Book, you are missing the point. The Soviet Union did not rest on the gulag alone. There was also enthusiasm, construction, the spread of education and social advancement for millions …
… Our aim–let us not be ashamed to say so–is to revive the belief in collective action and in the possibility of radical transformation of our lives. On the other hand, the ambition of many is to take advantage of the circumstances, of the terrible heritage [of Communism], to destroy the Promethean spirit of humankind. You feel it while reading their prose. In his foreword to the Black Book, Martin Malia actually proclaims that “any realistic accounting of Communist crime would effectively shut the door on Utopia.” … To call them scavengers of death would be too Stalinist in style. But it seems fair to describe them as keepers of the cult of TINA–the mindset that There Is No Alternative–preachers of human resignation. Parading as champions of freedom and questers after truth, they are in fact the obedient servants of the established order.
Singer is hardly alone. In 2003, Jonathan Rauch wrote an article for The Atlantic (subscriber-only) expressing shock at the fact that the major demonstrations against the war in Iraq were being coordinated by the pro-communist group International ANSWER; noting communism’s death toll, he argued that its moral status should be comparable to that of Nazism, and that attending a rally organized by a communist group should be as unthinkable to a decent person as going to a Nazi- or Ku Klux Klan-sponsored event. The response was a spate of letters accusing Rauch of McCarthyism and making such comments as:
Millions of people suffered and died under communism, but millions of people also suffered and died under Christianity. I doubt that Rauch would condemn all those who go to mass on Sundays as being responsible for all the sins committed in the name of Christianity.
No matter how perniciously the Communists implemented their vision of the world, communist ideology—unlike racism—is intensely humanistic and premised on helping those oppressed by society.
Unlike Nazism, the communist ideal had nothing whatsoever to do with the suppression or extermination of individuals based on their differences from the “believers.” Communism is a perfect system for perfectly equal individuals, whereas other isms are perfect systems for perfectly unequal individuals. True, the prosecution of the communist ideal led to incredible suppression of individuals; but the evils of communism were in the prosecution, not in the ideal.
The attempt to put Communists on the same moral level as Nazis simply doesn’t fly. Whereas there was only one Nazi Party and one top Nazi, Adolf Hitler, we have encountered many kinds of communism, and many top Communists. In the good and the evil that they did, and in how history judges them, they vary. Joseph Stalin was not the same as Mao, and Mao was not the same as Ho Chi Minh. Fidel Castro is not the same as Kim Jong Il.
Whatever communism’s murderousness … the primary reason the fascists did not win World War II was the effectiveness of Stalin’s Red Army as an ally of the United States and Britain. … Like it or not, therefore, our post-World War II freedom and prosperity in the West are in part a result of the successes of communism. This is not to excuse the wrongs of communism, or to wish for its return, but we must remember our debt to this failed experiment.
“Failed experiment”? How charitable.
Shame on those for whom the reality of mass slaughter is secondary to an ideological agenda.
And, as a footnote: that includes some conservatives as well. The comments on Hummel’s post on Mao’s death count include two posts that try to hijack the discussion for an indictment of environmentalism:
At 10:56 AM, Robert said…
Isn’t my personal favorite Rachel Carson still in the running for mass murder greatness? Her totals must be near 100,000,000 now, considering the toll malaria keeps exacting because of her work in banning DDT baselessly. Perhaps, using the root ideo-, one could call her murders “ideocides”.
At 11:29 AM, Mauk said…
I think Robert may be onto something. Rachel Carson was a key player in banning DDT, which has lead to 30+ million additional deaths from malaria. Similarly, Helen Caldicott and the “green” movement have fought aginst nuclear power, leading to further use of coal and especially biomass which has lead to easily 50 million additional deaths from pulmonary diseases alone.
I’ll admit that I don’t know all the facts about malaria deaths and DDT, but comparing excess deaths from possibly misguided policies to deliberate murder is obscene (and all too similar to left-wing idiocy like comparing communism’s death toll to excess deaths allegedly due to lack of health insurance in the U.S.). Guys, hitch your agenda to something other than genocide.