Thursday, December 01, 2005

Mao's body count, communism, and stupid ideological tricks

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.)

BizzyBlog cites these numbers to skewer The New York Times' Nicholas Kristoff, whose review of Mao: The Unknown Story in October lapsed into some half-hearted apologetics:


….. 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.

49 comments:

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

I have to say I found Rummel's books pretty difficult to rely on, because they seemed to be based on wild guesses at fatality counts.

As for Mao's "Great Leap Forward," it's sort of an academic question whether the resulting deaths were deliberate or simply due to incompetence. At the very least I'd call it reckless endangerment.

Tim Lambert said...

The agricultural use of DDT was banned, but it was not banned from being used against malaria. The ban on the agricultural use of DDT has saved lives by slowing the rise of DDT-resistent mosquitoes.

mythago said...

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.

I don't know about the Boomers still fighting over their college-day arguments--but at least for many people of my own generation, we didn't believe conservatives on communism because they were so wrong about so many other things.

When, as an adult, I started learning about communism, I had two immediate reactions: horror, obviously; but also anger, because right-wingers had so much moral capital and they wasted it.

Dean said...

I'm always wryly amused at the 'rankings', as if Mao is somehow now worse because 30 million more might have died by design rather than incompetence. As if, somehow, murdering 70 million makes you more evil than murdering 20 million.

Oh, I'd like to point out that Hitler would certainly have passed both Stalin and Mao if he had been in power as long as they were. The Nazis, as far as I know, hold the world record for pace and efficiency.

colagirl said...

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.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not an expert on Soviet history, but as I understand it, the Red Army was still reeling from the effects of Stalin's purges at the outbreak of WWII, and that a large part of the reason for the Soviet successes against the German army came more from Soviet leaders' willingness to essentially squander the lives of their own men (see Stalin's "Not One Step Backward" order) as well as the fact that, as a huge country, the Russian colossus had vast amounts of men to squander. Therefore, I would not necessarily consider the Soviet role in World War II to be indicative of the "success" of the Soviet model.

As for "Stalin not being the same as Mao," well, going by the statistics, it looks like Mao was even *worse* than Stalin in terms of human suffering, so again, not necessarily the comparison you want to make in upholding the Soviet legacy. And color me dumbfounded at Kristoff's assertion that "his own sense" is that Mao "brought many useful changes" to China. Is that similar to saying Hitler "brought many useful changes" to Germany? Heck, at least Mussolini made the trains run on time....

Cathy Young said...

letmespellitout--this is the first time I've read anything of Rummel's, so I can't comment.

Tim Lambert: thanks for the info. Btw, I'm a fan of your blog and particularly your John Lott exposes.

mythago: that's really interesting that you regarded the right as having moral capital because of its opposition to communism. You're quite right that a lot of it has been squandered.

dean: you're right, of course; one reason Hitler's body count is lower than Stalin's and Mao's is that he had less time to accumulate it.

colagirl, excellent points!

The Navigator said...

Cathy,
I'd be hesitant to lump all people who call themselves Communists into one group and dismiss all of them as equivalent to Hitler.

Two reasons: 1. that's the sort of thinking that led the U.S. to sponsor death squads and homicidal maniacs throughout the Third World for decades in the Cold War - the mindset was that "Communism," in any form, in any place, was the worst possible evil and must be opposed at all costs. I'm not saying that you yourself supported such U.S. policies; I'm just saying that you really want to avoid settling into a mindset that, when taken to its logical extreme by others, led us to ferry guns to Jonas Savimbi, Roberto D'aubisson, Hector Gramajo, General Suharto, et al. These days, I think it contributes to support for perhaps the least successful public policy of all time, the blockade of Cuba. When you've been trying one method of removing a dictator for forty years, and it hasn't worked, it's time to try something else - and, while Castro is a dictator and a bad man and we should seek to replace him with a free democracy, he's not remotely close to Stalin or Mao. We can experiment with other, peaceful ways to bring about a free Cuba, and we should, rather than dogmatically insisting on a counterproductive embargo.

2. While I think the varying strains of ideology that label themselves "Communist" are misguided, I don't think they're all indistinguishable, and I think it hinders our ability to make critical analytical distinctions if we pretend that they are. There was, and still may be, a Communist party in Italy which often attracted substantial support - should we really have been trying to undermine them with covert operations? Were they really intending to set up gulags and death camps if they won just a few more votes? I don't know, but I really doubt it. I really don't believe that the 500,000 mostly landless Indonesian peasants murdered with the CIA's help by the military dictatorship there in the mid-1960's were the equivalent of Hitler - I think they were desperate people searching for a mode of opposition, who stumbled onto a misguided one. Likewise the Communists who were the only significant group of whites working to advance blacks' voting rights in the U.S. south in the 1930's; or much of the African National Congress; or the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Their ideology and their actions were, to varying degrees, misguided, but they weren't little Hitlers or Maos or Stalins. They probably had only the vaguest idea who Mao or Stalin even were.

I'm not making excuses for ANSWER, who from what I've heard have defended Slobodan Milosevic among others, but as a general principle, I think it goes too far to insist that any person or group identified as "Communist" must be verboten.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

Cathy: Rummel's "Death By Government" is a survey & ranking of 20th century genocides, and "Lethal Politics" focuses on Russia. Perhaps the data he relies on is actually sound, but it didn't seem all that apparent. Lots of opportunities for double-counting. But as is also true of the "Black Book," his historical surveys are more valuable to the many people unfamiliar with the subject than the accuracy of body counts. I was particularly impressed that Rummel also focused on the violence of Chinese Nationalists and anti-German violence in the wake of WW2.

BTW: Dean is actually half right. It was Pol Pot, not Hitler, who had the highest murder rate among 20th-century political leaders. At least a quarter of the Cambodian population, if memory serves.

Anonymous said...

"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."

Hmm, does this mean that Japanese women as well are subject to forced abortions? Or by "equality" does he mean that Chinese men as well as women suffer from them?

rick said...

I can be a communist, can still condemn the actions and effects of 20th century communism as deeply immoral. The same cannot be said of a Nazi. It wouldn't make any sense for a Nazi to be a Nazi, and all that entails (violent Anti-semitism), and condemn Hitler.

Also, communism was very moral and successful for a large portion of the world and for a significant length of time. Many Native American tribes lacked any concept of private property, and thus satisfy one defition of communism.

Revenant said...

I'd be hesitant to lump all people who call themselves Communists into one group and dismiss all of them as equivalent to Hitler.

Not to Hitler, no, but dismissing them as equivalent to Nazis is fair -- they may not personally be guilty of ordering people to be killed, but they all support an inherently evil ideology which has, in every nation where it gained power, carried egregious violations of human rights, and in all but a handful of cases mass murder as well. It is impossible to support such an ideology except out of ignorance or malice -- and really, the "ignorance" excuse hasn't held water since Stalin's crimes came to light in the 1930s.

Besides, the problem with the "good intentions" defense is that the basic goal of Communism is the universal denial of a whole range of fundamental human rights, to everyone, forever.

Also, communism was very moral and successful for a large portion of the world and for a significant length of time. Many Native American tribes lacked any concept of private property, and thus satisfy one defition of communism

See, this is exactly what I'm talking about. They may have been short-lived, ignorant, and had no conception of (or respect for) human rights -- but they lacked private property, so, hey, that's success!

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

navigator says: "I think it contributes to support for perhaps the least successful public policy of all time, the blockade of Cuba." Riotously hyperbolic, especially considering it was the Great Leap Forward that initially prompted this post!

rick said...

They may have been short-lived, ignorant, and had no conception of (or respect for) human rights

How can you possibly assert that the entire Native American civilization that lacked a concept of private property was "short-lived, ignorant, and had no conception (or respect for) human rights"?

colagirl said...

There is not *one* Native American civilization. There are and were *many* Native American cultures, ranging from hunter-gather bands some of which indeed operated *more or less* on "communal lines," to tribal societies to chiefdoms such as Cahokia in Illinois (which practiced mass human sacrifice, btw--check out Fowler's (1999) write-up of the excavation of Mound 72), to city-states and empires like that of the Aztecs based at Tenochtitlan, or like the earlier empire of Teotihuacan, whose soldiers appear on frescoes as far away as the Mayan city-state of Copan (IIRC--name may be wrong).

To say there is *one* Native American civilization, implies that a Zuni is the same as an Iroquois is the same as a Tlingit is the same as a Cree, is incorrect, ignores the wondrous diversity of Native American cultures and the very complex ways in which they interacted, and could even be seen as offensive.

If you had a *specific* Native American culture, in the interests of accuracy and fostering debate, I would ask you to please name that specific culture.

Revenant said...

How can you possibly assert that the entire Native American civilization that lacked a concept of private property was "short-lived, ignorant, and had no conception (or respect for) human rights"?

That they were short-lived and ignorant is a fact; their lifespans were short and their knowledge far less than that of the Europeans. Indeed, that's why they ultimately lost the continent.

As for respect for human rights, well, I'm open to the idea that some of them might have had a concept of human rights, but I've certainly never heard of any that did. Could you cite an example of a tribe that had (a) no private property and (b) showed respect for human rights? For the sake of discussion we can ignore that private property *is* a human right...

rick said...

colagirl,

Read my post again. I never implied, nor stated that there was a singular Native American civilization. I said the "entire Native American civilization". A parallel to this would be the "entire Western civilization". There is no implication that the entire civilzation is a singular unit, unless one is searching for that implication.

The Hopi did not have a work for "mine" or "own" and were a communal tribe as were the Iroquoi.

Revenant said...

The Hopi had private property. For example, teepees and other personal items were considered to be privately owned; you couldn't just use another person's personal items without his permission. I'm not familiar with the Hopi language, so I can't speak to your claim about what words it did and didn't have. But I did find this discussion of the Hopi language, which indicates that the language does have possessive forms, and that statements we would translate as "this is mine" and "that is yours" are indeed part of the language.

The Iroquois also had a concept of private property. What they didn't have was the concept of private ownership of land and housing; private ownership of other material goods did exist, and gave rise to an extensive trade network.

Cathy Young said...

The Navigator: You raise some interesting questions.

We allied ourselves with some pretty bad characters during the Cold War -- very true. We also allied ourselves with Stalin during World War II (and, after the war, sent Russian POWs against their will back to the Soviet Union where most of them were thrown into the gulag for the crime of allowing themselves to be captured).

No, of course all the landless Indonesian peasants who followed the Communists because the Communists promised them all manner of nice things weren't all little Stalins or Maos. That doesn't mean that if a communist regime actually came to power in Indonesia it would not have turned into another slaughterhouse. The Russian peasants who followed the Bolsheviks weren't all totalitarians, either.

About the fact that there are many communist models but only one Nazi one: actually that's not entirely correct. Mussolini was Hitler's ideological ally, but fascism was definitely not the same as Nazism (Mussolini did not have an exterminationist policy toward Jews).

Finally, about "communism" among the Native Americans: I don't think it makes any sense to compare hunter-gatherer societies that have no private property with attempts to impose communism on a complex industrial society.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

rick said: "I can be a communist, can still condemn the actions and effects of 20th century communism as deeply immoral. The same cannot be said of a Nazi. It wouldn't make any sense for a Nazi to be a Nazi, and all that entails (violent Anti-semitism), and condemn Hitler."

This seems a bit facile, dwelling as it does on the "Nazi" label and not on its substance. Consider that one could plausibly be a garden-variety anti-Semite and yet still condemn Hitler's actions. If one does not do so in polite society, it's because history has made a solid judgement on anti-Semitism in general and on Nazis in particular. A similar judgement about communism is long overdue. How can one honestly remain a communist, while at the same time condemning the immoral actions of everybody who put it into practice? (Reminds me of the Trotskyites, who had the luxury of extolling a man who never made it to power!)

"Also, communism was very moral and successful for a large portion of the world and for a significant length of time"

Hmmmm, why are you prepared to call it "successful" and "very moral" for many people while in the previous paragraph you seem prepared to call its effects "deeply immoral" and presumably unsuccessful? It leaves me a bit confused how you define those words. Perhaps you mean that many people considered it moral and successful, which would suggest ignorance on their part.

Cathy Young said...

letmespellitoutforyou: Excellent point about the moral judgment on communism being long overdue!

Hmmmm, why are you prepared to call it "successful" and "very moral" for many people while in the previous paragraph you seem prepared to call its effects "deeply immoral" and presumably unsuccessful?

I think Rick referred to 20th Century communism as deeply immoral; what he defines as "successful" communism is the civilization of Native Americans.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

I think Rick referred to 20th Century communism as deeply immoral; what he defines as "successful" communism is the civilization of Native Americans.


Another problem of labels, then: "I can be a preliterate hunter-gatherer who knows not the wheel, but still condemn...." ;-)

The Navigator said...

Letmespellitoutforyou,

Like many, you seem caught up on this idea that every time Communism shows up, we get Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot, and that therefore anyone who advocates communism must know they are advocating something that when put into practice inevitably leads to genocide.

I think you're closer to the mark just above, though - it's a question of labels. Anytime someone - anyone, anywhere, identifies as 'communist,' you label them as "Stalinist-Maoist-Khmer Rouge." But lots of them don't see it that way. They may think they'd prefer to be like Castro, or Daniel Ortega, or Ho Chi Minh or Marshal Tito. Now I'm not here to defend any of the latter - all of them did bad things - I'd just like to point out that, to my knowledge, none of them committed genocide.

So, in answer to your question,
How can one honestly remain a communist, while at the same time condemning the immoral actions of everybody who put it into practice?

While I'm certainly not a Communist and thus not the best person to ask, I suspect one could remain a Communist while thinking that Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot were beyond the pale, while Ortega/Castro/Tito/Ho Chi Minh offered genocide-free models that you could seek to improve upon. So, from that point of view, you wouldn't need to condemn the actions of "everyone who's put it into practice" as being deeply immoral - just, in some of the cases, merely misguided.

I think that'd be too lenient a judgment, based on my knowledge of the non-genocidal commies, but, even setting those people aside, I also think that you'd find plenty of people calling themselves communists who weren't running nation-states but who were registering people to vote, fighting dictatorships, living in communes, etc. and believed that in so doing, they were putting a version of communism into practice.

Moreover, you dismiss the Trotskyites, saying they had
the luxury of extolling a man who never made it to power!

Well, what of it? They did (do?) extoll him, they did believe that he and they were true communists, and they did (I'm guessing) believe that he wouldn't have imitated Stalin's bloodthirsty ways if he had taken power. So, why can't they honestly remain communists, while condemning the actions of those who had so far put their ideas into practice? Their judgment might be wrong, but what's dishonest or illogical about it?

rick said...

How can one honestly remain a communist, while at the same time condemning the immoral actions of everybody who put it into practice?

One could quibble about labels. I can define myself as an agrarian socialist, more of the Bakunin type of communist than the Lenin type of communist. Then argue that the communism practiced in the 20th century wasn't "really" communism, and argue that the type of communism that I adhere to is vastly different, acknowledge its utopian character, thus prevent myself from advocating any specific public policy (which would lead to 20th century communism and the destruction it led to).

(Reminds me of the Trotskyites, who had the luxury of extolling a man who never made it to power!)

Trotsky never made it to power? I would argue otherwise, that being the leader of the Red Army and also participating in TWO revolutions certainly would qualify someone as "[making] it to power".

Revenant said...

They may think they'd prefer to be like Castro, or Daniel Ortega, or Ho Chi Minh or Marshal Tito. Now I'm not here to defend any of the latter - all of them did bad things - I'd just like to point out that, to my knowledge, none of them committed genocide.

I guess that depends on when mere "mass murder of innocents" becomes "genocide". Castro, Tito, and Minh were/are certainly all guilty of the former. Ortega was most certainly the least-bad of the four -- but even he was worse than the right-wing dictator that preceded him. His government allowed fewer economic and political freedoms and further curtailed freedom of speech and of the press.

Having Castro as an idol instead of Stalin or Mao is much the same as idolizing Mussolini instead of Hitler -- certainly not AS bad, but morally inexcuable nevertheless.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

Navigator: Of course not everything labeled "communism" leads to genocide. There is little reason to worry that various European "communists" will abandon electoral politics and form a dictatorship. But what strikes me is that you seem to recognize that Stalin/Mao/Pol-Pot form a continuum with Ortega/Tito/Castro/Uncle Ho-Ho, which I take as support of my point. To the extent it is practiced, communism is criminal, and to advocate its practice in the face of all evidence is worthy of condemnation.

You're of course right that there have been minor players who've been less enthusiastic about putting full-throated communism into practice. I suppose hypothetically if you were to endorse them the way you suggest, you'd at least be honest in identifying them as a lesser evil. "Now, with less brutality, and virtually genocide-free!" One could "honestly" trade away a free press, a certain number of dissidents in jail, a good deal of prosperity along with the tomatoes in your back yard if you thought the resulting egalitarianism was worth it.

But that sort of honesty is seldom evident in communists, who are famous for relying upon dupes willing to believe that none of these drawbacks result. Remember that when "Maoism" was all the rage, it was largely due to the difficulty in ignoring the failure of "Stalinism," and all the same grand claims were made on its behalf: too much grain to harvest and there go the peasants again with their joyful folk dances. You can't help but notice this casting about as a repeating pattern. Hence my quip about Trotsky's unfalsifiability; Trotskyites always seemed to have a wistful if only quality to them. (And Rick, I meant to say Trotsky never attained supreme power, which considering how he died was the only kind that mattered.)

So the upshot is if, like members of the American Communist Party, you work to register people to vote on behalf of a regime that clearly doesn't even allow voting, then sorry, you still deserve vigorous condemnation.

Cathy Young said...

Good points, letmespellitoutforyou!

About Trotsky: had he achieved power, I don't think he would have been a mass murderer on Stalin's scale - but he was certainly no humanitarian (see, for instance, his actions in suppressing the Kronstadt mutiny.

Helian said...

Testimony of a British foreman concerning child labor from a book published in 1841:

"What do you mean by saying that those children are always in a state of terror and fear?" "The reason of their being in a state of terror and fear is that we are obliged to have our work done, and we are compelled, therefore, to use the strap..." "They are always in a state of terror; and I consider that that does them as much injury as their labour, their minds being in a constant state of agitation and fear." "15, 16, 17hours of labour out of the 24, are cases which recur continually..." "I have often seen little girls and women kicked unmercifully in the mills, for the slightest mistakes,..."

The author's conclusion:

"The people of England were never more ripe for a revolution; and if it must come, the great majority of them are prepared to meet it."

Of course, the revolutions came, bringing even greater oppression and death on a scale unimaginable in 1841. It's all water under the bridge, and practically forgotten now. The people coming of age now have only the vaguest, if any, notion of what Communism was, and how it came to be. What an end for all the idealism and hope of the 19th century.

mythago said...

that's really interesting that you regarded the right as having moral capital because of its opposition to communism

Or at least because if its opposition to big-C communism, and the inhumane policies of the Soviet Union. But it was hard to take this seriously when it turned into support of 'disappearing' suspected Marxists in certain of our allies down south, or when "commie" became an epithet for anyone who did not worship at the altar of Ayn Rand.

So when I learned that actually, they WERE right about the horror that was (and is) institutional Communism in governments such as the former USSR and China, it was a big surprise.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

I found Cathy's comment oddly amusing: "had [Trotsky] achieved power, I don't think he would have been a mass murderer on Stalin's scale." I'd have to agree, even if I knew nothing of the man. I mean, what are the chances?

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

FYI: Robert Conquest has a relevant op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal on Luciano Canfora's new book, which he describes as "Stalinophilic."

Cathy Young said...

Thanks -- I'll check it out!

Anonymous said...

While I'm certainly not a Communist and thus not the best person to ask, I suspect one could remain a Communist while thinking that Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot were beyond the pale, while Ortega/Castro/Tito/Ho Chi Minh offered genocide-free models that you could seek to improve upon.

The problem, though, is that they DIDN'T offer that.

Castro has killed untold thousands on his island and robbed his people blind.

Ho Chi Minh? Ask the S. Vietnamese who kind the N. Vietnamese were when they took power.

Tito? Ortega? Their treatment of opposition would make your toes curl.

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