Communism: The Leading Ideological Cause of Death in the 20th Century
Of all the plagues to ravage humanity, from the Black Death to cancer, one of the deadliest has been a virulent idea that has claimed millions of souls.
Except that the idea, communism, denies the existence of a soul, and its adherents normally punish those that would say otherwise. The brutal brainchild of Karl Marx, the Communist Manifesto, promised utopia on Earth. All one needed to do was overturn society and throw off the ruling class through violent revolution. The road to paradise was red, built on a new social order built by destroying traditional beliefs, social structures, property ownership, and governance.
Adolf Hitler’s Holocaust is a familiar horror, but the grim death counts from communist revolutions in Russia and China both far exceed his genocidal efforts. While Hitler targeted the Jews, the communists targeted all religions, and entire classes of society.
Some lay-Marxists have described the waves of killing that followed communist revolutions as aberrations. In fact, these deaths are systematic outputs of successful communist revolutions, prescribed solutions to the inequities of capitalism and entrenched beliefs and practices. For this reason, communist revolutions have been followed by unprecedented killing.
According to Stéphane Courtois’s The Black Book of Communism, Communism is responsible for 100 million deaths, a number total that far exceeds Nazism, which left 16 million dead—and it eclipses the 20th century death tolls of lung cancer, diabetes, and homicides.
In carrying out this ideology, 20th century political regimes headed by dictators such as Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin were responsible for a swift destruction of human life never seen before in history.
The most murderous of several 20th century dictators was China’s Mao Zedong according to most estimates. Mao’s estimated death toll ranges from 60 million to 80 million, which surpasses the lives claimed by World War I (37 million) and possibly World War II (66 million). The makeup of these 60 million plus deaths includes—but is not limited to—civil wars, landlords that were slaughtered under the communist land reform policy, and red guards during the Cultural Revolution that tortured and killed supposed “class enemies.”
Courtois tabs Russian dictator Joseph Stalin’s death total at 20 million, though this number fluctuates from 10 to 60 million depending on the source. Stalin, the infamous author of the quote “one person’s death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic,” threw into concentration camps and persecuted millions of “unloyal” citizens. He also executed intellectuals and political figures deemed a threat to his power to establish himself as Russia’s sole authority. He was even able to make these people “disappear” by removing their photos and records from history. At 20 million, Stalin’s death total beats out the 20th century death counts of pancreatic cancer (17 million), HIV/AIDS (12.5 million), and epilepsy (10 million).
One of the most common ways communists kill and forever break the will of the citizens in their “people’s republics” has been starvation.
Mao’s Great Leap Forward was pitched as a way to modernize China’s economy. It took communities of laborers from the farms and forced them to smelt metals such as iron and steel in backyard furnaces. This removal of labor from food production eventually resulted in China’s great famine, which experts estimate took 30-40 million lives.
In Ukraine, collectivization and soviet industrialization brought about the Holomodor, a famine that caused between 2.5 to 7.5 million deaths.
Those who have escaped North Korea often tell governments to send food aid there that if they truly want to help step the perpetual famine there, it would be better to send animal feed since it is more likely to reach those that actually need it.
While Russia and China top the death count, the tolls in other communist countries were similarly tragic.
In Cambodia, Pol Pot—who was previously a member of the French Communist Party, attempted to create his version of an utopian Communist society by driving millions from cities to rural areas to do manual labor. This was a common practice after communist revolutions in other countries also, as was his killing of educated members of society such as lawyers, doctors, and philosophers, whom he called “the root of all capitalist evil.”
During his reign from 1975-1979, about 1.5-2 million of a total population of 7 million Cambodians were killed, whether from direct slaughter or famine due to intense labor and food shortages in the fields. A similar proportion of the U.S. population would be equivalent to the populations of California and Texas.
Another two million were murdered by communists in North Korea and Ethiopia.
While ruling under the guise of freedom and prosperity for all, communist regimes have instead caused misery and destruction in every nation where they have taken reign. Through regimes in Europe, Asia, and Africa, communism has claimed a total of 100 million lives in under 100 years, making it an unprecedented ideological killer.
Communism is estimated to have killed at least 100 million people, yet its crimes have not been fully compiled and its ideology still persists. Epoch Times seeks to expose the history and beliefs of this movement, which has been a source of tyranny and destruction since it emerged.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.