Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Stalin and Mao

Sandeep had a write-up on Stalin dated October 24, 2005. An earlier posting of his highlights Nehru's high regard for the Soviet leader, notwithstanding Stalin's sordid human rights record. To illustrate, I rely on conservative estimates derived from Soviet census figures and the unexplained excess deaths in a ten year period relative to other periods.

The April 13, 1998 edition of Time Magazine mentions that Stalin killed between 15 to 20 million Soviet citizens. Zbigniew Brzezinski, one time National Security Adviser and Professor at Columbia University, estimates that between 20 and 25 million persons died due to Stalinist labor camps, executions and the forced collectivization of agriculture. The Encyclopedia Britannica cites Roy Medvedev to reckon that 20 million died under Stalin due to labor camps, executions and famine. Robert Conquest in his "The Great Terror: A Re-assessment" claimed that 20 million individuals perished under Joseph Stalin. These are conservative figures and other estimates of Stalinist deaths are considerably higher.

Now to Mao Ze Dong. Varnam had a valuable read on him on October 25. Agence France Presse in its report dated September 25, 1999 cites Stephane Courtois to estimate that at least 44.5 million individuals were killed under Mao. The July 17, 1994 edition of the Washington Post cited the University of Shanghai Journal to estimate 40 million deaths under Mao. Zbigniew Brzezinski reckoned that 29 million deaths could be attributed to Mao. Once again, these are estimates at the lower end of the spectrum. What is undeniable is that Marxism killed millions and represented the worst episode in 20th century history.


Red said...

I'm not a great admirer of either Stalin or Maow, but a generalization that Marxism killed millions does'nt really get us anywhere. Conversely one could argue that the capitalist system that lead to the world wars caused far more deaths.

Or as someone once said, the nation state was responsible for more deaths than any other institution.

Using labels to classify complex causal-effect relationships get us nowhere. At the end of the day Stalin and Maow were despotic rulers. Just like Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Mussolini, the Romanov Tsars, Pinochet, Robert Mugade, Duvalier (father and son) and hoards of other tin pot dictators.

Jaffna said...

Dear Red,

I am not sure whether one could attribute World War 1 and 2 to capitalism.

One can not dispute your point that genocide can not be limited to Marxism. This is why I was careful to describe the combined legacy of Stalin and Mao as constituting the worst episode of "20th century history". I deliberately left out past centuries. The slave trade in Africa (both European and Arab), the extermination of the indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia, not to mention the depredations of Chengiz Khan are instances of past "crimes against humanity".

But one can not deny the "generalization" that revolutionary Marxist movements always led to huge and catastrophic human rights violations. You are correct that such movements are not the only ones accused. But the track record of Marxism is dismal. Stalin and Mao illustrate that verity regardless of "complex cause-effect relationships". And this needs to be documented.



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