- Hardcover: 858 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press (October 15, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674076087
- ISBN-13: 978-0674076082
- Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.7 x 2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression
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When it was first published in France in 1997, Le livre noir du Communisme touched off a storm of controversy that continues to rage today. Even some of his contributors shied away from chief editor Stéphane Courtois's conclusion that Communism, in all its many forms, was morally no better than Nazism; the two totalitarian systems, Courtois argued, were far better at killing than at governing, as the world learned to its sorrow.
Communism did kill, Courtois and his fellow historians demonstrate, with ruthless efficiency: 25 million in Russia during the Bolshevik and Stalinist eras, perhaps 65 million in China under the eyes of Mao Zedong, 2 million in Cambodia, millions more Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America--an astonishingly high toll of victims. This freely expressed penchant for homicide, Courtois maintains, was no accident, but an integral trait of a philosophy, and a practical politics, that promised to erase class distinctions by erasing classes and the living humans that populated them. Courtois and his contributors document Communism's crimes in numbing detail, moving from country to country, revolution to revolution. The figures they offer will likely provoke argument, if not among cliometricians then among the ideologically inclined. So, too, will Courtois's suggestion that those who hold Lenin, Trotsky, and Ho Chi Minh in anything other than contempt are dupes, witting or not, of a murderous school of thought--one that, while in retreat around the world, still has many adherents. A thought-provoking work of history and social criticism, The Black Book of Communism fully merits the broadest possible readership and discussion. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
In France, this damning reckoning of communism's worldwide legacy was a bestseller that sparked passionate arguments among intellectuals of the Left. Essentially a body count of communism's victims in the 20th century, the book draws heavily from recently opened Soviet archives. The verdict: communism was responsible for between 85 million and 100 million deaths in the century. In France, both sales and controversy were fueled, as Martin Malia notes in the foreword, by editor Courtois's specific comparison of communism's "class genocide" with Nazism's "race genocide." Courtois, the director of research at the prestigious Centre Research National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris and editor of the journal Communisme, along with the other distinguished French and European contributors, delivers a fact-based, mostly Russia-centered wallop that will be hard to refute: town burnings, mass deportations, property seizures, family separations, mass murders, planned faminesAall chillingly documented from conception to implementation. The book is divided into five sections. The first and largest takes readers from the "Paradoxes of the October Revolution" through "Apogee and Crisis in the Gulag System" to "The Exit from Stalinism." Seeing the U.S.S.R. as "the cradle of all modern Communism," the book's other four sections document the horrors of the Iron Curtain countries, Soviet-backed agitation in Asia and the Americas, and the Third World's often violent embrace of the system. A conclusionA"Why?"Aby Courtois, points to a bureaucratic, "purely abstract vision of death, massacre and human catastrophe" rooted in Lenin's compulsion to effect ideals by any means necessary. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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The author has an interesting perspective on the question of whether or not the terror of Communism can be compared to that of Nazism. Apparently, the very idea of comparing the two is taboo in genteel society. It seems that the anointed and noble Communists commit murder in the name of ridding the world of war and poverty whilst killers of boorish and ignoble stripe are vile and evil simply because they are at least dumb enough to make no such pretensions. He poses the question this way: Is it right to excuse terror when performed under the color of abolishing war and poverty, or is the excusing wrong precisely because the terror is perpetrated in the name of abolishing war and poverty.
I believe it was in the book "Witness" by Whitaker Chambers where this same question is presented comparing the noble terror of Communism with that of boorish Nazism. Chambers, when talking with other former communists, to test the veracity of their break with the faith, he would ask, "What is Communism"? If they answered, "Communism is Fascism". Then he knew that this person has truly broken with the religion.
It seems many are attracted to collectivist ideologies because these political cults claim to hold the secret to ending the two great scourges of poverty and war. To achieve his noble goal the true believer can then justify any means necessary, even if it produces famine and war far beyond anything that has gone before. The goal is so noble that no amount of other people’s blood and suffering can cause the true believer to question a single tenant of the faith.
It seems mankind has always been plagued by these murder cults but none has had such noble ideals, which may explain why the holy men of Communism have been able to get away with racking up a body count of such scale with little or no complaint or even complacency and collaboration from those on the outside. Outsiders who also believe in the eradication of poverty and war may feel compelled to give these monsters a pass because of their shared and noble goals.
I did curse about the style of writing and unfiltered translation from intellectual French. That was not necessary.