The REAL death toll of communism | Video essay

The REAL death toll of communism | Video essay


Hello everybody,
Today we are going to look at the question. “How many people REALLY died from communism”. I think it’s time that we seriously approach
this question from the left. Usually the right wing says “communism killed
millions” and the left either stays silent or dismisses this as propaganda. But in this video we won’t do that. We are gonna look at the facts and the figures
just as I did in the death toll of capitalism video. And in the end we will come to our own conclusion. Just for clarification I will operate just
like in that video. If a death is the result of the mechanics
of the economic system, it is a death I will count. That means if there is an imaginary system
in which that death could be avoided it will be counted. Stuff like murder are not the fault of the
economic system and won’t be counted. With that out of the way let’s start. So what we will do is find the highest number
we can, which has sources behind it and see how legitimate those claims are. And without wasting any more time. The highest number there is with a source
behind it is 100 Million. Yes there are extremely biased pages on the
web that claim that Stalin alone killed 60 Million they reach that number by counting
every natural death in the USSR and adding the deaths of the German soldiers that invaded
the soviet union who where killed by the red army defending Russia. But the highest somewhat credible number is
100 Million, in total since 1917, worldwide. And to immediately disprove Jordan Peterson:
No, that’s not the official estimate. Not even close to be honest. It’s the estimate of Stéphane Courtois. This guy. He is the is a director of research at the
“Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)” excuse the pronunciation. To be more exact it’s from his book which
is called “The black book of communism” it was written by these guys. Courtois was the editor and in charge of many
of the conclusions and suggestions of the book. Apparently the other authors didn’t enjoy
what he did with their research and every single one of them spoke out against the conclusions
Courtois made. One said that Courtois was “obsessed” with
arriving at a total of 100 million killed which resulted in “sloppy and biased scholarship”. We’ll see what he meant later. As a full disclaimer I did not actually read
the full 900 Page book and only read the chapters that are concerned with the points I am talking
about along with external summaries to help me navigate this book. The link to the digitalized archive version
of the book is in the description so you can check if I took any quotes out of context
or something like that. Oh and also the book doesn’t distinguish
between socialism, communism and authoritarianism. Because of this I use socialism and communism
interchangeably in this video. In the book Courtois claims that communist
regimes killed “Approximately 100 million people in contrast to the approximately 25
million victims of the Nazis”. [Page 15] He makes a direct comparison between
the communists and the Nazis while diminishing the mass murders of the Nazis. Just in case you were wondering the Nazis
killed not only 25 Million people but also started a world war that killed 75 Million. Granted some of those died in the Japanese
invasion of china which wasn’t technically Nazis but fascists so I think that should
count for something. To pretend that the Nazis are only responsible
for 25 Million deaths is dishonest and quite possibly biased. So, we haven’t even looked at whether the
communism number he came up with is correct and he already spread wrong information. I don’t exactly know why he tried to make
the Nazis look less horrible than they were, but I can speculate. And my guess is that he is biased against
socialism. According to his co-authors he was obsessed
with reaching a 100 Million number and manipulated the data to make it fit. And then he says that the fascists only killed
1/4th of the people they killed in order to make socialists look much worse. If he does that because he wants to make fascist
look better or because he wants to make communist regimes look worse, I don’t know. But anyways. I’ve talked around the problem for enough
time now. Let’s look at what the book has to say. So there it is. [Introduction] 65 Million in china. 20 Million in the USSR and to refute PragerU,
yes that is including the 5 Million Ukrainians, more about that when we get to the USSR, also
it was only 4 Million. The PRC and the USSR make up 85% of the deaths
on this list so they are what I will focus on. This script is looking long enough as it is. First let’s look at the people who died
in the Soviet Union. Here is what Courtois lists as the crimes
that happened in the USSR: The execution of tens of thousands of hostages
and prisoners The murder of hundreds of thousands of rebellious
workers and peasants from 1918 to 1922 The Russian famine of 1921, which caused the
death of 5 million people The Decossackization, a policy of systematic
repression against the Don Cossacks between 1917 and 1933
The murder of tens of thousands in concentration camps in the period between 1918 and 1930
The Great Purge which killed almost 690,000 people
The deportation of 2 million so-called “kulaks” from 1930 to 1932
The death of 4 million Ukrainians (Holodomor) and 2 million others during the famine of
1932 and 1933 The deportations of Poles, Ukrainians, Moldovans
and people from the Baltic states from 1939 to 1941 and from 1944 to 1945
The deportation of the Volga Germans in 1941 The deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1943
Operation Lentil and deportation of the Ingush in 1944
That’s quite a list isn’t it? However if you think about it you have to
ask yourself: Is that really the people who where killed by the economic rules of communism? Like the executions of prisoners, which were
wrong no matter how you put it. But where they really the inevitable result
of the application of what Marx wrote? Remember this book is called the black book
of COMUNISM not the black book of the authoritarian regime of the Soviet Union. And those numbers are used time and time again
to dismiss socialism as an evil genocidal ideology. I don’t think it makes sense to blame socialism
or communism for war crimes committed by Stalin. Don’t get me wrong I am not excusing or
ignoring war crimes here. I am just denying that they are the fault
of an economic system which happens to be in place at the time. After all if we considered that the holocaust
would be the fault of capitalism since capitalism was in place at the time. Because my video is about how many people
communism killed I will ignore people who didn’t die as a result of the economic system. We will only count people who died as a result
of a socialist economy. Not people who died because of an authoritarian
regime ordering it. That includes these ones. We are going to take a look at those 3 more
closely. The Russian famine of 1921, which caused the
death of 5 million people The deportation of 2 million so-called “kulaks”
from 1930 to 1932 The death of 4 million Ukrainians (Holodomor)
and 2 million others during the famine of 1932 and 1933
The first one is “The Russian famine of 1921, which caused the death of 5 million
people”. You may notice that this happened during the
Russian civil war. You know, the one that killed 20 Million people. Now the causes of this famine are complex
and I’d like to keep this video as short as possible so I’ll be brief. Essentially during the civil war all parties
fed their armies by taking food from the farmers in their territory. Compensation was sometimes fair and sometimes
not. It’s notable that the red army only took
food as long as the peasants had enough food to supply themselves. So a lot of peasants decided to produce less
food so the red army wouldn’t take it. At the same time Kulaks, who where sort of
like feudal landlords. They usually owned a lot more farmland than
they could work so they had serfs working their land. Those Kulaks began to hide their food so the
red army couldn’t take it. They did so to later sell it on the black
market. Some of the dug up their own family graves
to hide food. But remember they didn’t need it to survive
because the occupying armies didn’t take that much, the Kulaks just wanted to profit. So there where regular peasants deliberately
producing very little and Kulaks hiding everything they and their slaves, uhm I mean Serfs, had
produced. Then there was a drought which reduced the
amount of food produced even further. And this is when the starving began. Upon having their soldiers starve the armies
decided to take more food from the peasants than normal. Remember they were at war, which was the main
priority to those in charge. Of course, this led to some farmers deliberately
destroying their food stores to the army couldn’t take it which made the problem worse and led
to even more deaths. So now looking at this we should ask ourselves. Is this the fault of communism or the fault
of the civil war and the drought? Remember taking food from the peasants wasn’t
only a soviet tactic. The White and black armies did the same thing
so if the capitalist armies had controlled Russia at the time the same thing would have
happened. So to me this famine isn’t the fault of
communism but the fault of a civil war and individual decisions made by the peasants. The next one is “The deportation of 2 million
so-called “kulaks” from 1930 to 1932”. I’ve already explained that Kulaks where
feudal land owners, what a Marxist would call the bourgeoisie. For this you have to know that Russia was
industrializing in 1926. Stalin moved many people from the land to
the cities so they could work in the new factories. During this time the food production sank
again and the Kulaks where accused of being responsible. Stalin decided that they were to blame, and
to be fair there was some evidence of that. And he decided to take their land and make
them work like the other peasants. And yes. They weren’t killed. They where relocated. Those 2 million supposed deaths are an exaggeration. 2 Million is the total number of relocated
Kulaks. About half a million of the Kulaks died during
the transportation to their new lands. This is where we begin to feel the bias in
this Book. 2 Million people getting relocated by an authoritarian
government becomes 2 million people killed by communism. 1.5 Million of which where fine in the end. So if you think that Stalin deciding to blame
economic problems on the land owners is the fault of communism you should add another
half a million to that counter. Personally I am not convinced that an instance
of an authoritarian government deporting it’s people is somehow the fault of socialism itself. I just don’t think that blaming communism
for Stalin’s crimes is fair. Again, this video is titled the death toll
of communism and not the death toll of Stalin so I am afraid I’ll dismiss those as crimes
of Stalin. The last one Is “The death of 4 million
Ukrainians and 2 million others during the famine of 1932 and 1933”. This is the infamous Holodomor which spawned
a trillion memes about communists having no food. In short what happened was that the amount
of food produced in the Ukrainian SSR fell from 7.2 Million Tonnes to 4.3 Million Tonnes
within a year. This predictably led to a lot of starvation
among the population. The reasons for the fall in production are
diverse. Some blame the collectivisation. Some blame the farmers for deliberately producing
less so the government wouldn’t take any. Tankies like to blame the Kulaks who as mentioned
before liked to destroy their farmland before handing it over. However none of those are the fault of socialism
are they? Those things are the consequences of Stalin
making decisions that led to those things. And remember this is the death toll of communism
not Stalin. Communism as a political ideal not as in every
leader who called themselves communist. It’s not the death toll of communists. And to me it seems like the Holodomor was
a disaster brought upon by Stalin rather than by the nature of socialism. There is also quite some debate on whether
or not the Holodomor was deliberately created by Stalin to weaken the Ukrainian people which
would make it a genocide. I am going to ignore this debate because whether
deliberately or not doesn’t matter because it was still the result of the actions of
individuals and not the result of the mechanisms of socialism. Oh and while we are at it. I was reading about the Holodomor on Christmas
eve because why not? And it turns out the Ukranian government relies
on this study which says there where 10 Million victims. How did they arrive there? Easy just take the actual victims which were
4 Million and add 6 Million in reduced birth rates. How ridiculous! Why would anyone ever just add people who
where never born to a death toll? What a radicicolous and obviously biased thing
to do. Anyways with the Soviet Union we end up with
a total of… Well not very much. We can see that a lot of Stalin’s atrocities
seem to be blamed on socialism but if nobody can prove that those things are inherent to
socialism that’s not a valid argument, I am afraid. Yes, Stalin tried to implement socialism and
yes, the famines happened at the same time but even children should know that correlation
does not equal causation at this point. Let’s move on to Maoist china. 65 Million supposedly died there but just
like with the number from the Soviet Union this includes political prisoners and ethnic
purges. Since, as I already explained, I don’t consider
those who died from orders by politicians, victims of an economic system we will ignore
those once again. About the famine Courtois writes:
“Loss of life linked to the famine in the years 1959-1961 was somewhere between
20 million and 43 million people. The lower end of the range is the official
figure used by the Chinese government since 1988. This was quite possibly the
worst famine not just in the history of China but in the history of the world. “
[Page 495] This is the great chinese famine and it really
was the worst famine in recorded history by any measure. However the book assumes 2 things about it. 1st that the high end of the death toll is
correct and 2nd that this famine was the result of socialist theory put in practice. About the death toll: I think it displays
a nice bias that they used the highest possible number they could find even though official
sources assume way less and about the famine being the result of communism, well we are
gonna see about that. The great famine took place between 1959 and
1961 in certain regions of china. The official death toll is 15 Million. Which is 5 Million less than what the book
claims the official number is but who cares about facts when writing an anti-communist-nazi-down-playing
propaganda book? The highest scholarly estimates go up to 30
Million which is still 13 Million short of what Courtois claims. How do you go from 30 Million to 43 Million? Easy just add the drop of birth rates and
assume that people not getting kids is the same as those kids starving. Yes seriously. 13% of the total number of people who communism
supposedly killed didn’t actually die or be born in the first place. Of course you can make the argument that a
drop in birth rates is a bad sign but if your book loudly proclaims that 100 Million people
died from communism then people will probably assume that those where actual people and
not just statistical birth rates. But what I love about this logic is the fact
that, if we count for reduction of births every death killed an infinite amount of people
since the dead person can’t have children so their children can’t have children so
their children can’t have children and so on. From this we can conclude that the holocaust
killed an infinite amount of people and so did the Armenian genocide and so did the native
American genocide and so on. The only problem with this logic is that it
doesn’t make sense in the way we think about death. We can only count those people who actually
died not those we imagine that would have lived. This is supposed to be an academic book on
communism not an alternative history scenario. Of course, there is some philosophical debate
to be had on the topic of what counts as a death but when your book claims that 13 Million
people who where never born are victims of communism that just seems biased and it isn’t
honest. Anyways let’s move on. What caused the great Chinese famine? This again is a complicated question. Wikipedia says that
“The great famine was caused by a combination of social pressure, economic mismanagement,
radical agricultural changes in regulations imposed by the government organs, and natural
disasters.” Economists Xin Meng Nancy Qian and Pierre
Yared came to the conclusion that there was no famine at all, at least not to an extent
that would have led to starvation, and that the deaths happened simply due to bad food
distribution. However, for a diversity of reasons food production
was reduced. In this time period the Chinese Peoples Republic
was going through the great leap forward. This was a plan of advancements that was supposed
to transport china from a practically feudalist society to a modern industrialized one. A big part of industrialization is moving
people from the farms to factories. This obviously means that those who are left
doing the farm jobs have to be able to produce more. Of course, this wasn’t lost on Mao and he
decided to call in foreign experts to advise him on this. Because most capitalists countries didn’t
allow their experts to move to the PRC they had to rely on Soviet scientists. One of them was named Terentiy Maltsev who
was a farmer/scientist who worked with the All-Union Lenin Academy of Agriculture, Science
and Kurgan and Sverdlovsk Agriculture Institute. Or VASKhNIL for short. He had studied a lot of ways to make fields
more efficient and he came up with deep-plowing. In this technique seeds would be planted 1
to 2 meters below the ground rather than around 20 centimetres like before. The theory behind that was that the most fertile
soil was below the ground and that there would be better root growth this way. In the “hut laboratory” which Terentiy
used that worked but in practice digging that deep mostly drove up useless rock soil and
sand which buried the useful topsoil and reduced the crop yield. And yes I did everything in my power to find
an image of this “hut laboratory” but I am afraid there is none on the internet. We’ll just have to imagine it instead. Another invention Mao implemented was close
planting. This one was invented by Trofim Lysenko who
was a very powerful and influential agronomist and biologist under Stalin. The idea was to first triple the density of
seedlings and then double it again. This would mean 6 times the plants in the
same space which would greatly increase yield. According to Lysenko’s theory plants of
the same species wouldn’t compete for nutrients or sunlight. Of course they did in praxis which greatly
reduced the yield. The reason this failed is probably because
only plants of the same genome, meaning the same family, don’t compete and in the lab
the test plants where probably related to each other while the plants in praxis weren’t. Mao also started the Four Pests Campaign which,
among others, designated Sparrows as pests because they could eat seeds from the fields. This backfired because killing sparrows led
to an explosion in the number of bugs and pests that then destroyed the crops. And on top of all that in 1960, an estimated
60% of agricultural land in northern China received no rain at all. For an entire year. At the same time the yellow river flooded
which killed 2 Million people. I’ll give you one guess as the whether Courtois
also considered those 2 Million as victims of communist regimes. Now we have to ask ourselves if it is legitimate
to blame the ideology Mao claimed to follow for his actions. Are deep plowing, close planting and the killing
of sparrows results of the mechanics of socialism or to be blamed on the decisions of experts
who made mistakes? Couldn’t we blame capitalist countries for
denying experts to china just as well? I am not so sure about that anymore. In conclusion. The 100 Million number is definitely an exaggeration. From the supposed 65 Million in china 13 Million
are just the estimated amount of reduction in births at the time which as I’ve mentioned
is not a valid way to count deaths. Another 2 Million is people who died in a
flood which is tragic don’t get me wrong but it’s not the fault of the PRC. 20 Million
are victims of authoritarianism meaning the secret police, concentration camps and deliberate
mass killings by the state, stuff like that. The remaining 30 Million is the high estimate
of the great Chinese famine which could just as well have been 15 Million according to
more reliable sources, like the actual government of china. And even those 15 Million are not victims
of communism or socialism itself but of a centralized incompetent government that mismanaged
resources and tried to apply theoretical concepts to a large scale without previous testing. In the Soviet Union 7 Million of the deaths
where people who were killed by the decisions and deportations of Stalin. Since we are counting the death toll of Communism
and not the Death toll of Stalin, we have to dismiss those. Further 5 Million where caused by the civil
war and decisions made by the peasants. The next 2 Million where people who accidentally
died because of an order Stalin gave. Also it was only half a million as I mentioned
before. What’s left is the 6 Million deaths Holodomor
which probably wasn’t man made and if it was it was made by Stalin and not socialism. If it was natural on the other hand it still
wasn’t caused by socialism was it? And those are the major two. The USSR and the PRC. Supposedly 85 Million people died from communism
in those 2 countries alone but at closer inspections that’s not what happened. To assume that Socialism or communism are
responsible for those famines and tragedies would be the wrong conclusion. And don’t get me wrong, there is a conclusion
besides “Stalin and Mao where bad” to be found here. Of course you could conclude that, I know
many anarchists who do but I think we can learn more from this if we look closely. Orders of mass exterminations, collectivisations,
deportations, failing farming methods and bad distribution of resources are things that
have one common denominator. It would be easy to say “communism” because
that one thing which is responsible did correlate with past attempts of socialist countries. Here is one more hint. When nazi Germany build up it’s industry
to prepare for World war 2 the death rate among the population increased by 10%. Did you catch it now? The deaths the black book names aren’t victims
of communism. They are victims of authoritarian governments
who put economic advancement above the good of the people and make mistakes in the process. If Mao and Stalin where democratically elected
and had to listen to a democratically elected parliament they wouldn’t have been in a
position to endanger the food supply with new barely tested farming methods or to deport
the kulaks in conditions like that. The black book of communism should really
have been called the black book of authoritarianism. And while we are at it, it should not have
counted victims of a flood and victims of famines caused by war. Not because they aren’t important but because
that’s not what the book is about. Oh and it should not have downplayed the murders
of the Nazis. That part really makes me think that this
is a neoliberal propaganda piece designed to demonize socialism and link it to authoritarians. To it’s credit looking at popular culture
that seems to have worked. Most people see an inevitable link between
socialism, communism, authoritarianism and 100 Million deaths. And I hope my video helped to change that,
at least a little bit. So, in conclusion question authority and remember
that socialism isn’t necessarily authoritarian even though there used to be a correlation. Remember though. Correlation does not equal causation. And on that note. Thanks for watching, please share this video
with everyone who says that communism killed 100 Million and also like and comment so the
algorithm may advertise my channel to more people. Uh and also subscribe so I can …uhh… have
one more subscriber than before. Also special thanks to Tsuyoshi for reading
the quoting from the book for me. Go follow him on twitter. Until the next time. C Ya Sources:
PragerU on Socialism: https://youtu.be/nUGkKKAogDs?t=20 JB Peterson on Socialism: https://youtu.be/rSzpc2vh8Ow?t=81
Stéphane Courtois bias: https://www.dukeupress.edu/red-hangover Black book of communism: https://archive.org/stream/TheBlackBookofCommunism10/the-black-book-of-communism-jean-louis-margolin-1999-communism_djvu.txt
Casualties of WW2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties Soviet famine of 1921: https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/01/07/the-catastrophic-russian-famine-of-1921-22-killed-more-than-5-million-people/
The Kulaks: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/11/06/kulaks/ Holodomor Food production reduction: Davies
& Wheatcroft 2010, p. 470, 476. Holodomor Radicicolous death toll: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/slavic-review/article/harvest-of-despair-life-and-death-in-ukraine-under-nazi-rule-by-karel-c-berkhoff-cambridge-harvard-university-press-2004-the-belknap-press-xvi-463-pp-appendix-notes-index-illustrations-photographs-tables-map-2995-hard-bound/1C2AC0441D910047790780A08D494FED
Great Chinese Famine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Chinese_Famine Terentiy Maltsev: https://prabook.com/web/terentiy.maltsev/951172
Trofim Lysenko: https://www.famousscientists.org/trofim-lysenko/ Rise of the mortality rate during German rearmament
under the Nazis: https://www.ifo.de/DocDL/cesifo_wp800.pdf