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Monday, September 16, 2013

“The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression”, by Stéphane Courtois (ed.), Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, and Jean-Louis Margolin

858 pages, Harvard University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0674076082

The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression is a must read for all students of 20th Century history, an epoch that cannot be understood without an understanding of the effect, for more than 80 years, of the brutal, nihilistic, and morally corrupt political system called Communism. The Black Book covers the history of Communism, starting with the Bolsheviks in Russia and, chapter by chapter, covers the communist movements and governments, country by country, to the present day. It thoroughly explores the crimes of slavery, genocide, murder, terrorism – in which even the youngest of children were not exempt – and repression committed in the name of Communism. The most poignant aspects of this book are excerpts from narratives of unfortunate people sentenced to socialist concentration camps for political crimes. Anyone who harbors delusions that Communism, if only applied correctly, would solve all ills should read this book. In every instance Communism results in the gulag and extermination camps.

This book could have been a lot longer. It could not have been any shorter, though: it takes a brick of a book to really provide the crushing scope of this murderous ideology, and the authors have slowly, methodically, relentlessly added example after example to put in display, naked, a monster that killed tens of millions in the 20th Century and that will continue to kill (one hopes in a far smaller scale) in the 21st until it wastes itself out and vanishes. Communism became religion and state and proceeded to murder away as if the body count meant better chances of achieving that utopian society it pretended to aim at. We now know the absolute disasters that all Communist societies were (and are) but this book is necessary as a ready reference work on evil that should be next to William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Communism has managed to kill more than 100 million people, and this estimate is actually quite conservative: Solzhenitsyn puts the figure at 60 million in the former Soviet Union alone; Roy Medvedev opts for 40 million dead just under Stalin, not counting those who died because of World War II; nobody really knows how many millions were murdered by Mao. Many historians and writers had told us parts of this sad tale: Milovan Djilas, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Robert Conquest, W.S. Kuniczak, Aino Kuusinen, Armando Valladares, Roy Medvedev, Dmitri Volkogonov, and others, so many, indeed, that a complete list would require several pages. But the authors of The Black Book of Communism do what none of the other authors had done before: they provide us with a total view of malignity, proving that, from Russia to Korea, from China to Cuba, from Africa to Europe, Communism was, indeed, a cancer.

We in the western democracies have long held a double standard with regard to Fascism and Marxist-Leninist Communism. Books are published almost weekly concerning some aspect of Hitler and the Nazis. Programs dominate documentaries concerning the 20th Century. Hitler and his followers formed but one of the disgusting stains on the fabric of humanity. However, the Nazis were never able to compete with the scale of terrorism, murder, torture of Communism. The land areas and populations under repression by the Nazis pale in comparison with Communism. A recent election in Austria, in which several supporters of a Nazi apologist were elected, was met with cries of outrage from all over Europe and the United States. No such outcry has greeted the election of any communist legislators in Europe or elsewhere.

This book should serve as a warning to those who have never come face-to-face with the reality of Communism, especially here in the United States. It should serve as a warning concerning those that, in their youth, fully supported the Communist movements in Asia and Cuba and still seek to have major aspects of Communism as a part of the laws and society of the United States. We should remember that Communism has not gone away; it is still very much alive in the world today.

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