Attempting the Impossible – Calculating Capitalism’s Death Toll

INTRODUCTION:

While there have been other attempts to count up the number of deaths that can be attributed to Capitalism (to counter the figures presented in The Black Book of Communism as well other places), most noteably, determinatenegation’s list and The Castroists’ list, neither critique the methodology used by the the supporters of the “OMG Communism killed 70 trillion people!!1!” nor do they provide easy to verify sources. So while I think both lists are fabulous (and I may use parts), this post will be not only a critique of the methodology used by the other side, but also a more user friendly list.


RUMMEL:

When one sees one of those massive lists of the death toll of Communism on Tumblr (or other places), one inevitably see, if sources are included, the name RJ Rummel over and over and over again. In fact, Rummel is cited so often that even leftists use him (see determinatenegation’s list). But who is RJ Rummel?

Rudolph Joseph Rummel is a professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii and specializes in governmentality and the study of mass killings by governments, he calls “democide“. But should we take Rummel’s analysis seriously? I argue, no. His inflation of death tolls as well as critiques of his own definitions of “democracy” and “autocracy” leave much to be desired. But it is the first part I want to explore. There is an image series based off Rummel’s figures called “Know True Evil” (photos here) wherein the death tolls for Stalin, Mao, and Hitler are counted up.

In order to show you that Rummel’s figures are way off the wall, I will take a closer look at the dictator who’s death toll has the highest consensus – Hitler. While it is true that there is some debate about whether the Holocaust occurred or how many people perished under the Third Reich, the overall historical consensus is more stable than Stalin or Mao’s death toll which changes every year as a new book is published or new archives are explored. I think it’s safe to say that the Holocaust is the most studied genocide in the Western world. (Any Holocaust deniers or Revisionists, I’m sorry. I’m not taking a stand either way, I just think Rummel is wrong)

So, let’s begin. How many people does Rummel estimate died under the Third Reich? According to him…21 million. (To be more specific, Rummel says 20,946,000 during the span of 1933-1945 (x))

 hitler

Rummel himself is actually kind enough to give a break down of who died where and because of what:

rummel chart

Let’s just go down the list an analyze a few, shall we? According to Rummel, 220,000 homosexuals were killed in the Holocaust. Hmm, can that be correct? Well, neither the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), nor the Jewish Virtual Library, nor the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies cite a figure EVEN CLOSE to Rummel’s. The most liberal estimate is that 15,000 died in concentration camps, but the historical consensus is 10,000 [1]. However, let’s break that down.

During the period Rummel describes, there were an estimated 100,000 homosexuals living and arrested in Germany. Not all were tried, but most of the 50,000 who were, were sent to normal prison which did not mean death. And between 5,000 and 15,000 were sent to concentration camps [2]. This means that assuming 100% of the homosexuals in concentration camps died, AT MOST it was 15,000. But that is even questionable. According to the USHMM, “There are no known statistics for the number of homosexuals who died in the camps” [2]. That, however, is an understatement. The Nazis actually had no plan to exterminate homosexuals, merely reeducate them for they viewed homosexuality as something that is learned. In fact, the Jewish Virtual Library, citing Germany’s top LGBT historian and professor of sociology Rüdiger Lautmann, says:

It does not appear that the Nazis ever set it as their goal to completely eradicate all homosexuals. Rather, it seems, the official policy was to either re-educate those homosexuals who were “behaviorally” and only occasionally homosexual and to block those who were “incurable” [3]

However, according to the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, “[a] figure of about 10,000 homosexuals is the one accepted by most scholars” [1].

This means that, assuming the MOST LIBERAL body count, Rummel’s figures for homosexuals are inflated by over 1,300%. (Not to mention that Rummel makes up the existence of over 100,000 homosexuals because the USHMM indicates there were roughly 100,000 whereas Rummel says 220,000 died.)

But let’s move on. Next Rummel says that 258,000 Gypsies died during the holocaust. On this point, Rummel is more correct. While the numbers don’t add up, historians think that at least 200,000 died. But examining the German decrees and number of deportations, we get a different story.

In 1938, Heinrich Himmler issued a decree to fight what he saw as the “gypsy plague” which directly resulted in 2,000 gypsies being placed in concentration camps. Following that in 1939, the Reich stepped up its efforts and 2,300 gypsies were deported to ghettos (not concentration camps). In 1941, 5,000 gypsies were deported to ghettos. Then, in 1943, shit went down. Himmler issued the “Auschwitz Order” and 23,000 gypsies were sent there. Assuming all 7,300 who lived in ghettos survived, they were sent to Auschwitz [4].

This means, assuming there were no deaths along the way and a 100% fatality rate, according to the Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (and the numbers above), 32,300 died.

Now I, unlike Rummel, want to be intellectually honest and thus will add this: the final sentence from the Danish Center, while providing no statistics to back it up, says “However, historians now believe that at least 200,000 gypsies fell victim to the Nazi persecution” [4]. But given the lack of data on their part and their own numbers, assuming a 100% death rate, adding up to only 32,300, that is what I will go with.

Given that, Rummel’s figures for Gypsies are inflated by over 600%.

Hell, according to Rummel 40 million people died in Soviet Gulags when “that is twice the number of people that ever experienced the gulag [5] and twenty times the number of documented gulag deaths”[6]

Since I don’t want this post to turn into an attempt to disprove the holocaust, I will stop there but I will leave you with a rhetorical question regarding Rummel – if he has managed to inflate the death tolls of groups where there is information available (and I can find it very easily) by hundreds of percents, how reliable do you think he is when it comes to information that is NOT easily available, a la Mao’s China or Stalin’s Russia? And even if the figures are a tad higher than I found, they don’t make up for the huge percent inflation and assumptions Rummel makes about the most studied genocide in history.

So please, please please please, stop using Rummel as a source. (And if you are a Holocaust Denier or Revisionist, you better not be using Rummel because he says Hitler killed 21 million people)

 

The Black Book of Communism:

No matter what, when someone talks about Communism being bad, they always bring up their ace in the hole…The Black Book of Communism. Hell, even the name sounds scary. But don’t let that fool you, this book is one of the most historically inaccurate books about Communism one can come across. I honestly don’t know where to begin because there are SO MANY criticisms of the book.

The first, and most obvious, deals with the death toll that the book posits. The book, written by professor Stéphane Courtois, tries to posit that there have been about 100 million deaths due to Communism. Two of the book’s main contributors, Nicolas Werth and Jean-Louis Margolin, publicly stated that Courtois either inflated numbers for the purpose of achieving his goal of 100 million or that he cut corners and ignored deaths in some places [7]. What’s more, the book’s absurdly high numbers and lack of historical documentation sparked controversy from the Maoist International Movement who wrote the publisher (Harvard University Press) and actually got the publisher, Mark Kramer, “to admit that the book contained remedial math errors”[8].

Additionally, of the 100 million deaths, most are due to famine which, assuming the figures are actually correct, are the result of mismanagement and stupidity as opposed to government malevolence. One of the top American historians on the Soviet Union under Stalin, J. Arch Getty, argues that the equivalence cannot be fairly made because democide implies a deliberate act of government murder whereas the famines where caused by stupidity as opposed to a systemic plan (I will speak more on this in a second) [9].

What’s more, the famine-genocide question is still a hotly debated topic and some scholars maintain that the data used to calculate the figures are incomplete and contain errors and omissions [10]. However, assuming that the figures are accurate, the death toll of capitalism is going to outweigh this anyway.

 

Capitalism:

So now to the main point of this post – to try to create a list of the number of victims that have fallen prey to global capitalism. Before I continue however, an important note must be made: unlike the death tolls associated with Communism (which are caused by regimes themselves), the deaths caused by capitalism are usually the result of capitalist constructions, be they systemic poverty, imperialism, Atlantic and post-Atlantic slavery, etc. In order to head off any potential critiques of this post when I mention things like “Hurricane Katrina” or “Poverty in the US” for example, I will be explaining how each of the incidents in question can be attributed to capitalism (both in neo-liberal capitalism or strict corporate capitalism).

Another thing I must note is that anarcho-Capitalists will be quick to say “well, it’s the fact that the government was involved – that’s the issue!”. However this is not true. The “for profit” logic of capitalism has both lead to the following atrocities and has been used by governments, overtly or not, to commit the following crimes. So yes, governments may have done the following, but the logic and justification behind capitalism has created the conditions for the following.

And finally, as one last kick to anarcho-Capitalists, anarcho-Capitalism has never been implemented and thus there is no body count for that, but full Communism a la Marx hasn’t either. According to Marx, there will be an “end of history” wherein the state withers away and that is pure Communism, the rest is State Communism (much like State Capitalism) or Socialism. Two can play at the “it’s never been implemented, wahhhh!!1!” game.

So, let’s begin.

A fitting place to start would be the history of the United States from 2014 all the way back to 1776. Just to set up the framework, I will state a topic, in this case the United States, and then create bullet points with the issues in question and explaining them as needed.

The United States

  • 5 years of drone strikes used to maintain US military dominance in the Middle East for the purpose of securing trade routes and oil reserves – 2,400 dead [11][12]
  • Syrian Civil War caused by the US’ funding of Syrian rebels as well as the terrorist organization Al Nusra in an attempt to overthrow the Syrian government [13][14][15][16] – at least 146,000 dead [17][18]
  • US Funded and NATO Intervention in Libya for the sake of overthrowing the government and getting oil [19][20][21] – estimates range from 10,000 by the deniers, to 50,000 by the rebels. The commonly accepted number by the US is 30,000 dead [22][23]
  • United States backed government of Sri Lanka for the sake of maintaining trade routes and neo-liberal foothold in southern Asia – 100,000 dead (some sources say 40,000 not including the huge numbers of civilians) [24][25]
  • The War in Iraq which was for the sake of gaining oil controlling petroleum exports [26][27] and with the interest of advancing US imperialism [28] – most recent study indicates 500,000 dead Iraqis and 4,500 dead US soldiers [29][30][31]
  • The War in Afghanistan – 2,000 dead US soldiers and 20,000 civilians [32][33]
  • US bombing of Pakistan for the War on Terror and to maintain our imperial dominance abroad – 50,000 dead [34]
  • US and Mexican War on Drugs to maintain a monopoly and to support military spending as well as drug cartel violence for profit – 47,000 dead [35]
  • Operation Desert Storm (First Gulf War) which was for the sake of maintaining dominance in the Middle East as well as for imperialistic reasons [36][37][38][39] – 158,000 Iraqis [40] – 75,000 US Soldiers dead from the War and Gulf War Syndrome [41]
  • US Sanctions against Iraq from 1990-2012 – 3,300,000 [42]
  • Iran-Iraq War where the United States funded both sides in an attempt to have each wipe the other out – about 1,500,000 [43][44][45]
  • The War in Vietnam to “beat Communism” and maintain an Asian sphere of influence – 3,800,000 Vietnamese between 1955-1984 [46] about 58,000 US soldiers [47] about 200,000 in Laos [48] about 300,000 in Cambodia [49] it’s hard to calculate Agent Orange deaths but up to 4,800,000 people were exposed [50] and 100,000 US soldiers killed themselves [51]
  • Korean War to “beat Communism” and maintain dominance in Asia – 54,000 US soldiers [52] and about 5,000,000 Koreans died [53]

The United States in Latin America and the Third World

  • “El Bloqueo” AKA. The Cuban Embargo – one of the more insidious forms of siege warfare of modernity [54][55] – this is one of the more difficult numbers to come up with so I will give you what I have and then add a commentary – 47,000 children dead [56] and the Embargo has stifled medical technology and lead to the deaths of tons more. The numbers are uncalculatable [57]. Here are some statistics: As a result, in a few years the effects on consumption by the general population were in evidence: daily caloric consumption, for example, dropped 34 percent, and protein intake plummeted 40 percent between 1989 and the worst year of the crisis, 1993. [58]

     

    What’s worse, the Embargo is NOT aimed at the elites, but at the civilians of Cuba. The elites are isolated from the effects and so the poorest of the poor see the impacts. [55][58][59] To me, El Bloqueo is one of most heinous crimes the United States has engaged in.

  • Former CIA Station Chief in Angola in 1976, covert agent, and the highest level CIA officer to testify to Congress, John Stockwell, tells a grisly tale of US involvement in foreign countries for the sake of money and geopolitics. He cites covert operations in Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, to name a few. Over the course of his testimony and lecture he extensively researched the actions he was involved in and figured out that given the bombings of water supplies and other essential infrastructure, the invasions, the coups, etc. in third world countries, the United States, on its quest for empire, has been responsible for 6,000,000 deaths. Just let that soak in. According to the official story of the Holocaust, that’s how many Jews were killed. This is an unheard genocide against the third world FOR PROFIT and FOR POWER.[60] If you read nothing else or watch nothing else, read/watch his lecture.

Genocides and Other Mass Deaths

  • Poverty. One of the most overlooked causes of death today is something called “structural violence” – that is, violence against the bottom rungs of society in order to make a profit. Structural violence can occur due to lack of medical care, slashing of wages, gentrification, etc. But without a doubt, structural violence is the largest killer WORLDWIDE. Studies performed by Canadian researches Gernot Kohler and Norman Alcock published under the title “An Empirical Table of Structural Violence” found that 18,000,000 people die each year due to systemic poverty [61][62].

To put this into perspective, allow me to quote professor of Psychiatry James Gilligan (emphasis is my own):

Comparing this frequency of deaths from structural violence to the frequency of those caused by major military and political violence, such as World War II (an estimated 49 million military and civilian deaths, including those by genocide—or about eight million per year, 1939-1945), the Indonesian massacre of 1965-66 (perhaps 575,000) deaths), the Vietnam war (possibly two million, 1954-1973), and even a hypothetical nuclear exchange between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. (232 million), it was clear that even war cannot begin to compare with structural violence, which continues year after year. In other words, every fifteen years, on the average, as many people die because of relative poverty as would be killed by the Nazi genocide of the Jews over a six-year period. This is, in effect, the equivalent of an ongoing, unending, in fact accelerating, thermonuclear war, or genocide, perpetrated on the weak and poor every year of every decade, throughout the world. [62]

  • This is recurring violence that happens year after year after year, the scale of which is unprecedented. Hell, if one takes Rummel’s and The Black Book of Communism’s claims seriously, structural violence has killed more people in JUST the 21st century, than Communism.
  • The Genocide of the Native Americans – according to professor of ethics Ward Churchill, over 10,000,000 Native Americans were slaughtered [63] and other studies by historian and professor David Stannard indicate that the number is closer to 100,000,000 if one includes South America (Churchill only looks at North America). *To avoid any conflict, I will split the difference in my final calculation and use 50,000,000 [64]
  • Slavery (not just White slavery) – over 1200 years of Arab slave trading and then 500 years of European slave trading amounts to over 100,000,000 people enslaved and killed (there were about 80,000,000 that would just be slaves)[65]
  • Children Killed by Preventable Diseases yearly – 5,000,000 [66]
  • Children Killed by Hunger daily – 17,000 (multiplying to get a year so 17,000*365=6,205,000) [67]

And I have left off a thousand tiny events like factories collapsing due to unsafe regulations, Hurricane Katrina, the rape of women in Maquiladoras, and I even left off the two World Wars so there will be no debate about whether those were capitalism vs. communism. But the fact of the matter is, the sheer number of people that have died due to unseen violence and structural violence over the years is obscene. But all one has to do is look at the data and look at the world around you.

Ignoring other big wars due to capitalism and only focusing on US action and only including one year for things that are systemic (ie. poverty), which is being really damn conservative because Japan engaged in brutal imperialism, we get a total of 205,000,000 killed directly or indirectly because of capitalism.

So please, before you go waving Rummel around or you throw around “look how many people Communism killed!!”, think for a second and look at the data.

Note: This is by no means a complete list and I, just like everyone else, am prone to errors. But I feel like the fact that every number is sourced at least once and easily verifiable speaks for itself. If you have an issue, please let me know.

———————————————————-

1: http://www.chgs.umn.edu/educational/homosexuals.html
2: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005261
3: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/homo.html
4: http://www.holocaust-education.dk/holocaust/sigojnerne.asp
5: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=kewLQwngUSkC&q=passed+through&redir_esc=y#v=snippet&q=passed%20through&f=false
6: http://archive.freecapitalists.org/forums/t/26853.aspx?PageIndex=1
For more information on Rummel, see: http://www.crappytown.com/2011/12/why-rj-rummel-shouldnt-be-taken.html
7: Le Monde, 14 November 1997
8: http://llco.org/mim-review-of-the-black-book-of-communism/
9: Getty, J Arch (Mar 2000), “The Black book of Communism: Nazism & Communicsm have the same totalitarian roots” (text), The Atlantic Monthly (Boston: Hackvan) 285 (3): 113.
10: http://www.as.wvu.edu/history/Faculty/Tauger/Tauger,%20Chapter%20for%20Roter%20Holocaust%20book%20b.pdf
11: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/23/obama-drone-program-anniversary_n_4654825.html
12: http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/01/23/more-than-2400-dead-as-obamas-drone-campaign-marks-five-years/
13: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10588308/US-secretly-backs-rebels-to-fight-al-Qaeda-in-Syria.html
14: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/01/22/british-paper-u-s-is-secretly-funding-syria-rebels-fighting-al-qaeda/
15: http://www.globalresearch.ca/america-is-loosing-its-covert-syria-war-us-sponsored-al-nusra-rebels-defeated-by-syrian-armed-forces/5334827
16: http://www.thenational.ae/world/syria/cash-boost-for-syrian-rebels-to-pressure-assad
17: http://time.com/24077/syria-death-toll/
18: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/15/us-syria-crisis-toll-idUSBREA1E0HS20140215
19: http://www.zerohedge.com/article/us-purchase-oil-libyan-rebels-thus-funding-flickers-al-qaeda
20: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/06/world/africa/06diplo.html?_r=0
21: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/15/us-libya-usa-assets-idUSTRE72E79X20110315
22: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/08/libya-war-died_n_953456.html
23: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-libya-death-toll-as-high-as-30000/
24: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/11/28/sri-lanka-startscountingthecivilwardead.html
25: http://warwithoutwitness.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=298:death-toll-at-the-end-of-the-sri-lankan-conflict-was-30000-to-40000-gordon-weiss&catid=38:reports&Itemid=61
26: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/20/iraq-war-oil-resources-energy-peak-scarcity-economy
27: http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/19/opinion/iraq-war-oil-juhasz/
28: http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/socialistvoice/defendiraqPR67.html
29: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/10/131015-iraq-war-deaths-survey-2013/
30: http://www.psmag.com/navigation/politics-and-law/better-stab-estimating-many-died-iraq-war-68419/
31: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/iraq-death-toll_n_4102855.html
32: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/30/afghanistan-war-death-toll_n_1926668.html
33: http://costsofwar.org/article/afghan-civilians
34: http://costsofwar.org/article/pakistani-civilians
35: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mexican-drug-war-toll-47500-killed-in-5-years/
36: http://www.worldsocialism.org/articles/economic_causes_of_the.php
37: http://www.socialistworld.net/pubs/gulfcrisis/c5.html
38: http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/gulfwar1.html
39: http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/gulfwar2.html
40: http://old.post-gazette.com/nation/20030216casualty0216p5.asp
41: http://www.globalresearch.ca/gulf-war-syndrome-ptsd-and-military-suicides-u-s-government-s-message-to-america-s-vets-drop-dead/20186
42: http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-sponsored-genocide-against-iraq-1990-2012-killed-3-3-million-including-750000-children/5314461
43: http://wars.findthebest.com/q/65/2021/How-many-people-died-in-the-Iran-Iraq-War
44: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4260420.stm
45: http://kurzman.unc.edu/death-tolls-of-the-iran-iraq-war/
46: http://mattsteinglass.wordpress.com/2008/06/20/vietnam-war-killed-38-million-vietnamese-not-21-million/
47: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War#cite_note-USd.26w-19
48: http://www.amazon.com/A-History-Laos-Martin-Stuart-Fox/dp/0521597463
49: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10086&page=102
50: http://www.globalresearch.ca/agent-orange-continues-to-poison-vietnam/13974
51: http://rense.com/general77/hdtage.htm
52: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-many-americans-died-in-korea/
53: http://www.history.com/topics/korean-war
54: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1747-7093.1999.tb00330.x/abstract
55: http://books.google.com.tr/books/about/The_Cuban_Revolution.html?id=r0GHscf95qQC&redir_esc=y
56: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9110916
57: http://www.medicc.org/resources/documents/embargo/The%20impact%20of%20the%20U.S.%20Embargo%20on%20Health%20&%20Nutrition%20in%20Cuba.pdf
58: https://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/logos/v003/3.4hidalgo.pdf
59: https://www2.bc.edu/~kearneyr/pdf_articles/pl86217.pdf
60: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4068.htm
61: http://jpr.sagepub.com/content/13/4/343.refs
62: http://www.amazon.com/Violence-Reflections-Our-Deadliest-Epidemic/dp/1849850658
63: http://hnn.us/article/7302
64: http://espressostalinist.com/genocide/native-american-genocide/
65: http://www.mobilization2-21.com/missing.htm
66: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/05/11/nearly-5-million-children-died-of-preventable-diseases-worldwide-in-2010/
67: http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/europe/11/17/italy.food.summit/

44 comments

  1. A great read and a good counter to the tossed-around stats about Communism’s supposed death count. But I’m wondering: Is it fair to include the body count from (“proper”) wars? Since both sides would be killing people.

    1. 1) I do need to update this post to make it more friendly for the site’s new layout.

      but 2) I purposely didn’t include the great wars because there isn’t a direct root cause that can be attributed to an economic system. As I say, “And I have left off a thousand tiny events like factories collapsing due to unsafe regulations, Hurricane Katrina, the rape of women in Maquiladoras, and I even left off the two World Wars so there will be no debate about whether those were capitalism vs. communism.”

      1. O shit because capitalism is an awful practice created to kill people and enslave the human race!!!!!!! There’s no real philosophy in this page just bullshit

        1. Don’t you know the bureaucrat is the highest form of life on Earth, and without this “servant of the people” we peasants would not know how to buy, sell, and obey the dictates of Der Leader?
          The people & their owning their own shit — capitalism — is heresy to the Great Collective and its hegemony, and without being forcibly enchained to the bureaucrat, how would they know how to act?
          Screw capitalism anyway. We need a social order based upon fear and force, taxes and war, not peace & freedom.
          The US and its glorious whores like obama and his leftist tools in the one party system can shove us peasants & proletariat thru this new frontier of greed, jealousy, conformity and obedience to the will of the Collective as expressed thru that noble savage, the bureaucrat.

  2. I think you have a bias in your analysis. Mainly, you should not include in capitalism death-toll people that would die anyway in a communist regimen. Also, you should not include wars against communism, unless you would add to the other side the wars against capitalism. A rough estimate on your numbers and trying not to be dominated by a pro-communism bias, it adds up to 23 millions… That is a lot, but given that we had more time experiencing capitalism than communism, I guess that’s ok…

    1. I shouldn’t include people that would die under communism? What thing(s) on the list are completely independent of economic systems – that is to say, which cause of death would be inevitable under both capitalism and communism?

      >you should not include wars against communism, unless you would add to the other side the wars against capitalism.
      I would hardly say they were “wars against communism” so much as they were imperialistic wars of aggression. It’s not the Korean war or the Vietnam war was a fight to save the world. What’s more, what wars do you think have been explicitly waged against capitalism?

      >A rough estimate on your numbers and trying not to be dominated by a pro-communism bias, it adds up to 23 millions…
      What methodology did you use and which data points did you pick?

      1. Wars against communism are an essential part of the capitalist mode of global control. You can’t have a global capitalist system that functions with socialist states popping up around it. To say you shouldn’t include deaths involved in preventing opposition to capitalism is the same as saying the “black book” shouldn’t include people executed by Stalin or some shit.

        1. That works against the argument, because then, it’s a war of aggression on the part of Capitalism, whereas the Socialist country was simply defending itself. Both the aggressors’ (Capitalism) casualties as well as the defendant (the Socialist country) are on Capitalism for initiating the conflict.

    2. ” Mainly, you should not include in capitalism death-toll people that would die anyway in a communist regimen.”

      This is more or less the point of the article. Deaths that would occur under capitalism are attributed to Communism and grossly inflated. Neither argument is constructive.

  3. Apparently, only 1 million people died in the Gulags and that was mainly due to disease. These 1 million deaths occurred over a 20 year period. This statistic comes from declassified Soviet documents so it’s factual. Before anybody starts ridiculing Stalin, remember almost 700 thousand American died because of the Spanish flu in just one year.

    It really should be said those who calculate how many people died because of communism are disinformation agents.

    1. “It really should be said those who calculate how many people died because of communism are disinformation agents.”
      This tends to be the case, yes.

      The question I have for you, however, is do you have the citation regarding the gulag deaths?

  4. Hi Peter,

    I’m running a long-term project about writing a book on capitalism (historical perspective, mechanics and dynamics, capitalism today, success and reform).

    I’m wondering if I could freely use the picture entitled : Enjoy Capitalism.

    Thanks for you reply.

    1. Hey,

      I’d love to read your book once you’re finished. To answer your question however, I do not own the picture; rather it’s been floating around the Internet for years now. The first proprietary usage of the image I can find is by a German shirt manufacturer (). It also seems like it’s been heavily modified (see here ) so I imagine you could recolor it or change it in some way and claim Fair Use.

      Ultimately I don’t care…but I also don’t really care about current copyright law.

  5. The manner of mustering data here to vilify something called Capitalism is not going to be successful at persuading those who aren’t already predisposed to hating this thing called Capitalism. You give short shrift to the sincere libertarian/anarcho-capitalist objection that, e.g., corporatist-cronyist ventures alongside governments – namely wars – aren’t inherent to capitalism as they understand that term to mean. Now, by the same token it’s not illegitimate to object, contra ‘The Black Book of Communism’, that communism doesn’t inherently mean a gang of psychopathic dictators using the machinery of the State to kill people in various ways. We should of course not be thrown about cognitively by the *words* being used, but by what the real phenomena are that our words ideally accurately represent. And we *know* that politics is this rather ugly arena of propaganda where words and labels are thrown around all the time and the target audiences are expected to complete the associations.

    One thing that one certainly can take issue with is one of the most seemingly damning numbers you use – the 18 or so million worldwide who die every year from poverty-related causes, with the *implicit* assumption that “(this thing called) Capitalism creates poverty.” The mainstream of “neoliberal economic opinion” doesn’t buy that, but attempts to vilify them as toadies of the Capitalists are probably not helpful or informative. Maybe the notion that “Capitalism generates poverty” is just very poorly supported. There is plenty of readily-accessible data out there showing that in the wake of the “neoliberal globalizationist” trend, world poverty rates are on the *decline*, and dramatically so. And I don’t think that anti-capitalists can rightly get away with pointing out all the allegedly bad results of neoliberal globalization while failing to sincerely address the evidence of good results. Major cognitive-dysfunctional bias or willful ignorance/intellectual dishonesty might explain such patterns of behavior, but they aren’t a respectable way of investigating the real phenomena underlying the Words. And to put it quite bluntly, your approach to marshaling the data and then throwing the label “Capitalism” at it reeks of cognitive bias.

    As it happens the dramatic fall in world poverty rates is due in considerable part to the dramatic fall in poverty in China, which moved in the direction of less dictatorial State control over the economy and more market-based, more capitalist, if you will, institutions. By capitalism I mean (i.e., in terms of its fundamental, essential, defining characteristics) the private ownership of capital. That’s it. If private owners of capital collude with governments to wage wars for monetary gain, that’s thoroughly incidental to the analysis, since what is of fundamental moral significance there is the moral and ethical characters of the actors involved. As for what communism means in its essential characteristics, it’s something very utopian sounding where capital is community-owned and no one is unduly oppressed as individuals by not being able to own capital individually, because they’ll all agree that the community-ownership thing is the way to go. So there’s communism in hippie communes, and no one gets killed or starved out, the way totalitarian States calling themselves Community behaved. But it’s definitely worth pointing out the ideological motivations of those psychopathic actors and seeing if there is a common thread where those acting on such ideological pretenses tend to implement some pretty terrible things. The effects on poverty rates in the wake of neoliberal globalization are so opposite to this that we’re not even talking the same ballpark. And that sounds pretty damn relevant to when we start going about writing Black Books on social systems or ideologies.

    BTW, I’ve yet to see an anti-capitalist even so much as address the recent global data on poverty rates (i.e., as evidently disconfirming the “capitalism causes poverty” thesis), which is suspicious to say the least, especially if/when they have a habit of digging up all kinds of data otherwise. Maybe you could be the first in my experience to address these ideologically inconvenient data head-on? It wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring the case of China into it, front and center; after all, its recent experience is a rather far cry from the Great Famine of ’59-61 (~40 million estimated deaths in just a couple years, a significantly greater percentage of the world population at the time) which might have been due to more than merely “bad management.” (Is it also just a coincidental matter of “bad management” that Soviet policies had similar consequences even if on a less catastrophic scale? Were profoundly off-base ideological motivations merely incidental?)

    1. Actually in China 98% of banking assets are state-owned and the largest reduction in poverty in the world took place there under a Communist government in the past 50 years. The Chinese have engaged with global markets in ways that they haven’t in the past but it’s absurd to claim that there is widespread private management of capital for profit. It’s ridiculous to blame socialism for famines across Asia and Africa when famines of a similar scale occurred throughout history there (and elsewhere) under a variety of social political and economic regimes. Probably the largest-scale famines in recorded history occurred under capitalist British rule in India. Also 40 million is a very high estimate of deaths under the great famine. The Chinese government estimates that 12 million died, and even this may be an exaggeration as it’s the figure pushed by the reformist party elements.

      1. when everyone is poor but the vureaucrats, that’s reduction in poverty?
        That’s not very original, but it does feel like heroin, no, this masturbation?

    2. “You give short shrift to the sincere libertarian/anarcho-capitalist objection that, e.g., corporatist-cronyist ventures alongside governments – namely wars – aren’t inherent to capitalism as they understand that term to mean.”

      If communism or whatever other economic Ism focuses on ownership of production and distribution then capitalism would simply be avoid private ownership of these.

      If a free market or economic liberal definition of capitalism is considered this might mean that the whole world is socialist.

  6. A follow-up point: Assuming that we all have the best interests of humanity at heart, *being sure to get it right* about the effects of capitalism on the human economic condition is extremely important. It just won’t do to plow right ahead with what seems most comforting or appealing to accept as true; it won’t do to (e.g.) allow one’s distaste about this or that facet of the contemporary by-and-large-capitalist order to override one’s best judgment; emotions should be kept right in their place and not override one’s *intellectual* epistemic priorities. Where the best interests of humanity are at stake, we cannot afford to indulge any cognitive biases. Neither do good intentions suffice; it’s plenty clear that socialists have Really Good Intentions when it comes to the well-being of society’s underdogs.

    Here’s a *really big* challenge now: Totalitarian dictatorships can take a country of 100 million people and kill 10% of them in a matter of a few years. The industrial revolution has increased the world population many-fold, and per-capita GDP many-fold on top of that. Even if (uncontroversially, without linguistic or other fudging) “Capitalism killed 10 million people” in that process, we’re still talking about a cumulative population size over centuries much greater than 100 million. How seriously do you want to push the “Capitalism kills people” narrative now?

    1. You need to condense your paragraphs into sentences that are more easily digestible.

      Even if the populations grow as a result of the Capitalism, death has still been caused under Capitalism due to Capitalistic factors.

      Yes, Capitalism is private ownership of capital but capital is used to make profit, and profit-mindedness is where, I at least believe, the problem lies.

    2. Since the deviants are only interested in attacking the people’s owning their own property — i.e., “capitalism” — they presume anything which rejects the Marxist ideal of submission, subversion and stupidity:
      your “totalitarian dictatorships” qualify, since if one owns a toothbrush, one is a capitalist

      1. oookay, buddy, you need to look up what communism is. specifically, the phrase “personal property vs. private property”.

        you don’t know enough about what communism is to be debating this.

      1. the leftists aren’t interested in facts, let alone psychology.
        theirs is but to massage their cocks and relish in human suffering.

    1. what capitalism? all I see is the people being manipulated exploited and killed in the name of the State, King and its agents/bureaucrats.

  7. There are so many things wrong with this article that you hardly know where to begin, but let’s start with one obvious fact: at least 75% of the civilians killed in Afghanistan have been killed by the Taliban and its allies, not by Karzai and later Afghan leaders and their allies, which would include the US. This percentage has only gone up since the UN mission in Afghanistan reported it.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/10/world/asia/10afghanistan.html

    Every other claim this author makes has the same problem of lack of credibility once you know the facts from reputable sources.

  8. Apparently the people owning their own stuff .. i.e, capitalism is the private ownership of the means of production & distribution .. kills people?
    Original sin, and Marxist deception.. classic strawman fallacy

  9. Hey Peter,

    Ideally, I would like to be a capitalist at heart. Many of the books I have read tell me that capitalism is good for this country. However, you remind me that checks and balances are required – that’s what makes our country so great.

    Thanks for the in-depth thoughts and references.

    Dennis

    1. Do you think the millions killed by the national socialists should go on the list too?
      I mean it wasn’t pure socialism, and anything tainted with the spectre of the people owning their own property surely must be accounted for against the slate of the purity of our ideals.
      And the same goes for any monarchy, oligarchy and other such impure power structures which deviate from the Will of the Collective as expressed by the Central Committee. Indeed even them pioneer types defending a farm from rustlers, banditos and other such riff-raff is guilty of the sin of private ownership.
      Ours is the science; theirs, but heresy.

  10. Do you think that King Leopold’s massacres in the Congo should go on the list too?

    At around 10 million people killed explicitly to feed a 19th century rubber corporation, it is probably the most textbook death-by-capitalism example you could ever find.

  11. Hey, I’ve checked out some of your references and I’ve got to admit, there are a lot of secondary and tertiary sources you’ve used (a Huffington Post article?), as well as quite a few biased sources too (worldsocialism.org).

    This post looks a bit old now, so maybe I’m too late to ask, but perhaps you could link to more primary sources within your citations to make your argument more full-proof?

    I’m actually a follower of the World Socialism movement, and I agree with the intentions of this article; I’d just like to think this is more of a legitimate article before I start sharing it around to all of my “capitalism is the only way” friends?

    Thank you.

    1. Niall,

      As you correctly noted, I wrote this about three years ago and was moderately rushed to do so. While I am personally not that interested in the topic as much anymore, I think you can certainly find more reputable sources for most of the claims made. I would suggest that you do your own research and use this post as a backbone (hell, you can use entire sections if you’d like), but if you get stuck, feel free to email me and I’ll see what I can do. piotr.heft [at] gmail [dot] com.

  12. Bro, you do realize that coercive, state-imposed problems like war, the initiation of force, etc. are NOT capitalism. Capitalism is not statism, it’s the opposite. Capitalism is simply voluntary trade. Also, capitalism is the best eradicator of poverty there is, look up the data correlation between economic freedom and prosperity (as well as every other positive metric for human well being).

    1. Bro, you do realize that problems like totalitarian dictatorships and stolen toothbrushes aren’t socialism, it’s the opposite. Socialism is simply production for use and workers mutually owning and having access to the means of making commodity goods. Also socialism is the best eradicator of waste and poverty there is. Look up the correlation between being able to directly control the production of the means to sustain life and prosperity. (as well as every other positive metric for human well being).

      1. What history books are you reading? The historic record of socialism is not a good one. It basically always ends up in corruption, tyrannical government and economic collapse.

        It’s also quite remarkable the amount of research and thought that this author can put into an article and still have zero idea what capitalism is.

        Attributing all deaths from “poverty” to capitalism as if poverty is a direct side effect of capitalism is absurd, to put it lightly.

        Actually, let’s talk about poverty for a moment, because poverty isn’t created by an economic system. Poverty is the standard of living in which the human race was born into. Poverty is the norm, the baseline for human living. It requires no explanation.

        Prosperity is what needs explaining. Prosperity is the anomaly, because it has to be created, constantly. Prosperity did not exist for humans until we figured out how to create it. Detractors of capitalism/champions of socialism and communism have another name for prosperity. They call it wealth, or profit.. or greed, as if it’s all about some form of currency. But prosperity has more to do with the standard of living and the quality of life of people.

        For leftists, it’s an evil thing to prosper in life. They seem to think that this wealth exists in a fixed pie, ready for even distribution among the populace. “I’m poor because someone else is rich and hoarding the wealth”. But that is not the way it works. Prosperity must constantly be generated, and the more prosperity that is generated, the more standard of living improves for everyone, yes, even for the poorest parts of the population.

        This article is just outright false in most of it’s claims…. the Korean War was caused by capitalism?!?! How can you type the words and keep a straight face? It’s utter lunacy.

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