Was it Communism or China?

Here’s an interesting op-ed from the New York Times (I only read the Times for the op-eds and sports, the stuff their own staff generates is pitifully biased):

Mao’s Great Leap to Famine

This researcher concludes that at least 45 million people died in Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” from 1958 to 1962, mostly by starvation. But what struck me about the article was the unbelievable, callous cruelty shown by the Chinese Communists in imposing Mao’s policies.

Glenn Reynolds comments:

Socialism starves. Capitalism enriches. It’s been proven over and over again. But remember: Communism is about “human dignity.”…Communists are as bad as Nazis, and their defenders and apologists are as bad as Nazis’ defenders, but far more common. When you meet them, show them no respect. They’re evil, stupid, and dishonest. They should not enjoy the consequences of their behavior.

I had known that Communism eventually destroys the moral fiber of a society, for reasons which have been well-explained. But this started LESS THAN 10 YEARS after the Communists took over. Can Communism really do it that fast, or was there something already deeply wrong with Chinese society and morality in 1949 when the Communists won? The individual acts of cruelty described in the linked piece (which I won’t repeat here) go beyond anything I have heard of Russian Communists doing to their own peasants (though of course they killed the higher social classes) or Nazis doing to non-Jews. Should Communism get all the blame here?

My opinion is that the residue of Christian ethics prevented most Nazis and Soviet Communists from being as cruel and evil as the Chinese Communists were. This is a religious explanation, although racial explanations are also possible. It is also possible that my perception of a difference between the behavior of Chinese and Russian Communists is wrong (to clarify, I am focusing on cruelty to ordinary peasants, the mass of the population, not to subclasses designated as enemies of the state or members of foreign ethnic groups; my perception is that the ruling elite treating the ENTIRE population as subhuman seems to be an Asian rather than a European phenomenon).


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11 Responses to Was it Communism or China?

  1. rebelliousvanilla says:

    Not really, it was all the same everywhere. By the way, I’d like to add that Mao’s figure has been revised upwards to 60 or 62 million. There’s also the thing that whenever you have high population growth, you will have high population busts too. Hence why the former European way was the way to go.

  2. rebelliousvanilla says:

    Anyway, to paraphrase a former dissident here – Marxism was raised to the status of religion, one that makes murder a virtue and has as scope the dehumanization of man, spiritually, and materially it is based on hunger, filth and going without.

  3. Polymath says:

    That figure is the whole Mao period, not the 1958-1962 period. The current estimate is now 80 million overall (35 million outside of 1958-1962 [R.J.Rummel 1994], 45 million in the famine years).

    I don’t disagree with you about Communism eventually creating such a dehumanized society. What surprised me is that it happened so fast in China, in less than 10 years there were atrocious cruelties in villages all over China. The Russians and Germans treated disfavored social and ethnic groups as badly, but not the mass of the population; the first generation of Communists had still been raised in a society with a Christian ethos which I think restrained them some. It took an additional generation in European Communist countries to complete the moral collapse.

  4. FortitudineVincimus says:

    I don’t know about that. Martin Amis provides a very emotional account of Stalin in “Koba the Dread”. Read that for entertainment.

    Conquest’s estimates for the USSR have long since been criticized for exaggerating the truth, but from what I remember during the 1930’s, approximately 8 percent of the Soviet population was in prison or part of the Gulag system. The sheer drag on national productivity must’ve been incredible.

    Lenin was a brutal mass-murderer. The Russian Civil War destroyed Russia, and an estimated 10 million peasants died in the famine in the early 20’s. The New Economic Policy was enacted simply because it was the only way to prevent a total collapse. Lenin died before he was enable to enact her his own Collectivization reforms.

    The whole point of communism was to treat all masses like absolute dirt. Political Correctness was a Soviet phenomenon arising from the 20’s were ethnic groups in the Soviet Union were actually comparatively well off. Not until Stalin came to power were minority groups, like the Ukranians, specifically persecuted.

    The Nazis were far better in that regard. The idea was to favorably treat Germans and Germanic peoples, and extort other populations, much in the way Romans did. Conquering new lands, enslaving the local population to enrich Rome, then expanding further. For this reason I thought Nazism worse than communism.

  5. rebelliousvanilla says:

    Polymath, the first generation was often the worst. And most of the NKVD was Jewish at first, so I doubt they really had Christian ethics.

    I think you don’t realize the enormity that happened under communism in Europe. I will give you just an example. State security officials had quotas about how many people they had to convict. So if you stood out in the crowd, they busted you, sent you to a kangoroo court and convicted you to fill their quotas. It was a really nice way to get in between 5 and 20 years of jail. There were atrocious cruelties all over the communist world and usually the first generation was the worst.

    The Nazis weren’t that bad, provided you weren’t:
    All communists though had the same hate the Nazis had for the Jews for everyone else.

  6. FortitudineVincimus says:

    Now you’re the ignoramus, RV.

    Judeo-Christian ethics are very closely correlated, especially when held up against Islam (I can show you how and why).

    Further, Jewish communists were VERY particular about renoucing their heritage. They were about as Jewish (in the sense they identified with the Jewish “Tribe”), as Nazis, save that Stalin hated them, too. They hated all religion, without exception. Further, Stalin himself was within a hair’s width of launching a new purge of Jews. the Jewish leadership of the Old Party was thoroughly annihilated by Stalin in the Great Terror, however whetehr that was ebcause they were Jewish or not I can’t recall.

    Anyways, the Jews of Russia would naturally embrace Bolshevism. Bolsheviks were persecuted in Imperialist Russia, as the Jews were. It was a natural marriage. And for all “progressives” and enlightened revolutionaries, they imagined their utopian societies without contemplating the cost in human sorrow for their schemes. In that way they were just human, albeit dumb ones at that.

  7. rebelliousvanilla says:

    FV, aww, Jews were persecuted, how cute. Remind me to take you seriously when you begin talking about stuff you have any idea about.

  8. FortitudineVincimus says:

    Let me know when your sources include more scholarly research than what David Irving writes.

  9. FortitudineVincimus says:

    And good job making the statement “the nazis weren’t that bad, provided you were A and B”.

    Tell that to the German resistance, euthanasia victims and other native Germans who opposed the regime. I’m sure they’d agree with you.

    Your posts, unlike mine, are filled with wisdom, insight and accuracy.

  10. Polymath says:

    Let’s keep this civil, boys and girls.

    RV, you have a point about the first generation being the worst, since the revolutionaries themselves will have rejected religion and will have blood on their hands already. I should have distinguished between the morality of the Communists and the morality of the whole society. The Communists who take over are extremely cruel and repressive, but for the moral rot to permeate the society takes another generation or two. And many European societies were somewhat protected against this rot by residual Christianity, so that process was faster in China.

    FV, Jewish and Christian ethics are closely related but there is a key difference that Christian ethics are universalist. That leads to trouble when applied politically, or when dealing with outsider groups, but within a cohesive and homogenous society Christian ethics prevent people from getting really horrible. The ex-Jewish Bolsheviks did not have the same residual sense of responsibility for the entire society that ex-Christian revolutionaries did and so were more ruthless and theoretical and less disturbed by the death toll.

  11. Gorbachev says:

    @RV, poly is right.

    There’s a strain of anti-individualism and unconcern for others in Asian society (never thoroughly infected with Christian morality). It’s no more than usual for a human population, but it’s unmitigated by the moral notion that you should try to be nice.

    In China, the mass of the people participated, and it devolved very quickly.

    I’d note that China had been a mess for at least 40 years prior to the takeover by the communists – it was Eat or Be Eaten for a while.

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