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):
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).