Communism at "Peace"
A Brief Outline of Non-Wartime Communist Atrocities
Few millennials know about the evils of communism.
I've taken survey after survey of students in my English classes,
and very few students (about a third) say they've studied anything
about communism in their high school classes. One student actually
claimed she had studied communism, but all she had been taught
was America's wickedness during the McCarthy hearings. It's
baffling. It's as if the 60-100 million deaths never happened.
Communism was and is evil...not just bad ...but evil: 60-to-
100 million corpses bear that out. Some of these corpses
form roadbeds in the Arctic Circle (Soviet Union ). Others
have been ingested by starving relatives driven to canni-
balism (Cambodia, China, North Korea, Soviet Union ). Some people
have served as pig food (Bulgaria ), while others have served
as fertilizer to nourish the crops (Cambodia, China ). The strange
thing is that all this occurred within the last century--and still,
few millennials know anything about it.
It scares me to think that the evil behind yesterday's communism
might be the same evil behind today's ignorance. So I am offering
a brief statistical outline for anyone who would like to become
more informed about a system that purports to be run by "the
people" but always winds up being run by a thousand Caligulas.
I am no R.J. Rummel, and there is little in the data that
advances argumentative discourse--but the goal isn't to
advance the argument, it's to broaden the audience; and the
target isn't the academic researcher; the target is the individual
whom I refer to as the "unfairly uninformed."
Atrocities are broken into the most accessible of demographics--
"the villager"; "the religious"; "the homosexual"; etc.--and the
breadth of persecution is made quickly real without relying on
numbers that are too huge to comprehend. The goal is for
hell to become visible after 10 minutes of perusal.
These statistics are excerpted from a forthcoming treatise,
and these data have been posted in advance because of their
potential value. Meticulous care has been given to ensure
that these numbers do not include military or war-related
deaths; therefore, we are seeing communism's brutality as
it truly relates to its citizens apart from its expansionist ideals.
The one exception concerns Peru. The communists (Luminosa)
lost the civil war, so by definition, any communist atrocities in
Peru were war-related. However, the numbers for Peru were
relatively small, while Peru comprised an important part of
communism's Latin American footprint. Since Peru is an impor-
tant part of the overall narrative, it has been included here
though it is made abundantly clear that their numbers are war-
related and constitute an exception.
Additionally, meticulous care has been given to categorize
victims in each country without double-counting them. This
is a daunting task since many victims fall into more than one
category (e.g., most landowners fall into both the kulak and
the villager categories). When such a situation arises, the victim
is placed into one category or the other but not both.
It is worth ceding that there is something cold and dehumanizing
about reducing human beings to categories--but through simple
categories we see the raised imprint of a culture and a society.
Ultimately, categories at least come closer to conjuring human
faces than do sheer, abstract numbers.
And to bring things back around to my student who was taught
that communism's great evil lay in the McCarthy hearings, I would
love to give her and her classmates a challenge. She should read
each statistical item on the outline. And after she reads each item,
she should think for a second about the McCarthy hearings. Almost
immediately, the evils of our witch-hunt would seem infinitesimally
small. It's as if a dragon landed in the backyard, and the teacher
chose only to talk about a flea in its ear. If my student were to take
this challenge, it would likely cause her to question everything else
that her history teacher had chosen to teach her or, rather, not
teach her. To fill the gap in the students' knowledge has the added
benefit of exposing the gaps/biases in their teachers' instruction.
Ultimately, filling the gap in knowledge will combat the evil of
ignorance. If you can forgive the fact that, for the time being,
these statistics exist as a couple of lone web pages floating
through cyberspace without mooring, you should find in them a
concise--if conservative--profile of communism's horrors.
James McCachren served in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan
in 1994-1995, three years after the Central Asian country
seceded from the USSR. He holds an M.F.A. from the
University of Florida and is currently an English instructor
at Halifax Community College in Weldon, NC.