Of the tens of thousands of books on the communist experience, this one resource stands out above all the rest—a massive and fitting epitaph for a totalitarian and bloodthirsty theory that killed one hundred million people in the 20th century.
The historians writing in this 850-page book cover Lenin’s murders, Stalin’s Gulag, Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, and every other case of shocking crime and horror. The narrative moves constantly from the big picture to millions of deaths to the smallest look at how people in the midst of famine turned toward eating the dead.
They establish for all time that the machinery of communism is fueled by crimes, terror, and repression, and ends predictably in massacre.
The book appeared first in France as a collection of pieces by writers with some social-democratic sympathies. They only sought to tell the truth so far as it could be documented. Each is a specialist in the nation and period covered. They pull together all that is known and write an excellent narrative that provides the summary judgment.
What was astounding was the reaction. Not only in France but all over Europe there was sudden, palpable, and extended shock and protest—as if the intellectuals in these countries had never faced the grim reality. The source of the controversy was just as disgusting. You see, Europe’s communist parties are still in existence and even flourishing. Former communist officials hold prestigious posts in government. Were these authors saying that these nice gentlemen are actually apologists for mass murder?
It was also said that by highlighting the crimes of communism, there is a danger of putting the crimes of Nazism into the background. The idea here is palpably absurd. The key issue here is that the crimes of the Nazis are well known whereas the crimes of the communists are routinely whitewashed in the highest circles of academia and government.
In any case, this book stands as the ultimate refutation of the entire gang. It also makes for stunning reading, though it is probably impossible to read straight through without feeling a profound sickness. The detail is fascinating and you find your jaw dropping on every page, whether the subject is Russia, China, Africa, the Far East, or Latin America.
In some ways, this book is a great complement to Mises’s own book Socialism. He predicted and explained all of this in his 1922 treatise, and the intellectual establishment never forgave him for it. Three quarters of a century later, the book that historical documented all of Mises’s predictions appeared, and the establishment has not forgiven them either. Regardless, this book is an overwhelming vindication of Mises’s position.
It is simply not possible to read this book and come away with the slightest sympathy for socialist/communist theory or the states that enact policies along these lines. Not even the authors themselves fully grasp what their own documentation has done to the statist religion of our time.
Read it, but prepare to weep, and fight against everything communism was and is.
78 halftones, 6 maps 912 pages