NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Communists' Crimes Against Humanity

July 16, 1998

Some historians note a curious absence of discussion of the crimes of communism since the Soviet Union's demise. For Nazi crimes, there were the Nuremberg trials. But there has been no such justice for the tens of millions of persons killed by communist regimes.

A group of respected analysts and historians recently set off fierce debate in France with the publication of the 800-page "Black Book of Communism." While there are histories of communism's toll in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China and Cambodia, this is believed to be the first time anyone has made a comprehensive study -- complete with an estimated body count of between 85 million and 100 million victims.

Here is a sampling of facts and issues from the book:

  • It argues that these deaths deserve the appellation "crimes against humanity" -- a term most closely associated with Nazi genocide.
  • In most of Central and Eastern Europe, Stalinist prosecutors, jailers and torturers are living out a peaceful retirement on government pensions.
  • In Russia, the crimes of the past are rarely discussed in public -- and in China the camps and tortures continue, if not at the same intensity as earlier.
  • As communist regimes gradually transformed, former communists often remained in power as newly democratic countries concentrated on solving immediate economic and political challenges.

Marxist parties continue to exist and even thrive in Europe and attract some adherents in American universities. And one all too often still hears the clich‚ that "the ideas were right, but the people failed." In Europe, some intellectuals and politicians objected to the comparison of communism with Nazism. French Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin stated that he was "proud" of the presence of communists in his government and shocked by a comparison to the Nazis.


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