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Death by Government: Stalin Beat Hitler but Mao Surpassed Both

R.J. Rummel

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Alternative historian R.J. Rummel is recognized for his calculation of deaths caused by governments -- for which he coined the term "democide." Rummel argues that in the last century totalitarian governments killed more people than warfare.

Many scholars and commentators have referenced my total of 174,000,000 for the democide (genocide and mass murder) of the last century. I'm now trying to get word out that I've had to make a major revision in my total due to two books. One is Wild Swans: Two Daughters of China by Jung Chang, and the other is Mao: the Unknown Story that she wrote with her husband, Jon Halliday. I'm now convinced that that Stalin exceeded Hitler in monstrous evil, and Mao beat out Stalin.

From the time I wrote my book on China's Bloody Century, I have held to these democide totals for Mao:

  • Civil War-Sino-Japanese War 1923-1949 = 3,466,000 murdered
  • Rule over China (PRC) 1949-1987 = 35,236,000 murdered

However, some other scholars and researchers had put the PRC total as from 60,000,000 to a high 70,000,000. Asked why my total is so low by comparison, I've responded that I did not include the China's Great Famine 1958-1961. From my study of what was written on this in English, I believed that:

  1. the famine was due to the Great Leap Forward when Mao tried to catch up with the West in producing iron and steel;
  2. the factorization of agriculture, forcing virtually all peasants to give up their land, livestock, tools, and homes to live in regimented communes;
  3. the exuberant over reporting of agricultural production by commune and district managers for fear of the consequences of not meeting their quotas;
  4. the consequent belief of high communist officials that excess food was being produced and could be exported without starving the peasants;
  5. but, reports from traveling high officials indicated that peasants might be starving in certain localities;
  6. an investigative team was sent out from Beijing, and reported back that there was mass starvation;
  7. and then the CCP stopped exporting food and began to imports what was needed to stop the famine.

Thus, I believed that Mao's policies were responsible for the famine, but he was mislead about it, and finally when he found out, he stopped it and changed his policies. Therefore, I argued, this was not a democide. Others, however, have so counted it, but I thought this was a sloppy application of the concepts of mass murder, genocide, or politicide (virtually no one used the concept of democide). They were right and I was wrong.

From the biography of Mao, which I trust (for those who might question it, look at the hundreds of interviews Chang and Halliday conducted with communist cadre and former high officials, and the extensive bibliography) I can now say that yes, Mao's policies caused the famine. He knew about it from the beginning. He didn't care! Literally. And he tried to take more food from the people to pay for his lust for international power, but was overruled by a meeting of 7,000 top Communist Party members.

So, the famine was intentional. What was its human cost? I had estimated that 27,000,000 Chinese starved to death or died from associated diseases. Others estimated the toll to be as high as 40,000,000. Chang and Halliday put it at 38,000,000, and given their sources, I will accept that.

Now, I have to change all the world democide totals that populate my websites, blogs, and publications. The total for the communist democide before and after Mao took over the mainland is thus 3,446,000 + 35,226,000 + 38,000,000 = 76,692,000, or to round off, 77,000,000 murdered. This is now in line with the 65 million toll estimated for China in the Black Book of Communism, and Chang and Halliday's estimate of "well over 70 million."

This exceeds the 61,911,000 murdered by the Soviet Union 1917-1987, with Hitler far behind at 20,946,000 wiped out 1933-1945.

For perspective on Mao's most bloody rule, all wars 1900-1987 cost in combat dead 34,021,000 -- including WWI and II, Vietnam, Korea, and the Mexican and Russian Revolutions. Mao alone murdered over twice as many as were killed in combat in all these wars.

Now, my overall totals for world democide 1900-1999 must also be changed. I have estimated it to be 174,000,000 murdered, of which communist regimes murdered about 148,000,000. Also, compare this to combat dead. Communists overall have murdered four times those killed in combat, while globally the democide toll was over six times that number.

Read more on the Dr. Rummel website (new window will open).

Posted: 04-Dec-05



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