Comparative Genocide totals?

Nathan Newman nnewman at
Fri Jul 3 09:20:43 PDT 1998

-----Original Message----- From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at> To: lbo-talk at <lbo-talk at>

>It's interesting that the death tolls under Stalin and Mao are considered
>indictments and convictions of entire social systems, whereas incidents
>like slavery and genocide in the U.S., the potato famine in Ireland,
>several centuries of colonial brutality by Europeans ahd Americans, etc.
>etc., are considered anomalies or youthful indiscretions.

Not to mention the massive death totals during Japan's initial industrialization in the late 19th and early 20th century. Or the massive death of children working as slaves today in South Asia for economic output to Western capitalist countries.

There is a really destructive confusion used between deliberate murder or political and social undesirables and the deaths due to economic mismanagement and brutality by social systems.

There is a qualitative difference between shoving Jews into gas ovens and sentencing political dissidents to the gulag versus famine spreading due to civil war. Deaths due to the economic brutality of a system are worth studying but it is unclear whether capitalism does that well- just look at the deaths due to structural adjustment programs of the IMF throughout Latin America in the 1980s.

The largest geneocide in history is due to capitalist expansion into the "New World" where estimates range as high as 100 million indigenous inhabitants dying due to disease spread by the colonists.

There is much to condemn in the East Bloc countries, but the "death totals" are the least convincing to me. THe Soviet Union largely ended mass murders with Stalin's death, yet the regime was still repressive and repugnant. Most demographic numbers show an upsurge in death rates since the fall of the Soviet Union, so do those deaths go on the capitalist ledger?

All of these numbers are so ideologically charged that they become meaningless when ripped out of context - usually comparing apples and oranges.

---Nathan Newman

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list