Joseph Stalin

Guest writer Malcolm Kline notes that U.S. academia routinely ignores the enormity of the crimes of Communists while harping on the faults of the United States.

Storied Soviet dictator Josef Stalin once famously said that one man’s death is a tragedy, a thousand is a statistic. He and his successors compiled so many human statistics that the unfortunately few academics and intellectuals who are trying to ascertain the true number are still working on it.

“One cannot discuss the past, present, or future while they lay there unacknowledged,” University of Pennsylvania historian Alan Charles Kors pointed out in a speech to the Atlas Foundation last November. “We are surrounded by slain innocents and the scale is wholly new.”

“This is not the thousands of the Inquisition, it is not the thousands of American lynching, this is not the six million dead from Nazi extermination.” Kors is the co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

“The best scholarship yields numbers that the mind must try to comprehend—scores and scores and scores and scores of millions of bodies, all around us,” Kors said on November 9, 2009. “Martin Malia, author of The Soviet Tragedy, with only partial views of the Russian Archives, posited 20 million dead.”

“Robert Conquest, who’d been right all along, argued in his revision of the Great Terror for yet more millions of deaths.” When I went to see a lecture Conquest gave at the Smithsonian back in the 1990s with a student from Marquette, the young man told me that the professor who taught his Soviet studies course never even mentioned this death toll: That professor was George McGovern, the former Democratic senator who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1972.

As Kors laid it out for the audience at the Atlas dinner, the inside view is even more startling. “Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko—consulting with those historians who had studied the problem for Khruschev, who kept the numbers secret—claimed at least 50 million dead, excluding the victims of civil war and World War II.”

“Gorbachev’s right-hand man, Alexander Yakovlev, in a century of Soviet violence, entered the Archives for the last Soviet leader and wrote that 60 million were slain in the Soviet Union alone.” Moreover, as Kors points out, this is not the total but the base of the basest atrocities.

“The brilliant Chinese author Jung Chang with her husband, historian Jon Halliday, had access to scores of Mao Zedong’s closest friends and collaborators,” Kors said. “They benefited from the temporary opening of the Russian Archives (the Russians had kept the most detailed tabs on Mao).”

“In their stunning book, Mao: The Unknown Story, they reached the figure of 70 million individual lives snuffed out by Mao’s deliberate choices. If we count those dead of starvation from the Communist’s ability to experiment with human interactions in agriculture, 20 to 40 million in three years in China alone” perished.

“It was no accident of time or place that the concentration of power over all human life in a centrally planned society attracted and rewarded the aggressive, unscrupulous, and demagogic—who would attract around them the simultaneously submissive and ruthless,” Kors observes. “Central planning would bring forth leaders who took power, not as a necessary evil, but as an end in itself.”

Kors made many valuable observations in his address. I’ve never known him to make anything but.

He draws an interesting distinction between the system so-called elites cannot bring themselves to critique and the one they have nothing good to say about and say it a lot—the American one. “In a society that broke, on behalf of merit, the seemingly eternal chains of ‘station by birth,’ they cry injustice,” Kors notes.

Indeed, the United States may be the only nation, and seems to have been for a very long time, in which you are not born into your job, whether in the board room or the boiler room.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia. Article reprinted with permission.