Black Book of Communism

From Leftypedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A cover of the Black Book of Communism.

The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression is a 1997 anti-communist demographic book which purports to catalogue deaths caused by repression and mismanagement in communist states. The book has been criticized by scholars for its numerous inaccuracies since its release, and it was later disavowed by two of its own authors. Although academics overwhelmingly[citation needed] reject the Black Book as an unreliable source, the book and its figures continue to influence the popular imagination of communism, including the claim that communism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million people.

Popularity in right-wing media and arguments

The Black Book of Communism is very popular as an anti-communist source in right-wing arguments [citation needed]. It is seen often in both social media arguments and arguments preformed in the public. Sometimes news media, while discussing Communism or Socialism, will bring up either the toll or the book.

Rightist praise

Rightists often praise the book for refuting "communist nonsense".[instances needed]


Two of the former authors of the book- Nicolas Werth and Jean-Louis Margolin- both dissociate from editor Stéphane Courtois's statements in the book, as well as his obsession with reaching the 100 million death toll. Nicolas Werth also criticized Courtois' comparison of Communism to Nazism, stating that "The more you compare Communism and Nazism, the more the differences are obvious". Historian Ronald Suny remarked that Courtois' comparison of 100 million victims of Communism to 25 million victims of Nazism "[leaves out] out most of the 40-60,000,000 lives lost in the Second World War, for which arguably Hitler and not Stalin was principally responsible". Another criticism is that Capitalism kills approximately 20 Million per year, which would be 100 Million in 5 Years, making the "100 Million" claim small compared to Capitalism. The statistic of "100 Million" was made using loose qualifications,[1] such as millions of nonexistent Chinese babies[2] being considered ‘victims’, relinquished households probably being considered ‘deaths’ (partially due to bureaucratic technicalities, most likely), and some automobile accidents being considered the fault of socialism. Many of the subtotals are not widely accepted by historians.[3]

Margolin and Werth furthermore rebuked Courtois in an article published in Le Monde,[4] stating that they disagreed with his vitriolic introduction and its obvious political agenda. Margolin and Werth both rightfully disavowed the book, recognizing that Courtois was obsessed with reaching a body count of a hundred million and consequently leading to careless and biased ‘scholarship’. Courtois also composed the book's introduction in secret, refusing to regurgitate it for his other contributors. They both rejected Courtois's equivalence of German Fascism with Communism, with Werth correctly telling Le Monde that ‘death camps did not exist in the Soviet Union.’[5]

A group of leftists have refuted the Black Book to the point where[6] Harvard University Press’ Mark Kramer in particular had to admit that it contained remedial mathematic errors.[7] (Note though that they are needlessly sectarian and overly skeptical of some famines.[8]) Many of the subtotals are not widely accepted by historians.[9][10]

According to historian Peter Kenez, the book should simply be considered an "anti-communist polemic", and on a separate occasion asserted it contains historical inaccuracies.[11]

Further reading


  4. "Communisme : retour à l'histoire". Le 1997-11-14. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  5. Getty, J. Arch (2000-03-01). "The Future Did Not Work". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  7. "A Campaign to correct anti-communist propaganda". 2008-08-30. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  8. Wheatcroft, Stephen. "Current knowledge of the level and nature of mortality in the Ukrainian famine of 1931–3" (PDF). Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  10. Heft, Peter (2014-05-02). "Attempting the Impossible – Calculating Capitalism's Death Toll". Archived from the original on 2014-12-28.