Medical Tuesday Blog
Death by Government
by R.J. Rummel
Democide: Mass Murder by Government
The line, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you,” takes on new meaning after reading R.J. Rummel’s devastating Death By Government. This century, estimates the University of Hawaii political scientist, the State has killed almost 170 million people.
Death by Government is a compelling study of what the author calls democide—the intentional killing by governments through genocide, politicide, massacre, and terror. . . . A product of eight years of research by a distinguished political scientist, this is an unrivaled magnum opus with dozens of tables, figures, copious notes, and a massive bibliography. Essential reading for historians, political scientists, and readers interested in genocide.”
This is R. J. Rummel’s fourth book in a series devoted to genocide and government mass murder, or what he calls democide. He presents the primary results, in tables and figures, as well as a historical sketch of the major cases of democide, those in which one million or more people were killed by a regime. In Death by Government, Rummel does not aim to describe democide itself, but to determine its nature and scope in order to test the theory that democracies are inherently nonviolent.
Rummel discusses genocide in China, Nazi Germany, Japan, Cambodia, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Poland, the Soviet Union, and Pakistan. He also writes about areas of suspected genocide: North Korea, Mexico, and feudal Russia. His results clearly and decisively show that democracies commit less democide than other regimes. The underlying principle is that the less freedom people have, the greater the violence; the more freedom, the less the violence. Thus, as Rummel says, “The problem is power. The solution is democracy. The course of action is to foster freedom.”
The greatest system of mass murder belongs to the Soviet Union–the “Soviet Gulag State,” as Rummel refers to it. Some 62 million, “Old and young, healthy and sick, men and women, even infants and the infirm, were killed in cold blood.” What makes this slaughter particularly mystifying is the fact that most of these victims were, as Rummel puts it, “guilty of … nothing.” Who can doubt that this was, as Ronald Reagan opined, an evil empire?
Then there are the Communist rulers of China, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and company, who were long feted in the West. Their victims roll was modest only when compared to that of the Soviet Union: 35 million. Given such a record, Rummel asks, why was anyone surprised at the murder of students and workers in Tiananmen square?
China’s history is, in many ways, more tragic than that of Russia. Rummel figures that various emperors killed 33.5 million people. Nearly a million died at the hands of warlords early this century. Chiang Kaishek’s nationalists, backed so enthusiastically by many Westerners, slaughtered ten million, putting Chiang in fourth place behind Adolf Hitler in the pantheon of megamurderers. And then came the Communists.
As revolutionaries, Mao Zedong’s forces killed millions under their control. Once in power throughout China, the new regime liquidated millions more opponents. The “Great Leap Forward” resulted in a famine that left as many as 27 million dead from starvation. Millions more were murdered during the Cultural Revolution. Almost as inconceivable as this endless slaughter was the fact that so many Western leftists could have promoted so vile a system for so long.
Mass murderer number three was Hitler, along with his criminal gang of anti-Semites, misfits, misanthropes, and racists. Rummel numbers the Third Reich’s victims at 21 million. Germany’s killings were heavily weighted toward genocide–of Jews, Slavs, and Gypsies, for instance, though few people escaped the Nazi jackboot. Hitler also deserves blame for igniting the worst war in history, with generous help from Stalin and others.
Death by Government is a compelling look at the horrors that occur in modern societies. It depicts how democide has been very much a part of human history. Among other examples, the book includes the massacre of Europeans during the Thirty Years’ War, the relatively unknown genocide of the French Revolution, and the slaughtering of American Indians by colonists in the New World. This riveting account is an essential tool for historians, political scientists, and scholars interested in the study of genocide.
Paperback, 496 pages
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