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Stephane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panne, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, Jean-Louis M Published by: Harvard University Press, 2004 Strony / Pages: 858, hard cover ISBN: 0-674-07608-7
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Stephane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panne, Andrzej Paczkowski - Polish historian, Karel Bartosek, Jean-Louis Margolin, Mark Kramer (Translator), Jonathan Murphy

Editorial Reviews
When it was first published in France in 1997, Le livre noir du Communisme touched off a storm of controversy that continues to rage today. Even some of his contributors shied away from chief editor Stéphane Courtois's conclusion that Communism, in all its many forms, was morally no better than Nazism; the two totalitarian systems, Courtois argued, were far better at killing than at governing, as the world learned to its sorrow.

Communism did kill, Courtois and his fellow historians demonstrate, with ruthless efficiency: 25 million in Russia during the Bolshevik and Stalinist eras, perhaps 65 million in China under the eyes of Mao Zedong, 2 million in Cambodia, millions more Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America--an astonishingly high toll of victims. This freely expressed penchant for homicide, Courtois maintains, was no accident, but an integral trait of a philosophy, and a practical politics, that promised to erase class distinctions by erasing classes and the living humans that populated them. Courtois and his contributors document Communism's crimes in numbing detail, moving from country to country, revolution to revolution. The figures they offer will likely provoke argument, if not among cliometricians then among the ideologically inclined. So, too, will Courtois's suggestion that those who hold Lenin, Trotsky, and Ho Chi Minh in anything other than contempt are dupes, witting or not, of a murderous school of thought--one that, while in retreat around the world, still has many adherents. A thought-provoking work of history and social criticism, The Black Book of Communism fully merits the broadest possible readership and discussion.
--Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly
In France, this damning reckoning of communism's worldwide legacy was a bestseller that sparked passionate arguments among intellectuals of the Left. Essentially a body count of communism's victims in the 20th century, the book draws heavily from recently opened Soviet archives. The verdict: communism was responsible for between 85 million and 100 million deaths in the century. In France, both sales and controversy were fueled, as Martin Malia notes in the foreword, by editor Courtois's specific comparison of communism's "class genocide" with Nazism's "race genocide." Courtois, the director of research at the prestigious Centre Research National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris and editor of the journal Communisme, along with the other distinguished French and European contributors, delivers a fact-based, mostly Russia-centered wallop that will be hard to refute: town burnings, mass deportations, property seizures, family separations, mass murders, planned faminesAall chillingly documented from conception to implementation. The book is divided into five sections. The first and largest takes readers from the "Paradoxes of the October Revolution" through "Apogee and Crisis in the Gulag System" to "The Exit from Stalinism." Seeing the U.S.S.R. as "the cradle of all modern Communism," the book's other four sections document the horrors of the Iron Curtain countries, Soviet-backed agitation in Asia and the Americas, and the Third World's often violent embrace of the system. A conclusionA"Why?"Aby Courtois, points to a bureaucratic, "purely abstract vision of death, massacre and human catastrophe" rooted in Lenin's compulsion to effect ideals by any means necessary.

From Library Journal
Courtois, director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), leads the efforts of major scholars associated with the CNRS, who drew on recently opened Soviet archives to track the atrocities of communism worldwide over the last century. Concluding that communism's death toll stands at 85 to 100 million, they wonder forcefully why such "class genocide" is excused more easily than the Nazis' "race genocide." This book burned a hole in the French Left when it was published--and also hit the best sellers lists. Not easy reading, but a seminal document.

The New York Times Book Review, Alan Ryan
To the extent that the book has a literary style, it is that of the recording angel.... It is a criminal indictment, and it rightly reads like one.

The Wall Street Journal, October 25, 1999
. . .Scrupulously documented and soberly written by several historians, [this] is a masterful work. It is, in fact, a reckoning. With this translation. . .English-language readers may now see for themselves what all the commotion was about. . .[The Black Book of Communism] superbly illuminates the shocking record of communist regimes and their Western votaries.

From Booklist
Tabulators of the Red Terror from its inception in 1918 down to its vestigial continuation in such countries as North Korea and Cuba, the authors instigated an intellectual ruckus in France, a curious reception for this dry ledger of death. It was not, apparently, the recitation of killings that irked the left in France but Courtois' condemnation of Leninist regimes as criminal enterprises. That stance challenged the left's deeply seated tenets that communism, despite excesses, was progressive; that Stalinism was an effect of one personality, not an entire system; and that moral indictments of communism are mitigated by the unique evil of the Nazism it defeated. For even adumbrating a moral equivalence of the tyrannical -isms, Courtois' introduction was denounced as anti-Semitic by a Le Monde editorialist. History communism may be, but a comprehensive historical accounting has yet to be undertaken because academic historians tend to loathe such accounting as being subjective. But since 1989, the raw documentary material necessary to just discover what happened, let alone interpret it, has begun to emerge. This volume merely chronicles and quotes the draconian decrees and secret police reports that sanctioned mass executions, deportations, and the establishment of concentration camps; implemented the collectivization of land, which invariably caused famines that starved millions; or formulated plans for wars of aggression, as in Korea. Whether this work will agitate U.S. citizens as much as it has the French seems doubtful, but there remain precincts in the U.S. where it could ignite debate, especially among those who stubbornly cleave to a belief that Lenin, Mao, and Pol Pot were aberrations rather than the essence of communism. Gilbert Taylor

From Kirkus Reviews
A unique attempt by French historiansas important in its way as the works of Solzhenitsynto chronicle the crimes of communism wherever it has attained power in the world. Not the least remarkable thing about this book is that this is the first time such a study has been made. For the cumulative toll of victims of communist rule, estimated by the authors at between 85 and 100 million, dwarfs even the crimes of the Nazis. In the Soviet Union the toll included 6 million deaths during the collectivization famine of 193233, 720,000 executions during the Great Purge, 7 million entering the gulag in 193441, many of them to die, and nearly 3 million still there when Stalin died. In China there were probably 10 million direct victims, another 20 million in China's gulag, the Laogai, and between 20 and 43 million during the Great Leap Forward, the largest man-made famine in history. In Cambodia, the worst recent example, one in seven of the population died. And to these the authors add the cost in eastern Europe, Vietnam, North Korea, Afghanistan, Latin America, Ethiopia, Angola, and Mozambique. Nor is it just statistics: the authors tell, for example, of the young children in Cambodia hung from the roof by their feet and kicked from side to side until they died. The overwhelming question confronted by the authors is: why? The answer, writes Courtois, lies in the ``Bolsheviks propensity for extreme violence . . . demonstrated from the outset,'' but above all in their habit of reducing their victimas had Hitler in his attacks on Jews as subhumanto an abstraction: the bourgeoisie, capitalists, and enemies of the people. The essays are of varying quality, some quite sketchy in their scope, but overall a devastating and important book, already hailed in Europe, and the more harrowing for its sobriety. (78 photos, 6 maps)

Book Description
Already famous throughout Europe, this international bestseller plumbs recently opened archives in the former Soviet bloc to reveal the actual, practical accomplishments of Communism around the world: terror, torture, famine, mass deportations, and massacres. Astonishing in the sheer detail it amasses, the book is the first comprehensive attempt to catalogue and analyze the crimes of Communism over seventy years. "Revolutions, like trees, must be judged by their fruit," Ignazio Silone wrote, and this is the standard the authors apply to the Communist experience-in the China of "the Great Helmsman," Kim Il Sung's Korea, Vietnam under "Uncle Ho" and Cuba under Castro, Ethiopia under Mengistu, Angola under Neto, and Afghanistan under Najibullah. The authors, all distinguished scholars based in Europe, document Communist crimes against humanity, but also crimes against national and universal culture, from Stalin's destruction of hundreds of churches in Moscow to Ceausescu's leveling of the historic heart of Bucharest to the widescale devastation visited on Chinese culture by Mao's Red Guards. As the death toll mounts-as many as 25 million in the former Soviet Union, 65 million in China, 1.7 million in Cambodia, and on and on-the authors systematically show how and why, wherever the millenarian ideology of Communism was established, it quickly led to crime, terror, and repression. An extraordinary accounting, this book amply documents the unparalleled position and significance of Communism in the hierarchy of violence that is the history of the twentieth century.

Language Notes:
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French