The Death Toll of Capitalism and Communism

Essay By Ben Bollinger

Hello reader, this (hopefully) short article will be a response to a section in an article written by “credible” hulk in which he attempts to debunk some points made in an article by PeterSaysStuff in which Peter attempts to calculate the number of people who have died as a result of capitalism and he comes to the conclusion that,

“Ignoring other big wars due to capitalism and only focusing on US action and only including one year for things that are systemic (ie. poverty), which is being really damn conservative because Japan engaged in brutal imperialism, we get a total of 205,000,000 killed directly or indirectly because of capitalism.”

Mr. “Credible’s” reaction to this is: “[The Death Toll] is regardless of if the death was in a war started by communists or something like starvation, which communist nations are far more guilty of and capitalism is on the way to eradicating,” him saying this tells me that he did not even read the article that he is attempting to insult, but rather just skimmed over it to find the death toll, ignored all the sources and evidence, and then just pretended that the article didn’t take into account the reasoning behind the wars/deaths. However, if you actually read the article, you’d know that Peter gives the reasoning behind all of the deaths; and explains how they are linked to capitalism. The majority of the time it is the United States going to a third world country and killing people there to protect resources such as oil; now regardless of whether that’s justified or not, that is still a result of capitalism because according to the Smithsonian (1), we can make the transition to renewable energy however we don’t do it because it’s just not profitable yet, and would do a number on our economy by putting so many industries out of business; as well as the people working for them. So as you can see, there is definitely a financial incentive for the U.S. to have invaded the Middle East to protect the oil reserves (as they did such as in the War of Iraq). I could go down the list of wars Peter mentioned, but I think I’ve made my point clear of how those deaths are related to capitalism: because they were fought over resources to protect our economy even though we have an alternative that’s just not profitable yet. Mr. Credible goes through a few of these points for us:

“The list starts by listing a bunch of wars the US took part in, (including Korea and Vietnam which were started by communists because “logic”) but that has nothing to do with capitalism nor does it even attempt to take into account legitimacy. Capitalists don’t blame communists for the deaths in World War II, Korea, or the Soviet Afghanistan because those aren’t due to communism, but instead, it is because of the inherent nature of states. Later capitalism gets the blame for deaths from preventable disease, hunger, and poverty even though all those pre-existed capitalism by thousands of years and capitalism is on the way to eradicating all these. I guess we can blame the state of nature on capitalism. Then the slave trade is blamed on capitalism because that only increases the number of deaths.”

So let’s dissect this, shall we? The claim that the U.S. simply “took part” in the Korean and Vietnam war and that it was all because of the communists that it happened is simply laughable. Did the communist regimes in these countries start the wars? Yes, however it was the United States that intervened in what should’ve remained civil wars, simply to stop the spread of communism, and to try and push and secure the capitalist doctrine in Asia. This is why so many people were against the war, do you remember Credible? It’s because it was none of our damn business, and we just made things a whole lot worse than they had to be. Next, Credible states that capitalist supporters don’t blame communism on the deaths that took place in World War II, Korea, or the Soviet Afghanistan because they had nothing to do with communism. While that’s true that these wars had nothing to do with the hopes of creating a stateless, classless, and moneyless society in which the means of production are owned and managed by the community as a whole, i.e. communism, the same can not be said for the Korean+Vietnamese wars and capitalism, because World War II was not fought to stop the spread of capitalism or communism, it was fought to stop the spread of fascism; whereas Vietnam and Korea were both directly fought by capitalist nations to make sure that their interests were secured by stopping the spread of communism, and maintaining global capitalism.

The next argument that Credible tries to make is capitalism is that capitalism is not to blame for the deaths of poverty; when in reality it should be blamed. Poverty does predate capitalism however, the richest 100 people in the world alone have enough money to end all poverty (2) but they don’t do it, because there is simply nothing for them to gain by doing it, and capitalism breeds a society where giving to charity and being generous with your money is punished, whereas hoarding your money to yourself and only investing for your interests is rewarded. When it comes to diseases I’m not going to totally disagree with Credible because I do believe it is a little unfair to blame all disease on capitalism, however if you were to actually read the article that Credible is critiquing you’d see that the specific medical situation being blamed on capitalism is preventable diseases; which means diseases that we have a cure for. The reason this is blamed on capitalism is once again the profit motive. It is simply not profitable under capitalism to just hand out cures for diseases, so we don’t do it and rather just leave those who can’t afford medical treatment to die. This is not to say there aren’t charity and non-profit organizations that help, but rather to say that those institutions simply aren’t enough and so we have to address the system as a whole that is forcing people into these situations where they have to choose sometimes between rent, food, or medical treatment; and that’s capitalism.

The last “refutation” Credible makes against the article he didn’t read is that capitalism is not to blame for the slave trade. For this argument, he provides no reasoning as to why the slave trade was not inherently capitalistic, when if we actually look at the nature of it; even a third grader can figure out its link to capitalism. The slave trade was simply people being bought and sold on an open market, just as any other good or service was bought and sold. And one of the main justifications for slavery, besides religious ones, was that it simply made financial sense to keep slavery running; which is the tie to capitalism. Slavery is the perfect example of a human rights issue coming into conflict with economic interest (3). We can even see something like this happening today with climate change (4). And I am not comparing climate change and slavery, I’m comparing the fact that both create a conflict between human rights and economic interests.

Anyways, that’s pretty much most of what I wanted to address in this terrible article written by CredibleHulk, however I did just want to address a few more points made by him. The first one being the death toll of the Great Leap Forward in Maoist China. It should be no secret that Mao is often blamed for the death of anywhere from 5-45 million people in China, however how true is this? Mr. Credible sites a historian’s blog as evidence for this in which the blog itself points to no real credible sources. However, a well sourced study bu the monthly review (5) came to this conclusion on Mao’s famine:

The approach of modern writers to the Great Leap Forward is absurdly one-sided. They are unable to grasp the relationship between its failures and successes. They can only grasp that serious problems occurred during the years 1959-1961. They cannot grasp that the work that was done in these years also laid the groundwork for the continuing overall success of Chinese socialism in improving the lives of its people. They fail to seriously consider evidence that indicates that most of the deaths that occurred in the Great Leap Forward were due to natural disasters not policy errors. Besides, the deaths that occurred in the Great Leap Forward have to be set against the Chinese people’s success in preventing many other deaths throughout the Maoist period. Improvements in life expectancy saved the lives of many millions.

The next argument he makes is an argument I hear all the time which is attacking the USSR for killing anywhere from 6-60 million people, in which credible sites The International Business Times as his source, which in the article the only evidence they use is a few references to books written by heavily biased authors. If you actually look at a population graph of the USSR:

 

Demographics of Soviet Union, Data Andreev, E.M., et al. Naseleinie Sovetskogo Soiuza, 1922-1991. Number of inhabitants in thousands

you can see no where is there anything even close to a drop in a number like 60 million, and if there was, you’d expect to not only see an immediate decline in population, but you’d also expect to see a gradual decline in population over an extended period of time because birthrates would be plummeting and death rates would be skyrocketing, however we do not see this. This phenomena is explained in greater detail in this video. So this will conclude my essay, sorry I could not address all of the claims made, I simply did not want to waste any more of my time so I just wanted to focus on what I thought to be most important. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or feel I got something wrong; however I will not debate you in the comments, and not on Instagram either especially if I feel you are not educated on the subjects at hand.

References:

  1. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/us-could-switch-mostly-renewable-energy-no-batteries-needed-180957925/
  2. https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2013-01-19/annual-income-richest-100-people-enough-end-global-poverty-four
  3. http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/whic/ReferenceDetailsPage/DocumentToolsPortletWindow?displayGroupName=Reference&jsid=f5ee9347e0f56d911229321a64b95cde&action=2&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CBT2350051064&u=oak30216&zid=518d675539faaa706a1a574a70fc8096
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/03/tony-abbott-and-naomi-klein-agree-we-cant-beat-climate-change-under-capitalism
  5. http://monthlyreview.org/commentary/did-mao-really-kill-millions-in-the-great-leap-forward
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