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The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror,…
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The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (1997)

by Stéphane Courtois, Nicolas Werth

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Lettura impegnativa

Inizio la lettura. Sarà senza dubbio impegnativa, ma ritengo necessaria: fare i conti con la storia per farli con se stessi e con gli altri.

-------------------A lettura conclusa-------------------------

Verso la fine del 1997 la casa editrice francese Laffont pubblicò questo libro di oltre 800 pagine. Una serie di saggi molto importanti sulla storia di questo movimento politico e culturale che ha caratterizzato il secolo ventesimo. Gli autori dei saggi sono studiosi sia occidentali che orientali i quali hanno attinto i dati dei loro studi da fonti inedite. Nel libro sono esaminati tutti i paesi che all’epoca erano ancora sotto il Comunismo: la Russia, che al tempo era ancora Unione Sovietica, la Cina, il Vietnam, la Corea del Nord, la Cambogia, il laos, Cuba, la Mongolia e così via. Il libro contiene anche numerosi documenti inediti tratti dagli archivi di paesi ex-comunisti.

Il volume si apre con 38 pagine di introduzione ed è intitolato “I crimini del Comunismo” ed è firmato dal curatore del libro Stephane Courtois. Questi è anche autore dell’articolo che chiude la ricerca. Le idee espresse nel libro hanno suscitato in Francia e in altri paesi molte discussioni specialmente tra intellettuali e politici simpatizzanti vecchi e nuovi dell’ideologia comunista. Courtois è stato accusato di avere voluto mettere sullo stesso piano il Comunismo, travestito da Stalinismo, ed il Nazismo. Sistemi, a loro parere, basati sul terrore e sulla violenza. Courtois è stato anche accusato di avere forzato le sue opinioni per fini di parte.

Il libro è suddiviso in cinque parti. Nella prima lo storico francese Nicolas Werth divide la sua ricerca in 15 sezioni interamente basate su ricerche di archivio. “Uno Stato contro il suo popolo: violenza, repressione e terrore nell’Unione Sovietica”. Spiega i paradossi ed i fraintesi su quella che è conosciuta come la Rivoluzione di Ottobre, copre l’intero periodo del terrore bolscevico e stalinista come anche altri eventi che portarono poi alla morte di Stalin.

La seconda parte consta di un centinaio di pagine e studia quello che fu il Comintern e il ruolo dell’Unione Sovietica nel movimento comunista internazionale. La sezione è suddivisa in tre saggi sull’azione del Comintern, la presenza in Spagna e le connessioni comunismo terrorismo.
La terza parte si occupa dell’Europa “vittima del comunismo”. In circa 100 pagine viene esaminato il movimento comunista nell’Europa centro orientale. Il focus è sulla Polonia ed è scritto da un eminente storico polacco Andrzej Paczkowski, uno studioso che ha dato un grande aiuto agli storici occidentali per accedere agli archivi in Polonia. L’altra sezione che consta di una settantina di pagine copre il resto dell’Europa centrale ed i Balcani. Le due sezioni unite forniscono una ricca documentazione in gran parte inedita sull’opera di “comunistatizzazione” dell’Europa orientale.

La quarta parte del libro ha per titolo “Il Comunismo Asiatico: tra rieducazione e massacro”. Esamina la situazione nell’Asia orientale, in paesi come la Cina, il Vietnam, la Corea del Nord, la Cambogia e il Laos. E’ divisa in tre sezioni. Nella prima viene studiata la figura di Mao, la Rivoluzione Culturale e l’occupazione cinese del Tibet. Segue poi la sezione sul Vietnam e la Corea del Nord. La terza parte si occupa della Cambogia e dei Kmer rossi.

La quinta parte del libro ha per titolo “Il Terzo Mondo” e si occupa appunto del Comunismo così come s’è manifestato in questi paesi. Si esaminano paesi come Cuba, Nicaragua e Peru. Segue l’esame degli stati africani come l’Etiopia, l’Angola e il Mozambico. Le ultime pagine sono dedicate all’analisi della situazione in Afganistan dall’inizio degli anni settanta ai primi anni novanta. La conclusione del libro è affidata a Stephane Courtois il quale in una trentina di pagine cerca di rspondere alla domanda “Perchè?” tutto quanto è stato documentato nelle pagine precedenti del libro sia successo. Come accadde che da quando il Comunismo nacque nel 1917 si trasformò in un sistema tanto terribile e sanguinario nella sua manifestazione dittatoriale ed assolutista da diventare un sistema a regime criminale. Fu soltanto perchè questo era l’unico modo con il quale potè realizzarsi o ci furono anche altre ragioni?

Courtois nella sua densa e documentata analisi dimostra che la violenza ed il terrore divenne un sistema di vita sotto Lenin e Stalin. L’ideologia leninista era alla base del comportamento politico, con la imposizione di una utopia che era assolutamente irrealizzabile nella realtà. Questa ideologia totalizzante generò intolleranza nei confronti di chi poteva essere di ostacolo alla realizzazione della stessa. Il terrore generò, a suo parere, una doppia mutazione. L’avversario politico diventava dapprima un nemico, poi un criminale da escludere dalla società. Esclusione che si concludeva inevitabilmente con la sua eliminazione anche fisica. Questa è stata la prospettiva operativa di ogni regime in cui l’ideologia marxista leninista ha avuto il suo seme iniziale.

Oltre alla introduzione, le cinque parti del libro e la conclusione, il libro contiene diverse decine di testi ed estratti che sono stati di recente resi pubblici e di pubblico dominio. Vanno segnalati i documento che contiene l’ordine della soppressione della rivolta di Tambov del 1921, la corrispondenza tra Stalin e Shokolov, la trascrizione degli interrogatori del Gran terrore, i resoconti dei processi farsa sia in URSS che in Europa orientale, il memorandum del 1940 che ordinava la esecuzione degli ufficiali polacchi nelle fosse di Katyn, i decreti di deportazione delle minoranze etniche, i rapporti dei comandanti dei gulag siberiani, diversi articoli sulle attività del partito comunista francese, documenti sul trattamento dei prigionieri di guerra in URSS, i resoconti sulle azioni dei guerriglieri comunisti durante la guerra civile in Grecia, un memorandum sul terrorista Carlos e i suoi collegamenti con la Germania Est, documenti sulle persecuzioni religiose, sui campi di lavoro forzato in Cina e numerosi altri.

Una lettura non superficiale del libro può offrire una risposta ai “perchè” di cui si è parlato innanzi. Sta al lettore intelligente, non partigiano e abbastanza freddo nell’analisi trovare la risposta a questi interrogativi. Tutto sommato, non tanto e non troppo vecchi. La storia dell’uomo è disseminata di interrogativi del genere ai quali solo il mistero in cui è avvolta l’umanità riesce a dare una risposta esauriente ed imparziale. Sic transit! ( )
1 vote AntonioGallo | Nov 2, 2017 |
If there is a book that must be read, this is it. Extremely well-documented, formed by a collection of essays by distinguish scholars (many are members of the Left, some former communists), this book exposes the reality of communism, not the lies spread by the media and their acolytes on the Left. The book’s editor, Stéphane Courtoi, was absurdly accused of anti-Semitism by the French rag “Le Monde” for (rightfully) equating communism to nazism. Together with Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism,” it will help push back the frontiers of ignorance—to paraphrase my favorite Conservative, Dr. Walter E. Williams. ( )
2 vote MrsRK | Nov 21, 2016 |
As the Beatles' song goes on to say, "If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow."

Unfortunately, those who blatantly profess their allegiance to communism still get seated at the polite tables of civilization. This book provides plenty of evidence why the communist should be afforded even less sympathy in civil society than the professed fan of Adolf Hitler. Indeed, amongst other startling revelations in this book is that Nazi death camps were partially modelled on Soviet labor camps.

To be sure the subtitle, "Crimes, Terror, Repression," refers to a horrifying, sometimes mind-numblingly long list of tortures, familiar and unfamiliar, to the body and spirit, and the 700 plus pages of text are not a pleasant read. Still, this book is a valueable.

For starters, it refutes a propaganda point that communist governments, particularly the Soviet Union and its satellite countries, liked to use: that they were the bulwark against fascism. Not only did the USSR, in a non-aggression pact, collude with Hitler, but it actively killed fellow anti-fascists in Spain and before and during its war with Hitler. As the book documents, communist parties the world over habitually killed fellow communists who deviated from the necessary purity, and they also killed those who struggled with them against colonial powers in Southeast Asia and against Batista's dictatorship in Cuba. The communists in Russia, after the 1917 revolution, killed more political opponents in two month's than the Czar did in 80 years.

Though it's not the first to do so, the book documents that the Russian experiment in communism was not some relatively peaceful affair launched by Lenin and betrayed by a bloodthirsty Stalin. To be sure, the paranoid Stalin launched immense purges, forced labor projects, and engineered famines, but terror was a principle embraced and practiced from the beginning by Lenin.

The book also refutes the commonly recited falsehood that Mao bettered the average Chinese's lot. His policies directly led to perhaps the greatest famine in history, and he was not above conducting his own purges.

Most of these crimes against their supposed beneficiaries are documented not only through secondary histories but also primary sources of survivor accounts and government documents.

The book is divided into sections covering communism in five different manifestations: Soviet, Eastern European, Asian, the Third World, and attempts to foster international revolution via the Comintern and terrorism. China and Russia get several chapters each but most other countries that had communist regimes get at least one chapter. The book draws two general distinctions between the communism of Asia and the Soviet Union and its satellites. The Soviet model emphasized political murder of its opponents and citizens (though it was willing to simply exploit them as economic assets in labor camps). While China also has labor camps and a history of bloody repressions against its citizens, it also developed a program of trying to change the mind of its citizens as well as compel obediance through terror. The Khmer Rouge model, built by the secretive Pol Pot, combined the worst of both: idealogical reprogramming and murder.

To be sure, if you're not familiar with the history of some of the covered countries, the relevant chapters seem like a collection of strange names and obscure events. This is particlarly true of the sections on Eastern Europe where the authors assume a certain knowledge of the background politics and figures. On the other hand, the book is genuinely informative even to someone like me, a neophyte, in its chapters on communist politics in Afghanistan and Ethiopia. Not only are communist crimes there covered but the background history is also explained well.

The chapter on NKVD death squads in Spain is not the first revelation of their activities but does serve as a good summary.

This book was originally published in France, and the introduction, added for the American edition, talks about its fallout there where a politican's and intellectual's previous relationship to communism can have some real effects on his public reception. The final chapter tries to answer the question on whether terror was a principle of communism from the beginning. Communists at the beginning of the twentieth century did not generally preach using terror as a tool to utopia. Indeed, communism was a formerly recognized political philosophy accorded legitimacy via officially recognized and tolerated parties in several countries before the Russian Revolution. The book seems to blame Lenin and Russia's tradition of political violence for the brutal turn communism took.

Several of the authors are interested in the question of whether ex-communists in Eastern Europe should be punished and, if so, how.

What the book is starkly lacking is an attack on the practiciality of communism as an organizing economic principle. I suspect this is not only because it is outside the book's intended scope but also because, as alluded to in the introduction, some of the editors may sympathize with the proclaimed ends of communism.

The book also fails to mention the failed medieval experiments in communism, many of them violent, covered in Norman Cohn's classic The Pursuit of the Millennium. ( )
1 vote RandyStafford | Nov 24, 2011 |
Excellent but heartbreaking accounting of the brutality of the early Soviet Union and Bolsheviks through Stalin. The numbers of those killed and forcibly moved were staggering as was the evidence given of how quickly Communism destroys an economy and society. Communism bred mistrust among everyone, even leadership. ( )
  ORFisHome | Jul 13, 2009 |
This is almost as difficult a book to review as it was to read. The first issue that confronts the general reader (that would be me) is the extent to which they should acknowledge or ignore the controversy swirling around some of the more lurid accusations made in the work, particularly with reference to things like the Ukrainian Famine and some of the more outrageous actions of the Maoist regime. What I have tentatively concluded is that what is contained in the work is in substance correct, though that the authors -- particularly the lead author/editor (Coutrois) -- also never passed up an opportunity to relate a lurid tale, a stomach turning anecdote or a weird personal habit of a leading Communist. Which is a pity since such antics ultimately detracted from the work rather than added to it. A hard-nosed journalistic approach that left out the polemic, or at any rate confined it to only certain parts of the narrative (as in say a few paragraphs at the end of each sections) would probably have been far more effective.

The second issue is simply the mass of data, names and dates interjected,machine-gun like, page after page, chapter after chapter. No human -- or at any rate this human -- could possibly keep it all straight, leading me to think this work would far better be approached as a reference than as a narrative, the latter being how I read it.

But let us set the above aside, and simply conclude that for the present this is this THE definitive one volume work on the rise, life and ultimate death of Communism as a worldwide revolutionary phenomena, in those nations where Communism of some flavor achieved political ascendency. Perhaps a more complete, more easily digestible or less heavy on the polemic history will someday be written, but to my knowledge it has not yet been.

As to the specific sections of the text: I was particularly impressed by the chapters on the functioning of the Comintern/Cominform, the chapter on Communism in Afghanistan and the chapter on Cambodia under Pol Pot. I was less impressed on some of the material present on China, which seemed biased toward the lurid and the chapter on Poland, which was perhaps the heaviest in the text on anti-Communist polemic. ( )
5 vote worldsedge | Dec 27, 2008 |
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Under Stalin, the executioners eventually became victims. Bukharin, after the execution of his old Party comrades Zinoviev and Kamenev, publicly declared: "I am so happy that they have been shot like dogs." Less than two years later, Bukharin himself was shot like a dog. This characteristic of Stalinism was to become widespread in Communist states throughout the world.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0674076087, Hardcover)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:46 -0400)

"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 wide-scale 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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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