How many people died of capitalism

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The Bundestag decides on a “memorial for the victims of communism”. Our author Anja Bethaven thinks this is pretty wrong for various reasons.

"Monument to the victims of Communism" by MG Spiller is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

On December 13th, the Bundestag decided to erect a “memorial in memory of the victims of communist tyranny” and in 2020 to develop a concept for it.

"The confrontation with National Socialism is gradually becoming a comprehensive culture of remembrance, it is more than overdue to erect a memorial site, a memorial for the victims of communist tyranny in Germany in the heart of Berlin," said SPD member of the Bundestag Katrin Budde.

That's pretty bad on two levels. Not only does this statement once again put an inhuman, inherently murderous ideology like fascism on a par with the struggle for a classless, liberated society - a typical tool used by anti-communists. No, she also claims that a point has been reached in coming to terms with National Socialism at which one can rest on what has been done. That's just not true. Settlement is still pending.

The dead of communism

Don't get me wrong, there have been acts of violence committed in the name of communism, many of which are still controversial, even among communists. A few examples are the Romanov children, children of the deposed tsar, who were ultimately murdered by the Bolsheviks after much back and forth, or the dead of the Kronstadt sailors' uprising, which was suppressed as part of the Bolshevik revolution.

Above all, however, the “dead of communism” are the victims of the crimes of the bureaucratized and degenerate party apparatus, many of them communists themselves. These Stalinist purges or the murder of intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution in China are not the work of “communism”, but precisely those who smeared the flag of international socialism with blood and stifled the international revolution time and time again. These processes were part of a progressive bureaucratization of the Soviet Union and not an outgrowth of communist ideology, rather the opposite.

There were also deaths who fell victim to the attempt to build socialism, such as the more than 4 million people who starved to death in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 as a result of imposed, bureaucratically poorly planned agricultural plans and the associated failures in food production.

Not to be forgotten are the countless dead communists in the course of anti-communist violence (well-known examples are Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht), but also to a much greater extent in the suppression of uprisings, labor disputes and during counter-revolutions (over 3,000 deaths at the suppression of the Bavarian Soviet Republic; 500,000 dead in the Spanish Civil War, 1,700 of them in the suppression of the Asturian miners' strike in 1934; 3,197 certain fatalities during the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile; ... This list can be continued indefinitely up to the present day ).

A reference popularly used by the bourgeois media is the Black Book of Communism, which allegedly contrasts the 25 million victims of National Socialism with 100 million "dead of communism". The book was not exactly written by friends of communism, and after its publication at the end of the 1990s, some very strong criticism was leveled, including the methodology of the book.

In addition, we refrain at this point from commenting on the “horseshoe scheme”, which does not arrange political attitudes on a ray (from left to right), but assumes that the two attitudes approach each other in their extremes, and a division into “according to ”And“ extreme ”makes more sense than in“ left ”and“ right ”. This scheme is used in practice primarily for anti-left and especially anti-revolutionary agitation, because one can wonderfully deduce from it that “left-wing extremists” are just as bad as right-wing extremists. The fact that this theory is not just nonsense, but downright dangerous, has now even reached the bourgeois media. But more on that elsewhere.

The dead of capitalism

In this juxtaposition of fascism and communism and the comparison of crimes, one actor is mostly ignored: capitalism.

And that brings the number of deaths for which a social system is responsible to a completely new level:

In a world in which there is enough for everyone, 9 million people die of hunger every year, over 3 million of them children (we remember the Welthungerhilfe slogan: “Every ten seconds a child under five dies of the consequences of Hunger.").

Every 9th person goes hungry, how many die weakened by hunger from illnesses or other hardships can only be estimated.

According to the WHO, 1.5 million people die each year from diseases that could be prevented by good vaccination coverage, most of them in poorer countries.

In addition, there are diseases that, although not prevented, can be significantly weakened by adequate infrastructure (in particular clean water, infrastructure for handling the disease dead, and medical care). A supply that in our world would be possible in a purely material way without any problems: epidemics, diseases that should have long since died out, such as typhoid, cholera, diphtheria, tuberculosis, but also diseases that are serious but usually not fatal for people with adequate medical care are like pneumonia.

In 2000, scientists estimated the number of “dead from poverty”, that is, people who perished as a result of social factors triggered by poverty. They came to 712,000 deaths in the United States only and in 2000 only. That is about 0.2% of the total United States population.

Overall, many of the so-called “avoidable causes of death” such as dirty water, air pollution or sexually transmitted diseases, or their lack of treatment, have only one reason for their persistence: It is simply not financially worthwhile for the capitalists.

A large number of the 380,000 deaths and 340 million injuries caused by occupational accidents every year would also be avoidable if companies under capitalism were not more concerned with their profit rate than with the well-being of their employees.

And these are just the things that are currently happening. There is also a lot that does not happen and costs human lives. For example, according to capitalist logic, there is no reason to research a cure for cancer. A constant treatment that is as expensive as possible is sufficient.

In addition, thanks to capitalism, we are heading for a climate catastrophe that will cost innumerable human lives. Thanks to profit-optimized agriculture and wastewater management, our water is becoming more and more dirty, while our agriculture is becoming increasingly shaky thanks to one-sidedly optimized seeds. These processes will - perhaps not yet tomorrow, but one day for sure - lead to global famine and wars over drinking water.

Let us therefore at this point ask the question: instead of a memorial for the victims of “communism”, wouldn't it be more appropriate to erect one for the victims of capitalism?

If the article is too long for you - a Swiss comrade calculates the dead of capitalism in this video (11:45, German)