The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression
The Booklist; Chicago; Sep 1, 1999; Gilbert Taylor;
Volume: 96

Issue: 1
Start Page: 41

Taylor reviews "The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression" by Stephane
Courtois and others.Full Text:
Copyright American Library Association Sep 1, 1999

Courtois, Stephane and others. The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression. Tr. by
Jonathan Murphy. Oct. 1999. II 20. index. Harvard. S37.50 (0-674-07608-7). DDC 320.53

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