I've known for a while (through understanding economics and some history) that communism lowers a society's standard of living, and thus kills unintentionally. What I did not realize until reading Panné's The Black Book of Communism is how much Communist leaders have killed intentionally!
Panné takes the reader on a tour of the various communist regimes that have reigned (and still do in some countries), from the Soviet Union to Asia to South America, and exposes the leaders of these regimes (through their own letters, documents, eye-witnesses and other evidence) for the terrorists that they are. The scope of the terror overseen by these leaders (among them Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong) is beyond anything I could have imagined.
One may expect communist leaders to go after the wealthy, in an attempt to divvy up the spoils and create a more egalitarian society. But most communist leaders went way further than that. Entire races/villages/classes have been purged, and any resistance has been met with heavy-handed terror. (There were many quotes cited from communist leaders that implied that it is better to kill 10 innocent people than let 1 guilty go free; the deathly consequences of such a viewpoint are obviously massive!) What struck me the most was how readily Communist leaders went after the people in their own party. These were like-minded individuals in most cases representing a minority of their societies, and yet they too were seen as threats to the leadership and were quashed in great numbers.
I always thought that even though communist leaders were misguided in their attempts to force central planning and restrict freedoms, that they at least had good intentions. I no longer feel that way, having read this book. It is clear that these leaders sought a stranglehold on their absolute power far more than they sought to better the welfare of their poorest citizens. The millions of civilians killed or imprisoned leave no doubt of that.
But for whatever reason, the death toll in communist countries has not gotten nearly the amount of press as have genocides that have taken place under other regimes. But the brutal deaths that have resulted from this ideology are no less in terms of both their sheer quantity and their depraved gruesomeness. The Black Book of Communism attempts to catalogue these leadership disasters, providing a credible account of who did what where when and to whom.