Socialism & Mass Murder in the 20th Century
By Rick Kelo

Without equal, the worst evils mankind has ever had to endure have all been inflicted by big governments.  This is an examination of the major democides in the 20th century.  It is a list of the people murdered by their own government.   The 20th century saw everything from the evils of the Nazis & the Holocaust to the big, strong, central governments of Communist & Socialist states.   However, the Nazis only killed 150,000 of their own German citizens in the Holocaust.

What brings a government to kill its own citizens?  Something so evil even the Nazis didn’t do much of it.  Why is it that powerful central governments have caused so many evils while the freer countries with smaller governments were spared?

Milton Friedman once asked that same question: “Has socialism failed because its good qualities were perverted by evil men who got in charge?  Was it simply because Stalin took over from Lenin that communism went the way it did?  Has capitalism succeeded despite the immoral values that pervade it?  I think the answer to both questions is in the negative.  The results have arisen because each system has been true to the values it encourages, supports and develops in the people who live under that system.”

My theory is as follows:

Both socialism & communism require a commitment to the use of force.  You cannot decide what to do with the other guy’s money unless you are committed to use force to take that money from him. All socialist programs are mandatory.  My friends and I get together, decide what we think is “good” then force you to participate.  If you are a 25 year old with a terminal disease you are forced to contribute 12% of your wage to social security even though you will never retire.  It does not matter that the difference in salary may have allowed you to do that one last thing on your bucket list.  Force is a necessary pre-requisite for socialism to exist.

I believe it is because socialism, as a system, is based upon using force against your fellow citizen that it also so happens the worst atrocities visited upon citizens by their own governments have been inflicted by socialist governments.  It is a matter of, as Friedman said, being true to the values socialism encourages in those living under that system.  Here is a list of the largest killings in the 20th century of citizens by their own governments:

  • 40-70 million killed.  China under Chairman Mao.  Single Party Socialism.  1958-61 “The Great Leap Forward”.
  • 20 million killed. USSR under Joseph “socialism in one country” Stalin.  1936-52 “The Great Purge”.
  • 40 million killed. USSR under all other leaders.
  • 4 million killed. Cambodia under Pol Pot.  Communist.  1975-79.
  • 1.6 million murdered; 4 million killed in hard labor.  North Korea under Kim Il Sung.  Independent socialist State.
  • 1.15 million killed.  Yugoslavia under Josip ” socialist federation President” Tito.  1945-65.
  • 1 million total killed.  Ethiopia under Menghistu.  Communist.  1975-1978 “The Red Terror.”
  • 1 million killed.  Indonesia under Suharto.  Communist. 1966.
  • 1 million killed from genocide; this does not include war casualties.  Afghanistan under Brezhnev.  Communist.  1979 – 1981.
  • 800,000 killed.  Rwanda under Jean Kambanda.  1994.  Socialist.

The old expression was that “Socialism Breeds Mediocrity, Capitalism Breeds Exceptionalism.”  As the numbers above show you socialism breeds a lot more than mediocrity.


  • “Statistics of Democide” by Dr. RJ Rummel
  • “Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20th Century” by Dr Benjamin A. Valentin
  • “Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and the Afghan Response, 1979-1982” by M. Hassan Kaka