The state is always the enemy, whether capitalist or communist.
By Kevin Carson, Center for a Stateless Society
At Reason Ilya Somin, in keeping with his annual practice since 2007, has chosen May 1 — May Day — as his date for observing “Victims of Communism Day.” Somin cites the “authoritative” Black Book of Communism as his source for a death toll of 80-100 million in the 20th century. To put that “authoritative” descriptor in perspective, this summary of the controversies — including controversies among the authors — regarding methodological concerns, and one author’s alleged running up of the score to arrive at a nice round figure of 100 million, might be of interest.
I propose a Victims of Capitalism Day, to commemorate the death toll from capitalism (judging capitalism by the same standards Somin applies to communism).
I should state, by way of disclaimer, that as an anarchist I have no desire to whitewash the historical record of Marxist-Leninist regimes (never mind whether the exclusive association of the “communist” label with Leninism with Marxism-Leninism — an association encouraged both by Marxist-Leninists and by capitalist apologists — in prejudice to non-Leninist Marxism and other libertarian communist traditions, is legitimate). Members of non-Leninist Marxian traditions, let alone anarchist and other non-Marxian socialist traditions, have not fared at all well under such “workers’ states.” Neither have actual workers, for that matter, as evidenced by the suppression of the factory committees under Lenin. And regardless of whether the numbers in the Black Book were to a greater or lesser degree cooked, the Marxist-Leninist project has certainly been willing to break more than a few eggs; and its omelettes have taken authoritarian high modernist or developmentalist directions that bear an unfortunate resemblance to the earlier industrial history of capitalism.
No, far from counter-attacking capitalism in defense of “communism,” I acknowledge that Marxism-Leninism has been an authoritarian, extractive system of class power. I attack capitalism in addition to Marxism-Leninism, as another authoritarian, extractive system of class power, equally tied up with the state and with a death toll comparable to that of “communism.”
So let’s get started. Of course there’s the obvious — all the deaths directly inflicted by states or by capitalists over the centuries, in the name of maximizing capitalist profit.