The mass murder at the heart of capitalism: Or, a response to the claim that “communism has always failed” and “communism killed 100 million people”

I invite you to consider the fact that the system we have, capitalism, has led to mass murder–and I invite you to open your mind to the possibility that this murder has been greater than any ever created by a socialist government.

  • Extermination of indigenous Americans 1492-1890: 100 million
  • Atlantic slave trade of Africans 1500-1870: 15 million
  • French attempted repression of Haiti slave revolt 1791-1803: 150,000
  • French conquest of Algeria 1830-47: 300,000
  • The Opium Wars in China 1839-42 & 1856-60: 50,000
  • Irish potato famine 1845-49: 1 million
  • British suppression of the Indian Mutiny 1857-58: 100,000
  • Massacre of the Paris Commune 1871: 20,000
  • Famine under British colonialism in India 1876-79 & 1897-1902: 29 million
  • Military and police repression of labor strikes in the United States 1877-1938: 700
  • Blacks lynched in the United States 1882-1964: 3,445
  • Belgian exploitation of the Congo 1885-1908: 10 million
  • United States conquest of the Philippines 1898-1913: 250,000
  • British concentration camps in South Africa 1899-1902: 28,000
  • French exploitation of Equatorial African rainforest 1900-40: 800,000
  • German extermination of the Herero and Namaqua 1904-07: 65,000
  • The First World War 1914-18: 10 million
  • White Army pogroms against Jews 1917-20: 100,000
  • Italian fascist conquests in Africa 1922-43: 600,000
  • Japanese imperialism in East Asia 1931-45: 10 million
  • Fascist terror in Spain 1936-39: 200,000
  • Nazi terror/concentration & extermination camps 1939-45: 25 million
  • Allied bombing of German and Japanese civilians 1942-45: 1 million (inc. over 200,000 Japanese in atomic bombings)
  • Kuomintang massacre in Taiwan 1947: 30,000
  • French repression of anti-colonial revolt in Madagascar 1947: 80,000
  • Israeli colonization of Palestine 1948-present: 30,000
  • British repression of the Mau-Mau revolt 1952-60: 50,000
  • Algerian war of independence 1954-62: 1 million
  • Military juntas in Guatemala 1954-96: 200,000
  • Papa and Baby Doc Duvalier regime in Haiti 1957-86: 50,000
  • Vietnam War 1963-75: 3.4 million
  • Massacre of communists in Indonesia 1965-66: 1 million
  • Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico City 1968: 400
  • US bombing of Laos and Cambodia 1969-75: 700,000
  • Nicaragua civil war(s) 1972-90: 80,000
  • Pinochet dictatorship in Chile 1973-90: 3,197
  • Angola civil war 1974-92: 500,000
  • East Timor massacres 1975-98: 200,000
  • Mozambique civil war 1975-90: 1 million
  • Argentina “Dirty War” 1976-82: 30,000
  • El Salvador military dictatorship 1977-92: 70,000
  • Kwanju massacre 1980: 1,000
  • Bophal Union Carbide disaster 1984: 16,000
  • US invasion of Panama 1989: 3,000
  • UN embargo against Iraq 1991-2003: 1 million (inc. 500,000 children under the age of 12)
  • Destruction of Yugoslavia 1992-95: 200,000
  • Capitalist coup de tat in Russia 1993: 2,000
  • Rwandan genocide 1994: 800,000
  • Congolese civil war 1997-present: 6 million
  • Indian farmer suicides 1997-present: 199, 132
  • NATO occupation of Afghanistan 2001-present: 30,000
  • US invasion and occupation of Iraq 2003-2010: 1.2 million


Beyond that, I invite you to acknowledge that 7 million people starve to death around the world every year. 7 million every year. You can add in another 10 million or more people who die of easily treated diseases every year.

There are two objections you might have now:

1. “Those things were just colonialism, not capitalism.”

If you want to know why capitalism makes colonialism/imperialism and inter-imperialist war inevitable, here’s a rundown:

Unlike previous economic systems such as feudalism, which did feature competition for accumulation, capitalism features competition for profit. Profit can only be obtained in a specific way: by selling a product for more than it cost to make. Now, Marx identified a tendency in capitalism called “the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.” In a nutshell, this is the tendency exhibited for all products to become less profitable to market and sell over time. The first business to sell a self-contained ink pen (like a “Bic”) made a fortune. But when more marketers of Bic-like pens moved in, the first marketer had to cut their prices to compete. This meant their profit per pen sold dropped. And then one of their opponents came up with a way of making each pen more cheaply, so that opponent was then able to lower their prices. The first business then had to cut their prices, too, and made even less profit. And this tendency applies across the economy to all products.

For the maker and seller of a product, there are ways to avoid this inevitability for a time: (a) you can find a new audience to sell to that is not already saturated with the product and can be charged a higher price; (b) you can find a way to access some new, untapped supply of the raw resources you make your product out of, allowing you to lower your overhead and make more profit per unit sold; (c) you can find a way to switch your manufacturing to incorporate laborers who will accept a lower wage than your current laborers.

The fact that capitalism demands that everyone compete for profit or else get outcompeted and bought up means that anyone who does not incorporate some of these strategies will get “eaten” by someone who will use them. And this eat-or-be-eaten logic of capitalism works at the smallest level and the large, because each country has a bloc of capitalists who must compete with all other countries’ blocs of capitalists. This means that in order to avoid being put in some other country’s thrall, each country has no choice but to try to be as colonialist/imperialist as possible or else it will get outcompeted by whichever countries will do that.

This means that, historically, capitalists have always supported and pushed for expansion into other countries to try to take their resources as cheaply as possible and incorporate their people into the workforce at as low a wage as possible. As capitalism spread around the world, this is the logic it has always obeyed. The system made it inevitable.

A better and more thorough explanation is given in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.

2. “Some of those, like the 2003 war against Iraq, were in an effort to take down bad guys. That wasn’t capitalism, just the right thing to do.”

I don’t know whether you’re naive enough to still view the imperialist countries’ actions through the lens of “fighting evil dictators,” but if you are, you really should just stop to consider why we work with Saudi Arabia and arm them when their record of human rights abuses is far worse than many countries’ that we’ve overthrown.

I’d like to put forward an alternative picture that I think has a lot more evidential support: the United States supports regimes that help it maintain its position of power and opposes those that defy its power. If you’d like a record of the United States’ history of violently opposing people’s attempts to free themselves of oppressive conditions because it threatened the United States’s power, trying to overthrow foreign governments some 26 times in the past 80 years, you should explore the book Killing Hope.

So now I invite you to consider one more thing: you have been educated in one of the most capitalist countries in the world. The rulers of our country are in a deeply symbiotic relationship with the biggest businesspeople and corporations of our country. They scratch each other’s backs. Often, as in the case of Bush and Cheney, they are literally the same people. Those with political power in this country have a massive incentive to tell a story that says capitalism is good and socialism, which opposes it, is evil. They have a massive incentive to paint it in as horrible a light as possible.

As with the government, so with the media–it is wholly owned by the wealthy and the super-rich. They have the ability to decide what gets on the air and what doesn’t. And they have been shown to consistently portray things that oppose U.S. and capitalist hegemony in the worst light possible.

I invite you to consider the possibility that, in fact, for your whole life, you have been deeply misled about how bad the failures of socialist countries were, what those failures could be attributed to (something intrinsic to socialism itself? or perhaps more having to constantly fight off capitalist countries’ efforts to undermine them?), and the degree of success they achieved if any.

If you are intellectually honest, you should recognize that every country’s citizens are indoctrinated in a way that supports that country’s interests–sometimes in extremely subtle ways. You should open your mind to the possibility that “collectivism = mass murder” is perhaps too simplistic an equation to actually describe reality.

And with all that in mind, I invite you to check out this list of claims about communist countries and debunkings of many of them. I guarantee it will contain the examples you’re thinking about.