Would 15-20 Million Deaths Have Been OK?

The Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm died this past Monday. Hobsbawm was far inferior as a scholar to a great many other Marxists, but the British establishment’s lack of discernment made him a celebrity. There is an analogy here with Paul Krugman, who is doubtless viewed with contempt by superior Keynesian macroeconomists who wonder how this polemicist came to be the country’s spokesman for Keynesianism.

Hobsbawm — who later reversed his earlier enthusiasm for Stalin — was asked in 1994 whether, if communism could have achieved its goals with only 15-20 million deaths, he would have supported it. “Yes,” came his answer.

This man was eulogized in the major British newspapers this week.

Except in the Daily Mail, which skewered him, De mortuis nihil nisi bonum be damned.

Last week the world also lost the far superior historian Eugene Genovese, who even during his Marxist period exhibited high scholarly standards and did important and pioneering work. But unlike the celebrated Hobsbawm, Genovese came clean in the early 1990s, admitting that he had known of the communist atrocities and had simply looked the other way.

Genovese called out fellow leftists in a 1994 article in Dissent called “The Question.” The question was: what did you know, and when did you know it? He was asking about communist atrocities. He knew he had the Left dead to rights. They had known full well what was going on behind the Iron Curtain and in China, and had carried on in their communist apologetics all the same.

Here are Genovese’s article, his targets’ replies, and his response. He nailed them, and they knew it.

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  • Gregory Lauder-Frost

    The fawning over this evil self-confessed “unrepentent communist” by so much of the British establishment must surely speak volumes as to just how far Britain has moved to The Left on the past few decades. This man should have been openly condemned. He supported a regime which was worse than the Nazis. Imagine had a self-confessed unrepentant Nazi historian had die what would have been said.

  • Joseph L. Scott

    Thank you, again, Tom for your honest scholarship and your bravery in the face of pervasive, dishonorable Marxist intellectual dishonesty.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rob.a.holmes Rob Holmes

    I read the Genovese article but don’t see any responses in the linked pdf.

  • http://tomwoods.com Tom Woods

    Ah, thanks. I will link those separately.

  • anarchristian

    The wonderful afterword to Genovese’s deconversion from Marxism was his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1996, a year after his wife, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese (who died in 2007). Those interested in the details will want to read his “Miss Betsey: A Memoir of a Marriage.”

  • http://www.vitaminlawyer.com/ Ralph Fucetola JD

    I was a student of of Genovese at Rutgers in the early ’60s, and although I did not hide my then Goldwater proto-libertarian views, he treated me more or less fairly. However, I had wanted to do my senior thesis on the panic reaction to McCarthy and the Red Scare, but he steered me to a less controversial review of American govt abuse of Catholics in the early 1800s. At that time McCarthy was still controversial and well-established as the Left’s favorite defeated boogeyman. Only later did we learn that Hiss was indeed a Soviet agent. I wonder if Genovese ever commented on Soviet infiltration of the Fed govt?

  • fairwarning

    Thanks for discussing this subject, Tom. And for those who haven’t read ‘The Black Book of Communism,’ I highly recommend it. It’s ironic that I read this particular post on the same day I learned that our illustrious president has ‘scrubbed’ all references to Frank Marshall Davis from the audio version of ‘Dreams From My Father.’ Nothing to see here, folks – move along.

  • anarchristian

    My one Genovese story: about a dozen years ago, after his talk at the Union League Club before an audience of conservative (i.e., National Review-type) Catholic New Yorkers, I mentioned to him my letter-in-progress on Herbert Aptheker (for whom I once worked and with whom Genovese over the decades),which I was about to send to a history journal. When he offered to look it over, I thanked him and asked for his email address. “Email! Hah!,” he retorted, rolling his eyes. “Here’s my fax number.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.vahur Paul Vahur

    This question is not on the subject but rather about one phrase: “He knew he had the Left dead to rights.” I am not an native English reader but consider myself fairly well read, this is the first time however I encounter such a phrase. Although I get the meaning in general I would appreciate if you can decipher it for me.

  • http://tomwoods.com Tom Woods

    It means he had them completely defeated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Phillip-McDaniel/1176265924 Phillip McDaniel

    A synonym phrase might be ‘caught them red handed’. Meaning specifically completely caught. I thought it was military in origin, but it is apparently a mixture of uses including dead meaning absolute or complete and to rights which was apparently street slang for a honest cop who arrested someone in full compliance with the law as in ‘the copper had me to the rights’ (mid 16-19th centuries).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Phillip-McDaniel/1176265924 Phillip McDaniel

    I forget what volume I read this in, but apparently 2 of the Chicago Seven from the Democratic Convention episode were on the payroll of the KGB. The KGB was deeply entrenched in the anti-war movement of the 60s seeing it as a means of destabilizing the nation. You know, sort of how the CIA has been fomenting strife and civil unrest throughout the world for decades.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.vahur Paul Vahur

    Thank you.

  • http://tomwoods.com Tom Woods

    This is much better than my answer.

  • Robert Roddis

    I think it is always important to note that today’s “progressives” still have an honest-to-goodness soft spot for Communist butchers. Where are the Hollywood films or public school lessons about the Ukrainian Holodomor and its cover-up? Where are the Hollywood films about Katyn? Dumb questions, I know.

  • RJ Chavez

    I appreciate how Genovese basically holds up a mirror to these folks. Will they look in it? Fat chance. His wife, Elizabeth, had some interesting and enlightening things to say about feminism, as well.

  • Luke Sunderland

    Pardon my language, but…. WTF! A man publicly and openly says that 15-20 million human beings needed to be killed in order to implement a political policy and he gets lovingly eulogized by major opinion makers?! What has this world come to?!

  • hbradish

    This timeless demonic psychopathology (it only takes two minutes) was on display recently for all the world to see, hear and realize in living color.

    All contained in one short insidious cackle let loose by the wicked witch of the West, Hilary Clinton, as she feeds off the cadaver like (fingers crossed) James Baker’s genocidal musings.
    The actor posing as interviewer, Mr. Steve Croft, doth not protest.


  • Chris Laforest

    What his targets, and indeed all readers, need most is a systematic definition of “the left” and “the right”. However, upon investigation, we realize that such a definition does not exist; this is most true for “the right”.

    I think Thomas Sowell’s definition in his book “Intellectuals and Society” was a perfect one. He defines the left as all those who believe state power can be used for good, and proceeds to explain that, at least as far as the left is concerned, though perhaps not consciously; “the right” simply consists of the left’s disparate opponents. It does not seem to phase the left that “the right”, as even they would be forced to define it if they were ever so inclined, consists of many varying groups, most of which differ as black from white in philosophical principle; such as Libertarians and Fascists. The left love to chide about the apparently obvious fact that synonymous with Liberty is Fascism even though the two are philosophical opposites, while at the same time papering over the fact that Fascism was a Socialist regime, differing very little in theory or in practice. It is a wonder how the left can maintain its wilful blindness of facts which it simultaneously admits by its very premises.

    But, alas, as Sowell aptly points out; the left’s popularity is not sustained by its ability to defend and justify it’s philosophy or its methodology. It maintains its stature simply by its ability to avoid having to do so at all. This article by Genovese is a great feat of introspection on the left from within, and its really disturbing to watch as his critics attack his very motive, or at least blur it with hypocrisy; thus avoiding having to address the issue.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/II6P3D3ECY2TPSPQP235UGLXJM fiasco

    People get real – 15-20mil is tiny compared to the human carnage cause by all aspects of capitalism since it first appeared during the industrial revolution.

  • Luke Sunderland

    Yeah, things like an increase in the standard of living, better working conditions, increased health and longer life expectancies – the horror, the horror!

  • http://tomwoods.com Tom Woods

    “Capitalism” is an institutional arrangement of free contract and private property. It has led to the greatest explosion of wealth, especially for the poorest, in world history.

  • JFF

    An abhorrent thing to say. 15-20 million is “tiny?”
    ONE person is too many.

  • http://tomwoods.com Tom Woods

    But absolutely typical of the commies to speak this way.

  • George Doughty

    You must be lost. This site is for human beings. You know, THINKING beings. You may return to hell now.

  • Chootee

    I have lost count of the lefties I have heard/read claim the need to run the lives of those who disagree with them because they are too stupid to understand what is best for them. It’s a pretty short step to “just kill them off, they are not fully human like us”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rkvanness Robert Van Ness

    Did the response articles get reposted? If so, where? I cannot read anything other than Genovese’s initial article.

  • http://tomwoods.com Tom Woods

    Dissent went and changed all its urls.