The Soviets were also evil, killing more millions than the Nazis did, yet they have not been universally condemned. The Soviets have been attacked by libertarians, conservatives, and moderates as a great lesson in evil — but not by the political left. (Alan Kors here takes them to task for this abdication of moral responsibility.)
In part this makes sense: When socialism was in power in Russia, China, and many other places, leftists were widely admiring of those regimes. So it’s understandable that after-the-fact shame would lead them to denial and avoidance. And younger leftists are likely to believe that socialism is moral in theory despite its practical failings, so they will want to cut Stalin and Mao some slack.
But Sidney Hook offers a philosophical explanation — that by egalitarian standards the communists were more moral than the fascists even though the communists killed more people:
“When I confronted them with the evidence that Stalin had unjustly killed more Jews than Hitler, which was true at the time, they retorted that he was killing them not as Jews but as dissenters. Since in this respect the Jews were being treated equally with others, that was more important in their eyes than the alleged injustices of their executions” (Out of Step, p. 353).
So a thought experiment. Which of the following regimes is worse?
* Regime A kills 5 Jews, but it doesn’t kill non-Jews.
* Regime B kills 6 Jews, but it also kills 6 non-Jews.
By the principle of individual rights, both are evil and Regime B is worse.
By the principle of equality, Regime B is better.
Question: Is Hook right that this is actually how leftist egalitarians think, or are the leftists in his anecdote engaged in bad-faith avoidance?
Update: I just came across this post by Professor Lester Hunt: “Nazism or Communism: Which is More Evil?”
[Chart image source: R. J. Rummel’s Democide site.]