Frank Dikötter won the prestigious Samuel Johnson prize for "Mao's Great Famine," his in-depth study of the Mao's Great Leap Forward, a socialist initiative that resulted in a man made famine that claimed the lives of up to 45 million Chinese. I find it amazing that the evils of Nazism have been thoroughly explored, while outside of academia few people are aware that millions more died at the hands of communism. Anyone with a modicum of education knows about the death camp of Auschwitz, but few are aware of the Holodomor, the man made famine that claimed the lives of several million Ukrainians.
The proof of this staggering ignorance is that I have (thankfully) never seen an American with clothing that extolled the virtues of fascism, but I have seen plenty of college students with shirts emblazoned Che's or even Mao's imagine. The problem with this is this is that unlike with Nazism, the fall of communism has prompted remarkably little self reflection and intellectual exploration among (so called) educated westerners. And interestingly, among the comments left by reader's of the Guardian were ones that were clearly apologetic of Marxism.
The lessons of Nazism are quite obvious: state sponsored racism inevitably leads to death and suffering. But, few reflect on the lessons of communism: state control of economic and social life is extremely hazardous, even when leaders are "wise" and "well meaning." At its best, central control of economic life leads to stagnation, scarcity and rancor, at its worst, it leads to the death and famine that Frank Dikötter so adeptly described.