As a global phenomenon, the scale and character of communism is only now coming into focus. The opening of formerly inaccessible archives and landmark books such as The Black Book of Communism have helped to establish empirically the extent and brutality of Communist totalitarianism. But what about Communist terror as it was personally experienced by the dissidents, the so-called obstructionists who stood in the way of the Communists’ efforts to create the new man of the socialist utopia?
From the Gulag to the Killing Fields is another landmark volume—and the only one of its kind. Edited by renowned scholar of communism Paul Hollander, it gathers together more than forty dramatic personal memoirs of Communist violence and repression from political prisoners across the globe. From these compelling accounts several distinctive features of Communist political violence can be discerned. The most important, argues Hollander, is that communism was "violence with a higher purpose"—that is, it was devised and undertaken to create a historically superior social system that would not only abolish scarcity, exploitation, and inequality, but would also create a new and unique sense of community, social solidarity, and personal fulfillment.
Nothing, of course, was allowed to stand in the way of this effort to radically and totally transform the human condition—least of all human beings. But, as Anne Applebaum notes in her foreword, human nature persisted: "Every person who entered the camps discovered qualities in themselves, both good and evil, that they hadn’t previously known they had. Ultimately, that selfdiscovery is the true subject of most camp memoirs, and the true subject of this book."