This is an archive of the former website of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, which was run by the now defunct Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika. The MIM now consists of many independent cells, many of which have their own indendendent organs both online and off. MIM(Prisons) serves these documents as a service to and reference for the anti-imperialist movement worldwide.

Maoist Internationalist Movement

Erratum from Harvard University Press Regarding the Black Book of Communism forthcoming?

Correspondence with Harvard University Press

[Editor note: MIM received the following letter from Harvard University Press on February 22nd. Although it is a polite letter, we do not make the common mistake of mistaking tone for content. Until we see the erratum published, we will seek out signatures for our petition to Harvard University Press and we will build public opinion against Harvard.

As of now, none of the bourgeois press has seen fit to respond to our press release on this matter. That is why it is important to build our own independent institutions. As both Harvard University Press and the mainstream media prove, it is possible to write almost anything against communism and get it published as fact. Only by building our own institutions can we begin to tip the balance.]

Dear Maoist Internationalist Movement:

We have placed your message in the file being compiled for the next printing of "The Black Book of Communism," and we will consult with the editors about your corrections.

Thank you for writing.

Gail Graves
Editorial Department
Harvard University Press

[On January 21st, MIM sent a letter to the Harvard University Press asking for an erratum for the book "Black Book of Communism." On February 22nd, MIM sent a follow-up letter and alerted about two dozen news services of our demand for an erratum.

MIM is now launching an agitation campaign to correct the historical record on communism. Specifically we will petition Harvard University Press to publish an erratum for its book, the "Black Book of Communism" that came out in 1999.

We seek tenured faculty, student organizations and others to sign on to the following statement or to write their own statements: "We the undersigned demand that Harvard University Press correct the misplacement of decimal places that occurred in its book "The Black Book of Communism" through the publication of an erratum. The errors in Harvard University Press's book overstate the violence that happened under communism by a factor of 10. Since reviews of the book have been in all the major media outlets and all over the Internet, it is a pressing matter of the historical record to correct these mistakes and ensure a higher level of quantitative literacy for the future." If you would sign on to this statement, contact [email protected] or MIM, PO Box 29670, Los Angeles, CA 90029-0670 ]

From MIM's point of view, this agitation is a win-win campaign for us. If the publisher issues the erratum, we will have done our bit against the colossal anti-communist propaganda machine of the imperialist countries. If the publisher and media do not correct or attend to the mistakes, every reader will understand the low credibility level of the academic and media establishment when it comes to communism. Already it's been four years since 1997 and two years since the book came out in English hardcover and none of the media or academics saw fit to correct the book for its literal errors.

With regard to our own party's understanding of agitation, this is agitation because it concerns a current demand to the powers-that-be, in this case the academic and media powers-that-be; even though the subject matter is a history book. We seek to organize the masses to attack the reactionaries now regarding actions that have gone on since 1999. If we were merely criticizing Harvard University Press books and not making a current demand, we would be engaged in what we call timeless or theoretical work as distinct from agitation.

Harvard University Press has published countless books against communism in China. Never once has it published a Maoist book. Hence we have no illusions about the fairness or thoroughness of Harvard University Press. Nonetheless, we can make it as difficult as possible to issue this sort of propaganda. Our full review of the book and why it is wrong is available at At the bottom of this review, we make a link to so that readers may purchase the anti-communist propaganda and cause a few percent of the profits to go to MIM.]

Subject: Demand for Harvard erratum to "Black Book of Communism"

February 22, 2001

Dear Harvard University Press:

It has been over a month since we sent you the email below and still we have no reply from you for our request for an erratum for your book "The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression" by Stephane Courtois et. al. We demand that you issue a correction for the misplacement of decimal points that overestimated deaths under communism by a factor of 10.

[email protected]
for the Maoist Internationalist Movement

From [email protected] Sun Jan 21 16:14:19 2001 -0500
To: [email protected]
Subject: Erratum requested for "Black Book of Communism"
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Cc: [email protected], [email protected],
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January 15, 2001

Dear Harvard University Press:

We of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, an organization founded at Harvard, have become increasingly concerned about a number of quantitative errors in academic publications about communist-led countries especially under Stalin and Mao. We searched your web site and found no errata, so now we must detail these errors below in the hopes that you will issue an erratum or inform us of the already extant erratum so that we may publicize it.

As you are no doubt aware, your publication titled "The Black Book of Communism" has generated thousands of reviews and articles in all the most widely published press of the West. Its admirers include the likes of France's Jean-Marie Le Pen and these admirers strive mightily to promote your book on the Internet. Therefore, we hope to hear from you soon that you have published an erratum on the following outright arithmetic errors in the book in its 1999 hardback edition:

1. p. 492 "This last province [Anhui], in north-central China, was the worst affected of all. In 1960 the death rate soared to 68 percent from its normal level at around 15 percent, while the birth rate fell to 11 percent from its previous average of 30 percent. As a result the population fell by around 2 million people (6 percent of the total) in a single year." No doubt China would be a very small country by now if this sort of thing were true--a 68% death rate in one year!--instead of the 68.58 per thousand that a bourgeois scholar should have meant. It is mind-boggling mathematical illiteracy to say that the death rate is 68% while only 6% died that year! Conveniently for the authors, the over-statement was a factor of 10 in what they say is the largest single event of death adding up to their 100 million dead from communism, the 43 million of the Great Leap.

2. p. 495 More of the same errors by a factor of ten occur here: "For the entire country, the death rate rose from 11 percent in 1957 to 15 percent in 1959 and 1961, peaking at 29 percent in 1960. Birth rates fell from 33 percent in 1957 to 18 percent in 1961."

3. p. 494 We will not ask for a factual correction for this point, but obviously your author Margolin and his editors lacked in mathematical competence and elementary knowledge of comparative demography to say that "the birth rate fell to almost zero as women were unable to conceive because of malnutrition" while still claiming the absurd figures for a death toll in the Great Leap. It is obvious that Margolin does not know how to calculate the kind of projected deaths involved in using birth rates and death rates; even though he is citing these sorts of projections. The low birth rate also means that the projected deaths are lower because of the technique he used to calculate them; yet Margolin uses one of the most highly inflated estimates of Great Leap deaths that there is. It's an example of having one's cake and eating it too. We would ask that you not allow your authors to mix bits and pieces of mathematical methods. On the whole, the chapter on China was botched and it should be admitted as so quantitatively speaking.

4. p. 541 By the time you published the book, the incarceration rate in the United States was already higher than 0.5%. In fact, the incarceration rate was already 0.645% in 1997, and the United States had 1.7 million prisoners of all kinds according to U.S. Government statistics compared with what the authors say is 5 million in China, a country four times larger.

5. Your author Margolin cites Harvard's own Roderick MacFarquhar repeatedly in the footnotes, but MacFarquhar's work also contains a similar and influential misplacement of a decimal point regarding the Great Leap. "Nationwide, the mortality rate doubled from 1.08 per cent in 1957 to 2.54 per cent in 1960. In that year the population ITAL declined END by 4.5 per cent." (Roderick MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution: The Great Leap Forward 1958-1960, vol. 2, (NY: Columbia University Press, 1983), p. 330.) MacFarquhar meant 4.5 per 1000 and he got it right in the third volume of his book, but he did not state it as a correction of his previous work, so we are not sure to this day whether he understands the difference between 4.5 per 1000 and 4.5%. It seems that Margolin has picked up on this sort of error.

None of the factual corrections we have requested here are a matter of interpretation or theory. In points 1 and 2 of the "Black Book" and point 1 of the MacFarquhar book, we are talking about misplaced decimal points repeatedly exaggerating communism's faults by a factor of ten.

We have published these errors before and distributed them in the Harvard community. To stay abreast of our reviews of your books, please read MIM Notes and MIM Theory. You may also place us on your review copy list, PO Box 559, Cambridge, MA 02140, as we publish numerous reviews of your books. Our own errata are published frequently on pages 2 and 3 of our newspaper.

Maoist Internationalist Movement
[email protected]

cc: [email protected]
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[email protected]

See and sign the petition to Harvard University Press

Read another example of the epidemic of misplaced decimal points: Harvard Government Chair Roderick MacFarquhar

Contact MIM by writing [email protected]

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