I have taken an interest in dictators a while ago, especially communist dictators and the Cold War in general. As I read through the articles throughout time about these individuals, it came to me that not a single one of them was to be considered a politician who followed the universal conventions regarding human rights, or simply, decency. I can start mentioning a long list of dictators on which I gained information, and why they're not very decent people or leaders, but this strikes to me as irrelevant. Note:

  • I'm interested in those actually in power, not obscure party members who had different feelings or opinions or politicians who didn't have much to say.

  • I don't know all the ins and outs on all communist dictators, as I haven't had the time to get to those. Therefore, I ask this question. I'm actually interested in a "good" communist, at least someone who didn't grossly violate basic rights of people and who didn't slaughter political opponents (hypothetical exception: in case of a revolution against the ruling order, if that ruling order is violating human/general rights/abusing power/corrupt/etc).

  • I consider someone decent when he or she didn't violate human rights, allowed reasonable freedom (of opinion), took a sincere heart in the well-being of his/her people, and so on.

From what I've read, only Ho Chi Minh came across as decent at first, but reading more made me realize his crimes were moderate compared to some others, but still he installed a repressive regime, even though he disagreed with excesses. Can anyone please give me an example of a communist in power who applies to my definition of a decent person or leader?

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    I feel this question may be a bit biased - the western liberal democracy model is very very recent. The norm through most of history has been jailing or killing political opponents, setting up repressive regimes, etc. (though communist states by banning all private enterprise have been more repressive than most other regimes). I don't know of any decent communist leader but I think that's much more due to human nature than due to them being communist.
    – Opt
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 23:47
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    Actually Gorbachev is one communist leader I know of who I would call decent.
    – Opt
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 23:48
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    Does Nehru count as a communist?
    – none
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 3:49
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    You assume every communist leader had an absolute power and controlled everything, like Stalin. I guess after 1956 for many Eastern European party leaders it was more like balancing between social pressure, party hardliners, Soviet intervention threat, and dealing with somewhat independent security apparatus. That is assuming they were not merely figureheads.
    – RobertLee
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 11:31
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    The title is speaking on the communist leaders. The last sentence of the question - on the communist in power. These are different terms. Marx/Engels were communist leaders, but they were not in power (you mean state, not party power, don't you?). Sometimes it even happened that some communist was in power, but he was not the communist leader. (Den Siaopin was the leader, but power had other people) Please, correct title or the last sentence.
    – Gangnus
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 14:13

7 Answers 7


The Communist Party of India has been operating under the framework of democracy for 60+ years now. (1, 2). Even though they have not been part of any national government till now, many government required their support. Also they have been in power in three states (Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura).

Some of the notable communist leaders in India were

A K Gopalan (AKG) - First Opposition Leader of India

E M Shankaran Nampoodiripad - Leader of the first democratically elected Communist government in the world.

Jyoti Basu - Who was slated to be the Prime Minister of India in 1996, but the party rejected the proposal to make him the Prime Minister.

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    Well they did form state governments. West bengal had communist rule for over 30 continous years, and Kerela about every 5 alternate years. Also, the dominant party (at least nowadays) is CPI(M) and not CPI. Also, there are media reports of communist party members in West Bengal committing large scale massacres etc., though not very substantiated.
    – apoorv020
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 20:49
  • @apoorv020 added that too.
    – rest_day
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 1:25
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    EMS is first in India not in World. San Marino is the first in the world to elect communist government. Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 4:58
  • +1 Very good balanced answer. @Mathankumar +1 to your comment too!
    – astabada
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 9:14

First of all I should note that oppressing opposition and even killing arbitrary random people on the streets for fun is not a crime against humanity as defined legally. Crimes against humanity are only

  • genocide
  • starting a war of aggression.

That is your question mixes the idea of human rights with the idea of crimes against humanity.

It also seems that you presume that all power in any socialist state belonged to the "leader" which was not the case in the majority of instances.

So if you are interested in the idea of human rights, the communists claimed that by oppressing certain political rights of bourgeoisie they can provide better rights for the laborers which constituted the majority of the population in the beginning of 20th century.

That said they claimed two things:

  1. They provide much better basic economic rights for the poor majority (right for shelter, right for employment, right for rest and recreation, free medicine and education etc)

  2. They restrict only such political activity that threatens the socialist system because they may lead to the abolishment of the above mentioned rights.

At the same time they claimed that the capitalist countries restricted political activity not to the less extent as the socialist countries did. For example, in most capitalist countries to be elected to an office or become a parliament member one have to collect a huge amount of money just for advertising, so ordinary people never get elected (which was not the case in socialist countries).

Also large areas of life in capitalist countries were controlled by business so that the business could exert their pressure on any government, even if a communist is elected.

They claimed as well that the right to speech and other political rights of proletariat are limited in capitalist countries because the media is controlled by the capitalists.

I do not know what do you mean under "slaughter" of political opponents but if you mean criminal prosecution of people who did not invoke an overthrow of the government, then such kind of "slaughter" was not practiced in the USSR after Stalin.

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    It is well-known, that communists could be useful when they are not strong. A weak communist party often rises questions that no other party will have the bravery or wish to. But you pretend that you know nothing on genocides that communists provided in Russia ( 1922, Tambov region, by gases against villages), in Ukraine and Cossack regions(1930-33, organized hunger, 8 millions deads in Ukraine only), the whole villages shot up or transported without things to Siberia at the late autumns - or, nobody killed these, the frost did.
    – Gangnus
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 8:50
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    Downvote: Decent exposition, but how does it answer the question? Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 16:02
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    @Felix Goldberg I think it answers in that political prosecution is not crime against humanity. Whether to count particular wars such as invasion n Afghanistan a "war of aggression" depends of the speaker's political position. At any rate, the communist countries in total waged less wars that the US alone.
    – Anixx
    Commented Dec 24, 2012 at 4:50
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    +1 I think it answers the question in the last paragraph. -1 Lack of any source. +1 Good considerations about the meaning of "crime against humanity" and "slaughter". Total +1
    – astabada
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 9:13

President Salvador Allende of Chile was a Marxist who was democratically elected in a three way race in 1970. He instituted economic policies that were left wing, but from a human rights point of view, he was "more sinned against than sinning." He was overthrown in a military coup d'etat in 1973, which caused him to commit suicide. THAT was a crime against humanity.


I would offer the example of Josip Broz Tito. The worst thing that happened (while his troops were finishing gaining control of the country) was a massacre of Nazis and nazi sympathizers that happened during the Bleiburg repatriations and all evidence suggests that Tito honestly ordered that no harm should come to anyone surrendering during these events.

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    -1 The total killed by the government under Tito is estimated to be at least half a million. hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP9.HTM Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 5:44
  • Power kills isn't credible Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 23:32
  • I'm from former Yugoslavia and the half a million estimate is higher than what most nationalist (and I would say revisionist) historians claim over here.
    – Buddy
    Commented Sep 28, 2013 at 22:13

Communist or not, anyone invested with a significant, unchecked power will do whatever they need to do to preserve that power. If you've ever spent time around someone who is an "executive" in business or government, you can get a small taste of that -- the pursuit of power changes people.

Decency, etc is a matter of perspective -- and people's perspective adapts to the surroundings.

  • Right. Because every CEO's toolset can not exist without mass murder.
    – DVK
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 17:20
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    A CEO's power is checked by law and government. Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 23:59
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    ... and that's the only reason every CEO is not a mass murderer. Riiiight.
    – DVK
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 0:38
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    Just to pour oil onto the flame war: independent.co.uk/news/business/comment/… Burn baby burn... Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 14:52
  • @DVK yes. Many CEOS are psychopaths too. In fact, that's the beauty of capitalism. We help each other rather than killing each other even when we're psychopaths :D Are you the same DVK at sceptic stack exchange?
    – user4951
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 8:42

As for practical leaders, it is impossible to be a communist leader and not to be very cruel dictator. Communism doesn't work. And a communist leader (CL) have to make it look out as if it works. Somebody has to pay for that. CL's people pay by their lives for nothing, talents for dust, children for "revolution" and so on. The false idea cannot not be cruel. When the people ends with the dead morals, dying nature, ill and extincting population, communism falls off as a parasit from the dead master. And a CL starts a "perestroyka"

As for pure party leaders, there were Marx and Engels. They were communist leaders, but never they ruled people. So, even if they proposed a cannibalistic regime, they did not realized it. So, they answer for crimes of Lenin as Nizsche for Hitler's.

The only practic crimes they did were these of Engels as usual capitalist of those days and Marx, when he sometimes published articles of Engels as own works. (way of sponsoring from Engels' side)

Are these two OK for you? On the badges with communist chiefs they were in one row with Lenin and Stalin (sometimes +Mao)

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    Marx and Engels weren't "leaders", they were theoretitians. Nobody "followed" them and they didn't wield any power.
    – DVK
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 17:17
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    Wrong. They were the leaders of the all-europe Communist International party. They leadership was absolute, they threw off people and whole sections that they didn't like ( Bakunin and his anarchist group) And don't forget that from this time on the leadership in the Party made communist leades, not state positions.
    – Gangnus
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 19:02
  • While they were leaders, the party wasn't in real power anywhere. So you can't include them if you follow the spirit (as opposed to somewhat rambling wording) of the original question.
    – DVK
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 19:37
  • The question could be read twofold. I am answering the both variants. And I am pointing wich answer is to wich reading of the question. I am sure, it is the best way in such situation. He can choose what he needs.
    – Gangnus
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 20:19
  • @rest_day Of course, Nehru was not a commi. I never said this. (haven't you missed the addressee?) He befriended foreign commies and oppressed his own. Other clever politics did that, too.
    – Gangnus
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 8:50

It depends on what you mean by communists, leaders, and crime against humanity. All those are vague politically loaded terms.

Communists are just label. I can think of a few communists leader that are "fine". I called them fine because they help their countries out of communism. So in a sense they're communist leader. In a sense they're not. These people does not commit any crime against large number of humans.

In fact, the kind of communist leaders that do not commit such crime are usually the exact same guy that want to promote free market. You can define crime against humanity in pretty broad terms, mass murders, mass rape, frequent wars, censorship, trade restrictions. The more a leader support free market, the less likely they commit crimes against humanity.

Once economy moves to free market, mass murders simply stop.

Deng Xiao Ping is the guy that bring China to prosperity. No mass murder.

Gorbachov is the guy that raise white flag to the west. No mass murder.

Lee Kuan Yew often said that Singapore is a socialist country. That makes him a communist leader. However, murder rate in Singapore is lower than in US and their percapita income is 1.5 time. Perhaps Singapore didn't practice the more heinous aspect of communism, like minimum wage.

I wouldn't call Pinochet communists, however, he is a leader in a country fallen to communism. Hence he is technically a leader of a communist country that somehow manage to reform his country's backward socialist society to a liveable one for the productive. He promote free market and hence is innocent of the worst crime against humanity, namely trade restrictions.

Obama is also a communist leader. However, he hasn't done mass murder yet because his population is well armed. He tries to create gun free zones so that some psycho can kill even more people and he can then use it as excuses to disarm the population. His plan will work because the majority of his people are commies that are just eager to slaughter the productive after looting good people through welfare and other social programs.

Also there are many leaders with "communist" like goal, like helping the poor and the oppressed, that actually fight against crimes against humanity.

Milton Friedman, for example, defend the right of the poor several time when he demands elimination of racist laws like minimum wage, anti prostitution laws, and war on drugs.

I don't think Milton counts as communists, but he fight for the right of the poor so much and he's a leader so we may want to include him. He doesn't commit mass murder either.

  • Vicious down vote by commie. No explanation whatsoever as expected as bigots try to squelch truth. Mass murder is coming they don't want people to know. Yea most will think it'll never happen. Wait till government start infesting free market.
    – user4951
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 8:22
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    -1 Unsubstantiated opinions.
    – astabada
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 9:07
  • Oh really, knows how many people Lee Kuan Yew mass murder? Anyone disputing this?
    – user4951
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 11:01
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    I was referring to your definition of e.g. Allende's Chile and Obama's USA as "communist" countries. This is - excuse the rudeness - unsubstantiated to the very least. This might arise from confusion about the definition of "communist" on your behalf. Even though there might be some flexibility in that there are indeed examples of social-democratic communist parties (e.g. the Italian and French CPs in their latter years) the countries you have mentioned were not communist. Chile was social-democratic, the USA are a liberal representative democracy.
    – astabada
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 11:37
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    Sorry, downvote. There are some true statements here and some relevant ones, but unfortunately the two sets are disjoint. For example: minimum wage is a "heinous aspect of communism"? Come again? Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 18:15

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