Socialists need a better answer when critics raise this issue. "But that wasn't REAL socialism" or "I only mean Denmark." There is some validity to these replies but for a lot of people I think this isn't good enough. We need to address it head on. That's what I intend to do here.
Any system will produce avoidable death. The question is whether the socialist system produced more death than the capitalist system over a comparably sized population and time period. I would submit that it hasn't come close.
If we accept the 100 million figure from 1917 to 1990 that is about 14 million dead every decade. If that makes socialism a failure what do we do with 1.8 billion dead in India alone under British capitalist domination from 1765 to 1938. That's over 100M every decade. For 17 decades.
And it wasn't accidental death that the British worked to avoid and mitigate, as in China during the Great Famine. The Great Famine is regarded as a failure of planning and management, not a deliberate effort to starve Chinese peasants. The British actively starved people. This article talks about how the British conducted experiments to see how few calories the people could survive on, then implemented that knowledge throughout the country. They report of human skeletons walking around doing the work required by the British. Churchill knowingly diverted food away from Indians he knew were starving, and said it was their fault for breeding like rabbits.
China and India achieved independence at about the same time, with India pursuing a more soft capitalist approach with a fair amount of government intervention in the economy and China pursuing a more aggressively socialist agenda. China did suffer the Great Famine, but also had some success in terms of rural education, health, and food programs. The result was 39 million excess deaths per decade in India as compared to China. This again exceeds all deaths attributed to socialism from all countries.
We're talking about one country and the death toll dwarfs that of all of socialism. We haven't touched on Vietnam, Iraq, Guatemala, Indonesia, East Timor, Kenya, the Congo, Korea, Iran. If this is our metric capitalism is an incredible failure.