There were many mass killings under communist regimes of the 20th century. Death estimates vary widely, depending on the definitions of the deaths that are included in them. The higher estimates of mass killings account for the crimes that governments committed against civilians, including executions, the destruction of populations through man-made hunger and deaths that occurred during forced deportations and imprisonment, and deaths that resulted from forced labor.
In addition to "mass killings," terms that are used to define such killings include "democide", "politicide", "classicide", and "genocide."
Attempts to propose a common terminology
Several different terms are used to describe the intentional killing of large numbers of noncombatants.[a][b][c][d][e] According to Anton Weiss-Wendt, the field of comparative genocide studies has very "little consensus on defining principles such as definition of genocide, typology, application of a comparative method, and timeframe."[f] Mass killing has emerged as a "more straightforward" term.[g]
The following terminology has been used by individual authors to describe mass killings of unarmed civilians by communist governments, individually or as a whole:
- Mass killing – Professor Ervin Staub defined mass killing as "killing members of a group without the intention to eliminate the whole group or killing large numbers of people without a precise definition of group membership. In a mass killing the number of people killed is usually smaller than in genocide."[h] Referencing earlier definitions,[i] Professors Joan Esteban, Massimo Morelli, and Dominic Rohner have defined mass killings as "the killings of substantial numbers of human beings, when not in the course of military action against the military forces of an avowed enemy, under the conditions of the essential defenselessness and helplessness of the victims." The term has been defined by Professor Benjamin Valentino as "the intentional killing of a massive number of noncombatants", where a "massive number" is defined as at least 50,000 intentional deaths over the course of five years or less. This is the most accepted quantitative minimum threshold for the term. He applied this definition to the cases of Stalin's Soviet Union, China under Mao Zedong and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge while admitting that "mass killings on a smaller scale" also appear to have been carried out by regimes in North Korea, Vietnam, Eastern Europe and various nations in Africa. Alongside Valentino, Jay Ulfelder has used a threshold of 1,000 killed.[j] Alex Bellamy states that 14 of the 38 instances of "mass killing since 1945 perpetrated by non-democratic states outside the context of war" were by communist governments.[k] Professors Frank Wayman and Atsushi Tago used the term mass killing from Valentino and concluded that even with a lower threshold (10,000 killed per year, 1,000 killed per year, or even 1 killed per year) "autocratic regimes, especially communist, are prone to mass killing generically, but not so strongly inclined (i.e. not statistically significantly inclined) toward geno-politicide."[l] According to Attiat F. Ott and Sang Hoo Bae, there is a general consensus that mass killing constitutes the act of intentionally killing a number of non-combatants, but that number can range from as few as four to more than 50,000 people. Yang Su used a definition of mass killing from Valentino but allows as a "significant number" more than 10 killed in one day in one town.[m] He used the term collective killing for analysis of mass killing in areas smaller than a whole country that may not meet Valentino's threshold.[n]
- Genocide – Under the Genocide Convention, the crime of genocide generally applies to the mass murder of ethnic rather than political or social groups. The clause which granted protection to political groups was eliminated from the United Nations resolution after a second vote because many states, including the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin,[o] feared that it could be used to impose unneeded limitations on their right to suppress internal disturbances. Scholarly studies of genocide usually acknowledge the UN's omission of economic and political groups and use mass political killing datasets of democide and genocide and politicide or geno-politicide. The killings that were committed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia has been labeled a genocide or an auto-genocide; and the deaths that occurred under Leninism and Stalinism in the Soviet Union, as well as those that occurred under Maoism in China, have been controversially investigated as possible cases. In particular, the Soviet famine of 1932–1933 and the Great Chinese Famine, which occurred during the Great Leap Forward, have both been "depicted as instances of mass killing underpinned by genocidal intent."[p]
- Politicide – the term politicide is used to describe the killing of groups that would not otherwise be covered by the Genocide Convention.[o] Professor Barbara Harff studies genocide and politicide—sometimes shortened as geno-politicide—in order to include the killing of political, economic, ethnic and cultural groups.[q] Professor Manus I. Midlarsky uses the term politicide to describe an arc of large-scale killing from the western parts of the Soviet Union to China and Cambodia.[r] In his book The Killing Trap: Genocide in the Twentieth Century, Midlarsky raises similarities between the killings of Stalin and Pol Pot.
- Democide – Professor Rudolph Rummel defined democide as "the intentional killing of an unarmed or disarmed person by government agents acting in their authoritative capacity and pursuant to government policy or high command." His definition covers a wide range of deaths, including forced labor and concentration camp victims; killings by "unofficial" private groups; extrajudicial summary killings; and mass deaths due to the governmental acts of criminal omission and neglect, such as in deliberate famines as well as killings by de facto governments, such as warlords or rebels in a civil war.[s] This definition covers any murder of any number of persons by any government, and it has been applied to killings that were perpetrated by communist regimes.
- Holocaust – The term communist holocaust has been used by some state officials and non-governmental organizations. The similar term red Holocaust—coined by the Munich Institut für Zeitgeschichte[t]—has been used by Professor Steven Rosefielde for communist "peacetime state killings," while stating that it "could be defined to include all murders (judicially sanctioned terror-executions), criminal manslaughter (lethal forced labor and ethnic cleansing), and felonious negligent homicide (terror-starvation) incurred from insurrectionary actions and civil wars prior to state seizure, and all subsequent felonious state killings."[u] According to Jörg Hackmann, this term is not popular among scholars in Germany or internationally.[t] Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine writes that usage of this term "allows the reality it describes to immediately attain, in the Western mind, a status equal to that of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazi regime."[v] Michael Shafir writes that the use of the term supports the "competitive martyrdom component of Double Genocide," a theory whose worst version is Holocaust obfuscation. George Voicu states that Leon Volovici has "rightfully condemned the abusive use of this concept as an attempt to 'usurp' and undermine a symbol specific to the history of European Jews."[w]
- Repression – Professor Stephen Wheatcroft notes that in the case of the Soviet Union terms such as the terror, the purges, and repression are used to refer to the same events. He believes the most neutral terms are repression and mass killings, although in Russian the broad concept of repression is commonly held to include mass killings and it is sometimes assumed to be synonymous with it, which is not the case in other languages.
- Classicide – Professor Michael Mann has proposed the term classicide to mean the "intended mass killing of entire social classes."[x] Classicide is considered "premeditated mass killing" narrower than genocide in that it targets a part of a population defined by its social status, but broader than politicide in that the group is targeted without regard to their political activity.
- Crime against humanity – Professor Klas-Göran Karlsson uses the term crimes against humanity, which includes "the direct mass killings of politically undesirable elements, as well as forced deportations and forced labour." Karlsson acknowledges that the term may be misleading in the sense that the regimes targeted groups of their own citizens, but he considers it useful as a broad legal term which emphasizes attacks on civilian populations and because the offenses demean humanity as a whole. Historian Jacques Sémelin and Professor Michael Mann believe that crime against humanity is more appropriate than genocide or politicide when speaking of violence by communist regimes.
According to Klas-Göran Karlsson, discussion of the number of victims of communist regimes has been "extremely extensive and ideologically biased." Rudolph Rummel and Mark Bradley have written that, while the exact numbers have been in dispute, the order of magnitude is not.[y][z] Although any attempt to estimate a total number of killings under communist regimes depends greatly on definitions, attempts have been made:
- In 1978, journalist Todd Culbertson wrote an article in The Richmond News Leader, republished in Human Events, in which he stated that "[a]vailable evidence indicates that perhaps 100 million persons have been destroyed by the Communists; the imperviousness of the Iron and Bamboo curtains prevents a more definitive figure."[aa][ab]
- In 1985, John Lenczowski, director of European and Soviet Affairs at the United States National Security Council, wrote an article in The Christian Science Monitor in which he stated that the "number of people murdered by communist regimes is estimated at between 60 million and 150 million, with the higher figure probably more accurate in light of recent scholarship." [ac]
- In 1993, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter, wrote that "the failed effort to build communism in the twentieth century consumed the lives of almost 60,000,000."[ab][ad]
- In 1994, Rudolph Rummel's book Death by Government included about 110 million people, foreign and domestic, killed by communist democide from 1900 to 1987. This total did not include deaths from China's Great Famine of 1958-1961 due to Rummel's then belief that "although Mao’s policies were responsible for the famine, he was mislead about it, and finally when he found out, he stopped it and changed his policies." In 2004, Tomislav Dulić criticized Rummel's estimate of the number killed in Tito's Yugoslavia as an overestimation based on the inclusion of low quality sources and stated that Rummel's other estimates may suffer from the same problem if he used similar sources for them.
- In 1997, the Stéphane Courtois introduction to the Black Book of Communism gave a "rough approximation, based on unofficial estimates" approaching 100 million killed. The subtotals listed by Courtois added up to 94.36 million killed.[ae] Nicolas Werth and Jean-Louis Margolin, contributing authors to the book, criticized Courtois as obsessed with reaching a 100 million overall total. In his foreword to the 1999 English edition, Martin Malia noted "a grand total of victims variously estimated by contributors to the volume at between 85 million and 100 million."[af]
- In 2005, Benjamin Valentino stated that the number of non-combatants killed by communist regimes in the Soviet Union, People's Republic of China, and Cambodia alone ranged from a low of 21 million to a high of 70 million.[ag][ah] Citing Rummel and others, Valentino stated that the "highest end of the plausible range of deaths attributed to communist regimes" was up to 110 million."[ag][ab]
- In 2005, a retired Rudolph Rummel, due to additional information about Mao's culpability in the Great Chinese Famine from the work of Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, revised upward his total for communist democide between 1900 and 1999 from 110 million to about 148 million by including their estimated 38 million famine deaths.
- In 2010, Steven Rosefielde wrote in Red Holocaust that communism's internal contradictions "caused to be killed" approximately 60 million people and perhaps tens of millions more.
- In 2011, Matthew White published his rough total of 70 million "people who died under communist regimes from execution, labor camps, famine, ethnic cleansing, and desperate flight in leaky boats," not counting those killed in wars.[ai]
- In 2012, Alex J. Bellamy wrote that a "conservative estimate puts the total number of civilians deliberately killed by communists after the Second World War between 6.7 million and 15.5 million people, with the true figure probably much higher."[aj]
- In 2014, Julia Strauss wrote that, while there was the beginning of a scholarly consensus on figures of around 20 million killed in the Soviet Union and 2-3 million in Cambodia, there was no such consensus on numbers for China.[ak]
- In 2016, the Dissident blog of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation made an effort to compile ranges of estimates using sources from 1976 to 2010 and concluded that the overall range "spans from 42,870,000 to 161,990,000" killed, with 100 million the most commonly cited figure.[al]
- In 2017, Professor Stephen Kotkin wrote in The Wall Street Journal that communism killed at least 65 million people between 1917 and 2017: "Though communism has killed huge numbers of people intentionally, even more of its victims have died from starvation as a result of its cruel projects of social engineering."[am]
The criticism of some of the estimates were mostly focused on three aspects, namely that (i) the estimates were based on sparse and incomplete data when significant errors are inevitable; (ii) some critics said the figures were skewed to higher possible values;[an] and (iii) some critics argued that victims of Holodomor and other man-made famines created by communist governments should not be counted.
Klas-Göran Karlsson writes: "Ideologies are systems of ideas, which cannot commit crimes independently. However, individuals, collectives and states that have defined themselves as communist have committed crimes in the name of communist ideology, or without naming communism as the direct source of motivation for their crimes." Scholars such as Rudolph Rummel, Daniel Goldhagen, Richard Pipes and John Gray consider the ideology of communism to be a significant causative factor in mass killings. The Black Book of Communism claims an association between communism and criminality, stating: "Communist regimes [...] turned mass crime into a full-blown system of government" while adding that this criminality lies at the level of ideology rather than state practice.
The last issue
of Karl Marx's journal Neue Rheinische Zeitung
from May 19, 1849, printed in red ink
Professor Mark Bradley writes that communist theory and practice has often been in tension with human rights and most communist states followed the lead of Karl Marx in rejecting "Enlightenment-era inalienable individual political and civil rights" in favor of "collective economic and social rights."[z] Christopher J. Finlay has argued that Marxism legitimates violence without any clear limiting principle because it rejects moral and ethical norms as constructs of the dominant class and "states that it would be conceivable for revolutionaries to commit atrocious crimes in bringing about a socialist system, with the belief that their crimes will be retroactively absolved by the new system of ethics put in place by the proletariat."[ao] Rustam Singh notes that Karl Marx had alluded to the possibility of peaceful revolution, but after the failed Revolutions of 1848 emphasized the need for violent revolution and "revolutionary terror".[ap]
Literary historian George Watson cited an 1849 article written by Friedrich Engels called "The Hungarian Struggle" and published in Marx's journal Neue Rheinische Zeitung, stating that the writings of Engels and others show that "the Marxist theory of history required and demanded genocide for reasons implicit in its claim that feudalism, which in advanced nations was already giving place to capitalism, must in its turn be superseded by socialism. Entire nations would be left behind after a workers' revolution, feudal remnants in a socialist age, and since they could not advance two steps at a time, they would have to be killed. They were racial trash, as Engels called them, and fit only for the dung-heap of history."[aq] Watson's claims have been criticized by Robert Grant for "dubious" evidence, arguing that "what Marx and Engels are calling for is [...] at the very least a kind of cultural genocide; but it is not obvious, at least from Watson's citations, that actual mass killing, rather than (to use their phraseology) mere 'absorption' or 'assimilation', is in question." Talking about Engels' 1849 article, historian Andrzej Walicki states: "It is difficult to deny that this was an outright call for genocide." Jean-François Revel writes that Joseph Stalin recommended study of the 1849 Engels article in his 1924 book On Lenin and Leninism.[ar]
According to Rummel, the killings committed by communist regimes can best be explained as the result of the marriage between absolute power and the absolutist ideology of Marxism. Rummel states that "communism was like a fanatical religion. It had its revealed text and its chief interpreters. It had its priests and their ritualistic prose with all the answers. It had a heaven, and the proper behavior to reach it. It had its appeal to faith. And it had its crusades against nonbelievers. What made this secular religion so utterly lethal was its seizure of all the state's instruments of force and coercion and their immediate use to destroy or control all independent sources of power, such as the church, the professions, private businesses, schools, and the family." He writes that the Marxists saw the construction of their utopia as "though a war on poverty, exploitation, imperialism and inequality. And for the greater good, as in a real war, people are killed. And, thus, this war for the communist utopia had its necessary enemy casualties, the clergy, bourgeoisie, capitalists, wreckers, counterrevolutionaries, rightists, tyrants, rich, landlords, and noncombatants that unfortunately got caught in the battle. In a war millions may die, but the cause may be well justified, as in the defeat of Hitler and an utterly racist Nazism. And to many communists, the cause of a communist utopia was such as to justify all the deaths."
Benjamin Valentino writes that mass killing strategies are chosen by communists to economically dispossess large numbers of people,[as][k] arguing as such: "Social transformations of this speed and magnitude have been associated with mass killing for two primary reasons. First, the massive social dislocations produced by such changes have often led to economic collapse, epidemics, and, most important, widespread famines. [...] The second reason that communist regimes bent on the radical transformation of society have been linked to mass killing is that the revolutionary changes they have pursued have clashed inexorably with the fundamental interests of large segments of their populations. Few people have proved willing to accept such far-reaching sacrifices without intense levels of coercion." According to Jacques Sémelin, "communist systems emerging in the twentieth century ended up destroying their own populations, not because they planned to annihilate them as such, but because they aimed to restructure the 'social body' from top to bottom, even if that meant purging it and recarving it to suit their new Promethean political imaginaire."[at]
Daniel Chirot and Clark McCauley write that, especially in Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao's China and Pol Pot's Cambodia, a fanatical certainty that socialism could be made to work motivated communist leaders in "the ruthless dehumanization of their enemies, who could be suppressed because they were 'objectively' and 'historically' wrong. Furthermore, if events did not work out as they were supposed to, then that was because class enemies, foreign spies and saboteurs, or worst of all, internal traitors were wrecking the plan. Under no circumstances could it be admitted that the vision itself might be unworkable, because that meant capitulation to the forces of reaction."[au] Michael Mann writes that communist party members were "ideologically driven, believing that in order to create a new socialist society, they must lead in socialist zeal. Killings were often popular, the rank-and-file as keen to exceed killing quotas as production quotas."[av] According to Vladimir Tismăneanu, "the Communist project, in such countries as the USSR, China, Cuba, Romania, or Albania, was based precisely on the conviction that certain social groups were irretrievably alien and deservedly murdered."[aw]
Alex Bellamy writes that "communism's ideology of selective extermination" of target groups was first developed and applied by Joseph Stalin but that "each of the communist regimes that massacred large numbers of civilians during the Cold War developed their own distinctive account".[ax] Steven T. Katz states that distinctions based on class and nationality, stigmatized and stereotyped in various ways, created an "otherness" for victims of communist rule that was important for legitimating oppression and death.[ay] Martin Shaw writes that "nationalist ideas were at the heart of many mass killings by Communist states", beginning with Stalin's "new nationalist doctrine of 'socialism in one country'", and killing by revolutionary movements in the Third World was done in the name of national liberation.[az]
Anne Applebaum asserts that "without exception, the Leninist belief in the one-party state was and is characteristic of every communist regime" and "the Bolshevik use of violence was repeated in every communist revolution." Phrases said by Vladimir Lenin and Cheka founder Felix Dzerzhinsky were deployed all over the world. She notes that as late as 1976 Mengistu Haile Mariam unleashed a Red Terror in Ethiopia. Said Lenin to his colleagues in the Bolshevik government: "If we are not ready to shoot a saboteur and White Guardist, what sort of revolution is that?"
Robert Conquest stressed that Stalin's purges were not contrary to the principles of Leninism, but rather a natural consequence of the system established by Lenin, who personally ordered the killing of local groups of class enemy hostages. Alexander Yakovlev, architect of perestroika and glasnost and later head of the Presidential Commission for the Victims of Political Repression, elaborates on this point, stating: "The truth is that in punitive operations Stalin did not think up anything that was not there under Lenin: executions, hostage taking, concentration camps, and all the rest." Historian Robert Gellately concurs, stating: "To put it another way, Stalin initiated very little that Lenin had not already introduced or previewed."
Stephen Hicks of Rockford College ascribes the violence characteristic of 20th-century socialist rule to these collectivist regimes' abandonment of protections of civil rights and rejection of the values of civil society. Hicks writes that whereas "in practice every liberal capitalist country has a solid record for being humane, for by and large respecting rights and freedoms, and for making it possible for people to put together fruitful and meaningful lives", in socialism "practice has time and again proved itself more brutal than the worst dictatorships prior to the twentieth century. Each socialist regime has collapsed into dictatorship and begun killing people on a huge scale."
Eric D. Weitz says that the mass killing in communist states is a natural consequence of the failure of the rule of law, seen commonly during periods of social upheaval in the 20th century. For both communist and non-communist mass killings, "genocides occurred at moments of extreme social crisis, often generated by the very policies of the regimes." They are not inevitable, but are political decisions. Steven Rosefielde writes that communist rulers had to choose between changing course and "terror-command" and more often than not chose the latter.[ba] Michael Mann argues that a lack of institutionalized authority structures meant that a chaotic mix of both centralized control and party factionalism were factors in the killing.[av]
Professor Matthew Krain states that many scholars have pointed to revolutions and civil wars as providing the opportunity for radical leaders and ideologies to gain power and the preconditions for mass killing by the state.[bb] Professor Nam Kyu Kim writes that exclusionary ideologies are critical to explaining mass killing, but the organizational capabilities and individual characteristics of revolutionary leaders, including their attitudes towards risk and violence, are also important. Besides opening up political opportunities for new leaders to eliminate their political opponents, revolutions bring to power leaders who are more apt to commit large-scale acts of violence against civilians in order to legitimize and strengthen their own power. Genocide scholar Adam Jones states that the Russian Civil War was very influential on the emergence of leaders like Stalin and it also accustomed people to "harshness, cruelty, terror."[bc] Martin Malia called the "brutal conditioning" of the two World Wars important to understanding communist violence, although not its source.
Historian Helen Rappaport describes Nikolay Yezhov, the bureaucrat who was in charge of the NKVD during the Great Purge, as a physically diminutive figure of "limited intelligence" and "narrow political understanding. [...] Like other instigators of mass murder throughout history, [he] compensated for his lack of physical stature with a pathological cruelty and the use of brute terror." Russian and world history scholar John M. Thompson places personal responsibility directly on Joseph Stalin. According to him, "much of what occurred only makes sense if it stemmed in part from the disturbed mentality, pathological cruelty, and extreme paranoia of Stalin himself. Insecure, despite having established a dictatorship over the party and country, hostile and defensive when confronted with criticism of the excesses of collectivization and the sacrifices required by high-tempo industrialization, and deeply suspicious that past, present, and even yet unknown future opponents were plotting against him, Stalin began to act as a person beleaguered. He soon struck back at enemies, real or imaginary." Professors Pablo Montagnes and Stephane Wolton argue that the purges in the USSR and China can be attributed to the "personalist" leadership of Stalin and Mao, who were incentivized by having both control of the security apparatus used to carry out the purges and control of the appointment of replacements for those purged.[bd] Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek attributes Mao Zedong allegedly viewing human life as disposable to Mao's "cosmic perspective" on humanity.[be]
States where mass killings have occurred
Adam Jones claims that "there is very little in the record of human experience to match the violence which was unleashed between 1917, when the Bolsheviks took power, and 1953, when Joseph Stalin died and the Soviet Union moved to adopt a more restrained and largely non-murderous domestic policy." Jones notes that the exceptions to this were the Khmer Rouge (in relative terms) and Mao's rule in China (in absolute terms).
Stephen G. Wheatcroft asserts that prior to the opening of the Soviet archives for historical research, "our understanding of the scale and the nature of Soviet repression has been extremely poor" and that some scholars who wish to maintain pre-1991 high estimates are "finding it difficult to adapt to the new circumstances when the archives are open and when there are plenty of irrefutable data" and instead "hang on to their old Sovietological methods with round-about calculations based on odd statements from emigres and other informants who are supposed to have superior knowledge," although he acknowledged that even the figures estimated from the additional documents are not "final or definitive." In the 2007 revision of his book The Great Terror, Robert Conquest estimates that while exact numbers will never be certain, the communist leaders of the Soviet Union were responsible for no fewer than 15 million deaths.[bf]
Some historians attempt to make separate estimates for different periods of Soviet history, with casualty estimates varying widely from 6 million (for the Stalinist period) to 8.1 million (for a period ending in 1937) to 20 million[bg] to 61 million (for the period 1917–1987).
The Red Terror was a period of political repression and executions carried out by Bolsheviks after the beginning of the Russian Civil War in 1918. During this period, the political police (the Cheka) conducted summary executions of tens of thousands of "enemies of the people." Many victims were "bourgeois hostages" rounded up and held in readiness for summary execution in reprisal for any alleged counter-revolutionary provocation. Many were put to death during and after the suppression of revolts, such as the Kronstadt rebellion of Baltic Fleet sailors and the Tambov Rebellion of Russian peasants. Professor Donald Rayfield claims that "the repression that followed the rebellions in Kronstadt and Tambov alone resulted in tens of thousands of executions." A large number of Orthodox clergymen were also killed.
According to Nicolas Werth, the policy of decossackization amounted to an attempt by Soviet leaders to "eliminate, exterminate, and deport the population of a whole territory." In the early months of 1919, perhaps 10,000 to 12,000 Cossacks were executed and many more deported after their villages were razed to the ground. According to historian Michael Kort: "During 1919 and 1920, out of a population of approximately 1.5 million Don Cossacks, the Bolshevik regime killed or deported an estimated 300,000 to 500,000."
Estimates of the number of deaths which were brought about by Stalin's rule are hotly debated by scholars in the fields of Soviet and Communist studies. Prior to the collapse of the USSR and the archival revelations which followed it, some historians estimated that the number of people who were killed by Stalin's regime was 20 million or higher. Michael Parenti writes that estimates on the Stalinist death toll vary widely in part because such estimates are based on "anecdotes" in absence of reliable evidence and "speculations by writers who never reveal how they arrive at such figures".
After the Soviet Union dissolved, evidence from the Soviet archives became available, containing official records of the execution of approximately 800,000 prisoners under Stalin for either political or criminal offenses, around 1.7 million deaths in the Gulags and some 390,000 deaths which occurred during kulak forced resettlement—for a total of about 3 million officially recorded victims in these categories.[bh] However, official Soviet documentation of Gulag deaths is widely considered inadequate. Golfo Alexopoulos, Anne Applebaum, Oleg Khlevniuk and Michael Ellman write that the government frequently released prisoners on the edge of death in order to avoid officially counting them. A 1993 study of archival data by J. Arch Getty et al. showed that a total of 1,053,829 people died in the Gulag from 1934 to 1953. Subsequently, Steven Rosefielde asserted that this number has to be augmented by 19.4 percent in light of more complete archival evidence to 1,258,537, with the best estimate of Gulag deaths being 1.6 million from 1929 to 1953 when excess mortality is taken into account. Alexopolous estimates a much higher total of at least 6 million dying in the Gulag or shortly after release. Jeffrey Hardy has criticized Alexopoulos for basing her assertions primarily on indirect and misinterpreted evidence and Dan Healey has called her work a "challenge to the emergent scholarly consensus".[bi]
According to historian Stephen G. Wheatcroft, Stalin's regime can be charged with causing the "purposive deaths" of about a million people. Wheatcroft excludes all famine deaths as "purposive deaths" and claims those that do qualify fit more closely the category of "execution" rather than "murder". Others posit that some of the actions of Stalin's regime, not only those during the Holodomor, but also dekulakization and targeted campaigns against particular ethnic groups, can be considered as genocide at least in its loose definition. Modern data for the whole of Stalin's rule was summarized by Timothy Snyder, who concluded that Stalinism caused six million direct deaths and nine million in total, including the deaths from deportation, hunger and Gulag deaths.[bj] Michael Ellman attributes roughly 3 million deaths to the Stalinist regime, excluding excess mortality from famine, disease and war. Several present scholars, among them Stalin biographer Simon Sebag Montefiore, Soviet/Russian historian Dmitri Volkogonov, and the director of Yale's "Annals of Communism" series Jonathan Brent, still put the death toll from Stalin at about 20 million.[bk][bl][bm][bn][bo]
Mass deportations of ethnic minorities
Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and Lavrenti Beria
(in the foreground), who was responsible for mass deportations of ethnic minorities as head of the NKVD
The Soviet government during Joseph Stalin's rule conducted a series of deportations on an enormous scale that significantly affected the ethnic map of the Soviet Union. Deportations took place under extremely harsh conditions, often in cattle carriages, with hundreds of thousands of deportees dying en route. Some experts estimate that the proportion of deaths from the deportations could be as high as one in three in certain cases.[bp] Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish descent who initiated the 1948 Genocide Convention and coined the term genocide himself, assumed that genocide was perpetrated in the context of the mass deportation of the Chechens, Ingush, Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks, and Karachay.
Regarding the fate of the Crimean Tatars, Amir Weiner of Stanford University writes that the policy could be classified as "ethnic cleansing". In the book Century of Genocide, Lyman H. Legters writes: "We cannot properly speak of a completed genocide, only of a process that was genocidal in its potentiality." In contrast to this view, Jon K. Chang contends that the deportations had been in fact based on genocides based on ethnicity and that "social historians" in the West have failed to champion the rights of marginalized ethnicities in the Soviet Union. This view is supported by several countries. On 12 December 2015, the Ukrainian Parliament issued a resolution recognizing the 1944 deportation of Crimean Tatars (the Sürgünlik) as genocide and established the 18th of May as the Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Crimean Tatar Genocide. The Parliament of Latvia recognized the event as an act of genocide on 9 May 2019. The Parliament of Lithuania did the same on 6 June 2019. Canadian Parliament passed a motion on 10 June 2019, recognizing the Crimean Tatar deportation as a genocide perpetrated by Soviet dictator Stalin, designating the 18th of May to be a day of remembrance. The deportation of Chechens and Ingush was acknowledged by the European Parliament as an act of genocide in 2004, stating:
Believes that the deportation of the entire Chechen people to Central Asia on 23 February 1944 on the orders of Stalin constitutes an act of genocide within the meaning of the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907 and the Convention for the Prevention and Repression of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1948.
Soviet famine of 1932–1933
Within the Soviet Union, forced changes in agricultural policies (collectivization), confiscations of grain and droughts caused the Soviet famine of 1932–1933 in Ukraine, Northern Caucasus, Volga Region, and Kazakhstan. The famine was most severe in the Ukrainian SSR, where it is often referenced as the Holodomor. A significant portion of the famine victims (3.3 to 7.5 million) were Ukrainians. Another part of the famine was known as Kazakh catastrophe, when more than 1.3 million ethnic Kazakhs (about 38% of the population) died. Many scholars say that the Stalinist policies that caused the famine may have been designed as an attack on the rise of Ukrainian nationalism and thus may fall under the legal definition of genocide.
The famine was officially recognized as genocide by the Ukraine and other governments.[bq] In a draft resolution, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared the famine was caused by the "cruel and deliberate actions and policies of the Soviet regime" and was responsible for the deaths of "millions of innocent people" in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Russia. Relative to its population, Kazakhstan is believed to have been the most adversely affected. Regarding the Kazakh catastrophe, Michael Ellman states that it "seems to be an example of ‘negligent genocide’ which falls outside the scope of the UN Convention of genocide."
Mass graves dating from 1937–1938 opened up and hundreds of bodies exhumed for identification by family members
Stalin's attempts to solidify his position as leader of the Soviet Union led to an escalation of detentions and executions, climaxing in 1937–1938 (a period sometimes referred to as the Yezhovshchina, or Yezhov era) and continuing until Stalin's death in 1953. Around 700,000 of these were executed by a gunshot to the back of the head. Others perished from beatings and torture while in "investigative custody" and in the Gulag due to starvation, disease, exposure and overwork.[br]
Arrests were typically made citing counter-revolutionary laws, which included failure to report treasonous actions and in an amendment added in 1937 failing to fulfill one's appointed duties. In the cases investigated by the State Security Department of the NKVD from October 1936 to November 1938, at least 1,710,000 people were arrested and 724,000 people executed. Modern historical studies estimate a total number of repression deaths during 1937–1938 as 950,000–1,200,000. These figures take into account the incompleteness of official archival data and include both execution deaths and Gulag deaths during that period.[br] Former "kulaks" and their families made up the majority of victims, with 669,929 people arrested and 376,202 executed.
The NKVD conducted a series of "national operations" which targeted some ethnic groups. A total of 350,000 were arrested and 247,157 were executed. Of these, the Polish operation which targeted the members of Polska Organizacja Wojskowa appears to have been the largest, with 140,000 arrests and 111,000 executions. Although these operations might well constitute genocide as defined by the UN convention, or "a mini-genocide" according to Simon Sebag Montefiore, there is as yet no authoritative ruling on the legal characterization of these events.
Citing church documents, Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev has estimated that over 100,000 priests, monks and nuns were executed during this time. Regarding the persecution of clergy, Michael Ellman has stated that "the 1937–38 terror against the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church and of other religions (Binner & Junge 2004) might also qualify as genocide."
In the summer and autumn of 1937, Stalin sent NKVD agents to the Mongolian People's Republic and engineered a Mongolian Great Terror in which some 22,000 or 35,000 people were executed. Around 18,000 victims were Buddhist lamas.
In Belarus, mass graves for several thousand civilians killed by the NKVD between 1937 and 1941 were discovered in 1988 at Kurapaty.
Soviet killings during World War II
Following the Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, NKVD task forces started removing "Soviet-hostile elements" from the conquered territories. The NKVD systematically practiced torture which often resulted in death. According to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, 150,000 Polish citizens perished due to Soviet repression during the war. The most notorious killings occurred in the spring of 1940, when the NKVD executed some 21,857 Polish POWs and intellectual leaders in what has become known as the Katyn massacre. Executions were also carried out after the annexation of the Baltic states. During the initial phases of Operation Barbarossa, the NKVD and attached units of the Red Army massacred prisoners and political opponents by the tens of thousands before fleeing from the advancing Axis forces. Memorial complexes have been built at NKVD execution sites at Katyn and Mednoye in Russia, as well as a "third killing field" at Piatykhatky, Ukraine.
People's Republic of China
The Chinese Communist Party came to power in China in 1949 after a long and bloody civil war between communists and nationalists. There is a general consensus among historians that after Mao Zedong seized power, his policies and political purges directly or indirectly caused the deaths of tens of millions of people. Based on the Soviets' experience, Mao considered violence to be necessary in order to achieve an ideal society that would be derived from Marxism and as a result he planned and executed violence on a grand scale.
Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries
The first large-scale killings under Mao took place during his land reform and the counterrevolutionary campaign. In official study materials that were published in 1948, Mao envisaged that "one-tenth of the peasants" (or about 50,000,000) "would have to be destroyed" to facilitate agrarian reform. The exact number of people who were killed during Mao's land reform is believed to have been lower, but at least one million people were killed. The suppression of counterrevolutionaries targeted mainly former Kuomintang officials and intellectuals who were suspected of disloyalty. At least 712,000 people were executed and 1,290,000 were imprisoned in labor camps.
Great Leap Forward and the Great Chinese Famine
Benjamin Valentino claims that the Great Leap Forward was a cause of the Great Chinese Famine and the worst effects of the famine were steered towards the regime's enemies. Those who were labeled "black elements" (religious leaders, rightists and rich peasants) in earlier campaigns died in the greatest numbers because they were given the lowest priority in the allocation of food. In Mao's Great Famine, historian Frank Dikötter writes that "coercion, terror, and systematic violence were the very foundation of the Great Leap Forward" and it "motivated one of the most deadly mass killings of human history." Dikötter estimates that at least 2.5 million people were summarily killed or tortured to death during this period. His research in local and provincial Chinese archives indicates the death toll was at least 45 million: "In most cases the party knew very well that it was starving its own people to death." In a secret meeting at Shanghai in 1959, Mao issued the order to procure one third of all grain from the countryside, saying: "When there is not enough to eat people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill." In light of additional evidence of Mao's culpability, Rummel added those killed by the Great Famine to his total for Mao's democide for a total of 77 million killed.[bs]
According to Jean-Louis Margolin in The Black Book of Communism, the Chinese communists carried out a cultural genocide against the Tibetans. Margolin states that the killings were proportionally larger in Tibet than they were in China proper and "one can legitimately speak of genocidal massacres because of the numbers that were involved." According to the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration, "Tibetans were not only shot, but they were also beaten to death, crucified, burned alive, drowned, mutilated, starved, strangled, hanged, boiled alive, buried alive, drawn and quartered, and beheaded." Adam Jones, a scholar who specializes in genocide, notes that after the 1959 Tibetan uprising the Chinese authorized struggle sessions against reactionaries, during which "communist cadres denounced, tortured, and frequently executed enemies of the people." These sessions resulted in 92,000 deaths out of a total population of about 6 million. These deaths, Jones stressed, may not only be seen as a genocide, but they may also be seen as an "eliticide", meaning "targeting the better educated and leadership oriented elements among the Tibetan population." Patrick French, the former director of the Free Tibet Campaign in London, writes that the Free Tibet Campaign and other groups have claimed that a total of 1.2 million Tibetans were killed by the Chinese since 1950 but after examining archives in Dharamsala, he found "no evidence to support that figure." French states that a reliable alternative number is unlikely to be known, but he estimates that as many as half a million Tibetans died "as a 'direct result' of the policies of the People's Republic of China" by using historian Warren Smith's estimate of 200,000 people who are missing from population statistics in the Tibet Autonomous Region and extending that rate to the borderland regions.
Sinologists Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals estimate that between 750,000 and 1.5 million people were killed in the violence of the Cultural Revolution in rural China alone. Mao's Red Guards were given carte blanche to abuse and kill people who were perceived to be enemies of the revolution. In August 1966, over 100 teachers were murdered by their students in western Beijing. Finkel and Strauss write that Su estimates up to three million people were "murdered by their neighbors in collective killings and struggle rallies. This happened even though the central government had not issued any mass killing orders or policies."
Yang Su argues that mass killing during the Cultural Revolution was caused by "the paradox of state sponsorship and state failure". Mass killings were concentrated in rural areas in the months after the establishment of county revolutionary committees, with mass killing in each community being more likely the more local party members there were in that community. Repression by the local organizations may have been in response to the rhetoric of violence promoted by the provincal capitals as a result of mass factionalism in those capitals, and the "peaks of mass killings coincided with two announcements from the party center in July 1968 banning factional armed battles and disbanding mass organizations".[bt] Su also writes that Mao's government designated class enemies using an artificial and arbitrary standard in order to accomplish two political tasks: "mobilizing mass compliance and resolving elite conflict". The elastic nature of the category allowed it to "take on a genocidal dimension under extraordinary circumstances."[bu]
Jean-Louis Margolin states that under Deng Xiaoping, at least 1,000 people were killed in Beijing and hundreds of people were also executed in the countryside after his government crushed demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989. According to Louisa Lim in 2014, a group of victims' relatives in China called the "Tiananmen Mothers" has confirmed the identities of more than 200 of those who were killed. Alex Bellamy writes that this "tragedy marks the last time in which an episode of mass killing in East Asia was terminated by the perpetrators themselves, judging that they had succeeded."
A memorial to the 1989 Tiananmen Square events in the Dominican Square in Wrocław, Poland
Statue located in Ávila, Spain recalling the events of Tiananmen Square
Skulls of victims of the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields in Cambodia
The Killing Fields are a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and their bodies were buried by the Khmer Rouge regime during its rule of the country, which lasted from 1975 to 1979, after the end of the Cambodian Civil War.
Sociologist Martin Shaw described the Cambodian genocide as "the purest genocide of the Cold War era." The results of a demographic study of the Cambodian genocide concluded that the nationwide death toll from 1975 to 1979 amounted to 1,671,000 to 1,871,000, or 21 to 24 percent of the total Cambodian population as it was estimated to number before the Khmer Rouge took power. According to Ben Kiernan, the number of deaths which were specifically caused by execution is still unknown because many victims died from starvation, disease and overwork. Researcher Craig Etcheson of the Documentation Center of Cambodia suggests that the death toll was between 2 and 2.5 million, with a "most likely" figure of 2.2 million. After spending five years researching about 20,000 grave sites, he concluded that "these mass graves contain the remains of 1,112,829 victims of execution." A study by French demographer Marek Sliwinski calculated slightly fewer than 2 million unnatural deaths under the Khmer Rouge out of a 1975 Cambodian population of 7.8 million, with 33.5% of Cambodian men dying under the Khmer Rouge compared to 15.7% of Cambodian women. The number of suspected victims of execution who were found in 23,745 mass graves is estimated to be 1.3 million according to a 2009 academic source. Execution is believed to account for roughly 60% of the total death toll during the genocide, with other victims succumbing to starvation or disease.
Helen Fein, a genocide scholar, states that the xenophobic ideology of the Khmer Rouge regime bears a stronger resemblance to "an almost forgotten phenomenon of national socialism", or fascism, rather than communism. Responding to Ben Kiernan's "argument that Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea regime was more racist and generically totalitarian than Marxist or specifically Communist", Steve Heder states that the example of such racialist thought as it is applied in relation to the minority Cham people echoed "Marx's definition of a historyless people doomed to extinction in the name of progress" and it was therefore a part of general concepts of class and class struggle. Craig Etcheson writes that data on the distribution and origin of the mass graves, as well as internal Khmer Rouge security documents, leads to the conclusion that "most of the violence was carried out pursuant to orders from the highest political authorities of the Communist Party of Kampuchea", rather than being the result of the "spontaneous excesses of a vengeful, undisciplined peasant army".[bv] French historian Henri Locard argues that the "fascist" label was applied to the Khmer Rouge by the Communist Party of Vietnam as a form of "revisionism", but the repression which existed under the rule of the Khmer Rouge was "similar (if significantly more lethal) to the repression in all communist regimes." Daniel Goldhagen explains that the Khmer Rouge were xenophobic because they believed that the Khmer were "the one authentic people capable of building true communism." Steven Rosefielde claims that Democratic Kampuchea was the deadliest of all communist regimes on a per capita basis, primarily because it "lacked a viable productive core" and it "failed to set boundaries on mass murder."
Barbara Harff and Ted Gurr write, "Most Marxist-Leninist regimes which came to power through protracted armed struggle in the postwar period perpetrated one or more politicides, though of vastly different magnitudes."[bw] According to Benjamin Valentino, most regimes that described themselves as communist did not commit mass killings, but mass killings on a smaller scale than his standard of 50,000 people who were killed within a period of five years may have occurred in communist states such as Bulgaria, Romania and East Germany, although the lack of documentation prevents the reaching of a definitive judgement about the scale of these events and the motives of their perpetrators. Frank W. Wayman and Atsushi Tago write that because democide is broader than mass killing or genocide, most communist regimes can be said to have engaged in it, including the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, North Vietnam, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, North Korea, Cuba, Laos, Albania and Yugoslavia.
People's Republic of Bulgaria
According to Valentino, available evidence suggests that between 50,000 and 100,000 people may have been killed in Bulgaria beginning in 1944 as part of a campaign of agricultural collectivization and political repression, although there is insufficient documentation to make a definitive judgement. In his book History of Communism in Bulgaria, Dinyu Sharlanov accounts for about 31,000 people who were killed by the regime between 1944 and 1989.
According to Valentino, between 80,000 and 100,000 people may have been killed in East Germany beginning in 1945 as part of the Soviet Union's denazification campaign, but other scholars argue that these estimates are inflated.
A memorial to dead prisoners at an NKVD special camp in Germany
Immediately after World War II, denazification commenced in occupied Germany and the regions which the Nazis had annexed. In the Soviet occupation zone, the NKVD established prison camps, usually in abandoned concentration camps, and they used them to intern alleged Nazis and Nazi German officials along with some landlords and Prussian Junkers. According to files and data which was released by the Soviet Ministry for the Interior in 1990, in total, 123,000 Germans and 35,000 citizens of other nations were detained. Of these prisoners, a total of 786 people were shot and 43,035 people died of various causes. Most of the deaths were not direct killings, instead, they were caused by outbreaks of dysentery and tuberculosis. Deaths from starvation also occurred on a large scale, particularly from late 1946 to early 1947, but these deaths do not appear to have been deliberate killings because food shortages were widespread in the Soviet occupation zone. The prisoners in the "silence camps", as the NKVD special camps were called, did not have access to the black market and as a result, they were only able to get food that was handed to them by the authorities. Some prisoners were executed and other prisoners may have been tortured to death. In this context, it is difficult to determine if the prisoner deaths in the silence camps can be categorized as mass killings. It is also difficult to determine how many of the dead were Germans, East Germans, or members of other nationalities.
In 1961, East Germany erected the Berlin Wall following the Berlin crisis. Even though crossing between East Germany and West Germany was possible for motivated and approved travelers, thousands of East Germans tried to defect by illegally crossing the wall. Of these, between 136 and 227 people were killed by the Berlin Wall's guards during the years of the wall's existence (1961-1989).
Socialist Republic of Romania
According to Valentino, between 60,000 and 300,000 people may have been killed in Romania beginning in 1945 as part of agricultural collectivization and political repression.
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
The socialist regime of Josip Broz Tito bloodily repressed opponents and committed several massacres of prisoners of war after the Second World War. The European Public Hearing on Crimes Committed by Totalitarian Regimes reports:
The decision to 'annihilate' opponents must had been adopted in the closest circles of the Yugoslav state leadership, and the order was certainly issued by the Supreme Commander of the Yugoslav Army Josip Broz Tito, although it is not known when or in what form.[bx]
Dominic McGoldrick writes that as the head of a "highly centralised and oppressive" dictatorship, Tito wielded tremendous power in Yugoslavia, with his dictatorial rule administered through an elaborate bureaucracy which routinely suppressed human rights. Eliott Behar states that "Tito's Yugoslavia was a tightly controlled police state". According to David Mates, outside the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia had more political prisoners than all of the rest of Eastern Europe combined. Tito's secret police was modelled on the Soviet KGB. Its members were ever-present and they often acted extrajudicially, with victims including middle-class intellectuals, liberals and democrats. Yugoslavia was a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but scant regard was paid to some of its provisions.
According to Rummel, forced labor, executions and concentration camps were responsible for over one million deaths in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from 1948 to 1987. Others have estimated that in North Korea's concentration camps alone, 400,000 people died. A wide range of atrocities have been committed in the camps including forced abortions, infanticide and torture. Former International Criminal Court judge Thomas Buergenthal, who was one of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's authors and a child survivor of Auschwitz, told The Washington Post "that conditions in the [North] Korean prison camps are as terrible, or even worse, than those I saw and experienced in my youth in these Nazi camps and in my long professional career in the human rights field." Pierre Rigoulot estimates 100,000 executions, 1.5 million deaths through concentration camps and slave labor, and 500,000 deaths from famine.
The famine, which claimed as many as one million lives, has been described as the result of the economic policies of the North Korean government and deliberate "terror-starvation." In 2010, Steven Rosefielde stated that the "Red Holocaust" "still persists in North Korea" as Kim Jong Il "refuses to abandon mass killing." Adam Jones cites journalist Jasper Becker's claim that the famine was a form of mass killing or genocide due to political manipulations of the food. Estimates based on a North Korean 2008 census suggest 240,000 to 420,000 excess deaths as a result of the 1990s North Korean famine and a demographic impact of 600,000 to 850,000 fewer people in North Korea in 2008 as a result of poor living conditions after the famine.
Democratic Republic of Vietnam
Valentino attributes 80,000–200,000 deaths to "communist mass killings" in North and South Vietnam.
According to scholarship based on Vietnamese and Hungarian archival evidence, as many as 15,000 suspected landlords were executed during North Vietnam's land reform from 1953 to 1956.[by] The North Vietnamese leadership planned in advance to execute 0.1% of North Vietnam's population (estimated at 13.5 million in 1955) as "reactionary or evil landlords", although this ratio could vary in practice. Dramatic errors were committed in the course of the land reform campaign. Vu Tuong states that the number of executions during North Vietnam's land reform was proportionally comparable to executions during Chinese land reform from 1949 to 1952.
According to Jay Ulfelder and Benjamin Valentino, in research about assessing the risks of state-sponsored mass killing, where mass killing is defined as "the actions of state agents result[ing] in the intentional death of at least 1,000 noncombatants from a discrete group in a period of sustained violence", the Fidel Castro government of Cuba killed between 5,000 and 8,335 noncombatants as a part of the campaign of political repression between 1959 and 1970.
Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
According to Frank Wayman and Atsushi Tago, although frequently considered an example of communist genocide, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan represents a borderline case. Prior to the Soviet–Afghan War, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan executed between 10,000 and 27,000 people, mostly at Pul-e-Charkhi prison. Mass graves of executed prisoners have been exhumed dating back to the Soviet era.
After the invasion in 1979, the Soviets installed the puppet government of Babrak Karmal. By 1987, about 80% of the country's territory was permanently controlled by neither the pro-communist government and supporting Soviet troops nor by the armed opposition. To tip the balance, the Soviet Union used a tactic that was a combination of "scorched earth" policy and "migratory genocide". By systematically burning the crops and destroying villages in rebel provinces as well as by reprisal bombing entire villages suspected of harboring or supporting the resistance, the Soviets tried to force the local population to move to Soviet controlled territory, thereby depriving the armed opposition of support. Valentino attributes between 950,000 and 1,280,000 civilian deaths to the Soviet invasion and occupation of the country between 1978 and 1989, primarily as counter-guerrilla mass killing. By the early 1990s, approximately one-third of Afghanistan's population had fled the country.[bz] M. Hassan Kakar said that "the Afghans are among the latest victims of genocide by a superpower."
People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Amnesty International estimates that half a million people were killed during the Ethiopian Red Terror of 1977 and 1978. During the terror, groups of people were herded into churches that were then burned down and women were subjected to systematic rape by soldiers. The Save the Children Fund reported that victims of the Red Terror included not only adults, but 1,000 or more children, mostly aged between eleven and thirteen, whose corpses were left in the streets of Addis Ababa. Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam himself is alleged to have killed political opponents with his bare hands.
Debate over famines
According to historian J. Arch Getty, over half of the 100 million deaths which are attributed to communism were due to famines. Stéphane Courtois argues that many communist regimes caused famines in their efforts to forcibly collectivize agriculture and systematically used it as a weapon by controlling the food supply and distributing food on a political basis. Courtois states that "in the period after 1918, only Communist countries experienced such famines, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions, of people. And again in the 1980s, two African countries that claimed to be Marxist-Leninist, Ethiopia and Mozambique, were the only such countries to suffer these deadly famines."[ca]
Scholars Stephen G. Wheatcroft, R. W. Davies, and Mark Tauger reject the idea that the Ukrainian famine was an act of genocide that was intentionally inflicted by the Soviet government. Getty posits that the "overwhelming weight of opinion among scholars working in the new archives is that the terrible famine of the 1930s was the result of Stalinist bungling and rigidity rather than some genocidal plan". Russian novelist and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn opined on 2 April 2008 in Izvestia that the 1930s famine in the Ukraine was no different from the Russian famine of 1921 as both were caused by the ruthless robbery of peasants by Bolshevik grain procurements.
Pankaj Mishra questions Mao's direct responsibility for famine, noting: "A great many premature deaths also occurred in newly independent nations not ruled by erratic tyrants". Mishra cites Nobel laureate Amartya Sen's research demonstrating that democratic India suffered more excess mortality from starvation and disease in the second half of the 20th century than China did. Sen wrote that "India seems to manage to fill its cupboard with more skeletons every eight years than China put there in its years of shame".
Benjamin Valentino writes: "Although not all the deaths due to famine in these cases were intentional, communist leaders directed the worst effects of famine against their suspected enemies and used hunger as a weapon to force millions of people to conform to the directives of the state." Daniel Goldhagen says that in some cases deaths from famine should not be distinguished from mass murder: "Whenever governments have not alleviated famine conditions, political leaders decided not to say no to mass death – in other words, they said yes." He claims that instances of this occurred in the Mau Mau Rebellion, the Great Leap Forward, the Nigerian Civil War, the Eritrean War of Independence and the War in Darfur.
Authors including Seumas Milne and Jon Wiener have criticized the emphasis on communism when assigning blame for famines, noting the "moral blindness displayed towards the record of colonialism". Milne, in a 2002 Guardian piece, writes that "If Lenin and Stalin are regarded as having killed those who died of hunger in the famines of the 1920s and 1930s, then Churchill is certainly responsible for the 4 million deaths in the avoidable Bengal famine of 1943". He lamented that while "there is a much-lauded Black Book of Communism, [there exists] no such comprehensive indictment of the colonial record". Weiner makes a similar assertion while comparing the Holodomor and the Bengal famine of 1943, stating that Winston Churchill's role in the Bengal famine "seems similar to Stalin's role in the Ukrainian famine." Historian Mike Davis, author of Late Victorian Holocausts, draws comparisons between the Great Chinese Famine and the Indian famines of the late 19th century, arguing that in both instances the governments which oversaw the response to the famines deliberately chose not to alleviate conditions and as such bear responsibility for the scale of deaths in said famines.
British historian Michael Ellman is critical of the fixation on a "uniquely Stalinist evil" when it comes to excess deaths from famines. Ellman argues that mass deaths from famines are not a "uniquely Stalinist evil", noting that throughout Russian history, famines and droughts have been a common occurrence, including the Russian famine of 1921–22 (which occurred before Stalin came to power). He also notes that famines were widespread throughout the world in the 19th and 20th centuries in countries such as India, Ireland, Russia and China. According to Ellman, the G8 "are guilty of mass manslaughter or mass deaths from criminal negligence because of their not taking obvious measures to reduce mass deaths" and Stalin's "behaviour was no worse than that of many rulers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries."
Legal status and prosecutions
According to a 1992 constitutional amendment in the Czech Republic, a person who publicly denies, puts in doubt, approves, or tries to justify Nazi or communist genocide or other crimes of Nazis or communists will be punished with a prison term of 6 months to 3 years.
In 1992, Barbara Harff wrote that no communist country or governing body has ever been convicted of genocide. In his 1999 foreword to The Black Book of Communism, Martin Malia wrote: "Throughout the former Communist world, moreover, virtually none of its responsible officials has been put on trial or punished. Indeed, everywhere Communist parties, though usually under new names, compete in politics."
At the conclusion of a trial lasting from 1994 to 2006, Ethiopia's former ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam was convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by an Ethiopian court for his role in Ethiopia's Red Terror. Ethiopian law is distinct from the United Nations' Genocide Convention and other definitions in that it defines genocide as intent to wipe out political and not just ethnic groups. In this respect, it closely resembles the definition of politicide.
In 1997, the Cambodian government asked the United Nations for assistance in setting up the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The prosecution presented the names of five possible suspects to the investigating judges on July 18, 2007. On July 26, 2010, Kang Kek Iew (Comrade Duch), director of the S-21 prison camp in Democratic Kampuchea where more than 14,000 people were tortured and then murdered (mostly at nearby Choeung Ek), was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 35 years. His sentence was reduced to 19 years in part because he had been behind bars for 11 years. Nuon Chea, second in command of the Khmer Rouge and its most senior surviving member, was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not charged with genocide. On August 7, 2014, he was convicted of crimes against humanity by the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and received a life sentence. Khieu Samphan, the Khmer Rouge head of state, was also convicted of crimes against humanity. In 2018, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were convicted of genocide for "the attempted extermination of the Cham and Vietnamese minorities."
In August 2007, Arnold Meri, an Estonian Red Army veteran and cousin of former Estonian president Lennart Meri, faced charges of genocide by Estonian authorities for participating in the deportations of Estonians in Hiiumaa in 1949. Meri denied the accusation, characterizing them as politically motivated defamation, saying: "I do not consider myself guilty of genocide." The trial was halted when Meri died March 27, 2009 at the age of 89.
On November 26, 2010, the Russian State Duma issued a declaration acknowledging Stalin's responsibility for the Katyn massacre, the execution of over 21,000 Polish POW's and intellectual leaders by Stalin's NKVD. The declaration stated that archival material "not only unveils the scale of his horrific tragedy but also provides evidence that the Katyn crime was committed on direct orders from Stalin and other Soviet leaders."
Memorials and museums
Monuments to the victims of communism exist in almost all the capitals of Eastern Europe and there are also several museums which document the crimes which occurred during communist rule such as the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights in Lithuania, the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia in Riga and the House of Terror in Budapest, all three of these museums also document the crimes which occurred during Nazi rule.
In Washington D.C., a bronze statue which is modeled after the 1989 Tiananmen Square Goddess of Democracy sculpture was dedicated as the Victims of Communism Memorial in 2007, having been authorized by the Congress in 1993. The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation plans to build an International Museum on Communism in Washington.
In 2002, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism was unveiled in Prague. In Hungary, the Gloria Victis Memorial to honor "the 100 million victims of communism" was erected in 2006 on the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution.
As of 2008, Russia contained 627 memorials and memorial plaques which are dedicated to the victims of the communist terror, most of them were created by private citizens, but it did not have either a national monument or a national museum. The Wall of Grief in Moscow, inaugurated in October 2017, is Russia's first monument to the victims of political persecution by Joseph Stalin during the country's Soviet era.
In 2017, Canada's National Capital Commission approved the design of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism – Canada, a Land of Refuge which will be built on the Garden of the Provinces and Territories in Ottawa.
On August 23, 2018, Estonia's Victims of Communism 1940–1991 Memorial was inaugurated in Tallinn by President Kersti Kaljulaid. The memorial's construction was financed by the state and the memorial itself is currently being managed by the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory. The date of the opening ceremony was chosen because it coincided with the official European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Stalinism and Nazism.
- Communist movements and violence
- Mass killing of communists
- Violence by governments in general and comparative studies
Excerpts and notes
- ^ Krain 1997, pp. 331–332: "1. The literatures on state-sponsored mass murder and state terrorism have been plagued by definitional problems. Terms such as state-sponsored mass murder and state terrorism can be (and often are) easily confused and therefore need elaboration. The main difference between state-sponsored mass murder and state terrorism, for instance, is one of intentionality. The purpose behind policies of state-sponsored mass murder such as genocide or politicide is to eliminate an entire group (Gurr 1986, 67). The purpose behind policies of state terrorism is to 'induce sharp fear and through that agency to effect a desired outcome in a conflict situation' (Gurr 1986, 46). The former requires mass killings to accomplish its goal. The latter's success is dependent on the persuasiveness of the fear tactics used. Mass killings may not be necessary to accomplish the particular goal. [...] 2. Genocides are mass killings in which the victim group is defined by association with a particular communal group. Politicides are mass killings in which 'victim groups are defined primarily in terms of their hierarchical position or political opposition to the regime and dominant groups' (Harff and Gurr 1988, 360). Interestingly, many of the instances coded by Harff and Gurr as 'politicide' are considered by much of the literature to be instances of state terrorism (e.g., Argentina, Chile, El Salvador) (Lopez 1984, 63). Evidently there is some overlap between state terrorism and some kinds of state-sponsored mass murder."
- ^ Valentino 2005, p. 9: "Mass killing and Genocide. No generally accepted terminology exists to describe the intentional killing of large numbers of noncombatants."
- ^ Karlsson & Schoenhals 2008, p. 6: "‘Crimes against humanity’ is a linguistically and logically cumbersome term when the aim is to analyse physical violence perpetrated by individual groups, institutions and states against specific victim groups in their own country, which is essentially the case in the context of communist regimes’ crimes against humanity. In addition, it is not in keeping with the terms that have long been used by the academic community. Naturally, the work of creating an inventory includes examining the terms used in practice by researchers in their analyses, and it is reasonable to assume that every time, every society and every paradigm has its own terms to refer to the crimes of communist regimes. Nonetheless, it is possible to establish at this early stage that researchers have long used the word terror to describe the crimes of the Soviet communist regime, regardless of the framework of interpretation to which they adhere. Although the extent to which the mass operations and forced deportations of specific ethnic groups ordered by Stalin before and during the Second World War can be defined as genocide is debated, there is agreement among researchers that the term ‘terror’ is the best reflection of the development of violence in Bolshevik Russia and in the communist Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin. As a result, terror will be the term most frequently used here in analysing the Soviet communist criminal history. On the other hand, the term terror is seldom used to describe the mass killings in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, which may be because it is less clear that the actual intention and stated motive of the Khmer Rouge was to terrorise people into submission. The term genocide, however, is relatively widely accepted and established in describing the systematic and selective crimes of the communist regime in Cambodia, although the use of this term is not entirely uncontroversial. Therefore, in analysing the criminal history of Cambodia, this term will be used in precise contexts dealing with the killing of a category of people, whereas more neutral terms such as mass killing and massacre are used to refer to the general use of violence. The terminology used in the Chinese criminal history is dealt with in detail as part of the section on China." ... "In the Soviet case, as Klas-Göran Karlsson so rightly notes, there is an ‘established term’ for the crimes of the regime, namely ‘terror’ – and this is used almost regardless of the general frameworks of interpretation employed by individual researchers. In the same way, he notes that ‘the term genocide is established and accepted as a description of the crimes of the Khmer Rouge’. In the case of the People’s Republic of China, however, there are no equivalent terms that are accepted or generally established in the academic community and that can be made use of in a research inventory. Bibliographies and search engines all speak their own clear language: those who carried out research on Maoism in its day made very limited use of words such as terror and genocide, and neither do these terms appear among the key terms that carry implicit clear explanations and are therefore regularly used by current foreign and Chinese historians."
- ^ Semelin 2009, p. 318: "'Classicide', in counterpoint to genocide, has a certain appeal, but it doesn't convey the fact that communist regimes, beyond their intention of destroying 'classes' - a difficult notion to grasp in itself (what exactly is a 'kulak'?) - end up making political suspicion a rule of government: even within the Party (and perhaps even mainly within the Party). The notion of 'fratricide' is probably more appropriate in this regard. That of 'politicide', which Ted Gurr and Barbara Harff suggest, remains the most intelligent, although it implies by contrast that 'genocide' is not 'political', which is debatable. These authors in effect explain that the aim of politicide is to impose total political domination over a group or a government. Its victims are defined by their position in the social hierarchy or their political opposition to the regime or this dominant group. Such an approach applies well to the political violence of communist powers and more particularly to Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea. The French historian Henri Locard in fact emphasises this, identifying with Gurr and Harff's approach in his work on Cambodia. However, the term 'politicide' has little currency among some researchers because it has no legal validity in international law. That is one reason why Jean-Louis Margolin tends to recognise what happened in Cambodia as 'genocide' because, as he points out, to speak of 'politicide' amounts to considering Pol Pot's crimes as less grave than those of Hitler. Again, the weight of justice interferes in the debate about concepts that, once again, argue strongly in favour of using the word genocide. But those so concerned about the issue of legal sanctions should also take into account another legal concept that is just as powerful, and better established: that of crime against humanity. In fact, legal scholars such as Antoine Garapon and David Boyle believe that the violence perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge is much more appropriately categorised under the heading of crime against humanity, even if genocidal tendencies can be identified, particularly against the Muslim minority. This accusation is just as serious as that of genocide (the latter moreover being sometimes considered as a subcategory of the former) and should thus be subject to equally severe sentences. I quite agree with these legal scholars, believing that the notion of 'crime against humanity' is generally better suited to the violence perpetrated by communist regimes, a viewpoint shared by Michael Mann."
- ^ Su 2011, pp. 7–8: "Killing civilians in large numbers is an age-old phenomenon. Since World War II, its conceptualization has been shaped by the enormity of the Holocaust, in which Hitler and the Nazi regime killed more than six million Jews. In 1948, the United Nations (UN) passed the 'Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.' Lemkin and other framers clearly had the Holocaust in mind when they defined genocide as an act of a nation-state to eliminate an ethnic or national group. Other conceptions of genocide are also preoccupied by central state politics, state-led exterminations, and institutionalized state killers. Later scholars expanded the concept to include cases in which victims are defined other than by ethnic, national, or religious characteristics. Valentino uses the term mass killing instead, and defines it as 'the intentional killing of a massive number of noncombatants.' Other concepts such as politicide, democide, and classicide were developed to address killings in communist countries."
- ^ Weiss-Wendt 2008, p. 42: "The field of comparative genocide studies has grown beyond recognition over the past two decades, though more quantitatively than qualitatively. On the surface, everything looks good: the number of books on genocide has tripled within less than a decade; the field of comparative genocide studies has its own professional association and journals; more and more colleges and universities offer courses on genocide; several research institutions dedicated to the study of genocide have been established. If we are talking numbers, comparative genocide studies are indeed a success. Upon closer examination, however, genocide scholarship is ridden with contradictions. There is barely any other field of study that enjoys so little consensus on defining principles such as definition of genocide, typology, application of a comparative method, and timeframe. Considering that scholars have always put stress on prevention of genocide, comparative genocide studies have been a failure. Paradoxically, nobody has attempted so far to assess the field of comparative genocide studies as a whole. This is one of the reasons why those who define themselves as genocide scholars have not been able to detect the situation of crisis."
- ^ Ott 2011, p. 53: "As is customary in the literature on mass killing of civilians there is a need to restate here what mass killing is about. Although many definitions have been used - 'genocide', 'politicide' and 'democide' - there has emerged a sort of consensus that the term 'mass killing' is much more straightforward than either genocide or politicide. Harff (2003) makes a clear distinction from genocide, often used interchangeably with mass killing, by emphasizing the intention of the perpetrator. He posits: 'genocide as an authority group's sustained purposeful implementation or facilitation of policies designed to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group' (Harff, 2003, p. 58). Although this definition encompasses the ethnic population, the emphasis here is on the objective function of the authority, which is the destruction in whole or part of the intended group. The second definition, politicide, limits the annihilation to a specific group. Politicide pertains when the victimized group is identified by its political opposition to the dominant party, rather than other communal characteristics (Harff, 2003, p. 58). Rummel (1995) advanced the democide label. It is defined as the 'murder of any person or people by a government including genocide, politicide and mass murder' (p. 3)."
- ^ Staub 2011, p. 100: "In contrast to genocide, I see mass killing as 'killing (or in other ways destroying) members of a group without the intention to eliminate the whole group, or killing large numbers of people' without a focus on group membership."
- ^ Charny 1999: In the Encyclopedia of Genocide (1999), Israel Charny defined generic genocide as "the mass killing of substantial numbers of human beings, when not in the course of military action against the military forces of an avowed enemy, under conditions of the essential defenselessness and helplessness of the victims."; Easterly, Gatti & Kurlat 2006, pp. 129–156: In the 2006 article "Development, democracy, and mass killings", William Easterly, Roberta Gatti and Sergio Kurlat adopted Charny's definition of generic genocide for their use of "mass killing" and "massacre" to avoid the politics of the term "genocide" altogether.
- ^ Ulfelder & Valentino 2008, p. 2: "The research described here sprang from an interest in observing and assessing the risk of extreme human-rights violations in the form of large-scale violence perpetrated by states against noncombatant civilians. Researchers working in this area usually use the terms "genocide" or "mass killing" to label their subject of interest, but the definitions of those terms remain a source of heated debate among scholars, international lawyers, and policy-makers.
Cognizant of these debates, we considered numerous strategies for defining and observing our phenomenon of interest. Unfortunately, none captured the range of events that we wished to explore as completely and objectively as does a simple numerical threshold of civilian fatalities. For purposes of this research, then, we defined a mass killing as any event in which the actions of state agents result in the intentional death of at least 1,000 noncombatants from a discrete group in a period of sustained violence."
- ^ a b Bellamy 2010, p. 102: "If we look at mass killing since 1945 perpetrated by non-democratic states outside the context of war, we find two basic types of case. The first involved revolutionary communist governments implementing their plans for radical transformation. Over one-third of all the relevant cases (14 of the 38 episodes) were perpetrated by communist governments. According to Benjamin Valentino, communist governments were so exceptionally violent because the social transformations they attempted to engineer required the material dispossession of vast numbers of people. The most radical of these regimes, in China, Cambodia, and North Korea, attempted to completely reorient society, eradicating traditional patterns of life and forcibly imposing a new and alien way of life. Communist objectives, Valentino points out, could only be achieved with violence and the scale of the transformation dictated a massive amount of violence. Of course, communist revolutions also elicited resistance, prompting the state into massive and bloody crackdowns and generating a culture of paranoia which led many regimes to periodically purge their own ranks (China's 'cultural revolution' being a good example). In communist ideology, the good of the party was associated with the national interest, individuals were divested of rights and subordinated to the will of the party leadership, and entire groups (e.g. kulaks in the Soviet Union, merchants and intellectuals in Cambodia) were deemed 'class enemies' that could be eradicated en masse to protect the revolution."
- ^ Wayman & Tago 2010, pp. 4, 11, 12–13: "Our term, 'mass killing', is used by Valentino (2004: 10), who aptly defines it as 'the intentional killing of a massive number of noncombatants'. The word 'noncombatants' distinguishes mass killing from battle-deaths in war, which occur as combatants fight against each other. The 'massive number' he selects as the threshold to mass killing is 'at least fifty thousand intentional deaths over the course of five or fewer years' (Valentino, 2004: 11-12), which of course averages to at least 10,000 killed per year." ... " One reason for selecting these thresholds of 10,000 and 1,000 deaths per year is that we find that in the Harff data on geno-politicide, which are one of our key datasets, there are many cases of over 10,000 killed per year, but also some in which between 1,000 and 10,000 are killed per year. Therefore, analyzing at a 1,000-death threshold (as well as the 10,000 threshold) insures the inclusion of all the Harff cases. Valentino chooses 50,000 over five years as 'to some extent arbitrary', but a 'relatively high threshold' to create high confidence that mass killing did occur and was deliberate, 'given the generally poor quality of the data available on civilian fatalities' (Valentino, 2004: 12). We believe that our similar results, when we lower the threshold to 1,000 killed per year, are an indication that the data in Harff and in Rummel remain reliable down even one power of ten below Valentino's 'relatively high' selected threshold, and we hope that, in that sense, our results can be seen as a friendly amendment to his work, and that they basically lend confidence, based on empirical statistical backing, for the conceptual direction which he elected to take." ... "Within that constant research design, we then showed that the differences were not due to threshold either (over 10,000 killed per year; over 1,000; or over 1). The only remaining difference is the measure of mass killing itself - democide vs. geno-politicide. We have further shown that (although the onset years vary from Harff to Rummel), when one looks at which sovereign states were involved (and the approximate onset year), the geno politicide data is basically a proper subset of the democide data (as one would expect by the addition of the need to show specific intent in geno-politicide). It would therefore appear (assuming for the moment that there are not any big measurement biases) that autocratic regimes, especially communist, are prone to mass killing generically, but not so strongly inclined (i.e. not statistically significantly inclined) toward geno-politicide."
- ^ Su 2003, p. 4: "Following Valentino (1998), I define mass killing in this paper as 'the intentional killing of a significant number of the members of any group (as group and its membership are defined by the perpetrator) of non-combatants' (1998:4). A few elements of this definition are worth further discussion. First, identification of the victim is based on 'membership,' as opposed to one that is based on immediate threat. In the case of Cultural Revolution, the membership is based on political standards as opposed to ascriptive traces such as race and ethnicity.4 Second, the intent to kill is imputable in the perpetrator. This separates mass killing from other causes of deaths in the Cultural Revolution such as death resulting from on-stage beating or off-stage beating. In on-stage beating the intention was not to kill but to convey a symbolic message and to humiliate the victims, and the main purpose of off-stage torture for confession was clearly to force a confession. Mass killing also differs from casualties of armed battles, a widespread phenomenon occurring in the earlier stage of the Cultural Revolution. Finally, the criterion of 'a significant number' indicates some concentration in terms of time and space of the killing. To use a hypothetical example, we should not judge that mass killings occur if 180 villages of a county kill one person in each village, but we should do so if one of the villages kills more than ten people within one day."
- ^ Su 2011, p. 13: "In another conceptual departure from standard scholarship, I use the term collective killing as opposed to genocide or mass killing. This concept shares three basic premises with genocide or mass killing. First, the criteria for becoming a victim are not about deeds but rather with membership in a group. Second, the killing must be intentional, which is distinct from acts of endangerment that carry no goal of killing in the first place. Using torture to elicit confessions, for example, may cause significant numbers of deaths. Third, the number of victims must reach a certain level. This aspect is very much related to the first premise regarding membership: Individuals are rounded up because they are members of a particular group, which by definition results in a collective of victims. I replace the word mass with collective for analysis of units smaller than a country as a whole, for example, county. Collective killings may occur in smaller areas without meeting the criteria suggested by Valentino of 'at least fifty thousand intentional deaths over the course of five or fewer years.' With this more fine-grained conceptual approach, it is also possible to compare collective killings across counties, townships, and villages."
- ^ a b Harff 2003, p. 58: "First, the Convention does not include groups of victims defined by their political position or actions. Raphael Lemkin (1944) coined the term genocide and later sought the support of as many states as possible for a legal document that would outlaw mass killings and prescribe sanctions against potential perpetrators. Because the first draft of the Convention, which included political groups, was rejected by the USSR and its allies, the final draft omitted any reference to political mass murder (Le Blanc 1988). The concept of politicide is used here to encompass cases with politically defined victims, consistent with Fein’s (1993b, 12) line of reasoning that “mass killings of political groups show similarities in their causes, organization and motives.”"
- ^ Williams 2008, p. 190: "A vital element of the evolution of genocide studies is the increased attention devoted to the mass killing of groups not primarily defined by ethnic or religious identities. Most vulnerable minorities around the world had been so defined when Lemkin was crafting his genocide framework, and when UN member states were drafting the Genocide Convention. Such groups continued to be targeted in the post-Second World War period, as in East Pakistan/ Bangladesh in 1971, or Guatemala between 1978 and 1984. But it became increasingly apparent that political groups were on the receiving end of some of the worst campaigns of mass killing, such as the devastating assault on the Indonesian Communist Party in 1965—1966 (with half a million to one million killed), and the brutal campaigns by Latin American and Asian military regimes against perceived dissidents in the 1970s and 1980s.
One result of this re-evaluation was that the mass killing by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia between 1975 and 1978, previously ruled out as genocide or designated an 'auto-genocide' because most victims belonged to the same ethnic-Khmer group as their killers, came to be accepted as a classic instance of twentieth-century genocide. Detailed investigations were also launched into the hecatombs of casualties inflicted under Leninism and Stalinism in the post-revolutionary Soviet Union, and by Mao Zedong's communists in China. In both of these cases—and to some degree in Cambodia as well—the majority of deaths resulted not from direct execution, but from the infliction of 'conditions of life calculated to bring about [the] physical destruction' of a group, in the language of Article II(c) of the Genocide Convention. In particular, the devastating famines that struck the Ukraine and other minority regions of the USSR in the early 1930s, and the even greater death-toll—numbering tens of millions—caused by famine during Mao's 'Great Leap Forward' (1958—1962), were increasingly, though not uncontroversially, depicted as instances of mass killing underpinned by genocidal intent."
- ^ Wayman & Tago 2010, p. 4: "The two important scholars who have created datasets related to this are Rummel (1995) and Harff (2003). Harff (sometimes with Gurr) has studied what she terms 'genocide and politicide', defined to be genocide by killing as understood by the Genocide Convention plus the killing of a political or economic group (Harff & Gurr, 1988); the combined list of genocides is sometimes labeled 'geno-politicide' for short. Rummel (1994, 1995) has a very similar concept, 'democide', which includes such genocide and geno-politicide done by the government forces, plus other killing by government forces, such as random killing not targeted at a particular group. As Rummel (1995: 3-4) says, 'Cold-blooded government killing ... extends beyond genocide'; For example, 'shooting political opponents; or murdering by quota'. Hence, 'to cover all such murder as well as genocide and politicide, I use the concept democide. This is the intentional killing of people by government' (Rummel, 1995: 4). So Rummel has a broader concept than geno-politicide, but one that seems to include geno-politicide as a proper subset."
- ^ Midlarsky 2005, pp. 22, 309, 310: "I distinguish between genocide as the systematic mass murder of people based on ethnoreligious identity, and politicide as the large-scale killing of designated enemies of the state based on socioeconomic or political criteria. Although genocide can be understood to be a species of politicide (but not the converse), in practice, genocidal (i.e., ethnoreligious) killings tap into much deeper historical roots of the human condition. In this distinction, I follow Harff and Gurr 1988, 360." ... "Turning to Cambodia, the mass killings in that country during Pol Pot's murderous regime are often characterized with other seemingly identical circumstances. Cambodia and Rwanda, for example, are typically treated as genocides that differ little from each other in essential characteristics. However, the victimization rates for the two countries are similar only when treated as proportions of the total country population systematically murdered. Although the mass murders in Cambodia are frequently characterized as genocide, I argue that in fact genocidal activity was only a small proportion of the killing and that the vast majority of Cambodians died in a politicide, substantially different in origin from the genocides we have been examining. The matter of etiology lies at the root of my distinction here, not definitional semantics. If we lump the Cambodian case other instances of systematized mass murder, then the sources of all of them become hopelessly muddled." ... "Essentially, I argue that genocides stem from a primitive identification of the "collective enemy" in Carl Schmitt's sense, whereas politicides, at least of the Cambodian variety, are attributable to more detailed ideological considerations. Further, the Cambodian case falls under the rubric of state killings, having a particular affinity with earlier practices in the Soviet Union and China. Indeed, an arc of Communist politicide can be traced from the western portions of the Soviet Union to China and on to Cambodia. Not all Communist states participated in extensive politicide, but the particular circumstances of Cambodia in 1975 lent themselves to the commission of systematic mass murder. Because an element of Cambodian state insecurity existed in this period, especially vis-à-vis Vietnam, a genocidal element is found in the killing of non-Khmer peoples such as the Vietnamese, who comprised a small proportion of the total."
- ^ Rummel 1993: "First, however, I should clarify the term democide. It means for governments what murder means for an individual under municipal law. It is the premeditated killing of a person in cold blood, or causing the death of a person through reckless and wanton disregard for their life. Thus, a government incarcerating people in a prison under such deadly conditions that they die in a few years is murder by the state--democide--as would parents letting a child die from malnutrition and exposure be murder. So would government forced labor that kills a person within months or a couple of years be murder. So would government created famines that then are ignored or knowingly aggravated by government action be murder of those who starve to death. And obviously, extrajudicial executions, death by torture, government massacres, and all genocidal killing be murder. However, judicial executions for crimes that internationally would be considered capital offenses, such as for murder or treason (as long as it is clear that these are not fabricated for the purpose of executing the accused, as in communist show trials), are not democide. Nor is democide the killing of enemy soldiers in combat or of armed rebels, nor of noncombatants as a result of military action against military targets."
- ^ a b Hackmann 2009: "A coining of communism as “red Holocaust,” as had been suggested by the Munich Institut fur Zeitgeschichte, did not find much ground, neither in Germany nor elsewhere in international discussions."
- ^ Rosefielde 2010, p. 3: "The Red Holocaust could be defined to include all murders (judicially sanctioned terror-executions), criminal manslaughter (lethal forced labor and ethnic cleansing) and felonious negligent homicide (terror-starvation) incurred from insurrectionary actions and civil wars prior to state seizure, and all subsequent felonious state killings. This treatise, however, limits the Red Holocaust death toll to peacetime state killings, even if communists were responsible for political assassinations, insurrections and civil wars before achieving power, in order to highlight the causal significance of communist economic systems. It also excludes deaths attributable to wartime hostilities after states were founded. As a matter of accounting, the convention excludes Soviet killings before 1929, during World War II (1940-45) and in Germany, occupied Europe, North Korea, Manchuria and the Kuril Islands (1946-53). Killings in China before October 1949 are similarly excluded, as are those in Indochina before 1954. Soviet slaughter of nobles, kulaks, capitalist and the bourgeoisie during War Communism are part of the excluded wartime group, but killings of similar social categories in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia after their civil wars in the process of Communist consolidation are included. The summary casualty statistics reported in Table 11.1 conform with this definition and in principle only reflect excess deaths, excluding natural mortality. It provides a comprehensive picture of discretionary communist killings unobscured by wartime exigencies. Others desiring a broader body count to assess the fullest extent of communist carnage can easily supplement the estimates provided here from standard sources."
- ^ Shafir 2016, p. 64: "Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine, who was among the first Western authors to analyze this postcommunist trend in Romania, was noting back in 1999 that "The pathos, indeed the intentionally provocative tone of the militant parallelism [between Nazism and communism]" makes use of the term "Red Holocaust" primarily in order to utilize a notion (Holocaust) that "allows the reality it describes to immediately attain, in the Western mind, a status equal to that of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazi regime." Furthermore, "the spirit of the wording is one of a claim of victimization careful to legitimize itself in a sort of mimetic rivalry with Jewish memory." That is the competitive martyrdom component of Double Genocide. But Laignel-Lavastine’s intuitive article also alludes to an ideological basis at the foundations of such efforts. In her opinion, postcommunist Romanian historiography had been captured by (both inter-war and national-communist) ideology."
- ^ Voicu 2018, p. 46: "Beginning in the 1990s the notion of a "red Holocaust" (or a "communist Holocaust") was forged in order to establish--including at the level of terminology--the similarity of the two tragedies. The concept of Holocaust, specific to the history of European Jews (and Roma people and other social categories), was thus extracted from its customary register and used to define a different historical experience with its own specific traits. Leon Volovici rightfully condemned the abusive use of this concept as an attempt to "usurp" and undermine a symbol specific to the history of European Jews. As many of those who use the term "red Holocaust" (and other terms along the same lines, such as "the Holocaust of Romanian culture" and "the Holocaust of Romanian people") do so with antisemitic rancor, claiming that the authors of this "Holocaust" are none other than the Jews, the reason for the hijacking of the term becomes clear: to place the blame on Jews and to manufacture an alternate history.
It should be noted that the intelligentsia at the top of Romanian culture does not use the expression "red Holocaust" systematically, but rather accidentally. Gabriela Adameșteanu and Rodica Palade, for instance, once considered this syntagma an innocent "metaphor" that could be used legitimately and fruitfully in the debate about the crimes of the communist regime. However, the two journalists--who at the time they supported this syntagma were at the helm of Revista 22--did not use the expression in later publications. From time to time, the syntagma was used by other intellectuals, too, but most of them have recognized its traps and intentions. Yet, while it is no longer part of their usual vocabulary, something of its spirit is still present in the positions they adopt."
- ^ Semelin 2009, p. 37: "Mann thus establishes a sort of parallel between racial enemies and class enemies, thereby contributing to the debates on comparisons between Nazism and communism. This theory has also been developed by some French historians such as Stéphane Courtois and Jean-Louis Margolin in The Black Book of Communism: they view class genocide as the equivalent to racial genocide. Mann however refuses to use the term 'genocide' to describe the crimes committed under communism. He prefers the terms 'fratricide' and 'classicide', a word he coined to refer to intentional mass killings of entire social classes."
- ^ Rummel 1993: "Even were we to have total access to all communist archives we still would not be able to calculate precisely how many the communists murdered. Consider that even in spite of the archival statistics and detailed reports of survivors, the best experts still disagree by over 40 percent on the total number of Jews killed by the Nazis. We cannot expect near this accuracy for the victims of communism. We can, however, get a probable order of magnitude and a relative approximation of these deaths within a most likely range."
- ^ a b Bradley 2017, pp. 151–153: "The relationship between human rights and communism in both theory and practice has often been in tension. In the ideational realm, Karl Marx famously dismissed the rights of man as a bourgeois fantasy that masked the systemic inequality of the capitalist system. 'None of the supposed rights of man,' Marx wrote, 'go beyond the egoistic man, man as he is, as a member of civil society ... withdrawn into himself, wholly preoccupied with his private interest and acting in accordance with his private caprice.' Rights and liberties in bourgeois society, he argued, provided only an illusory unity behind which social conflict and inequalities deepened. Rhetorically, the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China and most of the rest of the communist world followed Marx's lead. As the Chinese argued in 1961, 'the 'human rights' referred to by bourgeois international law and the 'human rights' it intends to protect are the rights of the bourgeoisie to enslave and to oppress the labouring people ... [and] provide pretexts for imperialist opposition to socialist and nationalist countries. They are reactionary from head to toe.' Rejecting Enlightenment-era inalienable individual political and civil rights, communist states instead championed collective economic and social rights. The Soviets grew fond of annually celebrating International Human Rights Day, to mark the anniversary of the 1948 adoption of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by offering lectures to its citizens that contrasted the promotion of socialist rights in the Soviet Union with their violations in the capitalist world.
And yet state-orchestrated mass killings and what have come to be called gross violations of human rights were at times almost commonplace in communist-led states. Between 1933 and 1945, more than a million people died in the Soviet Gulag system and likely at least 6 million more in politically induced Soviet famines, Stalin's mass executions in the great terror and in what Timothy Snyder has termed the 'bloodlands' of Poland, the Baltic states, Ukraine, Belarus and the western edges of Russia. In Mao's China, as many as 45 million Chinese died of famine during the Great Leap Forward, while some 2.5 million were killed or tortured to death. During the Cultural Revolution, between 750,000 and 1.5 million were killed. In Pol Pot's Cambodia, 200,000 were executed and between 1.4 million and 2.2 million of the country's 7 million people died of disease and starvation. If the precise numbers have always been, and continue to be, in dispute, their order of magnitude is not.
In fact the entanglements between human rights and communism in the twentieth century were more ambiguous than the chasm between ideology and these staggering numbers would suggest. The meanings of human rights themselves remained unstable over much of the second half of the century, as did the actors in the communist world who engaged with them. What promises of global human rights like those contained in the Universal Declaration might portend and the very claims about what constituted human rights were not fixed. Nor was the significance of human rights for the making of international politics or local lives as they were lived on the ground at all clear. The relationship between human rights and international communism after 1945 became fluid. In the immediate postwar period, the Soviet Union played an active role in the creation of a global human rights order in the drafting of the Universal Declaration and the Genocide Convention and participating in the Nuremberg Trials. With the coming of decolonization, the Soviets and the Chinese would also help to open out the meanings of international human rights toward the rights of postcolonial self-determination and development. But human rights in the communist world largely became a polemical state posture within the broader Cold War ideological struggle. Indeed, the international project of human rights itself became a muted practice by the 1950s."
- ^ Culbertson 1978, pp. 10–11: "Available evidence indicates that perhaps 100 million persons have been destroyed by the Communists; the imperviousness of the Iron and Bamboo curtains prevents a more definitive figure. The Communist system of forced starvation, concentration camps, and slave labor is remarkably similar to that of the Nazis, whose policies claimed approximately six million Jewish victims." ... "This is an incomplete accounting of Communist genocide. Since the Russian Revolution 61 years ago communism has been responsible for the death of 100 million innocent persons - not including the terrorism inspired by Communists in free countries. The total cost of human suffering and grief is beyond comprehension."
- ^ a b c Valentino 2005, p. 275: "Rudolph J. Rummel, Death by Government (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1994), p. 15. A team of six French historians coordinated by Stéphane Courtois estimates that communist regimes are responsible for between 85 and 100 million deaths. See Martin Malia, "Foreword: The Uses of Atrocity," in Stéphane Courtois et.al., The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), p. x. Zbigniew Brzezinski estimates that "the failed effort to build communism" cost the lives of almost sixty million people. See Zbigniew Brzezinski, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the Twenty-First Century (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1993), p. 16. Matthew White estimates eighty-one million deaths from communist "genocide and tyranny" and "man-made famine." See Matthew White, "Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century," http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat8.htm [June 2002]. Todd Culbertson estimates that communist regimes killed "perhaps 100 million" people. See Todd Culbertson, "The Human Cost of World Communism," Human Events, August 19, 1978, pp. 10-11. These estimates should be considered at the highest end of the plausible range of deaths attributable to communist regimes."
- ^ Lenczowski 1985: "The human cost of communism exceeds most Americans' expectations. The number of people murdered by communist regimes is estimated at between 60 million and 150 million, with the higher figure probably more accurate in light of recent scholarship. The greatest tide of refugees in world history flows from communist states to noncommunist ones: Today it comes from Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Indochina, East Europe, and Nicaragua. (During the entire Vietnam war there was nary a refugee fleeing from Indochina. It was not until communism triumphed that life became so unbearable that people who could withstand decades of war fled to the seas.) Communism invented the concentration camp. Millions have been imprisoned and executed, have worked and starved to death, in these camps. Communist regimes will not permit enterprising Western reporters near these camps, so you don't hear about them on the news. Communist regimes recognize no restraint on their absolute power. From this they establish ideological falsehoods as the standards of right and wrong and the standards by which deviationism is measured; from this stems the systematic denial of all individual human rights. The quality of life always deteriorates under communism: the militarization of society; the destruction of the consumer economy; the rationing of food; the deterioration of housing and insufficient new construction to meet population growth; the destruction of medical care through lack of medicine and medical supplies; the destruction of religion; the destruction and political control of education and culture; the rewriting of history and destruction of monuments to the national heritage; and the assault on family life and parental jurisdiction over children."
- ^ Brzezinski 2010, pp. 12–16: "Because of Lenin - through mass executions during and after civil war, through massive deaths in the Gulag initiated under Lenin's direction (and powerfully documented in Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago), and through mass famines induced by ruthless indifference (with Lenin callously dismissing as unimportant the deaths of 'the half-savage, stupid, difficult people of the Russian villages') - it can be estimated that between 6-8,000,000 people perished.
That number subsequently was more or less tripled by Stalin, who caused, it has been conservatively estimated, the deaths of no less than 20,000,000 people, and perhaps even upward of 25,000,000." ... "Though the precise figures for Stalin's toll will never be available, it is unlikely that the range of 20-25,000,000 victims is an exaggeration. Census statistics also indicate that additionally the biological depletion of the Soviet population during Stalin's reign was even higher. The estimated number of killings cited above, in any case, accounts for Stalin's direct genocide. Demographic depletion - because of reduced birthrates, loss of offspring because of higher infant mortality, births that did not take place because of imprisonment of a would-be parent, etc. - certainly had to be in excess of even the enormous toll directly attributable to Stalin personally." ... "Accounting for the human losses in China during the most violent phases of the communist experiment is an even more difficult task. Unlike the exposure of Stalin's crimes in the Soviet Union (and the much delayed and the still somewhat reticent exposure of Lenin's crimes), the Chinese regime persists in regarding the Maoist phase as relatively sacrosanct, with its killings justified but with their scale kept secret. The only exception is the cultural revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s, from which the current Chinese rulers suffered directly. For this phase of internal violence some estimates have surfaced, and they suggest deaths on the scale of 1-2,000,000.
For the earlier phases, notably the 1950s, there have been broad estimates of as many as several million executed as 'enemies of the people' - mostly landlords and richer bourgeoisie as well as former Kuomintang officials and officers. In addition, the figure of up to 27,000,000 peasants who perished as a consequence of the forcible collectivization has often been cited. Given the size of the Chinese population, and the indifference to human life of the current regime, the estimate of about 29,000,000 as the human cost of the communist era is in all probability on the low side, especially as it does not take into account the net loss to China's population because of the demographic impact of such mass killings.
This ghastly ledger would not be complete without some accounting of the price in human lives paid for the attempts to construct communist utopias in Eastern Europe, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Cuba. It is a safe estimate that these consumed at least 3,000,000 victims, with Cambodia under Pol Pot alone accounting for one-third. Thus the total might actually be higher. In brief, the failed effort to build communism in the twentieth century consumed the lives of almost 60,000,000 human beings, making communism the most costly human failure in all of history."
- ^ Courtois 1999, p. 4: "Thus we have delimited crimes against civilians as the essence of the phenomenon of terror. These crimes tend to fit a recognizable pattern even if the practices vary to some extent by regime. The pattern includes execution by various means, such as firing squads, hanging, drowning, battering, and, in certain cases, gassing, poisoning, or 'car accidents'; destruction of the population by starvation, through man-made famine, the withholding of food, or both; deportation, through which death can occur in transit (either through physical exhaustion or through confinement in an enclosed space), at one's place of residence, or through forced labor (exhaustion, illness, hunger, cold). Periods described as times of 'civil war' are more complex - it is not always easy to distinguish between events caused by fighting between rulers and rebels and events that can be properly described only as a massacre of the civilian population.
Nonetheless, we have to start somewhere. The following rough approximation, based on unofficial estimates, gives some sense of the scale and gravity of these crimes:
- USSR: 20 million deaths
- China: 65 million deaths
- Vietnam: 1 million deaths
- North Korea: 2 million deaths
- Cambodia: 2 million deaths
- Eastern Europe: 1 million deaths
- Latin America: 150,000 deaths
- Africa: 1.7 million deaths
- Afghanistan: 1.5 million deaths
- the international Communist movement and Communist parties not in power: about 10,000 deaths."
- ^ Malia 1999, p. x: "The Black Book offers us the first attempt to determine, overall, the actual magnitude of what occurred, by systematically detailing Leninism's "crimes, terror, and repression" from Russia in 1917 to Afghanistan in 1989.
This factual approach puts Communism in what is, after all, its basic human perspective. For it was in truth a "tragedy of planetary dimensions" (in the French publisher's characterization), with a grand total of victims variously estimated by contributors to the volume at between 85 million and 100 million. Either way, the Communist record offers the most colossal case of political carnage in history. And when this fact began to sink in with the French public, an apparently dry academic work became a publishing sensation, the focus of impassioned political and intellectual debate.
The shocking dimensions of the Communist tragedy, however, are hardly news to any serious student of twentieth-century history, at least when the different Leninist regimes are taken individually. The real news is that at this late date the truth should come as such a shock to the public at large."
- ^ a b Valentino 2005, p. 91: "Communist regimes have been responsible for this century's most deadly episodes of mass killing. Estimates of the total number of people killed by communist regimes range as high as 110 million. In this chapter I focus primarily on mass killings in the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia - history's most murderous communist states. Communist violence in these three states alone may account for between 21 million and 70 million deaths. Mass killings on a smaller scale also appear to have been carried out by communist regimes in North Korea, Vietnam, Eastern Europe, and Africa."
- ^ Valentino 2005, p. 75: Table 2:
Communist Mass Killings in the Twentieth Century
- Soviet Union (1917-23) ... 250,000-2,500,000
- Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (1927-45) ... 10,000,000-20,000,000
- China (including Tibet) (1949-72) ... 10,000,000-46,000,000
- Cambodia (1975-79) ... 1,000,000-2,000,000
"Note: All figures in this and subsequent tables are author's estimates based on numerous sources. Episodes are listed under the heading 'possible cases' in this and subsequent tables when the available evidence suggests a mass killing may have occurred, but documentation is insufficient to make a definitive judgement regarding the number of people killed, the intentionality of the killing, or the motives of the perpetrators."
- Possible cases:
- Bulgaria (1944-?) ... 50,000-100,000
- East Germany (1945-?) ... 80,000-100,000
- Romania (1945-?) ... 60,000-300,000
- North Korea (1945-?) ... 400,000-1,500,000
- North and South Vietnam (1953-?) ... 80,000-200,000
- ^ White 2011, pp. 455–456: "For those who prefer totals broken down by country, here are reasonable estimates for the number of people who died under Communist regimes from execution, labor camps, famine, ethnic cleansing, and desperate flight in leaky boats:
(This rough total doesn't include the 20 million killed in the civil wars that brought Communists into power, or the 11 million who died in the proxy wars of the Cold War. Both sides probably share the blame for these to a certain extent. These two categories overlap somewhat, so once the duplicates are weeded out, it seems that some 26 million people died in Communist-inspired wars.)"
- China: 40,000,000
- Soviet Union: 20,000,000
- North Korea: 3,000,000
- Ethiopia: 2,000,000
- Cambodia: 1,700,000
- Vietnam: 365,000 (after 1975)
- Yugoslavia: 175,000
- East Germany: 100,000
- Romania: 100,000
- North Vietnam: 50,000 (internally, 1954-75)
- Cuba: 50,000
- Mongolia: 35,000
- Poland: 30,000
- Bulgaria: 20,000
- Czechoslovakia: 11,000
- Albania: 5,000
- Hungary: 5,000
- Rough Total: 70 million
- ^ Bellamy 2012, p. 949: "Between 1945 and 1989, communist regimes massacred literally millions of civilians. A conservative estimate puts the total number of civilians deliberately killed by communists after the Second World War between 6.7 million and 15.5 million people, with the true figure probably much higher. Communist governments in China and Cambodia embarked on programs of radical social transformation and killed, tortured or allowed to starve whole groups that were thought hostile to change or simply unworthy of life. In the Soviet Union, Albania, North Korea, East Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Yugoslavia and China, communist governments used sometimes massive levels of indiscriminate violence against civilians to deter and defeat actual and imagined opponents and/or exact revenge for the Second World War. Where communist governments were violently challenged, they exhibited little concern for civilian immunity, as evidenced by the Soviet assaults on Hungary and Afghanistan and North Korea’s conduct in the Korean War. Finally, communism spawned violent non-state actors, such as the Red Brigades and Bader-Meinhoffer gang in Europe, Shining Path in Peru, and FARC in Colombia, all of which deliberately targeted non-combatants."
- ^ Strauss 2014, pp. 360–361: "For some areas, there is now a beginning of scholarly convergence on raw numbers. Most are now willing to accept a rough number of around 20 million including famine victims for the Soviet Union, and provisionally somewhere between 2 and 3 million for Cambodia, of whom roughly half were executed outright. In other environments such as China, there is still little consensus on numbers of total victims of Maoist revolutionary policies; for the Great Leap Forward alone, estimates of excess deaths range from 15 to 40 million."
- ^ Dissident 2016: "A brief survey returns the following high and low estimates for the number of people who died at the hand of communist regimes:
The combined range based on the estimates considered, which derive from scholarly works, works of journalism, memoirs, and government-provided figures, spans from 42,870,000 to 161,990,000. While reasonable people will disagree in good faith on where the true number happens to lie, any number within this range ought to provoke horror and condemnation. And as previously mentioned, these figures estimate only the number of people who perished, not those who were merely tortured, maimed, imprisoned, relocated, expropriated, impoverished, or bereaved. These many millions are victims of communism too. The commonly cited figure of the deaths caused by communist regimes, 100 million, falls midway through this range of estimates. As scholars continue to research the history of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and other communist regimes, and as they gain access to previously inaccessible records, the scale of communist crimes will gradually come into even sharper focus.
- China: 29,000,000 (Brzezinski) to 78,860,000 (Li)
- USSR: 7,000,000 (Tolz) to 69,500,000 (Panin)
- North Korea: 1,600,000 (Rummel, Lethal Politics; figure for killings) to 3,500,000 (Hwang Jang-Yop, cited in AFP; figure for famine)
- Cambodia: 740,000 (Vickery) to 3,300,000 (Math Ly, cited in AP)
- Africa: 1,700,000 (Black Book) to 2,000,000 (Fitzgerald; Ethiopia only)
- Afghanistan: 670,000 (Zucchino) to 2,000,000 (Katz)
- Eastern Europe: 1,000,000
- Vietnam: 1,000,000 (Black Book) to 1,670,000 (Rummel, Death by Government)
- Latin America: 150,000
- International Movements not in power: 10,000
- Works Consulted
- Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010.
- Courtois, Stéphane, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartošek, and Jean-Louis Marolin. The Black Book of Communism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.
- “Cambodians Recall Massacres.” AP, May 22, 1987.
- Fitzgerald, Mary Anne. “Tyrant for the taking.” The Times (London), April 20, 1991.
- Katz, Lee Michael. “Afghanistan’s President is Ousted.” USA Today, April 17, 1992.
- Li, Cheng-Chung. The Question of Human Rights on China Mainland. Republic of China: World Anti-Communist League, 1979.
- Panin, Dimitri. Translated by John Moore. The Notebooks of Sologdin. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976.
- Rummel, R. J. Death by Government. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1994.
- Rummel, R. J. Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1917. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1990.
- Tolz, Vera. “Ministry of Security Official Gives New Figures for Stalin’s Victims.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Report. May 1, 1992. (The figure of seven million direct executions under Stalin, given by a member of the security services heading a commission for rehabilitation, may be taken as an absolute baseline figure to which should be added the many deaths suffered by labor camp inmates and the deaths preceding and following the Stalin period.)
- “Top defector says famine has killed over three million Koreans.” Agence France Presse, March 13, 1999.
- Vickery, Michael. Cambodia 1975 – 1982. Boston: South End Press, 1984.
- Zucchino, David. “’The Americans … They Just Drop Their Bombs and Leave.’” Los Angeles Times, June 2, 2002.
- Matthew White’s website Necrometrics provides a useful compilation of scholarly estimates of the death toll of major historical events."
- ^ Kotkin 2017: "But a century of communism in power—with holdouts even now in Cuba, North Korea and China—has made clear the human cost of a political program bent on overthrowing capitalism. Again and again, the effort to eliminate markets and private property has brought about the deaths of an astounding number of people. Since 1917—in the Soviet Union, China, Mongolia, Eastern Europe, Indochina, Africa, Afghanistan and parts of Latin America—communism has claimed at least 65 million lives, according to the painstaking research of demographers. Communism’s tools of destruction have included mass deportations, forced labor camps and police-state terror—a model established by Lenin and especially by his successor Joseph Stalin. It has been widely imitated. Though communism has killed huge numbers of people intentionally, even more of its victims have died from starvation as a result of its cruel projects of social engineering."
- ^ Aronson 2003, pp. 222‒245: "But most of these problems pale in significance compared with the book's opening and closing chapters, which caused enormous controversy and even occasioned a break among The Black Book's authors." ... "Courtois's figures for the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Latin America go far beyond the estimates of the authors themselves, as does Courtois's final body count." ... "But two other theses created considerable consternation and have come to be associated with The Black Book: the figure of 100 million deaths and the parallel with Nazism. They became central in the debate that followed." ... "In articles and interviews Werth and Margolin pointed out how, in the service of this goal, Courtois distorted and exaggerated: Werth's total, including the Civil War and the famine of 1932-1933 had been five million less than Courtois's 'mythical number,' while Margolin denied having spoken of the Vietnamese Communists being responsible for one million deaths. Interviewed in Le Monde, Margolin likened Courtois's effort to 'militant political activity, indeed, that of a prosecutor amassing charges in the service of a cause, that of a global condemnation of the Communist phenomenon as an essentially criminal phenomenon.' Both rejected the comparison between Communism and Nazism: ..."
- ^ Jahanbegloo 2014, pp. 117–118: "Most interesting, however, is Finlay's argument that Marxist thought, beyond justifying and excusing the use of violence, also legitimates it. Finlay (ibid. p. 378) argues that this is done by 'undermining existing moral norms and suggesting that new ones will be created to suit a new proletarian order.' Marx argues that norms and ethics are determined by the dominating class of the time, as can be illustrated in Lenin's statement that 'Honesty is a bourgeoisie virtue', meaning that honesty is crucial to the existence of bourgeoisie, as other virtues such as loyalty and obedience were necessary virtues during the reign of the feudal aristocracy. This impacts the concept of justice in war dramatically.
As there is the assumption that a new social order is to be created, along with a new set of moral and ethical codes, then the current ones may be discarded. Therefore, Finley (ibid.) states that it would be conceivable for revolutionaries to commit atrocious crimes in bringing about a socialist system, with the belief that their crimes will be retroactively absolved by the new system of ethics put in place by the proletariat. Finley also addresses an alternative opinion, that of Shlomo Avineri, who believes that this may be a non-issue when one takes into account the universality of the proletariat. This universality means that it has no active class-based or sectarian interest, or, rather, that its interests represent those of all society. Its major interest is simply to 'eliminate all other special interests on the basis of which it suffers oppression' and is an entirely negative entirely (ibid., p. 379). Therefore, our conception of ethics and morality - the product of a capitalist society - is inaccurate. Being based on the interest of the bourgeoisie rather than a true and authentic reflection of the ethics of a universal class, its contravention is not something to be lamented. Finley understands Avineri as drawing two conclusions. First, that:
and, moreover, that only ethical claims of the proletariat are valid, insofar as they are the true reflections of 'the perspective of the last social class, at its final revolutionary stage of oppression' (ibid.). It is only then that morals and ethics can be created authentically, and all other systems ought to be considered as arbitrary. However, this creates a major difficulty for Finlay and, as Marx has inspired many other theorists (Žižek, Fanon, Sorel, etc.) this is a difficulty which he identifies in each of their works as well.
Understanding that revolutionary violence is carried out in the hope of future absolution based on a hypothetical social order able to craft a universal system of ethics, Finlay sees this as carte blanche for revolutionists to carry out any action, however atrocious, so long as it helps bring about this imminent revolution. Finlay's 'permissive doctrine' is a 'philosophical framework within which the possibility of using violence is validated but without setting any clear limits to how much violence can be used and against whom'. Finlay also argue that there is a tendency for excess, as Fanon, Sorel and Žižek all see the use of violence as beneficial, since it may act as a spark for the revolution. Finlay sees the total legitimation of violence in revolution, with no principle of restriction, to be both dangerous and unethical."
- whatever the bourgeoisie with its individualistic and legalistic conception of political ethics and legality has to say about the morality of violence is likely to be invalid since it reflects the particular class interests and therefore the perverted humanism of its proponents. (Ibid., p. 370)
- ^ Jahanbegloo 2014, pp. 120–121: "Singh makes a principled argument: that Marx saw the use of violence, even when it is avoidable, as required insofar as that it has a purging quality, believing that only by using violence can all elements of the previous regime be eradicated. Moreover, Singh (ibid., p. 14) considers Marx's references to the use of bourgeoisie democratic institutions to bring about social change only as 'hinting to the possibility of the working class coming into power, in England, through universal suffrage'. Furthermore, he quotes Engels in a letter addressed to the Communist Committee in Brussels in October 1846. In this letter, Engels states that there cannot be any means of carrying out the communist agenda 'other than a democratic revolution by force' (ibid. p. 10). Singh, however, does acknowledge the desire in Marx to avoid a bloody revolution.
Singh (ibid. p. 11) notes that most Marxist writing that alluded to the possibility of this transition being carried out peacefully took place before the events of 1844-48, which 'showed that a peaceful change was not even remotely possible'. After 1848, Singh notes a return to advocating a violent revolution due to what Singh identifies as the 'practical considerations' of being unable to overcome the existing obstacles to a peaceful transition. Singh (ibid. p. 13) writes that, in 1848, Marx published an article titled The Victory of Counter-Revolution in Vienna, where he states 'there is only one means by which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated - and that is by revolutionary terror'."
- ^ The Magyar Struggle: "Among all the large and small nations of Austria, only three standard-bearers of progress took an active part in history, and still retain their vitality — the Germans, the Poles and the Magyars. Hence they are now revolutionary. All the other large and small nationalities and peoples are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary world storm. For that reason they are now counter-revolutionary." ... "There is no country in Europe which does not have in some corner or other one or several ruined fragments of peoples, the remnant of a former population that was suppressed and held in bondage by the nation which later became the main vehicle of historical development. These relics of a nation mercilessly trampled under foot in the course of history, as Hegel says, these residual fragments of peoples always become fanatical standard-bearers of counter-revolution and remain so until their complete extirpation or loss of their national character, just as their whole existence in general is itself a protest against a great historical revolution. Such, in Scotland, are the Gaels, the supporters of the Stuarts from 1640 to 1745. Such, in France, are the Bretons, the supporters of the Bourbons from 1792 to 1800. Such, in Spain, are the Basques, the supporters of Don Carlos. Such, in Austria, are the pan-Slavist Southern Slavs, who are nothing but the residual fragment of peoples, resulting from an extremely confused thousand years of development." ... "The Magyars are not yet defeated. But if they fall, they will fall gloriously, as the last heroes of the 1848 revolution, and only for a short time. Then for a time the Slav counter-revolution will sweep down on the Austrian monarchy with all its barbarity, and the camarilla will see what sort of allies it has. But at the first victorious uprising of the French proletariat, which Louis Napoleon is striving with all his might to conjure up, the Austrian Germans and Magyars will be set free and wreak a bloody revenge on the Slav barbarians. The general war which will then break out will smash this Slav Sonderbund and wipe out all these petty hidebound nations, down to their very names. The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is a step forward."
- ^ Revel 2009, pp. 94–95: "Already among the most authentic sources of socialist thought, among the earliest doctrinarians, are found justifications for ethnic cleansing and genocide, along with the totalitarian state, all of which were held up as legitimate and even necessary weapons for the success and preservation of the revolution. Socialism's canonical principles were not at all violated by Stalin or Mao when they implemented their murderous policies; on the contrary, Stalin and Mao were scrupulous in applying these principles with perfect fidelity to the letter and the spirit of the doctrine - as has been rigorously established by the Cambridge scholar George Watson in his treatise on The Lost Literature of Socialism.
In the modern historiography of socialism, an essential part of the theory has been quite effectively suppressed. The true believers, while claiming socialism's founding fathers as their mentors, very early on dispensed with any thorough study of them, even of Marx himself. And today, the key texts seem to enjoy the rare privilege of being understood by everyone, without having been read in their entirety by anyone - not even by socialism's adversaries, who for fear of reprisal are likely to quell their own curiosity. (History for the most part is a selective rearrangement of the facts, and the history of ideas does not escape this general law.)
Study of the unexpurgated texts, writes Watson, shows us that "Genocide was an idea unique to socialism." Friedrich Engels, in an article penned in 1849 for the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, a periodical edited by his friend Karl Marx, called for the extermination of the Hungarians, who had risen up against Austria. He had a low opinion also of Serbs and other Slavic peoples, and of the Basques, the Bretons and the Scottish Highlanders - all problems that needed to be eliminated. Three-quarters of a century later, in his On Lenin and Leninism (1924), Stalin would recommend study of Engels' influential piece. Marx himself, in "Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany," published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in 1852, asked how "those moribund peoples, the Bohemians, the Carinthians, the Dalmatians etc.," might be disposed of."
- ^ Valentino 2005, pp. 91, 93: "Communism has a bloody record, but most regimes that have described themselves as communist or have been described as such by others have not engaged in mass killing. In addition to shedding light on why some communist states have been among the most violent regimes in history, therefore, I also seek to explain why other communist countries have avoided this level of violence." ... "I argue that radical communist regimes have proven such prodigious killers primarily because the social change they sought to bring about have resulted in the sudden and nearly complete material and political dispossession of millions of people. These regimes practiced social engineering of the highest order. It is the revolutionary desire to bring about the rapid and radical transformation of society that distinguishes radical communist regimes from all other forms of government, including less violent communist regimes and noncommunist, authoritarian governments."
- ^ Semelin 2009, p. 331: "Dynamics of destruction/subjugation were also developed systematically by twentieth-century communist regimes, but against a very different domestic political background. The destruction of the very foundations of the former society (and consequently the men and women who embodied it) reveals the determination of the ruling elites to build a new one at all costs. The ideological conviction of leaders promoting such a political scheme is thus decisive. Nevertheless, it would be far too simplistic an interpretation to assume that the sole purpose of inflicting these various forms of violence on civilians could only aim at instilling a climate of terror in this 'new society'. In fact, they are part of a broader whole, i.e. the spectrum of social engineering techniques implememted in order to transform a society completely. There can be no doubt that it is this utopia of a classless society which drives that kind of revolutionary project. The plan for political and social reshaping will thus logically claim victims in all strata of society. And through this process, communist systems emerging in the twentieth century ended up destroying their own populations, not because they planned to annihilate them as such, but because they aimed to restructure the 'social body' from top to bottom, even if that meant purging it and recarving it to suit their new Promethean political imaginaire."
- ^ Chirot & McCauley 2010, p. 42: "The modern search for a perfect, utopian society, whether racially or ideologically pure is very similar to the much older striving for a religiously pure society free of all polluting elements, and these are, in turn, similar to that other modern utopian notion - class purity. Dread of political and economic pollution by the survival of antagonistic classes has been for the most extreme communist leaders what fear of racial pollution was for Hitler. There, also, material explanations fail to address the extent of the killings, gruesome tortures, fantastic trails, and attempts to wipe out whole categories of people that occurred in Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao's China, and Pol Pot's Cambodia. The revolutionary thinkers who formed and led communist regimes were not just ordinary intellectuals. They had to be fanatics in the true sense of that word. They were so certain of their ideas that no evidence to the contrary could change their minds. Those who came to doubt the rightness of their ways were eliminated, or never achieved power. The element of religious certitude found in prophetic movements was as important as their Marxist science in sustaining the notion that their vision of socialism could be made to work. This justified the ruthless dehumanization of their enemies, who could be suppressed because they were 'objectively' and 'historically' wrong. Furthermore, if events did not work out as they were supposed to, then that was because class enemies, foreign spies and saboteurs, or worst of all, internal traitors were wrecking the plan. Under no circumstances could it be admitted that the vision itself might be unworkable, because that meant capitulation to the forces of reaction. The logic of the situation in times of crisis then demanded that these 'bad elements' (as they were called in Maoist China) be killed, deported, or relegated to a permanently inferior status. That is very close to saying that the community of God, or the racially pure volksgemeinschaft could only be guaranteed if the corrupting elements within it were eliminated (Courtois et al. 1999)."
- ^ a b Mann 2005, pp. 318, 321: "All accounts of 20th-century mass murder include the Communist regimes. Some call their deeds genocide, though I shall not. I discuss the three that caused the most terrible human losses: Stalin's USSR, Mao's China, and Pol Pot's Cambodia. These saw themselves as belonging to a single socialist family, and all referred to a Marxist tradition of development theory. They murderously cleansed in similar ways, though to different degrees. Later regimes consciously adapted their practices to the perceived successes and failures of earlier ones. The Khmer Rouge used China and the Soviet Union (and Vietnam and North Korea) as reference societies, while China used the Soviet Union. All addressed the same basic problem - how to apply a revolutionary vision of a future industrial society to a present agrarian one. These two dimensions, of time and agrarian backwardness, help account for many of the differences." ... "Ordinary party members were also ideologically driven, believing that in order to create a new socialist society, they must lead in socialist zeal. Killings were often popular, the rank-and-file as keen to exceed killing quotas as production quotas. The pervasive role of the party inside the state also meant that authority structures were not fully institutionalized but factionalized, even chaotic, as revisionists studying the Soviet Union have argued. Both centralized control and mass party factionalism were involved in the killings."
- ^ Tismăneanu 2012, p. 14: "However, a nuance emphasized by Snyder offers a caveat to the comparison between these two extremisms. In fact, Stalinism did not transform mass murder into political history, as happened in Nazi Germany. For Stalin, "mass murder could never be anything more than a successful defense of socialism, or an element in a story of progress toward socialism." But, to take Snyder's point further, Communism, like Fascism, undoubtedly founded its alternative, illiberal modernity upon extermination. The Communist project, in such countries as the USSR, China, Cuba, Romania, or Albania, was based precisely on the conviction that certain social groups were irretrievably alien and deservedly murdered."
- ^ Bellamy 2012, p. 950: "But it is not simply the number of victims that distinguishes communist from non-communist mass killing in the Cold War—though that in itself is important to acknowledge. The most important difference for our purposes lies in the fact that amongst the perpetrators and their supporters there was very little recognition that the deliberate extermination of large numbers of civilians might be morally problematic, let alone prohibited. Where there was criticism of this litany of mass murder, it almost always came from outside the communist world.84 The principal reason for the failure of civilian immunity to moderate the behavior of communist governments during the Cold War was the persistence and spread of communism’s ideology of selective extermination, and its general acceptance within the communist world as a legitimator of mass killing. As I argued earlier, this “anti-civilian ideology” identifies whole groups as being outside the protection of noncombatant immunity and therefore liable for legitimate extermination. The basic communist variant of this ideology was first developed and applied by Stalin and held that certain socioeconomic or national groups or political attitudes were anti-communist and that group members were “enemies of the people” who could be legitimately destroyed. Although each of the communist regimes that massacred large numbers of civilians during the Cold War developed their own distinctive account of selective extermination, they all shared the basic idea that their targets—identified as whole groups—had by their identity, actions, or thoughts, placed themselves outside legal or moral protection.85 Thus, in contrast to most Western or anti-communist perpetrators of mass atrocities during the Cold War, communist perpetrators tended to argue that their victims were “criminals” or “enemies of the people” and therefore beyond the protection of civilian immunity."
- ^ Katz 2013, p. 267: "Mass Death under Communist Rule and the Limits of 'Otherness'
Steven T. Katz
Mass death is not a new reality. Over the centuries this tragic phenomenon has manifest itself in many times and places. An integral feature of this history of large-scale violence is what I call, 'otherness.' That is, the victimizer stigmatizes and stereotypes the victim in various ways in order to legitimate the violence that is then unleashed.
What is worthy of note is that this distancing process takes many forms. The historical record reveals cases where the 'Other' is created on the grounds of class, sex, color, race, religion, ethnicity, and nationality. So, for example, the majority of Stalin's victims were identified as 'class enemies.' The most notorious example of such class war was directed at the Kulaks, though his entire massive campaign against the peasantry as represented by his forced drive to collectivize agriculture, was based on the notion of class (and his desire for national modernization). Likewise, the extraordinary event that was Kampuchea was defined by the application of a radical communist ideology in which class was everything. Nationalism - connected usually to other factors such as religion, ethnicity, race, or color - has also played its part in justifying oppression and death - as a decisive ingredient in Stalin's exile of the minority nationalities during World War II and in his assault on the Ukraine in the early 1930s."
- ^ Shaw 2015, p. 115: "In these contexts, democratic impulses were snuffed out, and foundations were made for the centralization of power in the hands of Stalin, who in turn proclaimed the new nationalist doctrine of 'socialism in one country'.
Thereafter, nationalist ideas were at the heart of many mass killings by Communist states, both in genocide and in war. As Stalinist parties seized power in Asia and the Balkans after 1945, they each proclaimed their own national ideology. Each 'great leader' claimed to represent his fatherland, and many were prepared to kill extensively in the leader's name. After this, nationalist militarism became the model for revolutionary movements across the Third World. Whatever other ideological elements and alliances the insurgent forces claimed, their killing was invariably in the name of national liberation.
The 'killing fields' of Cambodia (episode VII) represented the nadir of this kind of nationalist Communism. In the former Soviet and Yugoslav areas after 1989, many former Communist elites reinvented themselves as ethnic nationalists. In some cases, they launched genocidal wars in the name of their new creed, to renew the foundations of their power. Nationalism made democratization a sick joke in war zones - the incentive to manufacture ethnically homogenous electorates became one of the driving forces of expulsion and slaughter (episode VIII)."
- ^ Rosefielde 2010, p. xvi: "The story that emerges from the exercise is edifying. It reveals that the conditions for the Red Holocaust were rooted in Stalin's, Kim's, Mao's, Ho's and Pol Pot's siege-mobilized terror-command economic systems, not in Marx's utopian vision or other pragmatic communist transition mechanisms. Terror-command was chosen among other reasons because of legitimate fears about the long-term viability of terror-free command, and the ideological risks of market communism. The internal contradictions of communism confronted leaders with a predicament that could only have been efficiently resolved by acknowledging communism's inferiority and changing course. Denial offered two unhappy options: one bloody, the other dreary, and history records that more often than not, communist rulers chose the worst option. Tens of millions were killed in vain; a testament to the triumph of ruthless hope over dispassionate reason that proved more durable than Hitler's and Hirohito's racism. These findings are likely to withstand the test of time, but are only a beginning, opening up a vast new field for scientific inquiry as scholars gradually gain access to archives in North Korea, China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia."
- ^ Krain 1997, p. 334: "In addition, many studies have documented the effects of wars and civil wars on general preconditions for genocides and politicides. For example, Melson (1992) argues that revolutions create the conditions that allow genocidal movements and permit their leaders to come to power in the first place and impose their radical ideology, thereby legitimizing mass murder in the eyes of the populace by making it state sponsored. Following the work done by Laswell (1962) on the "garrison state," Gurr (1988) documents the establishment and expansion of the secret police and other institutions of the "coercive state" as a direct result of wars and civil wars. Eisenstadt (1978) argues that hostile international pressures lead to greater isolation of the elites, which in turn leads to an increased probability that these elites will use repression. Some preliminary quantitative work has verified this hypothesis."
- ^ Jones 2010, p. 126: "This civil war, one of the most destructive of the twentieth century, lasted until 1921 and claimed an estimated nine million lives on all sides. Its "influence . . . on the whole course of subsequent history, and on Stalinism, cannot possibly be overestimated. It was in the civil war that Stalin and men like Stalin emerged as leaders, while others became accustomed to harshness, cruelty, terror." Red forces imposed "War Communism," an economic policy that repealed peasants' land seizures, forcibly stripped the countryside of grain to feed city dwellers, and suppressed private commerce. All who opposed these policies were "enemies of the people." "This is the hour of truth," Lenin wrote in a letter to a comrade in mid-1918. "It is of supreme importance that we encourage and make use of the energy of mass terror directed against the counterrevolutionaries." The Cheka, the first incarnation of the Soviet secret police (later the NKVD and finally the KGB), responded with gusto. Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders may have viewed mass terror as a short-term measure but its widespread use belies claims that it was Stalin's invention."
- ^ Montagnes & Wolton 2019, p. 27: "Mass purges further seem to have occurred during, arguably, the most personalist phase, to borrow Geddes’s (2003) terminology, of the communist regimes in the USSR and China. We see two possible complementary reasons for this. According to Geddes (2003), personalist leaders control appointments, potentially raising the congruence of new agents, and the security apparatus, potentially reducing the cost of carrying out the purge. Purges may then have almost disappeared in China and the USSR following the deaths of Stalin and Mao because of the subsequent return to a form of collective leadership to avoid a repeat of past excesses (Levytsky, 1972; Teiwes, 2017).
Obviously, much more needs to be learned about why autocrats decide to start a mass purge. However, our framework can be seen as a possible starting point for a more general theory of coercive instruments in autocracy."
- ^ Žižek 2006: "This "cosmic perspective" is for Mao not just an irrelevant philosophical caveat; it has precise ethico-political consequences. When Mao high-handedly dismisses the threat of the atomic bomb, he is not down-playing the scope of the danger - he is fully aware that nuclear war may led to the extinction of humanity as such, so, to justify his defiance, he has to adopt the "cosmic perspective" from which the end of life on Earth "would hardly mean anything to the universe as a whole":
This "cosmic perspective" also grounds Mao's dismissive attitude towards the human costs of economic and political endeavors. If one is to believe Mao's latest biography, he caused the greatest famine in history by exporting food to Russia to buy nuclear and arms industries: 38 million people were starved and slave-driven to death in 1958-61. Mao knew exactly what was happening, saying: "half of China may well have to die." This is instrumental attitude at its most radical: killing as part of a ruthless attempt to realize goal, reducing people to disposable means - and what one should bear in mind is that the Nazi holocaust was NOT the same: the killing of the Jews not part of a rational strategy, but a self-goal, a meticulously planned "irrational" excess (recall the deportation of the last Jews from Greek islands in 1944, just before the German retreat, or the massive use of trains for transporting Jews instead of war materials in 1944). This is why Heidegger is wrong when he reduces holocaust to the industrial production of corpses: it was NOT that, Stalinist Communism was that."
- The United States cannot annihilate the Chinese nation with its small stack of atom bombs. Even if the U.S. atom bombs were so powerful that, when dropped on China, they would make a hole right through the earth, or even blow it up, that would hardly mean anything to the universe as a whole, though it might be a major event for the solar system.
- ^ Conquest 2007, p. xvi: "Exact numbers may never be known with complete certainty, but the total of deaths caused by the whole range of Soviet regime's terrors can hardly be lower than some fifteen million."
- ^ Yakovlev 2002, p. 234: "My own many years and experience in the rehabilitation of victims of political terror allow me to assert that the number of people in the USSR who were killed for political motives or who died in prisons and camps during the entire period of Soviet power totaled 20 to 25 million. And unquestionably one must add those who died of famine—more than 5.5 million during the civil war and more than 5 million during the 1930s."
- ^ Wheatcroft 1999, pp. 315‒345: Stephen G. Wheatcroft gives the following numbers: During 1921–53, the number of sentences was (political convictions): sentences, 4,060,306; death penalties, 799,473; camps and prisons, 2,634,397; exile, 413,512; other, 215,942. In addition, during 1937‒52 there were 14,269,753 non-political sentences, among them 34,228 death penalties, 2,066,637 sentences for 0–1 year, 4,362,973 for 2–5 years, 1,611,293 for 6–10 years, and 286,795 for more than 10 years. Other sentences were non-custodial.
- ^ Healey 2018, p. 1049: "New studies using declassified Gulag archives have provisionally established a consensus on mortality and "inhumanity." The tentative consensus says that once secret records of the Gulag administration in Moscow show a lower death toll than expected from memoir sources, generally between 1.5 and 1.7 million (out of 18 million who passed through) for the years from 1930 to 1953. Moreover, as Alexopoulos summarizes, we have found no "plan of destruction" of prisoners (7), no statement of official intent to kill them in these records. Instead, historians have found that prisoner releases significantly predominated over deaths in the Gulag, with Alexopoulos's own earlier work on amnesty a leading statement of this view. Yet her encounter with the Gulag medical-sanitary service's Moscow archive "surprised" Alexopoulos (1), and she now attempts to challenge the emergent scholarly consensus, with uneven success."
- ^ Snyder 2011: "All in all, the Germans deliberately killed about 11 million noncombatants, a figure that rises to more than 12 million if foreseeable deaths from deportation, hunger, and sentences in concentration camps are included. For the Soviets during the Stalin period, the analogous figures are approximately six million and nine million."
- ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 649: "Perhaps 20 million had been killed; 28 million deported, of whom 18 million had slaved in the Gulags."
- ^ Volkogonov 1999, p. 139: "Between 1929 and 1953 the state created by Lenin and set in motion by Stalin deprived 21.5 million Soviet citizens of their lives."
- ^ Gellately 2007, p. 584: "More recent estimations of the Soviet-on-Soviet killing have been more 'modest' and range between ten and twenty million."
- ^ Brent 2008: "Estimations on the number of Stalin's victims over his twenty-five year reign, from 1928 to 1953, vary widely, but 20 million is now considered the minimum."
- ^ Rosefielde 2010, p. 17: "We now know as well beyond a reasonable doubt that there were more than 13 million Red Holocaust victims 1929–53, and this figure could rise above 20 million."
- ^ Kleveman 2003: In one estimate, based on a report by Lavrenti Beria to Stalin, 150,000 of 478,479 deported Ingush and Chechen people (or 31.3 percent) died within the first four years of the resettlement.; Naimark 2001: Another scholar puts the number of deaths at 22.7 percent: Extrapolating from NKVD records, 113,000 Ingush and Chechens died (3,000 before deportation, 10,000 during deportation, and 100,000 after resettlement) in the first three years of the resettlement out of 496,460 total deportees.; Mawdsley 2003: A third source says a quarter of the 650,000 deported Chechens, Ingush, Karachais and Kalmyks died within four years of resettlement.; Fischer & Leggett 2006: However, estimates of the number of deportees sometimes varies widely. Two scholars estimated the number of Chechen and Ingush deportees at 700,000, which would halve the percentage estimates of deaths.
- ^ BBC 2008b: "Латвія стала 19-ю країною світу, яка визнала Голодомор ґеноцидом українського народу. Литва й Естонія ухвалили такі декларації раніше." (translation: Latvia became the 19th country in the world that recognized the Holodomor as the genocide of the Ukrainian people. Lithuania and Estonia have adopted such declarations earlier.); Korrespondent 2008a: "Латвия присоеденилась к еще 15 странам, уже признавшим Голодомор в Украине геноцидом украинского народа. Декларация подготовлена в ответ на призыв Украины к международному сообществу признать и осудить Голодомор - голод на Украине 1930-х годов прошлого века. Как сообщалось, в феврале Мексика и Парагвай признали Голодомор 1932-1933 годов актом геноцида украинского народа." (translation: Latvia has joined 15 more countries that have already recognized the Holodomor in Ukraine as the genocide of the Ukrainian people. The declaration was prepared in response to Ukraine’s appeal to the international community to recognize and condemn the Holodomor - the famine in Ukraine of the 1930s of the last century. As reported, in February, Mexico and Paraguay recognized the Holodomor of 1932-1933 as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.); Korrespondent 2008b: "Сусідні з Латвією Литва та Естонія визнали Голодомор в Україні геноцидом проти українського народу ще на початку 1990-х років. Загалом, Голодомор 1932-33 рр. геноцидом українців визнали понад 10 держав світу. Серед них США, Канада, Естонія, Аргентина, Австралія, Італія, Угорщина, Литва, Грузія, Польща, Еквадор і відтепер Латвія." (translation: Neighboring Latvia Lithuania and Estonia recognized the Holodomor in Ukraine as a genocide against the Ukrainian people in the early 1990s. In general, the Holodomor of 1932-33 has been identified by more than 10 states of the world as a genocide of Ukrainians. Among them are the USA, Canada, Estonia, Argentina, Australia, Italy, Hungary, Lithuania, Georgia, Poland, Ecuador and now Latvia.).
- ^ a b Ellman 2002, pp. 1151–1172: "The best estimate that can currently be made of the number of repression deaths in 1937–38 is the range 950,000–1.2 million, i.e., about a million. This estimate should be used by historians, teachers, and journalists concerned with twentieth century Russian—and world—history."
- ^ Fenby 2008, p. 351: "Mao’s responsibility for the extinction of anywhere from 40 to 70 million lives brands him as a mass killer greater than Hitler or Stalin, his indifference to the suffering and the loss of humans breathtaking."
- ^ Su 2003, pp. 25–26: "Summary and Interpretation
In this study I have documented the patterns of mass killings in three Chinese provinces in the demobilization period of the Cultural Revolution. I also have also sought explanations for this historical tragedy by examining the role of the state. I have presented the findings from a few different angles. Now it is time to take a look at these findings together to formulate my central argument: The mass killings were rooted in the paradox of state sponsorship and state failure.
Patterns of Mass Killings
Mass killings occurred in the three provinces; in two provinces they were a widespread phenomenon. That this finding is from a published source sanctioned by the Chinese government unequivocally supports similar claims made by previous case studies. By examining the mass killings across more than 180 counties, with information from the previous case studies, I am able to uncover the following patterns.
First, the mass killings varied greatly across three provinces, while within one province, there appears to be a great degree of uniformity. This pattern indicates that the occurrence of mass killings was more germane to province-specific political conditions rather than national politics as a whole. I tentatively attribute the provincial difference to the different patterns of mass factional alignment vis-à-vis the governmental authorities in the province. In Hubei, the Rebel Faction, having had prevailed in the previous conflict, was incorporated into the new government. In contrast, in Guangxi and Guangdong, the Rebel Factions continued to be the outsider, and the two provinces were more prone to use violence as a weapon against the Rebel Factions. An alternative explanation for the difference is that Hubei was geographically, and by inference, politically closer to Beijing, hence the province tended to have more restraint against violence.
Second, the mass killings concentrate in the months after most counties established revolutionary committees, but in the time when the provincial capitals were still entangled in mass factionalism. The peaks of mass killings coincided with two announcements from the party center in July 1968 banning factional armed battles and disbanding mass organizations. The finding that historical timing was crucial factor helps us understand the nature and source of mass killings. The fact that most of them occurred after the new governments were put in place indicates that mass killings were the result of the repression by the local state rather than the result of conflicts between independent mass groups. The fact that they coincided with the crackdown of the oppositional mass organizations in the provincial capital indicates that the provincial authorities promoted the rhetoric of violence, although extreme violence in local communes and villages may not be what they intended.
Third, mass killings were primarily a rural phenomenon. In other words, they occurred not in provincial capitals or county seats, but in communes and villages. This is in stark contrast to earlier mass movements of the Cultural Revolution such as campaigns against intellectuals and government officials and the factional street battles which mostly occurred in urban settings. The imagery of top-down diffusion does not apply to the mass killings. This suggests that the class struggle rhetoric disseminated from urban centers found an expression in extreme violence in rural townships and villages, possibly due to the failure of the state to hold the action of the lowest bureaucrats accountable. This explanation is supported by another piece of evidence—the poorer and remoter counties were more likely to have mass killings.
Fourth, the perpetrators were the local leaders and their mass followers (e.g., militia members). The more party members in the local community, the more likely there were mass killings, likely because the local government in these communities enjoyed a stronger organizational base to mobilize the extreme violence.
Fifth, other things being equal (i.e., controlling for distance, county revenue, and party membership) counties with a significant presence of ethnic minority were not more likely to have mass killings. Similarly, population density, prior armed battle conflict, and the compositions of the county leadership have no association to the likelihood of mass killings. These findings to some extent eliminate alternative explanations to the argument fashioned here that stresses the role of the state."
- ^ Su 2011, pp. 98–100: "The so-called class enemy as a category of the rural population had been in place for about two decades after 1949, but not until the Cultural Revolution did it become a victim group for eliminationist killing. This development cannot be explained by the communist doctrine of a classless society because the doctrine as previously practiced in China, for the most part, was not to create this society by physical elimination. Neither can it be explained by the notion that previously propertied classes posed an objective threat, hence that their elimination was imperative. This review of the origin of class enemy demonstrates that its creation, maintenance, and treatment all served the politics of the time. Mass-killing scholars who draw on political violence in communist societies for comparison, however, often take a realist view of the concept of class enemy (or 'people's enemy' in the case of the Soviet Union). That is, they write as though the opposition to the new communist system was real, with class enemy identifying a broad category of individuals who represent plausible or incipient opposition or resistance to the state." ... "After the Land Reform movement, China was transformed into a classless society, if defined only in terms of property. From this classless society, the state created an artificial divide between 'the people' and the 'class enemy.' The toothless enemy class was never designed to be eliminated, either by murder or other means. In the first place, the numbers of class enemies were inflated. Quotas were established and sanctions were applied to local leadership if localities did not have a certain percentage of landlords and rich peasants; the numbers were always greater than their initial landed status would warrant. To underscore the artificiality and arbitrariness of this designation, a few years after Mao's death, class enemies were eliminated as a political class - not by murder but rather by declaration - once the new leadership decided that the categories and campaigns had become counterproductive.
Therefore, the class divides were imposed and maintained by the state and perpetuated through state-sponsored mass campaigns. What purpose, then, did the existence of a constructed enemy class serve? The answer links this artificial class divide to two main political tasks: mobilizing mass compliance and resolving elite conflict. These linkages are the key to understanding why the system deepened the politically constructed divide in times of political crisis. Its elastic nature, then, is the key to understanding why the class categorization could take on a genocidal dimension under extraordinary circumstances."
- ^ Etcheson 2005, p. 78: "Were the Cambodian people somehow Pol Pot's 'willing executioners,' with the violence of the Khmer Rouge regime reflecting an underlying trait of the Cambodian people, historically unique to the time and place it occurred? Or did the violence of the Khmer Rouge regime emanate from some more broadly distributed ideological origin, therefore rendering it amenable to comparison? Perhaps the Khmer Rouge mass killing arose from the same tenets of communism that brought about the mass killing of Stalin's Russia and Mao's China but that was, by absolute numbers, much less evil. Or perhaps the killing in Cambodia can be understood as a response to the perceived threat from Vietnam, as the Khmer Rouge themselves have argued at some length. These same themes and issues lay at the heart of the Historikerstreit, and they are also part and parcel of genocide studies.
In the scholarly literature on the Khmer Rouge regime of Democratic Kampuchea, there have been two principal schools of thought regarding the nature of the violence that took so many lives in such a short period of time. One school of thought holds that the primary locus of the violence was local and that it was largely the result of the spontaneous excesses of a vengeful, undisciplined peasant army. A prominent proponent of this school of thought is Michael Vickery. A second school of thought holds that the locus of the violence was centralized and that it was largely the result of a carefully planned and centrally controlled security apparatus. Several observers have proposed this explanation of the violence in the Democratic Kampuchea regime, including, for example, the recently retired U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, Kenneth Quinn. It can be argued, however, that until recently there was an inadequate amount of data to make an unambiguous determination of the question.
A wide range of new evidence uncovered by the Documentation Center of Cambodia over the course of the last ten years has done much to resolve this controversy. In particular, data on the frequency, distribution, and origin of mass graves, combined with data gleaned from newly discovered Khmer Rouge internal security documents, have given us new insight into the question of the economy of violence within Democratic Kampuchea. The data lead inexorably to the conclusion that most of the violence was carried out pursuant to orders from the highest political authorities of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. In this chapter, I briefly review some of the new evidence that so strongly suggests this new and well-documented conclusion."
- ^ Harff & Gurr 1988, p. 369: "Revolutionary mass murder: the most common type of politicide (following repressive politicide), with ten examples in our data set. In all these instances new regimes have come to power committed to bringing about fundamental social, economic, and political change. Their enemies usually are defined by variants of Marxist-Leninist ideology: initially their victims include the officials and most prominent supporters of the old regime and landowners and wealthy peasants. Later they may include-as they did in Kampuchea and in China during the Cultural Revolution-cadres who lack revolutionary zeal. In Laos and Ethiopia they have included ordinary peasants in regions which actively or passively resisted revolutionary policies. Most Marxist-Leninist regimes which came to power through protracted armed struggle in the postwar period perpetrated one or more politicides, though of vastly different magnitudes. The worst offender was the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea; the second worst, the Chinese Communist regime."
- ^ Jambrek 2008, p. 156: "Most of the mass killings were carried out from May to July 1945; among the victims were mostly the “returned” (or “home-captured”) Home guards and prisoners from other Yugoslav provinces. In the following months, up to January 1946 when the Constitution of the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was passed and OZNA had to hand the camps over to the organs of the Ministry of the Interior, those killings were followed by mass killing of Germans, Italians and Slovenes suspected of collaborationism and anti-communism. Individual secret killings were carried out at later dates as well. The decision to “annihilate” opponents must had been adopted in the closest circles of Yugoslav state leadership, and the order was certainly issued by the Supreme Commander of the Yugoslav Army Josip Broz - Tito, although it is not known when or in what form."
- ^ Vu 2010a, p. 103: "Clearly Vietnamese socialism followed a moderate path relative to China. ... Yet the Vietnamese 'land reform' campaign ... testified that Vietnamese communists could be as radical and murderous as their comrades elsewhere. In May 1953, on the eve of the campaign, the VWP Politburo chaired by Ho authorized the execution of landlords by a ratio of one person for every thousand people, or 0.1 percent of the population.5" ...
"5. "Chi thi cua Bo Chinh Tri" (Politburo's Decree), May 4, 1953 (Dang Cong San Viet Nam, hereafter DCSVN, 2001, 14: 201). Based on other sources, Edwin Moise (2001, 7-9) accepts an estimate close to 15,000 executions. This was about 0.1 percent of the total population of 13.5 million in North Vietnam in 1955."
- ^ Valentino 2005, p. 223: "The pattern of Soviet military operations strongly suggests that population relocation was a significant part of Soviet counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. Although direct evidence of Soviet intentions is limited, most analysts and observers of the war have concluded that the Soviets adopted an intentional policy of attacking villages in areas of high guerrilla activity in the effort to force the population into flight. Free-fire zones were established in depopulated areas, permitting Soviet troops to shoot anything that moved. In addition to killing tens of thousands in attacks on villages, this policy eventually produced one of the most massive refugee movements in modern history. Approximately 5 million people out of a total prewar population of between 15.5 and 17 million had fled the country by the early 1990s, the great majority across the border to Pakistan. Two million more were displaced within Afghanistan. Many refugees died during the difficult journey over mountain passes to Pakistan."
- ^ Courtois 1999, p. 9: "As for the great famine in Ukraine in 1932-33, which resulted from the rural population's resistance to forced collectivization, 6 million died in a period of several months.
Here, the genocide of a "class" may well be tantamount to the genocide of a "race" - the deliberate starvation of a child of a Ukrainian kulak as a result of the famine causes by Stalin's regime "is equal to" the starvation of a Jewish child in the Warsaw ghetto as a result of the famine caused by the Nazi regime. Such arguments in no way detract from the unique nature of Auschwitz - the mobilization of leading-edge technological resources and their use in an "industrial process" involving the construction of an "extermination factory," the use of gas, and cremation. However, this argument highlights one particular feature of many Communist regimes - their systematic use of famine as a weapon. The regime aimed to control the total available food supply and, with immense ingenuity, to distribute food purely on the basis of "merits" and "demerits" earned by individuals. This policy was a recipe for creating famine on a massive scale. Remember that in the period after 1918, only Communist countries experienced such famines, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions, of people. And again in the 1980s, two African countries that claimed to be Marxist-Leninist, Ethiopia and Mozambique, were the only such countries to suffer these deadly famines."
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