Thursday, January 10, 2019

Mass killings under communist regimes - Wi

Mass killings under communist regimes

Mass killingsoccurred under several twentieth-century communistregimes. Death estimates vary widely, depending on the definitions of deaths included. The higher estimates of mass killings account for crimes against civilians by governments, including executions, destruction of population through man-made hunger and deaths during forced deportations, imprisonment and through forced labor. Terms used to define these killings include "mass killing", "democide", "politicide", "classicide" and a broad definition of "genocide".


Several different terms are used to describe the intentional killing of large numbers of noncombatants,[1][a][b][c][d]and, according to Professor Anton Weiss-Wendt, there is no consensus in the field of comparative genocide studies on a definition of "genocide".[e]The following terminology has been used by individual authors to describe mass killings of unarmed civilians by communist governments, individually or as a whole:

  • Genocide – under the Genocide Convention, the crime of genocidegenerally applies to mass murder of ethnicrather than political or social groups. Protection of political groups was eliminated from the UN resolution after a second vote, because many states, including Stalin's USSR,[2]anticipated that clause to apply unneeded limitations to their right to suppress internal disturbances.[3][4]Genocide is also a popular term for mass political killing, which is studied academically as democideand politicide.[5]Killing by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia has been labeled genocide or auto-genocideand, more controversially, the deaths under Leninism and Stalinism in the USSR and Maoism in China have been investigated as possible cases. In particular, the famines in the USSR in the 1930s and during the Great Leap Forward in China have been "depicted as instances of mass killing underpinned by genocidal intent."[f]
  • Politicide – the term politicideis used to describe the killing of groups that would not otherwise be covered by the Genocide Convention.[6]Professor Barbara Harffstudies "genocide and politicide", sometimes shortened as geno-politicide, in order to include the killing of political, economic, ethnic, and cultural groups.[g]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.[h]In his book The Killing Trap: Genocide in the Twentieth Century, Midlarsky raises similarities between the killings of Stalin and Pol Pot.[7]
  • The term "Red Holocaust" was coined by the Munich Institut für Zeitgeschichte.[8] It has been used by some state officials and NGOs.[9][10][11]Professor Steven Rosefieldeused it as a name for his monograph about crimes of Communism.[12]According to Jörg Hackmann, this word is not popular among scholars in Germany or internationally.[i]The usage of this metaphor has been condemned as an attempt to usurp and undermine the history of European Jews[13] and to introduce various "double genocide" theories, an essential component of the Holocaust obfuscation.[14]Alexandra Laignel-Lavastinecondemned usage of this metaphor 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."[15]
  • Democide – Professor R. J. Rummeldefined 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".[16]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, i.e. civil war killings.[16][j]This definition covers any murder of any number of persons by any government,[16]and it has been applied to killings perpetrated by communist regimes.[17][18]
  • Mass killing – Professor Ervin Staubdefined 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."[19][k]Referencing earlier definitions,[l]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".[20]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.[21] This is the most accepted quantitative minimum threshold for the term.[20]He applied this definition to the cases of Stalin's USSR, the PRC under Mao, 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 KoreaVietnamEastern Europe, and Africa.[22]Professors Frank Wayman and Atsushi Tago used the term mass killingfrom 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."[m]
  • Repression – Professor Stephen Wheatcroftnotes that, in the case of the Soviet Union, terms such as the terrorthe 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 repressionis commonly held to include mass killingsand is sometimes assumed to be synonymous with it, which is not the case in other languages.[23]
  • Classicide – Professor Michael Mannhas proposed the term classicide to mean the "intended mass killing of entire social classes".[24][n]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 politicidein that the group is targeted without regard to their political activity.[25]
  • 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". He acknowledges that the term may be misleading in the sense that the regimes targeted groups of their own citizens, but considers it useful as a broad legal term which emphasizes attacks on civilian populations and because the offenses demean humanity as a whole.[26]Historian Jacques Sémelin and Professor Michael Mann[27]believe that crime against humanity is more appropriate than genocideor politicidewhen speaking of violence by communist regimes.[28]


Discussion of the number of victims of communist regimes has been, according to Klas-Göran Karlsson, "extremely extensive and ideologically biased".[29]Although any attempt to estimate a total number of victims of communism depends greatly on definitions,[30]several attempts to compile previously published data have been made.

  • According to R. J. Rummel's book Death by Government(1994), about 110 million people, foreign and domestic, were killed by communist democidefrom 1900 to 1987.[31] R.J. Rummel wrote in 1993 that "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 magnitudeand a relative approximation of these deaths within a most likely range."[18]
  • In his introduction to the Black Book of Communism(1999), Stéphane Courtois gave a "rough approximation, based on unofficial estimates" approaching 100 million killed.[o] In his foreword to the book, Martin Malia noted "a grand total of victims variously estimated by contributors to the volume at between 85 million and 100 million."[p]
  • According to Benjamin Valentino in 2005, 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.[q][r]Citing R.J. Rummel and others, he stated that the "highest end of the plausible range of deaths attributed to communist regimes" was up to 110 million."[q][s]
  • In his book Red Holocaust(2010), Steven Rosefieldesaid that communism's internal contradictions "caused to be killed" approximately 60 million people and perhaps tens of millions more.[32]
  • In 2011, Matthew Whitepublished 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.[t]
  • In 2016, the "Dissident" blog of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundationmade an effort to compile updated ranges of estimates and concluded that the overall range "spans from 42,870,000 to 161,990,000" killed, with 100 million the most commonly cited figure.[u]
  • In 2017, Professor Stephen Kotkin wrote in The Wall Street Journalthat 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."[v][33]

The criticisms of some of the estimates were mostly focused on three aspects: (i) the estimates were based on sparse and incomplete data, when significant errors are inevitable,[34][35][16](ii) some critics said the figures were skewed to higher possible values,[36][w][34]and (iii) some critics argued that victims of Holodomor and other man-made famines created by communist governments should not be counted.[37][34][38]

Proposed causesEdit


Klas-Göran Karlsson writes that "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."[39]Scholars such as R. J. RummelDaniel Goldhagen,[40]Richard Pipes,[41] and John N. Gray[42]consider communism as a significant causative factor in mass killings.[43][44]The Black Book of Communismclaims an association between communism and criminality—"Communist regimes ... turned mass crime into a full-blown system of government"[45]—and says that this criminality lies at the level of ideology rather than state practice.[46]

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."[x]Rustam Singhnotes that Marx had alluded to the possibility of peaceful revolution but, after the failed Revolutions of 1848, he emphasized the need for violent revolution and "revolutionary terror".[y]

Literary historian George G. Watson cited an 1849 article written by Friedrich Engelscalled "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 historyrequired 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."[47][z]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

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