The Black Book of COMMUNISM: CRIMES, TERROR, REPRESSION -Selections by Peter Myers; my comments are shown {thus}. Date August 21, 2001; update August 4, 2009.

Write to me at contact.html.

You are at

Why is Nazism uniquely Evil but Communism respectable? It is because, however it went wrong, Communism is seen as Idealistic or Universalist?

After Mao died, China under Deng abandoned Communism, adopting "Market Socialism" instead.

Although Stalinism fell, have different kinds of Marxism - the Fabian, Green & Trotskyist kinds - conquered the West? Is this why the sins of Communism are being denied & forgotten? new-left.html

Now that the West is being called on to acknowledge its invasion of the New World, and enslavement of blacks, the question arises, why not a Mutual Confession, in which the Left - including the Trotskyists - acknowledges its sins too?

Is not the asymmetry of required confessions suspect, hinting at a power relationship?

Compulsory dununciations in the Soviet Union - even of one's family; the League of Militant Godless: correctness.html#denounce

The Black Book of COMMUNISM: CRIMES, TERROR, REPRESSION by Stephane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panne, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, and Jean-Louis Margolin. Translated by Jonathan Murphy and Mark Kramer; Consulting Editor Mark Kramer; Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Ma, 1999.

{p. ix} Foreword: The Uses of Atrocity

Martin Malia

Communism has been the great story of the twentieth century. ... One might therefore expect that a priority of modern historians would be to explain why Communism's power grew for so long only to collapse like a house of cards.

{p. x} ... a basic problem remains: the conceptual poverty of the Western empirical effort.

Accordingly, researchers have endlessly insisted that the October Revolution was a workers' revolt and not a Party coup d'etat, when it was obviously the latter riding piggyback on the former. Besides, the central issue in Communist history is not the Party's ephemeral worker "base"; it is what the intelligentsia victors of October later did with their permanent coup d'etat, and so far this has scarcely been explored. ...

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.

{p. xi} The full power of the shock, however, was delivered by the unavoidable comparison of this sum with that of Nazism, which at an estimated 25 million turns out to be distinctly less murderous than Communism. And the volume's editor, Stephane Courtois ... explicitly equated the "class genocide" of Communism with the "race genocide" of Nazism, and categorized both as "crimers against humanity."

{p. xii} So let us begin with the debate, which is hardly specific to France. It breaks out wherever the question of the moral equivalence of our century's two totalitarianisms is raised, indeed whenever the very concept of "totalitarianism" is invoked. For Nazism's unique status as "absolute evil" is now so entrenched that any comparison with it easily appears suspect.

Of the several reasons for this assessment of Nazism, the most obvious is that the Western democracies fought World War II in a kind of global "popular front" against "fascism." Moreover, whereas the Nazis occupied most of Europe, the Communists during the Cold War menaced only from afar. Thus, although the stakes for democracy in the new conflict were as high as in its hot predecessor, the stress of waging it was significantly lower; and it ended with the last general secretary of the "evil empire," Mikhail Gorbachev, in the comradely embrace of the ultimate cold warrior, President Ronald Reagan. Communism's fall, therefore, brought with it no Nuremberg trial, and hence no de-Communization to solemnly put Leninism beyond the pale of civilization; and of course there still exist Communist regimes in international good standing.

Another reason for our dual perception is that defeat cut down Nazism in the prime of its iniquity, thereby eternally fixing its full horror in the world's memory. By contrast, Communism, at the peak of its iniquity, was rewarded with an epic victory - and thereby gained a half-century in which to lose its dynamism, to half-repent of Stalin, and even, in the case of some unsuccessful leaders (such as Czechoslovakia's Alexander Dubcek in 1968), to attempt giving the system a "human face." As a result of these contrasting endings of the two totalitarianisms all Nazism's secrets were bared fifty years ago, whereas we are only beginning to explore Soviet archives, and those of East Asia and Cuba remain sealed.

The effect of this unequal access to information was magnified by more subjective considerations. Nazism seemed all the more monstrous to Westerners for having arisen in the heart of civilized Europe, in the homeland of Luther, Kant, Goethe, Beethoven, and indeed Marx. Communism, by contrast,

{p. xiii} appeared as less of a historical aberration in the Russian borderland ol Europe - almost "Asia" after all - where, despite Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, civilization had never taken deep root.

The ultimate distinguishing characteristic of Nazism, of course, is the Holocaust, considered as the historically unique crime of seeking the extermination of an entire people, a crime for which the term "genocide" was coined around the time of Nuremberg. And therewith the Jewish people acquired the solemn obligation to keep the memory of its martyrs alive in the conscience of the world. Even so, general awareness of the Final Solution was slow to emerge, in fact coming only in the 1970s and 1980s - the very years when Communism was gradually mellowing. So between these contrasting circumstances, by the time of Communism's fall the liberal world had had fifty years to settle into a double standard regarding its two late adversaries.

Accordingly, Hitler and Nazism are now a constant presence in Western print and on Western television, whereas Stalin and Communism materialize only sporadically. The status of ex-Communist carries with it no stigma, even when unaccompanied by any expression of regret; past contact with Nazism, however, no matter how marginal or remote, confers an indelible stain. Thus Martin Heidegger and Paul de Man have been enduringly compromised and the substance of their thought tainted. By contrast, Louis Aragon, for years under Stalin the editor of the French Communist Party's literary magazine, in 1996 was published among the classics of the Pleiade; the press was Iyrical in praise of his art, while virtually mute about his politics. (The Black Book reproduces a 1931 poem to the KGB's predecessor, the GPU.) Likewise, the Stalinist poet and Nobel laureate, Pablo Neruda, in the same year was sentimentalized, together with his cause, by an acclaimed film, Il postino - even though in 1939 as a Chilean diplomat in Spain he acted as a de facto agent of the Comintern, and in 1953 mourned Stalin with a fulsome ode. And this list of unparallel lives could be extended indefinitely.

Even more skewed is the situation in the East. No Gulag camps have been turned into museums to commemorate their inmates; all were bulldozed into the ground during Khrushchev's de-Stalinization. The only memorial to Stalin's victims is a modest stone brought to Moscow from the Arctic camp of Solovki and placed in Lubyanka Square (though well off to the side), where the KGB's former headquarters still stands. Nor are there any regular visitors to this lonely slab (one must cross a stream of traffic to reach it) and no more than an occasional wilted bouquet. By contrast, Lenin's statue still dominates most city centers, and his mummy reposes honorably in its Mausoleum.

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.

{p. xiv} Thus, in Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, onetime member of General Jaruzelski's government, in 1996 won the presidency against the symbol of resistance to Communism, Lech Walesa (admittedly an inept campaigner). Gulya Horn, the prime minister of Hungary from 1994 to 1998, was a member of the country's last Communist government, and a member of the militia that helped suppress the 1956 revolt alongside the Soviet army. In neighboring Austria, by contrast, former president Kurt Waldheim was ostracized worldwide once his Nazi past was uncovered. Granted, card-carrying Western literati and latter-day Eastern apparatchiki never served as executioners for Stalin. Even so, does the present silence about their past mean that Communism was all that less bad than Nazism?

The debate around The Black Book can help frame an answer. On the one side, commentators in the liberal Le Monde argue that it is illegitimate to speak of a single Communist movement from Phnom Penh to Paris. Rather, the rampage of the Khmer Rouge is like the ethnic massacres of third-world Rwanda; or the "rural" Communism of Asia is radically different from the "urban" Communism of Europe; or Asian Communism is really only anticolonial nationalism The subtext of such Eurocentric condescension is that conflating sociologically diverse movements is merely a stratagem to obtain a higher body count against Communism, and thus against all the left. In answer, commentators in the conservative Le Figaro, spurning reductionist sociology as a device to exculpate Communism, reply that Marxist-Leninist regimes are cast in the same ideological and organizational mold throughout the world. And this pertinent point also has its admonitory subtext: that socialists of whatever stripe cannot be trusted to resist their ever-present demons on the far left (those popular fronts were no accident after all).

Yet if we let the divided contributors to The Black Book arbitrate the dispute, we find no disagreement in this matter: the Leninist matrix indeed served for all the once "fraternal" parties. To be sure, the model was applied differently in different cultural settings. As Margolin points out, the chief agent of represssion in Russia was a specially created political police, the Cheka-GPU-NKVD-KGB, while in China it was the People's Liberation Army, and in Cambodia it was gun-toting adolescents from the countryside: thus popular ideological mobilization went deeper in Asia than in Russia. Still, everywhere the aim was to repress "enemies of the people" - "like noxious insects," as Lenin said early on, thus inaugurating Commmunism's "animalization" of its adversaries. Moreover, the line of inheritance from Stalin, to Mao, to Ho, to Kim Il Sung, to Pol Pot was quite clear, with each new leader receiving both material aid and ideological inspiration from his predecessor. And, to come full circle, Pol Pot first learned his Marxism in Paris in 1952 (when such philoso-

{p. xv} phers as Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty were explaining how terror could be the midwife of "humanism").4 So if the debate remains on the level of the quantitative atrocity, the double standard collapses, and Communism appears as the more criminal totalitarianism.

But if the debate is shifted to qualitative crime, this outcome is easily reversed. And here the decisive factor is, again, the Holocaust as the confirmation of Nazism's uniquely evil nature. Indeed, this standard has become so universal that other persecuted groups, from Armenians to the native peoples of both Americas, have appropriated (with varying degrees of plausibility) the term "genocide" to characterize their own experience. Not surprisingly, many of these implicit comparisons to the Holocaust have been rejected as illegitimate, even slanderous. And in fact one overexcited op-ed piece in Le Monde, from a respected researcher, denounced Courtois's introduction as antisemitic.

Yet there are other, less emotionally charged arguments for assigning a significant distinctiveness to Nazi terror. The criminal law everywhere distinguishes degrees of murder, according to the motivation, the cruelty of the means employed, and so on. Thus, Raymond Aron long ago, and Francois Furet recently, though both unequivocal about the evil of Communism, distinguished between extermination practiced to achieve a political objective, no matter how perverse, and extermination as an end in itself.5 And in this perspective, Communism once again comes off as less evil than Nazism.

This plausible distinction, however, can easily be turned on its head. In particular, Eastern European dissidents have argued that mass murder in the name of a noble ideal is more perverse than it is in the name of a base one.6 The Nazis, after all, never pretended to be virtuous. The Communists, by contrast, trumpeting their humanism, hoodwinked millions around the globe for decades, and so got away with murder on the ultimate scale. The Nazis, moreover, killed off their victims without ideological ceremony; the Communists, by contrast, usually compelled their prey to confess their "guilt" in signed depositions thereby acknowledging the Party line's political "correctness." Nazism, finally was a unique case (Mussolini's Facism was not really competitive), and it developed no worldwide clientle. By contrast, Communism's universalism permitted it to metastasize worldwide.

A final position, forcefully expressed by Alain Besancon, is that murder is murder whatever the ideological motivation; and this is undeniably true for the equally dead victims of both Nazism and Communism. Such absolute equivalence is also expressed in Hannah Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism: both systems massacred their victims not for what they did (such as resisting the regime) but for who they were, whether Jews or kulaks. In this perspective, the distinction made by some, that the term petit-bourgeois "kulak" is more elastic

{p. xvi} and hence less lethal than biological "Jew," is invalidated: the social and the racial categories are equally psuedoscientific.

Yet none of these qualitative arguments can be "clinched" - unlike an empirically established victim count. And since there can be no consensus regarding degrees of political "evil," some researchers would claim that all value judgments merely express the ideological preferences of their authors.

Such "Positivist" social scientists, therefore, have averred that moral questions are irrelevant to understanding the past. An example is a recent volume devoted to political denunciation in modern Europe.8 The introduction presents some fascinating facts: in 1939 the Gestapo employed 7,500 people in contrast to the NKVD's 366,000 (including Gulag personnel); and the Communist Party made denunciation an obligation, whereas the Nazi Party did not. But no conclusions are drawn from these contrasts. Instead we are told that under both regimes the population was given to denunciation as "an everyday practice," and for reasons of self-advancement more than for reasons of ideology. We are told further that denunciation was endemic in prerevolutionary rural Russia, and that it flourished under the French Jacobins and the English Puritans, the Spanish Inquisition and American McCarthyism. And in fact all the "witch crazes" enumerated in the introduction did have some traits in common.

The rub is, however, that this perspective reduces politics and ideology everywhere to anthropology. And with this accomplished, the editors blandly assure us that, contrary to Hannah Arendt, the "Nazi/Soviet similarities" are insufficient to make denunciation "a specifically 'totalitarian' phenomenon." What is more, the difference between Nazi/Communist systems and Western ones is "not qualitative but quantitative." By implication, therefore, singling out Communist and Nazi terror in order to equate them becomes Cold War slander - the ideological subtext, as it happens, of twenty-five years of "revisionist," social-reductionist Sovietology.

By the same token, this fact-for-fact's-sake approach suggests that there is nothing specifically Communist about Communist terror - and, it would seem, nothing particularly Nazi about Nazi terror either. So the bloody Soviet experiment is banalized in one great gray anthropological blur; and the Soviet Union is transmogrified into just another country in just another age, neither more nor less evil than any other regime going. But this is obviously nonsense. Hence we are back with the problem of moral judgment, which is inseparable from any real understanding of the past - indeed, inseparable from being human.

In the twentieth century, however, morality is not primarily a matter of eternal verities or transcendental imperatives. It is above all a matter of political allegiances. That is, it is a matter of left versus right, roughly defined as the

{p. xvii} priority of compassionate egalitarianism for the one, and as the primacy of prudential order for the other. Yet since neither principle can be applied absolutely without destroying society, the modern world lives in perpetual tension between the irresistible pressure for equality and the functional necessity of hierarchy.

It is this syndrome that gives the permanent qualitative advantage to Communism over Nazism in any evaluation of their quantitative atrocities. For the Communist project, in origin, claimed commitment to universalistic and egalitarian goals, whereas the Nazi project offered only unabashed national egoism. Small matter, then, that their practices were comparable; their moral auras were antithetical, and it is the latter feature that counts in Western, domestic politics. And so we arrive at the fulcrum of the debate: A moral man can have "no enemies to the left," a perspective in which undue insistence on Communist crime only "plays into the hands of the right" - if, indeed, any anticommunism is not simply a mask for antiliberalism.

In this spirit, Le Monde's editorialist deemed The Black Book inopportune because equating Communism with Nazism removed the "last barriers to legitimating the extreme right," that is, Le Pen. It is true that Le Pen's party and similar hate-mongering, xenophobic movements elsewhere in Europe represent an alarming new phenomenon that properly concerns all liberal democrats. But it in no way follows that Communism's criminal past should be ignored or minimized. Such an argument is only a variant, in new historical circumstances, of Sartre's celebrated sophism that one should keep silent about Soviet camps "pour ne pas desesperer Billancout" (in order not to throw the auto workers of Billancout into despair). To which his onetime colleague, Albert Camus, long ago replied that the truth is the truth, and denying it mocks the causes both of humanity and of morality.

In fact, the persistence of such sophistry is precisely why The Black Book is so opportune. What, therefore, do its provocative pages contain? Without pretension to originality, it presents a balance sheet of our current knowledge of Communism's human costs, archivally based where possible and elsewhere drawing on the best available secondary evidence, and with due allowance for the difficulties of quantification. Yet the very sobriety of this inventory is what gives the book its power; and indeed, as we are led from country to country and from horror to horror, the cumulative impact is overwhelming.

At the same time, the book quietly advances a number of important analytical points. The first is that Communist regimes did not just commit criminal acts (all states do so on occasion); they were criminal enterprises in their very essence: on principle, so to speak, they all ruled lawlessly, by violence, and without regard for human life. Werth's section on the Soviet Union is thus

{p. xviii} titled "A State against Its People" and takes us methodically through the successive cycles of terror, from Great October in 1917 to Stalin's death in 1953. By way of comparison, he notes that between 1825 and 1917 tsarism carried out 6,321 political executions (most of them during the revolution of 1905-1907), whereas in two months of official "Red Terror" in the fall of 1918 Bolshevism achieved some 15,000. And so on for a third of a century; for example, 6 million deaths during the collectivization famine of 1932-33, 720,000 executions during the Great Purge, 7 million people entering the Gulag (where huge numbers died) in the years 1934-1941, and 2,750,000 still there at Stalin's death. True, these aggregates represent different modes of state violence, not all of them immediately lethal; but all betoken terror as a routine means of government.

And the less familiar figures in Margolin's chapter on China's "Long March into Night" are even more staggering: at a minimum, 10 million "direct victims"; probably 20 million deaths out of the multitudes that passed through China's "hidden Gulag," the laogai; more than 20 million deaths from the "political famine" of the Great Leap Forward of 1959-1961, the largest famine in history. Finally, in Pol Pot's aping of Mao's Great Leap, around one Cambodian in seven perished, the highest proportion of the population in any Communist country.

The book's second point is that there never was a benign, initial phase of Communism before some mythical "wrong turn" threw it off track. From the start Lenin expected, indeed wanted, civil war to crush all "class enemies"; and this war, principally against the peasants, continued with only short pauses until 1953. So much for the fable of "good Lenin/bad Stalin." (And if anyone doubts that it is still necessary to make this case, the answer may be found, for example, in the maudlin article "Lenin" in the current edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.) Still another point is of a "technical" nature: the use of famine to break peasant resistance to regime economic "plans." And ever since Solzhenitsyn, such "pharaonic" methods have been contrasted with the technologically advanced Nazi gas chamber.

A more basic point is that Red terror cannot be explained as the prolongation of prerevolutionary political cultures. Communist repression did not originate from above, in traditional autocracies; nor was it simply an intensification of violent folk practices from below - whether the peasant anarchism of Russia, or the cyclical millenarian revolts of China, or the exacerbated nationalism of Cambodia, although all these traditions were exploited by the new regime. Nor does the source of Communist practices reside in the violence of the two world wars, important though this brutal conditioning was. Rather, in each case, mass violence against the population was a deliberate policy of the new revolutionary order; and its scope and inhumanity far exceeded anything in the national past.

{p. xix} A final point, insisted on by Courtois yet clear also in his colleagues' accounts, is that Communism's recourse to "permanent civil war" rested on the "scientific" Marxist belief in class struggle as the "violent midwife of history," in Marx's famous metaphor. Similarly, Courtois adds, Nazi violence was founded on a scientistic social Darwinism promising national regeneration through racial struggle.

This valid emphasis on ideology as the wellspring of Communist mass murder reaches its apogee in Margolin's depiction of escalating radicalism as the revolution moved East. Stalin, of course, had already begun the escalation by presenting himself as the "Lenin of today" and his first Five-Year Plan as a second October. Then, in 1953, four years after Mao came to power, his heirs ended mass terror: it had simply become too costly to their now superpuissant regime. To the Chinese comrades, however, Moscow's moderation amounted to "betrayal" of the world revolution just as it was taking off in Asia. Consequently, in 1959-1961 Mao was goaded to surpass his Soviet mentors by a "Great Leap Forward" beyond mere socialism, Moscow style, to full Communism as Marx had imagined it in the Communist Manifesto and the Critique of the Gotha Program. And in 1966-1976, by directing the anarchy of the Cultural Revolution against his own Party, he proceeded to outdo Stalin's Great Purge of his Party in 1937-1939. But the most demented spinoff of this whole tradition was Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge of 1975-1979; for this rampage against urban, "bourgeois" civilization expressed nothing less than an ambition to propel tiny Cambodia beyond Mao's "achievements" into the front rank of world revolution.

Yet the long-term inefficiency of such "progress" eventually led Mao's heirs, in their turn, to "betray" the Marxist-Leninist impetus by halting mass terror and turning halfway to the market. Thereby, after 1979, Deng Xiaoping ended worldwide the perverse Prometheanism launched in October 1917. Thus the Communist trajectory, as The Black Book traces it from Petrograd to the China Seas, inevitably suggests that ideology, not social process, fueled the movement's meteoric rise, and that ideology's practical failure produced its precipitate fall.

This transnational perspective goes far toward answering the great question posed by Communist history: namely, why did a doctrine premised on proletarian revolution in industrial societies come to power only in predominantly agrarian ones, by Marxist definition those least prepared for "socialism"? But socialist revolution for Marx was not just a matter of economic development; it was at bottom an eschatological "leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom." Since such quasi-miraculous transformation has the strongest allure for those who have the greatest lag to overcome, it is hardly surprising that Marxism's line of march turned out to lead ever farther into the politically and economically backward East. Only by taking account of this

{p. xx} paradoxical eastward escalation through increasingly extravagant "leaps" can we build a real historiography of the great twentieth-century story that was Communism.

And this brings us back to the vexed - and vexing - question raised by Stephane Courtois in The Black Book: What of the moral equivalence of Communism with Nazism? After fifty years of debate, it is clear that no matter what the hard facts are, degrees of totalitarian evil will be measured as much in terms of present politics as in terms of past realities. So we will always encounter a double standard as long as there exist a left and a right - which will be a very long time indeed. No matter how thoroughly the Communist failure may come to be documented (and new research makes it look worse every day), we will always have reactions such as that of a Moscow correspondent for a major Western paper, who, after the fall, could still privately salute the Russian people with: "Thanks for having tried!"; and there will always be kindred spirits to dismiss The Black Book, a priori, as "right-wing anti-Communist rhetoric." For more mundane observers, however, it is at last becoming clear that our current qualitative judgments are scandalously out of line with the century's real balance sheet of political crime.

And this very absurdity perhaps brings us to a turning point. Ten years ago, the authors of The Black Book would have refused to believe what they now write. And exploration of the Soviet archives - and eventually those of East Asia - will continue to redress the balance. This comes at a time, moreover, when historical writing is turning increasingly to retrospective affirmative action, to fulfilling our "duty of remembrance" to all the oppressed of the past - indeed, when governments and churches formally apologize for their historic sins. Surely, then, the Party of humanity can spare a little compassion for the victims of the inhumanity so long meted out by so many of its own partisans.

Even so, such an effort at retrospective justice will always encounter one intractable obstacle. Any realistic accounting of Communist crime would effectively shut the door on Utopia; and too many good souls in this unjust world cannot abandon hope for an absolute end to inequality (and some less good souls will always offer them "rational" curative nostrums). And so, all comrade-questers after historical truth should gird their loins for a very Long March indeed before Communism is accorded its fair share of absolute evil.

{p. 1} Introduction: The Crimes of Communism

Stephane Courtois

{p. 12} But what self-deception kept Western European Communists, who had not been directly arrested by the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD, the secret police), blindly babbling away about the system and its leader? Why could they not hear the wake-up call at the very start? In his remarkable work on the Russian Revolution, The Soviet Tragedy, Martin Malia lifts a corner of the curtain when he speaks of "this paradox ... that ... [it] takes a great ideal to produce a great crime." Annie Kriegel, another major student of Communism, insists that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the two faces of Communism, as surely as day follows night.

Tzvetan Todorov offered the first response to this paradox:

A citizen of a Western democracy fondly imagines that totalitarianism lies utterly beyond the pale of normal human aspirations. And yet totalitarianism could never have survived so long had it not been able to drag so many people into its fold. There is something else - it is a formidably efficient machine. Communist ideology offers an idealized model for society and exhorts us toward it. The desire to change the world in the name of an ideal is, after all, an essential characteristic of human identity ... Furthermore, Communist society strips the individual of his responsibilities. It is always "somebody else" who makes the

{p. 13} decisions.

An analysis of terror and dictatorship - the defining characteristics of Communists in power - is no easy task. Jean Ellenstein has defined Stalinism as a combination of Greek tragedy and Oriental despotism. This definition is appealing, but it fails to account for the sheer modernity of the Communist experience, its totalitarian impact distinct from previously existing forms of dictatorship. A comparative synopsis may help to put it in context.

First, we should consider the possibility that responsibility for the crimes of Communism can be traced to a Russian penchant for oppression. However, the tsarist regime of terror against which the Bolsheviks fought pales in comparison uith the horrors committed by the Bolsheviks when they took power. The tsar allowed political prisoners to face a meaningful justice system. The counsel for the defendant could represent his client up to the time of indictment and even beyond, and he could also appeal to national and international public opinion, an option unavailable under Communist regimes. Prisoners and convicts benefited from a set of rules governing the prisons, and the system of imprisonment and deportation was relatively lenient. Those who were deported could take their families, read and write as they pleased, go hunting and fishing, and talk about their "misfortune" with their companions. Lenin and Stalin had firsthand experience of this. Even the events described by Fyodor Dostoevsky in Memoirs from the House of the Dead, which had such a great impact when it was published, seem tame by comparison with the horrors of Communism. True, riots and insurrections were brutally crushed by the ancien regime. However, from 1825 to 1917 the total number of people sentenced to death in Russia for their political beliefs or activities was 6,360, of whom only 3,932 were executed. This number can be subdivided chronologically into 191 for the years 1825 - 1905 and 3,741 for 1906 - 1910. These figures were surpassed by the

{p. 14} Bolsheviks in March 1918, after they had been in power for only four months. It follows that tsarist repression was not in the same league as Communist dictatorship.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, Communism set a standard for terror to which fascist regimes could aspire. A glance at the figures for these regimes shows that a comparison may not be as straightforward as it would first appear. Italian Fascism, the first regime of its kind and the first that openly claimed to be "totalitarian," undoubtedly imprisoned and regularly mistreated its political opponents. Although incarceration seldom led to death, during the 1930s Italy had a few hundred political prisoners and several hundred confinati, placed under house arrest on the country's coastal islands. In addition, of course, there were tens of thousands of political exiles.

Before World War II, Nazi terror targeted several groups. Opponents of the Nazi regime, consisting mostly of Communists, Socialists, anarchists, and trade union activists, were incarcerated in prisons and invariably interned in concentration camps, where they were subjected to extreme brutality. All told, from 1933 to 1939 about 20,000 left-wing militants were killed after trial or without trial in the camps and prisons. These figures do not include the slaughter of other Nazis to settle old scores, as in "The Night of the Long Knives" in June 1934. Another category of victims doomed to die were Germans who did not meet the proper racial criteria of "tall blond Aryans," such as those who were old or mentally or physically defective. As a result of the war, Hitler forged ahead with a euthanasia program - 70,000 Germans were gassed between the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1941, when churches began to demand that this program be stopped. The gassing methods devised for this euthanasia program were applied to the third group of victims, the Jews.

Before World War II, crackdowns against the Jews were widespread; persecution reached its peak during Kristallnacht, with several hundred deaths and 35,000 rounded up for internment in concentration camps. These figures apply only to the period before the invasion of the Soviet Union. Thereafter the full terror of the Nazis was unleashed, producing the following body count - 15 million civilians killed in occupied countries, 6 million Jews, 3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war, 1.1 million deportees who died in the camps, and several hundred thousand Gypsies. We should add another 8 million who succumbed to the ravages of forced labor and 1.6 million surviving inmates of the concentration camps.

The Nazi terror captures the imagination for three reasons. First, it touched the lives of Europeans so closely. Second, because the Nazis were vanquished and their leaders prosecuted at Nuremberg, their crimes have been officially exposed and categorized as crimes. And finally, the revelation of the

{p. 15} genocide carried out against the Jews outraged the conscience of humanity by its irrationality, racism, and unprecedented bloodthirtstiness.

Our purpose here is not to devise some kind of macacabre comparative System for crunching numbers, some kind of grand total that doubles the horror, some kind of hiearchy of cruelty. But the intransigent facts demonstrate that Communist regimes have victimized approximately 100 million people in contrast to the approximalely 25 million victims of the Nazis. This clear record should provide at least some basis for assessing the similarity between the Nazi regime, which since 1945 has been considered the most viciously criminal regime of this century, and the Communist system, which as late as 1911 had preserved its international legitimacy unimpaired and which, even today, is still in power in certain countries and continues to protect its supporters the world over. And even though many Communist palties have belatedly acknowledged Stalinism's crimes, most have not ahandoned Lenin's principles and scarcely question their own involvement in acts of terrorism.

The methods implemented by Lenin and perfected by Stalin and their henchmen bring to mind the methods used by the Nazis, but most often this is because the latter adopted the techniques developed by the former. Rudolf Hess, charged with organizing the camp at Auschwitz and later appointed its commandant, is a perfect example: "The Reich Security Head Office issued to the commandants a full collection of reports concerning the Russian concentration camps. These described in great detail the conditions in, and organization of, the Russian camps, as supplied by former prisoners who had managed to escape. Great emphasis was placed on the fact that the Russians, by their massive employment of forced labor, had destroyed whole peoples." However, the fact that the techniques of mass violence and the intensity of their use originated with the Communists and that the Nazis were inspired by them does not imply, in our view, that one can postulate a cause-and-effect relationship between the Bolshevik revolution and the rise of Nazism.

From the end of the 1920s, the State Political Directorate (GPU, the new name for the Cheka) introduced a quota method - each region and district had to arrest, deport, or shoot a certain percentage of people who were members of several "enemy" social classes. These quotas were centrally define d under the supervision of the Party. The mania for planning and maintaining statistics was not confined to the economy: it was also an important weapon in the arsenal of terror. From 1920 on, with the victory of the Red Army over the White Army in the Crimea, statistical and sociological methods made an appearance, with victims selected according to precise criteria on the basis of a compulsory questionnaire. The same "sociological" methods were used by the Soviet Union to organize mass deportations and liquidations in the Baltic states and occupied Poland in 1939-1941. As with the Nazis, the transportation of deportees in

{p. 16} cattle cars ushered in "aberrations." In 1943 and 1944, in the middle of the war, Stalin diverted thousands of trucks and hundreds of thousands of soldiers serving in the special NKVD troops from the front on a short-term basis in order to deport the various peoples living in the Caucasus. This genocidal impulse, which aims at "the total or partial destruction of a national, ethnic racial, or religious group, or a group that has been determined on the basis of any other arbitrary criterion," was applied by Communist rulers against groups branded as enemics and to entire segments of society, and was pursued to its maximum by Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge.

Efforts to draw parallels between Nazism and Communism on the basis of their respective extermination tactics may give offense to some people. Howewer, we should recall how in Forever Flowing Vasily Grossman, whose mother was killed by the Nazis in the Berdychiv ghetto, who authored the first work on Treblinka, and who was one of the editors of the Black Book on the extermination of Soviet Jews, has one of his characters describe the famine in Ukraine: "writers kept writing ... Stalin himself, too: the kulaks are parasites; they are burning grain; they are killing children. And it was openly proclaimed 'that the rage and wrath of the masses must be inflamed against them, they must be destroyed as a class, because they are accursed.'" He adds: "To massacre them, it was necessary to proclaim that kulaks are not human beings, just as the Germans proclaimed that Jews are not human beings. Thus did Lenin and Stalin say: kulaks are not human beings." In conclusion, Grossman says of the children of the kulaks: "That is exactly how the Nazis put the Jewish children into the Nazi gas chambers: 'You are not allowed to live, you are all Jews!'"

Time and again the focus of the terror was less on targeted individuals than on groups of people. The purpose of the terror was to exterminate a group that had been designated as the enemy. Even though it might be only a small fraction of society, it had to he stamped out to satisfy this genocidal impulse. Thus, the techniques of segregation and exclusion employed in a "class-based totalitarianism" closely resemble the techniques of "race-based totalitarianism." The future Nazi society was to be built upon a "pure race," and the future Communist society was to be built upon a proletarian people purified of the dregs of the bourgeoisie. The restructuring of these two societies was envisioned in the same way, even if the crackdowns were different. Therefore, it would be foolish to pretend that Communism is a form of universalism. Communism may have a worldwide purpose, but like Nazism it deems a part of humanity unworthy of existence. The difference is that the Communist model is based on the class system, the Nazi model on race and territory. Thus the transgressions of Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, and the Khmer Rouge pose a fresh challenge for humanity, and particularly for legal scholars and historians:

{p. 17} specifically, how do we describe a crime designed to exterminate not merely individuals or opposing groups but entire segments of society on a massive scale for their political and ideological beliefs? A whole new language is needed for this. Some authors in the English-speaking countries use the term "politicide." Or is the term "Communist crimes," suggested by Czech legal scholars, preferable?

How are we to assess Communism's crimes? What lessons are we to learn from them? Why has it been necessary to wait until the end of the twentieth century for this subject to show up on the academic radar screen? It is undoubtedly the case that the study of Stalinist and Communist terror, when compared to the study of Nazi crimes, has a great deal of catching-up to do (although such research is gaining popularity in Eastern Europe).

One cannot help noticing the strong contrast between the study of Nazi and Communist crimes. The victors of 1945 legitimately made Nazi crimes - and especially the genocide of the Jews - the central focus of their condemnation of Nazism. A number of researchers around the world have been working on these issues for decades. Thousands of books and dozens of films - most notably Night and Fog, Shoah, Sophie's Choice, and Schindler's List - hav-e been devoted to the subject. Raul Hilberg, to name but one example, has centered his major work upon a detailed description of the methods used to put Jews to death in the Third Reich.

Yet scholars have neglected the crimes committed by the Communists. While names such as Himmler and Eichmann are recognized around the world as bywords for twentieth-century barbarism, the names of Feliks Dzerzihinsky, Genrikh Yagoda, and Nikolai Ezhov languish in obscurity. As for Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and even Stalin, they have always enjoyed a surprising reverence. A French government agency, the National Lottery, was crazy enough to use Stalin and Mao in one of its advertising campaigns. Would anyone even dare to come up with the idea of featuring Hitler or Goebbels in commercials?

The extraordinary attention paid to Hitler's crimes is entirely justified. It respects the wishes of the surviving witnesses, it satisfies the needs of researchers trying to understand these events, and it reflects the desire of moral and political authorities to strengthen democratic values. But the revelations concerning Communist crimes cause barely a stir. Why is there such an awkward silence from politicians? Why such a deafening silence from the academic world regarding the Communist catastrophe, which touched the lives of about one-third of humanity on four continents during a period spanning eighty years? Why is there such widespread reluctance to make such a crucial factor as crime - mass crime, systematic crime, and crime against humanity - a central factor in the analysis of Communism? Is this really something that is

{p. 18} beyond human understanding? Or are we talking about a refusal to scrutinize the subject too closely for fear of learning the truth ahout it?

Thc reasons for this reticence are many and various. First, there is the dictators' understandable urge to erase their crimes and to justify the actions they cannot hide. Khrushchev's "Secret Speech" of 1956 was the first admission of Communist atrocities by a Communist leader. It was also the statement of a tyrant seeking to gloss over the crimes he himself committed when he headed the Ukrainian Communist Party at the height of the terror, crimes that he clearly attributed to Stalin by claiming that he and his henchmen were merely obeying orders. To cover up the vast majority of Communist offenses, Khrushchev spoke only of victims who were Communists, although they were far fewer in number than the other kind. He defined these crimes with a euphemism, describing them in his conclusion as "abuses committed under Stalin" in order to justify the continuity ot the system that retained the same principles, the same structure, and the same people.

In his inimitable fashion Khrushchev described the opposition he faced while preparing his "Secret Speech," especially from one of Stalin's confidants: "[Lazar] Kaganovich was such a yes-man that he would have cut his own father's throat if Stalin had winked and said it was in the interests of the cause - the Stalinist cause, that is ... He was arguing against me out of a selfish fear for his own hide. He was motivated entirely by his eagerness to escape any responsibility for what had happened. If crimes had been committed, Kaganovich wanted to make sure his own tracks were covered." The absolute denial of access to archives in Communist countries, the total control of the print and other media as well as of border crossings, the propaganda trumpeting the regime's "successes," and the entire apparatus for keeping information under lock and key were designed primarily to ensure that the awful truth would never see the light of day.

Not satisfied with the concealment of their misdeeds, the tyrants systematically attacked all who dared to expose their crimes. After World War II this became starkly clear on two occasions in France. From January to April 1949 the "trial" of Viktor Kravchenko - a former senior official who wrote I Chose Freedom, in which he described Stalin's dictatorship - was conducted in Paris in the pages of the Communist magazine Les lettres francaises, which was managed by Louis Alagon and which heaped abuse on Kravchenko. From Novermber 1950 to January 1951, again in Paris, Les lettres francaises held another "trial" - of David Rousset, an intellectual and former Trotskite who was deported to Germany by the Nazis and who in 1946 received the Renaudot Prize for his book The World of Concentration Camps. On 12 November 1949 Rousset urged all former Nazi camp deportees to form a commission of inquiry into the Soviet camp system and was savagely attacked by the Communist press,

{p. 19} which denied the existence of such camps. Following Rousset's call, Margaret Buber-Neuman recounted her experience of being deported to concentration camps - once to a Nazi camp and once to a Soviet camp - in an article published on 25 February 1950 in Figaro litteraire, "An inquiry on Soviet Camps: Who Is Worse, Satan or Beelzebub?"

Despite these efforts to enlighten humankind, the the tyrants continued to wheel out heavy artillery to silence all those who stood in their way anywhere in the world. The Communist assassins set out to incapacitate, discredit, and intimidate their adversaries. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Bukovsky, Aleksandr Zinoviev, and Leonid Plyushch were expelled from their own country; Andrei Sakharov was exiled to Gorky; General Petro Hryhorenko was thrown into a psychiatric hospital; and Georgi Markov was assassinated with an umbrella that fired pellets filled with poison.

In the face of such incessant intimidation and cover-ups, the victims grew reluctant to speak out and were effectively prevented from reentering mainstream society, where their accusers and executioners were ever-present. Vasily Grossman eloquently describes their despair. In contrast to the Jewish Holocaust, which the international Jewish community has actively commemorated, it has been impossible for victims of Communism and their legal advocates to keep the memory of the tragedy alive, and and requests for commemoration or demands for reparation are brushed aside {Given that this is still true, did Communism "lose" the Cold War?}.

When the tyrants could no longer hide the truth - the firing squads, the concentration camps, the man-made famine - they did their best to justify these atrocities by glossing them over. After admitting the use of terror, they justified it as a necessary aspect of revolution through the use of such catchphrases as "When you cut down a forest, the shavings get blown away" or "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs." Vladimir Bukovsky retorted that he had seen the broken eggs, but no one he knew had ever tasted the omelet! Perhaps the single greatest evil was the perversion of language. As if by magic, the concentration-camp system was turned into a "reeducation system," and the tyrants became "educators" who transformed the people of the old society into "new people." The zeks, a term used for Soviet concentration camp prisoners, were forcibly "invited" to place their trust in a system that enslaved them. In China the concentration-camp prisoner is called a "student," and he is required to study the correct thoughts of the Party and to reform his own faulty thinking.

As is usually the case, a lie is not, strictly speaking, the opposite of the truth, and a lie generally contains an element of truth. Perverted words are situated in a twisted vision that distorts the landscape; one is confronted with a myopic social and political philosophy. Attitudes twisted by Communist propaganda are easy to correct, but it is monumentally difficult to instruct false Prophets in the ways of intellectual tolerance. The first impression is always

{p. 20} the one that lingers. Like martial artists, the Communists, thanks to their incomparable propaganda strength grounded in the subversion of language, successfully turned the tables on the criticisms leveled against their terrorist tactics, continually uniting the ranks of their militants and sympathizers by renewing the Communist act of faith. Thus they held fast to their fundamcntal principle of ideological belief, as formulated by Tertullian for his own era: "I believe, because it is absurd."

Like common prostitutes, intellectuals found themselves inveigled into counterpropaganda operations. In 1928 Maksim Gorky accepted an invitation to go on an "excursion" to the Solovetski Islands, an experimental concentration camp that would "metastasize" (to use Solzhenitsyn's word) into the Gulag system. On his return Gorky wrote a book extolling the glories of the Solovetski camps and the Soviet government. A French writer, Henri Barbusse, recipient of the 1916 Prix Goncourt, did not hesitate to praise Stalin's regime for a fee. His 1928 book on "marvelous Georgia" made no mention of the massacre carried out there in 1921 by Stalin and his henchman Sergo Ordzhonikidze. It also ignored Lavrenti Beria, head of the NKVD, who was noteworthy for his Machiavellian sensibility and his sadism. In 1935 Barbusse brought out the first official biography of Stalin. More recently Maria Antonietta Macciochi spoke gushingly about Mao Zedong, and Alain Peyrefitte echoed the same sentiments to a lesser degree, while Danielle Mitterrand chimed in to praise the deeds of Fidel Castro. Cupidity, spinelessness, vanity, fascination with power, violence, and revolutionary fervor - whatever the motivation, totalitarian dictatorships have always found plenty of diehard supporters when they had need of them, and the same is true of Communist as of other dictatorships.

Confronted with this onslaught of Communist propaganda, the West has long labored under an extraordinary self-deception, simultaneously fueled by naivete in the face of a particularly devious system, by the fear of Soviet power, and by the cynicism of politicians. There was self-deception at the meeting in Yalta, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ceded Eastern Europe to Stalin in return for a solemn undertaking that the latter would hold free elections at the earliest opportunity. Realism and resignation had a rendezvous with destiny in Moscow in December 1944, when General Charles de Gaulle abandoned hapless Poland to the devil in return for guarantees of social and political peace, duly assured by Maurice Thorez on his return to Paris.

This self-deception was a source of comfort and was given quasi-legitimacy by the widespread belief among Communists (and many leftists) in the West that while these countries were "building socialism," the Communist "Utopia," a breeding ground for social and political conflicts, would remain safely distant. Simone Weil epitomized this pro-Communist trendiness when she said, "revolutionary workers are only too thankful to have a state backing

{p. 21} them - a state that gives an official character, legitimacy, and reality to their actions as only a state can, and that at the same time is sufficiently far away from them geographically to avoid seeming oppressive." Communism was supposedly showing its true colors - it claimed to be an emissary of the Enlightenment, of a tradition of social and human emancipation, of a dream of "true equality," and of "happiness for all ' as envisioned by Gracchus Babeuf. And paradoxically, it was this image of "enlightenment" that helped keep the true nature of its evil almost entirely concealed.

Whether intentional or not, when dealing with this ignorance of the criminal dimension of Communism, our contemporaries' indifference to their fellow humans can never be forgotten. It is not that these individuals are coldhearted. On the contrary, in certain situations they can draw on vast untapped reserves of brotherhood, friendship, affection, even love. However, as Tzvetan Todorov has pointed out, "remembrance of our own woes prevents us from perceiving the suffering of others." And at the end of both world wars, no European or Asian nation was spared the endless grief and sorrow of licking its own wounds. France's own hesitancy to confront the history of the dark years of the Occupation is a compelling illustration in and of itself. The history, or rather nonhistory, of the Occupation continues to overshadow the French conscience. We encounter the same pattern, albeit to a lesser degree, with thc history of the "Nazi" period in Germany, the "Fascist" period in Italy, the "Franco" era in Spain, the civil war in Greece, and so on. In this century of blood and iron, everyone has been too preoccupied with his oun misfortunes to worry much about the misfortunes of others.

However, there are three more specific reasons for the cover-up of the criminal aspects of Communism. The first is the fascination with the whole notion of revolution itself. In today's world, breast-beating over the idea of "revolution," as dreamed about in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, is far from over. The icons of revolution - the red flag, the International, and the raised fist - reemerge with each social movement and on a grand scale. Che Guevara is back in fashion. Openly revolutionary groups are active and enjoy every legal right to state their views, hurling abuse on even the mildest criticisms of crimes committed by their predecessors and only too eager to spout the eternal verities regarding the "achievements" of Lenin, Trotsky, or Mao. This revolutionary fervor is not embraced solely by revolutionaries. Many contributors to this book themselves used to believe in Communist propaganda.

The second reason is the participation of the Soviet Union in the victory over Nazism, which allowed the Communists to use fervent patriotism as a mask to conceal thcir latest plans to take power into their own hands. From June 1941, Communists in all occupied countries commenced an active and frequently armed resistance against Nazi or Italian occupation forces. Like

{p. 22} resistance fighters everywhere, they paid the price for their efforts, with thousands being executed by firing squad, slaughtered, or deported. And they "played the martyr" in order to sanctify the Communist cause and to silence all criticism of it. In addition to this, during the Resistance many non-Communists became comrades-in-arms, forged bonds of solidarity, and shed their blood alongside their Communist fellows. As a result of this past these non-Communists may have been willing to turn a blind eye to certain things. In France, the Gaullist attitude was often influenced by this shared memory and was a factor hehind the politics of General de Gaulle, who tried to play off the Soviet Union against the Americans.

The Communists' participation in the war and in the victory over Nazism institutionalized the whole notion of antifascism as an article of faith for the left. The Communists, of course, portrayed themselves as the best representatives and defenders of this antifascism. For Communism, antifascism became a brilliantly effective label that could be used to silence one's opponents quickly. Francois Furet wrote some superb articles on the subject. The defeated Nazism was labeled the "Supreme Evil" by the Allies, and Communism thus automatically wound up on the side of Good. This was made crystal clear during the Nuremberg trials, where Soviet jurists were among the prosecutors. Thus a veil was drawn over embarrassing antidemocratic episodes, such as the German-Soviet pact of 1939 and the massacre at Katyn. Victory over the Nazis was supposed to demonstrate the superiority of the Communist system. In the Europe liberated by the British and the Americans (which was spared the sufferings of occupation) this was done for propaganda purposes to arouse a keen sense of gratitude to the Red Army and a sense of guilt for the sacrifices made by the peoples of the U.S.S.R. The Communists did not hesitate to play upon the sentiments of Europeans in spreading the Communist message.

By the same token, the ways in which Eastern Europe was "liberated" by the Red Army remain largely unknown in the West, where historians assimilate two very different kinds of "liberation," one leading to the restoration of democracies, the other paving the way for the advent of dictatorships. In Central and Eastern Europe, the Soviet system succeeded the Thousand Year Reich, and Witold Gombrowicz neatly captured the tragedy facing these peoples: "The end of the war did not bring liberation to the Poles. In the battlegrounds of Central Europe, it simply meant swapping one form of evil for another, Hitler's henchmen for Stalin's. While sycophants cheered and rejoiced at the 'emancipation of the Polish people from the feudal yoke,' the same lit cigarette was simply passed from hand to hand in Poland and continued to burn the skin of people." Therein lay the fault line between two European folk memories. However, a number of publications have lifted the curtain to show

{p. 23} how the U.S.S.R. "liberated" the Poles, Germans, Czechs, and Slovaks from Nazism.

The final reason for the gentle treatment of Communism is subtler and a little trickier to explain. After 1945 the Jewish genocide became a byword for modern barbarism, the epitome of twentieth-century mass terror. After initially disputing the unique nature of the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis, the Communists soon grasped the benefits involved in immortalizing the Holocaust as way of rekindling antifascism on a more systematic basis. The specter of "the filthy beast whose stomach is fertile again" - to use Bertold Brecht's famous phrase - was invoked incessantly and constantly. More recently, a singleminded focus on the Jewish genocide in an attempt to characterize the Holocaust as a unique atrocity has also prevented an assessment of other episodes of comparable magnitude in the Communist world. After all, it scems scarcely plausible that the victors who had helped bring about the destruction of a genocidal apparatus might themselves have put the very same methods into practice. When faced with this paradox, pcople generally preferred to bury their heads in the sand.

The first turning point in the official recognition of Communist crimes came on the evening of 24 February 1956, when First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev took the podium at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the CPSU. The proceedings were conducted behind closed doors; only delegates to the Congress were present. In absolute silence, stunned by what they were hearing, the delegates listened as the first secretary of the Party systematically dismantled the image of the "little father of the peoples," of the "genius Stalin," who for thirty ycars had been the hero of world Communism. This report, immortalized as Khrushchev's "Secret Speech," was one of the watersheds in the life of contemporary Communism. For the first time, a high-ranking Communist leader had officially acknowledged, albeit only as a tactical concession, that the regime that assumed power in 1917 had undergone a criminal "deviation."

Khrushchev's motivations for breaking one of the great taboos of the Soviet regime were numerous. Khrushchev's primary aim was to attribute the crimes of Communism only to Stalin, thus circumscribing the evil, and to eradicate it once and for all in an effort to salvage the Communist regime. A determination to carry out an attack on Stalin's clique, which stood in the way of Khrushchev's power and believed in the methods practiced hy their former boss, entered equally into his decision. Beginning in June 1957, these men were stematically removed from office. Howeveer, for the first time since 1934, the act of "being put to death politically" was not followed by an actual death, and

{p. 24} this telling detail itself illustrates that Khrushchev's motives were more complex. Having been the boss of Ukraine for years and, in this capacity, having carried out and covered up the slaughter of innocent civilians on a massive scale, he may have grown weary of all this bloodshed. In his memoirs, in which he was naturally concerned with portraying himself in a flattering light, Khrushchev recalled his feelings "The Congress will end, and resolutions wili be passed, all as a matter of form. But then what? The hundreds and thousands of people who were shot will stay on our consciences." As a result, he severely reprimanded his colleagues:

{quote} What are we going to do about all those who were arrested and eliminated? ... We now know that the people who suffered during the repressions were innocent. We have indisputable proof that, far from being enemies of the people, they were honest men and women, devoted to the Party, dedicated to the Revolution, and committed to the Leninist cause and to the building of Socialism and Communism in the Soviet Union. I still think it's impossible to cover everything up. Sooner or later people will be coming out of the prisons and the camps, and they'll return to the cities. They'll tell their relatives, friends, and comrades and everyone back home what happened ... we're obliged to speak candidly to the delegates about the conduct of the Party leadership durmg the years in question. How can we pretend not to know what happened? We know there was a reign of repression and arbitrary rule in the Party, and we must tell the Congress what we know ... In the life of anyone who has committed a crime, there comes a moment when a confession will assure him leniency if not exculpation. {end quote}

Among some of the men who had had a hand in the crimes perpetrated under Stalin and who generally owed their promotions to the extermination of their predecessors in office, a certain kind of remorse took hold - a lukewarm remorse, a self-interested remorse, the remorse of a politician, but remorse nonetheless. It was necessary for someone to put a stop to the slaughter. Khrushchev had the courage to do this even if, in 1956, he sent Soviet tanks into Budapest.

In 1961, during the Twenty-second Congress of the CPSU, Khrushchev recalled not only the victims who were Communists but all of Stalin's victims and even proposed that a monument be erected in their memory. At this point Khrushchev may have overstepped the invisible boundary beyond which the very raison d'etre of Communism was being challenged - namely, the absolute monopoly on power reserved for the Communist Party. The monument never saw the light of day. In 1962 the first secretary authorized the publication of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. On 24

{p. 25} October 1964 Khrushchev was stripped of his powers, but his life was spared, and he died in obscurity in 1971. There is a substantial degree of scholarly consensus regarding the importance of the "Secret Speech," which represented a fundamental break in Communism's twentieth-century trajectory.

{But Khruschev was one of those who murdered Stalin; for a more accurate view of the "secret" speech, which takes this into account, see death-of-stalin.html. Further, Courtois does not acknowledge the "Jewish" factor: that the USSR had been created by atheistic Jews (see zioncom.html), and that Stalin had ousted them. Part of his harshness was directed at preventing the same forces from regaining control: stalin.html. Further, Stalin had resisted the American/Zionist proposal for World Government - the Baruch Plan of 1946: baruch-plan.html. One cannot get a balanced perspective on Stalin, or Communism, without taking all these factors into account}

Francois Furet, on the verge of quitting the French Communist Party in 1954, wrote these words on the subject:

{quote} Now all of a sudden the "Secret Speech" of February 1956 had singlehandedly shattered the Communist idea then prevailing around the world. The voice that denounced Stalin's crimes did not come from the West but from Moscow, and from the "holy of holies" in Moscow, the Kremlin. It was not the voice of a Communist who had been ostracized but the voice of the leading Communist in the world, the head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Thus, instead of being tainted by the suspicion that was invariably leveled at accusations made by ex-Communists, Khrushchev's remarks gained the luster that reflected glory upon its leader. The extraordinary power of the "Secret Speech" on the mind stemmed from the fact that it did not have any opponents. {end quote}

This event was especially paradoxical inasmuch as a number of contemporaries had long warned the Bolsheviks about the inherent dangers of this course of action. From 1917 to 1918 disgruntlement arose even within the socialist movement itself, including among believers in the "great light from the East " who were suddenly relentless in their criticism of the Bolsheviks. Essentially the dispute centered upon the methods used by Lenin: violence, crime, and terror. From the 1920s to the 1950s, while the dark side of Bolshevism was being exposed by a number of witnesses, victims, and skilled observers (as well as in countless articles and other publications), people had to hide their time until the Communist rulers would recognize this themselves. Alas, the significance of this undoubtedly important development was misinterpreted by the growing body of public opinion as a recognition of the errors of Communism. This was indeed a misinterpretation, since the "Secret Speech" tackled only the question of Communists as victims; but at least this was a step in the right direction. It was the first confirmation of the testimony by witnesses and of previous studies, and it corroborated long-standing suspicions that Communism was responsible for creating a colossal tragedy in Russia.

The leaders of many "fraternal parties" were initially unconvinced of the need to jump on Khrushchev's bandwagon. After some delay, a few leaders in other countries did follow Khrushchev's lead in exposing these atrocities. However, it was not until 1979 that the Chinese Communist Party divided Mao's

{p. 26} policies between "great merits," which lasted until 1957, and "great errors," which came afterward.

{p. 30} Some of the contributors to this book were not always strangers to the fascinations of Communism. Sometimes they themselves took part (even if only on a modest scale) in the Communist system, either in the orthodox Leninist-Stalinist school or in its related or dissident varieties (Trotskyite, Maoist). And if they still remain closely wedded to the left - or, rather, precisely because they are still wedded to the left - it is necessary to take a closer look at the reasons for their self-deception. This mindset has led them down a certain intellectual pathwax characterized by the choice of topics they study, by their scholarly publications, and by the journals (such as La nouvelle alternative and Communisme) in which they publish. This book can do no more than provide an impetus for this particular type of reassessment. If these leftists pursue the task conscientiously, they will show that they too have a right to be heard on this issue, rather than leaving it to the increasingly influential extreme right wing. The crimes of Communism need to be judged from the standpoint of democratic values, not from the standpoint of ultranationalist or fascist philosophies.

This approach calls for cross-country analysis, including comparisons of China and the U.S.S.R., Cuba and Vietnam, and others. Alas, the documents currently available are decidedly mixed in quantity and quality; in some cases the archives have not yet been opened. However, we felt that we should carry on regardless, confining ourselves to facts that are crystal-clear and beyond question. e want this book to be a groundbreaking work that will lay a broad foundation for further study and thought by others.

This book contains many words but few pictures. The dearth of pictures

{p. 31} is one of the more delicate issues involved in the cover-up of Communist crimes In a media-saturated global society, the photographed or televised image has become the fount of "truth." Alas, we have only a handful of rare archival phdtographs of the Gulag and the laogai. There are no photographs of dekulakization or of the famine during the Great Leap Forward. The victorious powers at Nuremberg could at least photograph and film the thousands of bodies found at Bergen-Belsen. Those investigators also found photographs that had been taken by the tyrants themselves - for example, the picture of a Nazi shooting point blank at a woman with an infant in her arms. No such parallels existed in the darkness of the Communist world, where terror had been organized in strictest secrecy.

Readers may feel less than satisfied with the few photographic documents assembled here. They will need time to read, page after page, about the ordeal to which millions of people were subjected. They will have to make an effort to imagine the scale of the tragedy and to realize and appreciate how it will leave its mark on the history of the world for decades to come. Then readers must ask themselves the essential question, "Why?" Why did Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and others believe it necessary to exterminate all those whom they had branded as "enemies"? What made them imagine they could violate one of the basic tenets of civilization, "Thou shall not kill"? We will try, through this book, to answer that question.

{p. 33} Part I: A State against its People: Violence, Repression and Terror in the Soviet Union

Nicholas Werth

{p. 45} The role of the peasant-soldiers - a mass of 10 million mobilized men - was decisive in the revolutions of 1917. The rapid dissolution of the Russian army, hastened by desertion and pacifism, propelled the collapse of state institutions. Basing their authority on the first decree issued by the provisional government - the famous "Order Number One," abolishing the worst of the disciplinary rules for soldiers in the imperial army - committes of soldiers pushed the limits of their power. They elected new officers and even took part in planning military strategies and tactics. This idea of "soldier power" paved the way for what General Aleksei Brusilov, commander in chief of the Russian army, termed a "Bolshevism of the trenches." In his description, "The soldiers

{p. 46} didn't have the taintest idea of what Communism, the proletariat, or the constitution actually meant. They wanted peace, land, and the freedom to live without laws, without officers, and without landlords. Their Bolshevism was nothing more than a longing for an idealized sort of liberty - anarchy, in fact."

After the failure of the last Russian offensive in June 1917, the army began to fall apart; hundreds of officers, accused by the troops of being counterrevolutionaries, were arrested by the soldiers and massacred. The number of desertions soared - by August and September there were tens of thousands every day. The peasant-soldiers had one goal - to return home as quickly as possible, so as not to miss out on the distribution of land and livestock previously belonging to the landowners. From June to October 1917 more than 2 million soldiers, tired of the fighting and of the appalling deprivations they had lived through in their garrisons and trenches, deserted the rapidly disintegrating army. Inevitably their return increased the unrest pervading the countryside.

Until the summer of 1917, the agrarian trouble spots had been relatively localized, particularly in comparison with the agrarian revolts during the revolution of 1905-06. Once news of the tsar's abdication had spread, a peasant assembly met and drew up a petition containing their grievances and demands: the land should be given to whose who worked it, fallow land belonging to the landowners should be immediately redistributed, and all rents should be drastically reduced. Slowly the peasants became more and more organized, setting up agrlcultural committees on local and regional levels headed by leading members of the rural intelligentsia such as schoolteachers, agronomists doctors, and Orthodox priests, all of whom sympathized with the aims of the Socialist Revolutionaries. From May and June onward, many agrarian committees simply seized agricultural material and livestock belonging to the landowners and appropriated woods, pastures, and fallow land. In this battle for land, the main victims clearly were the great land barons, but the kulaks (the better-off peasants, who had taken advantage of Stolypin's reforms to set up small holdings on their own and thus become free of obligations to the community) also suffered as a group. Even before the October Revolution the kulaks, who had been the soft targets of Bolshevik rhetoric - which caricatured them in slogans as "money-grubbing peasants," "the rural bourgeoisie," and "blood-sucking kulaks" - were no longer the important force they had been. In fact by this point many of them had been forced to return most of their livestock, machinery, and land to the community, which then redistributed it according to the ancestral egalitarian principle that counted the number of mouths to be fed.

During the summer the agrarian troubles became more and more violent, fueled by the return of hundreds of thousands of armed deserters. By the end of August, disillusioned by the broken promises of a government that seemed to be delaying agrarian reforms, the peasants mounted assaults on the manor

{p. 47} houses, burning and sacking them in the hope of driving out the hated landowners once and for all. In Ukraine and in the central provinces of Russia - Tambov, Penza, Voronezh, Saratov, Orel, Tula, and Ryazan - thousands of houses were burned and hundreds of landowners killed.

Faced with the expansion of this social revolution, the ruling elite and the political parties - with the notable exception of the Bolsheviks - all wavered between the desire to control the movement in some fashion and the temptation of a simple military putsch. After taking their places in the government in May, both the Mensheviks, who were popular in working-class areas, and the Socialist Revolutionaries, who had a stronger base in the countryside than any other political group, proved unable to carry out the reforms they had always demanded - particularly in the case of the Socialist Revolutionaries, land reform. For the most part, this failure stemmed from the fact that they were cooperating with a government concerned primarily with social order and law-abiding behavior. Once they had become the managers and leaders of an essentially bourgeois state, the moderate socialist parties left the more radical calls for reform to the Bolsheviks, without, however, reaping any great benefit from their participation in a government that was slowly losing its grip on the political realities in the country_

In the face of this growing anarchy, the captains of industry, the landowners, the leaders of the army, and some of the more disillusioned liberals considered mounting a military coup, an idea proposed by General Lavr Kornilov. Most of them abandoned the idea, since a military putsch would inevitably have destroyed the civil power of the elected provisional government led by Aleksandr Kerensky. The failure of General Kornilov's putsch on 24-27 August did, however, lead to the final crisis of the provisional government. While the proponents of civil versus military dictatorships engaged in fruitless arguments, the central institutions of the state - the justice system, the civil service, the army - were disintegrating.

But it would be a mistake to describe the radicalization of the urban and rural populations as a process of "bolshevization." The shared slogans - "workers' power" and "power to the soviets" - had different meanings for the militant workers and the Bolshevik leaders. In the army, the "Bolshevism of the trenches" reflected above all a general aspiration for peace, shared by combatants from all the countries engaged in the bloodiest and most all-consuming war that the world had ever seen. The peasant revolution followed a more or less autonomous course, more sympathetic to the Socialist Revolutionary program, which favored the "Black-Earth partition" of land. The Bolshevik approach to the agrarian question was in fact antithetical to peasant wishes, favoring the nationalization of all land and its subsequent exploitation through enormous collective farms. In the countryside little was known about the Bolsheviks except for the confused reports brought home by deserters,

{p. 48} whose message could be summed up in those two magic words "land" and "peace." Membership in the Bolshevik movement seems to have numbered no more than two thousand at the beginning of October 1917. But as a constellation of committees, soviets, and other small groups rushed to fill the wholesale institutional vacuum of that autumn, the environment was perfect for a small, well-organized group to exercise a disproportionate amount of power. And that is exactly what the Bolshevik Party did.

Since its founding in 1903, the party had remained outside the other currents of social democracy in both Russia and Europe, chiefly because of its will to break radically with the existing social and political order and because of its conception of itself as a highly structured, disciplined, elitist avant-garde of professional revolutionaries. The Bolsheviks were thus the complete opposite of the Menshevik and other European social-democratic parties, which allowed large memberships and widely differing points of view.

World War I further distilled Leninist Bolshevism. Rejecting collaboration with all other currents of social democracy, Lenin became increasingly isolated, justifying his theoretical position in essays like Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. He began to argue that the revolution was destined to occur not in countries where capitalism was most advanced, but rather in countries like Russia that were considerably less developed economically, provided that the revolutionary movement was led by a disciplined avant-garde of revolutionaries who were prepared to go to extremes. That meant, in this case, creating a dictatorship of the proletariat and transforming "the imperialist war" into a civil war.

In a letter of 17 October 1917 to Aleksandr Shlvapniko, Lenin wrote:

{quote} The least bad thing that could happen in the short term would be the defeat of tsarism in the war ... The essence of our work (which must be persistent, systematic, and perhaps extremely long-term) is to aim for the transformation of the war into a civil war. When that will happen is another question, as it is not yet clear. We must wait for the moment to ripen, and systematically force it to ripen ... We can neither promise civil war nor decree it, but we must work toward that end for as long as we have to. {endquote}

Throughout the war Lenin returned to the idea that the Bolsheviks had to be ready to encourage civil war by all possible means. "Anyone who believes in class war," he wrote in Scptember 1916, "must recognize that civil war, in any class-based society, is the natural continuation, development, and result of class war."

After the February revolution (which occurred while most of the Bolsheviks were in exile or abroad) Lenin - unlike the vast majority of the leaders of

{p. 49} his party - predicted the failure of the conciliatory policies pursued by the provisional government. ...

Lenin was caught between two opposing forces: a plebeian mass increasingly impatient for action, made up of the sailors at the Kronstadt naval base near Petrograd, certain regiments in the capital, and the worker battalions of Red Guards in Vyborg; and a group of leaders haunted by fear that an overhasty insurrection would fail. Contrary to commonly held historical opinion, throughout 1917 the Bolshevik Party was profoundly divided, torn between the timidity of one group and the overenthusiasm of the other. At this stage the famous party discipline was more an act of faith than a concrete reality. In July 1917, as a result of troubles at the naval base and confrontations with the government forces, the Bolshevik Party was very nearly destroyed altogether. In the aftermath of the bloody demonstrations in Petrograd from 3 to 5 July, its leaders were arrested, and some, like Lenin himself, were forced into exile.

But the Bolshevik Party resurfaced at the end of August 1917, in a situ-

{p. 50} ation quite favorable for an armed seizure of power. ...

From exile in Finland, Lenin sent a constant stream of articles and letters to the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, calling for the uprising to begin. "By making immediate offers of peace and giving land to the peasants, the Bolsheviks will establish a power base that no one will be able to overturn," he wrote. "There is no point in waiting for a formal majority for the Bolsheviks; revolutions do not wait for such things. History will never forgive us if we do not seize power immediately."

Lenin's urgency in the face of an increasingly revolutionary situation left most of the Bolshevik leaders skeptical and perplexed. It was surely enough, they believed, to stick behind the masses and incite them to spontaneous acts of violence, to encourage the disruptive influence of social movements, and to sit tight until the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, planned for 20 October. It was more than likely that the Bolsheviks would achieve a plurality at the assembly, since they would be overrepresented by the soviets from the great working-class areas and from the army. Lenin, however, greatly feared the power-sharing that might result if the transfer of power took place as a result of a vote at the Congress of Soviets. For months he had been clamoring for power to devolve to the Bolsheviks alone, and he wanted at all costs to ensure that the Bolsheviks seized power through a military insurrection, before the opening of the Second Congress. He knew that the other socialist parties would universally condemn such a move, and thus effectively force themselves into opposition, leaving all power in the hands of the Bolsheviks.

On 10 October, having returned secretly to Petrograd, Lenin gathered together twelve of the twenty-one members of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party. After ten hours of negotiations he persuaded a majority to vote in favor of the most important decision ever made by the party - to undertake an immediate armed uprising. The decision was approved by ten to two, the dissenters being Zinoviev and Kamenev, who wished to wait for the Second

{p. 51} Congress of Soviets. On 16 October, despite opposition from the moderate socialists, Trotsky therefore set up the Petrograd Revolutionary Military Committee (PRMC), a military organization theoretically under the control of the Petrograd Soviet but in fact run by the Bolsheviks. Its task was to organize the seizure of power through an armed insurrection - and thus to prevent a popular anarchist uprising that might have eclipsed the Bolshevik Party.

In accordance with Lenin's wishes, the number of direct participants in the Great Socialist October Revolution was extremely limited - a few thousand soldiers, the sailors from Kronstadt, Red Guards who had rallied to the cause of the PRMC, and a few hundred militant Bolsheviks from factory committees. Careful preparation and a lack of opposition allowed the whole operation to proceed smoothly and with very few casualties. Significantly, the seizure of power was accomplished in the name of the PRMC. Thus the Bolshevik leaders attributed all their power to a single event that no one outside the party's Central Committee could link to the Congress of Soviets.

Lenin's strategy worked. Faced with this fait accompli, the moderate socialists, after denouncing "an organized military action deliberately planned behind the back of the soviets," simply walked out of the Congress. Only the small group of left-wing Socialist Revolutionaries remained, and they joined the Bolsheviks in ratifying the coup, voting in a text drawn up by Lenin that gave "all power to the soviets." This purely formal resolution allowed the Bolsheviks to authenticate a fiction that was to deceive credulous generations for decades to come - that they governed in the name of the people in "the Soviet state." A few hours later, before breaking up, the Congress ratified a new Bolshevik government - the Soviet Council of People's Commissars (SNK), presided over by Lenin - and approved two decrees about peace and land.

{Sovet Narodnykh Komissarov, abbreviated to Sovnarkom or SNK}

Very soon misunderstandings and conflicts arose between the new regime and the social movements, which until then had acted independently to destroy the old political, social, and economic order. The first conflict of interest concerned the agrarian revolution. The Bolsheviks, who had always stood for the nationalization of all land, were now compelled by a combination of unfavorable circumstances to hijack the Socialist Revolutionary program and to approve the redistribution of land to the peasants. The "Decree on Land" stated that "all right of property regarding the land is hereby abolished without indemnity and all land is hereby put at the disposal of local agrarian committees for redistribution." In practice it did little more than legitimate what had already taken place since the summer of 1917, namely the peasant confiscation of land from the landlords and the kulaks. Forced to go along with this autonomous peasant rvolution because it had facilitated their own seizure of power, the Bolsheviks were to wait a decade before having their way. The enforced

{p. 52} collectivization of the countryside, which was to be the bitterest confrontation between the Soviet regime and the peasantry, was the tragic resolution of the 1917 conflict.

The second conflict arose between the Bolshevik Party and all the spontaneous new social structures, such as factory committees, unions, socialist parties, neighborhood organizations, Red Guards, and above all soviets, which had helped destroy traditional institutions of power and were now fighting for the extension of their own mandates. In a few weeks these structures found themselves either subordinated to the Bolshevik Party or suppressed altogether. By a clever sleight-of-hand, "All power to the soviets," probably the single most popular slogan in the whole of Russia in October 1917, became a cloak hiding the power of the Bolshevik Party over the soviets. "Workers' control," another major demand of the workers, in whose interest the Bolsheviks claimed to be acting, was rapidly sidelined in favor of state control in the name of the workers over businesses and workforces. A mutual incomprehension was born between the workers, who were obsessed by unemployment, decline in real wages, and ever-present hunger, and a state whose only concern was economic efficiency. From as early as December 1917 the new regime was forced to confront mounting claims from workers and an increasing number of strikes. In a few weeks the Bolsheviks lost the greater part of the confidence that they had carefully cultivated in the labor force throughout the year.

The third misunderstanding developed between the Bolsheviks and the satellite nations of the former tsarist empire. The Bolshevik coup d'etat had accelerated their desire for independence, and they thought that the new regime would support their cause. In recognizing the equality and sovereignty of the peoples of the old empire, as well as their right to self-determination and secession, the Bolsheviks seemed to have invited these peoples to break away from centralized Russian control. In a few months the Finns, Poles, Baltic nations, Ukrainians, Georgians, Armenians, and Azerbaijanis were claiming their independence. Overwhelmed, the Bolsheviks soon put their own economic needs before the rights of these nations, since Ukrainian wheat, the petroleum and minerals of the Caucasus, and all the other vital economic interests of the new state were perceived to be irreplaceable. In terms of the control it exercised over its territories, the new regime proved itself to be a more worthy inheritor of the empire than even the provisional government had been.

These conflicts and misunderstandings were never truly resolved, but continued to grow, spawning an ever increasing divide between the new Soviet regime and society as a whole. Faced with new obstacles and the seeming intransigence of the population, the Bolshevik regime turned to terror and violence to consolidate its hold on the institutions of power.

{p. 53} 2 The Iron Fist of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

The new Bolshevik power structure was quite complicated. Its public face, "the power of the soviets," was formally represented by the Central Executive Committee, while the lawmaking apparatus of government was the Soviet Council of People's Commissars (SNK), which struggled to achieve some degree of domestic and international legitimacy and recognition. The government also had its revolutionary organization in the form of the Petrograd Revolutionary Military Committee (PRMC), which had been so central in the actual seizure of power. Feliks Dzerzhinsky, who from the earliest days had played a decisive role in the PRMC, characterized it as "a light, flexible structure that could swing into action at a moment's notice, without any bureaucratic interference. There were no restrictions when the time came for the iron fist of the dictatorship of the proletariat to smite its foe."

How did this "iron fist of the dictatorship of the proletariat" (an expression later used to describe the Bolshevik secret police, the Cheka) work in practice? Its organization was simple and extremely effective. The PRMC was made up of some sixty officials, including forty-eight Bolsheviks, a few Socialist Revolutionaries of the far left, and a handful of anarchists; and it was officially under the diretion ot a chairman, the Socialist Revolutionary Aleksandr Lazimir, who as assisted in his operations by a group of four that included Aleksandr Antonov-Ovseenko and Dzerzhinsky. In fact during the fifty-three

{p. 54} days of the PRMC's existence, more than 6,000 orders were drawn up, most of them scribbled on old bits of paper, and some twenty different people signed their name as chairman or secretary.

The same operational simplicity was to be found in the transmission of directions and the execution of orders: the PRMC acted through the intermediary of a network of nearly one thousand "commissars," who operated in many different fields in military units, soviets, neighborhood committees, and administrations. Responsible only to the PRMC, these commissars often made decisions independently of the government or of the Bolshevik Central Committee. Beginning on 26 October (8 November), while the Bolshevik leaders were off forming the government, a few obscure, anonymous commissars decided to "strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat" by the folloeing measures: forbidding counterrevolutionary tracts, closing all seven of the capital's principal newspapers (bourgeois and moderate socialist), taking control of radio and telegraph stations, and setting up a project for the requisitioning of apartments and privately owned cars. The closing of the newspapers was legalized by a government decree a few days later, and within another week, after some quite acrlmonious discussions, it was approved by the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets.

Unsure of their strength, and using the same tactic that had succeeded so well earlier, the Bolshevik leaders at first encouraged what the called the "revolutionary spontaneity of the masses." Replying to a delegation of representatives from rural soviets, who had come from the province of Pskov to inquire what measures should be taken to avoid anarchy, Dzerzhinsky explained that

{quote} the task at hand is to break up the old order. We, the Bolsheviks, are not numerous enough to accomplish this task alone. We must allow the revolutionary spontaneity of the masses who are fighting for their emancipation to take its course. After that, we Bolsheviks will show the masses which road to follow. Through the PRMC it is the masses who speak, and who act against their class enemy, against the enemies of the people. We are here only to channel and direct the hate and the legitimate desire for revenge of the oppressed against their oppressors. {endquote}

A few days carlier, at the 29 October (11 November) meeting of the PRMC, a few unidentified people had mentioned a need to combat the "enemies of the people" more vigorously. This formula would meet with great success in the months, years, and decadecs to follow. It was taken up again in the PRMC proclamation dated 13 November (26 November): "High-ranking functionalies in state administration, banks, the treasury, the railways, and the post and telegraph officcs are sabotaging the measures of the Bolshevik

{p. 55} government. Henceforth such individuals are to be described as 'enemies of the people.' Their names will be printed in all newspapers, and lists of the enemies of the people will be put up in public places " A few days after these lists were published, a new proclamation was issued: "All individuals suspected of sabotage, speculation, and opportunism are now liable to be arrested immediately, as enemies of the people and transferred to the Kronstadt prisons." In the space of a few days the PRMC had introduced two new notions that were to have lasting consequences the idea of the "enemy of the people" and the idea of the "suspect."

On 28 November (11 December) the government institutionalized the notion of "enemy of the people." A decree signed by Lenin stipulated that "all leaders of the Constitutional Democratic Party, a party filled with enemies of the people, are hereby to be considered outlaws, and are to be arrested immediately and brought before a revolutionary court." Such courts had just been set up in accordance with "Order Number One regarding the Courts," which effectively abolished all laws that "were in contradiction with the worker and peasant government, or with the political programs of the Social Democratic or Socialist Revolutionary parties." While waiting for the new penal code to be drawn up, judges were granted tremendous latitude to assess the validity of existing legislation "in accordance with revolutionary order and legality," a notion so vague that it encouraged all sorts of abuses. The courts of the old regime were immediately suppressed and replaced by people's courts and revolutionary courts to judge crimes and misdemeanors committed "against the proletarian state," "sabotage," "espionage," "abuse of one's position," and other "counterrevolutionary crimes." As Dmitry Kursky, the people's commissar of justice from 1918 to 1928, recognized, the revolutionary courts were not courts in the normal "bourgeois" sense of the term at all, but courts of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and weapons in the struggle against the counterrevolution, whose main concern was eradication rather than judgment. Among the revolutionary courts was a "revolutionary press court," whose role was to judge all crimes committed by the press and to suspend any publication found to be "sowing discord in the minds of the people by deliberately publishing erroneous news."

While these new and previously unheard-of categories ("suspects," "enemies of the people") were appearing and the new means of dealing with them emerging, the Petrograd Revolutionary Military Committee continued its own process of restructuring. In a city in which stocks of flour were so low that rations were less than half a pound of bread per day per adult, the question of the food supply was naturally of great importance.

{p. 56} On 11 (24) November {1917} the Food Commission decided to send special detachments, made up of soldiers, sailors, workers, and Red Guards, to the provinces where cereals were produced "to procure food needed in Petrograd and at the front." This measure, taken by one of the PRMC commissions, prefigured the forced requisitioning policy that was enforced for three years by detachments from the "food army," which was to be the essential factor in the conflicts between the new regime and the peasantry and was to provoke much violence and terror.

The Military Investigation Commission, established on 10 (23) November, was in charge of the arrest of "counterrevolutionary" officers (who were usually denounced by their own soldiers), members of "bourgeois" parties, and functionaries accused of "sabotage." In a very short time this commission was in charge of a diffuse array of issues. In the troubled climate of a starving city where detachments of Red Guards and ad hoc militia groups were constantly requisitioning, commandeering, and pillaging in the name of the revolution, or on the strength of an uncertain mandate signed by some commissar, hundreds of individuals every day were brought before the commission for a wide variety of so-called crimes, including looting, "speculation," "hoarding products of the utmost necessity," "drunkenness," and "belonging to a hostile class."

The Bolshevik appeals to the revolutionary spontaneity of the masses were in practice a difficult tool to use. Violence and the settling of old scores were widespread, as were armed robberies and the looting of shops, particularly of the underground stocks of the Winter Palace and of shops selling alcohol. As time passed the phenomenon became so widespread that at Dzerzhinsky's suggestion the PRMC established a commission to combat drunkenness and civil unrest. On 6 (19) December the commission declared a state of emergency in Petrograd and imposed a curfew to "put an end to the troubles and the unrest brought about by unsavory elements masquerading as revolutionaries." More than these sporadic troubles, what the revolutionary government feared was a widespread strike by state employees, which had started in the immediate aftermath of the coup d'etat of 25 October (7 November). This threat was the pretext for the creation on 7 (20) December of the Vserossiiskaya Chrezvychainava Komissiya po bor'be s kontr-revolvutsiei, spekulvatsiei i sabotazhem - the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission to Combat the Counterrevolution, Speculation, and Sabotage - which was to enter history under its initials as the VChK, abbreviated to the Cheka. A few days after the creation of the Cheka, the government decided, not without hesitation, to disband the PRMC. As a provisional operating structure set up on the eve of the insurrection to direct operations on the ground, it had accomplished its task: it had facilitated the sieizure of power and defended the

{p. 57} new regime until it had time to create its own state apparatus. Henceforth, to avoid confusion about power structures and the danger of spreading responsibilities too widely, it was to transfer all its prerogatives to the legal government, the Council of People's Commissars.

At a moment judged to be so critical by their leaders, how could the Bolsheviks do without this "iron fist of the dictatorship of the proletariat"? At a meeting on 6 (19) December the government entrusted "Comrade Dzerzhinskv to establish a special commission to examine means to combat, with the most revolutionary energy possible, the general strike of state employees, and to investigate methods to combat sabotage." What Dzerzhinsky did gave rise to no discussion, as it seemed so clearly to be the correct response. A few days earlier, Lenin, always eager to draw parallels between the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution of 1917, had confided in his secretary Vladimir Bonch-Bruevich an urgent need to find "our own Fouquier-Tinville, to combat the counterrevolutionary rabble." On 6 December Lenin's choice of a "solid proletarian Jacobin" resulted in the unanimous election of Dzerzhinsky, who in a few weeks, thanks to his energetic actions as part of the PRMC, had become the great specialist on questions of security. Besides, as Lenin explained to Bonch-Bruevich, "of all of us, it's Feliks who spent the most time behind bars of the tsarist prisons, and who had the most contact with the Okhrana [the tsarist political police]. He knows what he's doing!"

Before the government meeting of 7 (20) December Lenin sent a note to Dzerzhinsky:

{quote} With reference to your report of today, would it not be possible to write a decree with a preamble such as the following: The bourgeoisie are still persistently committing the most abominable crimes and recruiting the very dregs of society to organize riots. The accomplices of the bourgeoisie, notably high-ranking functionaries and bank cadres, are also involved in sabotage and organizing strikes to undermine the measures the government is taking with a view to the socialist transformation of society. The bourgeoisie is even going so far as to sabotage the food supply, thus condemning millions to death by starvation. Exceptional measures will have to be taken to combat these saboteurs and counterrevolutionaries. Consequently, the Soviet Council of People's Commissars decrees that ... {end quote}

During the evening of 7 (20) December Dzerzhinsky presented his project to the SNK {Sovnarkom}. He began his intervention with a speech on the dangers faced by the revolution "from within":

{quote} To address this problem, the cruelest and most dangerous of all the problems we face, we must make use of determined comrades - solid, hard men without pity who are ready to sacrifice everything for the

{p. 58} sake of the revolution. Do not imagine, comrades, that I am simply looking for a revolutionary form of justice. We have no concern about justice at this hour! We are at war, on the front where the enemv is advancing, and the fight is to the death. What I am proposing, what I am demanding, is the creation of a mechanism that, in a truly revolutionary and suitably Bolshevik fashion, will filter out the counterrevolutionaries once and for all! {end quote}

Dzerzhinsky then launched into the core of his speech, transcribed as it appears in the minutes of the meeting:

{quote} The task of the Commission is as follows: (1) to suppress and liquidate any act or attempted act of counterrevolutionary activity or sabotage, whatever its origin, anywhere on Russian soil; (2) to bring all saboteurs and counterrevolutionaries before a revolutionary court. The Commission will proceed by a preliminary inquiry, wherever this is indispensable to its task. The Commission will be divided into three sections: (1) Information; (2) Organization; (3) Operation. The Commission will attach particular importance to questions regarding the press, sabotage, the KDs [Constitutional Democrats], the right Socialist Revolutionaries, saboteurs, and strikers. The Commission is entitled to take the following repressive measures: to confiscate goods, expel people from their homes, remove ration cards, publish lists of enemies of the people, etc. Resolution: to approve this draft. To name the commission the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission to Combat the Counterrevolution, Speculation, and Sabotage. These resolutions are to be made public. {end quote}

This text, which discusses the founding of the Soviet secret police, undoubtedly raises a few questions. How, for example, is the difference between Dzerzhinsky's fierce-sounding speech and the relative modesty of the powers accorded the Cheka to be interpreted? The Bolsheviks were on the point of concluding an agreement with the left Socialist Revolutionaries (six of whose leaders had been admitted to the government on 12 December) to break their political isolation, at the crucial moment when they had to face the question of calling the Constituent Assembly, in which they still held only a minority. Accordingly they decided to keep a low profile, and contrary to the resolution adopted by the government on 7 (20) December, no decree announcing the creation of the Cheka and outlining its role was actually published.

As an "extraordinary commission," the Cheka was to prosper and act without the slightest basis in law. Dzerzhinsky, who like Lenin wanted nothing

{p. 59} so much as a free hand, described it in the following astonishing fashion: "It is life itself that shows the Cheka the direction to follow." Life in this instance meant the "revolutionary terror of the masses," the street violence fervently encouraged by many of the Bolshevik leaders, who had momentarily forgotten their profound distrust of the spontaneous actions of the people.

When Trotsky, a people's commissar during the war, was addressing the delegates of the Central Executive Committee of thc Soviets on 1 (14) December he warned that "in less than a month, this terror is going to take extremely violent forms, just as it did during the great French Revolution. Not only prison awaits our enemies, but the guillotine, that remarkable invention of the French Revolution which has the capacity to make a man a whole head shorter."

A few weeks later, speaking at a workers' assembly, Lenin again called for terror, describing it as revolutionary class justice:

{quote} The Soviet regime has acted in the way that all revolutionarv proletariats should act; it has made a clean break with bourgeois justice, which is an instrument of the oppressive classes ... Soldiers and workers must understand that no one will help them unless they help themselves. If the masses do not rise up spontaneously, none of this will lead to anything ... For as long as we fail to treat speculators the way they deserve - with a bullet in the head - we will not get anywhere at all. {end quote}

These calls for terror intensified the violence already unleashed in society by the Bolsheviks' rise to power. Since the autumn of 1917 thousands of the great agricultural properties had been attacked by brigades of angry peasants, and hundreds of the major landowners had been massacred. Violence had been omnipresent in Russia in the summer of 1917. The violence itself was nothing new, but the events of the war had allowed several different types of violence, already there in a latent state, to converge: an urban violence reacting against the brutality of capitalist relations at the heart of an industrial society; traditional peasant violence; and the modern violence of World War I, which had reintroduced extraordinary regression and brutality into human relations. The combination of these three forms of violence made for an explosive mix, whose effect was potentially devastating during the Russian Revolution, marked as it was by the failure of normal institutions of order and authority, by a rising sense of resentment and social frustrations accumulated over a long period, and by the political use of popular violence. Mutual suspicion had always been the norm between the townspeople and the peasants. For the peasants, more now than ever, the city was the seat of power and oppression; for the urban elite, and for professional revolutionaries who by a large majority were from the intelligentsia, the peasants were still, in Gorky's words, "a mass of half savage

{p. 60} people" whose "cruel instincts" and "animal individualism" ought to be brought to book by the "organized reason of the city." At the same time, politicians and intellectuals were all perfectly conscious that it was the peasant revolts that had shaken the provisional government, allowing the Bolsheviks, who were really a tiny minority in the country, to seize the initiative in the power vacuum that had resulted.

At the end of 1917 and the beginning of 1918, the new regime faced no serious opposition, and one month after the Bolshevik coup d'etat it effectively controlled most of the north and the center of Russia as far as the mid-Volga, as well as some of the bigger cities, such as Baku in the Caucasus and Tashkent in Central Asia. Ukraine and Finland had seceded but were not demonstrating any warlike intentions. The only organized anti-Bolshevik military force was a small army of about 3,000 volunteers, the embryonic form of the future "White Army" that was being formed in southern Russia by General Mikhail Alekseey and General Kornilov. These tsarist generals were placing all their hopes in the Cossacks of the Don and the Kuban. The Cossacks were radically different from the other Russian peasants; their main privilege under the old regime had been to receive 30 hectares of land in exchange for military service up to the age of thirty-six. If they had no desire to acquire more land, they were zealous to keep the land they had already acquired. Desiring above all to retain their status and their independence, and worried by the Bolshevik proclamations that had proved so injurious to the kulaks, the Cossacks aligned themselves with the anti-Bolshevik forces in the spring of 1918.

"Civil war" may not be the most appropriate term to describe the first clashes of the winter of 1917 and the spring of 1918 in southern Russia, which involved a few thousand men from the army of volunteers and General Rudolf Sivers' Bolshevik troops, who numbered scarcely 6,000. What is immediately striking is the contrast between the relatively modest number of troops involved in these clashes and the extraordinary repressive violence exercised by the Bolsheviks, not simply against the soldiers they captured but also against civilians. Established in June 1919 by General Anton Denikin, commander in chief of the armed forces in the south of Russia, the Commission to Investigate Bolshevik Crimes tried to record, in the few months of its existence, the atrocities committed by the Bolsheviks in Ukraine, the Kuban, the Don region, and the Crimea. The statements gathered by this commission, which constitute the principal source of Sergei Melgunov's 1926 classic, The Red Terror in Russia, 1918-1924, demonstrate that innumerable atrocities were committed from January 1918 onward. In Taganrog units from Sivers' army had thrown fifty Junkers and "White" officers, their hands and feet bound, into a blast furnace. In Evpatoria several hundred officers and "bourgeois" were tied up,

{p. 61} tortured, and thrown into the sea. Similar acts of violence occurred in most of the cities of the Crimea occupied by the Bolsheviks, including Sevastopol, Yalta, Alushta, and Simferopol. Similar atrocities are recorded from April and May 1918 in the big Cossack cities then in revolt. The extremely precise files of the Denikin commission record "corpses with the hands cut off, broken bones, heads ripped off, broken jaws, and genitals removed."

As Melgunoy notes, it is nonetheless difficult to distinguish the systematic practice of organized terror from what might otherwise be considered simply uncontrolled excesses. There is rarely mention of a local Cheka directing such massacres until August and September 1918; until that time the Cheka network as still quite sparse. These massacres, which targeted not only enemy combatants but also civilian "enemies of the people" (for instance, among the 240 people killed in Yalta at the beginning of March 1918, there were some 70 politicians, lawyers, journalists, and teachers, as well as 165 officers), were often carried out by "armed detachments," "Red Guards," and other, unspecified "Bolshevik elements." Exterminating the enemy of the people was simply the logical extension of a revolution that was both political and social. This conception of the world did not suddenly spring into being in the aftermath of October 1917, but the Bolshevik seizure of power, which was quite explicit on the issue, did play a role in its subsequent legitimation.

In March 1917 a young captain wrote a perceptive letter assessing the revolution and its effects on his regiment: "Between the soldiers and ourselves, the gap cannot be bridged. For them, we are, and will always remain, the harini [masters]. To their way of thinking, what has just taken place isn't a political revolution but a social movement, in which they are the winners and we are the losers. They say to us: 'You were the barini before, but now it's our turn!' They think that they will now have their revenge, after all those centuries of servitude."

The Bolshevik leaders encouraged anything that might promote this aspiration to "social revenge" among the masses, seeing it as a moral legitimation of the terror, or what Lenin called "the just civil war." On 15 (28) December 1917 Dzerzhinsky published an appeal in Izvestiya (News) inviting all soviets to organize their own Chekas. The result was a swift flourishing of "commissions," "detachments," and other "extraordinary organizations" that the central authorities had great problems in controlling when they decided, a few months later, to end such "mass initiatives" and to organize a centralized, structured netork of Chekas.

Summing up the first six months of the Cheka's existence in July 1918, Dzerzhinsky noted: "This was a period of improvisation and hesitation, during which our organization was not always up to the complexities of the situation." Yet even by that date the Cheka's record as an instrument of repression

{p. 62} was already enormous. And the organization, whose personnel had numbered no more than 100 in December 1917, had increased to 12,000 in a mere six months.

Its beginnings had been modest. On 11 (24) January 1918 Dzerzhinsky had sent a note to Lenin: "We find the present situation intolerable, despite the important services we have already rendered. We have no money whatever. We work night and day without bread, sugar, tea, butter, or cheese. Either take measures to authorize decent rations for us or give us the power to make our own requisitions from the bourgeoisie." Dzerzhinsky had recruited approximately 100 men, for the most part old comrades-in-arms, mostly Poles and people from the Baltic states, nearly all of whom had also worked for the PRMC, and who became the future leaders of the GPU of the 1920s and the NKVD of the 1930s: Martin Latsis, Viacheslay Menzhinsky, Stanislay Messing, Grigory Moroz, Jan Peters, Meir Trilisser, Josif Unshlikht, and Genrikh Yagoda.

The first action of the Cheka was to break a strike by state employees in Petrograd. The method was swift and effective - all its leaders were arrested - and the justification simple: "Anyone who no longer wishes to work with the people has no place among them," declared Dzerzhinsky, who also arrested a number of the Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary deputies elected to the Constituent Assembly. This arbitrary act was immediately condemned by Isaac Steinberg, the people's commissar of justice, who was himself a left Socialist Revolutionary and had been elected to the government a few days previously. This first clash between the Cheka and the judiciary raised the important issue of the legal position of the secret police.

"What is the point of a 'People's Commissariat for Justice'?" Steinberg asked Lenin. "It would be more honest to have a People's Commissariat for Social Extermination. People would understand more clearly."

"Excellent idea," Lenin countered. "That's exactly how I see it. Unfortunately, it wouldn't do to call it that!"21

Lenin arbitrated in the conflict between Steinberg, who argued for a strict subordination of the Cheka to the processes of justice, and Dzerzhinsky, who argued against what he called "the nitpicking legalism of the old school of the ancien regime." In Derzhinsky's view, the Cheka should be responsible for its acts only to the government itself.

The sixth (nineteenth) of January marked an important point in the consolidation of the Bolshevik dictatorship. Early in the morning the Constituent Assembly, which had been elected in November-December 1917 and in which the Bolsheviks were a minority (they had only 175 deputies out of 707 seats), was broken up by force, having met for a single day. This arbitrary act seemed to provoke no particular reaction anywhere in the country. A small

{p. 63} demonstration against the dissolution of the assembly was broken up by troops, causing some twenty deaths, a high price to pay for a democratic parliamentary experiment that lasted only a few hours.

In the days and weeks that followed the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, the position of the Bolshevik government in Petrograd became increasingly uncomfortable, at the very moment when Trotsky, Kamenev, Adolf Yoffe, and Karl Radek were negotiating peace conditions with delegations from the Central Powers at Brest Litovsk. On 9 (22) January 1918 the government devoted all business to the question of its transfer to Moscow.

What worried the Bolshevik leaders was not the German threat - the armistice had held good since 15 (28) December - but the possibility of a workers' uprising. Discontent was growing rapidly in working-class areas that just two months before had been solidly behind them. With demobilization and the consequent slump in large-scale orders from the military, businesses had laid off tens of thousands of workers, and increasing difficulties in supply had caused the daily bread ration to fall to a mere quarter of a pound. Unable to do an thing to improve this situation, Lenin merely spoke out against "profiteers" and "speculators," whom he chose as scapegoats. "Every factory, every company must set up its own requisitioning detachments. Everyone must be mobilized in the search for bread, not simply volunteers, but absolutely evervone; anyone who fails to cooperate will have his ration card confiscated immediately" he wrote on 22 January (February) 1918.

Trotsky's nomination, on his return from Brest Litovsk on 31 January 1918, to head the Extraordinary Commission for Food and Transport was a clear sign from the government of the decisive importance it was giving to the "hunt for food," which was the first stage in the "dictatorship of food." Lenin turned to this commission in mid-February with a draft decree that the members of the commission - who besides Trotsky included Aleksandr Tsyurupa, the people's commissar of food - rejected. According to the text prepared by Lenin, all peasants were to be required to hand over any surplus food in exchange for a receipt. Any defaulters who failed to hand in supplies within the required time were to be executed. "When we read this proposal we were at a loss for words," Tsyurupa recalled in his memoirs. "To carry out a project like this would have led to executions on a massive scale. Lenin's project was simply abandoned."

The episode was nonetheless extremely revealing. Since the beginning of 1917 Lenin had found himself trapped in an impasse of his own making, and he was worried about the catastrophic supply situation of the big industrial centers which were seen as isolated Bolshevik strongholds among the great mass of peasants. He was prepared to do anything to get the grain he needed without altering his policies. Conflict was inevitable here, between a peasantry

{p. 64} determined to keep for itself the fruits of its labors and to reject any external interference, and the new regime, which was attempting to place its stamp on the situation, refused to understand how economic supply actually functioned, and desired more than anything to bring under control what it saw as growing social anarchy.

On 21 February 1918, in the face of a huge advance by the German army after the failure of the talks at Brest Litovsk, the government declared the socialist fatherland to be in danger. The call for resistance against the invaders was accompanied by a call for mass terror: "All enemy agents, speculators, hooligans, counterrevolutionary agitators, and German spies will be shot on sight."' This proclamation effectively installed martial law in all military zones. When peace was finally agreed at Brest Litovsk on 3 March 1918, it technically lost its legal force, and legally the death penalty was reestablished again only on 16 June 1918. Nevertheless, from February 1918 on the Cheka carried out numerous summary executions, even outside the military zones.

On 10 March 1918 the government left Petrograd for Moscow, the new capital. The Cheka headquarters were set up near the Kremlin, in Bolshaya Lubvanka Street, in a building that had previously belonged to an insurance company. Under a series of names (including the GPU, OGPU, KVD, TD, and KGB) the Cheka would occupy the building until the fall of the Soviet regime. From a mere 600 in March, the number of Cheka employees working at the central headquarters had risen to 2000 in July 1918, excluding the special troops. At this same date the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs, whose task was to direct the immense apparatus of local soviets throughout the country, had a staff of 400.

The Cheka launched its first major operation on the night of 11-12 April 1918, when more than 1,000 men from its special troop detachments stormed some twenty anarchist strongholds in Moscow: After several hours of hard fighting, 520 anarchists were arrested; 25 were summarily executed as "bandits," a term that from then on would designate workers on strike, deserters fleeing conscription, or peasants resisting the forced requisitioning of grain.

After this first success, which was followed by other "pacification" operations in both Moscow and Petrograd, Dzerzhinsky wrote a letter to the Central Executive Committee on 29 April 1918 requesting a considerable increase in Cheka resources. "At this particular time," he wrote, "Cheka activity is almost bound to increase exponentially in the face of the increase in counterrevolutionary activity on all sides."

The "particular time" to which Dzerzhinsky was referring seemed indeed to be a decisive period for the installation of the political and economic dictatorship and the strengthening of repression against a population that appeared to regard the Bolsheviks with ever-increasing hostility. Since October 1917 the

{p. 65} Bolsheviks had done nothing to improve the everyday lot of the average Russian, nor had they safeguarded the fundamental liberties that had accrued throughout 1917. Formerly regarded as the only political force that would allow peasants to seize the land they had so long desired, the Bolsheviks were now perceived as Communists, who wanted to steal the fruits of the peasants' labors. Could these really be the same people, the peasants wondered, the Bolsheviks who had finally given them the land, and the Communists who seemed to be holding them for ransom, and wanted even the shirts from their backs?

The spring of 1918 was a crucial period, when everything was still up for grabs. The soviets had not yet been muzzled and transformed into simple tools of the state apparatus; they were still a forum for real political debate between Bolsheviks and moderate socialists. Opposition newspapers, though attacked almost daily, continued to exist. Political life flourished as different institutions competed for popular support. And during this period, which was marked by a deterioration in living conditions and the total breakdown of economic rela tions between the town and the country, Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks scored undeniable political victories. In elections to the new soviets, despite a certain amount of intimidation and vote-rigging, they achieved outright victories in nineteen of the thirty main provincial seats where voting took place and the results were made public.

The government responded by strengthening its dictatorship on both the political and the economic fronts. Networks of economic distribution had fallen apart as a result of the spectacular breakdown in communications, particularly in the railways, and all incentive for farmers seemed to have been lost, as the lack of manufacturing products provided no impetus for peasants to sell their goods. The fundamental problem was thus to assure the food supply to the army and to the cities, the seat of power and of the proletariat. The Bolsheviks had two choices: they could either attempt to resurrect some sort of market economy or use additional constraints. They chose the second option, convinced of the need to go ever further in the struggle to destroy the old order.

Speaking before the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets on 29 April 1918, Lenin went straight to the point: "The smallholders, the people who owned only a parcel of land, fought side by side with the proletariat when the time came to overthrow the capitalists and the major landowners. But now our paths have diverged. Smallholders have always been afraid of discipline and organization. The time has come for us to have no mercy, and to turn against them." A few days later the people's commissar of food told the same assembly: "I say it quite openly; we are now at war, and it is only with guns that we will get the grain we need." Trotsky himself added: "Our only choice now is civil war. Civil war is the struggle for bread ... Iong live civil war!"

A 1921 text by Karl Radek, one of the Bolshevik leaders, is revealing of

{p. 66} Bolshevik policies in the spring of 1918, several months before the outbreak of the armed conflict that for two years would find Reds and Whites at war:

The peasants had just received the land from the state, they had just returned home from the front, they had kept their guns, and thelr attitude to the state could be summed up as "Who needs it?" They couldn't have cared less about it. If we had decided to come up with some sort of food tax, it wouldn't have worked, for none of the state apparatus remained. The old order had disappeared, and the peasants wouldn't have handed over anything without actually being forced. Our task at the beginning of 1918 was quite simple: we had to make the peasants understand two quite simple things: that the state had some claim on what they produced, and that it had the means to exercise those rights.32

In May and June 1918 the Bolshevik government took two decisive measures that inaugurated the period of civil war, which has come to be known as "War Communism." On 13 May 1918 a decree granted extraordinary powers to the People's Commissariat of Food, requiring it to requisition all foodstuffs and to establish what was in fact a "food army." By July nearly 12,000 people were involved in these "food detachments," which at their height in 1920 were to number more than 24,000 men, over half of whom were unemployed workers from Petrograd, attracted by the promise of a decent salary and a proportional share of the confiscated food. The second decisive measure was the decree of 11 June 1918, which established committees of poor peasants, ordering them to work in close collaboration with the food detachments and also to requisition, in exchange for a share of the profits, any agricultural surpluses that the better-off peasants might be keeping for themselves. These committees of poor peasants soon displaced the rural soviets, which the government judged to be untrustworthy, as they were contaminated with Socialist Revolutionary ideology. Given the tasks they were ordered to carry out - to seize by force the results of other people's labor - and the motivations that were used to spur them on (power, a feeling of frustration toward and envy of the rich, and the promise of a share in the spoils), one can imagine what these first representatives of Bolshevik power in the countryside were really like. As Andrea Graziosi acutely notes: "For these people, devotion to the cause - or rather to the new state - and an undeniable operational capacity went hand in hand with a rather faltering social and political conscience, an interest in self-advancement, and traditional modes of behavior, including brutality to their subordinates, alcoholism, and nepotism ... What we have here is a good example of the manner in which the 'spirit' of the plebeian revolution penetrated the new regime."33

{p. 67} Despite a few initial successes, the organization of the Committees for the Poor took a long time to get off the ground. The very idea of using the poorest section of the peasantry reflected the deep mistrust the Bolsheviks felt toward peasant society. In accordance with a rather simplistic Marxist schema, they imagined it to be divided into warring classes, whereas in fact it presented a fairly solid front to the world, and particularly when faced with strangers from the city. When the question arose of handing over surpluses, the egalitarian and community-minded reflex found in all the villages took over, and instead of persecuting a few rich peasants, by far the greater part of the requisitions were simply redistributed in the same village, in accordance with people's needs. This policy alienated the large central mass of the peasantry, and discontent was soon widespread, with troubles breaking out in numerous regions. Confronted by the brutality of the food detachments, who were often reinforced by the army or by Cheka units, a real guerrilla force began to take shape from June 1918 onward. In July and August 110 peasant insurrections, described by the Bolsheviks as kulak rebellions - which in their terminology meant uprisings involving whole villages, with insurgents from all classes - broke out in the zones they controlled. All the trust that the Bolsheviks had gained by not opposing the seizure of land in 1917 evaporated in a matter of weeks, and for more than three years the policy of requisitioning food was to provoke thousands of riots and uprisings, which were to degenerate into real peasant wars that were quelled with terrible violence.

The political effects of the hardening of the dictatorship in the spring of 1918 included the complete shutdown of all non-Bolshevik newspapers, the forcible dissolution of all non-Bolshevik soviets, the arrest of opposition leaders, and the brutal repression of many strikes. In May and June 1918, 205 of the opposition socialist newspapers were finally closed down. The mostly Menshevik or Socialist Revolutionary soviets of Kaluga, Tver, Yaroslavl, Ryazan, Kostroma, Kazan, Saratov, Penza, Tambov, Voronezh, Orel, and Vologda were broken up by force.3 Everywhere the scenario was almost identical: a few days after victory by the opposing party and the consequent formation of a new Soviet, the Bolshevik detachment would call for an armed force, usually a detachment of the Cheka, which then proclaimed martial law and arrested the opposition leaders.

Dzerzhinsky, who had sent his principal collaborators into towns that had initially been won by the opposing parties, was an unabashed advocate of the use of force, as can be seen clearly from the directive he sent on 31 Mav 1918 to A. V. Eiduk, his plenipotentiary on a mission to Tver:

The workers, under the influence of the Mensheviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries, and other counterrevolutionary bastards, have all gone on

{p. 68} strike, and demonstrated in favor of a government made up of all the different socialist parties. Put big posters up all over the town saying that the Cheka will execute on the spot any bandit, thief, speculator, or counterrevolutionary found to be conspiring against the soviet. Levy an extraordinary tax on all bourgeois residents of the town, and make a list of them, as that will be very useful if things start happening. You ask how to form the local Cheka: just round up all the most resolute people you can, who understand that there is nothing more effective than a bullet in the head to shut people up. Experience has shown me that you only need a small number of people like that to turn a whole situatlon around.35

The dissolution of the soviets held by the opposition, and the expulsion on 14 June 1918 of all Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries from the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of Soviets, provoked protests and strikes in many working-class towns, where, to make matters worse, the food situation was still steadily deteriorating. In Kolpino, near Petrograd, the leader of a Cheka detachment ordered his troops to open fire on a hunger march organized by workers whose monthly ration of bread had fallen to two pounds. There were ten deaths. On the same day, in the Berezovsky factory, near Ekaterinburg, fifteen people were killed by a detachment of Red Guards at a meeting called to protest against Bolshevik commissars who were accused of confiscating the most impressive properties in the town and of keeping for themselves the 150-ruble tax they had levied on the bourgeoisie. The next day the local authorities declared a state of martial law, and fourteen people were immediately executed by the local Cheka, who refrained from mentioning this detail to headquarters in Moscow.36

In the latter half of May and in June 1918, numerous working-class demonstrations were put down bloodily in Sormovo, Yaroslavl, and Tula, as well as in the industrial cities of Uralsk, Nizhni-Tagil, Beloretsk, Zlatoust, and Ekaterinburg. The ever-increasing involvement of the local Chekas in these repressions is attested by the growing frequency in working-class environments of slogans directed against the "New Okhrana" (the tsarist secret police) who worked for what they termed the "commissarocracy."37

From 8 to 11 June 1918 Dzerzhinsky presided over the first All-Russian Conference of Chekas, attended by 100 delegates from forty-three local sections, which already employed more than 12,000 men. That figure would rise to 40,000 by the end of 1918, and to more than 280,000 by the beginning of 1921. Claiming to be above the soviets and, according to certain Bolsheviks, even above the Party, the conference declared its intention to "take full responsibility for the struggle against the counterrevolution throughout the republic, in its role as supreme enforcer of administrative power in Soviet Russia." The

{p. 69} role that it proclaimed for itself at the end of the conference revealed the extent of the huge field of activity in which the political police was already operating, before the great wave of counterrevolutionary actions that would mark the summer. Modeled on the organization of the Lubyanka headquarters, each provincial Cheka was to establish the following departments and offices:

1. Information Department. Offices: Red Army, monarchists, cadets, right Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, anarchists, bourgeoisie and church people, unions and workers' committees, and foreigners. The appropriate offices were to draw up lists of suspects corresponding to all the above categories.

2. Department for the Struggle against the Counterrevolution. Offices: Red Army, monarchists, cadets, right Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, anarchists, unionists, national minorities, foreigners, alcoholism, pogroms and public order, and press affairs.

3. Department for the Struggle against Speculation and Abuses of Authority.

4. Department of Transport, Communication, and Ports.

5. Operational Department, including special Cheka units.38

Two days after the All-Russian Conference of Chekas, the government reinstated the death penalty, which had been abolished after the revolution of February 1917. Though formally reinstated by Kerensky in July 1917, it had been applied only at the front, in areas under military control. One of the first measures taken by the Second Congress of Soviets on 26 October (8 November) 1917 had been to abolish capital punishment, a decision that elicited a furious reaction from Lenin: "It's an error, an unforgivable weakness, a pacifist delusion!"39 Lenin and Dzerzhinsky had been constantly trying to reinstate the penalty while knowing very well that in practice it could already be used whenever necessary, without any "nitpicking legalism," by organizations like the Cheka, which operated outside the law. The first legal death sentence was pronounced by a revolutionary court on 21 June 1918; Admiral A. Shchastnyi was the first "counterrevolutionary" to be shot "legally."

On 20 June V. Volodarsky, a Bolshevik leader in Petrograd, was shot down by a militant Socialist Revolutionary. This event occurred at a time of extreme tension in the old capital. In the preceding weeks, relations between Bolsheviks and workers had gone from bad to worse, and in May and June the Petrograd Cheka recorded seventy "incidents" - strikes, anti-Boishevik meetings, demonstrations - led principally by metalworkers from labor strongholds, who had been the most ardent supporters of the Bolsheviks in the period leading up to the events of 1917. The authorities responded to strikes with lockouts at the large state-owned factories, a practice that became more and more widespread

{p. 70} in the following months to break the workers' resistance. Volodarsky's assassination was followed by an unprecedented wave of arrests in the working-class areas of Petrograd. The Assembly of Workers' Representatives, a mainly Menshevik group that organized working-class opposition and was in fact a real opposition power to the Petrograd soviet, was dissolved. More than 800 leaders were arrested in two days. The workers' response to this huge wave of arrests was to call a general strike for 21 July 1918.4

From Moscow Lenin sent a letter to Grigori Zinoviev, president of the Petrograd Committee of the Bolshevik Party. The document is extremely revealing, both of Lenin's conception of terror and of an extraordinary political delusion. Lenin was in fact committing a huge political mistake when he claimed that the workers were protesting Volodarsky's death.

Comrade Zinoviev! We have just learned that the workers of Petrograd wish to respond to Comrade Volodarsky's murder with mass terror, and that you (not you personally, but the members of the Party Committee in Petrograd) are trying to stop them: I want to protest most vehemently against this. We are compromising ourselves; we are calling for mass terror in the resolutions passed by the Soviet, but when the time comes for action, we obstruct the natural reactions of the masses. This cannot be! The terrorists will start to think we are being halfhearted. This is the hour of truth: It is of supreme importance that we encourage and make use of the energy of mass terror directed against the counterrevolutionaries, especially those of Petrograd, whose example is decisive. Regards. Lenin.4l

{p. 71} 3 The Red Terror

"The Bolsheviks are saying openly that their days are numbered," Karl Helfferich, the German ambassador to Moscow, told his government on 3 August 1918. "A veritable panic has overtaken Moscow ... The craziest rumors imaginable are rife, about so-called 'traitors' who are supposed to be in hlding around the city."

The Bolsheviks certainly never felt as much under threat as they did in 1918. The territory they controlled amounted to little more than the traditional province of Muscovy, which now faced anti-Bolshevik opposition on three solidly established fronts: the first in the region of the Don, occupied by the Cossack troops of Ataman Krasnov and by General Denikin's White Army; the second in Ukraine, which was in the hands of the Germans and of the Rada, the national Ukrainian government; and a third front all along the Trans-Siberian Railway, where most of the big cities had fallen to the Czech Leglon, whose offensive had been supported by the Socialist Revolutionary government in Samara.

In the regions that were more or less under Bolshevik control, nearly 140 maior revolts and insurrections broke out in the summer of 1918; most involved peasant communities resisting the enforced commandeering of food supplies which was being carried out with such brutality by the food army; protests against the limitations on trade and exchange; or protests against the new

{p. 72} compulsory conscription for the Red Army.1 Typically the angry peasants would flock en masse to the nearest town, besiege the soviet, and sometimes even attempt to set fire to it. The incidents usually degenerated into violence, and either local militias or, more and more often, detachments from the local Cheka opened fire on the protesters. In these confrontatlons, whlch became more frequent as time passed, the Bolshevik leaders saw a vast counterrevolutionary conspiracy directed against their regime by "kulaks disguised as White Guards."

"It is quite clear that preparations are being made for a White Guard uprising in Nizhni Novgorod," wrote Lenin in a telegram on 9 August 1918 to the president of the Executive Committee of the Nizhni Novgorod soviet, in response to a report about peasant protests against requisitioning. "Your first response must be to establish a dictatorial troika (i.e., you, Markin, and one other person) and introduce mass terror, shooting or deporting the hundreds of prostitutes who are causing all the soldiers to drink, all the ex-officers, etc. There is not a moment to lose; you must act resolutely, with massive reprisals. Immediate execution for anyone caught in possession of a firearm. Massive deportations of Mensheviks and other suspect elements."2 The next day Lenin sent a similar telegram to the Central Executive Committee of the Penza soviet:

Comrades! The kulak uprising in your five districts must be crushed without pity. The interests of the whole revolution demand such actions, for the final struggle with the kulaks has now begun. You must make an example of these people. (1) Hang (I mean hang publicly, so that people see it) at least 100 kulaks, rich bastards, and known bloodsuckers. (2) Publish their names. (3) Seize all their grain. (4) Single out the hostages per my instructions in yesterday's telegram. Do all thls so that for miles around people see it all, understand it, tremble, and tell themselves that we are killing the bloodthirsty kulaks and that we will continue to do so. Reply saying you have received and carried out these instructions. Yours, Lenin. P.S. Find tougher people.3

In fact a close reading of Cheka reports on the revolts of the summer of 1918, reveals that the only uprisings planned in advance were those in Yaroslavl, Rbinsk, and Murom, which were organized by the Union for the Defense of the Fatherland, led bv the Socialist Revolutionary Boris Savinkov; and that of workers in the arms factory of Evsk, at the instigation of Mensheviks and local Socialist Revolutionaries. All the other insurrections were a spontaneous, direct result of incidents involving local peasantry faced with requisitions or conscription. They were put down in a few days with great ferocity by trusted units from the Red Army or the Cheka. Only Yaroslavl, where Savinkov's detach-

{p. 73} ments had ousted the local Bolsheviks from power, managed to hold out for a few weeks. After the town fell, Dzerzhinsky sent a "special investigative commission which in five days, from 24 to 28 July 1918, executed 428 people.4

In August 1918, before the official beginning of the period of Red Terror on 3 September, the Bolshevik leaders, and in particular Lenin and Dzerzhinsky, sent a great number of telegrams to local Cheka and Party leaders, instructing them to take "prophylactic measures" to prevent any attempted insurrection. Among these measures, explained Dzerzhinsky, "the most effective are the taking of hostages among the bourgeoisie, on the basis of the lists that you have drawn up for exceptional taxes levied on the bourgeoisie ... the arrest and the incarceration of all hostages and suspects in concentration camps." On 8 August Lenin asked Tsyurupa, the people's commissar of food, to draw up a decree stipulating that "in all grain-producing areas, twenty-five designated hostages drawn from the best-off of the local inhabitants will answer with their lives for any failure in the requisitioning plan." As Tsyurupa turned a deaf ear to this, on the pretext that it was too difficult to organize the taking of hostages, Lenin sent him a second, more explicit note: "I am not suggesting that these hostages actually be taken, but that they are to be named explicitly in all the relevant areas. The purpose of this is that the rich, just as they are responsible for their own contribution, will also have to answer with their lives for the immediate realization of the requisitioning plan in their whole district."6

In addition to this new system for taking hostages, the Bolshevik leaders experimented in August 1918 with a tool of oppression that had made its first appearance in Russia during the war: the concentration camp. On 9 August Lenin sent a telegram to the Executive Committee of the province of Penza instructing them to intern "kulaks, priests, White Guards, and other doubtful elements in a concentration camp."7

A few days earlier both Dzerzhinsky and Trotsky had also called for the confinement of hostages in concentration camps. These concentration camps were simple internment camps in which, as a simple interim administrative measure and independently of any judicial process, "doubtful elements" were to be kept. As in every other country at this time, numerous camps for prisoners of war already existed in Russia.

First and foremost among the "doubtful elements" to be arrested were the leaders of opposition parties who were still at iiberty. On 15 August 1918 Lenin and Dzerzhinsky jointly signed an order for the arrest of Yuri Martov, Fedor Dan, Aleksandr Potresov, and Mikhail Goldman, the principal leaders of the Menshevik Party, whose press had long been silenced and whose representatives had been hounded out of the soviets.8

For the Bolshevik leaders, distinctions among types of opponents no longer existed, because, as they explained, civil wars have their own laws. "Civil

{p. 74} war has no written laws," wrote Martin Latsis, one of Dzerzhinskys principal collaborators, in Izvestiya on 23 August 1918.

Capitalist wars have a written constitution, but civil war has its own laws ... One must not only destroy the active forces of the enemy, but also demonstrate that anyone who raises a hand in protest against class war will die by the sword. These are the laws that the bourgeoisie itself drew up in the civil wars to oppress the proletariat ... We have yet to assimilate these rules sufficiently. Our own people are being killed by the hundreds of thousands, yet we carry out executions one by one after lengthy deliberations in commissions and courts. In a civil war, there should be no courts for the enemy. It is a fight to the death. If you don't kill, you will die. So kill, if you don't want to be killed!9

Two assassination attempts on 30 August - one against M. S. Uritsky, the head of the Petrograd Cheka, the other against Lenin - seemed to confirm the Bolshevik leaders' theory that a real conspiracy was threatening their existence. In fact it now appears that there was no link between the two events. The first was carried out in the well-established tradition of populist revolutionary terror, by a young student who wanted to avenge the death of an officer friend killed a few days earlier by the Petrograd Cheka. The second incident was long attributed to Fanny Kaplan, a militant socialist with anarchist and Socialist Revolutionary leanings. She was arrested immediately and shot three days later without trial, but it now appears that there may have been a larger conspiracy against Lenin, which escaped detection at the time, in the Cheka itself.10 The Bolshevik government immediately blamed both assassination attempts on "right Socialist Revolutionaries, the servants of French and English imperialism." The response was immediate: the next day, articles in the press and official declarations called for more terror. "Workers," said an article in Pravda (Truth) on 31 August, "the time has come for us to crush the bourgeoisie or be crushed by it. The corruption of the bourgeoisie must be cleansed from our towns immediately. Files will now be kept on all men concerned, and those who represent a danger to the revolutionary cause will be executed ... The anthem of the working class will be a song of hatred and revenge!"

On the same day Dzerzhinsky and his assistant Jan Peters drafted an "Appeal to the Working Classes" in a similar vein: "The working classes must crush the hydra of the counterrevolution with massive terror! We must let the enemies of the working classes know that anyone caught in illegal possession of a firearm will be immediately executed, and that anyone who dares to spread the slightest rumor against the Soviet regime will be arrested immediately and sent to a concentration camp!" Printed in Izvestiya on 3 September, this appeal was followed the next day by the publication of instructions sent by N. Petroysky, the people's commissar of internal affairs, to all the soviets.

{p. 75} Petrovsky complained that despite the "massive repressions" organized by enemies of the state against the working masses, the "Red Terror" was too slow in its effects:

The time has come to put a stop to all this weakness and sentimentality. All the right Socialist Revolutionaries must be arrested immediately. A great number of hostages must be taken among the officers and the bourgeoisie. The slightest resistance must be greeted with widespread executions. Provincial Executive Committees must lead the way here. The Chekas and the other organized militia must seek out and arrest suspects and immediately execute all those found to be involved with counterrevolutionary practices ... Leaders of the Executive Committees must immediately report any weakness or indecision on the part of the local soviets to the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs. No weakness or indecision can be tolerated during this period of mass terror. "

This telegram, which marked the official start of full-scale Red Terror, gives the lie to Dzerzhinsky's and Peters' later claims that the Red Terror "was a general and spontaneous reaction of indignation by the masses to the attempted assassinations of 30 August 1918, and began without any initiative from the central organizations." The truth was that the Red Terror was the natural outlet for the almost abstract hatred that most of the Bolshevik leaders felt toward their "oppressors," whom they wished to liquidate not on an individual basis, but as a class. In his memoirs the Menshevik leader Rafael Abramovich recalled a revealing conversation that he had in August 1917 with Dzerzhinsky, the future leader of the Cheka:

"Abramovich, do you remember Lasalle's speech about the essence of a Constitution?"

"Of course."

"He said that any Constitution is always determined bv the relation between the social forces at work in a given country at the time in question. I wonder how this correlation between the political and the social might be changed?"

"Well, by the various processes of change that are at work in the fields of politics and economics at any time, by the emergence of new forms of economic growth, the rise of different social classes, all those things that you know perfectly well alreadx Feliks . . ."

"Yes, but couldn't one change things much more radically than that? By forcing certain classes into submission, or by exterminating them altogether?"'2

This cold, calculating, and cynical crueltx the logical result of an implacable class war pushed to its extreme, was shared by many Bolsheviks. Grigory Zinoviev, one of the main leaders, declared in September 1918: "To dispose of

{p. 76} our enemies, we will have to create our own socialist terror. For this we will have to train 90 million of the 100 million Russians and have them all on our side. We have nothing to say to the other 10 million; we'll have to get rid of them.''13

On 5 September the Soviet government legalized terror with the famous decree "On Red Terror": "At this moment it is absolutely vital that the Chekas be reinforced ... to protect the Soviet Republic from its class enemies, who must all be locked up in concentration camps. Anyone found to have had any dealings with the White Guard organizations, plots, insurrections, or riots will be summarily executed, and the names of all these people, together with the reasons for their execution, will be announced publicly."'4 As Dzerzhinsky was later to acknowledge, "The texts of 3 and 5 September finally gave us a legal right that even Party comrades had been campaigning against until then - the right immediately to dispose of the counterrevolutionary rabble, without having to defer to anyone else's authority at all."

In an internal circular dated 17 September, Dzerzhinksy, invited all local Chekas to "accelerate procedures and terminate, that is, liquidate, any pending business."5 In fact the "liquidations" had started as early as 31 August. On 3 September Izvestiya reported that in the previous few days more than 500 hostages had been executed by the local Cheka in Petrograd. According to Cheka sources, more than 800 people were executed in September in Petrograd alone. The actual figure must be considerably higher than that. An eyewitness relates the following details: "For Petrograd, even a conservative estimate must be 1,300 executions ... The Bolsheviks didn't count, in their 'statistics,' the hundreds of officers and civilians who were executed on the orders of the local authorities in Kronstadt. In Kronstadt alone, in one night, more than 400 people were shot. Three massive trenches were dug in the middle of the courtyard, 400 people were lined up in front of them and executed one after the other."'6 In an interview given to the newspaper Utro Moskvy (Moscow morning) on 3 November 1918, Peters admitted that "those rather oversensitive [sic] Cheka members in Petrograd lost their heads and went a little too far. Before Uritsky's assassination, no one was executed at all - and believe me, despite anything that people might tell you, I am not as bloodthirsty as they say - but since then there have been too many killed, often quite indiscriminately. But then again, Moscow's only response to the attempt on Lenin's life was the execution of a few tsarist ministers."17 According to Izvestiya again, a "mere" 29 hostages from the concentration camp were shot in Moscow on 3 and 4 September. Among the dead were two former ministers from the regime of Tsar Nicholas II, N. Khvostov (internal affairs) and I. Shcheglovitov (justice). Nonetheless, numerous eyewitness reports concur that hundreds of hostages were executed during the "September massacres" in the prisons of Moscow.

{p. 77} In these times of Red Terror, Dzerzhinsky founded a new newspaper, Ezhenedelnik VChK (Cheka weekly), which was openly intended to vaunt the merits of the secret police and to encourage "the just desire of the masses for revenge. For the six weeks of its existence (it was closed down by an order from the Central Committee after the raison d'etre of the Cheka was called into question by a number of Bolshevik leaders), the paper candidly and unashamedly described the taking of hostages, their internment in concentration camps, and their execution. It thus constituted an official basic minimum of information of the Red Terror for September and October 1918. For instance, the newspaper reported that in the medium-sized city of Nizhni Novgorod the Cheka, who were particularly zealous under the leadership of Nikolai Bulganin (later the head of the Soviet state from 1954 to 1957), executed 141 hostages after 31 August, and once took more than 700 hostages in a mere three days. In Vyatka the Cheka for the Ural region reported the execution of 23 "ex-policemen," 154 "counterrevolutionaries," 8 "monarchists," 28 "members of the Constitutional Democratic party," 186 "officers," and 10 "Mensheviks and right Socialist Revolutionaries," all in the space of a week. The Ivanovo Voznesensk Cheka reported taking 181 hostages, executing 25 "counterrevolutionaries," and setting up a concentration camp with space for 1,000 people. The Cheka of the small town of Sebezhsk reported shooting "17 kulaks and one priest, who had celebrated a mass for the bloody tyrant Nicholas II"; the Tver Cheka reported 130 hostages and 39 executions; the Perm Cheka reported 50 executions. This macabre catalogue could be extended considerably; these are merely a few extracts from the six issues of the Cheka Weekly.8

Other provincial journals also reported thousands of arrests and executions in the autumn of 1918. To take but two examples, the single published issue of Izvestiya Tsaritsynskoi Gubcheka (News of the Tsaritsyn Province Cheka) reported the execution of 103 people for the week of 3-10 September. From 1 to 8 November 371 people appeared in the local Cheka court; 50 were condemned to death, the rest "to a concentration camp as a measure of hygiene, as hostages, until the complete liquidation of all counterrevolutionary insurrections." The only issue of Izvestiya Penzenskoi Gubcheka (News of the Penza Province Cheka) reported, without commentary, that "in response to the assassination of Comrade Egorov, a Petrograd worker on a mission in one of the detachments of the Food Army, 150 White Guards have been executed by the Cheka. In the future, other, more rigorous measures will be taken against anyone who raises a hand in protest against the iron fist of the proletariat."

The svodki or confidential reports that the local Chekas sent to Moscow, which have only recently become public, also confirm the brutality of responses to the slightest incidents between the peasant community and the local authorities. These incidents almost invariably concerned a refusal to accept the requi-

{p. 78} sitioning process or conscription, and they were systematically catalogued in the files as "counterrevolutionary kulak riots" and suppressed without mercy.

It is impossible to come up with an exact figure for the number of people who fell victim to this first great wave of the Red Terror. Latsis, who was one of the main leaders of the Cheka, claimed that in the second half of 1918 the Cheka executed 4,500 people, adding with some cynicism: "If the Cheka can be accused of anything, it isn't of being overzealous in its executions, but rather of failure in the need to apply the supreme punishment. An iron hand will always mean a smaller number of victims in the long term."19 At the end of October 1918 the Menshevik leader Yuri Martov estimated the number of direct victims of the Cheka since the start of September to be "in excess of 10,000."20

Whatever the exact number of victims may have been that autumn - and the total reported in the official press alone suggests that at the very least it must be between 10,000 and 15,000 - the Red Terror marked the definitive beginning of the Bolshevik practice of treating any form of real or potential opposition as an act of civil war, which, as Latsis put it, had "its own laws." When workers went on strike to protest the Bolshevik practice of rationing "according to social origin" and abuses of power by the local Cheka, as at the armaments factory at Motovilikha, the authorities declared the whole factory to be "in a state of insurrection." The Cheka did not negotiate with the strikers, but enforced a lockout and fired the workers. The leaders were arrested, and all the "Menshevik counterrevolutionaries," who were suspected of having incited the strike, were hunted down.21 Such practices were normal in the summer of 1918. By autumn the local Chekas, now better organized and more motivated by calls from Moscow for bloodier repressions, went considerably further and executed more than 100 of the strikers without any trial.

The size of these numbers alone - between 10,000 and 15,000 summary executions in two months - marked a radical break with the practices of the tsarist regime. For the whole period 1825-1917 the number of death sentences passed by the tsarist courts (including courts-martial) "relating to political matters" came to only 6,321, with the highest figure of 1,310 recorded in 1906, the year of the reaction against the 1905 revolution. Moreover, not all death sentences were carried out; a good number were converted to forced labor.22 In the space of a few weeks the Cheka alone had executed two to three times the total number of people condemned to death by the tsarist regime over ninety-two years.

The change of scale went well beyond the figures. The introduction of new categories such as "suspect," "enemy of the people," "hostage," "concentration camp," and "revolutionary court," and of previously unknown practices such as "prophylactic measures," summary execution without judicial process

{p. 79} of hundreds and thousands of people, and arrest by a new kind of political police who were above the law, might all be said to have constituted a sort of Copernican revolution.

The change was so powerful that it took even some of the Bolshevik leaders by surprise, as can be judged from the arguments that broke out within the Party hierarchy from October to December 1918 regarding the role of the Cheka. On 25 October in the absence of Dzerzhinsky - who had been sent away incognito for a month to rebuild his mental and physical health in Switzerland - the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party discussed a new status for the Cheka. Criticizing the "full powers given to an organization that seems to be acting above the soviets and above even the party itself," Nikolai Bukharin, Aleksandr Olminsky, who was one of the oldest members of the Party, and Petrovsky, the people's commissar of internal affairs, demanded that measures be taken to curb the "excessive zeal of an organization filled with criminals, sadists, and degenerate elements from the lumpenproletariat." A commission for political control was established. Lev Kamenev, who was part of it, went so far as to propose the abolition of the Cheka.23

But the diehard proponents of the Cheka soon regained the upper hand. Among their number, besides Dzerzhinsky, were the major names in the Party: Yakov Sverdlov, Stalin, Trotsky, and of course Lenin himself. He resolutely came to the defense of an institution "unjustly accused of excesses by a few unrealistic intellectuals ... incapable of considering the problem of terror in a wider perspective."24 0n 19 December 1918, at Lenin's instigation, the Central Committee adopted a resolution forbidding the Bolshevik press to publish "defamatory articles about institutions, notably the Cheka, which goes about its business under particularly difficult circumstances." And that was the end of the debate. The "iron fist of the dictatorship of the proletariat" was thus accorded its infallibility. In Lenin's words, "A good Communist is also a good Chekist."

At the beginning of 1919 Dzerzhinsky received authorization from the Central Committee to establish the Cheka special departments, which thereafter were to be responsible for military security. On 16 March he was made people's commissar of internal affairs and set about a reorganization, under the aegis of the Cheka, of all militias, troops, detachments, and auxiliary units, which until then had been attached to different administrations. In May all these units - railway militias, food detachments, frontier guards, and Cheka battalions - were combined into a single body, the Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic, which by 1921 numbered 200,000. These troops' various duties included policing the camps, stations, and other points of strategic importance; controlling requisitioning operations; and, most important, putting down peasant rebellions, riots by workers, and mutinies in the Red

{p. 80} Army. The Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic represented a formidable force for control and oppression. It was a loyal army within the larger Red Army, which was constantly plagued by desertions and which never managed, despite a theoretical enrollment of between 3 million and 5 million, to muster a fighting force in excess of 500,000 well-equipped soldiers.25

One of the first decrees of the new people's commissar of internal affairs concerned the organization of the camps that had existed since the summer of 1918 without any legal basis or systematic organization. The decree of 15 April 1919 drew a distinction between "coercive work camps," where, in principle, all the prisoners had been condemned by a court, and "concentration camps," where people were held, often as hostages, as a result of administrative measures. That this distinction was somewhat artificial in practice is evidenced in the complementary instruction of 17 May 1919, which directed the creation of "at least one camp in each province, with room for a minimum of 300 people" and listed the sixteen categories of prisoners to be interned. The categories were as diverse as "hostages from the haute bourgeoisie"; "functionaries from the ancien regime, up to the rank of college assessor, procurator, and their assistants, mayors and assistant mayors of cities, including district capitals"; "people condemned, under the Soviet regime, for any crime of parasitism, prostitution, or procuring"; and "ordinary deserters (not repeat offenders) and soldiers who are prisoners in the civil war."26

The number of people imprisoned in work camps and concentration camps increased steadily from around 16,000 in May 1919 to more than 70,000 in September 1921.27 These figures do not include several camps that had been established in regions that were in revolt against Soviet power. In Tambov Province, for example, in the summer of 1921 there were at least 50,000 "bandits" and "members of the families of bandits taken as hostages" in the seven concentration camps opened by the authorities as part of the measures to put down the peasant revolt.28

{p. 81} 4 The Dirty War

The civil war in Russia has generally been analyzed as a conflict between the Red Bolsheviks and the White monarchists; but in fact the events that took place behind the lines of military confrontation are considerably more important. This was the interior front of the civil war. It was characterized above all by multifarious forms of repression carried out by each side - the Red repressions being much more general and systematic - against militant politicians of opposing parties or opposition groups, against workers striking for any grievance, against deserters fleeing either their units or the conscription process, or quite simply against citizens who happened to belong to a "suspect" or "hostile" social class, whose only crime often was simply to have been living in a town that fell to the enemy. The struggle on the interior front of the civil war included all acts of resistance carried out by millions of peasants, rebels, and deserters, and the group that both the Reds and the Whites called the Greens often played a decisive role in the advance or retreat of one or other side.

In 1919, for instance, massive peasant revolts against the Bolshevik powers in the mid-Volga region and in Ukraine allowed Admiral Kolchak and General Denikin to advance hundreds of miles behind Bolshevik lines. Similarly, several rnonths later, the uprising of Siberian peasants who were incensed at the reestablishment of the ancient rights of the landowners precipitated the retreat of Kolchak's White Army before the advancing Reds. ...

{p. 126} As the weekly reports from the secret police indicate, the campaign to confiscate church goods was at its height in March, April, and May 1922, when it led to 1,414 incidents and the arrest of thousands of priests, nuns, and monks. According to church records, 2,691 priests, 1,962 monks, and 3,447 nuns were killed that year.36 The government organized several large show-trials for members of the clergy in Moscow, Ivanovo, Chuya, Smolensk, and Petrograd. A week after the incidents in Chuya, in accordance with Lenin's instructions, the Politburo proposed a series of measures: "Arrest the synod and the patriarch, not immediately, but between a fortnight and a month from now. Make public the circumstances surrounding the business in Chuya. Bring to trial all the priests and lay members of Chuya in one week's time. Shoot all the rebel leaders."37 In a note to the Politburo, Dzerzhinsky indicated that

the patriarch and his followers ... are openly resisting the confiscation of church goods ... We already have enough evidence to arrest Tikhon and the more reactionary members of the synod. In the view of the GPU: (1) the time is right for the arrest of the patriarch and the synod; (2) permission should not be granted for the formation of a new synod; (3) all priests resisting the confiscation of church goods should be designated enemies of the people and exiled to one of the Volga regions most affected by the famine.38

In Petrograd 77 priests were sent to camps; 4 were sentenced to death, including the metropolitan of Petrograd, Benjamin, who had been elected in 1917 and enjoyed a wide popular following. Ironically, he was among those who had spoken strongly in favor of the separation of church and state. In Moscow 148 priests and lay brethren were sent to the camps, and 6 received death sentences that were immediately carried out. Patriarch Tikhon was placed under close surveillance in the Donskoi monasterv in Moscow.

On 6 June 1922, a few weeks after these legal travesties in Moscow, a large public trial began, announced in the press since the end of February: thirty-four Socialist Revolutionaries were accused of "counterrevolutionary and terrorist activities against the Soviet government," including most notably the attempt to assassinate Lenin on 31 August 1918 and participation in the Tambov peasant revolt. In a scenario that was replayed over and over in the 1930s, the accused included authentic political leaders, such as the twelve members of

{p. 127} the Central Committee of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, led by Avraham Gots and Dmitry Donskoi, and agents provocateurs instructed to testify against the others and to "confess their crimes." As Helene Carrere d'Encausse has pointed out, this trial permitted the authorities to "test out the 'Russian doll' method of accusation, whereby one solid accusation - the fact that since 1918 the Socialist Revolutionaries had been opposed to Bolshevik rule - was cited to 'prove' that any opposition to the Bolsheviks' policies was, in the final analysis, an act of cooperation with the international bourgeoisie."39

At the conclusion of this parody of justice, after the authorities had orchestrated political demonstrations calling for the death penalty for the "terrorists," eleven of the accused leaders of the Socialist Revolutionary Party were condemned to death. Faced with protests from the international community, organized largely by exiled Russian socialists, and with the more serious threat of uprisings in the pro-Socialist Revolutionary countryside, the sentences were suspended on the condition that "the Socialist Revolutionary Party ends all conspiratorial, insurrectionary, and terrorist activities." In January 1924 the death sentences were reduced to five years' internment in the camps. Needless to say the prisoners were never set free, and were in fact executed in the 1930s, when international opinion and the danger of peasant uprisings no longer posed a threat to the Bolshevik leadership.

The trial of the Socialist Revolutionaries was one of the first opportunities to test the new penal code, which had come into force on 1 June 1922. Lenin had followed its elaboration quite closely. One of the code's functions was to permit the use of all necessary violence against political enemies even though the civil war was over and "expeditious elimination" could no longer be justified. The first drafts of the code, shown to Lenin on 15 May 1922, provoked the following reply to Kursky, the people's commissar of justice: "It is my view that the leeway for applying the death penalty should be considerably enlarged and should include all the activities of Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries and others. Create a new punishment involving banishment abroad. And find some formulation that will link all these activities to the international bourgeoisie." Two days later Lenin wrote again:

Comrade Kurskv, I want you to add this draft of a complementary paragraph to the penal code ... It is quite clear for the most part. We must openly - and not simply in narrow juridical terms - espouse a politically just principle that is the essence and motivation for terror showing its necessity and its limits. The courts must not end the terror or suppress it in any way. To do so would be deception. They must give it a solid basis, and clearly legalize all its principles without any form of deception or deceit. It must be formulated as openly as possible: what

{p. 128} we need to encourage is a revolutionary legal consciousness that will allow it to be applied wherever it is needed.4'

In accordance with Lenin's instructions, the penal code defined counterrevolutionary activity as any action "aiming to attack or destabilize the power given to Soviet workers and peasants by the revolutionary proletariat," as well as "any action in favor of the international bourgeoisie that fails to recognize the validity of the Communist system and the fair distribution of property as a natural successor to the capitalist system, and any action that tries to reverse the situation by force, military intervention, economic blockade, espionage, illegal financing of the press, or other such means."

Anything that was classified as a counterrevolutionary action, including rebellion, rioting, sabotage, and espionage, was immediately punishable by death, as was participation in or support for any organization "that might, provide support for the international bourgeoisie." Even "propaganda that might be of use to the international bourgeoisie" was considered a counterrevolutionary crime, punishable by incarceration for not less than three years or by lifelong exile.

Along with the legalization of political violence, discussed in early 1922, came nominal changes within the secret police. On 6 February 1922 the Cheka was abolished by decree, to be immediately replaced by the State Political Directorate Administration (Gosudastvennoe politicheskoe upravlenie; GPU), which was responsible to the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs. Although the name had changed, the staff and the administrative structure remained the same, ensuring a high degree of continuity within the institution. The change in title emphasized that whereas the Cheka had been an extraordinary agency, which in principle was only transitory, the GPU was permanent. The state thus gained a ubiquitous mechanism for political repression and control. Lying behind the name change were the legalization and the institutionalization of terror as a means of resolving all conflict between the people and the state.

One of the new punishments instituted in the new penal code was lifelong banishment, with the understanding that any return to the U.S.S.R. would be greeted with immediate execution. It was put into practice from as early as 1922 as part of a long expulsion operation that affected nearly 200 well-known intellectuals suspected of opposing Bolshevism. Among them were many of the prominent figures who had participated in the Social Committee for the Fight against Famine, which had been dissolved on 27 July of that year.

In a long letter to Dzerzhinsky dated 20 May 1922, Lenin laid out a vast plan for the "banishment abroad of all writers and teachers who have assisted the counterrevolution ... This operation must be planned with great care. A

{p. 129} special commission must be set up. All members of the Politburo must spend two to three hours each week carefully examining books and newspapers ... Information must be gathered systematically on the political past, the work, and the literary activity of teachers and writers." Lenin led the way with an example:

As far as the journal Ekonomist is concerned, for example, it is clearly a center for White Guard activity. On the cover of the third issue (N.B.: as early as that!) all the collaborators are listed. I think they are all legitimate candidates for expulsion. They are all known counterrevolutionaries and accomplices of the Entente, and they make up a network of its servants, spies, and corrupters of youth. Things must be set in motion such that they are hunted down and imprisoned in a systematic and organized fashion and banished abroad.42

On 22 May the Politburo established a special commission, including notably Kamenev, Kursky, Unshlikht, and Vasily Mantsev (the last two being Dzerzhinksy's two assistants), to collect information on intellectuals to be arrested and expelled. The first two people expelled in this fashion were the two main leaders of the Social Committee for the Fight against Famine, Sergei Prokopovich and Ekaterina Kuskova. A first group of 160 well-known intellectuals, philosophers, writers, historians, and university professors, who were arrested on 16 and 17 August, were deported in September. Some of the names on the list were already famous internationally or would soon become so: Nikolai Berdyaev, Sergei Bulgakov, Semyon Frank, Nikolai Loski, Lev Karsavin, Fyodor Stepun, Sergei Trubetskoi, Aleksandr Isgoev, Mikhail Ossorgin, Aleksandr Kiesewetter. Each was forced to sign a document stating that he understood that if he ever returned to the U.S.S.R., he would immediately be shot. Each was allowed to take one winter coat and one summer coat, one suit and change of clothes, two shirts, two nightshirts, two pairs of socks, two sets of underwear, and twenty dollars in foreign currency.

Parallel to these expulsions, the secret police proceeded with its policy of gathering information about all second-tier intellectuals who were under suspicion and were destined either for administrative deportation to remote areas of the country, codified in law by a decree on 10 August 1922, or for the concentration camps. On 5 September Dzerzhinsky wrote to his assistant Unshlikht:

Comrade Unshlikht! Regarding the files kept on the intelligentsia, the system is not nearly sophisticated enough. Since [Yakov] Agronov left, we seem to have no one capable of organizing this properly. Zaraysky is still too young. It seems to me that if we are going to make any progress at all, Menzhinsky is going to have to take things in hand ... It is

{p. 130} essential to devise a clear plan that can be regularly completed and updated. The intelligentsia must be classed into groups and subgroups:

1. Writers

2. Journalists and politicians

3. Economists: subgroups are very important here: (a) financiers, (b) workers in the energy sector, (c) transport specialists, (d) tradesmen, (e) people with experience in cooperatives, etc.

4. Technical specialists: here too subgroups are necessary: (a) engineers, (b) agronomists, (c) doctors, etc.

5. University lecturers and their assistants, etc.

Information on all such people must go to specific departments and be synthesized by the Main Department on the Intelligentsia. Every intellectual must have his own file ... It must be clear in our minds that the objective of the department is not simply to expel or arrest individuals, but to contribute to general political matters and policies concerning intellectuals. They must be controlled, closely watched and divided up, and those who are ready to support the Soviet regime and demonstrate this by their actions and their words should be considered for promotion. 13

A few days later Lenin sent a long memorandum to Stalin in which he returned over and over, in almost maniacal detail, to the question of a "definitive purging" of all socialists, intellectuals, and liberals in Russia:

Regarding the question of the expulsion of Mensheviks, populist socialists, cadets, etc., I would like to raise a few questions here. This issue came up in my absence and has not yet been dealt with fully. Has the decision been made yet to root out all the popular socialists? [Andrei] Pechekhonov, [Aleksandr] Myakotin, [A.G.] Gornfeld, [N.] Petrishchev, and the like? I think the time has come for them to be exiled. They are more dangerous than the Socialist Revolutionaries because they are more cunning. We could say the same of [Aleksandr] Potresov, [Aleksandr] Isgoev, and the rest of the staff at the journal Ekonomist, such as Ozerov and several others. The same applies to the Mensheviks such as [Vasily] Rozanov (a doctor, not to be trusted), Vigdorshik (Migulo or something like that), Lyubov Nikolaevna Radchenko and her young daughter (who seem to be two of the worst enemies of Bolshevism), and N. A. Rozhkov (he must be exiled, he really is incorrigible) ... The Mantsev-Messing commission must draw up lists, and hundreds of these people should be expelled immediately. It is our duty to clean up Russia once and for all ... All the authors at the House of Writers and Thinkers in Petrograd, too, must go. Kharkiv must be searched from top to bottom. We currently have absolutely no idea what is happening

{p. 131} there; it might as well be in a foreign country. The city needs a radical cleansing as soon as possible, right after the trial of all the Socialist Revolutionaries. Do something about all those authors and writers in Petrograd (you can find all their addresses in New Russian Thought, no 4, 1922, p. 37) and all the editors of small publishing houses too (their names and addresses are on page 29). This is all of supreme importance.

{p. 140} A year after the Georgian uprising had been crushed, the regime launched a massive "pacification" campaign in Chechnya, where people still went about their business as though Soviet power did not exist. From 27 August to 15 September 1925 more than 10,000 regular troops from the Red Army under the leadership of General Ierome Uborevich, backed by special units from the GPU, began an enormous operation to try to disarm the Chechen partisans who still held the countryside. Tens of thousands of arms were seized and nearly 1,000 "bandits" arrested. So fierce was the resistance that the GPU leader Unshlikht reported that "the troops were forced to resort to heavy artillery to bombard the rebel strongholds." At the end of this new "pacification" operation, carried out during what might be called the GPU's finest hour, Unshlikht concluded his report thus: "As was demonstrated by the experience of our struggle against the basmachis in Turkestan, and against the bandits in Ukraine, military repression is effective only when it is followed by an intensive process of Sovietization in the core of the country.''14

After the death of Dzerzhinsky at the end of 1926, the GPU came under the leadership of Vyacheslav Rudolfovich Menzhinsky, who had been its founder's righthand man (and who was also of Polish extraction). By now the GPU was called upon more frequently by Stalin, who was preparing his political offensive against both Trotsky and Bukharin. In January 1927 the GPU received an order instructing it to accelerate the classification of "anti-Soviet and socially dangerous elements" in the countryside. In a single year the number of people thus classified rose from 30,000 to about 72,000. In September 1927 the GPU launched campaigns in several provinces to arrest kulaks and other "socially dangerous elements." With hindsight, these operations seem to have been preparatory operations for the great "dekulakization" programs of the winter of 1929-30.

In 1926 and 1927 the GPU showed itself also to be extremely active in the hunt for Communists of opposing tendencies, who were classified as either "Zinovievites" or "Trotskyites." The practice of classifying and following

{p. 141} Communists of different tendencies had first appeared in 1921. In September 1923 Dzerzhinsky had proposed "to tighten the ideological unity of the Party" by insisting that Communists agree to inform the secret police about the existence of splits or disagreements within the Party. The proposal had met with considerable hostility from several leaders, including Trotsky himself. Nonetheless the practice of placing opponents under surveillance became increasingly widespread in the years that followed. The GPU was very closely involved with the purge of the Communist organization in Leningrad, carried out under Zinoviev in January and February 1927. Opponents were not simply expelled from the Party; several hundred were exiled to distant towns in the countryside, where their position was very precarious, since no one dared to offer them any work. In 1927 the hunt for Trotskyites - who numbered several thousand around the country - intensified considerably, and for a month it involved a number of units from the GPU. All opponents were classified, and hundreds of militant Trotskyites were arrested and then exiled as a simple administrative measure. In November 1927 all the main leaders of the so-called Left Opposition, including Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Radek, and Rakovsky, were expelled from the Party and arrested. Anyone who failed to make a public confession was exiled. On 19 January 1928 Pravda announced the departure of Trotsky and a group of thirty Opposition leaders from Moscow to exile in Alma-Ata. A year later Trotsky was banned from the U.S.S.R. altogether. With the transformation of one of the main architects of the Bolshevik terror into a "counterrevolutionary," it was clear that a new era had dawned, and that a new Party strongman had emerged - Josif Stalin.

In early 1928, when the Trotskyite opposition had been eliminated, the Stalinist majority in the Politburo decided to end the truce with society, which seemed to be straying increasingly from the original path set by the Bolsheviks. The main enemy now, as ten years previously, was the peasantry, which was still perceived as a hostile, uncontrolled, and uncontrollable mass. This second stage of the war against the peasantry, as the historian Andrea Graziosi notes, "was markedly different from the first. The initiative was taken very much by the state this time, and all the peasantry could do was react, with ever decreasing strength, to the attacks carried out against it."15

Although the state of agriculture had improved since the catastrophic events of 1918-1922, the end of the decade saw the "peasant enemy" still weaker, and the state considerably stronger, than at the beginning. The authorities, for example, had considerably more information at their disposal about what actually went on in the villages. Thanks to its files on "socially dangerous elements," the GPU could carry out the first dekulakization raids, stamp out more and more "banditry," disarm the peasants, increase the proportion of villagers recruited as soldiers, and expand Soviet education. As the correspon-

{p. 142} dence of Party leaders and the records of high-level discussions within the Party demonstrate, the Stalinist leadership, like its opponents Bukharin, Rykov, and Kamenev, was perfectly aware of what was at stake in this new assault on the peasantry. "There will be a peasant war, as in 1918-19," warned Bukharin. But Stalin was ready, since he knew that, whatever the cost, the regime would emerge the victor.16

The harvest crisis at the end of 1927 provided Stalin with the pretext he needed. November was marked by a spectacular decline in deliveries of agricultural products to the state collection centers, and by December this was beginning to take on catastrophic proportions. In January 1928 the facts had to be faced: despite a good harvest, the peasants had delivered only 4.8 million tons, down from 6.8 million the previous year. The new crisis had many causes, including the decline in the prices offered by the state, the cost and the scarcity of manufactured products, the disorganization of the collection agencies, the rumors of war, and, in general, the peasants' discontent with the regime. Nonetheless, Stalin was quick to label this a "kulak strike."

The Stalinist faction quickly used the reduced deliveries as a pretext to return to requisitioning and to the repressive measures used during the period of War Communism. Stalin visited Siberia in person. Other leaders, including Andrei Andreev, Anastas Mikoyan, Pavel Postyshev, and Stanislas Kossior, also left for the grain-producing centers in the Black Earth territories (fertile regions in southern Russia), Ukraine, and the Northern Caucasus. On 14 January 1928 the Politburo sent a circular to local authorities ordering them to "arrest speculators, kulaks, and anyone else interfering in the markets or in pricing policies." "Plenipotentiaries" (the term itself was a throwback to the requisitioning policies of 1918-1921) and detachments of militant Communists were sent into the countryside to remove local authorities judged to be too complacent toward the kulaks. They also sought out hidden grain surpluses, if necessary with the help of poor peasants, who were promised a quarter of all confiscated grain as compensation for their assistance.

To punish peasants who were unwilling to hand over their agricultural products at prices that were a mere third or even a quarter of the going market rate, the Soviet authorities doubled, tripled, or even quintupled the original amount to be collected. Article 107 of the penal code, which set a prison term of three years for anyone acting in a manner liable to increase prices, was also widely used. Taxes on the kulaks were increased tenfold in two years. The markets themselves were closed, a move that affected wealthier and poorer peasants alike. Within a few weeks all these measures clearly vitiated the uneasy truce existing between the regime and the peasantry since 1922-23. The requisitioning and repressive measures merely worsened the agricultural situation. In the short term, the use of force had allowed the authorities to obtain a harvest

{p. 143} approximately the same size as that from the preceding year. In the long term, however, the consequences were similar to those during War Communism: peasants reacted by sowing considerably less the following year.17

The harvest crisis of the winter of 1927-28 played a crucial role in the events that followed. In particular, Stalin drew a whole series of conclusions from this crisis. He decided to to create "fortresses of socialism" in the countryside - giant sovkhozy, pilot farms run by the state, and kolkhozy, or collective farms - and to get rid of the kulaks once and for all by "liquidating them as a class."

In 1928 the regime also broke its truce with another social group, the spetsy, the "bourgeois specialists" left over from the intelligentsia of the ancien regime, who at the end of the 1920s still filled most of the managerial positions in industrial and government departments. At a meeting of the Central Committee in April 1928, it was announced that an industrial sabotage plan had been discovered in the Shakhty region, one of the mining areas of the Donbass, among the workers of the Donugol Company, which was known to employ "bourgeois specialists" and to have relations with finance companies in the West. A few weeks later, 53 of the accused, most of them engineers and middle-management workers, were tried in public in the first open political trial since that of the Socialist Revolutionaries in 1922;11 were condemned to death, and 5 were executed. This show-trial, which was reported extensively in the press, serves as an illustration of the obsessive hunt for "saboteurs in the pay of foreign powers," a term used as a rallying call for activists and informers in the pay of the GPU. "Saboteurs" were blamed for all economic failures, and they became the excuse for using thousands of white-collar workers to build the new special offices of the GPU, known as the sharashki. Thousands of engineers and technicians who had been convicted of sabotage were punished by being sent to construction sites and high-profile civil engineering projects. In the months following the Shakhty trial the Economic Department of the GPU fabricated dozens of similar affairs, notably in Ukraine. In the Yugostal metallurgy complex in Dnepropetrovsk, 112 white-collar workers were arrested in May 1928.18

Not only white-collar industrial workers were targeted in the vast anti-specialist operations begun in 1928. Numerous university professors and students of "socially unacceptable" background were excluded from higher education in a series of purges of the universities designed to advance the careers of the new Red "proletarian" intelligentsia.

The new repressive measures and the economic difficulties of the later years of the NEP, which were marked by growing unemployment and upsurges in criminal activity, resulted in a huge increase in the number of criminal convictions ...

{p. 203} The Empire of the Camps

The 1930s, marked by repression against society on a hitherto unknown scale, also saw a huge expansion of the concentration-camp system. The Gulag Administration archives now available allow a close examination of the evolution of these institutions, revealing changes in organizational structure, periods of great activity, the number of prisoners, their economic status, the sort of crimes for which they had been condemned, and their division by age, sex, nationality, and educational background. But many gray areas remain. In particular, although the Gulag bureaucracy kept efficient records ol the numbers of inmates, little is known about the fate of those who failed to arrive at their destination; and this despite numerous individual testimonies.

By mid-1930 approximately 140,000 prisoners were already working in the camps run by the GPU. The huge project to dig a canal connecting th White Sea and the Baltic, which alone required more than 120,000 men, resulted in the transfer of tens of thousands from prison to camp. The numbel of people receiving some sort of custodial sentence continued to rise: more than 56,000 were sentenced by the GPU in 1929, and 208,000 in 1930 (this compared with 1,178,000 cases prosecuted by bodies other than the GPU in 1929, and 1,238,000 in 1931).2 One can therefore calculate that in early 1932 more thar 300,000 prisoners were laboring on the GPU projects, where the annual mor-

{p. 204} tality rate often reached 10 percent, as was the case for the Baltic-White Sea canal.

When the GPU was reorganized and renamed the NKVD in July 1934 the Gulag absorbed 780 small penal colonies and some 212,000 prisoners from camps that had been judged inefficient or badly run under the People's Commissariat of Justice. To increase productivity, and to match the image they were trying to create for the rest of the country, camps became bigger and more specialized. Huge penal complexes, each holding tens of thousands of prisoners, were to be a major factor in the economy of Stalin's U.S.S.R. On 1 January 1935 the newly unified Gulag system contained more than 965,000 prisoners - 725,000 in work camps and 240,000 in work colonies, smaller units where less socially dangerous elements were sent, usually for a period of less than three years.3

In this fashion, the map of the gulags for the next two decades was drawn. The penal colonies of the Solovetski Islands, which contained some 45,000 prisoners, spawned "flying camps" that were moved to places where wood was to be cut: in Karelia, along the shores of the White Sea, and in the Vologda region. The large Svirlag group of camps, which held around 43,000 prisoners, had the task of keeping the Leningrad area supplied with wood for heating, while the Temnikovo camps fulfilled the same role for the Moscow area.

From the strategic crossroads at Kotlas, a railway was laid down along the "Northern Route" to West Vym, Ukhta, Pechora, and Vorkuta, with woodcutting operations and mines along the way. In the far north, the Ukhtpechlag used its 51,000 prisoners to build roads, mine coal, and extract petroleum. Another branch snaked out toward the Urals and the chemical centers at Solikamsk and Berezniki, while to the southeast all the camps in western Siberia and their 63,000 prisoners provided free manpower for the great mining complex at Kuzbassugol.

Farther south, in the Karaganda region in Kazakhstan, the "agricultural camps" of the Steplag, containing some 30,000 prisoners, pioneered a project to cultivate the steppes. Apparently the regime there was less harsh than at the huge Dmitlag complex, which in the mid-1930s contained some 196,000 prisoners. After the completion of the Baltic-White Sea canal in 1933 it was detailed to construct the second great Stalinist canal, from Moscow to the Volga.

Another huge construction project was the BAM, the Baikal-Amur-Magistral, the railway that was to run parallel to the Trans-Siberian line between Baikal and Amur. In early 1935 about 150,000 prisoners from the group of concentration camps at Bamlag, organized into some thirty divisions, worked on the first section of the railway. In 1939 the Bamlag with its 260,000 prisoners was the biggest Soviet concentration camp of all.

{p. 205} Finally, after 1932 the Sevvostlag, a group of camps in the northeast, provided manpower for a center of great strategic importance, the Dalstroi. Its task was the production of gold to finance purchases from the West of equipment for industrialization. All the gold seams were situated in a particularly inhospitable region - in Kolyma. Accessible only by sea, Kolyma was to become the region most symbolic of the gulags. Magadan, the capital and the port where all new arrivals disembarked, had been built by the prisoners themselves. Its single road, a vital artery that had also been built by the prisoners, served only to link these camps. The living conditions were particularly inhumane and are well described in the works of Varlam Shalamov. Between 1932 and 1939, the gold extracted by the Kolyma prisoners - who numbered 138,000 in 1939 - rose from 276 kilos to 48 metric tons, which accounted for 35 percent of all Soviet gold produced that year.4

In June 1935 the government launched a new huge project that could be carried out only with penal labor - the construction of a large nickel production center in Norilsk, north of the Arctic Circle. At the height of the Gulag years, in the 1950s, the prisoners in the concentration camps in Norilsk would number 70,000. The productive function of this camp, known as a "corrective work camp," clearly reflected the internal structure of the Gulag. Its central organization was neither geographical nor functional, but entirely economic, with centers for hydroelectric production, for railway construction, for bridge and road building, and so on. For both the administration of the penal centers and the government ministries of industry, prisoners and work colonizers were just so much merchandise to be parceled out by contract.5

In the second half of the 1930s the Gulag population doubled, from 965,000 prisoners in early 1935 to 1,930,000 in early 1941. In 1937 alone it grew by 700,000.6 The massive influx of new prisoners so destabilized production that it fell by 13 percent from the previous year's. It continued to stagnate in 1938 until the new people's commissar of internal affairs, Lavrenti Beria, took vigorous measures to rationalize the work carried out by prisoners. In a note addressed to the Politburo on 10 April 1939, Beria laid out his program for the reorganizatiOn of the gulags. He argued that his predecessor, Nikolai Ezhov, had placed a much higher priority on hunting down class enemies than he had on healthy economic management. The normal food allowance for the prisoners, set at 1,400 calories per day, had been calculated for people who did nothing but sit around a prison cell all day.7 As a result, the number of prisoners capable of working had shrunk considerably over the previous years: some 250,000 prisoners were unable to work on 1 March 1939, and 8 percent of all prisoners had died in the previous year. To meet the production targets set by the NKVD, Beria called for an increase in food rations. In addition, he called for a halt to the early release of prisoners and to exemplary punishments of malingerers or

{p. 206} "production disorganizers." He recommended the extension of the working day to eleven hours, with three rest days allowed per month, "to exploit, as much as possible, all the physical capacities of all the prisoners."

Contrary to popular belief, the Gulag archives demonstrate that the turnover of prisoners was quite high; 20-35 percent were released each year. This rotation can be explained by the relatively high number of sentences of less than five years, nearly 57 percent of all sentences in early 1940. But the arbitrary nature of the camp administration and the justice system, particularly where the political prisoners of 1937-38 were concerned, often meant that sentences were mysteriously extended. Release often did not mean freedom, but subjection to a whole series of measures such as exile or house arrest.

Also contrary to popular belief, the Gulag camps were not filled only with political prisoners - sentenced for "counterrevolutionary activities" according to the fourteen definitions of the infamous Article 58 of the penal code. The political contingent oscillated between one-quarter and one-third of all prisoners in the gulags each year. The other prisoners were not necessarily common criminals. Many were sentenced to camps for having committed crimes specially created by the Party, ranging from "destruction of Soviet property" to "breaking the passport law," "hooliganism," "speculation," "leaving one's work post," "sabotage," or even "nonfulfillment of the minimum number of working days" in the kolkhozy. Most prisoners in the gulags were simply ordinary citizens who were victims of particularly harsh laws in the workplace and a growing number of regulations regarding social behavior. They were the result of a decade of repressive measures taken by the Party-state against ever-larger sections of society.8

A provisional balance sheet of statistics on the terror might run as follows:

¥ 6 million dead as a result of the famine of 1932-33, a catastrophe that can be blamed largely on the policy of enforced collectivization and the predatory tactics of the central government in seizing the harvests of the kolkhozy.

¥ 720,000 executions, 680,000 of which were carried out in 1937-38, usually after some sort of travesty of justice by a special GPU or NKVD court.

¥ 300,000 known deaths in the camps from 1934 to 1940. By extrapolating these figures back to 1930-1933 (years for which very few records are available), we can estimate that some 400,000 died during the decade, not counting the incalculable number of those who died between the moment of their arrest and their registration as prisoners in one of the camps.

{p. 207} ¥ 600,000 registered deaths among the deportees, refugees, and "specially displaced."

¥ Approximately 2,200,000 deported, forcibly moved, or exiled as "specially displaced people."

¥ A cumulative figure of 7 million people who entered the camps and Gulag colonies from 1934 to 1941 (information for the years 1930-1933 remains imprecise).

On 1 January 1940 some 1,670,000 prisoners were being held in the 53 groups of corrective work camps and the 425 corrective work colonies. One year later the figure had risen to 1,930,000. In addition, prisons held 200,000 people awaiting trial or a transfer to camp. Finally, the NKVD komandatury were in charge of approximately 1.2 million "specially displaced people."9 Even if these figures are heavily rounded down to bring them into line with estimates made by previous historians and eyewitnesses, which often confused the numbers of those entering the gulags with the numbers already present at a certain date, the data still give a good idea of the scale of the repressive measures against the Soviet people in the 1930s.

From the end of 1939 to the summer of 1941 the camps, colonies, and special Gulag settlements saw the arrival of yet another wave of prisoners. This was partly the result of the Sovietization of the new territories, and partly the result of the unprecedented criminalization of various sorts of behavior, notably in the workplace.

On 24 August 1939 the world was stunned to learn that a mutual pact of nonaggression had been signed the previous day between Stalin's U.S.S.R. and Hitler's Germany. The announcement of the pact sent shock waves through much of the world, where public opinion was totally unprepared for what appeared to be a volte-face in international relations. At the time, few people had realized what could link two regimes that apparently professed such opposed ideologies.

On 21 August 1939 the Soviet government adjourned negotiations with the Franco-British mission that had arrived in Moscow on 11 August. The mission had hoped to conclude a pact that would reciprocally engage all three of the parties in the event of a hostile action by Germany against any one of them. Since early that year, Soviet diplomats, led by Vyacheslav Molotov, had progressively distanced themselves from the idea of an agreement with France and Britain, which Moscow suspected were prepared to sign another Munich treaty to sacrifice Poland, leaving the Germans a free hand in the east. While negotiations between the Soviet Union on the one hand, and the French and

{p. 208} British on the other, became bogged down in insoluble problems, especially the question of permission for Soviet troops to cross Polish territory, contacts between Soviet and German representatives at various levels took a new turn. On 14 August von Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister, offered to come to Moscow to conclude a momentous political agreement with the Soviet Union. The following day, Stalin accepted the offer.

On 19 August, after a series of negotiations begun in late 1938, the German and Soviet delegations signed a commercial treaty that looked extremely promising for the U.S.S.R. That same evening, the Soviet Union accepted von Ribbentrop's offer to visit Moscow to sign the pact of nonaggression already worked out in Moscow and sent ahead to Berlin. The German minister, who had been given extraordinary powers for the occasion, arrived in Moscow on the afternoon of 23 August. The nonaggression treaty was signed during the night and made public the following day. Meant to last for ten years it was to come into effect immediately. The most important part of the agreement, outlining spheres of influence and annexations in Eastern Europe, obviously remained secret. The Soviet Union denied the existence of the secret protocol until 1989. According to the secret agreement, Lithuania fell under German control, and Estonia, Latvia, Finland, and Bessarabia would be given to Soviet control. The maintenance of some sort of sovereign Polish state was Ieft unresolved, but it was clear that after German and Soviet military intervention in Poland, the U.S.S.R. was to recover the Ukrainian and Belorussian territories it had lost under the Riga treaty in 1920, together with part of the "historically and ethnically Polish" territories in the provinces of Lublin and Warsaw.

Eight days after the signing of the pact, Nazi troops marched into Poland. One week later, after all Polish resistance had been crushed, and at the insistence of the Germans, the Soviet government proclaimed its intention to occupy the territories to which it was entitled under the secret protocol of 23 August. On 17 September the Red Army entered Poland, on the pretext that It was coming to the aid of its "Ukrainian and Belorussian blood brothers," who were in danger because of "the disintegration of the Polish state." Soviet intervention met with little resistance, since the Polish army had been almost completely destroyed. The Soviet Union took 230,000 prisoners of war, including 15,000 officers.10

The idea of installing some sort of Polish puppet government was rapidly abandoned, and negotiations were opened on the fixing of the border between Germany and the U.S.S.R. On 22 September it was drawn along the Vistula in Warsaw, but after von Ribbentrop's visit to Moscow on 28 September it was pushed farther east, to the Bug. In exchange for this concession, Germany agreed to include Lithuania in the sphere of Soviet control. The partitioning

{p. 209} of Poland allowed the U.S.S.R. to annex vast territories of 180,000 square kilometers with a population of 12 million Belorussians, Ukrainians, and Poles. On 1 and 2 November, after a farcical referendum, these territories were attached to the Soviet republics of Ukraine and Belorussia.

By this time the NKVD "cleansing" of the regions was already under way. The first targets were the Poles, who were arrested and deported en masse as "hostile elements." Those most at risk were landowners, industrialists, shopkeepers, civil servants, policemen, and "military colonists" (osadnicy wojskowe) who had received a parcel of land from the Polish government in recognition of their service in the Soviet-Polish war of 1920. According to records kept in the Special Colonies Department of the Gulag, 381,000 Polish civilians from the territories taken over by the U.S.S.R. in September 1939 were deported between February 1940 and June 1941 as "specially displaced people" to Siberia, the Arkhangelsk region, Kazakhstan, and other far-flung corners of the U.S.S.R.11 The figures given by Polish historians are much higher, arguing for approximately 1 million deportees.12 There are no precise figures for the arrest and deportation of civilians carried out between September 1939 and January 1940.

For later periods, archival documents contain evidence for three great waves of arrests and deportations, on 9 and 10 February, 12 and 13 April, and 28 and 29 June 1940.13 The return trip for the convoys between the Polish border and Siberia, Kazakhstan, or the Arctic regions took two months. As for the Polish prisoners of war, only 82,000 out of 230,000 were still alive in the summer of 1941. Losses among the Polish deportees were also extremely high. In August 1941, after reaching an agreement with the Polish government-in-exile, the Soviet government granted an amnesty to all Poles who had been deported since November 1939, but to only 243,100 of the 381,000 "specially displaced." In total more than 388,000 Polish prisoners of war, interned refugees, and deported civilians benefited from this amnesty. Several hundred thousand had died in the previous two years. A great number had been executed on the pretext that they were "unrepentant and determined enemies of Soviet power."

Among the latter were the 25,700 officers and Polish civilians whom Beria, in a top-secret letter to Stalin on 5 March 1940, had proposed to shoot.

A large number of ex-officers from the Polish army, ex-officials from the Polish police and information departments, members of nationalist counterrevolutionary parties, members of opposition counterrevolutionary organizations that have rightly been unmasked, renegades, and many others, all sworn enemies of the Soviet system, are at present being detained in prisoner-of-war camps run by the NKVD in the

{p. 210} U.S.S.R. and in the prisons situated in the western regions of Ukraine and Belorussia.

The army officers and policemen who are being held prisoner are still attempting to pursue their counterrevolutionary activities and are fomenting anti-Soviet actions. They are all eagerly awaiting their liberation so that once more they may enter actively into the struggle against the Soviet regime.

NKVD organizations in the western regions of Ukraine and in Belorussia have uncovered a number of rebel counterrevolutionary organizations. The Polish ex-army officers and policemen have all been playing an active role at the head of these organizations.

Among the renegades and those who have violated state borders are numerous people who have been identified as belonging to counterrevolutionary espionage and resistance movements.

14,736 ex-officers, officials, landowners, policemen, prison guards, border settlers (osadnikl), and information agents (more than 97 percent of whom are Polish) are at present being detained in prisoner of war camps. Neither private soldiers nor noncommissioned officers are included in this number. Among them are:

295 generals, colonels, and lieutenant colonels
2,080 commanders and captains
6,049 lieutenants, second lieutenants, and officers in training
1,030 officers and police NCOs, border guards, and gendarmes
5,138 policemen, gendarmes, prison guards, and information officers
144 officials, landowners, priests, and border settlers

In addition to the above, 18,632 men are detained in prisons in the western regions of Ukraine and Belorussia (10,685 of whom are Polish). They include:

1,207 ex-officers
5,141 ex-information officers, police, and gendarmes
347 spies and saboteurs
465 ex-landowners, factory managers, and officials
5,345 members of various counterrevolutionary resistance movements and diverse other elements
6,127 renegades

Insofar as all the above individuals are sworn and incorrigible enemies of the Soviet regime, the U.S.S.R. NKVD believes it necessary to:

{p. 211} 1. Order the U.S.S.R. NKVD to pass judgment before special courts on: a. the 14,700 ex-officers, officials, landowners, police officers, information officers, gendarmes, special border guards, and prison guards detained in prisoner-of-war camps b. the 11,000 members of the diverse counterrevolutionary espionage and sabotage organizations, ex-landowners, factory managers, ex-officers of the Polish army, officials, and renegades who have been arrested and are being held in the prisons in the western regions of Ukraine and Belorussia, so that THE SUPREME PENALTY BE APPLIED, DEATH BY FIRING SQUAD.

2. Order that individual files be studied in the absence of the accused, and without particular charges being lodged. The conclusions of the inquiries and the final sentence should be presented as follows: a. a certificate produced by the Directorate for Prisoner of War Affairs of the NKVD of the U.S.S.R. for all individuals detained in prisoner-of-war camps b. a certificate produced by the Ukrainian branch of the NKVD and the Belorussian NKVD for all other people arrested.

3. Files should be examined and sentences passed by a tribunal made up of three people - Comrades [Vsevolod] Merkulov, [Bogdan] Kobulov, and [Ivan L.] Bashtakov.

Some of the mass graves containing the bodies of those executed were discovered by the Germans in April 1943 in the Katyn forest. Several huge graves were found to contain the remains of 4,000 Polish officers. The Soviet authorities tried to blame this massacre on the Germans; only in 1992, on the occasion of a visit by Boris Yeltsin to Warsaw, did the Russian government acknowledge the Soviet Politburo's sole responsibility for the massacre of the Polish officers in 1940.

As soon as the Polish territories were annexed, the Soviet government summoned the heads of the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian governments to Moscow and imposed "mutual assistance treaties" on them, according to which they "invited" the U.S.S.R. to set up military bases on their territory. Immediately, 25,000 Soviet soldiers marched into Estonia, 30,000 into Latvia, and 20,000 into Lithuania. These troops far outnumbered the standing armies in each of the theoretically independent countries. The entry of Soviet troops in October 1939 marked the real end of the independence of the Baltic states. On 11 October Beria gave the order to "stamp out anti-Soviet and antisocialist

{p. 212} elements" in these countries. The Soviet military police then began arresting officers, civil servants, and intellectuals considered untrustworthy.

In June 1940, shortly after the successful German offensive in France, the Soviet government acted on the clauses contained in the secret protocol of 23 August 1939. On 14 June, on the pretext that there had been "acts of provocation carried out against the Soviet garrisons," it sent an ultimatum to the Baltic leaders, ordering them to form "governments prepared to guarantee the honest application of a treaty of mutual assistance, and to take steps to punish all opponents of such a treaty." In the days that followed, several hundred thousand more Soviet troops marched into the Baltic states. Stalin sent representatives to the capital cities: Vyshinsky to Riga, Zhdanov to Tallinn, and Vladimir Dekanozov, the chief of the secret police and deputy minister of forelgn affairs in the U.S.S.R., to Kaunas. Their mission was to carry out the Sovietization of the three republics. Parliaments and all local institutions were dissolved and most of the members arrested. Only the Communist Party was authorized to present candidates for the elections on 14 and 15 July 1940.

In the weeks following the farcical elections, the NKVD, under the leadership of General Ivan Serov, arrested between 15,000 and 20,000 "hostile

{p. 212} elements." In Latvia alone, 1,480 people were summarily executed at the beginning of July. The newly "elected" parliaments requested that their countries be admitted into the U.S.S.R., a request that was granted in early August by the Supreme Soviet, which then proclaimed the birth of three new Soviet Socialist Republics. While Pravda wrote that "the sun of the great Stalinist constitution will henceforth be shining its gratifying rays on new territories and new peoples," what was actually beginning for the Baltic states was a long period of arrests, deportations, and executions.

Soviet archives also contain the details of a large deportation operation carried out under the orders of General Serov during the night of 13-14 May, when "socially hostile" elements from the Baltic region, Moldavia, Belorussia, and western Ukraine were rounded up. The operation had been planned a few weeks previously, and on 16 May 1941 Beria wrote to Stalin regarding the latest project to "clean up regions recently integrated into the U.S.S.R. and remove all criminal, socially alien, and anti-Soviet elements." In total, 85,716 people were deported in June 1941, including 25,711 from the Baltic states. Vsevolod Merkulov, the second in command at the NKVD, in a report dated 17 July 1941, tabulated the results of the operation in the Baltics. During the night of 13-14 June, 11,038 members of "bourgeois nationalist" families, 3,240 members of the families of former policemen, 7,124 members of families of landowners, industrialists, and civil servants, 1,649 members of the families of former officers, and 2,907 "others" were deported. The document makes clear

{p. 213} that the heads of these families had been arrested, and in all probability had already been executed. The operation carried out on 13 June was aimed exclusively at the remaining family members of those who had been deemed "socially alien."'

Each deported family was allowed 100 kilograms of baggage, which was supposed to include enough food for one month. The NKVD itself accepted no responsibility for providing food during the whole deportation process. The convoys arrived at their destination at the end of July 1941, most of them going to Novosibirsk and Kazakhstan. Some of them did not reach their destination in the Altai region until mid-September. No information is available on the number of deportees who died in transit, but one can imagine that the numbers were high. The journey took from six to twelve weeks, and the deportees were fifty to a wagon in the cattle trucks used to transport them, kept together with all their food and baggage in the same place. Beria planned a similar large-scale operation for the night of 27-28 June 1941. The choice of this date can be taken as further confirmation that the Soviet high command was not prepared for the German attack planned for 22 June. Operation Barbarossa delayed for several years the NKVD "cleansing" of the Baltic states.

A few days after the occupation of the Baltic states, the Soviet government sent an ultimatum to Romania demanding the immediate return of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the U.S.S.R. - another provision of the secret German-Soviet protocol of 23 August 1939. Abandoned by the Germans, the Romanians immediately gave in. Bukovina and part of Bessarabia were incorporated into Ukraine, and the remaining part of Bessarabia became the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldavia, proclaimed on 2 August 1940. Kobulov, Beria's assistant, signed a deportation order that same day for 31,699 "anti-Soviet elements" who lived in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldavia, and for another 12,191 in the Romanian regions that had been incorporated into Ukraine. Within a few months all these "elements" had been classified and filed in what was by then the tried and tested manner. The previous evening, on 1 August 1940, Molotov had given a triumphant speech to the Supreme Soviet regarding the German-Soviet pact, which had given the U.S.S.R. 23 million new inhabitants.

The year 1940 was also remarkable for one other statistic. It was the year when the number of prisoners in gulags and Soviet prisons reached their height. On 1 January 1941 the gulags contained more than 1,930,000 people, 270,000 more than the previous year. More than 500,000 people in the new "Sovietized" territories had been deported, in addition to the 1.2 million "specially displaced people" who had been counted at the end of 1939. Soviet prisons, which

{p. 214} had a theoretical limit of 234,000 inmates, held 462,000 people;5 and the total number of sentences passed that year saw a huge rise, climbing in one year from 700,000 to 2,300,000.16

This spectacular increase was the result of an unprecedented effort to criminalize different types of social behavior. In the workplace the date of 26 June 1940 remained imprinted on the minds of many because of the decree "on the adoption of the eight-hour working day, the seven-day working week, and the ban on leaving work of one's own accord." Any unjustified absence, including any lateness of more than twenty minutes, was henceforth treated as a criminal offense. Lawbreakers were liable to six months' uninterrupted "corrective work," the loss of 25 percent of their salary, and the possibility of a prison sentence of between two and four months.

On 10 August another decree increased the punishments for any act of "hooliganism," shoddy work, or petty theft in the workplace to as much as three years of imprisonment in the camps. In the conditions that then prevailed in Soviet industry, almost any worker could be prosecuted under this severe new law.

These decrees, which would remain on the statute books until 1956, marked a new stage in the criminalization of the labor laws. In the first six months after they came into effect, more than 1.5 million people received sentences; the fact that 400,000 of these were custodial sentences partly explains the huge increase in prison numbers after the summer of 1941. The number of "hooligans" sentenced to the camps rose from 108,000 in 1939 to 200,000 in 1940.17

The end of the Great Terror was thus marked by a new offensive against the ordinary citizens of the country those who refused to bend to accommodate the new factory or kolkhoz laws. In response to the severe laws of the summer of 1940, a number of workers, if one is to judge by the reports of NKVD informers, fell into what were termed "unhealthy states of mind," particularly during the first few weeks of the Nazi invasion. They openly called for "the elimination of all Jews and Communists" and began to spread what the NKVD termed "provocative rumors." For example, one Moscow worker claimed that "when Hitler takes our towns, he will put up posters saying, 'I won't put workers on trial, like your government does, just because they are twenty-one minutes late for work." 18 Any such comment was treated with extreme severity, as is indicated by the report of the military procurator general on "crimes and misdemeanors committed on the railways between 22 June and 1 September 1941." This report recorded 2,254 sentences against individuals, including 204 death sentences; 412 people were sentenced for "the spreading of counterrevolutionary rumors," and 110 railway workers were condemned to death for this crime. 19

{p. 215} A collection of documents recently published details the mood of the Moscow population during the first few months of the war. What emerges most clearly is the total confusion felt by people during the German advances in the summer of 1941. 20 Muscovites seemed to fall into one of three categories: patriots, a large group of ambivalent individuals who latched on to rumors, and the defeatists, who wished for a swift German victory to get rid of the "Jews and Bolsheviks" perceived to have ruined the country. In October 1941, when factories were dismantled and moved farther east in the country, an "anti-Soviet disorder" broke out in the textile industry in the Ivanovo district.21 The defeatist slogans of the workers were quite revealing of the despair felt by much of the workforce, which since 1940 had labored under ever-harsher conditions.

The barbarism of the Nazis created some reconciliation between the Soviet government and the people, in that Germany classed Russians as sub-humans destined for extermination or slavery. After the German invasion there was a swift upturn in patriotism. Stalin very cleverly began to reaffirm traditional patriotic Russian values. In a famous radio address to the nation on 3 July 1941, he again used the language and imagery that had unified Russians for more than a century: "Brothers and sisters, a grave danger is threatening our land." References to the Great Russian Nation of Plekhanov, Lenin, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky, Lermontov, Suvorov, and Kutuzov were used to call for a holy war, the "Great Patriotic War." On 7 November 1941, while reviewing battalions of volunteers who were leaving for the front, Stalin called on them to fight according to "the glorious examples of our ancestors Aleksandr Nevsky and Dmitry Donskoi." The former had saved Russia from the Teutonic Knights in the thirteenth century, and the second, a century later, had finally shaken off the Tatar yoke.

{p. 238} As the recently opened Gulag archives demonstrate, the early 1950s were the most intense period of operation; never had so many people been detained in the camps, forced-labor colonies, and penal settlements. This was also a period of unprecedented crisis in the system. In the first months of 1953 the gulags contained 2,750,000 prisoners, who were grouped into three categories:

¥ Those incarcerated in the approximately 500 labor colonies, found in all regions, containing between 1,000 and 3,000 prisoners on average, most of whom were common criminals serving sentences of less than five years

¥ Those incarcerated in some 60 large penal complexes, or labor camps, which were mainly in the northern and eastern regions of the country, each holding tens of thousands of prisoners, common criminals, and political prisoners all serving sentences of more than ten years

¥ Those imprisoned in the approximately 15 special-regime camps, which had been established following secret instructions from the Ministry of Internal Affairs on 7 February 1948 to house only political prisoners considered particularly dangerous, totaling approximately 200,000 people.15

This huge concentration-camp universe thus contained 2,750,000 prisoners; another 2,750,000 "specially displaced people" were controlled by a different part of the Gulag Administration. These numbers made for serious problems in administration and control, as well as in economic profitability. In 1951 General Kruglov, the minister of internal affairs, was worried about the constant decline in productivity among penal workers. He began a vast inspection campaign to assess the state of the gulags. When the commissions reported back, they revealed an extremely tense situation. First of all, in the special-regime camps where "political" prisoners (Ukrainian and Baltic "nationalists" from defeated guerrilla organizations, "foreign elements" from newly incorporated regions, real or supposed "collaborators," and other "traitors to the fatherland") had been arriving since 1945, the detainees were far more determined than the "enemies of the people" of the 1930s, who had been former Party cadres convinced that their imprisonment had been the result of a terrible misunderstanding. These new people, by contrast, condemned to twenty or twenty-five years with no hope of an early release, felt they had nothing left to lose. Moreover, their isolation in the

{p. 239} special-regime camps had removed them from the influence of common criminals. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn pointed out, the one thing that prevented an atmosphere of solidarity from developing among prisoners was precisely the presence of common criminals. Once this obstacle had been removed, the special camps quickly became hotbeds of resistance and revolt against the Soviet regime. Ukrainian and Baltic prisoners were particularly active in revolting against the system. Strikes, hunger strikes, mass escapes, and riots all became increasingly common. Research so far reveals sixteen large-scale riots and revolts in 1950-1952, each involving hundreds of prisoners.16

The Kruglov inspections of 1951 also revealed that the system was deteriorating in ordinary camps, where "a general laxity in discipline" was to be discerned. In 1951 a million work days were lost to protests and strikes by prisoners. There was also a rising crime rate in the camps, an increasing number of violent confrontations between prisoners and guards, and a decline in the productivity of the penal workforce. According to the authorities, the situation was largely the result of conflicts between rival gangs of prisoners, with one group that refused to work and despised the other groups that did work, labeling them collaborators. In-fighting among factions and fights among prisoners had a corrosive effect on discipline and generally created disorder. Deaths from stabbing were more common than deaths from hunger or disease. A conference of gulag commanders held in Moscow in January 1952 acknowledged that "the authorities, who until now have been able to gain a certain advantage from the hostilities between various groups of prisoners, [are] beginning to lose their grip on the situation ... In some places, certain factions are even beginning to run the camp along their own lines." To break up groups and factions, it was decided that prisoners should be moved between camps more frequently, and that at the biggest penitentiaries, which often held between 40,000 and 60,000 people, there should be a permanent reorganization mto separate sections.17

In addition to noting the considerable problems generated by the different factions, many inspection reports from 1951 and 1952 acknowledged a need both for a complete reorganization of the prisons and their systems of production, and for a considerable scaling down of the entire operation.

In January 1952 Colonel Nikolli Zverev, the commander of the concentration camps in Norilsk, where 69,000 prisoners were kept, sent a report to General Ivan Dolgikh, the commander in chief of the gulags, with the following recommendations:

1. Isolate the factions. "But," Zverev noted, "given the great number of prisoners who belong to one or other of the rival factions, we would be lucky if we could even simply isolate the leaders."

2. Abandon the huge production zones, where tens of thousands of pris-

{p. 240} oners belonging to one faction or another are currently working without supervision.

3. Establish smaller production units to ensure better surveillance of the prisoners.

4. Increase the number of guards. "But," Zverev added, "it is currently impossible to organize the guards in the desired fashion, since almost double the number of guards is required."

5. Separate free workers from prisoners at all production sites. "But the technical links between the different companies that make up the Norilsk complex, and the requirement that production be continuous, coupled with the serious housing shortage, all mean that it is currently impossible to segregate the prisoners and the free workers in a satisfactory manner ... Generally speaking, the problem of productivity and of uninterrupted production could be resolved only by the early release of 15,000 prisoners, who in any case would be forced to remain at the same site."18

Zverev's last proposal was far from incongruous, given the climate of opinion at the time. In January 1951 Kruglov had asked Beria for the early release of 6,000 prisoners, who were then to be sent as free workers to an enormous construction site for the hydroelectric power station in Stalingrad, where 25,000 prisoners were then toiling away in what was perceived to be an extremely ineffectual manner. The practice of early release, particularly for prisoners who had some qualifications, was fairly frequent in the early 1950s.

It also called into question the economic value of an outdated system of concentration camps.

Faced with this huge increase in prisoners who were far less docile than those in the past, and with a whole series of logistical and surveillance problems (Gulag personnel now numbered approximately 208,000), the enormous administrative machine found it more and more difficult to produce its tufta - the false accounts of its success. To resolve this enduring problem, the authorities had a choice of two solutions: either to exploit all manpower to the maximum, without regard for human losses, or to ensure the Gulag's survival by treating the manpower with greater consideration. Until 1948 the first solution was preferred; but at the end of the 1940s it dawned on Party leaders that with the country bled dry by the war and manpower scarce in every sector of the economy, it was far more logical to use the prisoner workforce in a more economical fashion. To try to stimulate production, bonuses and salaries were introduced, and food rations were increased for prisoners who met their quotas. As a result, the death rate fell immediately by 2-3 percent. But the reforms quickly came up against the harsh realities of life in the concentration camps.

{p. 241} By the beginning of the 1950s, the production infrastructure in general was more than twenty years old and had had no benefit of any recent investment. The huge penitentiaries, which held tens of thousands of prisoners and which had been built to use the extensive workforce in the big projects of the time, were extremely difficult to reorganize, despite the numerous attempts from 1949 to 1952 to break them up into smaller production units. The tiny salaries given to prisoners, generally a few hundred rubles per year (fifteen to twenty times less than the pay of a free worker), were an inadequate stimulus to increased productivity. More and more prisoners were downing tools, refusing to work, and forming organized groups that required ever-closer surveillance. Regardless of whether they were better paid or guarded more closely, all prisoners, both those who cooperated with the authorities and those who preferred to show solidarity with the other strikers, began to cost more and more in economic terms.

All the information available from the inspection reports of 1951 and 1952 points in the same direction: The gulags had become a much harder mechanism to control. All the large-scale Stalinist projects that were being built with largely penal manpower, including the hydroelectric power stations in Kuibyshev and Stalingrad, the Turkmenistan canal, and the Volga-Don canal, fell considerably behind schedule. To speed up work, the authorities were forced to bring in a large number of additional free workers, and to grant early release to a number of prisoners in an attempt to motivate the others.19

The Gulag crisis sheds new light on the amnesty of 1.2 million prisoners decreed by Beria scarcely three weeks after Stalin's death, on 27 March 1953. Certainly, political reasons alone could not have motivated Stalin's potential successors to unite in proclaiming a partial amnesty. All were aware of the immense difficulty of managing the overcrowded and unprofitable gulags. Yet at the very moment when all the penal authorities were asking for a reduction in the number of prisoners, Stalin, who was suffering increasingly from paranoia in his old age, was preparing a second Great Terror. Such contradictions abounded in the last, most troubled period of the Stalinist regime.

{p. 463} China: A Long March into Night

Jean-Louis Margolin

After our armed enemies have been crushed, there will still be our unarmed enemies, who will try to fight us to the death. We must never underestimate their strength. Unless we think of the problem in precisely those terms, we will commit the gravest of errors.

Thus Mao Zedong adjured the Central Committee of the Seventh Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in March 1949.1

Was repression in Communist China simply a replication of the practice of the Soviet Big Brother? After all, until the early 1980s Stalin's portrait wa still to be seen everywhere in Beijing.2 In some respects the answer is no. In China, murderous purges in the Party itself were very rare, and the secret police were relatively discreet, although the influence of their leader, Kang Shen and of the Yan'an maquis was constantly in the background from the 1940s unt his death in 1975.3 But in other respects the answer is assuredly yes. Even if one excludes the civil war, the regime must be held accountable for a huge number of deaths. Although the estimates are quite speculative, it is clear that there were between 6 million and 10 million deaths as a direct result of the Communist actions, including hundreds of thousands of Tibetans. In addition,

This chapter is dedicated to Jean Pasqualini (d. 9 October 1997), who revealed the horrors of the Chinese concentration camps to the world.

{p. 464} tens of millions of "counterrevolutionaries" passed long periods of their lives inside the prison system, with perhaps 20 million dying there. To that total should be added the staggering number of deaths during the ill-named Great Leap Forward - estimates range from 20 million to 43 million dead for the years 1959-1961 - all victims of a famine caused by the misguided projects of a single man, Mao Zedong, and his criminal obstinacy in refusing to admit his mlstake and to allow measures to be taken to rectify the disastrous effects. The answer again is yes if one looks at the scale of the genocide in Tibet; some 10 to 20 percent of the inhabitants of the "rooftop of the world" died as a result of Chinese occupation. The genuine surprise of Deng Xiaoping as he observed that the massacre in Tiananmen Square in June 1989, where perhaps 1,000 died, was totally insignificant in comparison to the scale of events in China in the comparatively recent past, clearly amounts to an admission of guilt. One can hardly argue that these massacres were the sad consequences of an extremely bloody civil war, since the war was not in fact particularly violent and the regime was firmly entrenched by 1950. Nor can one argue that this was the continuation of a generally bloodstained history. If one discounts the Japanese occupation, which was not followed by famine or other disasters, one has to go back to the third quarter of the nineteenth century to find slaughters on anything resembling a comparable scale. And at that time there was nothing to i compare to the generality or the systematic and carefully planned character of the Maoist atrocities, despite the dramatic nature of events in China at the . time.

An analysis of Chinese Communism is doubly important. Since 1949, the Beijing reglme has governed nearly two-thirds of all people who lived under the red flag. When the Soviet Union finally broke up in 1991 and Eastern Europe abandoned Communism, the figure rose to nine-tenths. It is therefore quite clear that whatever happens to "real socialism" now depends on the development of Communism in China. Beijing has been a sort of second Rome for Marxism-Leninism, openly so since the Sino-Soviet break of 1960, but in actuality since the birth of the free zone of Yan'an in 1935-1947 after the Long March. Korean, Japanese, and even Vietnamese Communists would retreat to China to consolidate their strength. Although Kim Il Sung's regime predates the triumph of the Chinese Communist Party, and owes its existence to Soviet occupation, it also owes its survival during the Korean war to the intervention of more than 1 million armed Chinese "volunteers." Repressions in North Korea were based quite closely on the Stalinist model, but what the master of Pyongyang took from Maoism, which after Yan'an became synonymous with Chinese Communism, was the idea not of the Party line but of the mass line - the intense effort to classify and mobilize the entire population - and its logical consequence, an insistence on permanent education as a means of social

{p. 465} control. Kim paraphrased Mao when he noted that "the mass line is to mount an active defense of the interests of the working masses, to educate and reeducate them so that they rally to the cause of the Party, to count on their strength, and to mobilize them for revolutionary tasks."4

Even more apparent is China's influence on Asian Communist regimes established after 1949. The memoirs of the Vietnamese leader Hoang Van Hoan, who went over to Beijing, reveal that from 1950 until the Geneva accord of 1954 numerous Chinese advisers trained troops and administrators for the Viet Minh, and that from 1965 to 1970 some 30,000 soldiers from Beijing helped North Vietnamese troops in their fight against the South.5 General Vo Nguyen Giap, the victor at Dien Bien Phu, indirectly acknowledged the Chinese contribution in 1964: "After 1950, in the wake of the Chinese victory, our army and our people learned some precious lessons from the Chinese People's Liberation Army. We educated ourselves according to the military thought of Mao Zedong. That was the important factor that allowed our army to mature and that led to our successive victories."6 The Vietnamese Communist Party, which at the time was known as the Workers' Party, inscribed in its statutes m 1951 that "The Workers' Party recognizes the theories of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin and the thought of Mao Zedong, adapted to the realities of the Vietnamese revolution, as the theoretical foundation of its thought and as the magnetic needle that points the way in all its activities."7 The "mass line" and the idea of reeducation were placed at the center of the Vietnamese political system. The cheng Jeng ("the reform of work style"), which had been invented in Yan'an, was transcribed into Vietnamese as chinh huan and became the justification for the ferocious purges of the mid-1950s.8 In 1975-1979 Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge also received powerful support from Beijing and tried to carry out what Mao himself had failed to accomplish, taking up in particular the idea of the Great Leap Forward. All these regimes, like that of Mao, were strongly colored by their military origins (though less so in North Korea, even if Kim often boasted of his alleged exploits as a guerrilla fighter against the Japanese), which inevitably resulted in a permanent militarization of society. This occurred the least in China, which had no front line. It is notable that the central role played by the secret police in the Soviet system was in China always played by the army, which sometimes carried out repressive measures on its own.

A Tradition of Violence?

During his lifetime, Mao Zedong was so powerful that he was often known as the Red Emperor. In light of what is now known about his unpredictable character, his ferocious egotism, the vindictive murders he committed, and the

{p. 466} life of debauchery that he led right up to the end, it is all too easy to compare him to one of the despots of the Middle Kingdom (ancient China).9 Yet the violence that he erected into a whole system far exceeds any national tradition of violence that we might find in China.

As in most other countries, there had been periods of great bloodletting in China, which usually occurred against a backdrop of religious tension or an irreconcilable ideological clash. What separates the two great Chinese traditions s of Confucianism and Taoism is less the theoretical differences than the conflict between the focus by Confucius on society and on rationality and the emphasis by Lao Tsu, the great promoter of Taoism, on the individual and intuitive and irrational aspects of behavior. Chinese generally incorporate some mixture of these two traditions. Sometimes in moments of crisis Taoists will gain the upper hand among the disinherited and the lost, lunching a massive assault on the bastions of Confucianism - the educated and the state. Over the centuries there have been numerous uprisings inspired by apocalyptic, messianic sects, including the Yellow Turbans of 184, the Maitreyist revolt of Faqing in 515, the Manichean rebellion of Fang La in 1120, the White Lotus in 1351, and the Eight Trigrams of 1813.10 The message of these movements was often quite similar, synthesizing Taoism and popular Buddhism, and often using the figure of Maitreya, the Buddha of the future whose imminent, luminous, and redemptive coming is to be accomplished in a universal cataclysm of the old world. The faithful, the chosen few, must help bring about the realization of the prophecy for salvation to occur. All contingent links must be broken, even with one's own family. According to the chronicle of the Wei dynasty in 515, "Fathers, sons, and brothers did not know one another.''

In China most morality is based on respect for familial obligations. Once these are broken, anything can happen. The replacement family that the sect becomes annihilates the idea of the individual. The rest of humanity is condemned to hell in the hereafter and to violent death in this world. Sometimes, as in 402, officials were cut into pieces, and if their wives and children refused to eat them, they were dismembered themselves. In 1120 massacres evidently involved millions of people. All values can be inverted: according to a proclamation of 1130, "The killing of people is the carrying out of the dharma [Buddhist law]." Killing becomes an act of compassion, delivering the spirit. Theft serves the purposes of equality, suicide is an enviable happiness; the worse a death is, the greater its reward will be. According to a text from the nineteenth century, "Death by slow slicing will ensure one's entry [into heaven] in a crimson robe."12 From certain points of view it is difficult not to draw a comparison here between this millenarian cruelty and the Asian revolutions of this century. This does not help explain a number of the latter's characteristics, but it does help explain why they sometimes triumphed, and why the

{p. 467} violence that accompanied them could initially appear quite ordinary and normal.

Social safeguards were nonetheless extremely powerful, a fact that explains why society was only rarely troubled. European visitors in the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment were always struck by the tremendous peace that reigned in the old empire. Confucianism, the official doctrine taught in the countryside, made benevolence the cardinal virtue of the sovereign and modeled the state on the family. Without any risk of anachronism, one can speak here of humanist principles that have valorized human life from time immemorial. Looking at the work of thinkers who have been the cardinal points of reference for nearly twenty-one centuries of imperial rule, we can single out the Chinese philosopher Mo Ti (ca. 479-381 B.C.), who condemned wars of aggression thus: "If a simple homicide is to be considered a crime, but the multiple homicide that is an attack on another country is to be considered a good action, can we possibly call that a reasonable distinction between good and evil?"13 In his famous treatise The Art of War, Sun Tzu (writing around 500 B.C.) noted that "war is like fire; people who do not lay down their arms will die by their arms." One should fight for economic reasons, as swiftly and efficiently as possible: "No long war ever profited any country: 100 victories in 100 battles is simply ridiculous. Anyone who excels in defeating his enemies triumphs before his enemy's threats become real." Saving one's strength is essential, but neither should one allow oneself to annihilate the enemy entirely: "Capturing the enemy is far better than destroying him: do not encourage murder." That is perhaps less of a moral tenet than an opportunistic consideration: massacres and atrocities provoke hatred and lend the enemy the energy of despair, possibly allowing him to turn the situation around in his favor. In any case, for the victor, "The best policy is to capture the state intact: it should be destroyed only if no other options are available."4

Such is the typical reasoning of the great Chinese tradition, as illustrated above all by Confucianism: ethical principles are derived not from some transcendental vision, but from a pragmatic vision of social harmony. This is surely one of the reasons for their effectiveness. A different "pragmatic" approach, developed by lawmakers who were contemporaries of Confucius and Sun Tzu, implied that the state must affirm its omnipotence by terrorizing society. The fundamental failure of this approach was immediately apparent, even in its hour of glory during the short Qn dynasty, in the third century B.C. Despite enormous variations from one reign to the next, such arbitrary rule became more and more uncommon, particularly after the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). The most common punishment for errant officials became the long walk into exile, which did not exclude the possibility of pardon and return. The Tang dynasty in 654 drew up an extremely humane penal code, which took

{p. 468} into account both the intentions of individuals and any repentance they might show and abolished the idea of familial responsibility in case of rebellion. The procedures leading to capital punishment became very long and complex, some of the more horrible punishments were abolished altogether, and an appeals procedure was also established.15

State violence was thus quite limited and controlled. Chinese historians have always been appalled by the behavior of the first emperor, Qin Shi (221-210 B.C.), who buried alive 460 administrators and men of letters, burned all the classical literature (and made anyone who mentioned it subject to capital punishment), condemned to death or deported at least 20,000 nobles, and killed as many as several hundred thousand people during the construction of the Great Wall. This emperor was explicitly taken as a model by Mao. With the arrival of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), Confucianism returned to the fore, and the empires never again saw such severe tyranny or such bloody massacres. The law was strict, and justice was harsh, but apart from the (regrettably frequent) times of rebellion and the invasions from abroad, human life was safer there than it was in most other states in the ancient world or in medieval and modern Europe.

Admittedly, even under the peaceful Song dynasty in the twelfth century some 300 offenses were punishable by death, but in principle every sentence had to be checked and countersigned by the emperor himself. Wars often dragged on until hundreds of thousands had lost their lives, and the death count inevitably rose during the ensuing epidemics, famines, disruption of the transport system, and floodings of the Yellow River. The Taiping revolt and its repression were responsible for between 20 million and 100 million deaths, causing the population of China to fall from 410 million in 1850 to 350 million in 1873.16 But only a small fraction of those dead, probably about I million, can be considered to have been intentionally killed in connection with the revolt.17 In any case this was an exceptionally troubled period, marked by immense rebellions, repeated attacks by Western imperialists, and the growing despair of a population living in abject poverty. It was in this context that the two, three, or four generations who preceded the Communist revolutionaries grew up. It made them accustomed to a level of violence and social disintegration unprecedented in China's history.

Even in the first half of this century there was no warning, in scale or in kind, of what Maoism would unleash. True, the relatively undramatic revolution of 1911 was followed by a growing number of deaths in the sixteen years before the partial stabilization imposed by the Kuomintang regime. In Nanjing, a hotbed of revolution, the dictator Yuan Shih-kai ordered several thousand people executed from July 1913 to July 1914 18. In June 1925 the police in Guangzhou killed fifty-two people taking part in a workers' demonstration. In

{p. 469} May 1926 in Beijing, forty-seven students were killed in a peaceful anti-Japanese demonstration. In April and May 1927 in Shanghai, and then in other blg cities in the east, thousands of Communists were executed by a coalitlon uniting the head of the new regime, Chiang Kai-shek, and the local secret societies. In The Human Condition Andre Malraux recalled the atrocious nature of some of the executions, which took place in a locomotive boiler. Although the first episodes of the civil war between nationalists and Communists do not appear to have involved any massacres greater than those in the Long March of 1934-35, the Japanese did commit thousands of atrocities in the huge part of China that they occupied from 1937 to 1945.

More murderous than many of these events were the famines of 1900, 1920-21, and 1928-1930 that struck the north and northwest of the country, the areas most vulnerable to drought. The second of these caused the death of 500,000 people, and the third between 2 million and 3 million.19 But although the second was made worse by the disruption of the transport system as a result of the civil war, one can hardly say this was an intentional effect that should be described as a massacre. The same cannot be said about Henan, where in 1942-43 between 2 million and 3 million people, or 5 percent of the population, died of hunger, and many cases of cannibalism were recorded. Even though the harvest had been disastrous, the central government in Chongqing refused to reduce the tax levy. In effect, the government seized from a great number of peasants all the goods they produced. The proximity of the front was another factor. The peasants were drafted to help with military operations, such as the digging of a 500-kilometer antitank trench, which in practice proved useless.20 This was a foretaste of other great errors of judgment such as the Great Leap Forward, even if in this case the war might be seen to have provided an excuse. The resentment felt by the peasants was enormous.

The most numerous and, taken as a whole, the most murderous atrocities occurred quietly and left few traces. These often involved the poor fighting the poor, far from the main centers, in the great ocean of China's villages. Innumerable brigands roamed at large, sometimes in organized gangs, pillaging, looting, racketeering, and kidnaping. They killed anyone who resisted or whose ransom was not delivered in time. When they were captured, the whole village would join in their execution. For the peasants, the soldiers were sometimes worse than the bandits they were supposed to be fighting. In 1932 a petition from Fujian demanded that all the forces of law and order be withdrawn, "so that we will have only the bandits to fight.''21 In the same province in 1931, angry peasants annihilated the majority of a band of 2,500 soldiers who had pillaged and raped the local populace. In 1926 a group of peasants to the west of Hunan, under the cover of the secret society of the Red Lances, apparently killed 50,000 "soldier-bandits" serving a local warlord.

{p. 476} Unlike the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Chinese Revolution of 1949 began in the countryside and spread to the cities.

{p. 478} The key element in agrarian reform was the "bitterness meeting." Landowners were called before an assembly of the wholoe village, where for good measure they were often dubbed "traitors."

{p. 479} There is no precise tally of the number of victims, but because there was necessarily at least one per village, 1 million seems to be the absolute minimum, and many authors agree on a figure between 2 million and 5 million dead.51 In addition, between 4 million and 6 million Chinese "kulaks" were sent to the new laogai ...

{p. 482} The most varied and sadistic tortures were quite common, such as hanging by the wrists or the thumbs. One Chinese priest died after being interrogated continuously for 102 hours. The most brutish people were allowed to operate with impunity. One camp commander assassinated or buried alive 1,320 people in one year, in addition to carrying out numerous rapes. Revolts, which were quite numerous at that time (detainees had not yet been ground into submission, and there were many soldiers among them), often degenerated into veritable massacres. Several thousand of the 20,000 prisoners who worked in the oilfields in Yanchang were executed. In November 1949, 1,000 of the 5,000 who mutinied in a forest work camp were buried alive.61

The campaign to eliminate "counterrevolutionary elements" was launched in July 1950, followed in 1951 by the "Three Anti" (antiwaste, anticorruption, antibureaucracy) and "Five Anti" movements (against bribery, fraud, tax evasion, Iying, and revealing state secrets, all aimed at the bourgeoisie) and the campaign to "reform thought," which was directed at Westernized intellectuals. Members of the last group were forced to undergo regular periods of "reeducation" and to prove to the local labor collective (danwei) that they had made progress. The temporal conjunction of these movements reveals their essential intent: to demonstrate to the urban elite that no one was safe. The definition of "counterrevolutionary" in particular was so vague and so wide that any past or current position that diverged even slightly from the Party line was enough to bring condemnation. The result was that local Party secretaries had almost all the repressive power they could want. With encouragement from the Center and with help from the security forces, they could use and abuse their power at will. Alain Roux's term "Red Terror" applies, especially to the year 1951.62

The few official figures available are appalling. There were 3,000 arrests in one night in Shanghai (and 38,000 in four months), 220 death sentences and public executions in a single day in Beijing, 30,000 interrogations over nine months in Beijing, 89,000 arrests and 23,000 death sentences in ten months in Guangzhou. More than 450,000 small businesses were investigated, including 100,000 in Shanghai alone; at least one-third of the bosses and numerous managers were found guilty of some sort of fraud, usually tax evasion, and punished with varying degrees of severity. Around 300,000 of them received prison sentences.63 Foreign residents were also targeted: 13,800 "spies" were arrested in 1950, including many priests; one Italian bishop was condemned to life imprisonment. As a direct result of this persecution, the number of Catholic missionaries fell from 5,500 in 1950 to a few dozen in 1955, after which the Chinese faithful began to feel the full force of repression without any awkward witnesses from abroad. There were at least 20,000 arrests in 1955; the number

{p. 483} of Christians of all denominations who were arrested over the next two decades ran into the hundreds of thousands.64 Former political and military cadres from the Kuomintang, who had been granted amnesty in 1949 in an attempt to slow their massive exodus to Taiwan and Hong Kong, were decimated more than two years later, with the press sternly noting that "even the extreme kindness of the people toward such reactionaries has its limits." Penal legislation continued to facilitate oppression, punishing past as well as current "counterrevolutionaries" through retroactive legislation. Judgment could also be passed "by analogy" to a similar crime if the accused had not committed any specific act that fell within the remit of a particular law. Penalties were extremely severe: eight years in prison was a minimum for ordinary crimes; the norm was nearer twenty years.

It is still difficult to venture with precision beyond the few official figures. But Mao himself spoke of the liquidation of 800,000 counterrevolutionaries. Executions in the cities almost certainly reached 1 million, that is, one-third of the probable number of liquidations in the countryside. But since at least five times as many people lived in the country as lived in the city, we can assume that the repressions were harsher in urban areas. The picture becomes even darker if one includes the 2.5 million people who were imprisoned in reeducation camps, a figure that represents approximately 4.1 percent of the urban population, as opposed to 1.2 percent for the countryside.65 Then there are the numerous suicides of people harried by the authorities. On some days in Guangzhou as many as fifty people committed suicide. Chow Chingwen estimates the total number of suicides at around 700,000.66 Urban purges closely resembled those of the agrarian reforms, differing substantially from the essentially secret purges in the U.S.S.R. carried out by the police. In China the local Party committee had a firm grip on the police. The committee's primary aim was to ensure that as large a segment of the population as possible took part in the repressions, while being careful to ensure that full control of the proceedings remained with the Party.

Workers, within the framework of the street committees, attacked the "lairs" of "capitalist tigers," forcing them to open their accounts to public scrutiny, to be criticized and to criticize themselves, and to accept state control over their affairs. If they repented completely, they were then invited to participate in investigative groups and to denounce their colleagues. If they were at all uncooperative, the whole cycle began again. The situation was very similar for intellectuals: they had to attend "submission and rebirth" meetings at their workplace, confess their errors, and show that they had definitively abandoned "liberalism" and "Westernism," understood the evils of "American cultural imperialism," and had killed the "old man" inside them with all his doubts and independent thoughts. During this period, which could range from two months

{p. 484} to a year, all other activities were banned. Their accusers had all the time they needed, and there was no means of escape except suicide, a traditional Chinese solution chosen by those who wished to escape repeated humiliations and the ignominy of the obligatory denunciations by colleagues or who simply could take no more. The same phenomena recurred during the Cultural Revolution on an even larger scale, often accompanied by physical violence. For the moment, the entire population and all the activities of the towns passed under the absolute control of the Party. Heads of industry were subjected to ever-increasing restrictions. Beginning in 1951 they were forced to make all their accounts public and were subjected to crippling taxes. In December 1953 they were forced to hand over their entire capital to the state. In 1954, by which time ratiomng was ubiquitous, they had to affiliate themselves with public supply companies. In October 1955 they were again forced to submit to general scrutiny, and they held out for no more than two weeks. In January 1956 they were "offered" collectivization in exchange for a modest pension for life and sometimes a place as technical director in what had been their own company. The Cultural Revolution later reneged even on these promises. One person from Shanghai who refused to cooperate was brought to trial on various charges by his workers, was ruined in two months and then sent to a labor camp. Many of the heads of small and medium-sized companies, which were systematically plundered, took their own lives. The heads of larger companies tended to fare better, since their knowledge of and contacts with the extensive network of Chinese who lived abroad were recognized as being useful: even then it was realized that competition with Taiwan was of great importance.67

The repressive machinery rolled on and on. The campaigns of 1950 and 1951 were declared to be over in 1952 or 1953, and with good reason: the repressions had been so widespread that there were few opponents left. Nevertheless, repression continued. In 1955 the Party began a new campaign to eliminate "hidden counterrevolutionaries," known as sufan, targeting the intelligentsia in particular, including any former Party members and sympathizers who had shown a modicum of independence. One example was the brilliant Marxist writer Hu Feng, who was a disciple of the revered Lu Xun, and who in July 1954 had denounced the "five daggers" used by the Central Committee to attack writers and particularly the idea that all creativity should submit to the Party line. In December an enormous campaign was launched against him. Prominent intellectuals took turns denouncing him, and the masses rushed in for the kill. Hu found himself totally isolated and made a public act of contrition in January 1955, but this act was not accepted. He was arrested in July along with 130 "accomplices" and spent ten years in a camp. He was arrested again in 1966 and moved around within the penitentiary system until his complete rehabilitation in 1980.68 In the accompanying purge, Party members

{p. 485} were affected on a large scale for the first time: the People's Daily announced that 10 percent of Party members were hidden traitors, a figure that seems to have been used as a guideline for arrest quotas.69 In estimating the number of victims of the sufan campaign, one source gives 81,000 arrests (which seems rather modest), while another gives 770,000 deaths. There is at present no way of determining the truth.

The well-known Hundred Flowers Campaign of May and June 1957 was also part of the mass repressions and the cycle of successive campaigns. In this case the crushing of the "poisonous weeds" destroyed the optimism generated during the few weeks of liberalization proclaimed and then withdrawn by Mao. The brief liberalization had two objectives. First, as in all rectification movements, Mao initially encouraged people to speak freely about their grievances, then crushed those who had revealed "evil thoughts."70 Second, in the face of the harsh criticism, he sought to reunite the Party around radical positions he had adopted in the aftermath of the Twentieth Soviet Communist Party Congress, which had emphasized the need for the legal regulation of repressive practices in order to increase juridical control over activities of the security service and over the execution of sentences, thus calling into question Mao's own position.71 Communist intellectuals, frightened by the Yan'an experience, for the most part prudently stayed quiet. But hundreds of thousands of people who were more naive, and particularly those who had taken part in the events of 1949 or who were members of "democratic parties" that the Communist Party had allowed to survive, were caught in the trap of their own outspokenness once the brutal Antirightist operation began. There were in general few executions, but between 400,000 and 700,000 cadres, including at least 10 percent of all Chinese intellectuals, technicians, and engineers, were given the invidious label "right-winger" and sentenced to twenty years of "repentance" in prisons or camps in remote regions. Those who did not succumb to age, the famines of 1959-1961, or despair when a decade later the Red Guards rampaged through the country with new persecutions still had to wait until 1978 for the first rehabilitations. In addition, millions of cadres and students, including 100,000 in Henan alone, were moved to the countryside, either provisionally or definitively.72 Sending them to the countryside was a punishment, but it was also preparation for the Great Leap Forward, which would focus mainly on the rural areas.

During the Antirightist "struggle," penal detention was generally preceded by social exclusion. No one wanted to know "right-wingers"; no one would even offer them hot water. They still had to go to work, but there they had to make confession after confession and to attend an endless succession of "criticism and education" meetings. Because housing was generally based on employment, their neighbors and colleagues, and even their children, gave

{p. 486} them no respite, hurling sarcastic taunts and insults, forbidding them to walk on the left side of the road, and chanting a children's song that ended with the line "The people will fight right-wingers to the death."73 The wisest course of action was silent acceptance, lest one make things worse.74 It is easy to understand why suicides were so common. After the innumerable inquiries and criticism sessions, and after the purge that affected 5 percent of the members of every labor unit (7 percent in the universities, which were singled out for particular attention during the Hundred Flowers campaign), Party officials were placed at the head of the main cultural institutions.75 The brilliant intellectual and cultural flourishing that China had witnessed in the first half of the century simply died. The Red Guards tried to kill off even its memory.76

This was the moment when Maoist society reached its maturity. Even the later upsets of the Cultural Revolution did not destabilize it for more than a moment. No page would be turned thereafter until the first great reforms of Deng Xiaoping. Its basis can be summed up in the words of the Helmsman: "Never forget the class struggle!" And in practice everything did rest upon the labeling and classification of people, first sketched out in rural areas at the time of agrarian reform and in the towns during the mass movements of 1951, but completed only in 1955. The labor collective had a role to play in the process, but in every case it was the police who had the final say. As before, the social groupings were quite fantastical, with diabolical consequences for tens of millions of people. In 1948 an official in Long Bow stated that "the way one makes one's living determines the way one thinks."77 According to the Maoist logic, the reverse was also true. Social groups, which were divided up in a fairly arbitrary fashion, were mixed with political groups, resulting in a binary division between "red" categories, such as workers, poor peasants, medium peasants, party cadres, PLA soldiers, and "martyrs of the revolution"; and "black" categories, such as landowners, rich peasants, counterrevolutionaries, "evil elements," and right-wingers. Between these two groups were some "neutral" categories, such as intellectuals and capitalists; but these, together with the marginalized in society, especially Party leaders who had "chosen the capitalist way'' were progressively shifted toward the "black" category. During the Cultural Revolution, intellectuals were officially placed in the "stinking ninth [black] category." The labels stuck no matter what one did later. Even after an official rehabilitation, a right-winger would remain a target for mass campaigns and would never have the right to return to the city. The infernal logic of the system was such that there were always enemies to hunt down and kill. If the stock of enemies ran low, it could be increased by an expansion of incriminating traits or by a search for people who had fallen back into old ways. Any Communist cadre could thus become a right-winger.

{p. 487} These classifications had less in common with Marxist classes than they did with Indian castes, even though traditionally China had known no such system. To some extent they took into account the social system that had existed before 1949, but not the enormous changes that had come about in the meantime. They also addressed another perceived problem. Traditionally the father's name had been passed on automatically to his children (while women by contrast retained their maiden names). This hereditary system threatened to cause ossification in a purportedly revolutionary society and posed an insurmountable obstacle to those who were not "well born." Discrimination against these "blacks" and their children was quite systematic, not only for entry into universities and into normal life (as stipulated in a directive of July 1957) but also for entry into political life. It was very difficult for them to obtain permission to marry a "red" partner, and society tended to ostracize them, since as a general rule people were afraid that they might have problems with the authorities if they associated with such people. It was during the Cultural Revolution that labeling attained its height and its worst effects, even for the regime itself.

The Greatest Famine in History 1959-1961)

For many years one myth was common in the West: that although China was far from being a model democracy, at least Mao had managed to give a bowl of rice to every Chinese. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. The modest amount of food available per person probably did not increase significantly from the beginning to the end of his reign, despite demands made on the peasantry on a scale rarely seen in history. Mao and the system that he created were directly responsible for what was, and, one hopes, will forever remain, the most murderous famine of all time, anywhere in the world.

Undoubtedly it was not Mao's intention to kill so many of his compatriots. But the least one can say is that he seemed little concerned about the death of millions from hunger. Indeed, his main concern in those dark years seems to have been to deny a reality for which he could have been held responsible. It is always difficult to apportion blame in such situations, to know whether to attack the plan itself or its application. It is, however, indisputable that the Party leadership, and especially Mao himself, displayed economic incompetence, wholesale ignorance, and ivory-tower utopianism. The collectivization of 1955-56 had been more or less accepted by most peasants: it grouped them around their own villages, and it allowed them to pull out of the collective - 70,000 farms did so in Guangdong in 1956-57, and many of the bigger collectives were broken up.78 The apparent success of reform and the good harvest of 1957 pushed Mao to propose - and to impose on the more reluctant farmers - the

{p. 488} goals of the Great Leap Forward (first announced in December 1957 and refined in May 1958) and the means of achieving it - the People's Commune (announced in August 1958).

Within a very short time ("Three years of hard work and suffering, and a thousand years of prosperity," said one slogan at the time), the Great Leap Forward caused nationwide disruption of the peasant way of life. Peasants were to form themselves into huge groups of thousands or even tens of thousands of families, with everything to become communal, including food. Agricultural production was to be developed on a massive scale through pharaonic irrigation projects and new farming methods. Finally, the difference between agricultural and industrial work was to be abolished as industrial units, in particular small furnaces, were created everywhere. The goal was quite similar to the Khrushchev ideal of the "agrotown." The aim was to ensure the self-sufficiency of local communities and to accelerate industrial takeoff by creating new rural industries and using the large agricultural surpluses that the communes were to make for the state and the industry it controlled. In this happv dream that was to bring real Communism within reach, the accumulation of capital and a rapid rise in the standard of living were to go hand in hand. All that had to be done was to achieve the simple objectives set by the Party.

For months everything seemed to be going perfectly. People worked night and day under red flags blowing in the wind. Local leaders announced the breaking of one record after another as people produced larger quantities "more quickly, better, and more economically." As a result, the goals were continually raised even higher: 375 million tons of grain for 1958, almost double the 195 million tons of the preceding vear. In December it was announced that the goal had been met and the results verified by the staff of the Central Statistics Bureau, who had been sent out to the countryside after expressing doubts. The original plan had been to surpass Great Britain in fifteen years; now it appeared certain that it would be done in two. As production quotas continued to rise, it was decided to move more people into industrial production. In Henan, a province intended to serve as a model, 200,000 workers were generously moved to other, more needy regions where results had been poorer.79 "Socialist emulation" was pushed ever further: all private land and free trade was abolished along with the right to leave the collective, and there was a massive campaign to collect metal tools to transform everything into steel. At the same time, any wood, including doors, was collected to fuel the new furnaces. As compensation, all communal food reserves were eaten at memorable banquets. "Eating meat was considered revolutionary" according to one witncss in Shanxi.80 This was no problem because the next harvest was bound to be enormous. "The human will is the master of all things," the press in Henan had already proclaimed, at the provincial hydraulic conference in October 1957.81

{p. 489} But soon the leaders who still emerged from the Forbidden City from time to time (which Mao seldom did) were forced to face facts. They had fallen into their own trap, believing in the power of their own optimism and thinking that after the Long March, success would naturally follow because they felt themselves omnipotent and were used to commanding the workers and the economy like soldiers in a battle. It was easier for cadres to doctor the figures or to put intolerable pressure on administrators to deliver them than it was to admit that the sacrosanct objectives had not been reached. Under Mao, a move to the left (since voluntarism, dogmatism, and violence were left-wing virtues) was always less dangerous than right-wing mediocrity. In 1958-59, the bigger a lie was, the faster its author was promoted. The headlong race was under way, the barometers of success were soaring, and all potential critics were in prison or working on the irrigation projects.

The reasons for the catastrophe were fairly technical. Some agricultural methods advocated by the Soviet academic Trofim Lysenko, who rejected genetics, won great favor in China under the auspices of Mao. They were imposed on the peasants, and the results were disastrous. Mao had proclaimed his belief that "in company grain grows fast; seeds are happiest when growing together" - attempting to impose class solidarity on nature.82 Accordingly, seeds were sown at five to ten times the normal density, with the result that millions of young plants died. The intensity of the farming methods dried out the soil or caused the salt to rise. Wheat and maize never grow well together in the same fields, and the replacement of the traditional barley crop with wheat in the high, cold fields of Tibet was simply catastrophic. Other mistakes were made in the nationwide campaign. The extermination of the sparrows that ate the grain resulted in a massive increase in the number of parasites. A large amount of hydraulic equipment that had been hurriedly and carelessly built was found to be useless or even dangerous because of the increased erosion and the risk of flooding at the first high tide. Moreover, the cost of its construction in terms of human life had been enormous: more than 10,000 out of 60,000 workers had died on one site in Henan. Risking everything on one large cereal crop (as on steel in industry, where the slogan was "Big is beautiful") ruined all the smaller associated agricultural activities, including the raising of livestock that was often vital for balance in the ecosystem. In Fujian, for instance, the highly profitable tea plantations were all resown as rice fields.

From an economic point of view, the reallocation of resources was disastrous. Although the accumulation of capital reached a record level (43.4 percent of the gross domestic product in 1959) it was used to build ill-conceived or badly finished irrigation projects and to develop industry inside the towns.83 Although one famous Maoist slogan proclaimed that "China walks on two feet," all the blood from agriculture was pumped into industry. The incompetent allocation of capital was a decisive factor in the no less aberrant allocation

{p. 490} of manpower: state industry took on 21 million new workers in 1958, which represented an 85 percent rise in a single sector in one year. In 1957-1960 the share of the population working outside agriculture increased from 15 percent to 20 percent, and all these people had to be fed by the state. Meanwhile, workers in the countryside were being exhausted by everything except agriculture. They were being drafted into large engineering projects, small steelworks whose output for the most part was worthless, the destruction of traditional villages, and the construction of new towns. After the marvelous harvest of 1958, it was decided that cereal production could be cut by 13 percent.84 This combination of "economic delirium and political lies" resulted in the harvests of 1960, which many of the peasants were too weak to gather.85 Henan, the first province to be declared "100 percent hydraulic," since the construction of dikes and irrigation work there was technically finished, was also one of the regions hardest hit by the famine; estimates of the deaths there vary from 2 million to 8 million.86 The state quota had reached its height, going from 48 million tons of cereal in 1957 (17 percent of all production), to 67 million in 1959 (28 percent), to 51 million in 1960. The trap closed around those who had lied, or rather, around their administrators. In the supposedly model district of Fengyang (Anhui), 199,000 tons of grain were announced for 1959, a considerable increase over the 178,000 tons of the previous year; but real praduction was a mere 54,000 tons, as opposed to 89,000 in 1958. Despite the shortfall, the state took a very real part of this phantom harvest, claiming 29,000 tons. The following year, almost everyone had to eat clear rice soup, and the somewhat surreal slogan for the year 1959 in the Peoples Daily was: "Live frugally in a year of plenty." The national press began to sing the praises of a daily nap, and medical professors came out to explain the particular physiology of the Chinese, for whom fat and proteins were an unnecessary luxury.87

There was perhaps still time to change direction and alter things for the better. Steps were taken in that direction in December 1958. But the inception of a serious split with the U.S.S.R., and above all the attack in July 1959 by the well-respected Marshal Peng Dehuai on the Communist Party Politburo and Mao's strategy, gave Mao purely tactical political reasons to refuse to acknowledge that the country was facing any difficulties and thus to acknowledge any blame. The overly lucid minister of defense was thus replaced by Lin Biao, who showed himself to be a servile creature of the Helmsman. Peng was sidelined but not actually arrested at the time. In 1967 he was thrown out of the Party and sentenced to life in prison, dying in 1974. Mao's hatred was long-lasting. To turn the situation to his advantage, he tried in 1959 to reinforce the Great Leap Forward by calling for people's communes to be extended into the cities (a strategy never actually implemented). China then experienced its great famine, but Mao would survive. As Lin Biao was to say later, it is geniuses who make history.

{p. 491} The resulting famine affected the whole country. In Beijing, playing fields and recreation areas were transformed into allotments, and 2 million chickens were to be found on people's balconies in the capital.88 No province was spared, despite the immense size of the country and the wide variety of climates and cultures. That fact alone shows the ridiculousness of the official explanation, which blamed the famine on some of the worst climatic conditions of the century. In fact 1954 and 1980 saw far greater climatic disturbances. In 1960, only 8 of the 120 Chinese weather stations noted a drought of any consequence, and only a third mentioned drought as a problem at all.89 The 1960 harvest of 143 million tons of grain was 26 percent lower than that of 1957, which was almost the same as that of 1958. The harvest had fallen to its level in 1950, while the population had grown by 100 million during the decade.90 The towns, which were generally privileged in terms of allocations of food stocks, partly because of the proximity of the government, were not hit as hard. In 1961, at the darkest moment, their inhabitants on average received 181 kilos of grain, whereas peasants received 153; the peasants' ration had fallen by 23 percent, that of the townspeople by 8 percent. Mao, in the tradition of Chinese leaders, but in contradiction to the legend that he encouraged to grow up around him, showed here how little he really cared for what he thought of as the clumsy and primitive peasants.

There were considerable variations among regions. The most fragile regions, in the north and northwest, the only ones that had really suffered famine over the last century, were the hardest hit. By contrast, in Heilongjiang, in the far north, which was relatively untouched and largely virgin territory, the population climbed from 14 million to 20 million as the region became a haven for the hungry. As in earlier European famines, regions that specialized in commercial agricultural products (such as oil seed, sugarcane, sugar beet, and above all cotton) saw production fall dramatically, sometimes by as much as two-thirds. Since the hungry no longer had the means to buy their products, hunger struck here with particular severity. The price of rice on the free market (or on the black market) rose fifteen- or even thirtyfold. Maoist dogma exacerbated the disaster: because people's communes had a duty to be self-sufficient, the transfer of goods between provinces had been drastically reduced. There was also a lack of coal as hungry miners left to find food or to cultivate allotments wherever they could. The situation was compounded by the general apathy and dissolution brought on by hunger. In industrialized provinces such as Liaoning the effects were cumulative: agricultural production in 1960 fell to half of 1958 levels, and whereas an average of 1.66 million tons of foodstuffs had arrived in that region each year during the 1950s, after 1958 transfers for the whole country fell to a mere 1.5 million tons.

The fact that the famine was primarily a political phenomenon is demonstrated by the high death rates in provinces where the leaders were Maoist

{p. 492} radicals, provinces that in previous years had actually been net exporters of grain, like Sichuan, Henan, and Anhui. This last province, in north-central China, was the worst affected of all. In 1960 the death rate soared to 68 percent from its normal level at around 15 percent, while the birth rate fell to 11 percent from its previous average of 30 percent. As a result the population fell by around 2 million people (6 percent of the total) in a single year.91 Like Mao himself, Party activists in Henan were convinced that all the difficulties arose from the peasants' concealment of private stocks of grain. According to the secretary of the Xinyang district (10 million inhabitants), where the first people's commune in the country had been established, "The problem is not that food is lacking. There are sufficient quantities of grain, but 90 percent of the inhabitants are suffering from ideological difficulties."92 In the autumn of 1959 the class war was momentarily forgotten, and a military-style offensive was launched against the peasants, using methods very similar to those used by anti-Japanese guerrilla groups. At least 10,000 peasants were imprisoned, and many died of hunger behind bars. The order was given to smash all privately owned cutlery that had not yet been turned to steel to prevent people from being able to feed themselves by pilfering the food supply of the commune. Even fires were banned, despite the approach of winter. The excesses of repression were terrifying. Thousands of detainees were systematically tortured, and children were killed and even boiled and used as fertilizer - at the very moment when a nationwide campaign was telling people to "learn the Henan way." In Anhui, where the stated intention was to keep the red flag flying even if 99 percent of the population died, cadres returned to the traditional practices of live burials and torture with red-hot irons.93 Funerals were prohibited lest their number frighten survivors even more and lest they turn into protest marches. Taking in the numerous abandoned children was also banned, on the ground that "The more we take in, the more will be abandoned."94 Desperate villagers who tried to force their way into the towns were greeted with machine-gun fire. More than 800 people died in this manner in the Fenyang district, and 12 percent of the rural population, or 28,000 people, were punished in some manner. This campaign took on the proportions of a veritable war against the peasantry. In the words of Jean-Luc Domenach, "The intrusion of Utopia into politics coincided very closely with that of police terror in society."95 Deaths from hunger reached over 50 percent in certain villages, and in some cases the only survivors were cadres who abused their position. In Henan and elsewhere there were many cases of cannibalism (63 were recorded officially): children were sometimes eaten in accordance with a communal decision.96

In 1968 Wei Jingsheng, an eighteen-year-old Red Guard pursued by the authorities like millions of others, took refuge with his family in a village in Anhui, where he heard many stories about the Great Leap Forward:97

{p. 493} As soon as I arrived here, I often heard peasants talking about the Great Leap Forward as though it was some sort of apocalypse that they had by some miracle escaped. Quite fascinated, I questioned them in detail about the subject so that soon I too was convinced that the "three years of natural catastrophes" had not been as natural as all that, and had rather been the result of a series of political blunders. The peasants said, for example, that in 1959-60, during the "Communist Wind" [one of the official names for the Great Leap Forward] their hunger had been so great that they had not even been strong enough to harvest the rice crop when it was ready, and that it would otherwise have been a relatively good year for them. Many of them died of hunger watching the grains of rice fall into the fields, blown off by the wind. In some villages there was literally no one left to take in the harvest. One time I was with a relative who lived a small distance away from our village. On the way to his home, we went past a deserted village. All the houses had lost their roofs. Only the mud walls remained.

Thinking it was a village that had been abandoned during the Great Leap Forward, when all the villages were being reorganized and relocated, I asked why the walls hadn't been knocked down to make room for more fields. My relative replied: "But these houses all belong to people, and you can't knock them down without their permission." I stared at the walls and couldn't believe that they were actually inhabited. "Of course they were inhabited! But everyone here died during the 'Communist Wind,' and no one has ever come back. The land was then shared out among the neighboring villages. But because it seemed possible that some of them might come back, the living quarters were never shared out. Still, that was so long ago, I don't think anyone will come back now."

We walked along beside the village. The rays of the sun shone on the jade-green weeds that had sprung up between the earth walls, accentuating the contrast with the rice fields all around, and adding to the desolation of the landscape. Before my eyes, among the weeds, rose up one of the scenes I had been told about, one of the banquets at which the families had swapped children in order to eat them. I could see the worried faces of the families as they chewed the flesh of other people's children. The children who were chasing butterflies in a nearby field seemed to be the reincarnation of the children devoured by their parents. I felt sorry for the children, but not as sorry as I felt for their parents. What had made them swallow that human flesh, amidst the tears and grief of other parents - flesh that they would never have imagined tasting, even in their worst nightmares? In that moment I understood what a butcher he had been, the man "whose like humanity has not seen in several centuries, and China not in several thousand years":98 Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong and his henchmen, with their criminal po-

{p. 494} litical system, had driven parents mad with hunger and led them to hand their own children over to others, and to receive the flesh of others to appease their own hunger. Mao Zedong, to wash away the crime that he had committed in assassinating democracy [an allusion to the Hundred Flowers trap], had launched the Great Leap Forward, and obliged thousands and thousands of peasants dazed by hunger to kill one another with hoes, and to save their own lives thanks to the flesh and blood of their childhood companions. They were not the real killers; the real killers were Mao Zedong and his companions. At last I understood where Peng Dehuai had found the strength to attack the Central Committee of the Party led by Mao, and at last I understood why the peasants loathed Communism so much, and why they had never allowed anyone to attack the policies of Liu Shaoqi, "three freedoms and one guarantee." For the good and simple reason that they had no intention of ever having to eat their own flesh and blood again, or of killing their companions to eat them in a moment of instinctual madness. That reason was far more important than any ideological consideration.

At the moment that Yuri Gagarin was being launched into space, a country possessing more than 30,000 miles of railway lines and an extensive radio and telephone network was being ravaged by a subsistence crisis of the sort that had plagued premodern Europe, but on a scale that in the eighteenth century would have affected the population of the entire world. Literally countless millions were trying to boil grass and bark to make soup, stripping leaves off trees in the towns, wandering the roads of the country desperate for anything to eat trying vainly to attack food convoys, and sometimes desperately banding together into gangs (as in the Xinyang and Lan Kao districts in Henan).99 They were sent nothing to eat, but on occasion the local cadres who were supposedly responsible for the famine were shot. There were armed raids on houses all over the country in a search for ground maize.100 An enormous increase in disease and infections increased the death rate further, while the birth rate fell to almost zero as women were unable to conceive because of malnutrition. Prisoners in the laogai were not the last to die of hunger, although their situation was no less precarious than that of the neighboring peasants who came to the camps to beg for something to eat. In August 1960, after one year of famine, three-quarters of Jean Pasqualini's work brigade were dead or dying, and the survivors were reduced to searching through horse manure for undigested grains of wheat and eating the worms they found in cowpats.101 People in the camps were used as guinea pigs in hunger experiments. In one case flour was mixed with 30 percent paper paste in bread to study the effects on digestion, while in another study marsh plankton were mixed with rice water. The first experiment caused atrocious constipation throughout the camp, which

{p. 495} caused many deaths. The second also caused much illness, and many who were already weakened ended up dying.

For the entire country, the death rate rose from 11 percent in 1957 to 15 percent in 1959 and 1961, peaking at 29 percent in 1960. Birth rates fell from 33 percent in 1957 to 18 percent in 1961. Excluding the deficit in births, which was perhaps as many as 33 million (although some births were merely delayed), loss of life linked to the famine in the years 1959-1961 was somewhere between 20 million and 43 million people.102 The lower end of the range is the official figure used by the Chinese government since 1988. This was quite possibly the worst famine not just in the history of China but in the history of the world. The second worst had occurred in northern China in 1877-78 and had taken between 9 million and 13 million lives. The one that had struck the U.S.S.R. in a similar political and economic context in 1932-1934 had caused around 6 million deaths, a smaller proportion of the total population than in China during the Great Leap Forward.103 Under normal conditions, mortality in the countryside was between 30 percent and 60 percent higher than in the cities. In 1960 it doubled, climbing from 14 percent to 29 percent. Peasants managed to delay the effects of the famine slightly by consuming their own livestock, which amounted to using up their productive capital. In 1957-1961, 48 percent of pigs and 30 percent of all dairy animals were slaughtered. 104 The surface area given over to nonfood crops such as cotton, which was the country's main industry at the time, diminished by more than one-third in 1959-1962, and this fall in production inevitably hit the manufacturing sector. Although after 1959 peasant markets were reopened to stimulate production, the prices demanded were so high and the quantities available so low that few of the starving could find enough to survive. In 1961, for example, the price of pork was fourteen times higher in the markets than in the state shops. The price of feed went up less than that of grain in the pastoral northwest, which was chronically deficient in grain. In Gansu people were still dying of hunger in 1962, and the grain ration was equivalent to only half the official limit for conditions of "semi-starvation."

Whether through unawareness of or, more likely, indifference to the several million lives that had to be sacrificed to build Communism, the state responded (if such a word can be used here) to the crisis with measures that under the circumstances were quite simply criminal. Net grain exports, principally to the U.S.S.R., rose from 2.7 million tons in 1958 to 4.2 million in 1959, and in 1960 fell only to the 1958 level. In 1961, 5.8 million tons were actually imported, up from 66,000 in 1960, but this was still too little to feed the starving.105 Aid from the United States was refused for political reasons. The rest of the world, which could have responded easily, remained ignorant of the scale of the catastrophe. Aid to the needy in the countryside totaled less than

{p. 496} 450 million yuan per annum, or 0.8 yuan per person, at a time when one kilo of rice on the free market was worth 2 to 4 yuan. Chinese Communism boasted that it could move mountains and tame nature, but it left these faithful to die.

From August 1959 until 1961, the Party acted as though it was powerless to help, simply standing by and watching events unfold. Criticizing the Great Leap Forward, behind which Mao had thrown all his weight, was a dangerous business. But the situation became so bad that Liu Shaoqi, the number two Ieader in the regime, finally put the Chairman on the defensive and imposed a partial return to the easier form of collectivization that had been the policy before the invention of the people's communes. People were again allowed to own a small amount of land, peasant markets were reopened, small private workshops were opened, and labor teams were subdivided into labor brigades, which were equivalent to the size of the earlier village teams. As a result of these measures the country quickly emerged from the famine. 106 But it did not emerge as fast from poverty. Agricultural production, which had grown steadily from 1952 to 1958, had lost its way, and the effects were felt for two decades. Confidence would return only "when the belly was full" (as Mao said would occur in the people's communes). Overall agricultural production doubled between 1952 and 1978, but during this time the population rose from 574 million to 959 million, and most of the per-capita increase in production had taken place in the 1950s. In most places production did not reach 1957 levels until at least 1965 (and as late as 1968-69 in Henan).107 Overall, agricultural productivity was severely affected; the Great Leap Forward's astonishing , waste of resources caused it to fall by about one-quarter. Not until 1983 did productivity again reach 1952 levels.108 Eyewitness reports from the days of the Cultural Revolution all concur that China was still a traditional village society of great poverty, functioning as a subsistence economy where luxuries were extremely rare (cooking oil, for instance, was like gold dust). 109 The Great Leap Forward made the people extremely suspicious of the regime's propaganda. It is hardly surprising that the peasants responded most enthusiastically to Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms, and were the driving force behind the reintroduction of a market economy twenty years after the launch of the people's communes.

The disasters of 1959-1961, the regime's great secret, which many foreign visitors also managed to deny, were never recognized for what they really were. Liu went out on a limb in January 1962 when he claimed at a conference of cadres that 70 percent of the famine had been due to human error.110 It was impossible to say any more than that without directly incriminating Mao. Even , after his death, in the Chinese Communist Party's televised final verdict on his life in 1981, there was no criticism of the Great Leap Forward.

{p. 497} The Laogai: The Hidden Gulag

Chinese Communism has many skeletons in the closet, and it is amazing how Iong they have escaped the world's attention. The immense concentration-camp system is no exception. There were nearly 1,000 large-scale camps as well as innumerable detention centers (see the maps at the beginning of the chapter), but in many histories of the People's Republic, even in some of the more detailed and recent works, they receive no mention. The repressive apparatus hid itself extremely well. Because punishment by prison or forced labor smacked too much of the old regime, people were sent instead for "reform" or "reeducation" through labor. The main internment camps were disguised as large public enterprises, so one had to know, for instance, that the "Jingzhou Industrial Dye Works," which was the name on the door, was actually Prison No. 3 of Hubei Province, or that the "Yingde Tea Plantation" was Labor Reeducation Center No. 7 of Guangdong Province.111 Even the families of prisoners wrote only to an anonymous post office box. Throughout the Mao era, visits were forbidden during the whole instruction process, which generally lasted for more than a year. Particularly during the Cultural Revolution, relatives were not always notified about the incarceration or even the death of prisoners, or were informed only much later. The children of Liu Shaoqi, the former president of the Republic, who was held in a secret prison, did not learn about his death in November 1969 until August 1972; only then were they allowed to visit their mother, who like her husband had been locked up since August 1967.112 If prisoners ever went out into the world, they were under strict orders to remain invisible. Accustomed to hanging their heads and staying silent in their cells, they received strange new orders at the station: "Behave normally in the train. It is forbidden, I repeat, forbidden to bow your head. If anyone has to go to the latrine, signal to the guard, the fist with the thumb sticking out. Smoking and talking will be allowed. No funny stuff. The guards have orders to shoot."113

For many years statements from former prisoners were extremely rare. One reason was that under Mao it was extremely difficult for anyone who had entered the penal system to emerge from it. Another was that prisoners who were freed had to swear that they would not talk about their experiences; otherwise they would be reimprisoned. So it was foreigners, who formed only a tiny fraction of the number of those imprisoned, who provided most of the stories that still account for most of the available information. Because the foreign prisoners were protected by their governments, they generally came out alive.

{p. 727} Conclusion: Why?

Stephane Courtois

{p. 741} Completely in thrall to revolutionary fervor and confronted by a whirlwind of events, Lenin and Trotsky, the two main actors in this first phase of the Bolshevik Revolution, theorized their actions extensively. Or, rather, they transformed conjecture into ideological conclusions. They invented the idea of

{p. 742} a "permanent revolution," which they based on the Russian case, in which the bourgeois February revolution supposedly led straight into the proletarian October Revolution. They dressed up this situation in ideological terms as the transformation of a "permanent revolution" into "permanent civil war."

The importance of the war can be gauged by the impact it had on the revolutionaries. As Trotsky wrote, "Kautsky sees one of the reasons for the extremely bloody character of the revolution in the war and in its hardening influence on manners." But Trotsky and Kautsky did not come to the same conclusion: The German socialist, faced with the weight of militarism, was ever more open to the question of democracy and the defense of the rights of the individual. For Trotsky, "the development of bourgeois society itself, out of which contemporary democracy grew, in no way represents the process of gradual democratization that figured before the war in the dreams of the greatest socialist illusionist of democracy - Jean Jaures - and now in those of the most learned of pedants, Karl Kautsky."

Generalizing from this, Trotsky went on to speak about the "unpitying civil war that is unfolding the world over." He believed that the world was entering an era in which "political struggle is rapidly turning into civil war" between "two forces: the revolutionary proletariat under the leadership of the Communists, and counterrevolutionary democracy headed by generals and admirals." There was a double error of perspective at work here. On the one hand, subsequent events demonstrated that the desire for representative democracy and its realization was a worldwide phenomenon, reaching even the U.S.S.R. in 1991. On the other hand, Trotsky, like Lenin, had a strong tendency to develop general conclusions based on the Russian experience, which in any case was often exaggerated in his interpretation. The Bolsheviks were convinced that once the civil war had begun in Russia - largely because of their own efforts - it would spread to Europe and the rest of the world. These two major errors would serve as the justification for Soviet terror for decades to come.

Trotsky drew definitive conclusions from these premises:

{quote} It could, and must, be explained that in the civil war we destroyed White Guards so that they would not destroy the workers. Consequently, our problem is not the destruction of human life, but its preservation ... The enemy must be made harmless, and in wartime this means that he must be destroyed. The problem of revolution, as of war, lies in breaking the will of the foe, forcing him to capitulate and to accept the conditions of the conqueror ... The question about who will rule the country - that is, about the life or death of the bourgeoisie - will be decided on either side not by reference to the paragraphs of the constitution, but by the employment of all forms of violence. {end quote}

{p. 743} Trotsky's rhetoric uses many of the same expressions that are found in Ludendorff's explanation of the concept of total war. The Bolsheviks, who believed themselves to be such great innovators, were in fact very much a product of their time and of the highly militarized atmosphere that surrounded them.

Trotsky's remarks about freedom of the press demonstrate the pervasiveness of a war mentality:

{quote} During war all institutions and organs of the state and of public opinion become, directly or indirectly, weapons of war. This is particularly true of the press. No government waging a serious war will allow publications to exist on its territory that, openlv or indirectly, support the enemy. Still more so in a civil war. The nature of the latter is such that each of the struggling sides has in the rear of its armies considerable circles of the population who support the enemy. In war, where both success and failure are repaid by death, hostile agents who penetrate into the rear are subject to execution. This is inhumane, but no one ever considered war or, all the more, civil war - to be a school of humanity. {end quote}

The Bolsheviks were not the only group implicated in the civil war that broke out in Russia in the spring and summer of 1918, beginning a four-year-long orgy of killing by all sides, with people crucified, impaled, cut into pieces, and burned alive. But they were the only group to theorize civil war, and to seek it openly. Under the joint influence of their doctrine and the new modes of behavior created by the world war, civil war became for them a permanent form of political struggle. The civil war between Whites and Reds hid a different war of far greater significance: the war of the Reds against the majority of the working population and a large part of the peasantry, who after the summer of 1918 began to rebel against the Bolshevik yoke. The war was not a traditional confrontation between two opposing political groups, but a conflict between the government and the majority of the population. Under Stalin, the war put the Party-state in opposition to society as a whole. This was a new phenomenon, which could exist only because of the ability of the totalitarian system, backed by mass terror, to control all spheres of activity in society.

Recent studies based on the newly opened archives show that the "dirty war" (the expression is taken from Nicolas Werth) of 1918-1921 was the founding moment of the Soviet regime, the crucible in which the people who would develop and continue the revolution were formed. It was an infernal caldron in which the mentality peculiar to Leninism and Stalinism originated, with its unique melange of idealist exaltation, cynicism, and inhuman cruelty. The Bolsheviks hoped that the civil war would spread across the country and throughout the world and would last as long as it took for socialism to conquer

{p. 744} the planet. The war installed cruelty as the normal means by which people were to relate to one another {although Trotsky was brutally murdered, this was in accordance with the methods he helped establish and justify - Peter M.}. It broke down traditional barriers of restraint, replacing them with absolute, fundamental violence.

From the earliest days of the Bolshevik Revolution, the issues raised by Kautsky were a thorn in the side of the revolutionaries. Isaac Steinberg, a left Socialist Revolutionary allied to the Bolsheviks, who was the people's commissar for justice from December 1917 to May 1918, spoke in 1923 about a "methodical system of state terror" used by the Bolsheviks. He posed the central question about the limits of violence in the revolution:

{quote} The overturning of the old world, and its replacement by a new life in which the same old evils are kept in place, a life that is contaminated by the same old principles, means that socialism is forced to make a crucial choice during the decisive struggle about whether to use the old-fashioned violence of the tsars and the bourgeoisie, or to resort instead to revolutionary violence ... Old-fashioned violence is merely a protection against slavery; while the new violence is the painful path toward emancipation ... That is what should be decisive in our choice: We should take violece into our own hands to be sure that we bring about the end of violence. For there is no other means of fighting against it. Such is the gaping moral wound of the revolution. Therein lies the central paradox, the contradiction that will be the inevitable source of much conflict and suffering. {end quote}

He added: "Like terror, violence (considered both as a means of constraint and as deception) will always contaminate the soul of the conquered first, before affecting the victor and the rest of society."

Steinberg was well aware that this experiment represented a huge risk for "universal morals" and "natural law." Gorky clearly felt the same way when he wrote to the French novelist Romain Rolland on 21 April 1923: "I have not the slightest desire to return to Russia. I would not be able to write a thing if I had to spend the whole time returning to the theme of 'Thou shalt not kill' time and again." The scruples of non-Bolshevik revolutionaries and the last concerns of the Bolsheviks themselves were all swept away by Lenin's and Stalin's enthusiasm. On 2 November 1930 Gorky, who had just aligned himself with the "genius leader" himself, again wrote to Romain Rolland:

{quote} It seems to me, Rolland, that you would judge events inside the Soviet Union more evenhandedly if you admitted one simple fact: that the Soviet regime, together with the avant-garde of the workers, is locked in a civil war, which takes the form of a class war. The enemies they fight - and must fight - are the intelligentsia, who are desperately attempting to bring back the bourgeois regime, and the rich peasants, who are desperate to look after their own interests in the traditional capitalist

{p. 745} manner and are preventing the advance of collectiization. They are also using terror, killing collectivists, burning collective goods, and the like. War is all about killing. {end quote}

Russia then entered a third revolutionary phase, which until 1953 was incarnated in Stalin. It was characterized by widespread terror, which found its strongest expression in the Great Purge of 1937 and 1938. Thereafter Stalin found ever more groups to eliminate, targeting not only society as a whole, but also the state and Party apparatus. This terror had no need of the exceptional circumstances of a war to start it rolling; it came about in a time of peace.

Hitler rarely played a personal role in repression, leaving these ignoble tasks to trusted subordinates such as Himmler. By contrast, Stalin always took a strong personal interest in such matters and played a central role in the process. He personally signed lists of thousands of names of people to be shot and forced other members of the Politburo to do the same. During the Great Terror, in fourteen months of 1937 and 1938, 1.8 million people were arrested in forty-two huge, minutely prepared operations. Nearly 690,000 of them were killed. The climate of civil war varied considerably, but it remained a fixture of everyday life. The expression "class war," often used in place of "class struggle," had nothing metaphorical about it. The political enemy was not a named opponent or even an enemy class: it was society as a whole.

It was inevitable that the terror, whose aim was the destruction of society, would ultimately, in a process of contagion, reach the countersociety formed by the Party itself. Although it is true that under Lenin, beginning in 1921, anyone who deviated from the Party line suffered punishment, the main enemies had always been people who were not actually Party members. Under Stalin, Party members themselves became potential enemies. The Kirov assassination provided Stalin with the excuse he needed to begin applying capital punishment inside the Party. In doing so he moved closer to Nechaev, whom Bakunin had addressed at the time of their break with the following warning: "The basis of our activity should be simple ideals like truth, honesty, and trust among revolutionary brothers. Lying, cheating, mystification, and - of necessity - violence should be employed only against the enemy ... Whereas you, my friend - and this is where vou are most gravely mistaken - you have fallen under the spell of the systems of Loyola and Machiavelli ... You are enamored of police tactics and jesuitical methods, and you are using such ideas to run your organization ... so you end up treating your own friends as though they ere enemies."

Under Stalin, the exccutioners eventually became victims. Bukharin, after the execution of his old Party comrades Zinoviev and Kamenev, publicly declared: "I am so happy that they have been shot like dogs." Less than two

{p. 746} years later, Bukharin himself was shot like a dog. This characteristic of Stalinism was to become widespread in Communist states throughout the world.

Before exterminating his enemies, Stalin had them displayed in public in a show-trial. Lenin had introduced this strategy in 1922, with the show-trial of the Socialist Revolutionaries. Stalin merely improved on the formula and made it a permanent feature of his apparatus of repression, applying it widely in Eastern Europe after 1948.

Annie Kriegel has shown how these trials served as a terrible mechanism of social cleansing and how, in an atheist state, the trials came to replace the hell that religion had traditionally promised. They also served to reinforce class hatred and publicly to stigmatize the enemy. Asian Communism took this procedure to its logical extreme, going so far as to organize "hate days."

Stalin added mystery to the pedagogy of hatred: total secrecy shrouded the arrests, sentences, and fates of the victims. Mystery and secrecy, closely linked to terror, brought terrible anguish to the entire population.

Considering themselves to be at war, the Bolsheviks installed a vocabulary of "the enemy" such as "enemy agents" and "populations lending support to the enemy." In accordance with the war model, politics reverted to simplistic terms. The binary "friend/foe" opposition was applied across the board as part of a relentless "us versus them" mentality and the military term "camp" turned up repeatedly: the revolutionary camp was opposed to the counterrevolutionary camp. Everyone was forced to choose his camp, on pain of death. The Bolsheviks thus returned to an archaic form of politics, destroying fifty years of democracy and bourgeois individualism.

How was the enemy to be defined? Politics was reduced to a civil war in which two opposing forces, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, were in conflict, and the former had to exterminate the latter by any means necessary. The enemy was no longer the ancien regime, the aristocrats, the bourgeoisie, and the military officers, but anyone opposed to Bolshevik policy. Those who expressed opposition were immediately designated "bourgeois" and treated accordingly. To the Bolshevik mind, an "enemy" was anyone, regardless of social category, who presented an obstacle to the Bolsheviks' absolute power. This phenomenon appeared immediately even earlier than terror, in the electoral assemblies of the Soviets. Kautsky foresaw this development when he wrote in 1918 that the only people allowed to elect deputies to the Soviets were to be those

{quote} "who procure their sustenance by useful or productive work." What is "useful and productive work"? This is a very elastic term. No less elastic is the definition of those who are excluded from the franchise. They

{p. 747} include any who employ wage laborers for profit ... One sees how little it takes, according to the Constitution of the Soviet Republic, to be labeled a capitalist, and to lose the vote. The elasticity of the definition of the franchise, which opens the door to the greatest arbitrariness, is due to the subject of this definition, and not to its framers. A juridical definition of the proletariat that is distinct and precise is impossible to formulate.

The word "proletarian" played the same role here that the term "patriot" had for Robespierre. "Enemy" was also a totally elastic category that expanded or contracted to meet the political needs of the moment, becoming a key element in Communist thought and practice. As Tzvetan Todorov put it,

{quote} The enemy is the great justification for terror, and the totalitarian state needs enemies to survive. If it lacks them, it invents them. Once they have been identified, they are treated without mercy. Being an enemy is a hereditary stain that cannot be removed ... As has often been pointed out, Jews are persecuted not for what they have done but for what they are, and Communism is no different. It demands the repression (or in moments of crisis, the elimination) of the bourgeoisie as a class. Belonging to the class is enough: there is no need actually to have done anything at all." {end quote}

One essential question remains: Why should the enemy be exterminated? The traditional role of repression, in Foucault's terminology, is to "discipline and punish." Was the time of discipline and punishment over? Had class enemies become "unredeemable"? Solzhenitsyn provides one response by showing that in the Gulag common criminals were systematically treated better than political prisoners. This was the case not solely for practical reasons - that they helped run the camps - but also for theoretical reasons. One of the aims of the Soviet regime was to build new men, and doing this implied the reeducation of the most hardened criminals. It was also a key propaganda issue in the Soviet Union under Stalin, as well as in China under Mao and in Cuba under Castro.

But why should the enemy be killed? The identification of enemies has always played an important role in politics. Even the gospel says: "He who is not with me is against me." What was new was Lenin's insistence not only that those not with him were against him, but also that those who were against him were to die. Furthermore, he extended this principle outside the domain of politics into the wider sphere of society as a whole.

Terror involves a double mutation. The adversary is first labeled an enemy, and then declared a criminal, which leads to his exclu-

{p. 748} sion from society. Exclusion suffices to solve the fundamental problem of totalitarianism: the search for a reunified humanity that is purified and no longer antagonistic, conducted through the messianic dimension of the Marxist project to reunify humanity via the proletariat. That ideal is used to prop up a forcible unification - of the Party, of society, of the entire empire - and to weed out anyone who fails to fit into the new world. After a relatively short period, society passes from the logic of political struggle to the process of exclusion, then to the ideology of elimination, and finally to the extermination of impure elements. At the end of the line, there are crimes against humanity.

The attitude of Communists in Asia - in China and Vietnam - was sometimes a little different. Because of the Confucian tradition, greater allowance was made for the possibility of reeducation. The Chinese laogai was run on the expectation that prisoners - described as "students" or "pupils" - would reform their thinking uncler the instruction of their guard-teachers. But in the final analysis such thinking was even more hypocritical than straightforward assassination. Forcing one's enemies to change their ways and submit to the discourse of their executioners might well be worse than simply killing them. The Khmer Rouge, on the other hand, from the outset adopted a radical policy. Believing that the reeducation of an entire section of the population was an impossible task (since these enemies were already too corrupt), they sought to change the people. To this end, they carried out a massive extermination of intellectuals and the urban population, seeking to destroy their enemies psychologically by breaking up their personalities and by imposing on them a constant process of self-criticism, which forced them to suffer acute dishonor while still in all likelihood being subject to the supreme punishment.

The leaders of totalitarian regimes saw themselves as the moral guardians of society and were proud of their right to send anyone they chose to his death. The fundamental justification was always the same: necessity with a scientific basis. Tzvetan Todorov, reflecting on the origins of totalitarianism, writes: "It was scientism and not humanism that helped establish the ideological bases of totalitarianism ... The relation between scientism and totalitarianism is not limited to the justification of acts through so-called scientific necessity (biological or historical): one must already be a practitioner of scientism, even if it is 'wild' scientism, to believe in the perfect transparency of society and thus in the possibility of transforming society by revolutionary means to conform with an ideal."

Trotsky provided a clear illustration of this "scientific" approach in 1919. In his Defense of Terrorism he claimed: "The violent revolution has become a necessity precisely because the imminent requirements of history are unable to find a road through the apparatus of parliamentary democracy." In support of this claim he advanced "proofs":

{p. 749} [quote} The proletariat is the historically rising class ... The bourgeoisie [by contrast] today is a falling class. It no longer plays an essential part in production and by its imperialist methods of appropriation is destroying the economic structure of the world and human culture generally. Nevertheless, the historical tenacity of the bourgeoisie is colossal. It holds to power, and does not wish to abandon it. It thereby threatens to drag after it into the abyss the whole of society. We are forced to tear off this class and chop it away. The Red Terror is a weapon used against a class that, despite being doomed to destruction, does not wish to perish. {end quote}

Trotsky thereby made history into a divine force to which everything must be sacrificed, and he displayed the incurable naivete of a revolutionary who imagines that a more just and humane society will emerge out of a dialectical process, despite the criminal nature of the methods employed. Twelve years later, Gorky was considerably more brutal: "Against us is a whole outmoded society that has had its day, and that should allow us to think of ourselves as still being in a civil war. So quite naturally we can conclude that if the enemies do not surrender, it is up to us to exterminate them." That same vear found Aragon writing lines of poetry such as "The blue eyes of the Revolution burn with cruel necessity."

Unlike these writers, Kautsky in 1918 faced the issue squarely, with courage and honesty. Refusing to be taken in bv the revolutionary rhetoric, he wrote: "To be exact, however, our goal is not socialism as such, which is the abolition of every kind of exploitation and oppression, be it directed against a class, a party, a sex, or a race ... Should it be proved to us that ... somehow the emancipation of the proletariat and of humanity could be achieved solely on the basis of private property, we would discard socialism without in any way giving up our objective. On the contrary this would be conducive to our objective." Kautsky, though one of the most eminent advocates of Marxism, put his humanism before his Marxist belief in science.

Putting people to death required a certain amount of study. Relatively few people actively desire the death of their fellow human beings, so a method of facilitating this had to be found. The most effective means was the denial of the victim's humanity through a process of dehumanization. As Alain Brossat notes: "The barbarian ritual of the purge, and the idea of the extermination machine in top gear are closely linked in the discourse and practice of persecution to the animalization of the Other, to the reduction of real or imaginary enemies to a zoological state."

There were manv examples of this process. During the great trials in Moscow, the procurator Andrei Vyshinsky, who was an intellectual with a traditional classical training, threw himself into a veritable frenzy of animalization:

{p. 750} {quote} Shoot these rabid dogs! Death to this gang who hide their ferocious teeth, their eagle claw, from the people! Down with that vulture Trotsky ... {end quote}

{p. 752} In Communism there exists a sociopolitieal eugenics, a form of social Darwinism. In the words of Dominic Colas, "As master of the knowledge of the evolution of social species, Lenin decided who should disappear by virtue of having been condemned to the dustbin of history." From the moment that a decision had been made on a "scientific" basis (that is, based in political and historical ideology, as well as in Marxism-Leninism) that the bourgeoisie represented a stage of humanity that had been surpassed, its liquidation as a class and the liquidation of the individuals who actually or supposedly belonged to it could be justified.

Marcel Colin, speaking of Nazism, refers to "classifications, segregation, exelusions, and purely biological criteria that are brought in by this criminal ideology. We are thinking of scientific ideas (heredity, hybridization, racial purity) and the fantastic, millenarian, or apocalyptic aspects that are clearly also the product of a particular historical moment." The application of scientific presuppositions to history and society - such as the idea that the proletariat is the bearer of the meaning of history - is easily traceable to a millenarian cosmological phantasmagoria, and is omnipresent in the Communist experience. It is these presuppositions that lie behind so much of the criminal ideology in which purely ideological categories determine arbitrary separations, like the division of humanity into bourgeoisie and proletariat, and into classifications such as petit - and grand-bourgeois or rich or poor peasant. By reifying these categories, as though they had long existed and were utterly immutable, Marxism-Leninism deified the system itself, so that categories and abstractions were far more important than any human reality. Individuals and groups were seen as the archetypes of some sort of primary, disembodied sociology. This made crime much easier: The informer, the torturer, and the NKVD executioner did not denounce, cause suffering, or kill people; they merely eliminated some sort of abstraction that was not benefieial to the common good.

The doctrine became a criminal ideology by the simple act of denying a fundamental fact: the unity of what Robert Antelme calls the "human species," or what the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights described in 1948 as "the human family." The roots of Marxist-Leninism are perhaps not to be tound in Marx at all, but in a deviant version of Darwinism, applied to social questions with the same catastrophic results that occur when such ideas are applied to racial issues. One thing is certain: Crimes against humanity are the product of an idtology that reduces people not to a universal but to a

{p. 753} particular condition, be it biological, racial, or sociohistorical. By means of propaganda, the Communists succeeded in making people believe that their conduct had universal implications, relevant to humanity as a whole. Critics have often tried to make a distinction between Nazism and Communism by arguing that the Nazi project had a particular aim, which was nationalist and racist in the extreme, whereas Lenin's project was universal. This is entirely wrong. In both theory and practice, Lenin and his successors excluded from humanity all capitalists, the bourgeoisie, counterrevolutionaries, and others, turning them into absolute enemies in their sociological and political discourse. Kautsky noted as early as 1918 that these terms were entirely elastic, allowing those in power to exclude whomever they wanted from humanity whenever they so wished. These were the terms that led directly to crimes against humanity.

In discussing biologists such as Henri Atlan, who "recognize that the notion of humanity extends beyond the biological approach, and that biology 'has little to say about the human person,"' Mireille Delmas-Marty concedes: "It is true that it is perfectly possible to consider the human species an animal species like any other, a species that man is learning to make himself, as he already makes other animal and vegetable species." But is this not in fa ct what Communism tried to do? Is the idea of a "new man" not at the heart of the Communist project? Did Communism not have a series of megalomaniacs such as Trofim Lysenko who tried to create not merely new species of tomato or corn but also a new human species?

The scientific mentality of the late nineteenth century, which emerged at the time of the triumph of medicine, inspired the following remarks by Vasily Grossman concerning the Bolshevik leaders: "This sort of person behaves among other people as a surgeon does in the wards of a hospital ... His soul is really in his knife. And the essence of these people lies in their fanatical faith in the surgeon's knife. The surgeon's knife - that is the great theoretician, the archphilosopher of the twentieth century." The idea was taken to its furthest extreme by Pol Pot, who with a terrifying stroke of the knife excised the gangrenous part of the social body - the "New People" - while retaining the "healthy" peasant part. As insane as this idea was, it was not exactly new. Already in the 1870s, Pyotr Tkachev, a Russian revolutionary and worthy heir of Nechaev, proposed the extermination of all Russians over twenty-five years old, whom he considered incapable of carrying out his revolutionary ideal. In a letter to Nechaev, Bakunin objected to this insane idea: "Our people are not a blank sheet of paper on which any secret society can write whatever it wants, like your Communist program, for instance." The International demanded that the slate of the past be wiped clean, and Mao famously compared himself

{p. 754} to a poetic genius writing on a blank sheet of paper, as though he genuinely believed that thousands of years of history could simply be ignored.

{end of selections}

Compulsory dununciations in the Soviet Union - even of one's family; the League of Militant Godless: correctness.html#denounce

Is admission by Leftists of the sins of Communism - including Lenin & Trotsky - comparable to admission by white Christians of the white Christian invasion of the New World? Are the issues and consequences common in these two cases? Was there an attempt to clear the deck in each case, to begin with a clean slate? Was slaughter on a mass scale deemed of little weight, compared to the visionary goal being pursued? Can a New Order have merit despite its bloody beginnings?

After Mao died, China under Deng abandoned Communism, adopting "Market Socialism" instead.

Although Stalinism fell, have different kinds of Marxism - the Fabian, Green & Trotskyist kinds - conquered the West? Is this why the sins of Communism are being denied & forgotten? new-left.html

Now that the West is being called on to acknowledge its invasion of the New World, and enslavement of blacks, the question arises, why not a Mutual Confession, in which the Left - including the Trotskyists - acknowledges its sins too?

Is not the asymmetry of required confessions suspect, hinting at a power relationship?

R.J. Rummel on Democide (Comparative Holocaust):

The early Soviet Union - after Lenin and Trotsky, but before Stalin's ascendancy: soviet-union-early.html.

Isaac Deutscher on the Purges: deutscher.html.

To order The Black Book of Communism from Amazon:

Send your comments

Back to the Communism / Zionism index: zioncom.html.

Write to me at contact.html.