The 20th century was the bloodiest period in human history, with world wars, genocide, concentration camps, the development of chemical and nuclear weapons, bombings, guerilla wars, and terrorist activities unheard before. As a result of this savagery, the number of dead is estimated in the hundreds of millions.
Why was the last century so bloody? First, advancing technology led to the development of weapons much more lethal than earlier ones. But the second and most important reason was that ideologies caused these weapons to be employed with terrible cruelty. The 20thcentury saw the violent harvest of the various "isms" that were founded in the 19th.
Communism, the bloodiest of these "isms," is by far the cruelest and also the most widespread. The number murdered by Communist regimes or organizations in the past hundred years stands at roughly 120 million. Just for the sake of this ideology, these people were removed from their homes, worked to death in concentration camps, exiled to perish on the Siberian steppes, subjected to the horrible tortures in the most horrible prisons, executed by brainwashed Communist militants, strangled, had their throats cut, or starved to death in deliberately-created famines.
The savagery of this red terror began first in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. It spread throughout the newly formed Soviet Union and from there, to eastern Europe, China, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, some Latin American countries, Cuba and Africa.
Lenin's Bloody Revolution
Karl Marx never led any political party. He was only a theoretician who tried to cram all of human history into the context of the rules of dialectical materialism. From his point of view, he interpreted the past and made predictions about the future, of which the greatest prediction was global revolution. He promised that the workers would destroy the capitalist system, after which a classless society would result.
In decades that passed since Marx's death in 1883, the revolution he'd announced so confidently never took place. In the capitalist countries of Europe, workers' living and working conditions improved, however slightly, abating the tension between the workers and the bourgeoisie. The revolution wasn't happening, and it wasn't going to happen.
In the early 1900s, another important name appeared in Russia. Vladimir Ilich Lenin was gradually rising to prominence in Russia's Social Democratic Party, which Marxists had founded. Lenin gave Marxism a whole new interpretation. In his view, the revolution couldn't happen spontaneously, because the European working class had been sedated by what the bourgeoisie had offered them and in any other countries was no working class worth mentioning. To this problem, Lenin offered a militant solution: Marx's predicted revolution wouldn't be carried out by the workers (the proletariat, in Marxist literature), but by surrogates-a Communist Party of professional revolutionaries with military training, acting on the workers' behalf. By using armed intervention and propaganda, "the Communist Party" would bring about a political revolution. From the moment their authoritarian regime seized power, it would establish what Lenin called the "dictatorship of the proletariat." It would clear away opposition, abolish private property, and ensure society's advancement towards a Communist order.
With Lenin's theory, Communism would become the ideology of a group of armed terrorists. After him, hundreds of Communist Parties (or workers' parties devoted to bloody revolution) sprouted throughout the world.
What methods did the Communist Party intend for its revolution? Lenin answered this in both his writings and his actions: The Party would shed as much blood as possible. In 1906, eleven years before the Bolshevik Revolution, he wrote in Proletary magazine:
The phenomenon in which we are interested is the armed struggle. It is conducted by individuals and by small groups. Some belong to revolutionary organizations, while others (the majority in certain parts of Russia) do not belong to any revolutionary organization. Armed struggle pursues two different aims, which must be strictly distinguished: in the first place, this struggle aims at assassinating individuals, chiefs and subordinates in the Army and police; in the second place, it aims at the confiscation of monetary funds both from the government and from private persons. The confiscated funds go partly into the treasury of the party, partly for the special purpose of arming and preparing for an uprising, and partly for the maintenance of persons engaged in the struggle we are describing. The big expropriations (such as the Caucasian, involving over 200,000 rubles, and the Moscow, involving 875,000 rubles) went in fact first and foremost to revolutionary parties - small expropriations go mostly, and sometimes entirely, to the maintenance of the "expropriators".14
At the beginning of the 1900's, an important divergence of ideas occurred in the Russian Social Democratic Party. The group led by Lenin supported revolution by violence; while another group wanted to bring Marxism to Russia by more democratic means. The Leninists, though small in numbers, used various methods of pressure to gain the majority and became known as the Bolsheviks, the Russian word for majority. The other group was called the Mensheviks, which means minority.
The Bolsheviks began to organize following the way Lenin had outlined, through such methods as assassinations, confiscation of government money, and robbing official institutions. After many years of banishment, the Bolsheviks began their Russian Revolution of 1917. Actually, that year saw two separate revolutions. The first came in February; when Tsar Nicholas II was removed from the throne and imprisoned with his family, and a democratic government was established. But the Bolsheviks didn't want democracy; they were determined to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat.
In October 1917, their awaited revolution took place. Communist militants led by Lenin and Trotsky, his chief assistant, seized first the former capital, Petrograd ("Peter City," named for Peter the Great), and then Moscow. Battles in these two cities established the world's first Communist regime.
After the October Revolution, Russia was swept by a three-year civil war war between the so-called White Army, assembled by Tsarist generals, and the Red Army led by Trotsky. In July of 1918, Lenin ordered Bolshevik militants to execute Tsar Nicholas II and his family, including his three children. In the course of the civil war, the Bolsheviks did not hesitate to commit the bloodiest crimes, murders, and tortures against their opponents.
Both the Red Army and the Cheka, a secret police organization founded by Lenin, inflicted terror on all parts of society opposed to the revolution. A book entitled The Black Book of Communism written by a group of scholars and published by the Harvard University Press, describing Communist atrocities throughout the world, has this to say about Bolshevik terror:
The Bolsheviks had decided to eliminate, by legal and physical means, any challenge or resistance, even if passive, to their absolute power. This strategy applied not only to groups with opposing political views, but also to such social groups as the nobility, the middle class, the intelligentsia, and the clergy, as well as professional groups such as military officers and the police. Sometimes the Bolsheviks subjected these people to genocide. The policy of "de-Cossackization" begun in 1920 corresponds largely to our definition of genocide: a population group firmly established in a particular territory, the Cossacks as such were exterminated, the men shot, the women, children and the elderly deported, and the villages razed or handed over to new, non-Cossack occupants. Lenin commpared the Cossacks to the Vendée during the French Revolution and gladly subjected them to a program of what Gracchus Babeuf, the "inventor" of modern Communism, characterized in 1795 as "populicide."15
In every city they entered, the Bolsheviks killed those not open to their ideology and committed acts of excessive savagery intended to instill fear. The Black Book of Communism describes the Bolshevik atrocities in Crimea:
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 file of the Denikin commission record "corpses with hands cut off, broken bones, heads ripped off, broken jaws, and genital removed."16
The Russian historian and socialist S.P. Melgunov, in his book The Red Terror in Russia, says that Sevastopol was turned into a "city of the hanged" because of the extermination campaign against surviving witnesses:
From Nakhimovksky, all one could see was the hanging bodies of officers, soldiers, and civilians arrested in the streets. The town was dead, and the only people left alive were hiding in lofts or basements. All the walls, shop fronts, and telegraph poles were covered with posters calling for "Death to the traitors." They were hanging people for fun.17
The Bolsheviks sorted the people they wanted to eliminate into certain categories. For example, the bourgeoisie (or the "Mensheviks," who understood socialism differently from the Bolsheviks) were the new regime's chief enemies. The "kulak," the most numerous category, was specially targeted. In Russian, a kulak is the name given to a rich landowner. During the revolution and the civil war, Lenin issued hundreds of orders that rained pitiless terror on the kulaks. For example, in one telegram to the Central Executive Committee of Penza soviet, he said:
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. Hang (I mean hang publicly, so that people see it) at least 100 kulaks, rich bastards, and known blood-suckers. Publish their names. Seize all their grain Do all this so that for miles around people see it all, understand it, tremble Reply saying you have received and carried out these instructions. Yours, Lenin.18
Lenin gave many orders like this one. Bolshevik militants gladly carried out his instructions, even inventing their own styles of savagery. The famous author Maxim Gorky witnessed some of these methods and later wrote:
In Tambov province Communists were nailed with railway spikes by their left hand and left foot to trees a metre above the soil, and they watched the torments of these deliberately oddly-crucified people. They would open a prisoner's belly, take out the small intestine and nailing it to a tree or telegraph pole they drove the man around the tree with blows, watching the intestine unwind through the wound. Stripping a captured officer naked, they tore strips of skin from his shoulders in the form of shoulder straps...19
The Bolsheviks undertook to exterminate those who did not want to adopt Communism. Tens of thousands were executed without a trial. Many opponents of the regime were sent to concentration camps, collectively called the "Gulag," where prisoners were worked almost to death under very harsh conditions. Many never left these camps alive. In the period from 1918 to 1922, they murdered hundreds of thousands of workers and villagers who had opposed the regime.
The Harvard historian Richard Pipes investigated secret Soviet archives to research his book, The Unknown Lenin. Revealing that Lenin gave countless orders to have people tortured and murdered, he ends his book with this evaluation:
With the evidence currently available it becomes difficult to deny that Lenin was, not an idealist, but a mass murderer, a man who believed that the best way to solve problems-no matter whether real or imaginary-was to kill off the people who caused them. It is he who originated the practice of political and social extermination that in the twentieth century would claim tens of millions of lives.20
Pavlov's Dogs and Lenin's Plans for Human Evolution
It's important to understand the reason behind Lenin's violence and that underlay further examples of Communist tragedies. Why did Lenin and other Communist leaders we'll examine later-Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot-become crazed murderers?
The reason is the materialist philosophy they held, and its view of human beings. As we saw at the beginning, Communism is basically materialist philosophy applied to history, in total harmony with Darwin's theory of evolution-which, in turn, is the adaptation of materialist philosophy to the natural world. Some basic elements of this perverse philosophy can be outlined as follows:
1. A human being is composed only of matter, with no spirit or soul.
2. A human is a highly evolved species of animal. Essentially, there is no difference between human beings and animals. The only difference between a human being and other animals is that his environment has tamed him.
3. In nature and in human society, the only unchanging law is the one of conflict. Conflicting interests result in struggle. At the end of any struggle, it is natural-even necessary-that one side lose, suffer and die.
4. Therefore, from the Communist point of view, for any development to take place-for example, for the "revolution" to succeed-it's inevitable, even necessary, that many people will suffer, be subjected to torture, and die.
5. To legitimize these convictions, Communism-and every other ideology that adopts a materialist philosophy-resorts to destroying a society's faith in God. Actually, the aim of materialism is to alienate society from its belief in God and in religious and moral values, and bring into being a mass of human beings who consider themselves an assortment of soulless animals. In this way, these ideologues believe that they can control the masses, establish their own power, and prepare a legitimate foundation for any immorality or cruelty they wish to commit.
Given that Communism regards human being in this way, it follows that its major efforts have been towards "bestializing" them-beating them like wild animals, "training" them by instilling fear and inflicting pain and, when necessary, cutting their throats.
Very clearly, Lenin accepted this materialist-Darwinist philosophy that regards human beings as animals. After speaking privately with Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, the Russian scientist famous for his experiments on the conditioned reflexes of animals, Lenin tried applying Pavlov's methods to Russian society. In his book, A People's Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution, Orlando Figes writes about Lenin's desire to "educate" the Russian people as an animal trainer would, and how the roots of this ambition lie in Darwinism:
In October 1919, according to legend, Lenin paid a secret visit to the laboratory of the great physiologist I. P. Pavlov to find out if his work on the conditional reflexes of the brain might help the Bolsheviks control human behaviour. 'I want the masses of Russia to follow a Communistic pattern of thinking and reacting,' Lenin explained Pavlov was astounded. It seemed that Lenin wanted him to do for humans what he had already done for dogs. 'Do you mean that you would like to standardize the population of Russia? Make them all behave in the same way?' he asked. 'Exactly' replied Lenin. 'Man can be corrected. Man can be made what we want him to be.' [T]he ultimate aim of the Communist system was the transformation of human nature. It was an aim shared by the other so-called totalitarian regimes of the inter-war period As one of the pioneers of the eugenics movement in Nazi Germany put in 1920, 'it could almost seem as if we have witnessed a change in the concept of humanity We were forced by the terrible exigencies of war to ascribe a different value to the life of the individual than was the case before.'
...The notion of creating a new type of man through the enlightenment of the masses had always been the messianic mission of the nineteenth-century Russian intelligentsia, from whom the Bolsheviks emerged. Marxist philosophy likewise taught that human nature was a product of historical development and could thus be transformed by a revolution. The scientific materialism of Darwin and Huxley, which had the status of a religion among the Russian intelligentsia during Lenin's youth, equally lent itself to the view that man was determined by the world in which he lived. Thus the Bolsheviks were led to conclude that their revolution, with the help of science, could create a new type of man...
...Although Pavlov was an outspoken critic of the revolution and had often threatened to emigrate, he was patronized by the Bolsheviks. After two years of growing his own carrots, Pavlov was awarded a handsome ration and a spacious Moscow apartment... Lenin spoke of Pavlov's work as 'hugely significant' for the revolution. Bukharin called it 'a weapon from the iron arsenal of materialism.'21
Trotsky, an important theoretician of Communist ideology and Lenin's most important associate, agreed with Lenin's views about "the transformation of human nature" that had their origin in Darwinism. As Trotsky wrote:
What is man? He is by no means a finished or harmonious being. No, he is still a highly awkward creature. Man, as an animal, has not evolved by plan but spontaneously, and has accumulated many contradictions. The question of how to educate and regulate, of how to improve and complete the physical and spiritual construction of man, is a colossal problem which can only be conceived on the basis of Socialism. We can construct a railway across the Sahara, we can build the Eiffel Tower and talk directly with New York, but we surely cannot improve man. No, we can! To produce a new, 'improved version' of man - that is the future task of Communism Man must look at himself and see himself as a raw material, or at best as a semi-manufactured product, and say: 'At last, my dear homo sapiens, I will work on you.'22
Along with Lenin and Trotsky, other Bolsheviks believed that human beings were an animal species, nothing more than an agglomeration of matter. Because they saw no value in human life, millions of persons could easily be sacrificed for the sake of the revolution. According to Richard Pipes's The Unknown Lenin, "For humankind at large Lenin had nothing but scorn:the documents confirm Gorky's assertion that individual human beings held for Lenin 'almost no interest,' and that he treated the working class much as a metalworker treated iron ore." 23
Lenin's Policy of Deliberate Starvation
Nearly all Communist regimes of the 20th century have subjected their peoples to starvation. In Lenin's time, famine brought death to five million. From 1932 to 1933, in Stalin's time, the same disaster happened again but with a much wider scope; more than 6 million people died as a result of it. As we will see in the following pages, millions died as a result of famine in Mao's Red China and Pol Pot's Cambodia.
Today, with supermarkets, bakeries, pastry shops, and restaurants all around us; famine seems an alien concept. When we do hear about famine, most often we think of it as a period of temporary hunger. But the famines in Russia, China and Cambodia was a prolonged condition that lasted for months, even years. Apart from grain and rice that villagers could grow to feed themselves, all produce was snatched from their hands, leaving them nothing else to eat. People ate all the vegetables and fruit that they used to collect for sale, and all the animals they could slaughter. When this supply quickly ran out, they would resort to boiling leaves, grass and tree bark. After several weeks of continual hunger, their bodies would grow weak and become emaciated. Some would eat stray cats and dogs and other wild creatures, including insects. Soon, wracked with pain, people would start to die, one after another, with no one to bury them. Finally would appear famine's worst aspect of all: cannibalism. People would start to eat corpses first, then attack each other, snatching children to slaughter and devour. In line with Communist philosophy, they would become bestialized indeed, and human no longer.
This was the goal of the Communist regime. Unbelievable as it might seem, it happened first in the 20th century, in Bolshevik Russia under Lenin's leadership.
In 1918, shortly after the Bolsheviks came to power, Lenin decided to abolish private property. His decision's most important result was the nationalization of land once owned by villagers. Bolshevik militants, Cheka police agents, and Red Army units forced their way into farms all over Russia and, under threat of arms, confiscated the produce that was the only source of food for villagers already living in harsh conditions. A quota was established that every farmer had to give to the Bolsheviks, but in order to fill it, most farmers had to surrender all the produce they had. Villagers who resisted were silenced by the most brutal methods.
In order to have not all their wheat seized, some farmers hid a portion in storage. The Bolsheviks regarded this kind of behavior as a "betrayal of the revolution" and punished it with incredible savagery. On February 14, 1922, an inspector went to the region of Omsk and described what happened there:
Abuses of position by the requisitioning detachments, frankly speaking, have now reached unbelievable levels. Systematically, the peasants who are arrested are all locked up in big unheated barns; they are then whipped and threatened with execution. Those who have not filled the whole of their quota are bound and forced to run naked all along the main street of the village and then locked up in another unheated hangar. A great number of women have been beaten until they are unconscious and then thrown naked into holes dug in the snow 24
Lenin became enraged when he saw that quotas set for the villagers were not being met. Finally in 1920, he imposed a terrible punishment on the villagers in some areas who were resisting the confiscations: These villagers would have not only their produce taken, but their seeds as well. This meant they couldn't plant new crops and would certainly die of hunger. From 1921 to 1922, famine caught 29 million Russian individuals in its grip; and five million of them died.
When news of the famine reached Western countries, they organized an aid campaign to help ease the disaster. It almost succeeded, but it came too late. The Bolsheviks, wanting to conceal the utter disaster of their agricultural policy, forbade the publication of any news about the famine, consistently denying that it was happening. In his book, A Concise History of the Russian Revolution, Richard Pipes writes:
In the spring of 1921, peasants in the areas struck by the famine resorted to eating grass, tree bark, and rodents... There were confirmed cases of cannibalism. Soon millions of wretched human beings abondoned their villages and headed for the nearest railroad station hoping to make their way to regions where, rumor had it, there was food. They clogged the railway depots, for they were refused transportation, because until July 1921 Moscow persisted in denying that a catastrophe had occurred. Here, in the words of a contemporary, they waited "for trains which never came, or for death, which was inevitable." Visitors to the stricken areas passed village after village with no sign of life, the inhabitants having either departed or lying prostrate in their cottages, too weak to move. In the cities, corpses littered the streets...25
What was the aim of this policy? Lenin wanted to strengthen the Bolshevik regime's economy by seizing villagers' produce and realize the Communist dream of abolishing private property. But in deliberately subjecting his fellow Russians to famine, Lenin also had another purpose: Hunger, he knew, would have a devastating effect on their morale and psychology. He wanted to use famine as a tool to destroy people's faith in God and instigate a movement against the church. The Black Book of Communismdescribes Lenin's state of mind:
A young lawyer called Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov was then living in Samara, the regional capital of one of the areas worst affected by the famine. He was the only member of the local intelligentsia who not only refused to participate in the aid for the hungry, but publicly opposed it. As one of his friends later recalled, "Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov had the courage to come out and say openly that famine would have numerous positive results, particularly in the appearance of a new industrial proletariat, which would take over from the bourgeoisie Famine, he explained, in destroying the outdated peasant economy, would bring about the next stage more rapidly, and usher in socialism, the stage that necessarily followed capitalism. Famine would also destroy faith not only in the tsar, but in God too."
Thirty years later, when the "young lawyer" had become the head of the Bolshevik government, his ideas remained unchanged: Famine could and should "strike a mortal blow against the enemy." The enemy in question was the Orthodox Church.26
A letter Lenin sent to members of the Politburo on March 19, 1922, shows he wanted to use hunger as a method to break the bond between religion and the masses, to numb their reactions and thus facilitate his planned assault against religious institutions:
In fact the present moment favors us far more than it does them. We are almost 99 percent sure that we can strike a mortal blow against them [our enemies] and consolidate the central position that we are going to need to occupy for several decades to come. With the help of all those starving people who are starting to eat each other, who are dying by the millions, and whose bodies litter the roadside all over the country, it is now and only now that we can-and therefore must-confiscate all church property with all the ruthless energy we can still muster All evidence suggests that we could not do this at any other moment, because our only hope is the despair engendered in the masses by the famine, which will cause them to look at us in a favorable light or, at the very least, with indifference.27
Lenin's cruel methods are the first instance of Communist savagery. Stalin and Mao, the dictators who came after him, only increased the scope of the horror.
Lenin's own death is quite telling. He suffered his first stroke in May 1922. On December 16, 1922, he suffered another major attack. Half paralyzed, he was confined to bed. In March of 1923, his illness worsened significantly and he lost the ability to speak. Afflicted by terrible headaches, he spent most of 1923 in a wheelchair. In the final months of his life, those who saw him were horrified at the frightful, half-mad expression on his face. He died of a brain hemorrhage on January 21, 1924.
The Bolsheviks mummified Lenin's body and specially preserved his brain, which they considered to have great value. They placed his body in a tomb, built in the style of a Greek temple, in Moscow's Red Square, where it was visited by crowds of people. Lines of visitors would look at the corpse in dread.
Their dread was to increase in years to come. Joseph Stalin, Lenin's successor, was even more cruel and sadistic. In a short time, he established the greatest "reign of terror" in modern history.
14. Vladimir I. Lenin, September 30, 1906, Proletari, Nr.5
15. Gracchus Babeuf, La Guerre de Vendée et le système de dépopulation, Tallandier, 1987
16. Stéphane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel bartosek, Jean-Louis Margolin, Black Book of Communism, Harvard University Press Cambridge, p.61
17. S.P. Melgunov, La Terreur rouge en Russie 1918-1924, p. 81
18. Russian Center for the Conservation and Study of Historic Documents, Moscow (henceforth RTsKhIDNI), 2/1/6/898, Pavlyuchenkov, Krestyankskii Brest
19. Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy, A History of the Russian Revolution, p. 775
20. Richard Pipes, The Unknown Lenin: From the Secret Archive, p. 181
21. Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy, A History of the Russian Revolution, p. 733
22. Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy, A History of the Russian Revolution, p. 734
23. Richard Pipes, The Unknown Lenin: From the Secret Archive, p. 10
24. Black Book of Communism, Harvard University Press Cambridge, p. 119
25. Richard Pipes, A Coincise History Of The Russian Revolution, Vintage Books, Newyork, 1995, s.357
26. A. Beliakov, Yunost vozhdya (The adolescence of the leader) (Moscow: Molodaya gvardiia, 1958), p. 191
27. Black Book of Communism, Harvard University Press Cambridge, p. 124