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Revolutionary terror (also referred to as revolutionary terrorism, or a reign of terror)refers to the institutionalized application of force to counterrevolutionaries, particularly during the French Revolution from the years 1793 to 1795 (see the Reign of Terror). The term "Communist terrorism" has also been used to describe the revolutionary terror, from the Red Terror in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) to the reign of the Khmer Rouge and others. In contrast, "reactionary terror", such as White Terror, has been used to subdue revolutions.
The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.
The Reign of Terror, or The Terror, refers to a period during the French Revolution after the First French Republic was established.
Communist terrorism describes terrorism carried out in the advancement of, or by groups who adhere to, communism or related ideologies, such as Leninism, Maoism, or Marxism–Leninism. In history communist terrorism has sometimes taken the form of state-sponsored terrorism, supported by communist nations such as the Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Cambodia. In addition, non-state actors such as the Red Brigades, the Front Line and the Red Army Faction have also engaged in communist terrorism. These groups hope to inspire the masses to rise up and begin a revolution to overthrow existing political and economic systems. This form of terrorism can sometimes be called red terrorism or left terrorism.
German Social Democrat Karl Kautsky traces the origins of revolutionary terror to the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution.Vladimir Lenin considered the Jacobin use of terror as a needed virtue and accepted the label Jacobin for his Bolsheviks. However, this distinguished him from Marx.
The Social Democratic Party of Germany, or SPD, is a social-democratic political party in Germany.
Karl Johann Kautsky was a Czech-Austrian philosopher, journalist, and Marxist theoretician. Kautsky was recognized as among the most authoritative promulgators of Orthodox Marxism after the death of Friedrich Engels in 1895 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by the alias Lenin, was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as head of government of Soviet Russia from 1917 to 1922 and of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1924. Under his administration, Russia and then the wider Soviet Union became a one-party communist state governed by the Russian Communist Party. Ideologically a communist, he developed a variant of Marxism known as Leninism; his ideas were posthumously codified as Marxism–Leninism.
The deterministic view of history was used by Communist regimes to justify the use of terror.Terrorism came to be used by communists, both the state and dissident groups, in both revolution and in consolidation of power. The doctrines of anarchism, Marxism, Marxism–Leninism and Maoism have all spurred dissidents who have taken to terrorism. Except for a brief period in 1848 and within the Tsarist milieu, Marx did not advocate revolutionary terror, feeling it would be counterproductive. Communist leaders used the idea that terror could serve as the force which Marx said was the "midwife of revolution" and after World War I communist groups continued to use it in attempts to overthrow governments. For Mao Zedong, terrorism was an acceptable tool.
A Communist state is a state that is administered and governed by a single party, guided by Marxist–Leninist philosophy.
Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror among masses of people; or fear to achieve a religious or political aim. It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence during peacetime or in war against non-combatants. The terms "terrorist" and "terrorism" originated during the French Revolution of the late 18th century but gained mainstream popularity in the 1970s in news reports and books covering the conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Basque Country and Palestine. The increased use of suicide attacks from the 1980s onwards was typified by the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2001.
Anarchism is an anti-authoritarian political philosophy that advocates self-managed, self-governed societies based on voluntary, cooperative institutions and the rejection of hierarchies those societies view as unjust. These institutions are often described as stateless societies, although several authors have defined them more specifically as distinct institutions based on non-hierarchical or free associations. Anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful.
After World War II, Marxist–Leninist groups seeking independence, like nationalists, concentrated on guerrilla warfare along with terrorism.By the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was a change from wars of national liberation to contemporary terrorism. For decades, terrorist groups tended to be closely linked to communist ideology, being the predominant category of terrorists in the 1970s and 1980s, but today they are in the minority. Their decline is attributed to the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which a small group of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility, to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military. Guerrilla groups are a type of violent non-state actor.
Wars of national liberation or national liberation revolutions are conflicts fought by nations to gain independence. The term is used in conjunction with wars against foreign powers to establish separate sovereign states for the rebelling nationality. From a different point of view, these wars are called insurgencies, rebellions, or wars of independence. Guerrilla warfare or asymmetric warfare is often utilized by groups labeled as national liberation movements, often with support from other states.
French historian Sophie Wahnich (French) distinguishes between the revolutionary terror of the French Revolution and modern day Islamic terrorism and the September 11 attacks:
Islamic terrorism, Islamist terrorism or radical Islamic terrorism is defined as any terrorist act, set of acts or campaign committed by groups or individuals who profess Islamic or Islamist motivations or goals. Islamic terrorists justify their violent tactics through their own interpretation of the Quran and Hadith. The motivation for Islamic terrorism in part comes from the idea of Islamic supremacy which is encapsulated in the formula, "Islam is exalted and nothing is exalted above it."
The September 11 attacks were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Additional people died of 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years following the attacks.
Revolutionary terror is not terrorism. To make a moral equivalence between the Revolution's year II and September 2001 is historical and philosophical nonsense[.] [...] The violence exercised on 11 September 2001 aimed neither at equality nor liberty. Nor did the preventive war announced by the president of the United States.
In his article, The Victory of the Counter-Revolution in Vienna, Neue Rheinische Zeitung , No. 136, 7 November 1848, Karl Marx wrote that there is only one means to shorten, simplify and concentrate the murderous death throes of the old society and the bloody birth pangs of the new, only one means—revolutionary terrorism(the term terrorism used here is not to be confused with the modern meaning of the term, but rather having the same meaning as the word terror in the sense in which it is used in this article).
In his biography of Joseph Stalin, Edvard Radzinsky, a Russian author of popular history books, noted that Stalin wrote a nota bene —"Terror is the quickest way to new society"—beside the above passage in a book by Karl Kautsky.
Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky and other leading Bolshevik ideologists recognized mass terror as a necessary weapon during the dictatorship of proletariat and the resulting class struggle. In his The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade K. Kautsky (1918), Lenin wrote: "One cannot hide the fact that dictatorship presupposes and implies a "condition", one so disagreeable to renegades [such as Kautsky], of revolutionary violence of one class against another ... the "fundamental feature" of the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat is revolutionary violence".
The Bolsheviks engaged in a form of social determinism that was hostile to bourgeoisie and wealthier classes. Martin Latsis, one of the Soviet leaders directing the Cheka, stated his intentions for those classes who were considered reactionary and incapable of being reeducated. Latsis wrote:
We are engaged in exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class. You need not prove that this or that man acted against the interests of the Soviet power. The first thing you have to ask an arrested person is: To what class does he belong, where does he come from, what kind of education did he have, what is his occupation? These questions are to decide the fate of the accused. That is the quintessence of the Red Terror.
Similarly, in his book Terrorism and Communism (1920), Trotsky emphasized that "the historical tenacity of the bourgeoisie is colossal[.] [...] 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 want to perish".
On the other hand, they opposed individual terror, which has been used earlier by the People's Will organization. According to Trotsky: "The damaging of machines by workers, for example, is terrorism in this strict sense of the word. The killing of an employer, a threat to set fire to a factory or a death threat to its owner, an assassination attempt, with revolver in hand, against a government minister—all these are terrorist acts in the full and authentic sense. However, anyone who has an idea of the true nature of international Social Democracy ought to know that it has always opposed this kind of terrorism and does so in the most irreconcilable way".
Many later Marxists, in particular Karl Kautsky, criticized Bolshevik leaders for terrorism tactics. He stated that "among the phenomena for which Bolshevism has been responsible, Terrorism, which begins with the abolition of every form of freedom of the Press, and ends in a system of wholesale execution, is certainly the most striking and the most repellent of all".
Lenin, Trotsky and other leading Bolshevik ideologists promulgated mass terror as a necessary weapon during the dictatorship of proletariat and the resulting class struggle. In his book Terrorism and Communism, Trotsky emphasized that "the historical tenacity of the bougeoisie is colossal[.] [...] 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 want to perish".On the other hand, they opposed to individual terror, which has been used earlier by the People's Will. According to Trotsky: "The damaging of machines by workers, for example, is terrorism in this strict sense of the word. The killing of an employer, a threat to set fire to a factory or a death threat to its owner, an assassination attempt, with revolver in hand, against a government minister—all these are terrorist acts in the full and authentic sense. However, anyone who has an idea of the true nature of international Social Democracy ought to know that it has always opposed this kind of terrorism and does so in the most irreconcilable way".
Many later Marxists, in particular Karl Kautsky, criticized Bolshevik leaders for terrorism tactics. He stated that "among the phenomena for which Bolshevism has been responsible, Terrorism, which begins with the abolition of every form of freedom of the Press, and ends in a system of wholesale execution, is certainly the most striking and the most repellent of all".Kautsky argued that that Red Terror represented a variety of terrorism because it was indiscriminate, intended to frighten the civilian population and included taking and executing hostages. People were executed simply for who they were, not for their deeds. This and similar types of pronouncements by Communist leaders have led many historians to conclude that despotism, violent persecution, repression and intolerance were intrinsic drives in Communist regimes.
The Great Purge refers collectively to several related campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin during the 1930s, which removed all of his remaining opposition from power.It involved the purge of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the persecution of unaffiliated persons, both occurring within a period characterized by omnipresent police surveillance, widespread suspicion of "saboteurs", imprisonment and killings. In the Western World, this was referred to as "the Great Terror".
The Soviet collectivization of agriculture used terror against the peasants that resisted, see "Dekulakization".
Lev Davidovich Bronstein; 7 November [O.S. 26 October] 1879 – 21 August 1940), better known as Leon Trotsky (;, was a Russian revolutionary, Marxist theorist, and Soviet politician whose particular strain of Marxist thought is known as Trotskyism.
Leninism is the political theory for the organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party and the achievement of a dictatorship of the proletariat as political prelude to the establishment of socialism. Developed by and named for the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, Leninism comprises socialist political and economic theories, developed from Marxism and Lenin's interpretations of Marxist theories, for practical application to the socio-political conditions of the Russian Empire of the early 20th century.
In political science, Marxism–Leninism was the official state ideology of the Soviet Union (USSR), of the parties of the Communist International, after Bolshevisation; and is the ideology of Stalinist political parties. As revolutionary politics, the purpose of Marxism–Leninism is the transformation of a capitalist state into a socialist state, by way of two-stage revolution, which is led by a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries, drawn from the proletariat. To realise the two-stage transformation of the state, the vanguard party establishes the dictatorship of the proletariat, which determines policy through democratic centralism.
Trotskyism is the theory of Marxism as advocated by the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. Trotsky identified as an orthodox Marxist and Bolshevik–Leninist. He supported founding a vanguard party of the proletariat, proletarian internationalism and a dictatorship of the proletariat based on working class self-emancipation and mass democracy. Trotskyists are critical of Stalinism as they oppose Joseph Stalin's theory of socialism in one country in favor of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution. Trotskyists also criticize the bureaucracy that developed in the Soviet Union under Stalin.
The Red Terror was a period of political repression and mass killings carried out by Bolsheviks after the beginning of the Russian Civil War in 1918. The term is usually applied to Bolshevik political repression during the whole period of the Civil War (1917–1922), as distinguished from the White Terror carried out by the White Army against their political enemies. It was modeled on the Terror of the French Revolution. The Cheka carried out the repressions of the Red Terror. Estimates for the total number of people killed during the Red Terror for the initial period of repression are at least 10,000. Estimates for the total number of victims of Bolshevik repression vary widely. One source asserts that the total number of victims of repression and pacification campaigns could be 1.3 million, whereas another gives estimates of 28,000 executions per year from December 1917 to February 1922. The most reliable estimations for the total number of killings put the number at about 100,000, whereas others suggest a figure of 200,000.
The history of communism encompasses a wide variety of ideologies and political movements sharing the core theoretical values of common ownership of wealth, economic enterprise and property.
While Marxists propose replacing the bourgeois state with a proletarian semi-state through revolution, which would eventually wither away, anarchists warn that the state must be abolished along with capitalism. Nonetheless, the desired end results, a stateless, communal society, are the same.
In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.
The ideology of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was Marxism–Leninism, an ideology of a centralised, planned economy and a vanguardist one-party state, which was the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Soviet Union's ideological commitment to achieving communism included the development socialism in one country and peaceful coexistence with capitalist countries while engaging in anti-imperialism to defend the international proletariat, combat capitalism and promote the goals of communism. The state ideology of the Soviet Union—and thus Marxism–Leninism—derived and developed from the theories, policies and political praxis of Lenin and Stalin.
Democracy and Totalitarianism is a book by French philosopher and political scientist Raymond Aron. It compares the political systems of the Soviet Union and the democratic countries of the West.
The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky is a work by Vladimir Lenin written in October and November 1918 defending the Bolsheviks against criticisms being made against them by Karl Kautsky who was then the intellectual leader of moderate Marxists .
Revolutionary socialism is the socialist doctrine that social revolution is necessary in order to bring about structural changes to society. More specifically, it is the view that revolution is a necessary precondition for a transition from capitalism to socialism. Revolution is not necessarily defined as a violent insurrection; it is defined as seizure of political power by mass movements of the working class so that the state is directly controlled or abolished by the working class as opposed to the capitalist class and its interests. Revolutionary socialists believe such a state of affairs is a precondition for establishing socialism and orthodox Marxists believe that it is inevitable but not predetermined.
In Marxist philosophy, the dictatorship of the proletariat is a state of affairs in which the working class hold political power. Proletarian dictatorship is the intermediate stage between a capitalist economy and a communist economy, whereby the government nationalises ownership of the means of production from private to collective ownership. The socialist revolutionary Joseph Weydemeyer coined the term "dictatorship of the proletariat", which Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels adopted to their philosophy and economics. The Paris Commune (1871), which controlled the capital city for two months, before being suppressed, was an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In Marxist philosophy, the term "Dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" is the antonym to "dictatorship of the proletariat".
In the context of the theory of Leninist revolutionary struggle, vanguardism is a strategy whereby the most class-conscious and politically advanced sections of the proletariat or working class, described as the revolutionary vanguard, form organizations in order to draw larger sections of the working class towards revolutionary politics and serve as manifestations of proletarian political power against its class enemies.
Anti-revisionism is a position within Marxism–Leninism which emerged in the 1950s in opposition to the reforms of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Where Khrushchev pursued an interpretation of Leninism that differed from his predecessor Joseph Stalin, the anti-revisionists within the international communist movement remained dedicated to Stalin's ideological legacy and criticized the Soviet Union under Khrushchev and his successors as state capitalist and social imperialist due largely to its hopes of achieving peace with the United States. The term "Stalinism" is also used to describe these positions, but it is often not used by its supporters who opine that Stalin simply synthesized and practiced Leninism.
Socialism in one country was a theory put forth by Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Bukharin in 1924 which was eventually adopted by the Soviet Union as state policy. The theory held that given the defeat of all the communist revolutions in Europe in 1917–1923 except Russia, the Soviet Union should begin to strengthen itself internally.
A socialist state, socialist republic, or socialist country is a sovereign state constitutionally dedicated to the establishment of socialism. The term "communist state" is often used interchangeably in the West specifically when referring to single-party socialist states governed by Marxist–Leninist political parties, despite these countries being officially socialist states in the process of building socialism. These countries never describe themselves as communist nor as having implemented a communist society. Additionally, a number of countries which are not single-party states based on Marxism–Leninism make reference to socialism in their constitutions; in most cases these are constitutional references alluding to the building of a socialist society that have little to no bearing on the structure and development paths of these countries' political and economic systems.
Permanent revolution is a term within Marxist theory coined by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels by at least 1850, but which has since become most closely associated with Leon Trotsky. Furthermore, the uses of the term by different theorists are not identical. For instance, Marx used it to describe the strategy of a revolutionary class to continue to pursue its class interests independently and without compromise despite overtures for political alliances and the political dominance of opposing sections of society. Instead, Trotsky put forward his conception of permanent revolution as an explanation of how socialist revolutions could occur in societies that had not achieved advanced capitalism. Trotsky's theory also argues: (1) that the bourgeoisie in late-developing capitalist countries are incapable of developing the productive forces in such a manner as to achieve the sort of advanced capitalism which will fully develop an industrial proletariat; and (2) that the proletariat can and must therefore seize social, economic and political power, leading an alliance with the peasantry.
Terrorism and Communism: A Reply to Karl Kautsky is a book by Soviet Communist Party leader Leon Trotsky. First published in German in August 1920, the short book was written against a criticism of the Russian Revolution by the same title published the previous year in Vienna, Austria by prominent Marxist Karl Kautsky.
Kautsky said: "It is, in fact, a widely spread idea that Terrorism belongs to the very essence of revolution, and that whoever wants a revolution must somehow come to some sort of terms with terrorism. As proof of this assertion, over and over again the great French Revolution has been cited." (Translated by W.H. Kerridge)