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Genocide -- the Gift of Marx and Engels

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#1 Volrak


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Posted 17 December 2004 - 09:34 AM

The following is a part of an article from the November 2004 magazine, "Quadrant", a leading Australian intellectual magazine (website at www.quadrant.org.au ).

It draws a compelling historical connection between the murky birth of Socialist theory, and mass murder of innocent civilians.


The twentieth century had two world wars. It did something else, too, no less tragic and original. It was the first age to practise terror by concentrating civilians by the thousands for slaughter in lonely places.

The new terror was cyclic, and the cycle took exactly a century to complete. It began as a Marxian revolutionary doctrine in mid-nineteenth-century Germany; Lenin acted on it promptly after the October Revolution, Hitler after his conquest of eastern lands in 1941; and it was finally turned against the Germans by Stalin in the Soviet zone of occupation in 1945. The last stage was little reported, however, being the work of an ally, and though recent it is now largely forgotten. It can be surprising to learn that Stalin used some of Hitler's concentration camps, notably Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen, for their original purpose....

The background may be briefly sketched. In January 1849, months before he migrated to London, Karl Marx published an article by Friedrich Engels in Die Neue Rheinische Zeitung announcing that in Central Europe only Germans, Hungarians and Poles counted as bearers of progress. The rest must go. "The chief mission of all other races and peoples, large and small, is to perish in the revolutionary holocaust."

Genocide arose out of Marx's master-theory of history -- feudalism giving place inevitably to capitalism, capitalism into socialism. The lesser races of Europe -- Basques, Serbs, Bretons and other -- being sunk in feudalism, were counter-revolutionary; having failed to develop a bourgoisie, they would be two steps behind in the historical process. Engels dismissed them as left-overs and ethnic trash (Volkerabfall), and called for their extinction.

So Genocide was born as a doctrine in the German Rhineland in January 1849, in a Europe still reeling from the revolutions of 1848. It was to become the beacon-light of socialism, proudly held and proudly proclaimed, and for a century it remained a doctrine uniquely socialist.

It differed from earlier doctrines and earlier massacres in striking ways. It involved millions, and it was racial. In both respects it differed from the Jacobin terror in Paris. In 1793-94 the Jacobins had publicly guillotined several thousand enemies of the Republic; but that had nothing to do with race, and the numbers in retrospect look modest. The concentration camps of colonial Cuba in 1895, and British camps in the Boer War soon after, are distinct too, though the term began there. Their purpose was to isolate women and children and hasten the end of colonial wars. Lenin may well have found the term in a newspaper, probably in a report of the South African war; the Bolsheviks, at all events, adopted it. The term sounds neutral. But what Lenin built in 1918, months after the October Revolution, and Stalin and Hitler after him, was far different. Their camps were meant to kill. In 1918 the death factory was born.

It is clear that all three dictators knew and applauded Marx's genocidal call. In a 1908 essay "Lessons of the Commune", Lenin had held up the defeat of the French Left after the Franco-Prussian War as a warning. Paris in 1871 had shown that the first, necessary act of any revolutionary government was terror: to kill your opponents before they killed you. Lenin's motto, "Who, whom?" sums up his credo. In class war, those who hesitate will pay. The first act of the French Left, when Napoleon III was overthrown, should have been extermination, and that must be the first act in Russia -- "the cleansing of Russian soil of all harmful insects, of scoundrel fleas, of bedbugs."

That was a decade before the October Revolution, but racialism was already widely accepted as the mark of the Left in many countries, including England. There the Fabians led. In 1900, in Fabianism and the Empire, they announced in imperial vein that "the state which obstructs international civilisation will have to go, be it big or little." Two years later H. G. Wells, another Fabian, wrote Anticipations, where in its last pages he called for the extermination of all non-white races to build a universal socialist utopia; and in August 1913, in the New Statesman, Sidney and Beatrice Webb called for the endless domination of the world by the white races....

Years later, in February 1938, Bernard Shaw sent Beatrice a letter, contemplating Hitler's anti-Jewish program. Whatever Hitler's faults, he told her, we must assert "the right of states to make eugenic experiments by weeding out any strains they think undesirable", though he hoped their methods, at least, would be humane. Indeed in a newspaper he called on scientists to invent a humane gas....


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