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Mensaje por El Compañero Vie Jun 27, 2008 11:42 am

What were the most important human rights violations committed under Lenin's rule?

V.I. Lenin was the founding father of the Soviet Union and its dictator during the Russian Civil War that followed. A series of strokes after the Civil War, and his early death in 1924, gave him a mere five years to reign. The brevity of his tenure led many to assume that subsequent human rights abuses in the Soviet Union were not Lenin's fault. Oppression did intensify after Stalin replaced Lenin as the absolute ruler of the USSR. But Lenin did everything that Stalin would later do, except execute fellow Communists. As Richard Pipes notes, this "is not as significant as it may appear at first sight. Towards outsiders, people not belonging to his order of the elect - and that included 99.7 percent of his compatriots - Lenin showed no human feelings whatever..." (Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime)

Lenin repeatedly indicated that large-scale killing would be necessary to bring in his utopia, and did not shrink from this realization. His speeches and writings overflow with calls for blood: "Merciless war against these kulaks! Death to them." "We'll ask the man, where do you stand on the question of the revolution? Are you for it or against it? If he's against it, we'll stand him up against a wall." As Pipes sums up, "Lenin hated what he perceived to be the 'bourgeoisie' with a destructive passion that fully equaled Hitler's hatred of the Jews: nothing short of physical annihilation would satisfy him." Moreover, "The term 'bourgeoisie' the Bolsheviks applied loosely to two groups: those who by virtue of their background or position in the economy functioned as 'exploiters,' be they a millionaire industrialist or a peasant with an extra acre of land, and those who, regardless of their economic or social status, opposed Bolshevik policies." (Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime) Lenin used all three of the tools of mass murder that his successors and imitators would later perfect.

Deaths due to extreme hardship conditions in slave labor camps

Lenin's secret police, the Cheka, pioneered the development of the modern slave labor (or "concentration") camp. Inmates were generally frankly treated as government-owned slaves, and used for the most demanding work - such as digging arctic canals - while receiving pitifully small rations. As Pipes explains, "Soviet concentration camps, as instituted in 1919, were meant to be a place of confinement for all kinds of undesirables, whether sentenced by courts or by administrative organs. Liable to confinement in them were not only individuals but also 'categories of individuals' - that is, entire classes: Dzerzhinskii at one point proposed that special concentration camps be erected for the 'bourgeoisie.' Living in forced isolation, the inmates formed a pool of slave labor on which Soviet administrative and economic institutions could draw at no cost." (The Russian Revolution) The number of people in these camps according to Pipes was about 50,000 prisoners in 1920 and 70,000 in 1923; many of these did not survive the inhuman conditions. The inmates might be bourgeoisie, or peasants, or members of other socialist factors such as the Mensheviks or the Social Revolutionaries, or members of ethnicities thought to be hostile to the Bolsheviks, such as the Don Cossacks. The death rates in these camps appear to have been in the extreme hardship range of 10-30%. While the number thus killed was only a small percentage of the total exterminated under Lenin's regime, it laid the foundation for Stalin's slave labor empire.

Deaths due to man-made famine

By far the largest number of unnatural deaths for which Lenin and his cohorts were responsible resulted from famine. Lenin and his regime tried to depict the famine as simply bad luck, but the truth is rather different. To feed his troops and keep the cities producing munitions, Lenin needed food. He got it by "requisitioning" it from the peasantry - demanding delivery of large sums of food for little or nothing in exchange. This led peasants to drastically reduce their crop production. In retaliation, Lenin often ordered the seizure of the food peasants had grown for their own subsistence, sometimes ordering the confiscation of their seed grain as a further sanction. The Cheka and the army began by shooting hostages, and ended by waging a second full-scale civil war against the recalcitrant peasantry.

The ultimate results of this war against the peasantry were devastating. Official Soviet reports admitted that fully 30 million Soviet citizens were in danger of death by starvation. The White forces shared little of the blame: as Pipes notes, the Civil War was essentially over by the beginning of 1920, but Lenin continued his harsh exploitation of the peasantry for yet another year. Moreover, the areas under White control had actually built up a food surplus. The horrific famine of 1921 was thus much less severe in 1920, because after the reconquest of the Ukraine and other White territories, the Reds shipped the Whites' grain reserves to Petrograd, Moscow, and other cities with less hunger but more political clout. Low estimates on the deaths from this famine are about 3 million; high estimates go up to 10 million - which would probably have been much higher if not for foreign relief efforts which Lenin had the good sense to permit. For perspective, the last severe famine in Russia hit in 1891-92, and cost about 400,000 lives.

The famine ended soon after Lenin relaxed his choke-hold on the peasantry, but he showed no sign of remorse for what his policies had done. Other Bolsheviks were shaken by the events, but Lenin's successor, Joseph Stalin, learned only to husband his strength until the peasantry could be utterly broken.


Under Lenin's rule - unlike that of his successors - executions played a far more important role than deaths in forced labor camps. The primary function of Lenin's secret police, the Cheka, was carrying out summary executions of "class enemies" in what came to be known as the Red Terror. The exact number murdered is usually estimated at between 100,000 and 500,000, but the chaotic wartime conditions make the accounting especially difficult. Large-scale executions of hostages began after a failed effort of the Social Revolutionaries to seize power in mid-1918. (The hundreds of hostages shot in "retaliation," however, not only did not participate in the failed coup, but almost invariably had no affiliation of any kind with the SRs). From then on the Red Terror turned in every conceivable direction: execution of the bourgeoisie and Czarist sympathizers; execution of White POWs and friendly civilian populations; and finally execution of Lenin's socialist opponents.

Source: Museum of Communism
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