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Some Remarks on Mass Murders, Social Darwinism and Mysticism in the 20th Century

Last modified: 18 November 2007
Hamit Bozarslan

November 2007

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Hamit Bozarslan, Some Remarks on Mass Murders, Social Darwinism and Mysticism in the 20th Century, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, [online], published on 4 November 2007, accessed 23 September 2014, URL : http://www.massviolence.org/Some-Remarks-on-Mass-Murders-Social-Darwinism-and-Mysticism, ISSN 1961-9898

 Criminalization of Political Opposition

Ethnic and religious groups are not the only ones to have been transformed into enemies through the use of biological categories. In some cases, social and political groups are also apprehended in ethnic, or even in racial terms. In the 19th century, the legal-anthropological school of Cesare Lombroso popularized the idea of biological differences among human beings. According to Lombroso, these differences meant that some human beings were predestined to lives of criminality and prostitution (Chevalier, 1958; Wagniart, 1999). As Enzo Traverso suggested, at the end of the 19th century, in many parts of Europe the “lower classes” were considered “inferior races” (Traverso, 2003:119-131). Although these constructions were biologically founded, they were not conceived in order to destroy the groups designated as enemies of a given social order.

The definition of some political and social groups as social and biological enemies and threats to be exterminated en masse, only occurred after the First World War, and in the framework of revolutionary experiments. A collection of quotations of Lenin, analyzed by Wladimir Berelovitch, indicates that the leader of the Soviet revolution saw no difference between political opponents and biological threats (Zarzoubrine, 1990). Zarzoubine’s impressive novel, The Tchekist (Zarzoubrine, 1990), showed that as early as the beginning of the 1920s, political enemies – and particularly “traitors” – were seen as a quasi-ethnic group and as such, they were designated for destruction. In the 1930s, the Kulaks, who had been massively exterminated, were virtually defined as an oppressive “ethnic-class.” Finally, in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, the families of political opponents and much more frequently, of individuals accused of being opponents, were also considered enemies, as Rithy Panh’s documentary film S-21 demonstrates.

Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence® - ISSN 1961-9898