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Enemy of the people

The term enemy of the people is a fluid designation of political or class opponents of the group using the term. The term implies that the "enemies" in question are acting against society as a whole. It is similar to the notion of "enemy of the state". The term originated in Roman times as , typically translated into English as the "public enemy". The term in its "enemy of the people" form has been used for centuries in literature ("An Enemy of the People", the play by Henrik Ibsen, 1882). Currently this form is mostly used as a reference to Soviet phraseology.[1]

Contents


Origins of the expression

The expression dates back to Roman times; the Senate declared emperor Nero a hostis publicus in AD 68.

The words ennemi du peuple were extensively used during the French revolution. On 25 December 1793 Robespierre stated: "The revolutionary government owes to the good citizen all the protection of the nation; it owes nothing to the Enemies of the People but death".

Soviet Union

The Soviet Union made extensive use of the term (Russian language: , "vrag naroda"), as it fit in well with the idea that the people were in control. The term was used by Vladimir Lenin after coming to power as early as in the decree of 28 November 1917:

"all leaders of the Constitutional Democratic Party, a party filled with enemies of the people, are hereby to be considered outlaws, and are to be arrested immediately and brought before the revolutionary court."[2]

Other similar terms were in use as well:

  • enemy of the labourers ( , "vrag trudyashchikhsya")
  • enemy of the proletariat ( , "vrag proletariata")
  • class enemy ( , "klassovyi vrag"), etc.

In particular, the term "enemy of the workers" was formalized in the Article 58 (RSFSR Penal Code),[3] and similar articles in the codes of the other Soviet Republics.

At various times these terms were applied, in particular, to Tsar Nicholas II and the Imperial family, aristocrats, the bourgeoisie, clerics, business entrepreneurs, anarchists, kulaks, monarchists, Mensheviks, Esers, Bundists, Trotskyists, Bukharinists, the "old Bolsheviks", the army and police, emigrants, saboteurs, wreckers ( , "vrediteli"), "social parasites" ( , "tuneyadtsy"), Kavezhedists (people who administered and serviced the KVZhD (China Far East Railway), particularly the Russian population of Harbin, China), those considered bourgeois nationalists (notably Russian, Ukrainian, Belarussian, Armenian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian nationalists, Zionists, Basmachi).[4]

An enemy of the people could be imprisoned, expelled or executed, and lose their property to confiscation. Close relatives of enemies of the people were labeled as "traitor of Motherland family members" and prosecuted. They could be sent to Gulag, punished by the involuntary settlement in unpopulated areas, or stripped of citizen's rights. Being a friend of an enemy of the people automatically placed the person under suspicion.

A significant fraction of the enemies of the people were given this label not because of their hostile actions against the workers' and peasants' state, but simply because of their social origin or profession before the revolution: those who used hired labor, high-ranking clergy, former policemen, merchants, etc. Some of them were commonly known as lishentsy ( , derived from Russian word , deprivation), because by the Soviet Constitution they were deprived of the right of voting. This automatically translated into a deprivation of various social benefits; some of them, e.g., rationing, were at times critical for survival.

Since 1927, Article 20 of the Common Part of the penal code that listed possible "measures of social defence" had the following item 20a: "declaration to be an enemy of the workers with deprivation of the union republic citizenship and hence of the USSR citizenship, with obligatory expulsion from its territory". Nevertheless most "enemies of the people" suffered labor camps, rather than expulsion.

Public enemies outside of the USSR

See also

Non communist:

  • Ostracism
  • Persona non grata

References

  1. . Benedikt Sarnov,Our Soviet Newspeak: A Short Encyclopedia of Real Socialism., Moscow: 2002, ISBN 5-85646-059-6 ( . .)
  2. Nicolas Werth, Karel Barto ek, Jean-Louis Pann , Jean-Louis Margolin, Andrzej Paczkowski, St phane Courtois, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, Harvard University Press, 1999, hardcover, 858 pages, ISBN 0-674-07608-7
  3. Article 58, an excerpt online
  4. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1929rysakov1&SubjectID=1929sovietization&Year=1929

Further reading

Nicolas Werth, Karel Barto ek, Jean-Louis Pann , Jean-Louis Margolin, Andrzej Paczkowski, St phane Courtois, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, Harvard University Press, 1999, hardcover, 858 pages, ISBN 0-674-07608-7

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