HomeDocuments on SitePersonalDemocratic PeaceDemocide20th C. DemocideMegamurderersLesser MurderersWhy DemocideDimensionsConflictMethodsTheoryPolicyLinks PHOTOS OF DEMOCIDEGalleries

August 28, 2003


Democide (genocide and mass murder) has many aspects to it of which people on this list are well aware. But one that I find continues to shock colleagues and students is that some governments murdered people by quota.

What sparked this commentary was my reading that in 2001 the Chinese communist regime ordered a county to do 20,000 abortions and sterilizations before year-end. Now, in spite of the many emails I have received arguing that we should extend the meaning of democide to include abortion, I do not. What is noteworthy about this order to me is the treatment of women as numbers.

This is a routine operation of a political system that applies quotas to all aspects of production, including murder. This democide by quota--doing something to people by the numbers, regardless of whom and what they are--is to my knowledge uniquely totalitarian. To some, these quotas exceed even the horror of the Holocaust, and do so in this sense: Jews were murdered because of who they were-Jews. Similarly, Armenians, Bengalis, Hutu, Tutsi, kulaks, etc., etc., were wiped out as Armenians, Bengalis, and so on. This is dehumanizing enough; to be murdered because of a group attribute, and not one's individuality. But then to be murdered at random, not because of an attribute, group or otherwise, but because one happens to be a random number....

To my knowledge, the three regimes that murdered by the number were the Soviet Union under Stalin, China under Mao, and Vietnam under Ho. I suspect Tito and Kim Il-sung's regimes of doing the same, but I don't have direct evidence.

The Nazis also had a quota system, but not as a purification or decontamination campaign, but as a technique of deterrence. In some occupied countries, the murder of a German soldier or civilian, or sabotage by partisans, would call for (as announced to the country) the murder of 50 or 100 nationals picked at random. Other political systems or armies as well may have deterred by murder, but off hand I don't recall any.

As a political scientist, I have to say that here is an area-- government murder by quota--that political scientists and genocide scholars have totally ignored. Economists have written about pig, iron, steel, wheat, oil, and so on, production by quota (but never deaths by quota). Political scientists have no concept for deaths by quota, and I could find no publication by a political scientist in which this is even mentioned. Nor do I remember (as imperfect as it is) finding murder by quotas mentioned in books on genocide, where genocide is understood comprehensively to mean what I call democide. If in fact there are such publications, I hope that someone reading this will email me the reference.

Contact E-mail: click

You are the visitor.

Return to commentary page.