Communist terrorism

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Communist terrorism is the term used to describe terrorist actions committed by groups who subscribe to a Marxist/Leninist or Maoist ideology and who use terrorism in their attempts to overthrow an existing political and economic system in an attempt at forced regime change. It is the hope of such groups that the use of violence will inspire the masses to raise up in revolution. [1][2] In recent years, there has been a marked decrease in such terrorism, which has been substantially credited to the end of the Cold War and the fall of the U.S.S.R.[3] However, at its apogee, communism was argued by some to be the major source of international terrorism (whether inspired by the ideology or supported by its states).[4] These groups, which Dennis Pluchinsky states found their ideological guide in Marxism- Leninism and the 13 principles he has identified which believes form the core of their ideology are.

  • 1. The world is viewed through “dialectical materialism,” the Marxist-Leninist approach to the analysis of history.
  • 2. Capitalism is the root cause of all the problems of the proletariat.
  • 3. Capitalism can only be displaced by force.
  • 4. The proletariat does not currently possess the necessary revolutionary consciousness to carry out the violent overthrow of the capitalist system.
  • 5. The traditional communist parties have forfeited their right to represent the proletariat.
  • 6. The fighting communist organizations are forced to fill the revolutionary void of traditional communist parties.
  • 7. In order to survive its present crisis, capitalism must resort to industrial “restructuring.”
  • 8. Imperialism is also in crisis.
  • 9. Western Europe serves as the “imperialist center” that is composed of a “chain of states,” manufactured by the United States.
  • 10. The latent fascist tendencies of the capitalist, imperialist state must be exposed to the proletariat.
  • 11. The revolutionary war against imperialism will be a long, protracted armed struggle.
  • 12. The revolutionary armed struggle consists of two phases. The first phase would armed propaganda phase, with three components: a revolutionary strategy, communist organization, and initiation of armed combat. The second and final the revolutionary civil war. The “armed propaganda” phase reflects the anarchist propaganda by the deed” concept.
  • 13. The next revolutionary stage for an FCO is the "fighting Communist party."[5]

The term has also been used to describe actions by governments which adhere to a communist ideology, such as the Soviet Union[6], the Peoples Republic of China[7], North Korea[8] and the actions of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia[9].


In 1917 after the Russian Revolution one of the main features of the new communist regime was the use of terrorism to subdue the populace, the use of terrorism has been described as "evident in the regimes very origins" by historian Anna Geifman. Historian W. J. Stankiewicz has also stated

"The USSR’s resort to terrorism signalized an abandonment of the long-standing fiction that Communism is part of the movement of ‘history’; that in order to win, it does not need any special measures. When terrorism is defined as ‘active measures’ that can and ‘ought’ to be part of the policy of a Communist State, we see a shift to a frank acceptance by Communist ideologues that their system is based on power not reason or the forces of

Vladimir Lenin stated that his “Jacobian party would never reject terror, nor could it do so", and that they used the Jacobian Reign of Terror of 1793-1794 as a model for their own Red Terror.[11] Felix Dzerzhinsky founder of the Cheka used terrorist actions against all classes of people, though the peasants were heavily targeted due to their refusal to give excessive amounts of grain to the government. [12] Upon founding the New Economic Policy(NEP) Lenin stated, "It is a mistake to think the NEP has put an end to terrorism. We shall return to terrorism, and it will be an economic terrorism" One such result of this type of terrorism was the Holodomor, in which an estimated four to ten million people starved to death. [13]

Also described as an act of communist terrorism by historian Robert G. Moeller was the deaths of an estimated one million Prisoners of war at the hands of the Soviet regime. They had been used as slave labour and worked to death.[14]

In the 1940`s and 1950`s in various Southeast Asian countries such as Malaya, The Philippines and Vietnam communist parties began to conduct terrorist operations. the leaders of these groups saw the use of terrorism as a form of "agitation propaganda" which was an overall part of their long term strategy. In the 1960`s the Sino–Soviet split also lead to increased terrorism. Communist groups in Latin America and South Asia believing that the Soviet Union had abandoned the revolution. Such a group are the Naxalite terrorist organization in India, this Maoist organization believed the use of terrorism is a necessary part of revolution. [15]

In the late 1960`s in Europe, Japan and in both north and south America various terrorist communist organizations began operations. These groups which were named Fighting Communist Organizations (FCO) rose during the student union movement which was protesting against the Vietnam War and against the perceived exploitation of the Third World with the more militant minded splitting off to form the FCO. The founders of the FCO argued that it would take violence to achieve their idealistic goals and that legitimate protest was both ineffective and insufficient to attain them. [16][17] In the 1970`s there were an estimated 50 Marxist/Leninist groups operating in Turkey and an estimated 225 in Italy. Groups also began operations in Ireland and Great Britain.[18]

Communist Terrorism in the Soviet Union

The attacks on the Catholic church in the occupied eastern European nations have also been described as a terrorist act. [19]

Communist Terrorism in the Vietnam War

In the 1950`s communist terrorism was rife in South Vietnam with political leaders, provincial chiefs, teachers, nurses, doctors and members of the military being targeted. Between 1965 and 1972 terrorists had killed over thirty three thousand people and abducted a further fifty seven thousand. [20] In Saigon terrorist actions have been described as "long and murderous" The firing of automatic weapons, planting bombs and throwing grenades were the tactics used. The prime minister of the time Tran Van Huong was shot in an attempted assassination. [21]

Infant victim of Dak Son massacre
The Massacre at Huế has been described as one of the worst communist terrorist actions during the Vietnam War. [22] with some estimates saying up to 5000 dead. [23] The United States Army recorded as killed, "3800 killed in and around Huế, 2786 confirmed civilians massacred, 2226 civilians found in mass graves and 16 non Vietnamese civilians killed. [24] Some apologists have claimed the majority of deaths were caused by US bombing in the fight to retake the city, however the vast majority of dead were found in Mass Graves outside the city.[23]

Historian Douglas Pike has also described as a terrorist act the Dak Son Massacre. On December 6 1967 the Viet Cong used Flame throwers on civilians in the village of Dak Son killing 252 with the majority of those burnt alive being women and children.[25] In May, 1967 Dr. Tran Van-Luy informed the World Health Organisation "that over the previous 10 years Communist terrorists had destroyed 174 dispensaries, maternity homes and hospitals"[26]

Communist Terrorism in Malaya

Led by Chin Peng in 1947 a communist insurgency began in Malaya.[27] Within four months of the Federation of Malaya agreement being signed the Malayan communist party began terrorist attacks which lead to the assassination of British High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney in 1951.[28][29] These communist terrorist attacks reached their apex in 1951, although the attacks were described as a "wave of desperation".[30] In 1949 over seven hundred people died from terrorist actions, and during 1950/51 casualty's were running at an estimated 100 law enforcement officers and 90 non-combatants a month being killed.[31]

Communist Terrorism in the Philippines

The New People's Army terrorist group in the Philippines have conducted seventy-eight attacks on civilian targets between 1987 and 1992. After a ten year break they began operations again and have since conducted forty-two attacks between 2000 and 2006. [32]

Communist terrorism in Africa

In Rhodesia during the 1970`s terrorists operating in the country has received training in Russia, China, Cuba and Algeria. Both Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) based themselves in the Lusaka area in Zambia so as to be within striking distance of Rhodesia.[33]


  1. Bunker page 48
  2. Drake page 19
  3. David C. Wills page 219
  4. Brian Crozier page 203
  5. Jerrold M. Post page 102
  6. Chaliand page 197/202
  7. Chaliand page 197/202
  8. Chaliand page 197/202
  9. Clymer page 107
  10. W. J. Stankiewicz page 225
  11. Marcus C. Levitt page 152-153
  12. Richard W. Mansbach page 336
  13. David Schmidtz page 191
  14. Moeller page 33
  15. Leonard Weinberg page 14
  16. Drake page 102
  17. Sandler page 10
  18. Alexander page 51-52
  19. Zugger page 444
  20. Carol Winkler page 17
  21. Nghia M. Vo pages 28/29
  22. Michael Lee Lanning page 185
  23. 23.0 23.1 T. Louise Brown page 163
  24. Charles A. Krohn page 126
  25. Michael Lee Lanning page 185-186
  26. Rigal-Cellard page 229
  27. Randall D. Law page 189
  28. "Ineffectual Planters' Punch". Time (Time). 26 November, 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 3 December 2010. 
  29. Rahman, Tunku Abdul (July, 1965). "Malaysia: Key Area in Southeast Asia". Council on Foreign Relations (Council on Foreign Relations) 43 (4): 659–670. 
  30. Randall D. Law page 192
  31. Randall D. Law page 193
  32. Dan G. Cox page 97
  33. Windrich page 279


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