How many follies can a man pursue before he can no longer be further enticed into pursuing them?
The bearers of middle-class philosophy, who took up their stand as critics of capitalism in the working-class movement at the time when that movement was still in the stage merely of a critical attitude towards capitalism, and who brought in with them a peculiarly lower middle-class outlook, feel disillusioned when the era of decisive battle arrives. Their supremacy in the realm of ideas can continue no longer; while it is beyond their powers to free themselves from the lower middle-class-world-concept.
This is what Marx says in his “Eighteenth Brumaire,” in which he gives a masterly analysis of this lower middle-class outlook, on the subject of these “representatives” of the Labour movement — or, to speak more correctly, of these leeches which have attached themselves to it:
“By their upbringing and individual position, the former can be as far apart from the latter as heaven and earth. What makes them the spokesmen of the lower middle class is the fact that their thoughts do not leave the path in which the latter’s whole life moves, and that therefore they come, by a theoretical road, to the same problems and solutions as the lower middle class reaches in actual life. Such, in general, is the relation between the political and literary representatives of a class and the class itself.”
Marx was merciless in dealing with this kind of poisoners of proletarian class-consciousness. The whole Labour movement ought to be the same. With the weapons of ridicule and hatred he fought against the “heroes” of the French social democracy of the time — the political movement which represented an unlawful union between the lower middle class and the proletariat.
He wished to separate the Labour movement from all lower middle class elements, because the lower middle class attitude — attachment to the idea of private property, more or less open striving to uphold credit, terror of every fundamental social disturbance — is in practice the greatest internal enemy of the proletariat and the proletarian revolution.
– Bela Kun, “Marx and the Middle Classes”
The Soviet Union made extensive use of the term (Russian language: враг народа, “vrag naroda”), as it fitted 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.”
Other similar terms were in use as well:
- enemy of the labourers (враг трудящихся, vrag trudyashchikhsya)
- enemy of the proletariat (враг пролетариата, vrag proletariata)
- class enemy (классовый враг, klassovyi vrag), etc.
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 (вредители, “vrediteli”), “social parasites” (тунеядцы, “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, Belarusian, Armenian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian nationalists, Zionists, Basmachi).
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 (лишенцы, derived from Russian word лишение, 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.
A Christening Post