Truth about Pol Pot and Maoism
* Pol Pot did not execute 2 or 3 million people.
* The U.S. Indochina war did kill 10 million Asians and left millions more homeless and starving.
One of the worse slanders by anti-communists against Maoism is that Pol Pot was a Maoist and a communist. This simply wasn’t true to any degree. Since the vast majority don’t know anything about Pol Pot, Maoism or communism, they simply believe any bad thing they’re told, no matter how ridiculous or hypocritical. The fact is Pol Pot was not a Maoist. Its just more propaganda by the ruling class to equate Mao and communism with genocide while ignoring its own history of actual genocide surpassing anything in history.
Pol Pot was the leader of the Khmer Rouge which came to power by defeating a US-backed right-wing regime. They called themselves communist, although its difficult to find any policies that actually could be considered communist. The country has also suffered from US imperialism for a long time. Which means its difficult (and necessary) to separate the truth about what happened in Cambodia from anti-communist and pro-imperialist propaganda.
In 1975 about 10% of the population in Cambodia, about 600,000 had already died as a result of US actions during the Vietnam War (1). The US invaded Cambodia several times looking for Vietcong bases of operation. This “searching” in practise was a steady bombing campaign of the Cambodian countryside.
It was US President Richard Nixon who ordered the bombings and then lied about it, turning the tide of public opinion of the war around against it. Hypocritically, most of the people who complained about Pol Pot supported the bombings of Cambodia.
The US bombing not only killed 2 or 3 million people, but it also created abut 2 million refugees who fled the country side and went into the cities. As the US was destroying the Cambodian countryside the country became dependent on U.S. food aid. Even this was horribly mismanaged because of the inefficiency of the right-wing Lon Nol regime.
What this means that when the Khmer Rouge came into power during the worst possible condition: Mass starvation. Cambodia was poorest country in the world and one-third of the population were refugees.
In the mass starvation that was taking place, it was absolutely necessary to get food production going again as fast as possible. If it didn’t then possibly the entire country could have gone through an even greater famine killing millions. In this emergency situation Pol Pot order people Phnom Penh and move to the countryside in order to begin farming again. The country’s economy was absolutely crushed and unable to function (2).
The anti-communists whine that this was fascism, forcing people to farm was terrible. They don’t have a problem with a right-wing anti-communist pro-capitalist regime killing millions in the country causing that starvation. Pol Pot did the only thing he could have done to stop the starvation from getting worse. Anti-communists don’t mind killing millions, but get angry if someone who might appear to be communist tries to clean up the mess.
On a side note, this in ability of anti-communists to fail to understand that people need to eat is a recurring theme. After the shortage of grain due to weather conditions, pro-market farmers in the Soviet Union had deliberately withheld grain in order to inflate the price. As people were going hungry these farmers sought to make even more money by making more people hungry. Stalin responded by collectivizing these farms to get food production going again. Anti-communists think Stalin is bad guy for trying to minimize this suffering. Farms were collectivized because people need to eat.
After the atrocities of Pol Pot, actually communist Vietnam invaded to bring this nightmare to an end. The US was unable to do so, (even if if they did care,) because all their resources were drained from trying to prevent the people of Vietnam from deciding what type of society they wanted.
To deal with the body count of those killed one would assume from the anti-communist view of reality that pol Pot went around killing 2 or 3 million people for no reason. In actuality 75,000 to 150,000 were killed, most of whom were urban dwellers. Many upper class or intellectuals between 1975 and 1979.
This massive 2 or 3 million figure is a direct result of all deaths from 1975 to 1979, based on estimates of the population. In actuality a Finnish inquiry determined that 1 million or fewer people actually died in the Pol Pot regime. Several thousand of those were a the result of the clashes with the Vietnamese military.
Another famine started after the invasion by Vietnam, however international aid was already too late. By then 2 million or 30% of the population had died as a result of US bombings, Pol Pot regime and the Vietnamese invasion combined.
Here are some important facts:
* Pol Pot was not a Maoist he was an opportunist.
* Pol Pot never called himself a Maoist while Mao was alive.
* Mao never called Pol Pot a Maoist.
* Pol Pot never supported the Gang of Four, Mao’s successors, and in fact called them “counterrevolutionary.”
There was of course a relationship between China and the Khmer Rouge. China supported many Asian countries struggle for self-determination and reconstruction, never at any time calling the communist parties in those countries Maoist. This includes Vietnam. It is to be noted that China gave aid to them and others who did not even claim to be communist, including some countries in Africa.
The fact is, Pol Pot didn’t call himself a Maoist until after Mao had died. Pol Pot had always declared that he didn’t follow anyone until Hua Guofeng took power in China away from the Gang of Four. It was only then that he started calling himself a Maoist. It’s important to note that it was Hua Guofeng who had the Gang of Four arrested along with Mao’s wife. The Gang of Four were supposed to be Mao’s successors.
Its also important to note that it was Hua Guofeng who brought Deng Xiaoping to power.
Really Pol Pot was calling himself a Maoist while he supported the arrest of the Gang of Four and Mao’s wife. At no point could he ever have been considered a Maoist.
Pol pot was denouncing Deng Xiaoping as counterrevolutionary 1977 as the Gang of Four were set to become the new leaders. However once Deng Xiaoping came into power he started praising him. After that there was no mention of Maoism ever again. Pol Pot was an opportunist who supported whoever was in power, especially around the end when he needed military aid and sanctuary from China when dealing with Vietnam.
To say that Pol Pot was a Maoist is an absolute lie. Pol Pot did choose a few Maoist policies, but also chose many that were not. Pol Pot also had a few theories that resembled Mao’s, but any Third World revolutionary sounded exactly the same Pol Pot.
This whole situation with Cambodia and Pol Pot is massively distorted and outright lied about by anti-communists, the same people who take Nazi crimes and try to blame Stalin for them. The same people who don’t understand that people need to eat.
(1) Kimmo Kiljunen, ed., Kampuchea: Decade of the Genocide: Report of a Finnish Inquiry Commission (London: Zed Books, 1984), 5.
(2) See for example, G. Hildebrand and G. Porter, Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution. New York: Monthly Review, 1976.