The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing

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We publish at least two new interviews per week. Five Books participates in the Amazon Associate program and earns money from qualifying purchases. Support Us. Book Reviews on Although they had lived in the territory for hundreds of years, spoke the same language, and shared the same civilisation and religion, the Tutsi were regarded as foreigners and invaders.

This perverted interpretation of what democracy really means is crucial to our understanding of the horrors of the twentieth century. In a sense this misapprehension reminds one of the tragic misunderstand- ing after World War I regarding the principle of self-determination. While Woodrow Wilson and Lloyd George thought of national self-determination as self-government and democracy, in Central and Eastern Europe the nation- alists understood the principle to be national self-determination, the rule of Poles by Poles, Germans by Germans, Hungarians by Hungarians, Ruma- nians by Rumanians Neuberger This misperception led to the establishment of nationalist dictatorships and the persecution of minorities ending in large-scale genocide during World War II and ethnic cleansing thereafter.

I fully agree with Mann that democratisation may lead to violence and murderous ethnic cleansing. Democratisation is a process of transition from dictatorship to democracy — not a rooted, stable and institutionalised democracy, however. In this sense, it would have been more accurate to speak of the dark side of democratisation, and not of the dark side of democracy.

In the early stages of democratisation there may be a tendency for political leaders to mobilise the ethnos, the religious community, the upper-class or the under-class in order to remain in power or to achieve power. Such mobilisa- tion often degenerates into incitement against scapegoats. In a recently published book Jack Snyder cogently exposes the danger of incitement to violence when a regime that lacks a genuine democratic ethos feels threatened by internal or external forces to democratise.

Snyder emphasises manipulation by the elites, while Mann stresses what he sees as the sponta- neous revolt of the masses. Both, however, agree that democratisation is not without its dangers. Opposition parties had been established, and there was a strong possibility that in free elections the mainly Hutu opposition parties MRD, PL, PSD, PDC would join forces with the mainly Tutsi Rwanda Patriotic Front RPF , which had waged a guerilla war against the government since October and intended to join the political process as a party once a peace accord was signed.

The Arusha Accord of August , arbitrated between the moderate wing of the Rwandan government especially those ministers belonging to the former opposition parties and the RPF, made this threat even more imminent. The second stage, a full-scale genocide that started on 10 April , targeted all the Tutsi. There is no doubt that the connection between democratisation and genocide can be established in the Rwandan case. In other cases of genocide — the Jewish Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the Cambodian mass-murder and the colonial cases of genocide — this connection does not exist in the same sense.

Indeed, in none of them were there opposition parties or impending elections. Such a connection is certainly possible, if not in reality then at least in the racist imagination of the perpetrators. The situation is different in the colonial cases, where even the perpetrators did not regard the American Indians, Aborigines or the Herero as well-to-do. The Armenians in the r The authors Even the Tutsi, who ruled Rwanda in pre-colonial times and ruled indirectly in the German and Belgian colonial era, were deprived of power in , after independence.

In the years preceding the genocide, Rwanda was a country with a declining agricultural production, export and per capita GNP, and suffering from rising poverty, population density and hunger. It is certainly true that the Lumpenproletariat was well represented in the murderous militias. In this sense the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi militias were very different from the elitist SS. The RPF wanted an end to oppression, genuine equality, the right of return of hundreds of thousands of Tutsi refugees from Uganda and Tanzania, and real democracy.

There was an ethnic economy too. In my view ideology was extremely important in the Rwandan genocide. In the colonial period a race theory about the superiority of the Tutsi and the inferiority of the Hutu reigned supreme. In the s Hutu intellectuals turned it upside down.

Hutu inferiority became Hutu supremacy. They were more and more often called inyenzi, cockroaches.

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Racist ideology was critical in Rwanda. The same ideology created a population that was willing to follow its leaders and implement the horrendous genocide. The Jewish Holocaust cannot be understood independently of Nazi race theory, and the same is true for the colonial genocides.

It is true that economic interests often mix with racist ideology as in the colonial genocides a result of the struggle for land , the Holocaust as recently demonstrated by Aly , and Rwanda. I have serious doubts about the validity of this thesis. I think the crucial question is a wholly different one: whether the genocide was planned and organised, or whether it was a spontaneous popular outburst. I would argue that all the major genocides in the twentieth century were planned, organised and intended, and were not the result of an uncontrolled outburst of rage.

This was certainly the case in Rwanda, and it is simply not true that there was no plan for genocide before 7 April Almost all evidence points to the fact that the leading perpetrators had engineered the opportunity since they were not taken by surprise. The threat of a Tutsi onslaught after the plane of President Habyarimana was shot down on 6 April was a manufactured threat, a threat propagated by the racist Hutu rulers in order to incite the Hutu masses to slaughter the Tutsi.

Finally, I would like to draw attention to a serious terminological problem. He intermittently uses a r The authors If the book is mainly about genocide, why not stick to this term? Reply by Michael Mann I thank the commentators for both their praise and their criticism.

Main content The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing ( ): Michael Mann: Books. Ethnic cleansing is typically seen as the work of primitive evildoers operating outside of modernity. In this important and provocative book, the distinguished.

Some criticisms are correct, some are half-correct, some are false, some are based on misinterpretation, some repeat what I myself say in the book. But since this is a big book which says many controversial things about a big and disturbing topic, I invite more criticism than most. First, my subject matter.

Oppo Research, The Dark Side of Democracy

And within this group I focus most but not exclusively on genocide, the most notorious. But I also use early historical cases and those of contemporary India and Indonesia as examples of lesser violence and cleansing, for better comparative analysis. I have also gone where the literature is.

The case I do regret not having included is modern Israel, one of the most recent settler cases, which I would categorise about half-way down my Table 1. However, the book is perhaps long enough already.

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My most controversial arguments concern democracy. I say that murder- ous ethnic cleansing occurs more amid democratisation than in either institutionalised democratic or authoritarian states. So Neuberger has a point when he says it would have been better to talk about the dark side of democratisation — except for the colonial cases. I ought to emphasise that my analysis here is very concrete. With the exception of most Nazis, Milosevic, and a few others, the leaders eventually perpetrating murderous cleansing including most of the foreign collaborators of the Nazis started off with broadly democratic goals.

Breuilly notes that General von Trotha in South-West Africa and the Russian generals in the Caucasus do not conform to this generalisation. In the book I admit this and add an ad hoc clause that the ruthlessless of modern militarism amid total national war may also be a contributory factor.

Mann, Michael

The world is always more complicated than our theories, and there are exceptions. Naturally, since murderous ethnic cleansing is fairly uncommon even in the modern period, we need more explanatory factors than merely democratic aspirations. I will not go through them.

But there are misunderstandings about the second thesis.

The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing

This says that sentiments of ethnicity must predominate over, yet re-channel those of class, for ethnic cleansing. This is not a mere tautology, since class consciousness is re- channeled into consciousness of ethnic economic exploitation by one side, paralleled by a claim to civilisational superiority on the other Hutus claimed they were exploited; Tutsis that they stood for civilisation and progress.

Tutsis used to argue thus, though obviously not by the s. The last argument was a bit of a stretch, but I go to considerable lengths to say why it had some minimal plausibility — which is all that counts in social life. Nor am I r The authors But his criticisms are couched at a very general level. In what way would they falsify my arguments? However, I do defer to his superior knowledge of federal Yugoslavia. I total up the dead. Like riots or strikes, it had elements of both, but as a developing process.

The more important question is exactly when killing on various scales became planned. They committed atrocities too.

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In most cases the perpetrators lie to protect their own lives, while most potential witnesses have died, and the survivors and descendants have needs greater than the canons of social science. I do accept that many of the issues on which I pronounce remain debatable, and I hope only that my book has contributed to this debate — and to the possibility that we may avert more terrible tragedies as ethnic cleansing passes through the modern world.

Notes 1 Naimark highlights the use of one international process, the exchange of population between Turkey and Greece in the s, as a precedent for the removal of minorities that had once r The authors Fink argues that for a long while population exchange and minority protection were regarded as equally legitimate, competing policies.