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From TLD 18, September 1997.

Editor's note


Guardians against thoughtcrime:
Dictionary dictators



The delivery system of ideas that the Permanent Regime has at its disposal consists of many conveyor belts. In future issues of TLD, I will be discussing a very small belt, which yet does a lot more work than its size, or even description, would at first suggest. I begin the series by adverting to Strakon's discussion of Hitler/Stalin comparisons in the previous issue of The Last Ditch (pp. 16-17), and I take as my text The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Third Edition) (hereafter AHD). [1]

One does not normally use dictionaries as history texts, but most large dictionaries and their derivative desk editions contain some biographical information, which by and large is very useful when one needs just to check a spelling or a date. However, their entries cannot help but reflect and influence — and most important, reinforce — habits of thought.

In this installment, I am highlighting entries from AHD for a number of 20th-century personalities. The entries are complete except for the names of famous children (e.g., Jean-Claude Duvalier at François Duvalier), pronunciations, alternate spellings, and grammatical variants (e.g., adjectives such as "Stalinist"):

Hitler, Adolf. Known as "Der Führer." 1889-1945. Austrian-born founder of the German Nazi Party and chancellor of the Third Reich (1933-1945). His fascist philosophy, embodied in Mein Kampf (1925-1927), attracted widespread support, and after 1934 he ruled as an absolute dictator. Hitler's aggressive nationalist policies resulted in the invasion of Poland (1939) and the outbreak of World War II. His regime was infamous for the extermination of millions of people, especially European Jews. He committed suicide when the collapse of the Third Reich was imminent (1945).

Stalin, Joseph. Originally Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. 1879-1953. Soviet politician. The successor of Lenin, he was general secretary of the Communist Party (1922-1953) and premier (1941-1953) of the U.S.S.R. His rule was marked by the exile of Trotsky (1929), a purge of the government and military, the forced collectivization of agriculture, a policy of industrialization, and a victorious but devastating role for the Soviets in World War II.

One notes immediately that Hitler is explicitly associated with murder, while Stalin is explicitly associated with nothing more objectionable than exiling Trotsky. (In the entry for Trotsky, we can learn that he was murdered in Mexico, but the murder is not attributed to Stalin in any way. For all the entry lets on, he could have been shot while cheating at poker.) And note that "forced collectivization" does not suggest the deaths of millions of farmers; one must learn of those deaths from some other source.

Similarly, Stalin is not associated with the invasion of Poland though it was a direct consequence of his Non-Aggression Pact with Hitler, and his own invasion of Poland is not mentioned. His "aggressive" policies enslaving nearly a dozen Christian nations of Europe are not mentioned. Also not mentioned is the fact that he was an ally of the United State.

There is yet another curious discrepancy between the two entries. Let it emerge from comparisons with other listings from AHD, arranged alphabetically by entry:

Amin Dada, Idi. Born c. 1925. Ugandan dictator (1971-1979) whose brutal and repressive regime ended when he fled the country after being deposed in a coup d'état.

Castro, Fidel. Born 1927. Cuban revolutionary leader who overthrew the corrupt regime of the dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and established a socialist state.

Ceausescu, Nicolae. 1918-1989. Romanian politician who was the absolute ruler after 1965. His regime was overthrown in December 1989, and Ceausescu was executed for crimes against the state.

Deng Xiao-ping. Born 1904. Chinese Communist leader who was twice purged from the Communist Party (1967 and 1976) and twice rehabilitated (1973 and 1977) before gaining supreme power in China. He officially retired as head of state in November 1989.

Duvalier, François. Known as "Papa Doc." 1907-1971. Haitian dictator. Elected president in 1957, he declared himself president for life in 1964 and ruled in an authoritarian manner until his death.

Franco, Francisco. Known as "El Caudillo." 1892-1975. Spanish soldier and political leader who directed the Nationalist government and rebel armed forces that defeated the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). He ruled as dictator (1939-1975) until his death.

Ho Chi Minh. 1890-1969. Vietnamese leader and first president of North Vietnam (1954-1969). His army was victorious in the French Indochina War (1946-1954), and he later led North Vietnam's struggle to defeat the U.S.-supported government in South Vietnam.

Lenin, Vladimir Ilich. Known as "Nikolai Lenin." 1870-1924. Russian founder of the Bolsheviks, leader of the Russian Revolution (1917), and first head of the U.S.S.R. (1917-1924). [2]

Mao Zedong. 1893-1976. Chinese Communist leader and theorist. A founder of the Chinese Communist Party (1921), he led the Long March (1934-1935) and proclaimed the People's Republic of China in 1949. As party chairman and the country's first head of state (1949-1959) he initiated the Great Leap Forward and the founding of communes. He continued as party chairman after 1959 and was a leading figure in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1969).

Marcos, Ferdinand Edralin. 1917-1989. Philippine president (1965-1986) who maintained close ties with the United States and exercised dictatorial control over his country. After a fraudulent presidential election against Corazon Aquino (1986) he fled the Philippines with his wife, Imelda (born 1930).

Mussolini, Benito. Known as "Il Duce." 1883-1945. Italian Fascist dictator and prime minister (1922-1943) who conducted an expansionist foreign policy, formalized an alliance with Germany (1939), and brought Italy into World War II (1940). Dismissed by Victor Emmanuel III (1943), he led a puppet Nazi government in northern Italy until 1945, when he was assassinated.

Pol Pot. Born 1928. Cambodian political leader whose Khmer Rouge movement overthrew the Cambodian government in 1975. He fled the capital in 1979 when Vietnamese forces overthrew his government.

Tito, Marshal. Originally Josip Broz. 1892-1980. Yugoslavian politician who led the resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II, established independence from the U.S.S.R. (1948), and as president (1953-1980) pursued a national Communism that stressed neutrality in foreign affairs.

Tojo Hideki. Originally Tojo Eiki. 1884-1948. Japanese army officer and politician who ruled as dictator (1941-1944) during World War II and was executed as a war criminal.

Ulbricht, Walter. 1893-1973. German politician who was general secretary of East Germany's Socialist Unity Party (1953-1971) and chairman of the council of state (1960-1973). He ordered the building of the Berlin Wall (1961).

I have listed some of the most infamous mass murderers and tyrants (outside the United State) of this woeful century. I do not claim the list is complete, but it is certainly instructive: not one of these criminals is charged with a single death except Hitler. More astonishingly, there is not one Communist "dictator" in the lot: no Communist is identified as a dictator. They are "politician," "leader," "theorist," at worst, "absolute ruler."

To be sure, there are non-Communists whom AHD does not identify as dictators — Chiang Kai-shek and Juan Peron, for example — but the fact that none of the most notorious Communist tyrants — not one! — is identified as a dictator is nothing short of breathtaking. One almost expects to look up the entry "dictator" and find "non-Communist" as part of the definition.

Am I being oversuspicious to think that this pattern represents pro-Communist sentiments or premises inflexibly guiding the preparation of the AHD? Might there be a Communist identified as a dictator whom I have missed? Can it be that those named as dictators were more ruthless or tyrannical or absolute in their rule than the Communists? Let a final entry undergird my answer that there is almost certainly nothing accidental about the pattern I have noticed:

Cromwell, Oliver. 1599-1658. English military, political, and religious figure who led the Parliamentarian victory in the English Civil War (1642-1649) and called for the execution of Charles I. As lord protector of England (1653-1658) he ruled as a virtual dictator.

Posted June 4, 2002.


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