Enemy of the people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the Henrik Ibsen play, see An Enemy of the People. For a person accused of crimes against the state, see Enemy of the state.
"Enemies of the people" redirects here. For the Daily Mail headline, see Enemies of the People. For the 2009 documentary film, see Enemies of the People (film).
"Class enemy" redirects here. For the Bosnian play, see Class Enemy. For the Slovenian film, see Class Enemy (film).

The term enemy of the people is a fluid designation of political or class opponents of the group using the term. The term implies that the "enemies" in question are acting against society as a whole. It is similar to the notion of "enemy of the state". The term originated in Roman times as Latin: hostis publicus, typically translated into English as the "public enemy". The term in its "enemy of the people" form has been used for centuries in literature (An Enemy of the People, the play by Henrik Ibsen, 1882). Currently this form is mostly used as a reference to Soviet phraseology.[1]

Origins of the expression[edit]

The expression dates back to Roman times.[2] The Senate declared emperor Nero a hostis publicus in AD 68.[3]

The words ennemi du peuple were extensively used during the French revolution. On 25 December 1793 Robespierre stated: "The revolutionary government owes to the good citizen all the protection of the nation; it owes nothing to the Enemies of the People but death".[4]

Soviet Union[edit]

The Soviet Union made extensive use of the term (Russian language: враг народа, "vrag naroda"), as it fit 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.[5]

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.

In particular, the term "enemy of the workers" was formalized in the Article 58 (RSFSR Penal Code),[6] and similar articles in the codes of the other Soviet Republics.

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).[7]

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.

The term returned to the public discourse in late 2000's with a number of nationalist and pro-government politicians (most notably Ramzan Kadyrov) called for restoration of the Soviet approach to the "enemies of the people" defined as all non-system opposition.[8][9][10]

United States of America[edit]

On February 17, 2017 President Donald Trump said on Twitter, "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!" Trump declared these news organizations "fake news" and an enemy of the people.[11] [12]

For the 1930's term used to describe criminals in the United States see Public enemy.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ . Benedikt Sarnov,Our Soviet Newspeak: A Short Encyclopedia of Real Socialism., Moscow: 2002, ISBN 5-85646-059-6 (Наш советский новояз. Маленькая энциклопедия реального социализма.)
  2. ^ see also Paul Jal (1963): Hostis (publicus) dans la littérature latine de la fin de la République, footnotes 1 and 2
  3. ^ Albino Garzetti (2014): From Tiberius to the Antonines: A History of the Roman Empire AD 14-192, p. 220 (online)
  4. ^ Le but du gouvernement constitutionnel est de conserver la République ; celui du gouvernement révolutionnaire est de la fonder. […] Le gouvernement révolutionnaire doit au bon citoyen toute la protection nationale ; il ne doit aux Ennemis du Peuple que la mort. (speech at the National Convention, source)
  5. ^ Nicolas Werth, Karel Bartošek, Jean-Louis Panné, Jean-Louis Margolin, Andrzej Paczkowski, Stéphane Courtois, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, Harvard University Press, 1999, hardcover, 858 pages, ISBN 0-674-07608-7
  6. ^ Article 58, an excerpt online
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "Опубликован шорт-лист претендентов на звание "враг народа в левом движении"". 2006. Retrieved January 13, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Кадыров призвал относиться к внесистемной оппозиции как к врагам народа". 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2016. 
  10. ^ "На площадке путинского "Народного фронта" предложили вернуть в употребление статус "враг народа"". 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Donald J. Trump on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2017-02-18. 
  12. ^ Trump called the news media an ‘enemy of the American People.’ Here’s a history of the term. By Amanda Erickson February 18, 2017

Further reading[edit]