Politics, Philosophy, Polemics

Malcolm Caldwell: Defender of Pol Pot

In Cambodia on November 28, 2012 at 7:00 PM

The 20th Century was a genocidal century. Of all the genocides that took place, one that was particularly horrific was the one in Cambodia between April 1975 and January 1979 when the country came under the power of the Khmer Rouge. In less than four years, according to Craig Etcheson, an expert in the documentation of the Cambodian genocide, the best estimate for excess deaths is 2.2 million or about thirty percent of the population. The leader of the Khmer Rouge during this period, “Brother Number One,” was Pol Pot.

Malcolm Caldwell was a left-wing academic at School of Oriental and African Studies, a college of the University of London. During the period of time that the Khmer Rouge were massacring people, Malcolm Caldwell was both denying the accuracy of reports that said this was so and apologising for the regime. He is notorious as the leading academic defender of the Khmer Rouge in the West. At the end of 1978 Caldwell travelled to Cambodia and was murdered while there. In my opinion, the murderers were the very same Khmer Rouge who he had defended.

In 2009, I wrote an essay about Malcolm Caldwell. The title of the essay was “Malcolm Caldwell: Pol Pot’s Apologist,” and it was published in Democratiya, Issue 16, Spring-Summer 2009. I have made a copy of the essay available on line here.

  1. What I find amazing is revolutionary Puritanism almost on a par with something you might see in Iran. This aspect of communist past seems to get forgotten in this era. There is some irony of those indulging in drugs and sexual experimentation championing those who would have killed them for their behavior if done in a workers paradise.

    I am perplexed at who lost the script from Marx the sexual puritans or the libertines.

  2. Caldwell types are still out there today. Michael did you see this from Counterpunch??


  3. Andrew, thank you for your comment. Yes, I did see it, and, in fact, I posted on it last month. Having said that, I appreciate you mentioning it as if I hadn’t I would have wanted to see it. Shamir’s article is a travesty.

  4. I read the Shamir article and am floored. I understand the motivations behind Holocaust denial. They are sick but you grasp that you are typically dealing with a Nazi or deranged middle eastern conspiracy nut. When you are dealing with truthers it is most often far left types pushing Reishtag fire fantasies or some kind of antisemite.

    Most often responsible far lefties use the following arguments that can be dismantled quickly

    1) Pol Pot has nationalistic tendencies and as such can not be a Communist
    2) The bombing drove the Population mad.

    On a related note many old ideas that weren’t too good like the Confederacy and Napoleon nostalgia died out over time. If we live another 30 years will we see nostalgia for Communism
    fade away.

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