Political cleansing

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Political cleansing describes the forced exclusion of people or groups of people from political organizations and institutions, in particular from parties , governments and public administration . This form of “purge” can range from exclusion or exclusion from the party to killing.

In parties, especially in undemocratic forms of society, an emerging intra-party opposition is often excluded or removed by means of a “purge”. The goal is usually to maintain a dominant group in power. Within authoritarian and dictatorial regimes, especially in the case of one- party rule , this removal of unpopular people can also extend to subordinate positions in the state and society and even extend to state terror . The concept of “purge” plays a major role in the history of communist parties and organizations in the 20th century.

The use of the word purging is sometimes seen as euphemistic to denote such contexts , and is often used as "purging" within quotation marks. The underlying adjective "clean" was originally used in German to mean "moral purity" and was only later transferred to external cleanliness.

"Purge" in the French Revolution

La Terreur ” (the period of horror) was a period of the French Revolution within the years 1793 to 1794, which was marked by the brutal suppression of all suspected counterrevolutionaries . The "purges" were led by a committee of twelve men, the welfare committee around its leader Robespierre . He later fell victim to his own campaign.

“Purge” under National Socialism under the term Röhm Putsch

The term "Röhm-Putsch", widely used in Nazi propaganda today, describes the assassination of the SA leadership, including its chief of staff Ernst Röhm , and other politicians considered enemies of National Socialism, ordered by Adolf Hitler and carried out from June 30 to July 2, 1934 . The Nazi authorities presented the action as a preventive measure against an allegedly planned putsch by Röhm. In fact, it was a "purge" initiated by Hitler inside and outside the NSDAP , since Hitler viewed Röhm and others as competitors for power in the party and state.

"Purges" within communist parties

Within the communist parties of the 20th century, the “cleansing” was an important part of the implementation of the party line, internal integration and external demarcation. These “purges” mark the totalitarian / authoritarian and dictatorial form of organization of Marxist-Leninist parties, which emerged as a direction from Marxism developed in the 19th century .


From 1919 onwards , the parties united within the Communist International (Comintern) defined themselves very strongly from the start as a revolutionary elite, and thus as an antipole to other currents within the political left. Mediated by the principles of so-called democratic centralism , these communist parties repeatedly resulted in the exclusion of persons or groups who supposedly or actually questioned the unity and purity of the party. The form of the ideological deviation could be different; the suspicion of being close to social democracy was just as much a part of it as the accusation of “ centrism ” or “ Luxemburgism ”. But also “ Trotskyism ”, “deviating from the right”, “sectarianism” and “formation of factions” could be chalked. Depending on the circumstances of the time and the orientation of the party leadership, certain allegations could accumulate and individual party exclusions could condense into a “wave of purges”.

Already at their Second World Congress in 1920, Lenin's parties united in the Comintern had adopted 21 guiding principles on the conditions for admission to the Communist International . In it, the parties were obliged to " systematically cleanse their ranks of the petty-bourgeois elements creeping into them" on a regular basis . In the following years, under the slogan of the Bolshevization of the communist parties , the exclusion of social democratic ideas played a role.

1930s: Stalin's "purges"

In the course of Stalin's rule , these activities, later called the “Stalin Purges”, reached an unprecedented scale. While its “purges” in the 1920s were mostly only associated with exclusion from the party, those affected had to reckon with arrest and forced labor or execution more and more frequently in the course of the 1930s . The party apparatus of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was affected just as much as almost all areas of the state of the Soviet Union . For its peak, the years from 1935/1936 to 1938, the term “ Great Purge ” (Russian: Tschistka ) is used in German-speaking political and historical science alongside the term “Great Terror”. The exact number of victims is controversial among historians; the range of estimates ranges from a minimum of around one million to over 20 million deaths from executions, camp detention and starvation.

After the Second World War

After the liberation of France by the Allies (1944), more than 10,000 people were murdered because of proven or suspected collaboration in wild, extrajudicial "purges" ( épuration sauvage ), partly after rapid trials ( lynching ), partly after (also arbitrary) arrests.

Purification / cleaning / cleansing commissions attempted to review the police service for its actions during the time of the Vichy regime .

After 1945 there were “purges” of the party and state apparatus in the Eastern European countries, which were occupied by the Red Army in the wake of the Second World War and thus also fell to Stalin's sphere of influence. If these states were initially granted an independent Third Way to Socialism under the heading of People's Democracies , at the end of the 1940s they were closely subordinated to Stalin's interests and ideas. The background here was also the breakout of Yugoslavia under Tito from the Soviet camp, a dangerous precedent for the Soviet dictator . In this context, the leadership of the German SED , loyal to Moscow , issued a resolution on July 29, 1948 on the “organizational consolidation of the party and its cleansing of degenerate and hostile elements”.

"Purges" in Turkey

In December 2013, Recep Erdoğan , Prime Minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014, dismissed numerous public servants who were investigating a major corruption affair against him, among others. More than 3,000 police officers have been illegally dismissed, 115 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed, and several hundred officials have been dismissed. In summary, it was said that as supporters of Fethullah Gulen ( see also Gülen movement ) they were “enemies of the state” and “terrorists”. Since then Erdoğan has based his actions against dissidents mostly with the fight against the "parallel state" of Gülens. At that time (and also later) those who did not bow to Erdoğan's will were dismissed.

Erdoğan was elected President of Turkey in August 2014 ; Ahmet Davutoğlu became Prime Minister. In the parliamentary elections on November 1, 2015 , the AKP received an absolute majority of the seats in parliament. In November 2015, the “High Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors” launched an investigation into 5,000 judges and public prosecutors who are alleged to be part of Gülen's “parallel state”. In March 2016, 680 judges and public prosecutors were given temporary retirement.

In 2016, Davutoğlu was critical of a constitutional change towards the presidential system . On May 5, Davutoğlu announced his withdrawal .

On July 16, 2016, immediately after the failure of a coup attempt by Turkish soldiers, Erdoğan announced “purges”. The suspension of 2,745 judges and prosecutors (including five members of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors ) appeared to have been planned well in advance.

See also


  • Klaus-Georg Riegel: The inner-party purge concepts of Hitler and Stalin. A comparison. In: Rainer Zitelmann , Uwe Backes and Eckhard Jesse (eds.): The shadows of the past. Impulses for the historicization of National Socialism. Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main 1990, ISBN 3-549-07407-7 , pp. 136-168.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c FAZ.net / Rainer Hermann : Did putschists want to prevent Erdoğan's wave of purges?
  2. Ahmet Davutoğlu: Turkish media speculate about Davutoğlu's resignation. In: Zeit Online . May 4, 2016, Retrieved June 25, 2016 .
  3. After attempted coup: Erdogan announces "purge". ( Memento of the original from July 16, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.fnp.de
  4. After the attempted coup: Erdogan announces “cleansing” ( memento of the original from July 16, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / de.euronews.com
  5. In Turkey already 6000 arrests. Tagesspiegel.de, July 17, 2016
  6. Ten members arrested at the high court in Ankara  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / www.stuttgarter-nachrichten.de