In general, the term White Terror refers to acts of violence carried out by reactionary (usually monarchist or conservative) groups as part of a counter-revolution. In particular, during the 20th century, in several countries the term White Terror was applied to acts of violence against real or suspected socialists and communists.
The original White Terror
took place in 1794, during the turbulent times surrounding the French Revolution
. It was organized by reactionary "Chouan
" royalist forces in the aftermath of the Reign of Terror
, and was targeted at the radical Jacobins
and anyone suspected of supporting them. Throughout France
, both real and suspected Jacobins were attacked and often murdered. Just like during the Reign of Terror, trials were held with little regard for due process. In other cases, gangs of youths who had aristocratic connections roamed the streets beating known Jacobins. These "bands of Jesus" dragged suspected terrorists from prisons and murdered them much as alleged royalists had been murdered during the September Massacres
Again, in 1815, following the return of King Louis XVIII of France to power, people suspected of having ties with the governments of the French Revolution or of Napoleon suffered arrest and execution. Marshall Brune was killed in Avignon, and General J.P. Ramel was assassinated in Toulouse. These actions struck fear in the population, dissuading Jacobin and Bonapartist electors (48,000 on 72,000 total permitted by the census suffrage) to vote for the ultras. Of 402 members, the first Chamber of the Restoration was composed of 350 ultra-royalists; the king himself thus named it the Chambre introuvable ("the Unobtainable Chamber"). The Chamber voted oppressive laws, sentencing to death Marshall Ney and Colonel Labédoyère, while 250 people were given prison sentences and some others exiled (Joseph Fouché, Lazare Carnot, Cambacérès).
Anti-communist White Terrors
Russian White Terror
After the Bolshevik Revolution
of October 1917, Anti-Communist
grouped themselves loosely into the 'White Movement
'. The color white
was adopted as the symbol of the movement because it had been the traditional color of the Russian monarchy (the Russian Tsar
was often called the "White Tsar"). In 1918, the White Movement started the Russian Civil War
against the newly created Russian SFSR
. Both sides carried out acts of violence against dissidents and suspected enemy agents within the territory they controlled. The mass arrests and summary executions carried out by the White Movement became known as the White Terror
By analogy, the term "White Terror" came to be used to refer to many different campaigns of violence carried out by various kinds of Anti-Communist forces against real or suspected Communist sympathizers, in different places and periods of the 20th century.
Hungarian White Terror
One of the first such White Terrors outside Russia was the Hungarian White Terror
, the retaliation carried out by irregular and semi-regular detachments (most of them formally belonged to Miklós Horthy
's "National Army"
) in Hungary
in 1919-1920, after the fall of the Hungarian Soviet Republic
, against Communists
, and Jews
. Horthy's personal moral culpability and responsibility for the White Terror is a matter of dispute among historians: some argue that Horthy did not command these atrocities—indeed, in words, he may have prohibited them. Still others argue, perhaps as convincingly, that Horthy orchestrated these attacks in an attempt to galvanise power.
German White Terror
In the aftermath of the First World War
, Germany tottered on the brink of chaos. Attempting to prevent a takeover by the Marxist Spartacist League
, Germany's Socialist
regime, which had taken power after the fall of the Monarchy, formed militias
out of demobilized WWI veterans. The Freikorps
, as they were called, were meant as a replacement for the Kaiser's Army, which had evaporated overnight due to desertion. The Freikorps succeeded in defeating the Spartacist League on the streets of Berlin and later invaded and annexed the Marxist Bavarian Soviet Republic
. A large number of people fell victim to the Freikorps, including Spartacist leaders Rosa Luxemburg
and Karl Liebknecht
, who were hunted down and murdered after the botched Spartacist Revolt of 1920.
Finnish White Terror
After the Finnish Civil War
of 1918, the victorious White troops
of Carl Gustaf Mannerheim
shot thousands of Finnish leftwingers and put thousands of others, by no means only Communists
, in internment camps. Diseases, hunger and numerous further executions after treason
convictions were widely regarded as terror on the remaining leftwingers, whether Social Democrats
or merely trade union
functionaries. The executions only ended after official protests from Great Britain
and the United States
Bulgarian White Terror
The White Terror in Bulgaria occurred during the right-wing
government of Aleksandar Tsankov
(1923-1926). The Bulgarian Communist Party
was repressed and martial law
was declared. In 1925, after the Sofia
bomb attack aimed to assassinate Tsar Boris III
, the Communist Party was outlawed and persecution escalated, with many notable figures who had expressed Communist beliefs—for example, writer Geo Milev
—being repressed, put on trial or even killed.
Chinese White Terror
"White Terror" in relation to modern Chinese history is associated with the Kuomintang
under Chiang Kai-shek
April 12 Incident
The April 12 Incident
took place during the Chinese Civil War
. It was an attempted suppression of Communists
, leftists, labour union members and Communist sympathisers by Chiang Kai-shek
regime. Beginning in April 1927, the White Terror spread through many major Chinese cities, most notably Shanghai
Also known as Chiang's "Bloody Double Cross", this White Terror saw his armies turn against their former Communist allies. Death squads patrolled the cities, on order to shoot anyone suspected of Communist leanings.
The formal name for the "Bloody Double Cross" is the Shanghai massacre. The Communist Party regime of the People's Republic of China refers to it as the "April 12 Counterrevolutionary Coup".
The "White Terror" continued throughout the Chinese civil war, and also resulted in the assassination of a number of prominent Communists, leftists and democrats such as Wen Yiduo.
Taiwanese White Terror
Rooted in the anti-Communist White Terror on the Chinese Mainland and the 228 Incident
or the 228 massacre
in 1947, the "White Terror" describes the suppression of political dissidents and public discussion of the 228 Incident under the martial law
period from May 19 1949
to July 15 1987
During the White Terror, around 140,000 Chinese, mostly Taiwanese, were imprisoned or executed for their real or perceived opposition to the Kuomintang (KMT) government led by Chiang Kai-shek, according to a recent report by the Executive Yuan of Taiwan. Most of those prosecuted were labeled by the Kuomintang as "bandit spies" (匪諜), meaning spies for Chinese communists, and punished as such. Among the White Terror's victims were indeed many Taiwanese and mainland Chinese Communist agitators, but with time the White Terror permitted countless abuses. The "White Terror" left many native Taiwanese with a deep-seated bitterness towards the Kuomintang, Chiang Kai-shek, and sometimes the Chinese. It should be noted that a large number of the White Terror's victims were mainland Chinese who usually owed their evacuation to the island to the KMT, and often having come unaccompanied to Taiwan were considered more disposable than local Taiwanese. Many of the mainland Chinese who survived the White Terror in Taiwan, like Bo Yang and Li Ao moved on promote Taiwan's democratization and the reform of the Kuomintang. Comparatively little attention has been paid to the mainland Chinese victims of the White Terror since most did not have family members on the island and no political capital can be exploited from their deaths.
Fear of discussing the White Terror and the 228 Incident gradually decreased with the lifting of martial law in 1987, culminating in the establishment of an official public memorial and an apology by President Lee Teng-hui in 1995.
Spanish White Terror
During and after the civil war in Spain the Nationalist
side murdered an estimated 200,000 people.
Greek White Terror
During 1945-1946, right-wing gangs killed about 1,190 pro-communist and left-wing civilians, and tortured many others. Entire villages that helped the partisans were attacked by those right-wing gangs.
White Terror in Ethiopia
In February 1977, the EPRP initiated terrorist attacks - known as the White Terror - against Derg members and their supporters. This violence immediately claimed at least eight Derg members, plus numerous Derg supporters, and soon provoked a government counteraction - the Red Terror (Ethiopia).