Negationism is the denial of historic crimes. The word is derived from the French term négationnisme, which refers to Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial is illegal in France and several other countries.

Negationism is not necessarily a form of revisionism, which originally derives from certain socialists, such as Karl Kautsky and Eduard Bernstein who wanted to "revise" the fundamental principles of Marxism. It is a type of historical revisionism, developed following the Second World War, with the claim that Holocaust denial was a re-examination of the facts concerning the death camps and final solution of the Nazi regime.

Ultra-Left Negationism was a political current including such people as Pierre Guillaume (who was involved in the bookshop La Vieille Taupe during the 1960s); La Guerre Sociale, Jeune Taupe and Revolution Sociale were all Ultra-left negationists. Some people claim that Auschwitz ou le grande alibi, written by Amadeo Bordiga in 1960, is the source of ultra-left negationism. They claim that this booklet was available at La Vieille Taupe in the sixties, and that by the eighties La Vielle Taupe had become a major source of holocaust denial material. Defenders of Bordiga say that he should not be judged by the idiosyncratic career of Pierre Guillaume, and a few other associates who deny the existence of the gas chambers at Auschwitz. They argue with Bordiga that the culpability for the Holocaust is the capitalist system, rather than Nazism and situate the six million Jewish dead within the context of 50 million human beings during the Second World War. Vigorous critics of Stalinism, they argue that American, British and USSR forces all committed atrocities during and after the Second World War.

In 1984 Klaus Barbie was put on trial for crimes committed whilst he was in charge of the Gestapo in Lyons between 1942 and 1944. As the trial opened Philip Potter, a Caribbean pastor, described Barbie as the last product of the Enlightenment, which, he claimed, had produced four things: the Industrial Revolution which subordinated man to machine; the founding of the United States, based on the application of liberty and equality to all men - except African Americans and Native Americans; the French Revolution where liberty and equality were claimed by the bourgeoisie; and imperialism based on racism.

At the trial Barbie received support not only from Nazi apologists like François Genoud, but also from Jacques Vergès, a half-Vietnamese leftist lawyer. He had a reputation for attacking the French political system, particularly in French colonial territories. In 1960 he extracted a confession of torture from Paul Teitgen, secretary general of the police in Algiers. Vergès' strategy at the trial was to use the trial to expose war crimes committed by France since 1945. Indeed, many of the charges against Barbie were dropped, thanks to legislation that had protected people accused of crimes under the Vichy regime and in French Algeria.

Vergès argued that the Nazi crimes were no different in nature from those committed by French imperialism, and thus the French courts were in no position to try Barbie. Nabil Bouaita, an Algerian lawyer, and Jean-Martin M'Bemba, a Congolese lawyer, joined the defense team. "Does crime against humanity only force emotion or merit commemoration if it hurt Europeans?" Vergès asked. B'Memba gave an account of how 8,000 Africans died building 140 kilometres of railway in French colonial Africa. Bouaita discussed Sabra and Chatila.

In the end Barbie was found guilty, but Vergès' defense had changed the terms of debate about crimes against humanity. This has led to the term New World Negationism to describe the denial or trivialisation of crimes against humanity such as genocide and slavery that were perpetrated by Europeans in the New World (i.e. North and South America). A related term is Black Holocaust, but this is restricted to the enslavement of Africans.

It is sometimes argued that New World Negationism remains the official policy of the United States and British governments.

See also Historical revisionism

es:Negacionismo fr:Négationnisme ja:否認主義


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