French Bill Disparages Genocide Victims

Paris, April 4, 2023, by Socrates George Kazolias

On March 28, the French National Assembly enacted a law recognizing the 1931-1932 famine that hit the Soviet Union as a “Genocide” against the Ukrainians through a “planned famine” known as “Holodomor.”  The law means anybody who denies it was a genocide against the Ukrainians, or excuses it in any form, now faces up to one year in prison and €45,000 in fines.

Similar legislation had been voted on the genocides of the Jews by the Nazis in 1990 and of the Armenians by the Turks in 2001.

Qualifying the Soviet famine as a genocide against Ukraine is very problematic on several fronts and guts the word “Genocide” of its true meaning. Jewish Frenchmen and Armenian descendants who support the anti-negationism law, known as ‘Loi Gayssot,’ should be outraged. Or has the definition of “Genocide” changed? More on the famine below but first the law itself.

When Historians Become Outlaws

A leading French historian, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, along with many of his colleagues, stood up against the Loi Gayssot in 1990.  It is not the job of “tribunals to define historical truths,” Vidal said. “That is the job of historians and honest people. Making the Shoah a legal truth …appears absurd. The act of punishing the expression of revisionism will only make martyrs of those people.” (Le Quotidien de Paris, 9 May 1990)

This is not a question only of those who deny Jews were targeted for annihilation because they were Jews, but also those who question the “real number” of dead, or “the means” that were used, or whether the ‘Holocaust’ is the main lesson we should learn from that period, or anything else that denies or questions the “legal truth.

This goes much further than French laws which prohibit expressions of, or inciting to, racism and antisemitism, which is also punishable by prison and hefty fines.

The Loi Gayssot was first used to condemn far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen for referring to the gas chambers as just “a point of detail in the history of the Second World War.” He was sentenced to pay 1.2 million francs in damages to the associations who sued him for “apology for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The point is not the hideousness of what Le Pen said. Those who want to silence free speech will always use the most obnoxious events, acts and statements to enact legislation that will affect all of our liberties.

The terrorist attacks in France led to a ‘State of Emergency’ in 2015 which Macron made permanent in 2017. Macron’s majority removed parliament from the renewal process and made the State of Emergency permanent and totally in the hands of the executive. The president uses it to hold closed door, noteless, meetings with military and security chiefs.

The State of Emergency was first used in 2015 against ecologists who wanted to protest a planned airport and has since been used to administratively detain, prevent, or dissuade people from demonstrating as was common during the Yellow Vest Movement 2017-2018.

The autocratic powers that the State of Emergency gives the president, prefects and police, were used to great effect during the Covid lockdowns. The tough ‘police state‘ measures have been painted as a dress rehearsal, dry run, or test of the system’s capacity to impose Martial Law should the need arise.

Selectively Enforced, Politically Charged

Citizens should be treated as adults; not have the state put soap in their mouth.  And yes, I believe that means that those who say the most horrible, hurtful, and untrue things should not be prevented from saying them, short of inciting to violence.

Professor Vidal is right. Historians should be the ones researching and debating historical events, not opportunist politicians. It is hard to see how the Ukraine Genocide vote can be considered anything other than a political propaganda ploy to do more Russia-bashing in a bid to promote a war the Ukrainians and NATO are losing. This should infuriate peoples who did suffer genocide in the 20thcentury: Jews, Gypsies, Tutsis, Armenians…

There are up to two-million Turks or French citizens of Turkish descent in France (all dual nationals under Turkish law). It would be very hard to find many Turks who accept there was an “Armenian Genocide” in the early 20th century. Practically all will ‘negate‘ its existence.

The French Constitutional Court in 2012 contested the law as being too sweeping and restricting freedom of speech. Parliament voted a new ‘Armenian Genocide’ law. The Senate called on the government on February 8 to make April 24 an annual Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day.

Turkish President Erdogan can tell tens of thousands of Turks at a meeting in Strasbourg to refuse integration, preach Islamism and the rule of Sharia law. He has consistently ‘negated‘ the Armenian Genocide. The Israeli Minister of Economy, Bezalel Smotrich, can deny the very existence of the Palestinian People in a Paris speech without fear of prosecution.

Millions of Dead a Genocide do not make!

The Loi Gayssot, which was meant to punish “incorrect, racist and antisemitic speech” in fact curtails free speech, and scholastic debate. But declaring the Soviet Famine a genocide against Ukrainians is even more dangerous.

The internationally agreed definition of “Genocide recognized by the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statutes and adopted by the UN General Assembly determine genocide “any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as:

  • (a) Killing members of the group;
  • (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Some historians have attributed it to disastrous agricultural collectivisation policies launched by the former Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin. Others, however, say it was an attempt to destroy the very nature of what it is to be a Ukrainian.


I think it is impossible to deny there was an ‘intent to destroy’ Jews and Armenians as “national, ethnical, racial and religious groups.” Any Turk denying the genocide is an ass, and probably extremely racist, but I would never dream of jailing him any more than I should be jailed for saying I think he is an ass (which by the way could also be prosecuted under French law).

But, (and I must be careful how I word this) I see no historical evidence demonstrating the Soviets wanted to exterminate the Ukrainians as a people, especially given the large number of proletarians, landless and poor peasants who supported the communist revolution and collectivization.

Furthermore, a large chunk of those in Ukraine were ethnic Russians. (for Russians in Ukraine click here and here)

Why would the French, other than for opportunist, political, and propaganda purposes, vote now that the famine was a genocide? Studies have pointed out different conclusions on the question of the Ukrainian qualification of the famine as a “Genocide.”  Reports such as that by historian Nicolas Werth (SciencesPo, 2008) point out that the famine began in Kazakhstan after poor harvests in 1931. Russians starved too.

Some 3.3 million Ukrainians died in the two years of the famine. The poor harvests in 1931 & 1932 were part of the story as was the “criminal” mismanagement of food distribution but the role of the Kulaks (click here and here) and their repression as a “class” cannot be ignored.

The Italian historian and authority on Ukraine, Andrea Graziosi, writes that the famines that hit the USSR beginning in 1931 were the direct, but not foreseen or planned, result of the ideologically-driven policies implemented since late 1929 — forced collectivization, de-kulakization, the imposition of the kolkhoz system, and excessive grain and livestock levies. Up until the summer of 1932, the Ukrainian famine, already rearing its head, resembled the other famines that had started earlier elsewhere. (Graziosi, 2005: 453-472 as quoted in Werth: 2008).

This is a far cry from the criteria described in the Rome Statutes.

Calling Class War Genocide?

The Kulaks, about 16% of the peasant population, were a class of wealthier peasants who had more than 3.2 hectares (8 acres) of land, owned draft animals and could hire labor. When the Soviets decided in 1931 to increase the amount of cereals they would collect/confiscate from the Kulaks’ harvests from 30% in 1930 to 42% in 1932, many Kulaks began hoarding grains and resisting Soviet policies.

I believe there was a deliberate attempt to eliminate the Kulaks and collectivize their farms; an act in which Ukrainians who supported the Communists took part. But a “class” is not “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” and this is where the danger of the French law lies. 

If ‘class struggle,’ no matter how brutal, bloody, or criminal its expression, is equated with “Genocide” then the word itself is gutted of all meaning.

French politicians, through this law, have dulled an important blade of international justice for real victims of deliberate extermination. This in itself is criminal. The European Parliament already passed such a bill in December which was equally politically motivated. If it wasn’t, why now and not years ago?

Yes, people were killed in Ukraine, especially Kulaks, and millions starved, and not just in Ukraine. Initial collectivization was a failure, much for the same reasons farming failed in Zimbabwe after the expropriation of White farmers in 2000-2001. The Kulaks knew how to run a farm and their knowledge died with them. The Soviet economy was mismanaged as was food distribution (how could the Soviets export grain during a famine?) and crops failed in 1931 and 1932.  But I fail to see a deliberate intent to destroy the Ukrainians as a nation; a state, I might add, which was first created by the Bolsheviks.

There is no question that the Soviets gave priority to feeding industrial workers as the country developed its industrial base at what economists point out was at a staggering pace.

From about one-quarter the size of the U.S. economy in 1928, the Soviet economy climbed to about 40 per- cent in 1955, 50 percent in 1965, and about 60 percent in 1977. Soviet GNP per capita was also catching up, reaching 52 percent of the U.S. level by 1975.

Did the Soviets make matters worse by forcibly preventing peasants from leaving the countryside for the cities?  Was the forced collectivization and destruction of the Kulaks a deliberate attempt to destroy Ukraine and its people, a large number of whom were ethnic Russian? Some still maintain it was a deliberate plan of extinction (click here).

I believe the Jury of Historians have already spoken.  Those whose only interest is to bash Russia blur the ‘truth‘ and will stifle debate to promote war.