Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xxii

Between 1975 and 1979, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), also known as the Khmer Rouge, fundamentally transformed the social, economic, political, and natural landscape of Cambodia. During this time, as many as two million Cambodians died from exposure, disease, and starvation or were executed at the hands of the party.

The dominant interpretation, known as the Standard Total View, of Cambodian history during this period presents the CPK as a totalitarian,...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xxiii-xxviii

From Rice Fields to Killing Fields: Nature, Life, and Labor under the Khmer Rouge began with a basic question: How was rice produced under the Khmer Rouge? It is well known that many hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children died from starvation, disease, and exhaustion. These deaths were the direct result of specific policies enacted by the Khmer Rouge, namely, the production of rice for export. How, though, are we to interpret these policies? Various scholars have described these policies as the embodiment of extreme or pure forms of Marxism; others have interpreted...

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1. A Critique of Khmer Rouge Political Economy

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pp. 1-19

The Communist Party of Kampuchea constitutes one of the most violent and inhumane apparatuses of organized terror in the twentieth century. Between April 1975 and January 1979, members of the CPK carried out a program of mass violence that is, in many respects, unparalleled in modern history. In just under four years, approximately two million people died from starvation, disease, exhaustion, inadequate medical care, torture, murder, and execution. The total number of deaths translates into one-fifth...

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2. Revolution

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pp. 20-58

Keo Meas devoted his entire life to the Cambodian communist movement. And like many revolutionaries, his initial foray into communism came from a desire to liberate his homeland from colonial domination. Soon after the Second World War, at the age of fifteen, Keo Meas dropped out of his courses at the Phnom Penh Teacher Training College to join a Khmer Vietminh group in Svay Rieng Province. In 1950 he was one of only twenty-one Khmer members of the Indochinese Communist Party....

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3. Reconstruction

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pp. 59-97

With Sihanouk’s fall, the Vietnam War, in the words of Arnold Isaacs, “fell on his helpless country like a collapsing brick wall.”1 Sustained and indiscriminate bombing, combined with brutal fighting between Lon Nol’s troops, the Vietnamese communists, and the Khmer Rouge, exacted a horrifying toll on Cambodia’s population, engendering a new expression: “The land is broken.”2

By war’s end, approximately one-third of the country’s bridges were destroyed, two-fifths of the road network was unusable, and the railroad...

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4. Production

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pp. 98-134

In this chapter I provide a detailed discussion of the generation of surplus value under the Communist Party of Kampuchea. I argue that, rhetoric aside, the political economy of Democratic Kampuchea was neither Marxist, socialist, nor communist and that the economic system planned and implemented by the CPK was an exploitative system of production for exchange. Despite the brutal elimination of landlords and private property, class distinctions in Democratic Kampuchea were not eliminated; indeed, exploitation remained, in that the surplus labor produced by the workers...

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5. Manufacturing Indifference

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pp. 135-159

“Spare them, no profit; remove them, no loss.” The terseness of this widely evoked phrase of the Khmer Rouge calls to mind images of swift punishment, of an unyielding authority that quickly passes judgment on life or death. For Henri Locard, the slogan “suggests the clearing of a field, to uproot all poisonous weeds, before sowing the good seed.” This, according to Locard, implies the need to start anew and underscores the argument that the Khmer Rouge sought to create a “pure” utopian society. Thus, drawing mostly on slogans and Khmer Rouge rhetoric, many commentators...

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6. Abolishment and Reproduction

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pp. 160-186

Did the Communist Party of Kampuchea implement specific policies to destroy the traditional family structure of Cambodia? This, as Kalyanee Mam asks, remains a central question and one that has tremendous bearing on our examination of the social organization of production in Democratic Kampuchea. Prior to the Khmer Rouge coming to power, the extended family was the center of economic and cultural life, as families worked together as a unit, responsible for both household production and consumption.1 Marriages were arranged—but importantly, this signified...

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7. Dead Labor

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pp. 187-198

Some forty miles south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s modern capital, nestled among the rolling hills of Kampot Province, sits an altogether unremarkable earthen structure. Spanning nearly seven and a half miles in length, nine miles high, and twelve miles wide, what remains of the Koh Sla Dam seems at peace among the short grass and scrub, its flanks crisscrossed by narrow footpaths connecting the stilt houses that dot the scene. The villagers who tend the rice fields and fish in the surrounding ponds anchor Koh Sla, the seemingly timeless landscape of rural Cambodia. But...

Notes

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pp. 199-222

Bibliography

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pp. 223-236

Index

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pp. 237-241

About the Author

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p. 242