Mussolini is notorious for his war crimes as a Fascist dictator during World War II. As a young man he openly declared his atheism, and in his early career as a politician was openly anti-clerical. He was the Italian leader of the National Fascist Party, became Prime Minister in 1922 and was eventually a dictator who severely restricted freedom of speech. Mussolini supported Hitler’s conquest of Austria. In 1935, he invaded Ethiopia, using poison gas, bombing Red Cross hospitals and concentration camps to kill civilians and destroy “inferior” cultures. He ordered the execution of prisoners without trial and the shooting of “witch-doctors”. Italian troops used public executions, hostage taking and burning of villages to crush the Slavic population of Yugoslavia. These acts are now widely considered an attempt at genocide. However, later he tried to associate Fascism with Catholicism in order to garner dwindling support (however his widow made it clear that he was still staunchly atheist).
Mao Zedong led the Communist Party of China to victory in the Chinese Civil War, helping to establish the People’s Republic of China. He had ambitions for a strong China, but his programs largely failed altogether. He has been blamed for the death of between 20 and 67 million of his “comrades”. Under his insane rule there was a culture akin to anarchy, that killed the economy and industrial production. His “Great Leap Forward” triggered a catastrophic and massive famine. However, he is most notorious for the precepts of the “Cultural Revolution”, which led to perhaps the greatest era of cultural vandalism the world has ever known. Antiques, historical sites, artifacts, ancient documents, feng shui traditions, Chinese traditional dresses and monasteries were destroyed for being associated with the “old ways of thinking”. Many copies of the Qu’ran were burnt. Red Guard groups around the country destroyed political and educational stability, criticizing anyone who considered himself superior, destroying reputations and lives. Mao, privately, led a life of great deviancy and excess. He also exacted revenge on all those, mainly intellectuals and professionals, who had disgraced Mao in his earlier career. He also targeted anyone with links to the Chinese Nationalist Party as well as anyone who posed a threat to him. Five million were executed in death camps. 36 million were persecuted and tortured. There were even instances of cannibalism.
Pol Pot was the leader of the Khmer Rouge and Prime Minister of Cambodia from 1976 to 1979, having been de facto leader since mid-1975. During his time in power Pol Pot imposed an extreme version of agrarian communism, where all city dwellers were relocated to the countryside to work in collective farms and forced labour projects. The combined effect of slave labour, malnutrition, poor medical care and executions is estimated to have killed around 2 million Cambodians (approximately one third of the population). His regime achieved special notoriety by singling out all intellectuals, and other “bourgeois enemies”, for murder. The Khmer Rouge committed mass executions in sites known as the Killing Fields, and the executed were buried in mass graves. In order to save ammunition, executions were often carried out using hammers, axe handles, spades or sharpened bamboo sticks. His attempts to “cleanse” the country resulted in the deaths of 1.7 to 2.5 million people. He also had an intense dislike of anyone with the semblance of being intelligent, such as those who wore glasses or who spoke another language.
Stalin was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s Central Committee, from 1922 until his death in 1953. Under Stalin’s leadership, the Ukraine suffered a famine (Holodomor) so great it is considered by many to be an act of genocide on the part of Stalin’s government. Estimates of the number of deaths range from 2.5 million to 10 million. The famine was caused by direct political and administrative decisions. In addition to the famine, Stalin ordered purges within the Soviet Union of any person deemed to be an enemy of the state (i.e. capitalists, theists). In total, estimates of the total number murdered under Stalin’s reign, range from 10 million to 60 million. His government promoted atheism with mass propaganda in school, and held a terror campaign against the religious. He crushed the Russian Orthodox Church, leveling thousands of churches and shooting more than 100,000 priests, monks and nuns between 1937 and 1938.