Friday, March 22, 2019

Terror and Violence - A Socialist Answer

It has become a commonplace to declare that "one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter." People have long thought that power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Someone, somewhere is applauding the killings at the Christchurch mosques.

Most who commit terrorist crimes do so in the belief that they are delivering some sort of justice but one thing is certain their violence fails to deliver a better life to anybody. A number of organisations and individuals have sought to achieve their ends via violence. They claim to represent the interests of particular sections of the population, although none can show any sort of mandate to do so.

The Socialist Party maintains that recourse to violence of any kind should always be a last resort, organised and sanctioned by a body representing the collective interests of the class fighting for freedom. As such it is needless to add that the Socialist Party repudiates and condemns acts of terrorism in any country especially where people possess the freedom to present their views and opinions. It is our responsibility as socialists to publicly expose and rally the working class against terrorism. The Socialist Party unrelievedly condemns terrorist bombings and shootings and as the depraved acts of warped minds. It deplores the wanton massacres of innocent men, women and children, and denounces any individual or group who perpetrated or condones such despicable acts for whatever perverted motive prompted they say they commit them. There is and can be no justification for barbaric outrages.

The Socialist Party also indicts the politicians who use such brutal acts for their own divisive agendas and to undermine civil liberties and human rights. It is dangerous and naive to believe that society can be defended against terror by repressive laws.

The Socialist Party deplores the reckless and inflammatory capitalist news media, which, in its usual sensationalist style to capture an audience, jumps from one conclusion to another about the motives of the perpetrators of terrorism might be, scapegoating entire communities for the crimes of an individual.

 Whatever the immediate motivations behind terror acts, the root cause of all such insane antisocial acts is deeply embedded in the fabric of capitalist society itself. Terrorists have no answers for today's social problems. They see or feel the effects of something they have no understanding of, and they take refuge in religious fantasy and/or conspiracy theories. A solution to the ills of a sick system is to be found in a social act, that can be performed only by a social class capable today of revolution to a better society - the working class.

There seems to be an assumption that disorder, rioting and violence are essential accompaniments to revolution. The Socialist Party has always condemned insurrections by minorities and terrorist violence. They are not only futile, but play directly into the hands of the enemy. We reject the notion that the gun rather than an idea can bring socialism. Violence demeans, debases and dehumanises us. To overthrow one evil, corrupt system using the very same policies and tools of that system is to simply replace one monster with another one. The means must be in harmony with the end. Violence is bound to corrupt both the users and those upon whom it is used. It is clear that any solution resulting from violence or confrontation is not lasting. It is only through peaceful means that we can develop better understanding between peoples. Though lies and fake news may deceive people, it is only through, fairness and mutual respect that proper understanding can be genuinely achieved.

The Socialist Party throughout its history have repeatedly appealed to the police and soldiers not to permit themselves to be deployed against their fellow-workers. But such appeals are self-defeating if at the same time we are seen to be inciting riot and disorder as a means of protest. For sure, the provocation generally comes the side of the authorities and may be excused, but the Socialist Party cannot advocate violence, except only if resorted to in self-defence. Non-violent and non-obedience will increase our chances of the police and military refusing to obey orders against people who are clearly presenting no physical threat. It could have the effect of converting them to our point of view by winning over their hearts and minds. But if you go over to violence, the soldiers will express no sympathy and most definitely not mutiny. They will remain loyal to their commanders.

An armed reaction from the revolutionaries will not succeed, as the regime is invariably stronger on the military front. As soon as you choose to fight with violence you're choosing to fight against opponents in possession of the best weapons. The state's police and army are better trained in using those weapons. And they control the infrastructure that allows them to deploy them. It may well be that the social revolution will not be achieved without violence; but we would be foolish to provoke any fighting when we should have to fight at a disadvantage, and when all the resources of civilisation are held by the master class, and all we have to oppose to them is bricks and bottles. There is no possibility of the workers successfully engaging the capitalist class on the basis of brute force or violence. If the capitalist means of combat rested merely and solely of police clubs, then, we might well organise workers’ battalions (such as the Irish Citizens Army Vs the Dublin police) equipped with the same weapons and give a good account of ourselves on the field of action. But the tremendous and destructive nature of military weapons in society today preclude the possibility of successful competition. The owning class has a supreme and invincible weapon within its grasp: political power, which gives it control of the army, navy, air and police forces.

To fight the State with violence is to cede to them the choice of battleground and tactics. Using violence against experts in it is the quickest way to have a movement crushed. That is why governments frequently infiltrate opposition groups with agents provocateurs—to sidetrack the movement into violent acts that the police and security agencies can deal with. Non-violence is an aspect of resistance that the normal forces of coercion are ill-prepared for

The Socialist Party seeks to adopt means in harmony with our ends; we have to make sure that they are means; that will hasten, not retard its attainment. Revolution to be successful must be the effort of the organised movement of the majority. All government rest on force; but it is futile for the people to take up force while all the arms are in the hands of their enemies, the ruling class.

We are not pacifists. We considered violence a possible outcome of revolutionary change; but we argue that the more that the workers understood, the more educated they became in socialist ideas, the less likelihood there would be of violence. Historically the battle of ideas has been waged both in the mind – in debates and discussions. This is where street-fighting plays its role: physically removing opposition that one cannot overcome in a battle of hearts and minds, at the price of destroying the free environment in which the working class can find its own way. The revolution is aborted in the process, not defended. This is another reason why a socialist revolution must be peaceful, at least as far as our class is concerned.

“Revolutionary” violence is a sign of weakness in the working class. Our assumption is that significant numbers of capitalists will see the futility of resisting a well-educated, well-organised working-class majority. The capitalist class cannot continue its rule – even through violence or bribery – when enough workers decide to break with the capitalists’ legitimacy and the capitalist system.

People turn violent because they feel there is little alternative but to resort to violence. Socialist organisations will develop the substitutes to militarising the class struggle and then people will have a choice of psychological weapons, social weapons, economic weapons and political weapons which can be applied and are ultimately more powerful against tyranny.  Once enough people and organisations within a society (trade unions, community groups) are engaging in civil disobedience and withholding their cooperation from a regime, the capitalists' power will gradually wither from political starvation.

The success or failure of any peaceful revolt largely depends on the campaign’s ability to undermine the regimes supporters and weaken the allegiance of its civil servants, police and soldiers to the regime; to persuade those neutrals sitting on the fence to join the opposition. The worse the regime suppresses protests, the more steadfast ought the opposition be in its commitment to non-violence and the more the people resists, the more we will realise our own power and discover the means of re-shaping our destiny.

Non-violent popular civil-disobedience has an important role in moving forward from limited political democracy to full social democracy, which is what we mean by socialism. Not as a substitute for electoral and constitutional action, but as an additional guarantee that the socialist majority will achieve its goal under any conceivable circumstances. Socialists are not pacifists on principle but purely as a practical tactic. We acknowledge that there might be instances in which violence is a legitimate means to use. When non-violence fails, the method is condemned. But when violence fails, strategy or tactics are blamed—not violence as a method. And partial success is seen as total failure. Violence is not all that effective in a social revolution.

“... In short I do not believe in the possible success of revolt until the Socialist party has grown so powerful in numbers that it can gain its end by peaceful means, and that therefore what is called violence will never be needed; unless indeed the reactionaries were to refuse the decision of the ballot-box and try the matter by arms; which after all I am pretty sure they could not attempt by the time things had gone so far as that.”William Morris

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