16 July 2010

Socialism and violence

Socialist politics may on occasion involve violence, but ours is certainly not a creed which is either fundamentally about or seeks violence. There are two reasons why violence is very much something secondary for us.

First, precisely because we are people who seek reforms within capitalist society at least as a first step, we acknowledge the state’s legal order and its monopoly of force. In exchange for that, we receive the state’s protection of our bourgeois rights within society such as the right to form civic organisations and to protest. If fascists intimidate us and our families, our first response, beyond immediate necessary self-defence, is to call the police. It is precisely for this reason that defence and advancement of civil and personal liberties are so vital.

Second, in the class struggle power relations are asymmetrical. It is the state that has armed men at its disposal not us; our power rests on political organisation plus the force of argument. Our success usually depends on the avoidance of violence.

And finally it is worth adding that violence can never be justified solely to punish (corporal and capital punishment). Socialism is the strengthening and realisation of the values found in liberalism, not their negation.

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