ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Revolution and Violence

While I share Dilip Simeon’s revulsion (“A Hard Rain Falling”, EPW, 14 July 2012) against the practice of cruelty as a calculated instrument of political violence, and would further argue that whatever the consequences there ought to remain a kind of piety towards immemorial human values like truth, justice and compassion, I am equally perturbed by his conflation of all kinds of p­olitical violence into a general perversion to be avoided at all costs. It seems that he cannot countenance any use of violence in the endeavour to transform society, but pleads for gradual enlightenment and r­eform through dialogue. The idea of discussion, negotiation and compromise certainly cannot be abandoned in any mature political project which might i­nclude use of force. But to invoke dialogue as an absolute counter to violence is a barren argument. Politics has seldom if ever been an ideal environment where d­ialogue between mutually tolerant parties leads incrementally to public good shared equally by all members of society.

Force, not reason, has been the basis of all power. This is an undesirable state of affairs no doubt, but this is the inescapable reality. Reason itself is often driven to use force in the face of blind reaction. To be sure there is a vital question of degree and the point where it e­scalates into tyranny. How does one address this reality except by acknowledging it and ensuring some sense of res­ponsibility sanctioned by mature moral considerations? But such moral considerations cannot claim to override the crying need for transformation of society, which in its present form supports violence and cruelty in various guises. The enormity of total war against the people of Vietnam, including the use of chemical warfare by American forces, had been concealed in western propaganda by stories of Viet Cong cruelty. In the same way, the indiscriminate conflation of fascist and communist violence in an abstract way by tearing them out of their real political contexts compels upon their proponents only political passivity.

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