Sunday, March 13, 2016

Violence, is it ever justified?

The confrontation in Chicago, where Trump had to retreat. may turn out to be a portent, as we seem to be careening towards violent confrontation on both sides. I take no position on which side is right, though I would agree that Trump started it.
It is worth considering some of the positive approaches, if you will, to violence as a tool of political change. The first landmark is a book by Georges Sorel, a French syndicalist, who (perhaps fittingly enough) influenced both left and right in his day. His Reflections on Violence (Réflexions sur la violence) was published in 1908. Sorel argues that the success of the proletariat in class struggle depended on the creation of a catastrophic and violent revolution achieved through a general strike. One of his most controversial assertions claimed that violence could save the world from barbarism. He equates violence with life, creativity, and virtue. A major contention argued by Sorel in the book is on the importance of myths as "expressions of will to act".
The Wretched of the Earth (Les Damnés de la Terre) is a 1961 book by Frantz Fanon, offering a psychiatric and psychological analysis of the dehumanizing effects of colonization upon the individual, and the nation, from which derive the broader social, cultural, and political implications inherent to establishing a social movement for the decolonization of a person and of a people.
In his introduction to the book, Jean-Paul Sartre supported Fanon’s advocacy of justified violence by the colonized people against the foreign colonizer as necessary for their mental health and political liberation. The political focus stems from the first chapter of the book, “Concerning Violence,” wherein Fanon indicts colonialism and its post-colonial legacies, for which violence is a means of catharsis and liberation from being a colonial subject.
For Fanon and Sartre, then, violence is only justified for the poor and downtrodden. The corollary though is that violence will also be applied by the forces of domination.


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