It has become a commonplace to declare that "one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter." Many leaders of movements for "national liberation" (the so-called terrorists) have subsequently become part of the ruling class they once fought. Most who killed and were killed did so in the belief that they were creating a better and more just society than the one they lived in. But violence has failed to deliver a better life to those who indulged in it and suffered from it.
Socialists have always opposed both violent struggles for "national liberation" and the "legitimate" wars fought between nation states. We see that causing more of it cannot lead to an end to the suffering in the world. If you sincerely believe in the efficacy of violence to solve your own and the world’s problems then you simply deny the evidence of history. It is interesting how often politicians and journalists who steadfastly support violence when it comes from what they think is “their own” side, nevertheless quickly explode with anger when it comes from someone else. Every side, in any of the disputes raging round the world at the moment, claim that their own violence is only made necessary because of the violence coming from their opponents. The truth of the matter is that capitalism inevitably produces violence.
Violence will not make people into socialists. What many groups can’t stand about the Socialist Party is that we do not advocate violence and therefore cannot offer a practical programme of activity based on it. We are labelled ‘theoretical’ (as if this being a term of abuse!). No violence, no death or injury, will bring socialism any closer. Socialism will be brought about when the great majority of the world’s people want it to be brought about. We want to change people’s ideas. Violence will not make people into Socialists. Cudgeling someone’s head is not going to alter the ideas inside that head, at least in any worthwhile way. Rational discussion will finally make socialists. We believe that by considered argument we can show how co-operation and mutual assistance will achieve what we all want to achieve – a peaceful, harmonious, and contented existence. But Socialist Party members are not Quakers or pacifists, and do not rule out the need for violence under all circumstances. We simply argue that it is quite possible, and highly desirable, for a large majority to establish socialism without bloodshed. The more violence is involved, the more likely the revolution is to fail outright, or be blown sideways into a new minority dictatorship.
Violence we leave to others.