Socialist Worker

A world free from violence

by Paul McGarr
Issue No. 1674

'YOU Marxists believe in violent revolution,' is a charge put by establishment politicians and mainstream newspapers. These people claim that, unlike Marxists, they stand for peace and non-violence. This is the utmost hypocrisy. Such people organise and cheer on the most barbaric violence when it is in their interests.

Tony Blair claims to be a peace loving Christian. Yet he urged on the bombers in both the Gulf War and Balkans. Foreign secretary Robin Cook rails against 'violence'. Yet he sells weapons to Indonesia which inflict savagery. Bill Clinton postures as a peace lover. Yet he has nuclear missiles pointed at half the world.

Every one of Britain's main national newspapers urged on the bombing of Belgrade and defended the use of deadly depleted uranium weapons in the Balkan War earlier this year. These people do not threaten simply the ultimate violence of war and death. They all backed the police riot against protesters on the J18 Carnival Against Capitalism in the City of London.

The system these politicians and press defend is based on violence from the roots up. Jubilee 2000 has underlined how they inflict the violence of death, disease and poverty on millions of people worldwide through the chains of debt. In 1997 over 25 million people died from causes which the World Health Organisation says 'are premature and preventable'. Violence is also built into the more advanced parts of the world's capitalist system.

Charities for the elderly say some 20,000 pensioners die prematurely each winter in Britain from inadequate diet and heating. And the daily grind of life, of lack of money, stress and overwork, of the new combination of flexibility and exploitation, 'flexploitation', breeds violence too. It wrecks lives. It pushes people over the edge and leads some to resort to violence against the people they are closest to.

Socialists, along with millions of other people, abhor all this violence. We want to see a world without violence of any kind. Those who protest against debt, march against war or demonstrate against the World Trade Organisation would all agree with our opposition to violence. But socialists do not renounce the use of all violence in advance.

When a slave uses violence against or even kills their master to win freedom that is entirely justified. We defended Nelson Mandela when he used violence to resist the daily death and violence the apartheid regime in South Africa meted out to blacks. We have no hesitation in standing with workers who physically defend themselves against attacks by police on a demonstration. We stand with people who fight back against Nazis like the BNP.

We also argue that in fighting to end the violence of this society we have to use force if needed. Those at the top are prepared to use violence to defend the existing system. They will unleash war and wade through blood, killing and maiming to hang on to their wealth and power. To use force to prevent them unleashing that violence is right and necessary. We argue that the mass of workers, by coming together and using their collective power, can paralyse capitalism and begin building a new society.

The mass character of that struggle, and the enormous economic power of workers, mean very little force and violence are needed in that fight. There would be far less violence than that produced daily by the existing system. The nature of the fight to change society determines the character and purpose of any force that may be used. So no genuine socialist would ever consider dropping bombs on fellow workers' homes.

But in a fight to transform society, it is right to disarm and suppress, with force if needed, the police and army officers, who would unleash violence against ordinary people. The failure to do that has always led to the far greater violence of counter-revolution. So in Chile in 1973 workers were told to trust the army and hand over army weapons they had seized. People were left defenceless when General Pinochet launched his coup, killing thousands.

Socialists want to mobilise the mass of people to transform society. In fighting for that we argue we have to be ready to use force to prevent the far greater violence defenders of the system will unleash.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Sat 27 Nov 1999, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1674
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.