Image credit: Black Past
The following is an extract from “On Violence: Reactionary vs. Revolutionary”. It is reposted from Revolutionary Initiative.
Revolutionary violence must be contrasted against reactionary, nihilist, and adventurist forms of violence. Objectively, all these forms of violence, though somewhat different in content, are counterrevolutionary by virtue of their consequences.
Reactionary violence are those forms of violence – often promoted by imperialism or sections of the bourgeoisie – that pit certain sections of the proletarian and petty-bourgeoisie against other sections. In the imperialist countries, these forms of violence have mostly been fascist and white-supremacist in character. In the semicolonial, semifeudal countries, communalism, religious sectarianism and political Islam have achieved the same results, dividing up the exploited masses, reasserting bourgeois leadership under new banners, and ultimately diverting struggles away from national liberation and socialism.
Nihilistic violence are those acts of violence that are desperate acts of hopelessness by individuals or small groups that have no strategic plan for revolution. Muslims have become an easy target for the “War on Terror” because political Islam has no social-economic program for liberation outside of the imperialist system, no alternative to the semifeudal, semicolonial society that subordinates their countries to the imperialists. Many Muslims have fallen into the trap set out by the imperialists in taking up reactionary and nihilistic violence as a means of “resistance” when what is required is genuine People’s War.
The effect of seeing this stream of counterrevolutionary violence – coupled with the either silence around, or distortion of the acts of revolutionary violence being conducted around the world – is to blunt the consciousness of the people into accepting that only “peaceful means” can lead to “change”. Never are the masses made aware of the successful and widely popular acts of revolutionary violence being conducted by the People’s Wars in the Philippines, Nepal or India.
Finally, adventurist violence – which shares aspects in common with nihilistic violence – are those forms of violence that the masses are not ready to accept and is carried out without the broad support of the people. The alleged bombing by anarchists of a Royal Bank branch in Ottawa on May 18, 2010 is precisely such a case of adventurist violence. The fact that many in Ottawa believe that the bombing was actually conducted by cops demonstrates the awareness among many that these sorts of acts (regardless of it was carried out by the cops or not) ultimately benefits the repressive apparatuses of the state. Revolutionary mass movements and class consciousness are not so easily ignited by such foolish and terroristic actions completely detached from an overall revolutionary strategy.
To conclude, the principle difference between reactionary violence and revolutionary violence is that the former stems from a place of utter despair and lack of confidence in the people, while the latter places the people at the centre of the struggle for revolutionary change. A terrorist is a cynic who individualistically translates his/her despair into actions that the masses repudiate and the bourgeoisie seizes upon to justify elevating state terror. The revolutionary, on the other hand, integrates himself/herself in the revolutionary classes, learns from them, and develops a revolutionary class consciousness among them to advance the revolutionary struggle to a higher phase.