Violence and the civilized society: Conformity and dissidence in different societies (Part Five)
By Mark Wegierski
(Initial drafts of this essay date back to 1988. – author's note)
Liberalism appears to be perennially characterized by its "sqeamishness" when it comes to dealing to threats to its "social order" and even "civil order." It is only so squeamish, one could argue, when the threat is posed, for example, from the Far Left, or by clearly criminal elements. But any possible crimes that can be attributed to an unfairly generalized "right-wing," such as the bombing of abortion clinics or shootings of doctors who provide abortion services (which are clearly carried out by some obviously disturbed individuals), are met with the strictest of severity, and by the further attempt to extend permanent blame onto the entire right-wing.
One can certainly perceive a curious unevenness in the administration of justice in contemporary America. For example, Ollie North (Colonel Oliver North) was harshly treated – especially by the media -- for an offence, which -- in many conservatives' eyes -- consisted of nothing more than of upholding and fighting for America's interests, when Congress had manifestly abandoned them. During North's Senate race, how often was the phrase that he would become "the first convicted felon ever elected to the Senate", gleefully repeated. A curious word, "felon." It might be argued that even in a predominantly left- liberal society, it is mainly those who are to some extent socially conservative who most strongly care about their society. Thus, some might argue, a predominantly left-liberal society survives only because there are socially-conservative soldiers and police who defend it, and socially-conservative parents who tend to have children and bring them up (relatively) decently, in usually more intact households. But some might think that the very "essence" of liberalism is to stand against what, in this sense, may be termed "society" or "the social."
Interestingly enough, all the regimes which could be called Leninist have had the tendency to call their armed opponents "bandits," -- i.e., to see them as criminals, pure and simple, implying that they are a threat not to the "social regime," but to the "civil order" itself. For example, RENAMO in Mozambique were called "bandits" by the Mozambique Marxists (and also by much of the Canadian press). Some Canadian reporters were talking about how RENAMO could not be genuine partisans because they massively murdered their own people. Accepting the Marxist government's appraisal of the actions of RENAMO – which was probably far from the truth itself -- the Canadian press appeared to have forgotten that virtually every left-wing revolutionary movement had been far more murderous towards the societies and nations in which it had existed – but had nevertheless been enthusiastically supported by most Western left-liberals. There was an article in the Toronto Star raging against the fact that a "terrorist leader" of RENAMO had been allowed refugee status in Canada -- a good example of liberal "resolve" -- in the face of a generalized "right-wing." This characterization of armed opponents as "bandits" was also a standard Nazi tactic, as exemplified by the sign, "Achtung! Banditten!", often seen by the railways of German-occupied Poland.
So what was the main point about violence to be? It is largely to say that organized state or social violence within a given society, can, to a certain extent, be viewed as a "tactical problem" for every ruling group. It is part of the panoply of normative, utilitarian, and lesser coercive instrumentalities it has at its disposal. The amount of violence to be carried out by the ruling group in traditionalist as well as liberal democratic societies could be optimally defined as that which most effectively maintains (or does the least damage to) the prevailing world-view of that society. It should also be pointed out that when a hyper-aggressive ideology too vociferously embraces violence, it then very often sows the seeds for its own destruction – as most of the rest of the world is thrown into an alliance against it. The most obvious example of this was Nazi Germany.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.