- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Punitive vs. exemplary violence

Posted by: NJ ( DSA, MA, USA ) on February 03, 19100 at 11:05:36:

In Reply to: Scare Tactics posted by MDG on February 02, 19100 at 17:04:28:

: Hmmm. The armchair general in me agrees with that, but the moralist in me won't accept it. I think there are some weapons that are so heinous they are beyond the pale: poison gas and napalm, for instance. We COULD use those, but their use should be considered not only beneath us, but beyond us as ethical beings; should we become monsters in order to win a war?

: : : Self-defense is fully justifiable, and if a man is shooting at you and you shoot him first dead, that's awful but justifiable. Shooting a man who is in chains is murder.

Well, not if it's aftre a fair trial with due process, etc. I think that the big distinguishmnt we have to make is not between killing and non-killing, or between violence and nonviolence, because there is quite a possibility that those distinctions may eventually get lost ovbernboard, and then we may slip into a 'once you've lost your virginity, what does it matter" frame of mind and start killing right and left. I think the distinction that needs to be always obeyed is between punitive and exemplary killing. Exemplary killing, killing someone solely to accomplish a good end, or to make an example of him, is always wrong. It was the specialty of right wing governments, and also certain revolutionary movements like the FLN in Algeria and the PLO in Israel. That is bad, absolutely unjustifiable. Because what makes the victims of the PLO or teh Salvador death squads worthy of death? nothing.

Killing for PUNITIVE reasons, that is for crimes committed after the fact, which are grievously harmful to society, and which have been proven in a court of law with due process, may be justifiable and necessary for military reasons. It is, at the very least, fundamentally different than exemplary killing. The VietCong in Viet Nam originally tried to make their killings all punitive killings. They fell away from this ideal to some extent, but at least they recognized the difference. Many South American guerilla movements, to their credit, stuck with violence only for punitive, not exemplary ends. The most rigorous about this were maybe the Tupamaros in Uruguay.

Consider the difference between the MRTA, which seized the Japanese Embassy in Lima some years back, and some nuts like the Lord's Army in Burma, which just seized a hospital. The MRTA took over a government building in which a party was going on. The people involved wete'nt civil servants or functionaries, they were dignitaries and their fakmilies. By their presence there, they implicitly defined themselves as on the side of an oppressive regime. The MRTA did not kill a signle hostage, and in fact released most of them. The government, on the other hand, shot down all 14 of them, including teenage girls, while they were trying to surrender. They died, true, but they died martyrs, and they will be rememberedwith sympathy and admiration by socialists for years to come. Contrast this to the typical techniques of the El Salvador right wing, or the Guaetemala government, or the PLO, or the Sikh terrorists, who routinely target planes, buses, and villages full of innocent peopel regardless of who they are.

Somone once put it well. "I'm not so scared of the bullet with my name on it. What really scares me is the one that reads, 'To whom it may concern.'"

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