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violencethe infliction of physical harm to the human body, or to human property by physical force, using the body or weapons. The ability to marshal physical force is often a determining factor in social actions, e.g. in domestic relations between husbands and wives (see WIFE BATTERING), or parents and children. In politics, the sustaining of a claim to legitimate monopoly of control over the means of violence within a territory (including defence of the realm), is a defining feature of the STATE. Equally, however, the threat of a recourse to violence against rulers by the ruled acts as a major constraint on the powers of rulers. See also SOREL, REVOLUTION, WARFARE, MILITARY INTERVENTION (IN POLITICS).
the use by certain classes (social groups) of various forms of compulsion, including armed coercion, in relation to other classes (social groups) for the purpose of acquiring or preserving economic and political dominance or certain rights or privileges.
Marxism has shown that the systematic use of violence in history has been associated primarily with the existence of antagonistic classes, that is, with objective factors determined ultimately by the level of development of productive forces. Violence in the hands of the exploiter classes is one of the chief means of preserving or strengthening a given system of antagonistic social relations and one of the conditions of its “normal” functioning.
Marx linked the distinctive role of violence in history with change in concrete historical forms of alienation of labor and methods of compelling labor. In the slaveholding mode of production, the slaveholder-master plays the role of organizer of the activities of his dependent slaves; the state fulfills the function of supplying the labor force and keeping it in submission. Under feudalism the hierarchically organized ruling class relies on the expropriation of land, which includes the producers who work on the land. In bourgeois society, which is based on private property, alienation of labor takes on the appearance of the free exchange of goods between the owners of embodied labor (capital) and of live labor, or the labor force (the proletariat). Under capitalism the preservation of relations of exploitation is masked by the apparent “freedom” of the worker; in capitalism, naturally, the role of distorted ideological forms of social consciousness increases. However, in decisive moments of the class struggle, the bourgeoisie resorts unhesitatingly to violence, revealing the exploitative essence of the antagonistic system of relations. During the age of imperialism the policies of the ruling classes tend to reject nominally democratic methods and to establish openly violent, fascist military dictatorships. In ideology, social demagoguery is complemented with a frank apologia for violence (the cult of power, theories of the elite, racist theories, etc.), which was expressed in its concentrated form in fascism. Ruling exploiter classes have widely applied and continue to apply violence in international relations as well, unleashing wars aimed at the robbery and the enslavement of peoples and striving to maintain their hegemony over oppressed nations.
The rising, progressive classes (for example, the bourgeoisie during the period of struggle against feudalism or the working class), in turn, use violence to break a system of obsolete social relations and to subvert the classes associated with the system, who do not wish to forego their own interests and privileges.
Marxism-Leninism rejects theories that ascribe to violence a decisive role in history (E. Dühring). At the same time, it does not at all deny the role of violence in various mechanisms for the realization of historic inevitability, especially during periods of social revolution. Tracing the genesis of the capitalist formation, Marx demonstrated how violence helped to destroy previous social relations and to create conditions for the existence of capital—it forced the pauper, by means of “bloody legislation,” to become a worker. Methods of primary accumulation, wrote Marx, “partly depend on brute force,” whereby “they all employ the power of the state, the concentrated and organized force of society, to hasten, hothouse fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode and to shorten the transition. Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, p. 761).
Marxism, having explained the objective role of violence in history, was the first to resolve the question of the conscious use of violence by the proletariat in its revolutionary struggle for communism. The Marxist formulation of the question of violence proceeds from the objective laws and conditions of the class struggle. It requires that violence be reduced to the necessary minimum at each stage of struggle, when there is a choice. The experience of history has shown that the ruling classes do not voluntarily forego their own privileges and that they use all available means in their struggle against the oppressed classes, even mass terror. The resistance of the obsolescent classes compels the revolutionary classes to resort to violent retaliatory measures, including armed struggle. “When there is no reactionary violence, against which it is necessary to fight,” wrote F. Engels, “there can be no talk of any kind of revolutionary violence” (ibid., vol. 38, p. 419). The extent and form of revolutionary violence depend primarily on the level and form of resistance offered by the classes that are being overthrown. Along with this, in choosing a crueler or more humane form of revolutionary upheaval, an important role is also played by the level of moral and intellectual development of the working class itself and its parties and leaders, as well as by other circumstances, such as, for example, the legacy of war (K. Marx, ibid., vol. 23, p. 9; V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 36, pp. 199–200).
From its very inception, Marxism proposed the path of peaceful revolution under certain conditions as a possible alternative to the nonpeaceful revolutionary path. But no far-reaching social revolution is conceivable without mass political action, coercive measures applied to the exploiters, and the establishment of the dictatorship of the revolutionary classes—that is, specific forms of social violence.
The task of the construction of socialism necessitates coercive measures against resistant elements of the exploiter classes (the bourgeoisie, the kulaks). However, the social death of the exploiter classes that is inevitable in a socialist society does not demand the repression of all the exploiters, let alone their physical destruction. Resolutely suppressing the resistance of forces hostile to socialism, the proletarian state affords loyal elements full opportunity to use their knowledge and abilities in the construction of a new society and to become its full and equal members.
In the period of the building of socialism the basic methods become not coercion but persuasion, education, and organization of the masses. The concrete historical conditions and the level of development of the particular country determine the interrelationship of these methods. At the same time, under socialism methods of coercion are still used against antisocial elements—thieves, parasites, criminals, and hooligans.
New international conditions, associated with the growth of socialism and the international anti-imperialist movement, have enabled the Communist parties to suggest that violence be banished from the sphere of international relations even in the period of the coexistence of capitalist and socialist states and that it is possible to avert a new world war even before the complete victory of socialism on earth.
Under contemporary conditions, where there exists a world socialist system, revolutionary processes in a number of countries are able to develop in less violent forms. Previously, the bourgeoisie was stronger than the proletariat and imposed upon it the bloodiest forms of struggle; in the present-day era the proletariat has the opportunity to thrust on the bourgeoisie more humane forms of struggle. Nevertheless, the world communist movement, drawing from the experience of history, emphasizes in its program documents that a “nonpeaceful transition to socialism” is always a possibility. The proletariat may be compelled by the resistance of the forces of reaction to change the form of struggle and to use armed coercion .
A correct approach to the problem of violence was similarly developed in the communist movement in its systematic struggle against opportunistic ideas. Revisionist concepts arise from exaggeration of the legal potentials of a bourgeois democracy, which supposedly permits workers’ parties to introduce socialism without the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat. Marxist-Leninist parties conduct an unrelenting struggle against revisionism and against right-wing opportunism, which paralyzes the revolutionary will of the working class. There is also nothing in common between revolutionary Marxism and the various types of leftist concepts, the holders of which absolutize the significance of armed violent actions during the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed classes or attempt to introduce methods of “barracks communism” into the practice of socialist construction.
The Marxist understanding of violence is the object of systematic attacks and falsification in contemporary anticommunist literature. Bourgeois propagandists ignore the fact that bourgeois society itself is a structure that systematically practices violence in relation to the toiling masses and the oppressed nations carrying on just national liberation struggles. Depicting communists as worshipers of terror and violence, they remain silent about the fact that the proletariat is forced to use violence that is temporary and limited in nature. The consistent development of socialist democracy in the socialist countries, the struggle of the Communist parties of the capitalist countries for the renewal and expansion of democracy and against the reactionary dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and the active policies of the socialist states aimed at strengthening the principles of peaceful coexistence increasingly expose and refute the inventions of the ideologists of anticommunism.
In their policies communists follow the clear precepts of the classics of Marxism-Leninism. “Violence is, of course, alien to our ideals,” emphasized V. I. Lenin, and this ideal of communism corresponds to the objective tendency of the historical process, in which “the entire trend of development is toward abolition of coercive domination of one part of society over another” (V. I. Lenin, ibid., vol. 30, p. 122).
REFERENCESMarx, K. K apital, ch. 24. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23.
Engels, F. Anti-Dü hring, sec. 2, chs. 2–4. Ibid., vol. 20, pp. 162–70.
Engels, F. “Rol’ nasiliia ν istorii.” Ibid., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. “O gosudarstve.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 39.
Lenin, V. I. “Kak burzhuaziia ispol’zuet renegatov.” Ibid., vol. 30.
Lenin, V. I. “Zamechaniia na knigu N. I. Bukharina: Ekonomika perekhodnogo perioda.” In Leninskii sbornik, XI. Moscow-Leningrad, 1929.
Programmnye dokumenty bor’by za mir, demokratiiu i sotsializm. Moscow, 1961.
Programma KPSS (Priniata XXII s” ezdom KPSSj. Moscow, 1971.
Mezhdunarodnoe soveshchanie kommunisticheskikh i rabochikh partii: Dokumenty i materialy. Moskva, 1969. Moscow, 1969.
Materialy XXIV s” ezda KPSS. Moscow, 1971.
Kar, G. “O mirnom i nemirnom putiakh razvitiia sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii.” Problemy mira i sotsializma, 1962, no. 5.
Kovalev, S. “Kommunisticheskii gumanizm i revoliutsionnoe prinuzhdenie.” Ibid., 1964, no. 5.
Fedoseev, P. “Materialisticheskoe ponimanie istorii i ’teoriia nasiliia.’ “Kommunist, 1964, no. 7.
E. G. PLIMAK
What does it mean when you dream about violence?
Horrifying scenes of violence and destruction may indicate an overwhelming fear of the loss of one’s sense of power and control. Because of this fear, the dreamer may be in rage at others. An upheaval may have taken place in the dreamer’s work or personal life prior to such a dream.