Revolutionary "morality"

Matt Davidson afn02065 at
Fri Jun 9 12:05:48 MDT 1995

John D. Walker writes:

>OK -- I believe I'm getting a sense for where we stand, respectively, on
>this matter, and I think we're not very far apart. If I'm reading you
>right here, it's not that you think the moral question -- is violence
>justified in the course of revolution? -- is irrelevant.  It's that you
>think it's got an *obvious* answer, namely yes. And instead of getting
>bogged down, tinkering with explanations of why, we should get on with
>the business of bringing about good social change.

Violence in the revolution is inevitable.  If that violence is wrong, then
the revolution is wrong.  So what are we doing here?

>I think this is interesting and true -- to take an example from a different
>context, it's often the case that young women don't come to consciousness
>of the fact of women's oppression until they find themselves fighting
>back against the sexual harassment in the workplace, the glass ceiling,
>the belittling attitudes of men.

Well, right up with those examples I'd have to put rape--the ubiquity of
which among my female friends and acquaintances is no less disturbing for
having become less surprising.

>I'm still uncomfortable with the "any means" idea, though.  For instance,
>I think it'd be wrong to boil children in oil to achieve the socialist

My inclination is to reject this sort of silly example out of hand.  But
hey, let's put it in context... Given a choice between boiling, say, 10,000
sweet, uh, innocent, uh, proletarian(!) children in oil with a guarantee of
a millenium of "socialist utopia", or letting these children be worked to
death in a capitalist factory with a guarantee of a millenium of continuing
capitalist hell, which would you choose?

Just a little thought experiment.

>Well, if we're going to tinker...I'd say we need a coherent explanation
>of why the capitalist order is unjust, evil, bad, or otherwise worthy of
>being opposed. Marx certainly gives us the kernel of such an explanation,
>though of course whether he thought capitalism is to be condemned morally
>is controversial.

Well, folks are moral beings.  Certainly we can have moral feelings about
capitalism (I'm sure Karl did too).  Of course, capitalism doesn't really
care about our feelings, does it?  Marx figured capitalism would kick
because it would become a fetter on the development of the productive forces
with attendant social consequences.  He did not feel that we are in a stage
where history is the conscious creation (morally or othewise) of human
beings.  That is a situation that will only come about with socialism.

But if moral judgments help organize, let's use 'em.

>Then we need an account of what means it's permissible to use in the
>pursuit of a more just social-economic order.  I'm intrigued by the idea
>of a class-based self-defense model (see Mr Chodos' recent post), or
>perhaps a contractarian model would do.  Some have used the contract
>device to explain the "rules of war."

Are we afraid to take power or something?

-- Matt D.

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