Marxists, the death penalty, and democracy

Stuart Lawrence stuartwl at walrus.com
Sun Sep 9 12:18:32 MDT 2001


While the death penalty has become a central concern of human rights advocates
worldwide, there is no question that executions are crowd-pleasers under all
sorts of regimes. No one expects Texas or China to stop executing people by the
hundreds or thousands as a result of internal popular sentiment. Today's NY
Times mentions an academic survey that found less than 1 percent of Chinese
favored the abolition of capital punishment and over 90 percent thought more
executions were needed.  Opinion polls in the USA show that supporters of
capital punishment outnumber opponents by more than two to one.

Certainly on this list there are a variety of views on capital punishment,
ranging from unqualified opposition to all state executions to support for the
majority of state executions. Can anyone help me understand the theoretical
basis of  the variety of stands on the death penalty held by self-described
Marxists? Is a revolutionary or socialist state more justified in imposing the
death penalty than the bourgeois state?  Can that justification be verified or
denied other than historically and retrospectively? Is opposition to capital
punishment _only_ under the bourgeois state an effective and forceful position
for Marxists? Is the death penalty so necessary to the revolutionary
transformation of society that it can not be opposed without qualification, or
is the acheivement of its abolition in some industrialized societies one of the
democratic gains that must be defended by Marxists?

Does it satisfy anyone that the existence or absence of capital punishment seems
to correlate with its popularity; i.e., is this a purely local matter that
Texans and Chinese have decided for themselves?

If anyone wants to defend China's popular "strike hard" campaign while
distinguishing it from the voter-pleasing executions in Texas, I will read with
great interest. However, I'm just curious both about the range of opinions among
subscribers and the basis of those opinions.

Stuart
stuartwl at walrus.com




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