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Publication Details

Non-violent Character of Revolution and Morality of Violence

(Original title: Nenásilnosť revolúcie a morálnosť násilia)
Filozofia, 22 (1967), 6, 577-590.
Type of work: Papers and Discussions
Publication language: Slovak
Every revolution is faced with the question of violence twice, first as with the question of an immediate political action, then — after a lapse of time — as with the problem of moral decision and its consequences. The history of revolutions show the relation of a revolution to violence to 'be in direct connection with its realizability. Having comprehended this fact, Marxism abandoned the previous tradition of social utopism and made it possible to realize the socialistic revolution. It thus contributed to a further sharpening of the controversy of politics and ethics on the moral value of violence. 1 However, moralizing criticism blames Marxism — mainly owing to Stalinism — for non-moral political practicism unjustly. It is true that Marxism admits violence as a means of the socialistic revolution, but not without moral conditions. The violence of revolution must be actually a revolutionary violence, limited in its sense, form and extent by general and specific program aims of Marxism, in order to be considered by it as acceptable and, from its standpoint, as moral. Revolution can but also need not use violence as an extreme means of solution of its destructive tasks in relation to the political structure of bourgeois class power; it cannot, however, perform the constructive tasks of the building of the new socialistic society by means of violence. Therefore violence cannot be taken, as it usually is, for the essence of revolution. Revolution is a progressive qualitative change of society which can be characterized rather by its non-violent character than by any of its violent aspects. Thus, Marxist ethics does not accept violence as an absolute but only as a relative good, the moral value of which has in historical contexts a decreasing trend. It holds violence for the good only in entirely concrete connection of its progressive social assertion as adequate weapons of revolution against the violence of outdated forms of exploitative systems of class power. By this dialectical conception of moral value of violence, Marxist ethics annuls the validity of antinomic thought of traditional moralism condemning morale to utopianism, politics to practicism and revolution to irreality or non-morality, and opens a promising prospect to a real moral control of violence as д power which mankind cannot, for the present, eject from the scene of history.
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