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Resolved: On balance, violent revolution is a just response to political oppression

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Contents

Background and Context of Debate:

This is an historic and contemporary philosophical debate. Confucius, Kant, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Ghandi and countless other philosophers have weighed in on this debate. While violent revolution is often extolled as an historic, brave action taken by righteous founding members of various societies in the world, it has also be rejected by some of the most well respected philosopher practitioners of our time, including Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. among many others.

Is violent revolution ever justified? This question continues to be relevant today. The non-violent civil disobedience of Myanmar's buddhist monks in the Fall of 2007 called on this question once again. Pakistan's revolutionary stirrings in the Fall and Winter of 2007 also highlighted the question. How should citizens respond to oppression, including violent oppression? Should they "turn the other cheek"? Should they respond with non-violent civil disobedience? Or, should they respond with decisive force? How should foreign governments respond? What philosophies and methods should they uphold? Should they supply foreign citizens with arms? These questions and this debate remain very much alive in today's international political environment.


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Yes

  • Tyrannies undermine social contracts, undermining any citizen's obligation to uphold such a contract.
  • Violent revolt can be a legitimate way to remove constraints to freedom.
  • Nonviolent revolution is possible only if the controlling government does not take brutal measures against protesters. It is quite common that a tyranny will violently, and brutally suppress non-violent protesters. In such instances, non-violent means achieve nothing in the way of change.
  • Violent revolution may also be the only approach effectively taken by powerless, oppressed citizens. When the social contract between the government and individual is broken, the individual has the responsibility to take action against the government to achieve justice. Said justice can be achieved through violent or non-violent terms, as long as the change is sure to occur.
  • The ends justify the means philosophy also applies here. When the intention to achieve a just change is behind the action, then the action, regardless of whether violent or non-violent, is justified.

No

  • Social contracts demand that citizens always uphold a state.
  • Violent revolution does not leave time for genuine reform in principles
  • Revolution for the sake of greater happiness is an illegitimate reason to rebel.
  • Violent revolution may not be a representative, consensus choice by citizens. In such circumstances, it is unjust. Justice demands support of other citizens.
  • Violent revolution will incite counter-revolution: Many will oppose revolution, which can lead to civil war. The costs of revolution-counter-revolution violence or civil war may outweigh the costs of continuity under "oppression".
  • Nonviolent revolution is the most effective because it takes the moral high ground.

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Yes

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No

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Philosophers in history

Yes

  • Sartre


No


See also

External links

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