Political violence has become present in our daily life. The popularity of political violence has been escalating for the past years. Almost everyone and anyone – politicians, students, farmers, mass media etc. are affected and is experiencing political violence. In this paper, I will be defining political violence, its forms, the nature of political violence in democracy, and the factors that prompts political violence.
Firstly, Political violence is defined as a violence that is carried out by people, organization and/or government to be able to achieve political goals. These political goals are strived to be attained due to the citizens’ will to acquire the ideal state they want. There are many goals of political violence and these are but not limited to: act upon an issue, to stop an action on an issue and to demand systematic changes. It typically affects the policy, but in extreme cases it can even overthrow the current government, an indelible example of this is the Philippine Revolution that happened in 1896 that resulted in Philippine independence from the colonial control of Spain and the EDSA revolution 1986. Revolution is an important form of political violence and defined as a “public seizure of the state in order to overturn the existing government and regime.” It involves public participation, but it doesn’t mean that revolution is always violent. On the contrary, it does not necessitate violence.
Political violence can be described as Politically motivated violence that can be perpetrated by “non-state actors (NSA) against a state or against other non-state actors” by rebelling and/or rioting. Non-state actors are individuals and group “that has significant political influence but is not allied to any particular country or state.” Example of NSA are corporation, non-governmental organizations, international media agencies, etc. some concrete examples are United Nations and ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The government can also enact non-action political violence such as “refusing to alleviate famine or otherwise denying resources to politically identifiable groups within their territory.”
There are different forms of political violence that varies widely in severity and practice. There is a common organizing framework that considers the types of violence by the relevant actors: 1.) violence between non-state actors, 2.) one-sided violence perpetrated by a state actor against civilians, and 3.) violence between states.
Under the violence between non-state actors includes ethnic conflict and terrorism. The former is a form of political violence wherein two or more opposing ethnic groups has competition or discordance. The source of this conflict may be political, social, economic or religious, this happens when ethnic groups fight for their position within the society. And the latter, Terrorism, a one-sided violence by non-state actors. This uses intentional violence against civilians to achieve political purpose and “to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.”
The one-sided violence by the state has five categories, first is genocide, it is commonly defined as “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation”, which means the intentional destruction of people in whole or part. This is “carried out with either the overt or covert support of the governments of those countries where genocidal activities take place”. A historical example of genocidal activity is the Holocaust or the Shoah that happened in World War II where Nazi Germany murdered one-third of the European’s Jewish population. Second, torture, it is the act of inflicting severe pain whether physically or psychologically, as a way of punishment, revenge or simply an act of cruelty. Torture is now prohibited under the rule of law and is considered as human rights violation. Third is the capital punishment or death penalty, this is form of punishment where a person is sentenced to death for an offense committed. There are still some countries that uses capital punishment, methods of this includes beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting. In 2007, United Nation General Assembly calls for worldwide abolition of the death penalty. Forth, the police brutality, commonly defined as “is the abuse of authority by the unwarranted infliction of excessive force by personnel involved in law enforcement while performing their official duties.” Lastly, Famine or the extreme shortage in food that can cause people to die of starvation. One of the deadliest famines ever was the Greatest Chinese Famine that occurred in 1959-1961, the death toll was estimated of between 20 to 43 million. This period was characterized by mass starvation.
Violence between a state and non-state actor, in this category one of the parties involved is the government of the state. There are five forms of political violence under this category. First is the rebellion, is a refusal to obey, it is an open resistance against the commands of an established authority. Second is rioting. A riot is a disturbance of peace by a group of individuals that is formed to protest the government. They are characterized by their unpredictability and “anonymity of their participants”. Third is revolution. Fourth, the civil war is a war fought in the same state or country between organized group of people. “Less commonly, it can also be fought between two countries that have been created from one previously unified state.” Fifth is the counterinsurgency is an action carried out by the government or the military to defeat insurgency or the active revolt and address it root causes. War is also an act of political violence. It is a long-term conflict between states, nation, or other parties, characterized by extreme violence, social disturbance, and high mortality.
Democracy aims to remove all kinds of violence. All groups and individuals have the right to express their views and opinion, that is why in democracy violence in unnecessary. Like any other state, this is not always the case. Democratic state uses violence when necessary and to maintain itself in existence and to battle the violent acts that reject the democratic process.
Democracy aspires to limit and control the use of violence and to keep in check the holders of state power in the distribution of legitimate violence. This system also aims political and social inclusion, granting the citizens the equal rights to speak out in making the laws and policies that will affect their entire lives, with the idea that with equality and effective involvement will eventually lead to violence needless on the part of our people. However, there is no successful democratic system where this degree of inclusion is achieved and reduce violence. There are many factors that makes political community difficult to achieve, relevant examples are cultural, national, ethnic and religious diversity of people. According to J. Schwarzmantel, we should understand democracy as a way of governing in which all participants should accept the certain rules and recourse to rational and reasoned arguments rather than force to settle debated issues.
Democratic politics seeks to use debate and discussion to replace violent conflicts and aspires to peacefully reconcile and unify the conflict and differences that is essential our present complex society. Such as using compromising processes, debate and discussion to settle violent confrontation through the institution of democratic politics to reconcile political differences. The only reason to use actual violence by democratic societies is to protect democratic processes from attacks and to use violence to exclude people who are unwilling to reconcile the conflict through democratic channels.
Violence is condemned because it diminishes the reasoning or the rationality of a human being because of violent actions gets in the way through anger, fear of injury or death. Though it is impossible to entirely eradicate the conflicts of individuals living in a society, the democratic method still seeks to resolve the diversity of individuals through peaceful acts and non-violent processes. The ideal democracy will be built in them a perspective of humans as rational being and has the capabilities of being understood by reasoned arguments and not by brute force. Violence will be not be considered or even unthinkable because it will be rejected by the members of the society as a valid means to pursue their interests. Briefly, violence will be excluded from the democratic politics because of its dehumanizing effect.
Clearly, this democratic exclusion of violence is an ideal and not a reality. It is unlikely to be fulfilled in the real world because it relies on the assumption that all opinions and interest are considered, and that people will therefore no longer need to recourse to violence in order to be heard. In reality, democracy does not entirely eradicate violence but rather, it seeks to control and limit its use. According to Weber, the democratic state exercises violence and is considered the sole source of the right to do so. It must use violence to maintain the state itself. In establishing democracy, the state, if necessary, will use violence against those who are not wiling to accept the democratic process. If this is not done, establishing democracy will not be possible. Thus, states under democracy will recourse to violence under certain conditions, to establish themselves and to guarantee its continuous operation.
Democratic political violence can stem from defects in democracy itself. It is stated above that in democracy all groups have equal rights and all opinions are taken into account which make violence unnecessary. But it is also stated that it is highly and ideal picture of democratic society. If you look at it in another perspective, democracy uses the majority rule in making decisions there will be a problem with the minority. If the minority will is denied with equal hearing specifically because of its minority status this will open a possibility in resorting to violence as a channel to be heard and/or get in to the system. There will always be a case where a group is not heard and is marginalized by the democratic politics, especially if this group or minority is characterized by ethnicity and racial status.