Anarchist novelist, viticulturalist, garden writer, political scientist and historian, Edward Hyams* (1910-1975) argues that despite government and mainstream media homilies to the contrary, sustained political terrorism is often effective and no more nor less morally reprehensible than any other form of warfare. Where is the rationale for the absolute denial of military force to all but those “who happen to be the holders of political power?” Beginning with the the 19th century “theorists” of terrorism— Bakunin, Johann Most, Max Stirner and especially Nechayev, who created for himself the persona that was to become a literary archetype of the revolutionary fanatic (he was the model for Verkhovensky in Dostoevsky’s The Possessed) — Hyams moves on to discuss, more generally, some of the “practitioners” such as the Carbonari, the Serbian “Black Hand,” the Narodnaya Volya and even the Mafia before concentrating his argument on the two most successful terrorist campaigns of modern times — those which established the independent states of Israel and Ireland. In 1918 it was not Lloyd-George’s sympathy with Irish and Welsh nationalist aspirations but the brilliant guerrilla tactics of Michael Collins which forced the British to rethink “the Irish question”. Similarly though the moderates took over the reins of power quickly enough, “it was the terrorists who gave Israel to the Jews.” Hyams concludes that terrorism will be with us so long as there are laws because: it is in law that social injustice is embodied and by law that it is sanctioned. Terrorism thus becomes nothing less than a “cathartic fever” endemic in civilization, which can only be eliminated by “pre-emptive, sustained counter-terrorism” of the leviathan state — which may be infinitely more brutal and oppressive than any band of brigands. A lucid, tough-minded, well-argued and disturbing book.
* Hyams other works include: Killing No Murder. A study of assasination as a political means; Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Revolutionary Life, Mind and Works; The Grapevine in England; A History of Gardens and Gardening; and English Cottage Gardens (in which he describes how between 1760 and 1867 the English ruling class stole seven milion acres of common land, the property and livelihood of the common people of England, which he called a “gigantic crime, by far the grandest larceny in England’s history”.
“…As the word implies, it is the use of terror by political militants as a means of overthrowing a government in power, or of forcing that government to change its policies. It is easy to distinguish two principal forms of terrorism, and I have already labelled them Direct and Indirect. In the case of Direct Terrorism, the terrorist seeks to terrorize the actual tenants of power and office—emperors, kings and queens, presidents and cabinet ministers : that was the policy of the militant groups of the Russian Populists, including the Nihilists, such as the ‘ People’s Will’ and the Socialist Revolutionaries, in the late nineteenth century; and of the violent wing of the Anarchist movement in Italy and Spain. It has the great advantage, from the terrorist’s point of view, not only of sparing the common people but of gratifying their secret wish to see the rich and mighty punished for the miseries and humiliations of the poor and weak; in other words, of getting the common people on the terrorists’ side.
“Indirect Terrorism [or the ‘Strategy of Tension’], on the other hand, consists in discrediting a government by demonstrating that it cannot protect its own people or their property, cannot maintain law and order; in short, is not fit to be in office at all. The terrorist creates chaos by bombing buildings or setting fire to them, by robbing banks, by sabotaging industrial plant, by kidnapping foreign diplomats or other prominent people. This was, for example, the policy of the terrorists in Ulster in the early 1970s, and so successful was it that the Stormont Government was discredited, could maintain itself in office only by calling in the British Army, and was finally suspended in 1972.”