The use of violence to achieve political ends, the overthrow of an oppressive regime, the abolition of unjust laws, the modification of an discriminatory society, and the elimination of institutionalized violence is likely to end in an equally oppressive, unjust, discriminatory, and violent society. The means, in these situations, lead, as often as not, to civil war. The chief victims of violence are not those who advocate it but, thousands if not millions of innocent civilians caught in the cross fire between the establishment and those in revolt. Those leaders who are attempting to bring about change without resorting to violence are undermined. Any lasting attempt at violent confrontation with a government requires massive support from outside forcing the rebellion to choose between major political powers.
To suggest that political, religious or other forms of extremism is not justified by history, contemporary reality, logic or law, as did a USA commission on violence in 1969, is plain silly. Many people and governments may believe in liberty, equality and justice but their behaviour is something else. And many people and governments simply do not hold these beliefs. Have not all peaceful demonstrations, sit-ins, freedom rides and marches, defiance campaigns, petitions, letters to editors and legislative representatives been singularly unsuccessful for some people. Have not decades spent, knocking, patiently, moderately and modestly at a closed and barred door been spent by some minorities in vain. The resort to violence to achieve political ends is a tactic that embodies a cry for help; that seeks reforms; that wants attention to grievances and demands; and that demands a response to a deep and abiding sense of iniquity and inequity. There is a point where violence is a necessary and creative response to institutionalized violence; it is saying no, no longer, no more, not again loud enough and clearly enough to be heard. If people are barred from using the sophisticated instruments of the established order for their ends, they will find another way. To the people involved in the riot, the civil war, these are far less lawless and far more representative than the system of arbitrary rules and prescribed channels which they confront every day. These are far less violent than the ongoing brutality of living in a slum, shanty town or backward village maintained by a social and political system geared to maintain the status quo.