“Our class enemies are in the habit of complaining about our terrorism…They would like to label all the activities of the proletariat directed against the class enemy’s interest as terrorism” (Trotsky 5); this is a very astute observation of Trotsky’s—it was true in 1911 when he wrote it and it’s true now. Communists have long been seen as anarchist rabble with no goal other than throwing a bomb through a train window or shooting politicians over a muddled concept of revolution.
While some of our brothers and sisters have fallen to the sway of this rebel persona, the bulk of us must stay far and away from it. Trotsky argues that the reason for this is that personal acts of terrorism do absolutely nothing, but harm the movement of the revolution and the growing sense of solidarity within the working class. He argues: “If a thimbleful of gunpowder and a little chunk of lead is enough to shoot the enemy through the neck, what need is there for a class organization…where is the need for a party? Why meetings, mass agitations…” (Trotsky 8).
The folly of individual terrorism is that it relegates the working masses—the only entity actually capable of dissolving capitalism—into a rut, waiting for a hero to save them. When a minister is murdered, what happens other than an avalanche of oppression and a replacement is quickly ordered up? Small acts of individual ‘heroism’ (read: stupidity) does absolutely nothing to change the status quo and only harms the working class. The capitalist system is so large and so powerful that one bomb or one bullet won’t change anything. Only a general uprising of the entire populace can remove the exploiters.
Communists may support the taking away of a particularly harsh leader or business owner, but we must never support it if the act is performed by an individual and/or as an isolated incident. Only when the entire bourgeois class is removed as a whole will the working class will be free to pursue its own aims. And the only way to carry out this gargantuan feat is by the workers coming together and flexing its muscle as a whole and not by the acts of a few deranged individuals.
Important text to take away: “…the only question remaining is whether the bourgeois politicians have the right to pour out their floods of moral indignation about proletarian terrorism when their entire state apparatus with its laws, police, and army is but an apparatus for capitalist terror!” (Trotsky 5).
Editorial Note: This essay will be using the pamphlet “Marxism and Terrorism” by Leon Trotsky as edited by Pathfinder press. It includes four of his essays on the topic and I will include a link below.