Friday, August 05, 2005

The lessons of Victorian terrorism 

A very interesting opinion piece from "The Times", which draws parallels between the terrorist threat of anarchism in the late 19th century, and the terrorist threat of Islamism today.

Concludes Graham Stewart:
The principal cause [of the decline of the anarchist threat], though, was the realisation that while other socialist movements were making gains, the anarchists, by refusing to engage and cooperate, were not. Potential converts joined the radical causes that were succeeding instead. This is the problem for "all-or-nothing" fundamentalism: it usually ends with nothing.

Terrorists with specific goals and the nous to make tactical compromises can end up in power. But this imperfect world is not good enough for al-Qaeda. And that profound weakness may yet confine it to the same historical irrelevance as the 1890s anarchists.
If this be a parallel, it's not exactly good news. We have to remember that "other socialist movements" which made "gains" while anarchists did not, included not just Western democratic socialists responsible for the triumph of mixed economy and welfarism throughout the twentieth century, but also Bolsheviks, who gave us seven decades of Cold War and 100 million corpses.

It will be a scant consolation if Al Qaeda itself eventually fades away, while the "more successful" radical Muslims have otherwise, through more peaceful methods, succeeded in creating an Islamic superstate of the New Caliphate under one God and one Sharia.


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