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Terrorism And Democratic Stability

Terrorism And Democratic Stability
By Jennifer S Holmes
Published by Manchester University Press
ISBN - 0- 7190 - 5959 - 3

Anthony McIntyre • Other View, Winter 2003

Apart from the odd reference, made to underline some point in a newspaper article, or a quote from one of the many books of such things that infest second hand book stores, it is not all that often that Aristotle seriously figures in the material that I care to read. Perhaps because swathes of his thought constitute the founds upon which strands of modern political thinking are based, like a house, few care to comment on what lies beneath it. Quickly running an eye over book spines in the dusty Belfast shops, the presence of Machiavelli is more noticeable. Therefore, to acquire a book, which offers a full-blown Aristotelian analysis of events which are still in living memory, poses its own challenges.

The project undertaken by Manchester University Press to compile a series of works under the theme of 'Perspectives On Democratisation', guided by series editors Shirin M Rai and Wyn Grant, is hardly novel. But it is positive. Uncritically assuming that democracy is teleologically ordained, would be to succumb to the bewitching pull of the Enlightenment metanarrative and its dubious claim to have offered uninterrupted progress. And it might also numb some into thinking that the 'war on terror' is being waged by unequivocal democrats who merely want to spread the good news to darker regions.

As the author of a book entitled Terrorism and Democratic Stability, Jennifer S Holmes may understandably feel that her output arrived in timely fashion when the world wanted to know ever more about the phenomenon of 'terrorism' and the methods employed by states to either repress it or to redress the causes which may have given rise to it. While Holmes' work did not address the international dimension of armed insurgency, the conclusions drawn must be of relevance to anybody seriously addressing the problems that the new millennium has brought. Holmes examines three countries, Uruguay, Peru and Spain through an Aristotelian prism, the organising principle of which is the rudimentary purpose of the state - an end-based twin concept of security and integration - rather than on processes of legitimation, with its focus on means.

The book is worth reading alone for the neat introductory window it provides into the Tupamaros. Despite being one of the most vigorous armed protest movements of the 1960s and '70s - a South American Provisional IRA in its capacity for daring and ruthless application of force - its eradication was as certain and swift as its presence was sensational. But the core contention of the author is that states which use anti-democratic measures to defeat armed insurgents ultimately undermine democracy. She supports her point by drawing on the outcomes of conflict between the state and guerrillas in both Uruguay and Peru where democratisation was as much threatened by an over the top violent state response as it was by rebellious militants. Contrasting these cases with Spain, Holmes claims that in the latter, where the state was considerably less repressive, democratic structures and processes took root much more firmly. Spaniards, unlike the citizens of Peru and Uruguay - the latter country had a very strong tradition of democracy - apparently did not ditch their loyalty to democracy.

While clearly a book offering empirical evidence of the effects of state aggression, Jennifer Holmes in her counterpoising of Uruguay/Peru with Spain may have underestimated both the inclination of the Spanish state to embrace repression and the tolerance of its citizens toward the GAL murders of ETA activists although she is correct to argue that state violence was not on a level comparable to the South American states. However, the fact that Spain at the time of the 1981 Tejerro coup attempt sat in Western Europe may have added a qualitatively different external constraint to any attempt by the Spanish to revert to Francoism, something lacking across the Atlantic where right wing dictators were plentiful.

Overall, Holmes' view that the Aristotelian approach to the relationship between state violence and democracy offers more than other means of investigation is perhaps inflated. Generally, as a methodological tool, its conclusions are not vastly different from a plethora of left wing literature which has not consciously excavated Aristotle to reach similar findings.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

14 February 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


GFA in the Toilet
Brian Mór


No Retreat
Glen Phillips


Terrorism and Democratic Society

Anthony McIntyre


SEA: The SWP and the Partition of Ireland
Paul Mallon


The "Free Trade" History Eraser: Honduras, Maquilas and Popular Protest in Latin America
Toni Solo


On A Street in America
Annie Higgins


The BBC and the Quiet Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians
Paul de Rooij


4 February 2004


Language Belongs to All the People
Sean Flemin


Back to the Future? Prison Moves: From Segregation to Transportation
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh


Evil Gets What Evil Gives

Anthony McIntyre




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