Would You Agree With These Words?

“The case for militancy as a political method is unassailable…Violence is wrong, say the anti-militants. Nothing could be more untrue. Violence has no moral complexion whatsoever. In itself it is neither right nor wrong. Its rightness or wrongness depends entirely upon the circumstances under which it is used.”

As a law-abiding well-educated person it feels uneasy to side with the argument above. But the point is driven even further:

“The strange fact is that many fervent anti-militants are themselves in favour of militancy – when it is the militancy of men. Some of the foremost amongst them vigorously upheld the South African war, with all its accompaniments of farm-burning and concentration camps.”

Leaving aside the reference to concentration camps, which in itself needs comment, these are the words of Christabel Pankhurst on 1st November 1913 in the New Statesmen. She was the daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst the leader of the British suffragette movement that was trying to get women the vote. She further wrote:

“Militancy is a political weapon used by women as the only discoverable substitute for vote…It is a means of breaking up up the false relation of inferior to superior that has existed between men and women, and it is a means of correcting the great faults that have been produced in either sex by the subjection of women”

And the key point:

“For Suffragists to be law-abiding at any and every cost is an evil, because this flatters the self-importance of men and disinclines them to concede a demand so meekly made of them”

I got this from the centenary edition of the New Statesman, which provides an excellent real-time commentary of pivotal moments in history. Crucially, I wonder what norms and laws we are following today that a hundred years down the line people will look back as unjust. And which dissidents, trouble-makers and agitators of today will be viewed as heroes of tomorrow.

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