Are terrorists the same as revolutionaries


One man's freedom fighter is another's terrorist "- with this statement, commentators of various motives and directions have repeatedly questioned the appropriateness of talking about" terrorism ". Is it therefore just a political catchphrase that is used to discredit unpopular One could well be of this opinion, as there is sufficient evidence for the use of the term as a political battle term. Nevertheless, such an insight does not necessarily speak against the appropriateness of the term "terrorism", because there is hardly a political term that Otherwise we would no longer be able to speak of "democracy" or "freedom", "justice" or "resistance". The following statements therefore contribute to a differentiated and clear definition of "terrorism" and end in the presentation a collective name as a suggestion ag. [1]

Just a look at the history and meaning of the term provides first indications for a more precise definition. [2] "Terrorism" derives from the Latin terror off, which means "fear" or "horror". This does not refer to the act of violence, which is often seen as the primary characteristic of the terrorist act, but to its psychological effect. Not the particular brutality, but the intense horror forms the core of the content. And in fact, the later considerations on the use of terrorism as a communication strategy show how great this aspect is in order to grasp the peculiarities of terrorism in relation to other forms of politically motivated use of force. It is particularly about the consequences of the acts of violence in a social context, not primarily about the actions as an isolated phenomenon.

In a political sense, the term was first used more broadly during the French Revolution to designate the revolutionary government as the "regime of terror". [3] The current conception of the term "terrorism" differs from this understanding in two fundamental aspects: On the one hand, it was a self-designation with positive connotations, as Maximilien de Robespierre and his followers saw terror as a means of socializing the virtues of revolution to anchor. On the other hand, the "terror" meant by it was not directed against a government or a state, but was used by the same against parts of society.

In order to differentiate the use of the term and to avoid misunderstandings, a distinction should therefore also be made between the terms "terror" and "terrorism": the former stands for an instrument of state repression policy, for example by totalitarian dictatorships. In contrast, "terrorism" would be a means that non-state actors use to combat a state. Accordingly, while "terror" proceeds from "above", "terrorism" proceeds from "below". In this sense, anarchists and socialists, nationalists and separatists who wanted to implement their political goals with attacks and assassinations have been called terrorists since the middle of the 19th century. In contrast, they called their actions "propaganda of the deed": [4] The extent of the acts of violence served to convey a message to the public about their concerns and their strength. In this respect, this special communication strategy can already be identified in the early phase of the history of terrorism - right up to the present day.

Typical properties, means and procedures

By referring to the actors from society as users of terrorist practices, however, one has only taken a first step towards a clear definition of "terrorism"; further typical properties, means and procedures must be considered. First of all, this includes political motivation, combined with the intention of overcoming a certain system in the form of a state order or of questioning its monopoly on the use of force in certain core areas. Such intentions are sometimes accompanied by other motives, which may include psychological aspects such as a thirst for adventure, a fascination with violence, greed for power or self-expression. [5] At the same time, the political intentions dominate in terms of public image and self-image. Another characteristic of terrorism is the embedding of politically motivated use of force in a long-term strategy. Acts that tend to be spontaneous and unreflected are therefore not included.

As a rule, a certain organizational structure of terrorist groups is associated with this, as conspiratorial and systematic planning is required when proceeding accordingly. This requires, on the one hand, the existence of a sworn community of willing to act, and on the other hand, the development of functioning work structures in the group. Although no bureaucratic structures with corresponding responsibilities arise in illegality, informal dependencies and hierarchies develop through the division of labor and the constellation of people. They lead to emotional and cognitive, personal and political submission to the group community, which is further promoted by the isolation of external contacts. And finally, another special characteristic of terrorist groups can be their low quantitative dimension, as they are predominantly smaller groups of a few activists.

The special features mentioned above can also be found in the following definition by US terrorism researcher Bruce Hoffman: "We can (...) define terrorism (...) as the conscious generation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence for the purpose of achieving political change (...) Terrorism is specifically designed to achieve far-reaching psychological effects beyond the immediate victims or targets of the terrorist attack. It aims to arouse fear within a broader 'target audience' and thereby intimidate them (...). Terrorism aims at this To create power where there is none, or to consolidate power where there is very little, terrorists seek the leverage, influence and power over them through the publicity they generate with their acts of violence otherwise they would not have to deal with political W either at the regional or at the international level andel to effect. "[6]

Expression of political weakness and communication strategy

Contrary to widespread assumptions, it is not just the extent of the people killed or material assets destroyed by such attacks that is the main target of terrorist activity; it consists above all in the psychological effect also mentioned by Hoffman, in the spread of fear and terror. To this extent, such acts only represent the beginning of a long-term path aimed at in the strategic calculation. It should end in the abolition of the existing political order and its replacement by a new political system. Terrorists see their actions as a step on the way, which can be seen as messages to the population, the state or other addressees. This is intended, for example, to motivate a lethargic population to resist or to force the state to overreact against society.

If a symbolic function is ascribed to the act of violence and terrorism is understood as a means of communication, this is not associated with trivializing the corresponding acts. The decisive factor here is to name the function of violence in the terrorist calculation, i.e. as part of a political strategy. The sociologist Peter Waldmann remarked: "The terrorist is not interested in the actual destructive effect of his actions. These are only a means, a kind of signal, to communicate something to a large number of people. Terrorism, that must be recorded, is primarily a communication strategy. "[7] It would be more differentiated to note that terrorism is not only, but also a communication strategy. The horror emanating from the respective act - and high death tolls can be important for this - is intended to arouse attention to the political concerns of terrorist organizations, particularly on an emotional and rational level.

This indirectly indicates another typical aspect that relates to the political weakness of groups that act in this way. Terrorists are well aware that their attacks alone cannot overthrow the political system they are fighting. In this respect, such actions also stand for isolation and weakness, otherwise one would wage a guerrilla war or trigger a revolution. It is also not uncommon for terrorist groups to emerge from similarly oriented political movements. This can be illustrated by the following two examples: The terrorist calculation of the Islamist terrorist network Al-Qaeda only found greater acceptance and significance after non-terrorist strategies for conquering power such as uprisings, coups d'etat or voter participation had failed. And left-wing terrorism in Western Europe in the 1970s emerged after the collapse of the "sixty-eight" movement, which saw itself as a social revolution. [8]